As I’ve mentioned many times before on this blog and elsewhere, good food is a vital ingredient of any cruise holiday and something which all cruise lines take very seriously. Not least the luxury lines, because, if you’re advertising a six star product, it follows that your food should be something special too.
However, no matter how expertly-created and delicious a meat-based dish is, it’s of no interest to you if you’re a vegetarian cruiser. If you’re a vegan, it’s fair to say you’ll face more challenges finding meals which do not contain meat or animal bi-products. However, just as the awareness of alternative dietary requirements has grown on both our supermarket shelves and in our restaurants over the last couple of decades, so too has awareness of cruise food for vegetarians and vegans, as well as an awareness of the requirements of those who suffer from food allergies.
So, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan who’s looking to book a luxury cruise but perhaps anxious about being adequately catered for here’s my guide to cruise food for vegetarians and vegans.
Cruise food for vegetarians and vegans – what’s the difference?
I’m approaching this blog mostly from the point of view that you’re a vegetarian or vegan cruiser or indeed, would-be cruiser. However, just in case you’re reading it as a meat-eater who’s here to get better informed, perhaps on behalf of a fellow traveller, here’s a little more information. Forgive me if some of the points I’m about to make seem obvious to you but believe me, as a vegetarian myself I’ve been subject to some rather misguided assumptions about my diet, so it’s worth clearing a few things up.
A few pointers
Obviously, vegetarians don’t eat meat. This includes fish and indeed, all seafood. You’d be surprised by the amount of times I’ve been offered a fish option on the menu after saying that I was a vegetarian! Also, though it’s not as common in the dairy industry as it once was, there are a number of cheeses which contain animal rennet, so you may find that your veggie fellow travel will enquire further about any cheese-based dishes. Similarly, any deserts which contain gelatine are not vegetarian. Officially, if you’re a vegetarian who does not eat meat but consumes dairy products, you’re classed as an ovo-lacto vegetarian. If you’re a Vegan, you do not eat meat or indeed, any animal bi-products. This means that all dishes made using dairy products are off the menu and also honey and beeswax.
Just as pretty much any restaurant menu will contain a vegetarian option, so too will your cruise ship menu. If you’re a vegetarian luxury cruiser, you’ll find that the vast majority of restaurants will cater for you and you’ll always have a choice of dishes. If you’re a vegan, you may find the odd option instated on the menu but it’s highly advisable to notify your cruise line in advance, so that a vegan menu can be prepared for you. Also, it’s possible to arrange a meeting with the chef when you board. It’ll put a face to the name and let him know who you are and gives you the chance to ask questions and make any requests. The old adage that if you don’t ask you don’t get certainly holds true when it comes to cruise food for vegetarians and vegans.
The specialist restaurant is your friend
When diners want a treat or a little variety; they tend to move away from the buffet or main dining restaurant into one of the ship’s specialist restaurants. For the sake of either regional authenticity or originality, you may find that specialist restaurants contain a decent choice of vegetarian or vegan options. If they don’t, the less-hectic and more personal nature of the service means that the staff and chef may be better placed to deal with your requirements and suggest and prepare suitable dishes for you. Also, it’s worth pointing out that, if you’re cruising with fellow passengers who may be vegetarian for religious reasons, for example vegetarian Hindus, there may already be cruise menus for vegetarians and vegans in place which you could also benefit from. Also, many sushi chefs are also great at creating vegetarian sushi, too.
You’ve booked your cruise, you’ve paid your money. Surely your every whim should be catered for, just as advertised? Absolutely. However, how you approach your dietary requirements with the restaurant staff is important. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about good manners, however, it’s worth working with the staff a little to get the most out of your dining experience:
Don’t put your requirements over as a complaint – just say you need a bit of help
Don’t assume the chef can’t cook for you – he’s an expert
Your chef will rise to the challenge – ask the waiter what he can suggest, he’ll appreciate the variety.
Have a few dishes in mind – No use looking unprepared if the chef asks you what you’d like.
Show your appreciation – it can only mean a selection of tasty dishes for the duration of your cruise.
To sum up cruise menus for vegetarians and vegans…
Lines such as Azamara, Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas Cruises all offer vegetarian options on their menus. This is the same with Crystal Cruises and they note on their website that all vegan requirements can be catered for a day in advance. Though some lines do offer vegan options on the menu, one thing they all have in common is a desire that you contact them in advance with your requirements, so you can be catered for. Silversea states that its CruiseLite menu always offers a selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes.
By Simon Brotherton