Friday, June 15, 2012

I Love it When We're Cruising Together...Part One

Actually, that's not really true. I'm not a huge fan of cruising. I'd much rather hang out at a resort and rent a car and have total autonomy than be on someone else's schedule. But for the purposes of family gatherings, schedules can be a great thing, and therefore cruising can be a great thing. And when it comes to my family, I genuinely do love it when we we're cruising together, so I'll keep the title. Option number 2 was "Vegan Cruising: Food was Snoozing."

So in February (blogging in June about a February cruise...yay procrastination yet again), to celebrate my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary (50 years, yay!), I joined my them along with my mom & sister, cousins and their kids on a Caribbean cruise on the Ruby Princess.

The beaches were fantastic, my family was amazing, the sun was blistering, and the rum was delicious.

This was my third cruise, second with the Princess line, and my first since forsaking consumption of flesh and titty milk and the unfertilized products of poultry reproductive cycles.

And I'm not planning on cruising again any time soon.

Like a lot of people, food has always been a huge part of my vacation experience. This didn't change when I went Plant-Strong. While my selection has certainly been limited, I've welcomed the challenge of sourcing out vegan-friendly eating establishments. I've had awesome experiences eating vegan in Banff, Vegas, Disneyland, Whistler, the Okanagan...I even managed to make a go of it in the Philippines. I recognize that not all restaurants are vegan-friendly, but it's actually been fun researching a location before going and trying to find a restaurant that will offer you more than veggie stir-fry. Though if veggie stirfry is all they have to offer, I'll still eat it with a smile.

Before cruising, everyone has to fill out a personal profile, listing, among other things, food preferences. So I clicked the vegan box (yes there was a vegan box! Score!), thinking this was something they would be able to accommodate easily. I remembered really great vegetarian options on my previous cruises, and considering how many people have dairy allergies and lactose intolerances, I expected that great vegan options wouldn't be too far-fetched an expectation.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

To sum up from a Plant-Strong perspective: buffet was quite good, dinner service was...good...ok...good. That's not really saying much considering the whole cruise experience and expectations.

Let's start with the buffet. While the VAST majority of food, as expected, was not vegan, there was always enough to work with to start my day off right. That said, breakfast became very redundant after, like, a day. Oatmeal was always my default, rounded out with fruit and hash browns because there was absolutely nothing else for me to work with.

First breakfast on board. That's a poached pear at 1:00. Very yum.
Deja vu

After a couple of mornings I began to wonder whether
my breakfasts would get more interesting...
...yah, apparently not.

Morning of departure...miso soup for breakfast!
Superheroes like Alicia eat miso soup for breakfast
so I was allllll over that. Not my conventional breakfast
food but I was eager (desperate) for a change.
And it was goooooood.

So breakfast was great on the first day...and totally repetitive after that. This is the thing about can't just go somewhere else for food when you've exhausted your options at one place and you want a change. No vegan-friendly bakeries to grab a muffin, no quaint diners to grab a tofu scramble, no juice bar to grab a titty-milk-free smoothie. I mean, I don't expect a spectacularly innovative vegan breakfast every day, but a week of oatmeal and fruit (while it kept me healthy and nourished and I was thankful to have it as opposed to nothing...yes, I know...#firstworldproblems) is just one reason why cruising (with this line anways) is not for me. 

Lunches were really quite nice in terms of variety, and I always managed to fill my plate like any legitimate cruiser. I was able to load up on lots of veggies (always a good thing), and for the first couple of days there was a doable soup option. 
First lunch on board...bok choy and beets is a promising start!
Similar version to puree for my tube-fed sister. An awesome, complete meal
Gazpacho, yellow beans, lentil curry, squash.
The pasta wheels had the most delicious red sauce, which made more appearances at future meals.
Doesn't look too interesting, but probably my favourite lunch.
A delicious rice noodle dish, similar to Filipino pansit...LOVE!
And this guac was ridiculously good. Thank God for guac!
Throw some couscous into the mix and I'm good to go.   
Super yummy tofu curry dish (thank you Indian food!) with
chopped garlicky greens. Thumbs up for sure. 
Can't say no to salad when there are pumpkin seeds available.
Tomato-okra stew above that with some roast potatoes and pasta salad.
Hello again curry. And greens and beets. I enjoy you. 
This was my lunch on the beach in the Bahamas. They were serving burgers and hot dogs
but I managed to make a decent carcass-free lunch out of the sides.

And nothing beats eating lunch while having a beach pedicure by the pros.

So as you can see, buffet lunches on the ship were much more interesting than breakfasts. There wasn't necessarily more to choose from each day, but they definitely changed it up in the realm of daily vegan-by-default options. Considering my lunches consisted of just a fraction of what was available, you can imagine the daily selection at the buffets. And I was definitely more than pleased with my lunch experiences on the ship. 

But consistently good lunch experiences are not enough to keep me on board for another cruise. Because when it comes to food, the real weight rests on the shoulders of dinner. And my dinner experiences, while they were "acceptable", certainly weren't memorable. Not for the right reasons anyways. 

But that's a whole other blog post. And considering how long it took me to get down my Part One thoughts, I expect Part Two should be up by September. 

That seems ambitious.  

Almost as ambitious as a vegan expecting to eat something other than fruit and oatmeal for breakfast on a Princess Cruise ship.

Oh snap.

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