Let's face it: Cruise ships love meat-eaters. Restaurants so often are meat-themed, from celebrity-chef-helmed burger and BBQ joints to steakhouses of all nationalities, from American to Brazilian and Italian. Amid the plates of bacon piled high and formal nights showcasing lobster tail and surf-n-turf, what's a vegetarian or vegan cruiser to do?
The good news is that pretty much every line offers vegetarian cruise food without special request. Main dining room menus have at least one meat-free starter and entree per night. Pasta and pizza bars are omnipresent. Vegans can also be accommodated on cruises, but with a bit more advance planning.
- Be forewarned: Not all cruise lines understand the concept of vegetarian proteins. Often, meat-free dishes are heavy on the cheese and the pasta.
- While vegetarians can generally get by with the regular offerings on the ship, vegans will be disappointed if they don't plan ahead. Be sure to contact your cruise line's special needs department to alert the ship to your dietary needs and to see if you can request special foods (like almond or rice milk).
- Vegans will want to meet with the maitre d' or head chef to discuss dining options on day one. Likely, you will need to preorder the next day's meals the night before in order to give the chefs time to prepare alternative dishes for you. Vegetarians don't necessarily need to do this, but they should inquire about vegetarian menus that might not be readily offered.
- Packing your own snacks and dairy-free milk is a good way for vegans to hedge against unknown food options on a cruise. However, cruise lines have different rules about bringing your own food and beverages onboard, though they might make an exception for special diets. If you want to BYO, it's best to check with the cruise line's special needs department or your travel agent to find out what's allowed.
- For the most choice -- and fewest questions or critiques of your chosen diet -- consider a theme cruise. Examples we found include Holistic Holiday at Sea and Vegan Vacation at Sea, both of which tout vegan dining from special chefs brought onboard for the occasion.
So which lines offer the best cruises for vegetarians and vegans? Here, (in no particular order) we list our favorite ocean cruise lines.