After Governor Greg Abbott allowed a luxury cruise ship to enter Texas after two weeks of being quarantined at sea, a Dallas restaurant was tasked with providing the ship’s hundred-plus inhabitants a fresh meal.
TJ’s Seafood Market owner Jon Alexis was tapped for the gig after his publicist, Lindsey Miller, posted about the restaurant in a neighborhood Facebook group. Originally, Dallas pizzeria Coal Vines was supposed to take the order, but wasn’t able to fill it. Miller put out the ask to her clients, and TJ’s Seafood answered the call. “The operators wanted a luxury, higher-end catering experience for guests coming off the boat,” Miller says.
The cruise, operated by luxury cruise line Silversea Cruises, was quarantined on the water for more than two weeks because of concerns related to the spread of novel coronavirus. Even though all 106 passengers on the ship tested negative for COVID-19, Alexis says that the cruise had been refused entry from multiple ports, and were short on supplies. After the cruise docked in Texas, its occupants landed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport’s private jet terminal via a chartered plane.
“It was like being there when hostages are released,” Alexis says. “These people had been stuck at sea for two weeks, quarantined in their rooms with one hour of ‘deck time’ per day. They deplaned the jumbo charter, walked through the door, and it was like a thousand-pound weight was lifted off their shoulders.”
The call to fulfill the order came less than 48 hours after TJ’s Seafood had shut down its catering options following the citywide order for all restaurants to close their dining rooms. Alexis and his team had to shop for groceries, which proved difficult considering the picked-over, panic-buying ravaged shelves at area grocery stores. “I was accused of hoarding and yelled at,” Alexis says. “No one believed me that I was feeding a big group. We busted our rears collecting as much as we could from various stores and all of our restaurants.”
Ultimately, the team was able to make it work, feeding the 106 sea-fatigued cruisers three meals — dinner, late-night snacks, and a continental breakfast — over the course of four hours. Menu options included TJ’s famed smoked salmon dip and shrimp cocktail, along with non-seafood options like saffron-poached chicken and baked ziti, all served buffet style. Late-night sandwiches were prepared on Gambino Bakery French bread, along with plenty of beer and wine options.
“They went for the food before they even put their bags down,” Alexis says. “We met the guests at the door with champagne, and told all of them welcome home. One person said ‘I’m not from here,’ and I responded that everyone is home in Texas, and we both got misty-eyed.”
Despite the fact that the cruisers had been stuck at sea for two weeks, Alexis says that the mood last night was “life affirming.”
“No one was angry or difficult, and everyone gave the cruise staff a standing ovation for their efforts,” Alexis says. “The whole experience enriched my soul.”