Eating Vegan on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

royal caribbean ship selfie

Cruises are known for their elaborate spreads of food with people piling up plate after plate of food from the buffet. But how does that work out for a vegan? This is my experience of eating vegan on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Some things have changed since the first Royal Caribbean cruise I went on in 2008.  The main thing to note is that I didn’t see any of the vegan margarine that they had that first time. Availability might depend on where they pick up supplies, or maybe their vendors changed. Finding peanut butter on the buffet was hit or miss this time around. If they don’t have it out on the buffet, you can always ask. They usually have it in back.

We always had dinner in the dining room together at a table at our appointed time. There are also buffet options if you don’t want to do that. If you do eat in the dining room, the first night get acquainted with the head waiter. He is your best friend. Ask him all of your questions. He will make sure you get what you need.

There is a set menu for each evening. You can try to order off of that. Often you can cobble together vegan or easily made vegan items from it. We had 5 vegans in our party, so each night we would order for the next night. We’d look at the regular menu to see if we could eat anything on it. And then we’d have them make something we requested. We had an added challenge – one of us was also gluten free. Most nights we ended up having some kind of Indian food. And then they’d also bring a plate of tofu and vegetables for us to share. The last night they had soy chicken on the regular menu. The head waiter took a picture of the package and it said vegan right on it! While I do like Indian food, it was getting a little old so the soy chicken was awesome.

Every night, they will come around with a bread basket. Ask about the breads, but there is a sourdough that is vegan. If they don’t have the vegan margarine, ask them to bring some olive oil to the table for you to dip your bread in.

Desserts ended up being variations of rice pudding. One night we had carrot halwa. On a previous cruise, they made a chocolate soy pudding one night that was awesome. We got vanilla pudding one night this time.

This is the meal we had the last night. Salad, chilled mango soup,  soy chicken and carrot halwa, an Indian spiced dessert. The vegetables on the plate with the soy chicken were from the big plate of veggies they brought us every night.

vegan salad on royal caribbean

vegan chilled mango soup on royal caribbean cruise

vegan soy chicken on royal caribbean cruise

vegan indian spiced carrot dessert on royal caribbean cruise

Breakfast and lunch we would have at the buffet. When you sit down, a waiter will come by and you can ask him or her for soy milk for your coffee and/or cereal. Do that first before you hit the buffet because they may have to go seek some out. There’s always a ton of fresh fruit out. You’ll find fried and roasted potatoes. They have a miso soup station where you can get some tofu cubes. I just assumed the miso soup wasn’t vegan since it traditionally isn’t, but I didn’t ask. There will be some stir fried veggies and rice. There is almost always some Indian dish like chana masala.

Here’s one of my breakfasts from the buffet at the Windjammer. Yeah, I ate chana masala over potatoes for breakfast. I ain’t skerd. Also we scored an awesome window seat.

vegan breakfast on royal caribbean cruise

The lunch buffet was even easier. More vegetable options appeared. You could make a salad, the raspberry vinaigrette is vegan, or make a french fry sandwich. It’s really your choice. As you can see, I took the less fried route. Here are a couple of my lunch plates from the Windjammer buffet.

vegan lunch on royal caribbean cruise

vegan lunch on royal caribbean cruise

Anyway, the point is that a vegan won’t starve on a Royal Caribbean cruise and you can actually put together some healthy, tasty meals. Or you can be a junk food vegan and eat cheeseless pizza and Johnny Rockets (costs extra) streamliners every meal. We’ve also been to some of the specialty restaurants in the past and they took care of us there too. So don’t let vegan food worries keep you from going on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Oh, and you can even find good vegan food in some of the ports. See my previous post about St. Thomas to find out about options there.  On this trip, we stopped in Cozumel which is a 45 minute water taxi ride away from Playa Del Carmen. There is so much awesome vegan food in Playa Del Carmen that I have several posts about it from a previous trip.

Our favorite was Kaxapa Factory, so we all hopped on the water taxi and headed over for Venezuelan noms. Heed my warning, the water taxi ride is pretty bumpy. I highly recommend taking Dramamine in preparation for the trip. When we got off the taxi, our first stop was a pharmacy for some aptly named Vomisin. The ride back was much easier because of it.

I was feeling traditional and went for the black bean, plantain and avocado arepa. Fabulous as always.

vegan arepa at kaxapa factory playa del carmen

While there is a Starbucks on board, extra of course but at least they have soy milk, nothing beats Ah Cacao’s espresso frappé. Three shots of espresso, ice, sugar, blend.

ah cacao espresso frappe playa del carmen

We may have cut it a little close getting back to the water taxi. Thankfully we made the last boat and got back on the ship in time.

So that’s about all I’ve got to say about eating vegan on a Royal Caribbean cruise. I’ll just leave you with this sunset as we passed down the coast of Florida.

caribbean sunset

A harsh homecoming

As glorious as it was to escape Atlanta for a nice warm vacation, it was definitely jolting to come back to the cold and/or nasty of this week. If you want to relax, turn your brain off, read a bunch of books, and be warm, I can highly recommend a caribbean cruise. I was in the sun with a book whenever possible. What I don’t like is that if you do an excursion, you really don’t get to experience the port. 

Okay, what you really want to know is what did I eat, right? Even though Royal Caribbean says on their website that they don’t cater to vegans, they really do. You will be able to fill yourself up just fine from the buffets. My typical breakfast was a big pile of fresh fruit, steamed rice and stir fried veggies, bagel with peanut butter, potatoes in various forms, some other whole grain bread with margarine (they had a brand, Bibo, that’s vegan), sometimes cereal, soy milk (just ask for it) and coffee. Lunch, I’d have a big ol’ salad along with whatever cooked vegetables were on the buffet. Sometimes Indian food. We at dinner in the dining room. Every night they had a pasta dish as a choice, so that was always an option. Also, on our cruise, they had an Indian dish every night that was usually vegan if you had them keep the raita. The first night was the hardest, but after that they started preparing special dishes for us. Every night we’d get a platter of roasted or grilled veggies along with the other dishes. Desserts were various fruit bowls. No, you won’t get any vegan cake. But while the omnis were gorging themselves every day on the extensive dessert bar and gaining an average of 8 pounds, I actually ate healthier than I do at home, ate tons of food, and lost weight.

Sadly they did attempt two things for us that were not good. In the past, apparently the pastry chef had whipped up some fruit wrapped in phyllo dough that was a nice dessert. We tried to explain that to them, but what they brought out was fruit wrapped in plain phyllo. Yep, no canola spray, no margarine, just plain. Er, no. 

The other thing they tried to do was make cornbread. Vegan cornbread is pretty easy to make, but apparently they had no idea how to approach it. So we got this little loaf that seemed to be made of corn flour, not corn meal. And I don’t know what they used for the fat and binder. It pretty much tasted like nothing and had an odd texture. But, they did try. And honestly, we didn’t need these extra items. There was plenty of food for us.

So what about eating in port? In San Juan, Puerto Rico, we met up with friends of Danielle that took us to Cafe El Punto. Their specialty is a half an avocado filled with beans with rice and fried plantains on the side. Yum! Please excuse the blurry pic.

In St. Thomas, we were diving so we didn’t get to eat lunch there. (We saw a sea turtle, a moray eel and an octopus! No sharks this time though.) But there’s a place you have to hit called Rootsie’s Ital. Matt and Danielle got to go and loved it. Rootsie apparently cooks everything in a clay pot and then brings it to the shop. I’m so jealous I didn’t get to eat his food. Check out a pic of him here. You’ll find his place on the main road behind the big shopping area just past the catholic church. 

We did an excursion in St. Maarten, so we didn’t eat there. Although they did serve sandwiches on the sailboat on our way back from snorkeling and enjoying the beach. Matt talked them into making us sandwiches with just lettuce and tomato. The bread was nice, so it actually wasn’t bad.

At Labadee, the ship caters the food so it was similar to what we have available on board, just much more limited. Oh yeah, there’s also a Johnny Rockets on board. But after eating all the lovely fruit and vegetables, the Streamliner was rather meh. I want someone to chop up fruit and veggies for me every day. I could totally live like that.

I almost forgot…we got to tour the ship’s galley! It is unbelievably huge. And, you’ll be happy to know, everything is separated. Meats and veggies and dairy are all kept in separate refrigerators. There are also separate cooking areas.

Anyway, it was really hard coming back. I never used to take tropical vacations, but they are starting to grow on me. 😉 A bunch more pics are in my flickr account. I’ll leave you with this sunset.