Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vegan on a Cruise Review

So, for our trip, we went on a seven night cruise! The days before and after our cruise (five altogether) we stayed in Miami (with Michael's dad)!

This is a really detailed account of the food we got on our cruise, I wanted to make it detailed in case somebody is trying to decide if they want to take their chance with going on a non-vegan cruise. If you just wanna see the food, scroll down! :)

We decided to go on a cruise because we wanted something all inclusive. We wanted to go somewhere nice, so we knew we would have to pay for a flight, hotel, eating out at least twice a day (which can get really expensive,especially at vegan restaurants), and renting a car. I started looking into all inclusive vacations so that I knew up front what I was going to pay. Also, this way we didn't have to rent a car! A lot of the vegan vacations I came across were really more than we wanted to spend. So, I started doing my research on regular cruises that would accommodate a vegan diet. Through my research, I saw a lot of positive and negative reviews of eating vegan on a cruise, so I decided to give my experience!

We decided to go with Carnival and the specific boat name was the Valor. It was a 7 night Western Caribbean cruise and we stopped at the Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel. It was so nice to be on vacation especially since when we left Chicago it was in the 50s and raining and it was about 85 when we got to Miami! I was finally in my element! I absolutely cannot stand the cold, so I was so happy to finally be warm since summer has decided to pass us up this year.. Someone once told me that vegans are like plants, we thrive in the sun; so that's why  I can't stand the winter! I thought that saying was cute because I really cannot stand the cold weather..

Anyways, going back to eating vegan on the cruise.. I called about three different people before I booked my cruise and asked them if they could accommodate a vegan diet, and every person I spoke with told me yes, they have an on board nutritionist and they can accommodate any diet. I was told to speak with the Maitre d to let them know our restrictions. The moment we got on the cruise, we went to the dining room and let them know we were vegan, and the lady there (not even the Maitre d) asked if I was Amy. I was so happy they already knew that they had vegan guests! I confirmed that she knew what vegan was (does anyone else come across a lot of people that think it's the same as vegetarian, or not even know what vegan is at all?!). She confirmed that she had placed orders for us for the entire week for a vegan entree and dessert.

So, in detail, this is what we ate on the cruise:

We either ate cereal with soymilk.
Or we did kind of an "oatmeal bar". Their oatmeal was made with water, and they had all types of different add ins on the breakfast bar, so we usually did oatmeal with whatever we felt like, such as peanut butter, slivered almonds, walnuts, raisins, different fruit compotes, and banana.

For lunch, we usually just went to the buffet and asked a lot of questions about what we could eat, we always found something. (They said they could make us vegan entrees in the dining room, but only on days the ship was at sea, which was only two days, so we told them not to worry about it.)
They had buffet lunches, but also different little restaurant type things. The first day we ate at the Mongolian grill, where you pick out all your veggies and then they cook each person's food in it's own bowl (so no contamination) and I talked with them about how we were vegan, so instead of using the sauce they normally do (which had oyster sauce) they used soy sauce for us. This was really good but because each person's meal was made individually, it it took a long time to get your food.
We also ate at the burrito place, the guy there was really helpful in asking us what we couldn't have. Such as letting us know they put butter in their rice.. So, we were able to get burritos, but they weren't very good (I think Michael liked them, but I guess being Mexican I can be pretty picky about the Mexican food I eat..).
There was also a sandwich place which was a total disaster. The guy did not listen to us at all about what we wanted, so we didn't go back there..
And then there was a pizza place. Their crust was made with dairy, but their gluten free crust was vegan. Unfortunately, the gluten free crust was terrible. It was basically inedible, it tasted like a really unflavored, dry piece of born bread.

So, usually for lunch we did salads! They had a really great salad bar and sometime they had different vegetable dishes we were able to eat. We also ate a lot of french fries and chips and salsa..
They did have a sushi bar with really limited hours, but we went once and were able to get spinach rolls!

Dinner is where we got our best food, since it was specifically made for us! The only thing is that you have no idea what you're going to get, so it was a surprise every night! This was sort of a weird experience, just sitting there waiting for your food and not knowing what you were going to get... it was exciting and also a little nerve wracking, but the food was all good, there was only one dish I didn't really like..
Our waiter was amazing and knew what we could/couldn't eat, so every night we would ask about the appetizers and he would help us pick what we could have. There was usually at least one thing that was vegan, or could be altered to be made vegan. If not, we either went without an appetizer, or we were able to order a standard side dish like a salad/steamed vegetables/french fry/fruit plate type of thing.
One thing we ate every night was the fresh bread. And after the second night they knew to not give us butter, but to bring olive oil. For someone that doesn't usually eat a lot of oil, I took advantage of it on this trip! Their olive oil had so much flavor, we ate so much bread and oil every night (I gained 5 lbs!)

Here is a list of exactly what we got every night:

First night:
We were able to eat the gazpacho soup appetizer, it was so good. I didn't think I was going to like it, because I haven't liked gazpacho in the past, but this had so much flavor!
The entree they prepared for us was a stir fry, which was really good. We were beyond thrilled to get tofu, we didn't think we would be eating tofu for the week, so this was a nice surprise. 
Second night:
This was a stuffed pepper (the pepper itself was way too spicy to eat). It was stuffed with a veggie mixture, such as broccoli and served with the rice and steamed veggies.

Third night:
This night we had my least favorite meal. I'm not really a mushroom fan, so to get a bowl of mushrooms was a bit disappointing.. Although, I did eat about half of them and there was a good variety of mushrooms and they were so flavorful. And then there was the polenta and green beans, everything the chef made was bursting with flavor.

Fourth night:
This was our absolute favorite dinner for the week. It was like a black bean flauta. This was pretty amazing and the sauces the chef made went with it perfectly.

Fifth night:
This night we had more polenta along with an amazing sweet potato mixture. I'm not sure what type of bread was put on top of the sweet potatoes, but it had a really thin, interesting texture. We were so happy to have sweet potatoes, they're one of our favorites!

Sixth night:
This night was a vegetable lasagna. Kind of plain, but the sauce was really good.

Seventh night:
The last night, we got tofu again, which was exciting! Other than that, this was pretty similar to the night before.
So, for dessert, we were expecting to just get fruit every single night.. So, when they brought us chocolate, we were really excited. Basically what the chef did was melt down dark chocolate, put it into these bowls and then freeze it, and served it with fruit. The only problem was that we had the same thing for dessert. every. single. night. Soo much chocolate. We were actually sick of chocolate by the end of it! We were really happy we didn't get just fruit, so I guess getting a ton of chocolate isn't that much to complain about..

Eating in the ports:
The only times we ran into not having food was when we were at the ports. Luckily, for two of the ports, we docked and so we were able to just go back to the boat for lunch (this wouldn't have been possible if you booked one of those 7 hour excursions, which include lunch, but it's unlikely they have food for you..) But, for two of the ports, you had to take a small boat, which took some time. One way to get around this is to bring food with you (which you technically aren't allowed to do). We did bring crackers and granola bars on the ship with us, so we brought those if we were going to be gone for a long time.
We did find some vegan food:
This mango sorbet from Honduras was really good:
And these chips and salsa from Cozumel were the best I've ever had.
Wow, I had a lot to say! Hope this helps somebody! And if you have any other questions about the cruise or eating on it, let me know!

Have you or anyone you know that is vegan gone on a cruise and had a positive or negative experience with the food?


  1. Very nice and informative write-up, I tweeted it! Nice to see that one can be well-fed and vegan on a cruise.

    The two times I've been to Cuba were rough, but I brought vitamins, jerky, Vega and Clif's builder's bars. All inclusives in the Caribbean are very relaxing but they're not vegan friendly.

  2. i loved reading this! seems like the cruise was able to accomodate you pretty well =) but honestly, i'm sure just being able to vacation in hot heat was amazing... today was the first hot day here (90s) and i loved it. i also can't function in cold... sunshine feels luxurious

  3. Thanks for tweeting it!

    Being in warm weather was amazing :D

  4. Hi! I'm getting ready to go on a Carnival cruise for the first time. Your write-up is so helpful! Who did you contact prior to your cruise to see if they would accommodate a vegan diet? We have 4 weeks until our trip. I am really optimistic after hearing about your great experience!

  5. Yay! I'm so glad to help :)

    I called seriously like three different times before I considered booking just to get a confirmation that they had vegan food, and every person I spoke with said they accommodate every diet (it even says so on their website).

    But you also get your own Personal Vacation Planner (I think that might be the person you booked it with, if you booked over the phone). That is basically the person that you ask all the questions that you have. So, talk with that person, if you're not sure who yours is, I suggest finding out because they are very helpful!

    I hope you have a good experience like we did! If you can think of any more questions, please ask!

  6. Thanks for the response! I called Carnival and they told me to just make sure I speak with the Maitre D the first night to let them know and things should be good after that. I'll try to remember to report back on our experience. Thanks, again, for your help!

  7. @kalymc

    I hope it all works out for you like it did for me! Yeah, let me know what happens!!
    Have a great trip!

  8. I remember reading about a vegan cruise on a blog once but can not remember the name!! I love the fact you got tofu!!! I'd be scared to go on a cruise but this makes me feel a little better...although I'm not a mushroom fan either :-P

  9. PS I just booked flights for us to go to Portland, Oregon, mostly because I want to eat at all the amazing vegan restaurants and yeah, it's a bit pricey with flight-hotel-food-extra...but I'm still really excited! We're going mid September for my birthday because it happens to be the weekend of their vegfest!! Do you guys have a veg fest in Chicago?

  10. @Kristie @ Use Your Noodle

    Yeah, there is one vegan cruise that I've found, a Taste of Health, but they only sail out once a year!
    I actually got a paid trip to Portland once, for work!! They even paid all my restaurant bills, it was amazing!!!! Have fun :)
    We have a couple fests in Chicago, we having something called Vegan Mania, but their website doesn't have a date for this year :/
    We also have a Veggie Fest, but none of the major vegan restaurants participate, so Chicago is kind of a bummer for fests, I really want to go to one in another major city sometime though! I bet Portland's is amazing

  11. Thanks for the info. I have never went on a cruise before, but my daughter and I are vegetarian and looking for a good trip. Glad you had a good experience.

  12. The situation for vegans varies quite a bit from cruise line to cruise line. NCL is well known for its vegan Indian dishes at the buffet every day, as well as sometimes on the MDR dinner menu. RCL has changed recently, and its daily vegetarian dish is often vegan. As is their noon buffet. Princess, which is my favorite line, is, alas, somewhat less vegan friendly, as their always available vegetarian dishes are rarely vegan. On the other hand, all of the mainstream cruise lines will specially prepare vegan dishes with prior notice.

    Alas, for someone like me who is both vegan and very low fat (for example, added oil is out of the question), the situation is more complicated. I have yet to see a cruise line which offers NONFAT soy milk (I bring my own). However, since this is not all so easy to find even at supermarkets, I suppose it is not surprising.

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