When my son invited me on a vegan cruise to the Mediterranean, I was thrilled, excited, and concerned. Who would take care of my feline roommate? I had never left her alone for more than a few days, and always with my son. She was once left overnight at the vet’s and was so offended that she ran under the bed upon her return home and would not speak to me for days. She was also a “Caution Kitty,” one who temperment is determined to be worthy of a little respect. I knew someone who is an avowed dog lover and I had cared for his two elderly dogs more than once. He agreed to house sit and care for my feline roommate in my absence. When at the last minute he was called out of town, forcing me to leave the country without turning the keys over to him, I considered cancelling. He assured me he would be home in time to care for everything and everyone, just to leave the keys next door. With great trepidation and enough cat food to provide for a long absence, I finally agreed to go on the cruise.
They Have Vegan Cruises, Don’t They?
While it would be lovely to be on an all-vegan cruise, I should clarify that this was a vegan cruise only because I was a vegan and I was going on the cruise. We would be gone over the Christmas holiday, nearly a dozen family members (and one family friend), three generations, three Asian Aunties, two married couples, three boys, and me. We were Buddhist, Taoist, Athiest, Agnostic and Vegan. One Auntie ate no onions or garlic as she was a Taoist; she was also vegetarian. My daughter-in-law had arranged not only for flights to Madrid and Malaga, but disembarkation excursions, an airport limo, and special meals for Ky (the Taoist Auntie) and myself. She had checked with Norwegian Cruise Lines beforehand about meal accommodations and was assured the cruise personnel would handle all arrangements. We were told to check with the cruise director as soon as we were on board to confirm special arrangements.
The cruise director alerted the Maitre’D, who met with us in Reception regarding the meal plan. She took down the information for that evening’s meals and related that there would be a special order each night in the main dining room for us – we simply would relate to our order staff that we had a special meal plan by giving them our room number. Ky was in luck as a vegetarian because there were vegetarian starters, entrees and desserts on every menu. That was a change from a cruise I had been on years ago when I was vegetarian, and was good to see — sort a sea change.
Mixed Company, Mixed Diets, Mixed Ages, Cultures, Languages
The ship was huge, with two swimming pools and fifteen stories. We were on level 11 with balconies, four to a room. This meant that the Aunties and family friend shared one suite, the married couples shared another, and the three boys — well, they were thrown in with me. Each tiny suite was able to be divided in two parts with a security curtain that blocked out all light. I was unsure how that would be, living with boys ages 6, 11 and 16 for two weeks, but it turned out to be the very best part of the cruise. I especially enjoyed the 16 year old. I had raised him for a year when he lived with us full time – taking him to Tai Kwan Do classes, to school, cooking for him, making his school lunches, helping him with school work. He is still with us all summer and many weekends, but we had grown apart a bit since he moved out at age 11. He has become an intelligent and very witty young man who was delightful to be around. I enjoyed him thoroughly and he filled the cruise with laughter and goodwill.
Watching my lovely DIL (second from Right in photo above) speak Chinese as she assisted her mother and aunts in their evening meal order, as she reminded the wait staff about our two special diets, was amazing. Traveling with so many family members with such diverse backgrounds held many challenges for her, but she remained unfazed. For her, family and the connection these journeys forged was what mattered; the rest was background noise. I gained a new respect for her many talents and abilities and she remained relaxed, smiling and glowing throughout the cruise. My son was so relieved to be away from the daily demands of his working life that he cared little about details. Witnessing the fruits of his mature choices in life, his attachment to this large, colorful family and their amazing experiences in life, was truly a blessing. I love them all very deeply. My DIL’s mother and sisters are wonderful women who are generous and kind and very loving. Sharing meals and a week or two in close quarters is bound to bring people closer together, despite language barriers and different diets and perspectives.
Humble Vegan Fare
The first evening’s meal was rather predictable – steamed vegetables with rice. But I was hungry, it was good healthy food, and best of all — it was truly vegan. Dessert was a few bits of raw fruit. We were off to a decent start. When I contacted the cruise line beforehand, their customer service had told me they would only accommodate vegetarian diets, not vegan diets. However, I persisted until I found a representative that was willing to help me. Since I had missed most family events in the past (see Non Vegan Vacation and Missing the Party), I was determined to participate in this important event.This cruise line, NCL, will accommodate any diets they can, and they demonstrated that desire to accommodate. This is important information, because when I asked the Maitre’D how many vegans they had dealt with in the past, she stated, “Only you, Madame, only you.” Perhaps sharing my vegan journey on this and future posts will change that.