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Eating Vegan on a Cruise Ship (or Any Special Diet)

Eating Vegan on a Cruise

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.

Sailing in Norway with Holland America

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.

Vegan buffet food on Nieuw Statendam

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

Cruise ship cafes - Grand Dutch Cafe on HAL
Grand Dutch Cafe on HAL Nieuw Statendam

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.

Cruise ship coffee shops

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.

Vegan Cruises

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.

Pad Thai made vegan - Eating vegan on a cruise ship
Pad Thai made vegan
Vegan buffet foods on Princess Cruises - Eating vegan on a cruise ship
Vegan buffet foods on Princess Cruises
Sorbet on Princess Cruises - Eating vegan on a cruise ship

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.

Holland America Vegan Menu - Tofu stir fry - Eating vegan on a cruise ship
Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry
Holland America vegan menu - Tempeh and vegetable kabobs - Eating vegan on a cruise ship
Tempeh and Vegetable Kabob
Cauliflower curry dish - Holland America Vegan Menu - Eating vegan on a cruise ship
Curried Cauliflower Steak

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.

Vegan Cruise of the Caribbean: The Best Vegan Vacation
Vegan lasagna
Vegan Cruise of the Caribbean: The Best Vegan Vacation
Bean burger with roasted potatoes
Vegan Cruise of the Caribbean: The Best Vegan Vacation
Seitan stroganoff
Vegan Cruise of the Caribbean: The Best Vegan Vacation
Marinara pizza

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!

Vegan meals on the Athos du Midi luxury hotel barge in the South of France
Pesto Vegetable Dish
Vegan dishes prepared by Chef Lee on the Athos du Midi
Italian Soup
Vegan dessert and ice cream on the Athos du Midi luxury hotel barge in the South of France
Homemade vegan ice cream

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.

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Do you have any experiences, positive or negative, dining as a vegan on a cruise?

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elizabeth norgren

Sunday 10th of March 2019

i am a a recent transfer into veganism and i am going on the cruise “Princess Ruby” to alaska and i am very nervous about being able to get the right nutrition on this cruise. any tips you have that would be helpful for traveling? and if i contacted the cruise line just like you did do you think i would be able to do the same dietary request even though it’s a different ship? i need all the help i can get lol

Lauren

Monday 11th of March 2019

Elizabeth, don't worry at all! I've sailed on a bunch of Princess ships, including the Ruby last year to California. Just talk to the staff when you arrive like I suggested, and mention it on the first dinner, and you'll be good to go! I'm always so impressed with the cruise staff when helping someone following a special diet. Have fun!

ron

Wednesday 28th of November 2018

The answer is defiantly NO !!! We just got back from a 28 night cruise on the Emerald Princess that was like being in prison. At first I thought the plumbing was OK but that too went down hill. In short the food, and not just for us but many said it was the worst, to the TP was just terrible !!! The wate staff, who were very attentive were embarrass by the poor food quality. If there was a Capt. on board you wouldn't know it by ever seeing him. On good cruises we have been on, we saw the Capt. daily inspecting every thing he is responsible for, the whole ship and every one on board. Though we are elite static on Princess, they will never see my face again. They even caused cancelations of ppls excursions because of road closures on Maui known years in advance. During the voyage many staff members lied to us but the mate die was the worst.

Lauren

Thursday 29th of November 2018

Ron, Sorry to hear you had a bad cruise! I think you need to take your grievances up with customer service and not in the comments of my blog. I'm not affiliated with Princess in any way. Thanks!

Karen Johnson

Monday 8th of October 2018

Just contacted princess cruises and was told they did not cater for vegans gutted as I have booked for February. Asked what vegan wines they had not helpful said did not have any shocking. Went previously on P&O cruise they were amazing over and beyond choices and sweets galore and vegan spread

Lauren

Tuesday 9th of October 2018

They 100% cater to vegans! I've sailed on numerous sailings with Princess as a vegan, no problem. As for wines, you'll have to track down a Princess wine menu ahead of time if possible and do a little research on Barnivore.com.

I've seen recent photos from the Crown Princess with buffet items labeled vegan, so it also depends on the ship. You'll have no problem having vegan food prepared for you though. Perhaps the person on the phone wasn't familiar.

Jessica

Tuesday 3rd of April 2018

Glad to hear that Princess had good vegan options. I’m vegan and sailed on Royal Caribbean in 2016 and the food was awful. They attempted to offer vegan options in the dining room, but the food was neither fresh or inventive. Lots of stir frys, but the sauces were very salty and tasted like bottled sweet & sour. And the desserts were terrible (sugar free, gluten free, dairy free “cake”). We’ll have to try Princess for our next one!

Paul

Friday 15th of January 2016

Thank you for this post. My girlfriend prefers to eat vegan as well. We are planning our first cruise together for next year, and dining has been one of the big concerns. We'll be taking the Coral Princess in Alaska, so knowing that Princess Cruise Lines can accommodate seemingly very well makes us both significantly less anxious about dining while on the ship!

Lauren

Saturday 16th of January 2016

Princess is incredibly accommodating! You're going to have a great time and eat so much great food. Have fun!

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