Vegan Cruising in Alaska

Do you have a vivid imagination? Here, put it to use: think about a gigantic floating hotel casino chocka newly-weds and nearly-deads, where privilege and appetite runs amok. Groups of elderly drunken troublemakers coordinate plans to acquire the best table in a dining room that seats a billion, and everyone who isn’t eating is, well, thinking about eating.

Because there’s not much else to do.

Rhapsody of the Seas

Rhapsody of the Seas

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you might know I’ve just been on a cruise. If you don’t then now you know. Here are my top tips for surviving an Alaska cruise on the Royal Caribbean Ship Rhapsody of the Seas with your parents and your partner. I’ve included an excessive number of pictures of the pretty and the absurd (both of which dominate this sort of holiday).

Vegan dining on Royal Caribbean

“Please note, we are unable to fully accommodate vegan diets” is the full text on the Royal Caribbean website, which to me meant I would be spending a week eating rubbish, so I accustomed myself to that before we were even onboard. I was surprised and appalled, however, at just how hard Royal Caribbean seemed to try to make everything as unvegan as possible. Even the plain pasta and steamed vegetables were covered in butter! There were some meals where the absolute only thing I could eat was salad. I never bothered to ask for anything because of that statement on their website.

But you can make it better by doing one or all of the following:

  • Get your mom to tell a manager off about how shit the food is for vegans (you can achieve this by passive aggressively sighing at meals and frequently mentioning your levels of starvation throughout the rest of the day). “You should have told us!” the manager said, and at future meals there were suddenly vegan options. Stir fry, sweet and sour “chicken,” faux meatballs! Food!
  • You might also want to hit the miso bar (the soup has fish in) at breakfast to pilfer copious amounts of plain tofu, noodles, and garlic oil for later snacking.
  • There’s hot water at the tea and coffee stands, so I highly recommend bringing some cup noodles. You can add some of the tofu you stole at breakfast to bulk it up.
  • Make the most of your stops. Juneau has a very veggie friendly shop (stock up on instant ramen and snacks), and Heritage Coffee (decent soy latte and vegan sorbets).

Vegan sweet and sour chicken

Vegan sweet and sour chicken

In the dining rooms ask for soy milk. Get a little extra and put it in one of the 78 empty water bottles your mother brought along because what you need on an Alaska cruise are 78 empty water bottles (as opposed to, say, a coat). There’s free tea and coffee 24 hours a day, so it comes in handy when you want a drink but can’t find someone at 3am to ask for non dairy milk.

The Windjammer is the all you can eat buffet restaurant open during all meal times. It’s important to put as much food on your plate as possible, because you might not be able to get more. When you go back for seconds, be sure to pile your plate higher than before, because this time everything will definitely run out.

Vegetable Stir Fry

Vegetable Stir Fry

The Park Cafe has an endless supply of fruit cups, plus two vegan friendly sandwiches: roasted veggie pita and portobello mushroom focaccia. Since you’re vegan and your favourite food is undressed salad, you’ll be thrilled you can pile your sandwich high with sprouts.

The coffee shop has both soy milk and alcohol.

Roast Veggies in Pita

Roast Veggies in Pita

Should you grow bored on the ship, there are plenty of intellectually stimulating activities to divert your attention away from the fact that you’re on an actual cruise. I recommend Napkin Artistry (both sessions), coupled with a strong drink. Furthermore you can learn how to make your bath towel look like an elephant. Other activities might include attending a Q&A with an ex soap actor who will tell you about how wonderful he is, or taking the lift for 3 consecutive hours.

Napkin Artistry

Napkin artistry class on Rhapsody of the Seas

You might also enjoy encouraging your partner to embark upon a 3 foot jaunt up the climbing wall so you can take pictures of him to put on the internet. It’s probably best you avoid this activity yourself as it will be 900 times more embarrassing for you since your S.O. will probably remember to put it on video mode when it’s your turn.

Afterward you’ll be able to recover your senses by watching tennis while getting drunk in the swimming pool. Or by having lunch number 9.

Rhapsody of the Seas Climbing Wall and TV

Rhapsody of the Seas Climbing Wall and TV

Go to the centrum on the formal evenings, especially the one where the captain welcomes everyone onboard. It’s imperative you wear the dress you wore to your senior prom so you can stand next to him for a picture. Even the people dancing in chandelier prisons hanging from the ceiling get dressed up.

Speaking of pictures, all of the photos taken by Royal Caribbean staff are printed and shown publicly in the photo gallery on deck six. I think that’s enough information for you to realise the importance of pulling faces.

Captain's welcome and aerial show

Captain’s welcome and aerial show

The Scenic Stuff

ALASKA HAS GLACIERS. This one is in Juneau. Don’t book any of the excursions on the ship unless you want to pay at least twice as much as they should really cost. The bus ride to Mendenhall Glacier cost about ten bucks each, booked after we disembarked, and included two hours of coordinating the location of everybody in my family while looking at big pieces of ice.

Mendenhall Glacier

Rain Country Nutrition in Ketchikan has vegan cookies and snacks and Good Coffee Company has vegan options like hummus and babaganoush. I didn’t try the coffee. In Skagway you won’t need to eat because you’ll be too busy feasting your eyes on the exterior of the now closed Sarah Palin store. Anyway the ziploc baggy full of now soggy potato product you borrowed from the breakfast buffet will see you through the beautiful drive you should take along the Klondike Highway (bags are free at Heathrow security). Also you will have potato to throw at your family.

Along the Klondie Highway

Along the Klondike Highway

There’s also a really pretty forest on the road to Dyea, about a 30 minute drive from Skagway. On these roads you’ll find impressive puddles to cover your vehicle in mud, and make your family scream, when you drive through them at speed. There are also mushrooms the size of your face.

Dyea Forest

When you’re on the ship it’s really fun to point randomly at non existent whales. Everybody is constantly looking for them and you will never find a group of more gullible people than on a cruise. No matter how many times you do this they will never work out that you’re messing with them.

Alaska Cruise

By day two you might be bored out of your mind, so in between breakfasts number four and five try sitting on the top deck to check out the scenery for awhile. You’ll probably see quite a lot of water and also, if you follow my previous tip, a cluster of people taking pictures of absolutely nothing.

Endicott Arm Fjord, Alaska

In all seriousness, I was lucky enough to witness what has to be some of the most stunning scenery in North America. I saw bald eagles (flying at my face), schools of dolphin playing in the ship’s wake, an orca whale swim right next to the vessel, and a 90 year old woman push me (HARD) out of the way to talk to an ex soap actor.

Alaska Cruise

Despite my mother’s harassment over the last few years, I’ve never had a desire to go on a cruise. Ever (now neither does she. SCORE). This was a unique opportunity and chance that, as a family, we decided to take, and I’m glad we did. There is no place on Earth like on a cruise ship, and I’m grateful I was able to experience that level of crazy. I’m a sucker for extremely dull and awkward situations and plus I’m always happy for downtime to read books and make Saharan towel creatures.

But boy was I glad to reach Vancouver, where I could eat some decent food. Stay tuned.

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  1. says

    Haha, this was hilarious. Sorry you had such a bad experience. I went on a cruise last summer but it was a small Swan Hellenic ship ( a “cultural” cruise!) not one of those monster ships! Because it was so small I was accommodated really well as a vegan. The chef came to chat to me about what I could eat and every night the kitchen team took it in turns to be in charge of my meal and seemingly competed with each other over who could make the best dish! Everyone was always jealous when my plate came out.

  2. says

    LOL, hilarious post! That’s too bad that they don’t accommodate vegans better. I mean, is it really necessary to put butter on everything?? Didn’t they learn anything from Paula Deen? It sounds like you navigated it pretty well. And given those beautiful scenic pictures, I’d have to say that it was probably worth it. I would love to go an Alaskan cruise sometime.

  3. says

    Oh my goodness, your trip sounds and looks amazing. i wish I could have come with you so I could hang with #kipsmom.
    That’s such shit though about the food. I went on a RC cruise about 5 years ago, and I just told my waiter at dinner the first night (who was our waiter the whole week) and he took care of me with special dishes and stuff. He even always brought me a plate of fruit for dessert. He was the best. #kipsmom

    • says

      In hindsight I should have said something at the beginning. It was just the blatant statement on their website made it seem like they didn’t want to bother!

  4. Tirun Travel Marketing says

    Awesome , this was hilarious special meal requests like vegetarian, diabetic, low sodium and low fat can be entertained on board. For Kosher meals, lactose free and gluten free must be requested well in advance preferably at the time of booking. All efforts will be made to accommodate the special dietary requests. Please note that these dietary requests will be accepted onboard only for the main dining hall and not other restaurants and eateries on board.

    Royal Caribbean ships vegetarian meals (including Indian, style vegetarian) are available on all menus in the Dining Room and Windjammer Cafe every day. It is not necessary for guests to make a special request for this. Kosher meals are available no extra charge. Do notify the cruise company at least 45 days prior to sailing (90 days for European/South American Itineraries). The same goes for lactose free and soy milk.

  5. says

    When asked, the staff were generally very helpful. My main complaints are Royal Caribbean clearly states “Please note, we are unable to fully accommodate vegan diets,” as well as the fact that ingredients seemed to shift daily (e.g. use of olive oil vs butter on the plain pasta).

    I could not request in advance because I didn’t know I would be on the ship until ten minutes before it departed, but I realise my case is a very rare on in this instance.

    Thank you so much for providing these fair and measured details. If anyone ever queries me about it I will be sure to pass them along.

  6. Daniel K. Voyles says

    It really sounds to me that if a person does have a special eating situation like being a vegetarian or being diabetic they need to take that into consideration when booking a cruise.

    If a cruise ship cannot accommodate their diet then they need to book their cruise on a different cruise liner instead complaining about it after their aboard.

    It’s not hard to make a phone call or get the email contact information from the ships website and find out about special diets.

    I know some diabetics and vegetarians who have never had a problem on their cruises.

    Daniel K.

    • says

      As mentioned, I did find about about special diets in advance, and I didn’t in fact book the cruise at all (standby – we didn’t know we’d be on board until ten minutes before the ship pulled away).

      I meant this post as a very tongue in cheek response to what to me was an absurd experience all around. And my issue is that Royal Caribbean does cater well for vegans, but they state clearly that they don’t.

  7. Laura Z. says

    My family also booked us on a cruise to Alaska in the next month so here’s hoping I can find food to eat.

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