Unhacked: Being a vegetarian and working on cruise ships

Sharing a “veg” meal together in the dining room

Choosing to be veg

I am a big time foodie. I love my food.  I love eating fresh foods that are natural and prepared with care. I love exploring different cuisines, tastes, and flavors. A life without good food would be a very sad life indeed for me.

I want to begin by saying that deciding to be a vegetarian is a powerful lifestyle to reaps many benefits. Those who choose not to consume animal meat (as vegetarians) have made this decision for various reasons.  I have been a proud vegetarian the past seven years and I have reaped the health benefits in many forms; able to maintain a healthy weight (no yo-yo-ing), clear and bright skin complexion, etc.

I had a feeling that before working on ships that it might not be easy to eat the same way as I had been eating at home. Being a vegetarian at sea is not the easiest when you are away from your kitchen and all the foods that you know you need (that you can’t find). I am use to cooking my own meals based on fresh ingredients with no animal products. So it was no surprise to myself that being a vegetarian on a cruise ship turned out to be a little tricky and a constant work in progress.I will tell you that you CAN be a vegetarian on a cruise ship but you will definitely have to prepare well and know what your body needs to function and feel your best.

Let me explain.

Most meals prepared for crew in the mess are mostly meat based and also high in carbohydrates such as endless breads and pasta dishes. If you are going to work on a cruise ship expect to see a lot of choices full of carbohydrates. It can be hard and you might have to find quick solutions such as buying products off the ship or making special dining requests . I usually don’t eat a lot of pasta or breads anyways so this became a problem. With all the extra carbs I had been consuming I was feeling a bit more sluggish and tired and in the danger zone of a B12 deficiency. Nearly at the end of my first contract  my waistline had grown a size and I wasn’t feeling so great.

I felt a bit uprooted in my first long contract not having the foods that I loved on the ship so I had to seek a solution fast for my next contract. So while I was in port I found myself in the local grocers buying heaps of nuts, dried fruit, instant noodles, blueberries, greek yogurt, and local fruits. This made a huge difference right off the bat in the way that I felt and to maintain a healthy diet. Now I always scout out the best meals off the ship and the best snacks to take back with me to my cabin.

Finding the right supplements

Iherb and I have become the best of friends these days. This is my go to site for all things healthy and nutritious that I can ship directly to my ships warehouse and receive my products on embark day.

In order to truly survive eight months at sea I had to order supplements and snacks from iherb. This website has everything that you need when it comes to nutrition so I had to act fast. This is my absolute “go to” when I need to order a food haul. When ordering off the internet make sure that you type in the correct mailing address for your ship. For me, our home port was Miami so orders came in fast and I was able to pick them up on embark day (every Sunday). Having enough B vitamins and probiotics helped me out a lot because on the ship I’m not working idly, I’m always on the move and doing a lot of walking.

If you are new to iherb I highly recommend this site for all your healthy go-to’s. Products such as coconut oil, probiotics, crips, and aloe vera shampoo are my favorite items I like to order. When you are working away from home and you don’t know what products you can get abroad I just cut to the chase and order products that I can rely on from iherb.

For a complete list of my recent order from iherb you can view it here.

Eating in the crew mess

Aside from the crew mess, crew members working in the Entertainment department (staff) can enjoy the foods in the guests buffet as long as it isn’t too busy. Now this rule changes between cruise lines but for me I was able to enjoy the buffet upstairs as long as it wasn’t too busy. I was able to  enjoy fish (excellent source of

I found that my body reacted a bit badly to some of the prepared foods because simply said: I’m not use to foods prepared in all the sauces and butter. I never cook with butter back home and I eat very simply. I love whole foods cooked in extra virgin olive oil, quinoa, wraps, salads, and soups. I love to eat but not with all the sauces and extra caloric ingredients. Probiotics helped me out a lot on the ship to help me digest my food better end remove waste from my body because my tummy was getting bloated and I had a lot of gas at times.


When in doubt, do Chinese

#FOODTRIPS in port

To be honest one of the best adventures for me was going on a #foodtrip while docked in port. This became a ritual that I really looked forward to each port day. I would do a little research beforehand so that I had something really exciting to look forward to during my time off the ship. I will never forget my super healthy and fresh salad I got at Vegan Restoran Vin Tallin, Estonia. If you are a veggie or just want to experiment with a meal  other prepared with any meat products, I highly recommend giving this resto a visit. Food tripping is an actual hobby and has become my passion. Exploring different parts of the cities in port I would just soak up all that the menus had to offer and eat what my body was craving. This is a great way to learn more about a place.

Looking forward to finding the best foods in ports became a ritual that I really looked forward to. I can remember especially this summer doing a little research before we docked so I had a few top options of places that served vegetarian meals and also international fare that I love such as Vietnamese, Indian, and Korean. While sailing through the Caribbean and Baltics I was always craving korean food but believe it or not the only official Korean restaurant that I discovered was in downtown Southampton, England that had just opened up called Manna. The owners were really friendly and could not believe how much food my boyfriend and I had ordered. I remember the owner sharing with me how he left South Korea to live in England because competition in schools was very difficult for Korean kids so he decided to give his children a better experience growing up in England.

Keep in mind
Note: If you vegetarian and working on the cruise ship, you can make it happen. If you put your mind to and can find what you like in port and balance that with what is available on the ship then you can make it happen. Know what you like. For me, I loaded up on plenty of salads topped with plenty of beans (fiber and b vitamins) and lots of fish and eggs. While in port I picked up a lot of snacks that I love: berries, dried fruits, yogurt, fresh juices, dried seaweed, ramen noodles, and tons of peanut butter. I kept that stash in my cabin and that was my “go to” when I still felt hungry in between meals. or at the end of the day when i was starving. Check out iherb and have all your favorite groceries delivered to your home port.

With that said this was the best way to make my eight months at sea enjoyable. I really believe that if I cannot eat well I am unable to perform well. I love to eat well and food nurtures my body and helps me be my best. I know what I like, it’s just a matter of finding it. So while I port I always stock up on all the things that I love and eat local. Good luck to you!

For more information on how I manage my diet while working on ships you can follow my Youtube video here.