Eating as a vegan on a cruise ship is a breeze! I’ve followed a vegan diet for many years and I’m always able to find plant-based meals when I travel. Even though many cruise ships don’t have vegan restaurants or vegan menus on board, it’s still very easy to dine as a vegan on a cruise ship. From exclusive luxury barge sailings to giant ocean cruisers, I’m going to show you how to eat vegan on a cruise.
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Vegan on Cruise Ship: Before You Leave
You might not have to worry about this if you’re going on a 100% all vegan cruise, but it’s best to give the cruise line a heads up about your diet in advance. Whether you follow a vegan diet, a gluten-free diet, a low sugar diet, or if you have any allergies or food restrictions, letting the cruise staff know ahead of time will assure the best food experience.
It’s very important to fill out the appropriate forms online before you leave for your trip. If your cruise line doesn’t have any paperwork regarding food choices, send an email to their customer care staff with your booking number. Explain your situation. Arranging vegan food on a cruise ship is an easy process. While you can certainly sail as a vegan without letting anyone know in advance, they might decide to keep some extra tofu, eggless pasta, and soy milk on hand if they know that some vegans will be on board.
In our experiences, we get in touch with someone at customer service, and they’ll always reach out in advance. We usually receive some sort of confirmation that our request has been received. If for some reason you are unable to do this, I’m sure that if you speak to the Head Waiter of our dining room that they will still be able to accommodate your needs as best as they can.
Eating Vegan on a Cruise: When You Arrive
When you initially embark on a cruise, you’ll usually dine at the buffet for lunch. I’ve always found tons of options at cruise buffets for vegetarians and vegans. It’s actually getting a lot easier as time goes on. On our last cruise with Holland America Line, their “buffet” is actually many different stations where everything is prepared individually for you. In the case of salads, sushi, a stir fry, pasta dishes, and so much more, it’s easy to customize them to be plant-based. If you have any questions, you can always ask a staff member if it’s vegan.
In the evening, you’ll likely have dinner at the main dining room, whether you choose a traditional dining time or “anytime dining”. We always opt for anytime dining because we love the flexibility of choosing the meal time of our choice each night. Once you arrive, speak to the Head Waiter and inform him or her of your dietary request.
On the first evening, they’ll customize anything from the regular menu and make it vegan. There are usually a few vegetarian choices that they can make vegan. If you’re fortunate enough to dine on a ship that has a plant-based menu, they’ll bring out the vegan menu and you can choose what you like.
Towards the end of your meal, the wait staff will bring out the next evening’s menu. You can order your meal in advance with the kitchen and make any alterations that you’d like. Even if you don’t see something that you fancy on the menu, you can usually make a special request, like a tofu stir fry or Indian food. It’s never a problem. If there’s a vegan menu, they might ask that you still request your meal ahead of time. The kitchen staff strive to prepare food at a rapid pace for thousands of passengers, and it’s very helpful to know any special meals in advance.
Coffee and Cafes on Cruise Ships
For all of the coffee and tea lovers out there, you’ll be able to get your fix at the cruise ship’s coffee shop. Typically, each cruise will have at least one cafe or coffee shop on board. You should always be able to find soy milk or almond milk for your coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, and more.
I find that cruise ships generally lack vegan treats and desserts. At the coffee shops, there are generally an assortment of baked goods, and rarely will you find one that’s vegan-friendly. Eating vegan on a cruise ship would be far more enjoyable if we had more sweet treats. In the dining room, you’ll likely be served a sorbet or bowl of fruit unless the cruise line has a specific vegan menu.
There are a few vegan cruises that you can take nowadays, if you prefer an entirely plant-based holiday. We’ve taken the Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise. This one happens annually, and it generally sails in the Caribbean. The food is completely vegan and there are lots of special events with yummy treats. There are also many talks by proclaimed doctors and experts in the vegan community. Eating vegan on a cruise ship has never been easier when everything is plant-based!
There’s also a company that has entirely vegan river cruises, and they’ve even expanded beyond Europe. Vegan Culinary Cruises is a new luxury vegan cruising experience with a company that’s planned high end culinary sailings for over 30 years.
How to Eat Vegan on a Cruise: Our Experiences
We’ve sailed on several different cruises as a vegan, and I’d love to show you a sample of everything that we ate. Our favourite cruise line for vegan food so far is Holland America Line, although we can’t wait to try the vegan menu on Royal Caribbean. Of course, I have to mention the luxury barge cruise that I took with European Waterways. The chef on board specifically prepared vegan meals every day just for me, and they were divine.
Vegan on Princess Cruises
Out of every cruise line, I’ve sailed with Princess Cruises the most over the years. I’ve always been such a fan of their itineraries, their customer service, and the ships themselves. I even sailed on the Ruby Princess for an old co-workers wedding! I’ve also covered my sailings on the Caribbean Princess and the Emerald Princess on this blog.
While Princess Cruises offered some of the best vegan food a long time ago, I find that they’re lagging a bit behind when it comes to plant-based menus. You will have absolutely no problem requesting vegan meals, and they’ll be really yummy.
I would love to see a vegan menu on Princess ships. It seems like most cruise lines have a vegan menu now. Hopefully, Princess will catch up and start offering one, too.
Vegan on Holland America Line
Justin and I were really impressed with the vegan meals on Holland America Line. We sailed to Norway on Nieuw Statendam. HAL has its own menu for special diets containing mostly vegan food, some gluten-free offerings, and some vegetarian food. If you’re sailing for a week with HAL, you can eat something different every night from that menu alone. It’s also possible to request vegan meals at some of the specialty restaurants or from the standard dining room menu.
You can check out our Holland America Line vegan cruise guide. It lists all of our meals and everywhere we dined on board, from quick serve options to specialty restaurants.
Vegan on MSC
Eating vegan on a cruise ship has never been easier when you’ve booked a vegan sailing! When we cruised aboard the MSC Divina, Justin and I were taking the Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise. While about half of the passengers were taking the plant-based sailing, there were another half that had booked a typical cruise vacation. We stuck to eating the specially prepared vegan food for most of the time. But, there were also a number of vegan options at the regular buffet on board.
In addition, MSC Divina has an incredible pizzeria. You can order a freshly made marinara pizza until late at night. We ended up at this pizzeria almost every night because it was so good. You can add vegetables to the pizza, too. We also enjoyed pizza by the slice at the buffet, and they started serving some slices with vegan cheese (only available during the vegan cruise).
Vegan on European Waterways / Athos Barge
When you’re sailing on a luxury barge with European Waterways, there’s likely only a handful of passengers on your small boat. When I sailed on the Athos Barge, there were only seven passengers in total. Knowing that I followed a vegan diet, the chef on the barge was able to prepare all vegan meals just for me. He even came up with vegan desserts every night, too!
Taking a barge cruise on the Canal du Midi in France was such a memorable and special experience. Even though the chef claimed to not have much knowledge of vegan cuisine, he prepared some very yummy meals throughout my weeklong holiday. You can see all of the meals that I ate by reading my full review of Athos.