My last vegan cruise post featured a number of specialist sailings. Some are charter cruises, sold exclusively as vegan sailings with no non-vegan dining & drink onboard. The majority, however, are large vegan events on ships with their own vegan catering arrangements and social events fitted around the general sailing. But what if these few specialist sailings just don’t work for you and for your schedule. Maybe you holiday with an omni friend/partner and family who wouldn’t do a vegan cruise. You may fancy a sailing to a destination that isn’t visited by these specialist vegan cruises. So can you cruise as a vegan on a regular, standard sailing of a cruise ship? Would they offer a vegan-friendly cruise? Yes, they can. If you’re willing to be flexible.
With a good number of standard cruises as a vegan (since 2016) I have first-hand personal experience from a handful of cruise lines. I have done some research into options on other cruise lines to give you alternatives if one of the specialist vegan sailings won’t suit your travel plans. Let me start with those I have yet to try and which may interest you too.
My vegan cruise wish-list
(Carnival-owned UK cruise line catering mostly for the British market)
Italian Costa Cruises is another Carnival-owned brand, rarely seen in the British waters. They introduced a vegetarian & vegan menu already back in 2015! Here’s a multiple-course menu to show just one example of how the Italians can cater for vegans onboard.
This past cruiser review of the vegan meals on Costa Cruises may be helpful to you, as it includes some photos too.
Having a set menu to order from, instead of having to adapt dishes, must be so much easier for both cruisers and staff. And unlike most cruise lines, who permit only non-perishables for in-cabin storage and consumption only, Costa takes a different road. They state on their website that you may bring your own items with you for the chefs to prepare meals with.
But even more than Costa’s menu, I am wanting to try…
Oceania is the premium brand of Norwegian Cruise Line and back in May 2017 they sent out a fabulous press release about a brand new vegan menu onboard. Not just healthy food. They had me at vanilla waffles, chocolate vegan ricotta pie and strawberry sable. The raw juices and smoothies on the menu are good too, surely. Even if just to offset the calorie-laden vegan desserts.
I was able to visit one of their ships in Scotland and sample the vegan menu later that same year.. and it was divine. The best food I have EVER eaten. And even the plating of the dishes was exemplary. See more on the visit in my separate Oceania Nautica post.
Since the release of the vegan menu I sampled onboard Nautica, Oceania have further revamped the menu in 2019.
Holland America Line (HAL)
HAL is another cruise line I am looking forward to trying. They are another Carnival-owned company and offer a separate, official vegetarian menu that has vegan options clearly highlighted. As a company they do appear to attract an older crowd so I haven’t booked a cruise with them yet. And for that reason I wouldn’t recommend them to families as first choice.
Much like on most other cruise lines that improvise or amend regular dinner menu courses to suit a vegan diet, you may need to pre-order items from this menu. Feedback has varied, some have had to preorder, others have been able to order on the night, just like anyone orderding from the omni menu.
Canadian bloggers Justin & Lauren sailed on one of HAL’s ships and produced this great review of their vegan dining. The below photo of the entrees/main courses from the vegetarian & vegan menu is off the review I linked to above. You can find great images and full menu in their review.
One last wish-list cruise line I must add, is the brand new Virgin Voyages. Even before she was finished and sailing, we knew that there was going to be a ‘vegetarian forward’ restaurant onboard – whatever that means and that vegan options would be included in the menus.
When Scarlet Lady was finished and arrived in the UK for a trade visit, my friend Jenni from Cruisemummy blog agreed to review the vegan offering onboard for me. You can find her report here. I too was meant to be onboard, but couldn’t use my invite for being out of the country. Jenni’s report plus the quirky ship/designs onboard really make me want to sail on Scarlet – or her two sisters.
Valiant Lady, the middle sister is due to launch at the end of 2021 and the third, Resilient Lady, in 2022. Got a few cruises booked for 2022 already but hoping to add Resilient to my list.. and sample all the vegan food myself! If you book anything before I go, let us know how the vegan options were!
My vegan cruises so far:
I have sailed twice on Royal Caribbean, on those early occasions there were no official vegan menus onboard or vegan options mentioned on their website. Since then, Royal Caribbean have released a vegan menu in the main dining room (MDR), and it should be available fleetwide. However, it has been reported that some ships have chosen not to adopt this menu and offer their own vegetarian/vegan menu.
On my past cruises, the main dining room staff liaised with me to adapt existing vegetarian menu items to suit vegan passengers. On the first night, I had the cheese omitted to make the vegetarian starter dish vegan. Since 2019 that should not be required with the new menu, though.
The Windjammer buffet (lunch & dinner) has a selection of vegetarian options including stir fry and pasta stations, vegetarian curry…and an extensive salad bar, naturally. Even if no vegan marked dishes were available when I personally last sailed with RC, I was always able to build a meal or sometimes have what was prepared. You just have to speak to one of the chefs to confirm vegetarian items are dairy-free (often have butter). You can read my old Royal Caribbean (2016) cruise review on vegan food here.
At breakfast, the Windjammer buffet serves bread, beans, mushrooms, etc with a selection of fruit, soy milk and JusRoll cinnamon swirls. My dessert for the week! Porridge was made with water so that was my breakfast choice, every day. No dairy-free spread on Royal either, so you either have to use fruit or jam.
I have written a separate post titled “Vegan food on MSC Splendida” about my three-nighter taster cruise. I found the buffet great, with lots of options but none marked vegan, just a sign for vegetarian dishes. On this initial taster cruise, the main dining room did not impress so much. But on the basis of the ship, the overall service and the staff I would have chosen to sail with them again – even if it meant having to dine in the buffet on all nights. But that is no longer an issue as MSC either. New vegan options have been added!
I am pleased to report that my 2019 experience onboard MSC was much better, as they now have vegan menu options in the MDR. The vegan mains courses are marked with a leafy V logo, as seen on the curry dish on this menu image.
The only obvious disappointment compared to our Splendida sailing was the lack of vegan spread. You can find the full IG story review of my MSC Seaview meals here.
(former Thomson Cruises)
I have sailed on both Marella Discovery 2 and Marella Explorer as a vegan, and I would heartily recommend them to any new vegan cruiser. Marella is an exceedingly vegan friendly cruise line, with all ship restaurant menus having vegan options. And even the Marketplace buffet has items clearly labelled vegan options. You can’t really get any more vegan friendly than that (same applies to gluten-free markings). You can see my full Explorer review here.
Even before the vegan items appeared on Marella menus, they were great at offering options, even having vegan breakfast sausages. On my last Marella cruise, they even had vegan cheese for our pizza. I was over the moon. No other cruise line had been that good to me. On any other cruise, I have always had to take my own vegan cheese with me and ask staff to use it on my pizzas. They are not meant to, for food hygiene reasons, but most usually do. But just like the other Brit P&O, Marella carries vegan cheese, so you don’t need to.
Carnival Cruise Line
Other than UK’s own Marella, above, my second firm favourite for vegan cruising is Carnival Cruise Line. Their ships aren’t a common sight in Europe, as they focus heavily on the US market. They’re instantly recognisable for their red whale-tail funnel and have a reputation for relaxed, informal family cruising. FunShips, is their tag line and for a reason. I have never had as much fun as I did on Carnival Horizon in 2018. And even though there is no fleetwide vegan menu (some of their ships do), I dined so well onboard Horizon that I can’t wait to get back onboard. I seriously miss those breakfast burritos.
I wrote a three-piece review on Carnival vegan catering which should reassure you and give you ample tips on how to ensure a great vegan cruise onboard one of their ships. You’ll find them here, on my Carnival page, among other related Carnival posts.
Vegan luxury cruising?
There are a handful of other cruise lines with vegan menus I should mention. But as those are premium and ultra-premium and come with the associated high price tag. Some higher than others. But if you want a six-star luxurious cruise with vegan options, consider Silversea who offer not just vegan but vegan raw meals. For seekers of luxury cruising with plantbased options, I can also recommend checking out Paul Gauguin cruises, Regent Seven Seas, and Azamara.
For everything else.. there are vegan options in cruise ports
Cruising as a vegan on a ship full of omnivores can be a challenge with the abundance of omni food on display. Dining experiences vary even on different ships of the same company, as I discovered on my two Royal Caribbean sailings. But, I have always been fed, haven’t gone hungry, and have had a great time regardless. Both on and off the ships. In port you can always utilise the HappyCow app and locate local vegan food options for lunch. Essential if you end up cake-deprived onboard.
Once, back in 2017, I even met with a local vegan baker to get cupcakes since the port had no vegan cafes (or cafes open with vegan options) I could support. If calling at Gibraltar, I recommend getting your hands on some of the lovely MrsWheelmakerBakes‘ goodies.
Hope these examples and cruise line suggestions help you with navigating your options for your first vegan cruise. And of course, don’t forget the 100% all-vegan charter cruises by Vegan Travel cruises & Tours or any of the other specialist vegan sailings available. Some of the latter are vegan groups on otherwise omni ships but at least provide a separate group menu to enjoy, and other vegan travellers to mingle with. For these, check out my post on specialist sailings!
I am convinced vegans can have successful sailings on ‘regular’ cruise ship sailings. For many it may be the only kind they can take, to accommodate those they travel with. If you have any questions on any cruises that I have taken & dined vegan, do ask. Check out the menu at the top of the page for information specific to each of the cruise lines featured.
Happy vegan cruising,
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