Amy, Sous Chef Johnson, Charlie, Maitre 'D Gerhard Waldukat and Jonny

With all the horrible news coming out of the tragic ship accident in Italy, I realized I am overdue in reporting on our own cruise experience a few weeks ago.  Frankly, I was quite apprehensive beforehand.  It doesn't get much more mass-market than the gigantic, 4,100 passenger Norwegian Epic, and researcher that I am, I was a little concerned about our food options after reading some unflattering posts from vegan cruisers.  I warned Jonny and Charlie that we needed to focus on things other than the food, as we would likely have a limited repertoire for the week on board.  I knew our best hope would be to connect with the Maitre D' of the main dining room at the beginning of the cruise and see what he could do.

We were pleasantly surprised to meet the delightful Gerhard "Gary" Waldukat, who patiently listened to our requests and even brought out the Sous Chef who prepares the special meals to review what we enjoy.  The way it works on the Epic is that the special meals are all prepared in the main kitchen, so if you are eating in one of the specialty restaurants, they have to go get it for you, which can sometimes take a little while.  We were traveling with another family, so the first couple of nights, they were finished eating by the time our food came.  We learned to let the restaurant know as soon as we arrived to order the food for us and after that, it went a lot smoother.  Chef Johnson did a wonderful job of giving us a variety of food, including desserts!  We had multi-course meals, including salads with beans and flavorful dishes incorporating quinoa, brown rice, tofu, coconut milk... we were pretty impressed!

We even worked things out in the buffet, which was sometimes a more convenient lunch option.  Unfortunately, besides the salad bar, most of the vegetable items were cooked in butter or otherwise unsuitable.  But there was a pizza station, and the cook there was very accommodating when we asked him to make us a cheese-free pizza loaded up with veggies.  Jonny met a vegan woman who was walking by and overhead him ordering pizza.  She did a double-take and incredulously asked, "you can get that???"  Evidently, she was having a much different experience food-wise than us.  

The moral of the story is YOU MUST ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED!  If you ask nicely, they will usually be happy to help.  Actually, we felt extremely well-taken care of.  Gary was constantly checking in on us... we felt like VIPs.  It's funny, I had asked him if there were other vegans on the ship when we first met, and he said he wasn't aware of any.  Out of 4,100 passengers, I'm sure there were, besides the pizza lady.  What a shame for them all to be suffering in silence.  It's a cruise, people!  You're supposed to eat!!!

My next travel challenge is at the end of February, when Jonny and I are going to South Africa to take care of some business for our charity, Love to Langa.  The last time we were there, he had a grand old time eating as many exotic animals as he could... including ostrich, springbok and warthog!