How to eat vegan on a luxury cruise

Yvonne O'Halloran

In the not too distant past, a luxury cruise ship sounded like the last place a vegan would want to vacation on. Vegan travel usually involves – well used to – self-catering, checking local food blogs or apps like HappyCow for the best vegan options at the destination, and sometimes being OK with relying on the local falafel joint (because at least there’s always a local falafel joint). Being on a boat where you’re limited to the catering onsite (perhaps barring excursions) may have seemed like a restrictive outing at best and a hungry holiday at worst.

However, cruising is changing. 2022 saw 1.7m travellers from the UK & Ireland take to the high seas – almost exactly the same as 2019 numbers. While the Med is still the top destination (38.4%), Northern Europe, primarily Norway and Iceland, is hot (or cold) on its heels at 29%. The new, diverse type of traveller is being reflected in menus, and veganism is increasingly mainstream in the UK. The Vegan Society’s Vegan Trademark is now proudly sported by enormous brands from Wagamama through to Disney. In March 2023, Straits Research reported that the UK vegan food market is growing almost 10% year on year. Sainsbury’s Future Of Food report has predicted a quarter of the British populace will be meat-free in 2025. Cruise companies are eager to target that market. Let’s have a look at some hints and tips to make a valued vegan voyage.

Check The Cruise Company

A luxury cruise liner is going to be your home for the duration of your holiday, and the place where you eat the majority of your meals. Think about it as an ocean-going all-inclusive resort. In much the same way as you wouldn’t book a hotel with dreadful ratings, it’s important to do some homework on cruise providers. For instance, Regent Seven Seas added 200 vegan dishes to their menus back in 2019. In addition, Explora Journeys have a vegetarian as head of culinary. Franck Garanger has been working with plant based food since 2012. The latest luxury liner operator to announce vegan menus is Atlas Ocean Voyages. The new dishes only rolled out in August 2023, so there may not be a glut of reviews out there as yet, though.

Search The Ship

Not all ships, even under the same marque, will have the same menus. Almost all will have a buffet where you can make do and mend vegan meals using pasta, veggies, fruit and stir-fries. However at the higher end, almost all liners will have at least one, and oftentimes more, bookable restaurants serving different cuisines. Sometimes these are part of the ticket price and sometimes an optional extra – in the latter case, pick the package that’s right for you! If possible, pick a ship where there are vegan options in all the restaurants – perhaps a nice thing about being on the waves is there’s no truly ‘local’ cuisine, so it may feel a little odd (and potentially be hard to find) enjoying Korean food in Scandinavia. You also have the surety that vegan food will be vegan without language barriers or cultural interpretations of what constitutes meat and what doesn’t.

Call It In

Sometimes you may not find a whole lot of detail when searching. If that is the case, do put in a call or fire off an email. It could be that far from being vegan-hesitant, the trip has a chef who doesn’t figure out their menus until the cruise is booked. Of course, it is always helpful to let the staff know you’re vegan at the time of booking. While it’s an old trick to search ‘VGML’ for a flight, a cruise a longer haul than any long haul!

Vegans can sometimes get used to having holidays that involve finding food on the hop. However, it’s much harder to forage on the high seas than dry land. Being vegan isn’t a barrier to luxury cruising. Putting in a little effort beforehand should ensure the experience is as relaxed and rewarding as the brochures tell us.

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