Cruise food doesn’t have to be sky-high piles of greasy bacon, over-cooked lobster tails and decadent chocolatey lava cakes. While healthy eating and cruise food may seem like strange bedfellows, the cruise lines have made these two concepts into a viable culinary partnership. It’s just taken a little while and a lot of tweaks.
Special dietary needs easily accommodated by almost every cruise line.
Cruise cuisine is constantly evolving. In the past, the only meat-free items available on a cruise were salads and pastas. Mealtime presented a challenge for passengers on medically restricted, religious or healthy lifestyle diets. As passengers voiced their concerns, the cruise lines listened. It’s now possible to maintain a vegan, vegetarian, no sodium, kosher-style, gluten- or sugar-free diet on a cruise vacation.
Every cruise line has developed an extensive variety of menu options for vegetarians and even vegans. Aside from the buffet where a larger selection of cooked and raw greens are available, menus at lunch and dinner in main dining rooms have at least two vegetarian hot meals as well. Informative icons next to appropriate menu selections distinguish vegetarian, vegan and spa selections.
No salt/low sodium
Available in the main dining room for lunch or dinner, no-sodium meals must be ordered one day prior to the actual mealtime. When the waiter is aware of your dietary request, you are given the next day’s menu during dinner. After choosing the next day’s meals, your request goes directly to the person in the galley in charge of special orders.
If you do not have a traditional set dining time, you’ll need to inform the maître d’ or the head waiter in order to make your special request. Your name and stateroom are input into the dining computer so it can matched to your dietary request to where you are seated.
A gluten-free request is handled the same way in the main dining room as ordering salt-free and low sodium; request the next day’s menu and place an order. At the buffet, signs will indicate gluten-free foods.
This trend in healthy onboard dining is available on almost all cruise ships. Whether created in conjunction with their onboard spa partner, for example, Cunard features spa cuisine by Canyon Ranch, or their cruise lines’ own Executive Chef, it’s the easiest way to stay slim on a cruise. Menus include the amount of calories, sodium and fat grams for spa cuisine items.
Keeping kosher at sea
Guests with kosher diets can finally venture past the salad bar. With advance notice, some cruise lines can order prepared and packaged kosher meals to be brought onboard to heat (in a non-kosher oven and without special plates) and serve in the dining room. Strict kosher dietary needs cannot be met on the average cruise, only kosher-style. However, there are Certified Glatt kosher cruise charters available which must meet the approval of an onboard rabbi.
Dining at specialty restaurants
The same procedure for dietary requests is followed at most specialty restaurants, too. Stop by and explain your dietary needs to the maître d’ and then select from the menu. As with all special dietary orders, always contact the restaurant the day prior to the reservation. Be sure to note your dietary needs in your cruise reservation, too.
Life-threatening food allergies
Always consult your doctor before reserving a cruise vacation. Life-threatening allergies may prohibit a cruise vacation.
Did you know?
In 2012, Holland America Line created the cruise industry’s first separate vegetarian menu that also included several vegan options. It is necessary to ask the waiter for the vegetarian menu. Certain items may require one day’s notice for preparation.
Cruising with dietary needs shouldn’t squelch a cruise vacation. Since cruise lines can now accommodate many diverse dietary requests, all it takes is a little planning before and a bit of due diligence during the cruise to maintain the same dietary needs requirements as on land.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.