I’m back! Sorry to leave you without new recipes for so long, but I have to admit that I needed a vacation. Now that I’m home and Thanksgiving is over, I have lots of plans for new recipes. Unfortunately, right now they’re just plans, so in the meantime, let me tell you a little about my cruise (and a lot about the food!)
As an early Christmas present, my parents took my sister and me along on their 7-day Norwegian Cruise Line trip to Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. At first I was reluctant to leave D and E (they couldn’t go because of work and school), but once we were at sea, I decided to relax and leave my worries behind and enjoy my time with my parents and sister. Of course, I was rarely without my camera, so I took hundreds of photos. I’ll scatter the best shots of the scenery throughout this post, in no particular order. Hover over each photo to see where it was taken.
Most of my best photos were taken in Guatemala, which, I have to say, was my favorite stop because of its unspoiled beauty. After two days at sea and one stop in flat Costa Maya, Mexico (a place that seems to have been built solely for cruise ships) waking up to see the jungle-covered hills of Guatemala was such a wonderful surprise.
The highlight of our time in Guatemala was tour through the Hibiscus Project, a museum of Mayan garments created by Sandra Acevedo de Voelin with her husband Eric Voelin in her parents’ old home; they devoted several acres in the back of the house to planting native trees and flowers, and I took a lot of photos of plants that I have no idea what they are. As always, your help in identifying them is appreciated.
Since this is a food blog, I would be remiss in not commenting on the cruise’s food. As you may know, a big reason why many people take cruises is so that they can dine in style on delicious, gourmet fare. The problem with being a vegan on any cruise is that most people’s notion of gourmet food centers on animal products, and the cruise menus reflect this bias. NCL was careful to put one–and only one–vegetarian entree on each day’s dining room menus, but those dishes were almost never vegan.
On any other cruise line, my family and I would have been dining at the same time each night with the same waitstaff, so I could make my dietary preferences known at the outset and work with one server to make sure my meals were vegan. But NCL has come up with an idea they call “Freestyle Cruising,” which meant that we could eat whenever we wanted but with a different server each time. So at each and every meal, I had to talk to a new server about vegan options for the night and was often shown the menu for the next night so that preparations could be made. (At our first meal in the dining room, no vegan entrees were available, so I ate my tiny appetizer salad and watched as my family ate their main courses and desserts. Not fun.)
Unfortunately, NCL’s idea of preparing a vegan meal always meant removing the non-vegan ingredients from the vegetarian dish rather than creating a completely new vegan dish; in one case, when the entree was tempura vegetables with seasoned rice, I received only the vegetables because the rice was made with butter; they did not give me extra vegetables (or anything else) to fill the empty space on my plate.
Now having said all that, I was never hungry for long. If I didn’t get enough to eat in the main dining room, I could visit the buffet upstairs afterward, where there were salads, fruit, and a selection of vegetarian Indian dishes that were always delicious (though finding out if they were vegan was a time-consuming and awkward process).
Every morning, I feasted on fresh fruit and skillet potatoes from the buffet, and if I was willing to wait for a server to track it down, soymilk was available to use in my oatmeal, cereal, or coffee. Though it lacked the ambiance of the dining rooms, the buffet provided plenty of vegan options and is probably the reason I came home a couple of pounds heavier.
If you’re a vegan looking for a cruise, I think that NCL isn’t your best bet, but you certainly won’t starve. Just be prepared to repeat your request for a vegan meal every time you sit down to eat, and get used to the idea that at many times, your dining companions will be eating their appetizers and desserts while you wait, nibbling on the bread and hoping it’s vegan.
I’ll be back soon with more new recipes (I’m thinking pasta, potatoes, and Indian food, not necessarily in that order). In the meantime, why don’t you tell me what yummy vegan dishes you had for Thanksgiving? Feel free to leave links to recipes!
NDecember 2, 2009 at 3:43 pm
I recently cruised on Celebrity and I did not have the same food experience as a previous poster. Perhaps because mine was only a short cruise? It was only three days.
There was one vegetarian option each night and it was sometimes vegan. However, even with that, it was usually chock full of added oils, which made it not something I really wanted to eat.
What I ended up doing for dinner was put together an assortment of sides and appetizers. My main dish was usually a baked potato or two and an assortment of steamed veggies. That was okay, but uninspired.
Breakfast and lunch, with the buffets, was better and, if my cruising companion had been willing, I'd have just done the buffet for dinner, as well, but she really wanted the dinning room food.
For breakfast, I had a ton of fresh fruit – delicious – and I asked for uncooked oatmeal which I added hot water to and ate with fruit and/or nuts.
Lunch was a big salad and Indian food. Quite tasty, but on the salty side.
Harvest Hands Los AnonosDecember 2, 2009 at 4:24 pm
I don't know of vegan cruises, but Dr. John McDougall does a vegan trip to Costa Rica every year that looks wonderful!!
A cruise would be great!
Deborah WDecember 2, 2009 at 10:20 pm
Eating away from home as a vegan can be tough! I'm a newly hatched vegan (less than one month) and ate out for the first time this evening at Chevy's, a mexican restaurant. Not a single vegetarian OR vegan item on the menu (that I could find) so I ordered the grilled romaine salad but had to specify no bacon, no cheese, no chicken, and asked for their salsa vinaigrette dressing instead of ranch. It was excellent! As soon as I got home I googled recipes for both the salad and the dressing and can't wait to make them myself. I've just found your blog, and it's awesome. You've got a new follower!
MelissaDecember 2, 2009 at 10:21 pm
I'm sorry your cruise food experience wasn't great. My husband and I went on a cruise with Celebrity this winter. I was really nervous that there wouldn't be enough vegan fare for him- but they were really accommodating. The waitstaff in the dinning room was awesome and by the end they were prepping full Indian dinners (most of cooks seemed to be Indian) and bringing them to the table for everyone. The ship also had a new sorbet every day and had soy milk available.
Vegan cruising can be done. Of course there is also the macro cruise:http://www.atasteofhealth.org/
ShannonDecember 2, 2009 at 11:04 pm
I second (or third?) the suggestion of going to an all-inclusive. We went to one for the first time this year for our anniversary. Hands down, it was the best vacation EVER (yes – even better than the honeymoon!) and everyone there was very accomodating to make us anything we wanted. We had no problem eating vegan the whole time. It was so relaxing, unlike on a cruise where you feel like you are on a rushed timetable the whole time. We will probably never cruise again, but all-inclusives we will be doing at least once a year from now on.
moonwatcherDecember 3, 2009 at 12:49 am
Welcome back, Susan, and thanks for the beautiful photos. . .you saw some amazing places and plants. I, too, am sorry your eating experience wasn't very accommodating . .I've never been on a cruise, and so I found all these comments about what it's like, and what it's like if you are vegan, fascinating. I also enjoyed reading what everyone had for Thanksgiving! We had your chipotle barbequed tofu (breaking with a more traditional choice, but it was just right!), delicata squash stuffed with a wild rice stuffing, mashed potatoes with a gluten free poultry type gravy from the McDougall web site that was awesome, your confetti cornbread made with your soy yogurt, steamed green beans with walnut sauce, cranberry sauce with orange and star anise, and your double lay pumpkin cheesecake! What did you have for Thanksgiving?
FoggyVeganDecember 3, 2009 at 3:28 am
Welcome back! Pictures are beautiful! I recently went on a Celebrity Alaska cruise and did not have a great dining experience (I actually lost weight on the cruise). Uninspiring is also the best description for the food. I ended up eating alot of fruit & was pretty tired of spaghetti by the end of the cruise. It was difficult to find out how things were prepared and I was surprised how many things (minestrone, miso soup, rice) they put animal products in. Too bad really.
I had tofurkey for the first time this year – and I have to say I liked it. And dessert was a berry cobbler – so easy, and perfect after a big meal!
jamberryDecember 3, 2009 at 11:35 am
So glad to hear that my husband and I were not the only ones who had trouble with Norwegian Cruise Line! We just got back from their Eastern Mediterranean cruise and were so frustrated with meal times that, unless they drastically change, I don't think we'll ever cruise agian (at least not with them). I even wrote a long letter and left it in their comment box explaining that they need to be more accomodating to their vegan guests. I guess it didn't work! 🙁
Oh well, we still had a good time seeing all the sites and spending time together. I guess that's what counts.
LollyDecember 3, 2009 at 2:25 pm
Hi, Susan. I don't think I have ever commented before but I love your blog and your recipes are scrumptious! For Thanksgiving, I made your green bean casserole and the very sweet, but oh so good, sweet potato pecan pie (can't think of the exact name). They were so fantastic that I couldn't have eaten both all by myself but did refrain and shared it!! Yum-O!!
Allison ReeceDecember 4, 2009 at 11:22 am
OH, so lovely! Gorgeous photos, thanks for sharing. I have an idea why don't you see if you can find a cruise line that would be willing to set up a First Ever Vegan cruise week(s)! You could host it, find vegan chefs, vegan bloggers, musicians, etc that would be willing to participant… to put on programs for vegan families.
Oh, still love your vegan mac n cheese.. thanks. Love your blog!
JacquelineDecember 4, 2009 at 2:58 pm
Lovely photos, especially the flower shots. Just the kind of photos I enjoy taking.
asimaDecember 4, 2009 at 7:16 pm
I've been meaning to ask for the longest time – if you can attempt a vegan twist to a traditional indian dish 'biryani'" saffron infused basmati rice with protein. That is one dish i really miss after becoming vegan as i'm from a part of india that is very carnivorous 🙁
small houseDecember 5, 2009 at 12:59 am
I think I should also have a break. I am envious of your photos and your stay in Guatemala! I like to visit that lace because it is really very beautiful!
AnonymousDecember 6, 2009 at 8:47 pm
I'm incredibly disappointed to hear that you went on a cruise.. Cruise liners have an terrible environmental impact. Some googling came up with some pretty terrifying numbers:
On a typical one-week voyage a cruise ship generates more than 50 tonnes of garbage and a million tonnes of grey (waste) water, 210,000 gallons of sewage and 35,000 gallons of oil-contaminated water. On average, passengers on a cruise ship each account for 3.5 kilograms of rubbish daily – compared with the 0.8 kilograms each generated by local people on shore.
In addition, there is significant damage to coral reefs from cruise liners. There are 109 countries with coral reefs. In 90 of them (about 70% of cruise destinations are in biodiversity hotspots) reefs are being damaged by cruise ship anchors and sewage, by tourists breaking off chunks of coral, and by commercial harvesting for sale to tourists.
I'm sorry that the cruise line inconvenienced you with a lack of a vegan option.
vegan.eatingDecember 9, 2009 at 7:58 pm
Your post reminds me of my trip to Cuba years ago. They like to put in everything, even the rice! So we ate mostly fruits and veg, when there were some, and bread. We brought a lot of food with us: CLIF Builder's bars, Primal Strips Jerky, JUVO supplement, vegan margarine and cans of Tartex. It was a treat trying to explain all of it to customs with no knowledge of Spanish.
JessicaDecember 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm
I came across your blog and wanted to mention that there actually is a vegan cruise! I saw it briefly in another article: http://www.atasteofhealth.org/vegan-cruise.htm
Kim and MeganDecember 14, 2009 at 6:48 pm
Your trip looked amazing despite the disappointment in the cruise food! So happy that you enjoyed Guatemala so much! We have a special place in our hearts for Guatemala that I blogged about this week…it makes me excited that one more person fell in love with the beauty of it! Enjoy!
DanielleLDecember 18, 2009 at 4:47 pm
This has been one of the best vegan sites ever! I really mean that! I started to be a regular vegetarian at first which lasted about a month, then I became vegan just 6 months ago. I had to do a lot of research and that's when I found this site. I felt your pain when you said it was getting awkward asking for vegan options. Sometimes I tell people that I cannot have dairy products and leave it at that. It is a struggle, but I really am proud of my decision and know I am doing what's best for my body everyday! I live in New Jersey about 20 minutes away from NYC and I am quite lucky because there are many food stores and restaurants that offer vegan options, so I have gotten along fine, and miss nothing. I am married and have three children. My oldest, my daughter is also a vegetarian, but will consume milk and cheese. My husband and two sons are still meat eaters. Most nights I have to cook two or three different meals to accommodate everyone. Thank God I like to cook! This Thanksgiving, we had it at my mom's and I literally brought up all my own food, an entire Thanksgiving meal for me. My husband being the supportive sweat heart he is, ate my Tofurky instead of Turkey. Gotta call that love! Now my new challenge is Christmas. We are Italian and are used to having seven fishes on Christmas Eve! It is a spread that my aunt so delicately makes! I really do not want to bring my boxes of food with me again! I am making breaded "crab" meat patties for both my daughter and I, but other than that I will have to hope for some bread, maybe a salad (if it is not "cheesed" up) olives and pasta, but we all know how pasta can go! Anyway, beautiful pictures, and I really look forward to seeing what you create for the Holiday Meals. I am hosting Christmas Day with a Lasagna, and I already know how to make a veganized version for me! Happy Holidays Everyone!
AnonymousDecember 19, 2009 at 2:18 pm
Oh, my goodness! Your photos are gorgeous! I wish I could go (oh, yeah, I did. . .) I've gotta learn to take photos like these. Great job, sis!
michaelmybelovedDecember 20, 2009 at 4:42 pm
The photos are beautiful but I am sorry about your food experience. I hate to say it but NCL just does not get good ratings (for more than just the food).
I have only been on one cruise (two years ago, with my mom). It was on Holland America (to Alaska!!). I can echo what the other Holland America poster said (which seems similar to the Celebrity cruise posters….both lines are similar "grades" of cruise line) about the dining experience.
First of all, I contacted Holland customer service before the cruise to discuss the options. We had a traditional dining option (which I enjoyed…"dressing for dinner" is one of the fun components of a cruise that is different than "real life") so we had the same servers. I met with them the first night to sort out my needs.
On the regular menu, they had one veg soup and one veg entree each night (different each night of course). I could request these being veganized the night before (I picked out my meal the night before so they could be prepared for veganizing things such as soups). In addition, they had an all veg (not necessarily vegan) menu that I could pick from (this was the same every time but I picked different items on different nights) and could veganize, if possible. They also had different sorbets every night.
Lunch and Breakfast was a bit more limiting but I was able to get things every time without too much effort (including an amazing pear soup that my mom thought was better without the cream than with! :))
As one poster mentioned about Celebrity, Holland has a slightly "older" clientele (which I consider to be a good thing!). That amounts to better dinner conversation with your dining companions, a more civilized atmosphere all around and less chance of seeing far more skin than you care to 🙂
AmyJanuary 13, 2010 at 11:06 pm
On cruising as a vegan: We went on a Carnival Cruise and I notified them I was a vegan when we were setting up the tickets. The first night, as we came into the dining room, I was approached by a member of the wait staff exclaiming they were excited to offer me vegan options throughout the cruise! Perhaps it depends on the staff but, I would think that chefs 'relish' the challenge that comes with fixing something out of their norm. I was pleased. The rest of my family are omnis and they loved it, swore it was the best pizza they ever ate. In the end it was all about family time. But don't our best memories normally revolve around yummy, delicious meals?
ShannonJanuary 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm
This looks like a vegan dream come true!! Wish I could afford to do this.
PattiJanuary 18, 2010 at 6:37 pm
Hi. I was so glad when I found your website a few months ago, and have been preparing many of the dishes. I just returned from a 7 day Southern Carribbean cruise on the MS Westerdam, Holland America line. I went with a raw food group (Halleluja Acres)-they worked with the chef to provide raw, vegetarian food choices and menus. There were about 140 raw food diners on board. The food was prepared with more nuts and fat than I would normally use and it really triggered my IBS, (I should have started each meal with a little easier to digest bite of food with soluble fiber…but that's another story). So cruise lines are beginning to cater to vegan and vegetarian eaters. Thanks again for your great web site.
KellyOctober 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm
I have cruised with Norwegian, Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean and have yet to find one to be very accommodating.
Princess’ main salad on the salad bar is “meat salad” a mixture of cold cuts with dressing. I always mention my preference ahead of time, but the best they can do is steamed vegetables. I was able to get a cheese-free pizza on Norwegian, but when I requested veggie sushi, it was filled with parsley.
I am a quiet sort who doesn’t like to make a scene, so I have resorted to packing food – chopped nuts to add to salad, dried fruit for snacking. I would like to see the cruise lines become more accommodating and label items veg, gluten free, low sodium, etc, so passengers would not have to rely on questioning servers with very limited English.
TIMMMarch 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm
I just retuned from a 7 day Royal Caribbean cruise and I have to say they went way beyond what I have experienced in the past. I’ve always been able to find something on the RC, but usually at the buffet (they even have soymilk, but you have to ask). This time, however, while dinning in the formal dining area the head waiter had a special vegan dish made for me every night after the first night. So hopefully, it’s getting better to be a travelling vegan!!. 🙂
P.S, love the pics!!