My advice: don’t do it. Avoid a cruise at all costs. Find another way to explore and travel!
But…if you love to cruise, it is possible to eat raw vegan on a big cruise liner, like Princess. It’s not going to be the best quality. The meals will not be gourmet raw. But you can get by.
Things to know at the outset:
Princess is basically a big disjointed bureaucracy. There’s always a higher up or someone else you have to tell about your dietary preference. I told Princess representatives over the phone and online about my diet. I emailed the people they say to contact.
And still, on the ship, I had to let people know, again and again, until I’d met all the higher ups. Just know that you can’t tell one individual about your diet and be done with it. It’s not that simple.
Falsely Advertised Smoothie and Juice Bar
Some of the ships have a smoothie and juice bar, but there are no guarantees that your ship will actually have one. The Majestic Princess is advertised as having a juice and smoothie bar, but only offers it during Chinese cruises.
The person I emailed my dietary needs to actually sent me a copy of the menu, and it looked good. I thought it would be my saving grace! However, for my Australia and New Zealand cruise, the Ocean Terrace space was used as a regular alcohol bar. Tragic.
The staff is so accommodating and eager to please, but the ship simply isn’t set up for the health conscious traveler. It’s nearly impossible to get enough bottled water even with the unlimited beverage package (which is a waste of money if you don’t drink alcohol).
The allowance for in-room bottled water via room service is one small bottle per day. Large bottles are not covered by the unlimited beverage package, so to get enough bottled water and not break the bank, you have to order the small bottles.
Hard to be healthy onboard…
The carbon footprint of the ship must be colossal with the incentive to drink smaller bottles. Plus, it’s a recipe for dehydration and when combined with higher sodium food, recycled air, lots of old people, and foreign germs, it is the PERFECT storm for getting sick.
It’s basically a hospital at sea. If you don’t get sick, you know your immune system is good!
What I did:
I stopped getting bottled water and refilled my own bottle in the club class lounge with the filtered ship water. You can probably get filtered ship water in many locations onboard.
I tried the cooked vegan and vegetarian food first.
It sucked. I am a plant-based chef, so my standards are very high. It might work for you.
I told the head waiters at whatever restaurant or dining room I was at about my diet. On my first night, there was miscommunication between head waiter and waiter and chef, such that the chef had prepared something special for me, but it never actually got to me.
As time went on, the various food service staff understood what I needed and would give me what I asked for. The head waiter in the club class dining room asked that I look at the menu for the next day and see which dishes could be converted to vegan and gluten-free.
I did this a couple times, and as I said, it basically sucked. Small portions. No flavor. Salt, oil, and other things I don’t like to eat. No salad dressing.
And to top it off, I felt like shit. So I stopped going to that dining room.
All raw, baby!
With the realization that compromising my diet was not worth it, I decided to try all raw. I hoarded fruit from fruit baskets in my room, collected fruit from the buffet and the club class lounge, and ordered fruit for breakfast via room service. No problem.
At the buffet, if there wasn’t a fruit out that I wanted, I asked and usually got it. You have to be careful though, because the cut fruit that is served is often not fresh. Even in the club class lounge, the watermelon was often slimy.
Sadly, there is nowhere onboard you can get a fresh smoothie. There is a bubble tea lounge that offers a mango smoothie that is a mango purée with refined sugar from a plastic bottle blended with ice.
I made friends with the barista there, and he agreed to make me a smoothie with fruit I brought to him when it’s not busy. But, he had nothing fresh at his station.
I brought him a bunch of bananas I’d been ripening in my room. He happily blended them with water for me to enjoy a simple banana smoothie. I have never enjoyed a banana smoothie so thoroughly!
The buffet became my friend.
I realized guacamole and salsa were put out daily in a taco bar at lunch and tea time, but not at dinner, when I actually wanted it. I’d grab a bowl to store in my fridge for a giant dinner salad. At dinner, I plated up a mountain of greens and cucumber to eat with the guac and salsa. Satisfying and delicious.
I also collected dates and dried figs from the salad bar for snacks and desserts. There are nuts and seeds available as well.
My greatest discovery was fresh orange juice served during breakfast only at the club class breakfast area at the Crown Grill. You can’t find it anywhere else onboard. There is orange juice available in other locations, but it is pasteurized, bottled stuff.
I brought my own bottle to the Crown Grill during breakfast time, and had them fill it for me daily. While waiting for the orange juice (which usually took at least a half hour), I’d usually order plates of watermelon there, which were too small, but at least fresh.
Stock up on raw food at port!
I also enjoyed finding yummy vegan and raw restaurants at port, so I didn’t feel deprived. There were plenty of places to get juices, smoothies, salads, and raw desserts most places we landed in New Zealand. I’d usually have lunch at port and bring back extra treats to enjoy later.
All in all, I managed. I hope this is helpful for you. Again, I don’t recommend a standard big cruise for the health conscious traveler.
The cruise is basically archaic and caters to an older, totally conventional, mainstream crowd.
On this particular cruise, we ended up spending more time at sea than exploring on land, which is not how I like to travel. That being said, I got to relax a lot, see five different parts of New Zealand, and bond with my sweet mom.
If you find yourself going on a cruise, because it’s a family member’s ideal way to travel, know that you can do it. Lower your expectations and enjoy! Or, better yet, find a vegan or raw vegan cruise!