We just got back from our Disney Cruise and it was our first time cruising since we adopted a vegan/plant-based diet. This was probably the most stressful cruise I have ever planned for, as I had no idea whether there would be decent food choices available to our family. I’ve explained in the past why our family chose to go plant-based, but one of the biggest reasons we started was mine and the girls’ dairy allergy. Now if it would have been just Ryan and me going, I wouldn’t have worried so much. We are not picky at all and would have made do with whatever they had. My anxiety was due to the fact that I have a 2 and a 3-year-old and I didn’t want them living off Clif bars and fruit pouches for a week. Below are affiliate links for your convenience.
Prior to sailing, I googled and youtubed every imaginable combination of words to see if anyone had information on this topic. I was surprised by how little I found. Everything was either extremely outdated, or they presented information that led me to believe we may be living off of steamed veggies and salad for a week. I am happy to report that our experience was completely opposite of that. We were supposed to be on a 7-night cruise but happened to be sailing when Hurricane Irma headed for Florida. Because of that, our cruise was cut to 5-nights. The last two days were pretty hectic as we tried to re-arrange our travel plans, so I didn’t take as many photos as I intended to. I still wanted to share our experience and hope to post more actual “food pictures” after we cruise again in the future.
When I booked the vacation through our travel agent, I asked him if there was a “vegan option” to mark under dietary needs. He said that there wasn’t, but that he would make note of it in our file. Fast forward to a few weeks before our trip when I went online to do our online check-in. When I got to the dining page where it showed our early dining assignment, there were a set of checkboxes for various dietary needs – one of them being vegan. I was so happy to see that and felt more at ease as we made our final preparations for the cruise. One thing to note: we were originally assigned to the late dining seating (around 8pm). I asked our travel agent to call Disney and explain that we have two young toddlers with special dietary needs. I wanted to see if I could use that as leverage to get moved to early dining since I knew there was no way the girls could eat dinner that late. I also shared that I heard the options in the casual buffet dining room were limited, so in order to ensure the girls were getting a full dinner, we needed them to be in the formal dining room so the chefs could accommodate their allergy. Within in 5 minutes, I received a call back letting me know that Disney had moved us to early dining (even though they previously said it was completely full). Hopefully that is helpful information to any of you who may find yourself in a similar situation in the future!
We were sailing on the Disney Fantasy which has three dining rooms that you rotate through. Your server and staff rotate each night with you, so after the first night, they knew exactly what food items we did or did not eat. The head server also came over to meet us and asked us to please let him know if we needed anything. They told us that if we were not happy with the items listed on the menu each night that they could have other items made for us instead. Our server ended up bringing us the next night’s menu each day so that we could look over it and let him know if it looked ok. All four of us ended up ordering straight from the menu every night. If you are interested in seeing the full menus for all of the Disney cruises, you can check them out here. I wish I would have had that link prior to our trip. There was only one evening I couldn’t find the menu for, but here are the other four:
Rowan (2 year old) was the pickiest. She chose to get the wheat pasta with marinara and steamed veggies almost every night. She loved the bread selection, and two of the nights, she ended up eating part of our main entrees as well (tofu stirfry and stirfry noodle bowl). Rilynn (3 year old) was amazing and ate off of the adult menu every night. She actually liked the raspberry salad, cucumber roll, and samosas for appetizers. For the main entrees, her favorites were any stirfrys, the glazed portobello mushrooms and the falafels. Although not listed on the menus, I asked if they had sorbets available for dessert and they were happy to bring them in for the girls. Being completely honest, Ryan and I loved every single meal. I was blown away by the offerings they had every night. If something wasn’t vegan on its own, they were happy to remove an item or two to make it vegan. They made sure to only serve us bread and dips that were dairy/egg-free, and each night we had the opportunity to enjoy every course if we wanted to. Ryan and I agreed that our favorite meal was the last night – they had amazing samosas and falafel “gyros”.
So what about all of our other meals? For breakfast and lunch we ate at Cabanas, which is the typical buffet dining room that you find on most cruise ships. I read somewhere that Disney denotes on the signs above the food if it has dairy or nuts in it, but this was not true on our ship. I ended up asking “Does this have butter in it?” A LOT, but the staff was very kind and helpful. For most items, it was obvious as to whether they were vegan or not (i.e. meats, waffles, cream based items). The trickier things were a lot of the veggies (were they made in butter or oil?) and pastas. They do have dairy-free options behind the counter, such as almond milk and dairy-free yogurt – just ask! I also found out halfway through our trip that they keep vegan items in the back. They brought the girls Van’s waffles, which they were ecstatic about. Another thing to note: If there is anything special you would like to eat, let your server know the night before and he will call it in so it’s ready for you the next morning. I really like eating brown rice for breakfast. I know that’s probably weird to a lot of people, but after I asked once, my server called in a bowl of brown rice and steamed veggies every morning for me. Here is what we typically ate:
· bagels + peanut butter
· veggies (sauteed, broiled or steamed)
· vegan waffles
· hash browns
· cereal with almond milk
· coffee with almond milk
· dairy-free yogurt
· veggie no-cheese pizzas
· whole grain pasta + marinara
· various veggies
· stirfry or curry dishes
· nachos/taco bowls
· falafels/other veggie based main course options
· veggie sushi
A good piece of advice would be to bring a few seasonings from home. I brought both nutritional yeast and everything but the bagel seasoning and it really helped! They would make our family our own veggie pizza without cheese at the pizza station and I would just add a little nutritional yeast on top. If we needed a snack we would order veggie burgers and fries from Flo’s Cafe or order cheese-less pizzas from room service.
I cannot say enough positive things about our experience on the Disney Fantasy! It was the first time that we cruised with Disney and I don’t think we will ever go back to other cruise lines. They make you feel so cared about and all of the staff is incredibly sweet and welcoming to the children. I was amazed at how well they could cater to different dietary needs and I truly appreciated that they never made us feel bad for eating “differently” than the majority of the guests. This was a wonderful experience and I am glad that I won’t need to stress or have anxiety over future cruises with them.
I hope this information will be helpful to others as they plan a cruise vacation as a plant-based family! It seems that as time goes on, more and more companies are providing options and catering to people with various dietary needs. Disney has shown our family that they excel in this area, and we were so grateful for their amazing staff aboard the Fastasy.