If you know anything about cruises, you probably know they are notorious for supplying endless amounts of food to their eager travelers. With late-night pizza bars, 24-hour ice cream stations, chocolate buffets and more, it’s a guarantee that one will never go hungry while on board a cruise ship.
…That is, unless you have dietary restrictions. What’s a vegan to do amid all of the stereotypical cruise fare that we choose not to eat? It turns out that cruising as a vegan is not as difficult as one might assume. Veganism is still not very widely recognized, especially in other countries. But there are many people who abstain from animal products for health and/or religious reasons, and most cruise lines cater to these people.
I have gone on several cruises as a vegan (and many more as a vegetarian) and have consistently been impressed by the options available to me- and how accommodating the staff has been. The more you cruise, the more comfortable you get with the system.
Here are some tips to save you unnecessary hassle on your next cruise (plus a look at the meals from my most recent adventure to Scandinavia!)
When you wake up:
Vegan or not, one large piece of advice I have is to stay hydrated. It will combat nausea and jet lag that may accompany your travels. It will also help naturally detoxify your system from any heavy or complicated foods you aren’t used to eating at home. For a little extra detox power, bring some supplements to help you out. Every morning of my trip, I started off the day with hot water or tea plus lemon, goji berries and stevia (before heading to the gym).
Breakfast is pretty easy no matter what cruise line you are on. There is always a plentiful amount of fresh fruit available, which is pretty much the perfect breakfast. Light, easily digestible, and full of energizing complex carbs.
In addition, some sort of porridge is always available as well. In certain cases, you can even get veggies at breakfast time!
Although you can eat lunch in the sit-down dining room, I prefer the buffet for the wider variety of food options. This can be tricky though, because labeling is not always clear. Does the broccoli contain butter? Is there chicken stock in the minestrone? Do not be afraid to ask about a dish! In most cases, the staff is happy to help out and answer your questions.
I was recently on a European cruise that was not so vegan-friendly. There were barely any vegetarian options at the buffet, let alone vegan. But I did not despair. When in doubt, the salad bar is a good choice, and has been present on every cruise I’ve been on. No labeling is needed to know that fresh vegetables are vegan, raw, and gluten-free.
If you are lucky, your ship’s buffet will have many other more substantial options for you as well–most American lines do. Royal Caribbean and Carnival always offer a vegetarian (usually vegan) Indian station. Vegetable curry, punjabi eggplant, and jasmine rice? Yes please.
I’ve also been able to gather beans and pulses of all sorts, roasted veggies, and sometimes even marinated goodies like artichokes or hearts of palm. They’re a great way to add some dimension to your meal!
Don’t be shy; load up your plate with anything that catches your eye. The more variety, the more nutrition. Right?
For me, dinner always takes place in the main dining room with my whole family. This is where things can get tough because there is a set menu every night from which you have to order. It has vegetarian options, but rarely vegan. And unlike a regular restaurant, there’s not really an option to pick and choose sides from other dishes because everything is pre-prepared in mass quantities.
But have no fear; there is something you can do. Speak to the maitre’d at the beginning of the cruise and inform him or her about your dietary needs. Letting them know ahead of time will ensure vegan dinners for the rest of the trip. In some cases, the meal will be made up of whatever the chef chooses to throw together, which may or may not be on the menu.
In other cases, you may be able to order off of the same menu as everyone else. On Royal Carribean, I was presented with the menu for the following night’s dinner and asked to select what I wanted, which would then be “veganized” for me. How cool is that?
I started off most meals with a fruit platter, a salad, and roasted veggies. Any of these things should always be available with no advanced notice needed. Below are some standout dishes from my last trip.
I have yet to see any vegan desserts on a cruise, aside from sorbet which I’m not fond of. I chose to end my nights with tea lattes instead. They can be made with soy on most ships! Add a little stevia and you’ve got yourself a sweet, creamy treat.
If you’re really lucky, your ship may have a chocolate bar. No not a literal candy bar, but a bar that sells chocolate products. There was one on my last cruise, selling truffles, drinks and more. Many varieties of dark chocolate are naturally dairy-free, so don’t hesitate to check that out.
Cruising as a vegan doesn’t have to be stressful; it should be fun. As long as you approach your cruise with an open mind and an empty stomach, I guarantee smooth sailing.
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Photo: Quincy Malesovas