How to Eat Healthy on a Cruise
My best tips + tricks for How To Eat Healthy On a Cruise! This post includes snack ideas, how to navigate your dining choices, and how to convey your dietary restrictions. Also, some pictures from my cruise to Alaska!
I’ve been meaning to write this post since I got back from my cruise through Alaska, which was honestly one of the most magical trips I think I’ve ever been on. Alaska is an incredibly special place and we had some moments that were truly unforgettable – like being mere feet from brown bears and watching them fish in the river, seeing orcas right in front of us, flying on a sea plane, and playing with sled dog puppies. But I want to talk about the cruise itself – more specifically, eating healthy on a cruise.
As a little background about me and my eating habits, I usually follow a gluten-free diet (but I will occasionally have gluten) and am completely dairy-free and I don’t eat meat. I will occasionally eat fish that I know is sustainably sourced, but no meat or animal products besides that.
I knew going on a cruise that it would be difficult to maintain my style of eating, and I wasn’t wrong. They certainly don’t make it easy to eat according to a diet like mine, but it is possible! I want to share some of my tips and tricks that I used while on the cruise to help make eating a little bit easier. For reference, I was on the Radiance of the Seas ship via Royal Carribean.
- Bring some of your own food! Most mornings, I made my own breakfast with food I brought from home, supplemented by things that the cruise provided, like fresh fruit. I had a lot of oatmeal cups that I brought from home. I would bring my oatmeal cup + nut butter packet up to the buffet to eat with my family. I would get a cup of hot water to make my oatmeal and then top with the nut butter packet + some fresh fruit and nuts from the buffet (see picture – not fancy, but it was so delicious!). Most mornings I would make my daily mushroom coffee too…until half of the stuff that I used to make it disappeared from the room, including my mini whisk. I also brought snacks to hold me over and bars to bring on excursions where I knew my options would be limited. Here’s some of the food I brought:
- Mushroom Coffee Packets – I like mushroom coffee, but if matcha is your thing, or you have a favorite tea, bring it. It brings a little taste of home and can help keep your routine consistent.
- Oatmeal Cups – I brought the Maca Chocolate and Banana Cacao Crunch from Vigilant Eats and some Wild Friend’s Nut Butter Oats and they were the best breakfast.
- Nut Butter Packets – I brought these peanut butter packets from Crazy Richard’s, but bring your favorite nut butter packets for a filling fat-fuel snack that you can drizzle on your breakfast, or bring on a hike or day exploring for some needed fuel.
- Bring snacky foods to eat! I brought + ate a lot of Seaweed Snacks – they’re easy, low in calories, and if you like seaweed, delicious :) I also brought a bag of these Cauliflower Puffs and this Paleo Trail Mix. Bring whatever your favorite healthier snacks are to help you resist the urge to go get frozen yogurt from the always-open fro-yo machine.
- Bring easy to prep meals. This is especially helpful if you’re really worried about eating cruise food. I brought some of these Lotus Foods Organic Ramen Packets – they’re gluten-free, vegan, and so good. You can just add boiling water (from the hot water machine), maybe some veggies, cover and let it sit for 5-ish minutes until the noodles are soft. Voila – easy peasy healthy + delicious meal.
- Granola Bars. This is fairly obvious, but bars are always good on the go. Bring some of your faves. I brought some Walnut Brownie Perfect Bars (would’ve brought more if I had known there was a fridge), but bring whatever your go-to’s are.
- Bring your own dessert. I brought Eating Evolved Coconut Butter Cups with me, along with some Hu Kitchen Chocolate – I knew they likely wouldn’t have vegan desserts, and if they did, they’d be full of processed foods. I’d much rather bring my own that I know make me happy and are made with clean ingredients.
- If you take any vitamins and/or adaptogens every day, it’s great to bring them along and mix them into your morning coffee or tea, since they are most effective when taken every day!
- Find out whether your room has a mini-fridge! Mine did, but I didn’t think it did…so I didn’t bring things that I would’ve. If I had known, I would have brought more Perfect Bars, probably some almond milk to use in my mushroom coffee, fresh fruit, veggies, and maybe a dip like hummus. If they don’t have the info online and you’d like to bring food like this, call and ask before you leave!
- Tell the cruise line as soon as possible about your dietary restrictions! The cruise line I was on requested the info 90 days before the cruise left, but can tell them when you book too. Of course, I didn’t realize that until a few days before. So, I just made sure to tell our dinner waiter as soon as possible. I quickly realized it would be way more difficult to be both gluten-free and vegan on the cruise for dinner, and I chose vegan (my body has also been tolerating gluten okay lately so I used it as a bit of a test, too). My waiter didn’t understand when I was asking for the vegetarian option to be made without dairy, so one of the dining room supervisors came over (thank you Ferrit!) and he understood that I wanted a vegan meal because his daughter was also vegan. He made sure I got a vegan meal every night and brought me SO MUCH FOOD that I could never eat it all and had to share (for which my family was very grateful). I usually got an appetizer or two, an entree AND a smorgasbord of vegan Indian food,
- **If you have Celiac: I would definitely make sure to talk to the cruise line about how they handle that before booking your cruise – the cruise line I was on always stated that things were not made in an allergen-free environment, and although they had a gluten-free section at the buffet, I do not think it was not separate enough from the regular food that people with Celiac would feel comfortable eating from there. I know my sister, who does not have Celiac but is very sensitive to gluten, would not have felt comfortable eating that food.
- Stick to the dining room, if you can. Obviously, a buffet isn’t the best for staying healthy since it’s literally loaded with temptations. While you’re standing at the salad bar, you’re staring at the people next to you loading their plates with burgers and fries, and all sorts of NOT healthy foods. By staying in the dining room (where they hopefully are already aware of your dietary restrictions, if you did the above), you stay away from temptation and can choose from the menu. I found that the menus also usually made notes of which dietary restrictions a certain option fits into, whereas the buffet did not have any nutrition information like that.
- Bring supplements to help your stomach feel better. My body was used to the way I fuel it at home with lots of fresh fruits and veggies and generally wholesome, healthy foods, and so I made sure to bring digestive enzymes and activated charcoal to take before and after meals. It helped my digestion stay pretty normal and helped prevent stomachaches from eating things (like gluten and refined sugar and french fries) that my body isn’t super used to having all the time.
- Exercise if you can. If you have time and feel like it, keep yourself moving. I did yoga on my days at sea, but besides that I just let myself take a break from working out a lot – besides taking the stairs. I only took the elevator once or twice and ran up and down those stairs SO MANY TIMES each day. If working out is something that keeps you energized and happy, by all means – get that sweat on.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself!!! You’re on vacation, so enjoy yourself – you don’t need to eat perfectly everyday and vacation is a time to indulge your cravings a bit. As long as you keep with your allergies and medically necessary dietary restrictions, have fun with what you eat. You can go back to what you regularly eat when you get back home after not too long, so take advantage of your vacation and have fun.
Hope this was helpful for how to eat healthy on a cruise, and I hope that you have a wonderful cruise and vacation!! I’m leaving some of my favorite Alaska photos below if you want to have a look :) sending you so much love!
Finishing it off with a baby bear cub…have a good day, my lovely friends! xoxo
I appreciate this post! I have Celiac disease and it has been more than rough trying to take trips since my diagnosis. It adds a ton of stress to the point that we hardly vacation anymore…it sucks. We have been thinking of trying a cruise but I’ve been too nervous. Maybe its best we dont. But, I was wondeirng if your sister was on the cruise with you and what she did if she was? I saw you wrote she’s very sensitive. I hope I didn’t miss it in the post. Thanks!
Hi Cori, no she didn’t come, a lot of the reason being that she was nervous about the food situation! Considering you have Celiac, I would call around to different cruise lines and ask them about how they can accommodate that. I’m guessing many can with enough notice – I just didn’t ask them specifically about it. Good luck and hope you get to go on a cruise soon :)
Wonderful article. I also love that your desserts are all vegan Keep up the good work.
Thanks so much Sharon!