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8 Best Vegetarian and Vegan Cruises: Cruise Lines, Sample Items & More

Contributor
Erica Silverstein
Assistant SEO Editor
Marilyn Borth

Last updated
Oct 5, 2023

Read time
8 min read

Let's face it: Cruise ships love meat-eaters, making cruising vegetarians and vegans sometimes feel alienated. 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. The good news is that pretty much every line offers vegetarian and vegan 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 easily be accommodated on most cruises, as plant-based options are becoming more and more available.

We have compiled some helpful tips for successfully cruising as a vegetarian and vegan and a list of the eight most vegetarian- and vegan-friendly cruises.

What to Know Before Cruising as a Vegetarian or Vegan

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 likely be disappointed if they don't plan ahead. Be sure to contact your cruise line's special needs department prior to sailing 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.

For the most choice -- and fewest questions or critiques of your chosen diet -- consider a theme cruise. One example we found is Holistic Holiday at Sea, which touts vegan dining from special chefs brought onboard for the occasion.

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, so check with your cruise line or travel agent if it's allowed.

So which cruise lines offer the best vegetarian and vegan cruises? Here (in no particular order), we list our favorite ocean cruise lines for vegans and vegetarians.

1. Oceania Cruises: Hundreds of Vegan Menu Items and a Raw Juice Bar

Oceania Cruises unveiled an expanded vegan menu in 2017, featuring more than 250 dishes to be served in the Grand Dining Room aboard all ships at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then in 2019, the line added more than 200 new plant-based menu items to its main dining room, buffet and specialty restaurants (you can even order an entire plant-based meal at the steakhouse, Polo Grill).

Oceania's biggest ships, Marina and Riviera, also feature a vegan juice bar on the pool deck that's open in the morning. It serves raw, cold-pressed juices and smoothies made with homemade cashew milk and "energy" bowls with ingredients like acai berries and chia seeds.

Sample vegetarian and vegan dishes on Oceania: Vegan tortilla espanola, creamy mushroom soup, falafel power bowl, pad Thai, Impossible cheeseburger, Yucatan black bean burger with a charcoal bun, truffle mac 'n' cheese and coconut milk carrot cake.

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2. Holland America Line: 22-Dish Vegetarian and Vegan Menu in the Main Dining Room

Holland America ships carry special menus in the main dining room for both vegetarian and Indian (with meat-free options) diets, but you have to ask for them. Indian food does need to be specially ordered 24 hours in advance.

Otherwise, the main dining room features a 22-dish vegetarian and vegan menu for no extra cost during lunch and dinner. Specialty dining venues offer several vegetarian and vegan options as well (though hefty cover charges might not be worth it if you can't enjoy the specialties).

The buffet has an impressive salad bar (better than on many mainstream lines), daily sushi and multiple made-to-order stations (eggs and crepes at breakfast, Asian stir-fry and pasta at lunch). The grill has portobello mushroom "burgers."

Sample vegetarian and vegan dishes on HAL: Baked cheese polenta with mushrooms and artichoke hearts, tofu and vegetable kabobs, curried cauliflower steak and asparagus, vegetable korma, Vietnamese vegetable spring rolls, grilled portobello mushroom with zucchini spaghetti.

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3. SeaDream Yacht Club: Luxurious Vegan and Vegetarian Dining

SeaDream Yacht Club makes a point to pamper everyone, including cruisers with dietary restrictions, making it one of the most vegetarian- and vegan-friendly cruises out there. You will dine well on this ship, and the crew will go above and beyond to cater to your dietary needs. Want something specific? Ask the dining team -- either before your cruise or on the first day -- and they'll do their best to make your dream meal a reality.

At breakfast, you'll find expected offerings like fruit and egg dishes, but also jars of chia seeds and quinoa clusters. The lunch buffet includes a DIY salad area with fresh and organic veggies, plus ship-made pepper spreads and tapenades, and the daily soup is often meat-free.

Dinner features a complete plant-based, organic and vegan meal option, with a starter, vegetable-and-fruit juice, main dish and dessert. Many of these dishes are raw and not cooked, as well. Plus, there's always a vegetarian entree on the regular menu.

SeaDream doesn't stop at vegetarian and vegan options; they also offer gluten-free, pescatarian, high-protein and keto-friendly menu items.

Sample vegetarian and vegan dishes on SeaDream: Truffle tagliatelle pasta; chanterelle, shitake and pink grapefruit ceviche; lapsang souchong smoky portobellos.

4. Carnival Cruise Line: Vegetarian and Vegan Options Abound

Carnival puts a premium on offering a variety of onboard dining venues and keeping the majority of them free. The main dining room always has both vegan and vegetarian selections available.

Casual venues can be surprisingly veggie-friendly. Order the fan favorite veggie burger at Guy's Burger Joint or even the deli and you can top it with delicious sauteed onions and mushrooms.

BlueIguana Cantina will serve you a bean burrito, the buffet will satisfy with salad and pasta, and Carnival's pizza is some of the best around. The for-fee Steakhouse will make off-menu vegetarian entrees as well.

Carnival also offers cruisers enticing vegan appetizers, entrees and desserts. Dishes include plant-based ingredients along with meat substitutes. Vegan choices on menus will be available fleetwide as of December 2023.

Sample vegetarian and vegan dishes on Carnival: Hawaiian salmon poke, portobello mushrooms (with spinach, butternut squash and pepper confit), zucchini and eggplant parmigiana, chickpea biscuits (with roasted squash and peppers) and spaghetti carbonara with vegan bacon.

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5. Royal Caribbean: Vegetarian and Vegan Options in Windjammer Cafe and Main Dining Room

The main dining room and Windjammer Cafe have long offered vegetarian meals along with meat dishes, but Royal Caribbean now offers a 7-day rotation vegan menu in the main dining room fleetwide.

Sample vegetarian and vegan dishes on Royal: Edamame-stuffed portobello mushrooms, vegan spaghetti "Bolognese," butternut squash curry & vegan eggplant burger, orzo pasta stew with green vegetables and toffee "cheesecake" with dark chocolate and a peanut butter crust.

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6. Azamara Offers a Daily Vegan Dinner Menu and More

Azamara has upped its dining game with a vegan menu that's available in the main dining room for lunch and dinner, as well as all the specialty dining venues for dinner.

The menu offers numerous vegan main courses, appetizers, soups and side dishes. (However, all diners need to pay a cover charge to dine in the specialty restaurants even if they're eating off the vegan menu, available elsewhere for free.) Vegan and vegetarian menu items are marked as such.

Keep an eye out for vegetarian-friendly Indian dishes in the buffet and veggie burgers and vegetarian spring rolls at the poolside grill. Don't miss Azamara's famous White Night alfresco buffet dinner; there is so much to eat, you're bound to find something to tempt your taste buds.

Sample vegetarian and vegan dishes on Azamara: Tofu satay with nasi goreng, pesto pasta with olives and sun-dried tomatoes and Moroccan spiced kebab with almond couscous salad.

7. Celebrity Cruises: 14 Days of Vegetarian Menus

Celebrity Cruises gets points for offering separate vegetarian menus in its main dining room (and in all four main dining rooms on Celebrity Edge), with 14 days of variations, as well as marking vegetarian, vegan and lactose-free dishes with colorful icons on its regular menus.

Servers should ask about dietary issues the first night of the cruise and offer the vegetarian menu; otherwise, you can simply request it. Our only gripe is the main entrees focus on pasta and cheese, with a decided lack of beans and tofu.

Specialty venues can accommodate vegetarians, though the choices might be limited; the buffet offers a pasta bar, pizza and made-to-order stir-fry. The exception is Le Petit Chef, an experience found on select ships, which offers a separate vegetarian menu. Inform the restaurant manager 24 hours in advance of your dietary restrictions.

Sample vegetarian and vegan dishes on Celebrity: Sun-dried tomato ricotta pasta, roasted carrot cumin salad, vegetable korma with seasonal vegetables and vegetable cassoulet with beans.

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8. Princess Cruises: Seven Vegan Menus in the Main Dining Rooms Fleetwide

Horizons Dining Room on Sun Princess will be a triple deck high space and will feature a kids nenu
Horizons Dining Room on Sun Princess (Image: Princess Cruises)

Princess Cruises unveiled seven new vegan menus in October 2023 for their main dining rooms across the fleet. The line makes eating a vegan diet on a cruise easier and oftentimes more enjoyable than most other lines. Their vegan options are gourmet, and cruisers can request vegan meals both prior to sailing and once onboard.

Prior requests can be done in three places as well: Cruise Personalizer, through their travel agent or by calling Princess directly.

Sample vegetarian and vegan dishes on Princess: roasted pears with dried apricots and pistachios, green goddess salad with tofu, roasted eggplant and tomato soup, farfalle and summer squash with tomatoes, basil and pine nuts and plant-based shepherd's pie.

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