If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you’ve more to consider when booking a cruise than which ship has the most sun loungers. When it comes to dining, cruise lines tend to favour meat-eaters, offering a near-endless array of steakhouses, barbecue joints, and other speciality restaurants themed around meat. But amid the bacon-strewn breakfasts, burger lunches and mixed grill dinners, where do vegetarians and vegans fit in?
Thankfully, cruise lines haven’t forgotten about their non-meat-eating passengers. Menus in even the most meat-orientated of dining venues usually offer at least one vegetarian starter and main, while go-to staples like pizza and pasta can also be found in abundance on most cruise ships. Even vegans will find no shortage of options, albeit with a little more pre-planning.
But which cruise line is the best for vegetarians and vegan passengers? Here, we look at the lines which offer the best choice of vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Why it’s a great choice: Norwegian Cruise Line takes a modern and progressive approach to feeding its guests, offering a massive range of dining venues that cater to all tastes, requirements, and budgets. Vegetarians will find options marked by a ‘V’ in most on-board eateries. In the Steakhouse and Churrascaria, which are very meat-focused, the chef will be happy to prepare you something meat-free on request, or else bring in a dish from a separate venue.
Most Complimentary and Speciality Dining options have at least one ‘V’ option, and as for vegans, arrangements can be made to accommodate your dietary requirements at embarkation. Talk to the maître d’ after boarding, and they will make sure each dining venue is aware of your needs.
- Portobello mushrooms, goat’s cheese and red bell peppers, served with sweet potato beurre blanc — Le Bistro
- Vegetable pad thai with egg, tofu, green peppers, and chilli — Teppanyaki
- Butternut squash salad with pumpkin seed vinaigrette — main dining room and buffet.
Carnival Cruise Line
Why it’s a great choice: The exciting thing about Carnival Cruise Line is that many of their best dining options are complimentary, so you don’t have to pay extra to try something extra special. The main dining room always has a good range of vegetarian starters and main courses, while speciality restaurants like Guy’s Burger Joint also offer several delicious meat-free options — so you can enjoy a decadent burger alongside the meat-lovers in your party.
Of course, the buffet has a great offering of veggie fare, including the usual pizza, pasta, and salads. And those with a penchant for spice will love the vegetarian dishes served in JiJi Asian Kitchen and Bluelguana Cantina, whose fragrant Mexican fare can be enjoyed without any extra supplement.
- Eggplant parmigiano served with shaved parmesan, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil — Cucina Del Capitano
- Grilled tofu served with vegetables, yaki udon noodles and teriyaki anticucho sauce — Bonsai Teppanyaki
- Quattro formaggi pizza with roasted garlic, gorgonzola, provolone, parmesan, and fresh mozzarella — Pizza Pirate.
Why it’s a great choice: Celebrity Cruises is unique among cruise lines in that it offers separate menus for vegetarians, alleviating the hassle of having to pour over a predominantly meat-orientated menu to find something that suits. The menu in their main dining room is particularly flexible for veggies, with up to 14 delicious main meals and a handful of creative starters to choose from.
They even highlight which dishes are lactose and gluten-free, making life easier for cruise-goers with a list of dietary requirements. Make sure to let the maître d’ know of your requirements on the first night of your cruise, and you shouldn’t have any issues accessing the vegetarian and vegan options from there.
- Baked French onion soup — Main Dining Room
- Blu cheese soufflé with candied Anjou pear and port wine reduction — BLU
- Orecchiette pasta with porcini mushrooms, vegetable pistou and basil — BLU
- Zucchini spaghetti served with San Marzano tomatoes, arugula, pecorino cheese, and breadcrumbs – Luminae
Why it’s a great choice: In early 2017, Oceania Cruises unveiled an expanded vegetarian and vegan menu, offering over 250+ meat-free dishes in its Grand Dining Room. This has made it one of the foremost vegetarian and vegan-friendly cruises lines, with the biggest choice of dedicated dishes for non-meat-eaters on the high seas.
On board its newest ships, Riviera and Marina, vegan passengers can enjoy a selection of raw, cold-pressed juices and smoothies (made using cashew milk) at a specialist vegan juice bar, and speciality restaurants are also happy to provide main meals for vegans and vegetarians, even if a dish isn’t on the menu.
While The Grand Dining Room has the biggest choice of vegetarian and vegan cuisine, speciality restaurants like Toscana and French Jacques also offer a great selection of tempting dairy and plant-based dishes.
- Sweet potato hash served with scrambled tofu and egg-free hollandaise
- Lasagne with soy Bolognese, tomato sauce and béchamel
- Stir-fried vegetables in lemongrass and coconut milk with fried tofu and steamed jasmine rice.
Know Before You Go: Tips for Vegetarian and Vegan Diners
While it’s now possible to enjoy exceptional vegan and vegetarian cuisine aboard the world’s foremost cruise ships, it’s important to plan ahead if meat is off the menu. Here are some essential top tips for vegetarian and vegan cruise passengers.
- Travel with a mainstream cruise line like Royal Caribbean or Princess Cruises, and you shouldn’t expect life-changing vegetarian or vegan options. Some cruise lines simply don’t understand the concept of a meat-free menu, and rely heavily on cheese and pasta to satisfy non-meat-eaters. So, do your research to make sure you aren’t left disappointed by the options available.
- If you follow a vegan diet, make sure to let the cruise line know of your requirements either before you board or on embarkation day. With enough prewarning, most cruise lines will easily be able to meet your needs in a range of different dining environments. You may need to pre-order meals a day or two in advance, however, especially if you plan to eat in a speciality restaurant where vegan dishes aren’t on the menu. Speak to the maître d’ when boarding, and they should be able to make the process as hassle-free as possible.
- For those not convinced that a cruise line will be able to accommodate their dietary requirements, why not consider a themed cruise? Once or twice a season, some cruise lines offer specialist themed dining cruises, including dedicated vegan and vegetarian friendly sailings. Speciality chefs cook up a range of meat-free options, helping non-meat-eaters enjoy a flexible and stress-free cruise break.
- While cruise lines do restrict the foods passengers are allowed to bring on board, they may be more receptive to people with a specific dietary requirement. If you’re interested in taking things like dairy-free milk on a cruise, contact the cruise line first to check their policy.
No matter what your dietary requirements and dining preferences, Cruise1st UK have a huge array of affordable cruise breaks to suit any type of traveller. To view our collection of amazing cruise deals, visit the homepage or call us now on 0808 274 6777.