Hubby and I went on a cruise to Bermuda and it was divine. No kids, no work — well, not much work — no cooking or chores, and lots of sleeping in and down-time. Over the years, we’ve cruised to the Bahamas and Bermuda, twice on Norwegian (Breakaway) and twice on Royal Caribbean (Grandeur of the Seas). Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way:
#1 Don’t go on a cruise for the food… unless you go on a vegan cruise like this one or this one. Go for the experience, to get away from it all. Even if you’re an omnivore, cruise food ain’t great. And if you live to eat like me, it’s mediocre most of time. Instead of perseverating on the food, do this:
- Stay up late and sleep in
- Don’t make your bed
- Enjoy quality time with that special someone
- Or get away from everyone and spend time by yourself in some hidden corner on deck
- Relax in a lounge chair looking out at the sea and contemplating the vastness of the ocean, with a Rum Swizzle in your hand;-)
- Listen to live music (the Creole jazz band and dueling pianos are crazy fun), corny magicians, and stand-up comedians
- Shake your booty in the sexy rumba dancing class
- Check out a book from the ship’s library
- Wander around in your pajamas – nobody gives a damn
- Belt out a tune in the karaoke contest – you’ll never see any of these people again
- Waste an hour in the video arcade racing cars and playing Slow Ride on Guitar Hero
- Go snorkeling or kayaking and inhale the beauty of the marine life
- Play a hand of Black Jack in the casino and then get outta there before you lose a lung to all the secondhand smoke
- Hang out with the locals when you’re in port
- Chill out and just be.
#2 Bring some essentials to enhance your meals:
- A shaker of nooch
- Single-serving packets of your favorite nut butter
- Single-serving containers of soy milk or almond milk for your cereal or coffee or tea – the ship usually has soy milk but it takes forever for them to find it and bring it to you when you request it; most staterooms have mini-fridges, so you can chill your milk
- Vegan snacks like Lara bars, trail mix, etc., especially for when you go exploring off the ship
- Vegan cookies – there will be very tempting fresh-baked cookies on the ship; instead of feeling left out, bring your own
- A reusable water bottle that you can fill up everyday to have water in your stateroom and in port.
#3 Break the fast with fruit galore and an eggless omelette.
Cruise ships have a ton of fresh fruit. So load up on cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, and watermelon at breakfast and grab an apple, orange or banana for a snack later on. For something light and quick, enjoy oatmeal (check that it’s vegan) or dry cereal with your handy little container of nondairy milk. Some ships might have fresh walnuts and raisins to add to your cereal. If you’d like something heartier, go to the Omelette Station and ask the chef to prepare you an omelette with all of the veggies (onions, garlic, peppers, mushrooms) but NO EGG. Yeah, s/he’ll look at you funny for a minute, but then get right to work and saute those veggies for you (you can request no oil if you want). Get yourself some roasted potatoes, a toasted English muffin with baked beans poured on top, and you have a filling meal for a vegan triathlete… or a proud non-athlete like myself.
#4 The Lunch Buffet is where it’s at!
Lunch on a cruise ship is my favorite meal because of the variety. At the buffet, there are regularly Indian and Asian dishes which are pretty good, though a little oily. Think veggie stir-fry, rice, dal and other bean-based Indian dishes. On the Breakaway, there’s a pasta bar every freakin’ day! You can collect a variety of veggies from the salad bar and then bring them to the pasta station and they’ll saute them and add the pasta of your choice and some rockin’ marinara. DE-licous. There was a Taco Bar one day with vegan refried beans, all the tasty veggie taco toppings you could wish for, including GUACAMOLE. Yes, that’s right. I did a jig when I saw the guac on the Taco Bar. You can also get a veggie burger any day, but ask if it’s vegan – it might have eggs or some other unnecessary animal product. There’s a fresh salad bar and you can top your greens with beans and grains. There are also grain salads (like quinoa), bean salads (black-eyed peas) and sides (butternut squash).
#5 Try a specialty restaurant for dinner.
The main dining room isn’t bad. If you dine there every night, you can pre-order a vegan meal for the next night. It’s hit or miss. On a Grandeur of the Seas cruise, the chef hit the mark some nights and some nights it was just ‘eh’. So you might want to mix things up a bit and try one of the specialty restaurants. It costs extra, but sometimes you can get a free meal or two in a specialty restaurant when you book your cruise package. On our recent Breakaway cruise, we had dinner in the Italian restaurant twice: once outside on the seaside patio, which was serene and lovely, and once inside with a lively opera-singing waiter. Even the bread was vastly better than the bread in the main dining room. I put together a meal of starters and sides for myself – minestrone soup, a small salad, rigatoni pomodoro, and grilled vegetables (and a lot of chewy bread). We also ate dinner one night in the Japanese hibachi restaurant, which was the typical knife trick and fire show. It was a little cramped and rowdy, but not bad overall. I had the grilled tofu and veggies and it was better than expected, but like most hibachi restaurants, it was way too much food and I only ate about half of it.
#6 Bring your own vegan desserts.
There are NO VEGAN DESSERTS on cruise ships. Except perhaps some so-so sorbet. (Though I have heard of chefs preparing vegan deserts for guests on other cruise lines, this has yet to be my experience on Norwegian or Royal Caribbean.) So stop whining and bring your own vegan treat (see #1). I brought some vegan cookies, which I enjoyed in the afternoon with a cup of tea and that was just fine. Or just have fruit and you might actually lose weight while everyone else is eating endless amounts of cookies and cake and soft-serve ice cream. By the way, be prepared to see some serious eating on the cruise. People pile up their plates at the buffets with the usual SAD suspects: pizza, hot dogs, burgers, chicken fingers, french fries… and then a lot of it gets left behind to be thrown away. Harrumph.
#7 Find some good grub when the ship is in port.
When the ship is in port, get off. Walk around town, head to the beach, take a bus somewhere picturesque. Bring a granola bar, some fruit, and your water bottle for when hunger strikes. Check out vegan-friendly restaurants on Happy Cow and Trip Advisor and other restaurant sites and give them a try. Or, just go where your mood takes you. When we disembarked in Bermuda, we took a bus to the far end of the island and found a pub that served up some delicious vegan mushroom tapenade with grilled bread. We ate that with a couple fruity cocktails, and watched Chinese soccer in the sports bar with some friendly Bermudians. It was spontaneous, relaxing, and exactly what we needed after 2 days at sea with 5,000 other people.
#8 Don’t obsess.
You can make yourself miserable worrying about the food. Don’t. It will not be the tastiest or the healthiest food that you eat. See this for what it is: a vacation. So chill out, kick your feet up, and enjoy yourself. Make some happy memories. Eat the best food that’s available to you and don’t sweat it. You’ll be back in your own kitchen soon enough.