I just got back from my very first cruise through Norwegian Cruise Line and of course had to share my food experience! I spent 7 days on the Norwegian Breakaway, departing from New York and sailing to Florida & Bahamas. Hopefully I can provide some insights for fellow Vegetarian Travelers interested in cruising.
I travel fairly frequently in Europe, having visited Italy and France last year for example. I’ve found that eating Meatless in Europe is a BREEZE. Italy? You’re practically drowning in eggplant and fresh tomato dishes. France may not seem the most Veg-friendly spot, but for every duck dish you’ll easily find a fondue, savory galette, or chevre stuffed puff pastry dish. Going on a cruise, however, scared the crap out of me. I’m likely stating the obvious here, but you’re stuck on a damn boat! If the Veg options sucked, there was no escape, short of swimming back to New York.
Before breaking down the options, I must start by saying that overall I was so pleasantly surprised by Norwegian! Not only did I eat completely vegetarian, but I ate fairly clean the entire time! I’m asking you to turn a blind eye here to the gratuitous amount of alcohol in my photos…hey, I had the unlimited alcohol package.
A few weeks before the cruise, I sent a message to Guest Relations to let them know I had dietary restrictions. They clearly made a note on my account because every single restaurant I went to, the waiters acknowledged that I was a vegetarian and pointed out the Veg friendly items on the menu :). I will point out, I think it would be tricky to do completely Vegan on the cruise unless you stuck entirely to the Garden Buffet.
*WARNING* – you will likely be sick of eggs at the end of your cruise.
*BONUS* – there’s always alcohol. Didn’t like your meal? drown your sorrows 😉
Included Dining Venues on the Breakaway
Garden Cafe Buffet – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, & Late Night
- Absolute mad house at all hours BUT has the most variety – B: fresh fruit station, omelet station fresh yogurts & granola, pastry section, scrambled eggs & hard-boiled, assorted cereals; L&D: Indian food station, Chinese food station, pasta station, salad bar, fresh fruit station, dessert station (proceed with caution…I expanded on cruise), deli section.
- The Garden Cafe had a different theme each night for Dinner while I was on board – Mexican, Caribbean, American, Italian, etc.
O’Sheehan’s – Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
- The venue is great, designed like an Irish Pub, but your food options outside of Breakfast are limited. B: assorted bakery basket (HELL YES), create your own omelet, french toast, hot oatmeal. L: AVOID – O’Sheehan’s has a limited menu at lunch – chicken fajitas, chicken nachos, you get the gist. D: Not many options but you can make it work. I did Spinach & Artichoke Dip, the Fresh Fruit Plate off the Dessert Menu with a slice of Banana Bread, and a Garden Salad.
Savor/Taste – Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner ***FAVORITE***
- Savor & Taste turned out to be my favorite complimentary dining venue on board! Both have gorgeous views of the water when you’re sailing! The only downside was that the lunch menus were fixed for the entire week – Spanish frittatas get old.
- B: Create your own omelet, pastry basket, buttermilk pancakes, chocolate buttermilk pancakes, belgian waffle, multi-grain waffle w/ yogurt and fresh blueberries, daily specials; L: appetizers – pineapple & grapefruit salad, roasted tomato soup, hummus & pita platter/ entree – Spanish Frittata (that’s it, but it’s good haha); D: rotating options – spicy pad thai, pesto linguini, gnocchi.
Manhattan Room – Dinner
- Manhattan Room will have the same dinner menu as Savor or Taste but the location is a LOT of fun. It’s designed to be like a fancy Manhattan Supper Club. My last night on board I had dinner here and the Burn the Floor cast put on a performance on the dance floor. I also had a creamy Gnocchi dish with portobella mushrooms which was to die for.
Shanghai’s Noodle Bar – Dinner
- This is a bad-ass late night food option. Unfortunately for veggies, the options are limited because it’s mostly chicken & beef noodle bowls. Yet, they have veggie fried rice and spring rolls – VEG HEAVEN
Embarkation Day – Don’t Let the Day 1 Buffet Worry You!!!
We were able to board the cruise early at 11:30am which was a fantastic surprise – I believe the general board time is after 12pm. As soon as I boarded, a buffet lunch was being served up in the Garden Cafe (Deck 15). I’ll be honest – I was a little disappointed. I ended up with a bizarre mish-mosh of beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles and cheese.
There was a boat-load (haha – get it?) of meatless options, cue the fries, soft-serve ice cream, pretzel rolls, key lime pies, but not too many healthy options. I wasn’t quite ready to ditch my clean eating the very first meal. I wrote this off though as being a rushed welcome meal on a hectic first day and thankfully, as all later meals would prove, I was right. So please, don’t let the welcome buffet prejudice you against the potential of on-board dining as a veggie!
If you have the opportunity to visit any of the specialty dining venues on board, I would strongly urge you to visit Teppanyaki! Just keep in mind that the specialty dining venues come with an added fee.
Teppanyaki wasn’t just good for a restaurant on a cruise. It was damn good Hibachi by any standards! The starter is fresh edamame, followed by miso soup and a seaweed salad in a ginger dressing. Next follows the seemingly endless veggies and egg-fried rice. For my entree, I chose the terriyaki tofu. Dessert (obviously the most important) was a green tea cake with a scoop of green tea ice cream!
Don’t be scared to cruise when you have a restricted diet! I put off the experience for FAR too long. I read dramatic stories online on cruise forums for people that were essentially forced to eat bread for every meal. First of all, have you tried bread? I don’t see the issue here…but really, I had decent variety. Just don’t expect miracles.
Most importantly, get the unlimited beverage package. Your omelets will taste 1000% better when you have mimosas on the side.
If you have any other questions about dining on the cruise, please let me know!