How To Be Plant-Based on a Cruise and Skip the Guilt

Cruises make it insanely easy to over eat, over drink and be lazy. Strawberry daiquiris are delivered to your poolside lounge chair in frosty glasses, liquid chocolate cascades from fountains at the midnight buffet, and there are at least three courses at every meal. In a way you are set up to fail. But you should be enjoying yourself on vacation, right? Eating plant-based on a cruise can make it easier for you to forgive yourself if you eat too much, and it can also prevent you from gaining weight on vacation. 
 
If you are already whole food, plant-based and you are worried that you will starve on a cruise, you honestly have nothing to worry about. You’ll love the plant-based cruising tips below. 
 
If you are intimidated by the thought of eating plant-based anywhere, let alone on a cruise, I sympathize with you. I haven’t always known how to eat vegan food. I grew up licking Dorito dust and fried chicken off of my fingers. At that time there weren’t any easy-to-access programs like Sustainable Diet to help me eat healthy plant-based food and be slim. I was in the dark. 
 
When my parents took me on my first Caribbean cruise I tried every kind of meat and seafood on the menu. A decade later I married into The Great Life Cookbook family, went from vegetarian to vegan, and have been eating better ever since. Flash forward some years, and I am spending quality time with my extended family on another Caribbean cruise. However, this time I’m minimizing the negative consequences and environmental impact of excess by eating whole plant-based food. I realize that cruises are about as far as you can get from sustainable living, but my grandparents wanted to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary with us on the cruise and we were honored to be there. Hopefully these tips for being plant-based on a cruise will help you have a healthy vacation as well! 
 
Explore your Options with Excitement
 
Ask the cruise line if they can accommodate a plant-based diet free of meat, chicken, seafood, dairy and eggs before you book your ticket. It’s always good to ask in advance. Royal Caribbean was happy to accommodate our dietary restrictions. 
 
Schedule your dinner for the early seating with the same waiter each night so they understand your plant-based diet. That way the waiter can work with the chef to get what you want. In addition, you’ll get to know your waiter. I have liked the waiters I’ve had on cruises so much I wanted to celebrate with them at their weddings. Seriously. They have taken such good care of my family, and I have loved getting to know them.
 
Check out every salad bar, snack bar, and buffet. It took us a couple days to discover the salad bar serving our favorite mid-day snack of lettuce topped with corn salad, cucumbers and chickpeas doused with balsamic. Amazing. Sometimes we found lentil salad as well. 
 
Walk through the whole buffet, see what is available, and then compose your plate. 
 
Start with a plate of the healthiest choices first.  If you still want to go wild and have that chunk of fried potato after you’re full, re-evaluate it then.  
 
Ask questions with a smile.  Ask the staff if there is soymilk, if the beans are vegan, if there is fish-free miso soup and rice available anywhere on the ship, and if there is peanut butter hiding somewhere. If the staff keeps getting these questions, chances are they will notice the desire for plant-based food and work to fulfill the demand. 
 
Look for healthy restaurants when you go to ports of call.  We spotted “vegan friendly” on the sign of The Greenhouse Restaurant in Grand Cayman and went on in. We drank locally brewed kombucha with cayenne, had quinoa and cashew cheese pizza, and ate wraps with a Caribbean fruit called ackee. It looks, tastes and feels like scrambled eggs when it is cooked. Amazing!  
  
Rediscover Gratitude
 
Put tomato slices, onion, lettuce, mustard and relish on a burger bun and enjoy. We were hungry at the pool after when just arrived on the ship, and all we could find were hamburgers and hotdogs. It was not ideal, but a fact that a lot of people in the world would be thrilled to have any food at all, and we found something vegan. Score! 
 
Ask for bonuses and savor what you receive. We had Pasta Pomodoro the first night of the cruise because that was the only entrée labeled as potential “vegetarian” and “lactose-free” options. Guess what we were offered the second night? Pasta Pomodoro! This time the waiter paired the pasta with a side of vibrant steamed vegetables and chili flakes and we were happy. 
 
Pass up most pastries, puddings and soft-serve ice cream with ease.  I don’t have to worry about gaining weight or feeling guilty about eating desserts, and that brings me peace of mind. I just enjoy desserts with my eyes because I already made the decision to avoid eating eggs and dairy.
 
Focus on being proactive and grateful. Complaining makes vegetarians and vegans seem difficult, and then people don’t see all the good things plant-based diets do for the world. Let’s showcase the good stuff. 
 
Get Creative
 
Ask for something different. When the theme of the dinner menu for the third night was pasta with red sauce, we did not despair because we had eaten pasta with red sauce the first and second nights. With so many eateries on one ship, the chef may be able to get you a delicious meal that has nothing to do with the dinner menu in the dining room that night. 
 
There may be endless plant-based possibilities if you talk to the right people nicely, even when nothing is labeled “vegan”. The dishes labeled “vegetarian” and “lactose-free” on our dinner menus were only the tip of the iceberg. When we asked for the chef’s choice for anything vegan on the night featuring portabella mushrooms, we were pleasantly surprised with a bok choy and tofu stir-fry. All of the portabellas had already mixed in with meatballs, but we were not disappointed with our meal. 
 
Add beans, roasted tomatoes, capers and red onions to grits and top it all off with tabasco sauce, soy sauce and salad greens. There’s something on the buffet that can turn oatmeal and grits into a satisfying savory breakfast. We all know that oatmeal and grits make a great plant-based breakfast with fruit as well. 
 
Add grains to your salad greens and make it a satisfying meal combination you have never had before. You can add bowtie noodles, rice, couscous, corn or whatever else you find. The secret is in the sauce. Squeeze fresh oranges on top or shake on some balsamic vinegar a little salt and pepper. Top it off with red onions and sunflower seeds. 
  
You CAN eat plant-based when you travel and feel good about nearly everything you eat. I know it can be difficult to say no to decadent desserts, meaty childhood favorites and deep-fried deliciousness, but that’s why Sustainable Diet and Healthy Gypsy Soul were created. To help you make good choices to look and feel great where ever you go. Find out more about our online programs that may change your life. 
 
 
Alicia Freedman is the founder of the online dance and diet program Healthy Gypsy Soul, a contributor to The Great Life Cookbook, and a contributor to Sustainable Diet. She worked at the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, served in the US Peace Corps, and studied International Development at Cornell University. 
 

It's easy to overeat on a cruise holiday. In a way you are set up to fail. But you don't have to be on vacation from your good diet in order to get the most out of the food!

Skills: 
Vacationing on a cruise can be nourishing and delicious!
Project Date: 
December, 2016
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