Usually one of the best things about being on a cruise is the fact that endless amounts of food are provided at all hours of the day. However, when you’re a vegan, the options are much slimmer and it can require some extra effort to scramble together an entire meal. Being that I was gifted the ticket for the cruise (thanks Hayley!), I hadn’t called ahead of time to see what kind of accommodations could be made and once on the boat, I quickly realized that a lot of the meals set out for the buffets, even the roasted vegetables, bread items, or sauces for each dish likely had been made with dairy products (including butter) or meaty broths.
While I’m sure you can call ahead of time to let the cruise line know about your “special diet” AKA veganism, I had to wait until the first night at dinner to let someone know. I realized later that I’d made a couple non-vegan choices earlier, even after asking some of the people behind the counter if things contained dairy or meat products. It’s really unfortunate that there isn’t a clearly displayed list of what ingredients certain items contain (which I wish was the case for all places really), but then again, the thought never even occurred to me before I went vegetarian or vegan.
So, Day 1 at dinner when I ask the server if there were any vegan options he let me know that unfortunately, there weren’t any on the menu and that specialty items could not be made until the next night. I ended up ordering the Featured Indian Vegetarian dish and let them know I didn’t want the parts with dairy. They ended up bringing it all out just in separate dishes and then let me know which ones contained dairy, so while I didn’t eat those items, I didn’t really succeed there since it was made anyways. However, the waiter did write down that I was vegan (without even having to ask me what a vegan was so I was thoroughly impressed)! and said he’d let the chef and other staff know. By the end of dinner, a very nice woman whose nametag read ABCDE (I didn’t have the nerve to ask how to pronounce it), came over and let me know that she would be making sure I had vegan dishes made for me in the future for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
I should have just told the lady who was in charge of making sure I was provided with meals that I wasn’t going to need breakfast made for me because I failed every single morning (except for once) to wake up in time. Generally, if you are eating from the buffet, the breakfast food is left out for a good amount of time, allowing people who wake up later to eat breakfast. Unfortunately, the place I was told to go for food: THE IMAGINATION ROOM had certain hours depending on what time the boat docked for the day. I believe it was open until 10AM on the first day we docked, and 9AM the second and third day we docked.
The first day we docked I thought breakfast was open until 10:30AM only to find I was wrong. However, someone did take me up to the Lido deck where the buffets usually are and had me wait as they prepared a meal for me. It ended up taking about 20-30 minutes but they brought me vegan pancakes and a fruit plate. I ended up feeling pretty guilty because I could have been fine with some cereal and fruit, but I felt obligated to ask for the food since they had my name down already. Day 2: the boat docked at 8:30 and I had to meet for my excursion at 8am, meaning breakfast would have to be at 7:30 and YA GIRL did not wake up early enough to go. Day 3 I got to the room at 9AM and of course, that’s when it closed. By then it was my own fault and they didn’t have anyone take me down to the Lido deck. However, it was fine because there is a large fruit bar as well as bread, bagels, cereals, and salads if you hit closer to lunch time. *I never ended up ordering cereal but I have read from other blogs and websites that you can ask for soy milk as long as you are okay with waiting for them to bring it to you from another location on the ship.
The ONE day I actually made it to breakfast…
SOOO I had definitely been missing out. On Day 4 woke up on time, 8:15AM to be exact, and was graced with a fruit plate, a salad(?), a plate with two pancakes (served with some kind of blueberry syrup with real blueberries in it, two round hash browns, some thinly sliced potatoes with onions that tasted like heavenly onion rings, and some kind of tomato-stuffed delicacy that looked similar to a quiche. While I was dying to take a picture, I was seated at a table with a bunch of other people much older than I and I felt rude taking my phone out because it was such a rare occasion to see everyone talking instead of on their phones.
For lunch I was told to find the hostess at the Lido deck. With one exception, I didn’t have any trouble getting to lunch on time because I just had to check in with the chef and he would make something for me.
Day One: (The day I made some incorrect choices). I filled my plate with a large portion of roasted veggies, pita chips and salsa, rosemary potatoes, and a Mongolian Wok with a ton of veggies. I later found out that I’d had egg noodles and I’m not positive whether or not the veggies were made with butter.
Day Two: Quinoa and roasted vegetables. Mongolian Wok veganized by using soy sauce and hot sauce, and making sure to choose noodles that weren’t made with eggs.
Day Three: Mongolian Wok (not pictured but same as day 2) and a fruit dessert filled with bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries in some kind of sweet syrup.
Day Four: Fried Rice and Steamed/Seasoned Veggies.
STORYTIME! (This happened to be where I had the most issues with miscommunication). On this day, it was the last day we were docked on land-in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas to be exact. Instead of serving a huge lunch at the buffet on the ship, the crew members made a huge lunch for everyone on the island. When speaking to my chef in the morning, he told me that he would “bring my food to me at 11:30.” I hadn’t been aware that the main lunch for everyone was supposed to be served off the ship so that was my first problem. Second, I assumed he meant that he would send the food to my room (which I never felt was necessary but I was confused okay?). After LEAVING the island to come back onto the ship and retrieve my food, I went asking around the Lido deck, looking for the chef, and even going back to my room to contact guest services and room service. As I figured, they didn’t deliver food to the rooms and I was told to locate a chef or staff member in the Lido deck I first went to. Finally, a staff member ended up calling the chef that made my food and I was informed that he’d actually brought my vegan dish to the island with the rest of the food. To me, that was even more surprising because that must’ve taken extra effort and planning, but it was unfortunate that I spent an hour trying to track it down.
Day Five: Mongolian Wok(not pictured but same as day 2) and a Chocolate Cake (almonds and chocolate syrup?)
Appetizer: House Salad (not pictured)
Main Dish: Featured Indian Vegetarian
Dessert: Fruit Plate
Appetizer: Greek-type salad with olives, onions, peppers, and cucumber
Main Dish: Tofu and mushrooms in a white sauce paired with traditional spaghetti
Dessert: Blueberry crumble cake
Appetizer: Salad with vinigratte (not pictured)
Main Dish: Roasted Veggies Stacked like a burger with tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash in a tomato sauce
Dessert: Chocolate Dish (not pictured but similar to chocolate cake except not in cake form)
Appetizer: Salad with vinaigrette (not pictured)
Main Dish: Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with steamed broccoli and carrots
Dessert: Rice Pudding? It had a slight peachy taste to it but it had a similar taste and feel to rice pudding.
Appetizer: Salad with vinaigrette (not pictured)
Main Dish: Burrito with roasted veggies paired with a DELICIOUS curry-like (but not hot) sauce.
Dessert: Roasted Apple with raspberries (not pictured)
Chips and salsa, fruit, PB&J, veggie pizza (Napolitana with no cheese with peppers, green and black olives, and mushrooms)
SOME USEFUL TIPS
TIP 1: Set aside extra time to eat. Because the food is being prepared specifically for you it can take much longer for them to fix the food. If your family or group is just eating from the buffet then this is especially true.
TIP 2: (for introverts): Bring someone with you for breakfast. I believe that anyone can order breakfast in the imagination dining room, but I had to go there for my vegan breakfast. I was actually hoping to bring my journal and write and keep to myself, but since I went by myself they had me sit at a table with about ten other people. I joined in on a few of the conversations, (including the pros and cons of legalizing weed in Colorado and the treatment of young men and women in psychiatric hospitals), but I mostly listened and sat quietly which I felt was a bit awkward.
TIP 3: Check the times for breakfast daily or just ask someone the night before. Or if you aren’t a huge breakfast person like me, I would just forego them making breakfast. I’m not sure what all they would’ve made so I don’t want you to miss out on anything, but it wasn’t worth the worrying about waking up on time and then feeling guilty when I didn’t show up.
TIP 4: Maybe see if you can get a list of things that are already vegan without having to wait for a meal. Some dishes were marked as vegetarian and even some of the food they gave me (such as the hashbrowns) I saw sitting out at the buffet but I was never told if I could eat the ones already prepared. It may have been that the ones from the buffet were made with butter or other animal products. I was generally never hungry enough (or on the boat enough certain days) to need extra food, but it might be something you may want to look into.
Tip 5: Bring some extra cash to give your chef or those accommodating you a tip. Usually there is a tip added to your account at the end of the cruise to account for tips but I did give my chef cash personally to show how much I appreciated him taking the extra time to make my meals.