March 3 to 14, 2019
We have just returned from a most amazing holiday. I know I had decided I would not travel in the winter any longer (see Snow or Sand), and I did stay home this winter for two weeks while Ken went to Mexico. Then, last fall a link to the Holistic Holiday at Sea appeared on my Facebook feed and I was intrigued. Imagine a cruise to exotic ports, vegan food, and a stellar lineup of health, wellness, fitness, animal rights, meditation, yoga and cooking experts all in one place. I let Ken know, if he wanted me to travel, this was a holiday I would consider. Sadly it was booked up for this year and we went on a waiting list. In January we got an email saying 30 spots had opened up. We booked immediately and were soon on an epic vegan adventure.
Due to our last minute booking we were unable to get a good price on airfare and decided to drive instead, after all, we are retired. While the car trip was bum numbing, we did get the opportunity to see the southern states, visit friends and relatives, and make a stop at Disney and Graceland. (If you are considering this option, I did the books when we returned and found that adding driving and the extra 13 days to the trip made it about equal to airfare. But our car is fuel efficient, averaging 5.5 l/100 km or about 50 miles per gallon. Not factoring in the wear and tear on the vehicle travelling over 9,000 km)
The cruise was aboard the MSC Divina, and amazingly, half the over 4,000 passengers were vegan. That in itself was mind blowing. Every meal, every lecture, every class, we sat next to kindred souls and we met so many amazing people from all over the world. They ranged in age from babies to over 80. Some came for the speakers, and some came just for a holiday without diet concerns. Most of us attended copious lectures, and some just enjoyed the pool and ship amenities.
While at sea, our days were full of lectures from world class experts. Below are a few of them:
- Experts in health – Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Michael Klapper, Dr. Ron Weis, Brenda Davis RD, Virginia Harper
- Wellness experts – Nelson Campbell, Dr. Ilana Newman (Korean Hand Therapy), Dr. Will Tuttle
- Expert Chefs – Kim Campbell, Chef AJ, Ann Esselstyn, Jane Esselstyn, Rip Esselstyn, Juleanna Hever, Jessica Porter
- Elite Athletes – Matt Frazier (No Meat Athlete), Robert Cheeke, Giacomo Marchese
- Animal rights experts – James Aspey, Dr. Jonathon Balcombe
This was a celebrity lineup for me, and they were very approachable. We even had the very great pleasure of having dinner one evening with Dr. T Colin Campbell and his wife Mary. We got to chat with Kim and Nelson Campbell (PlantPure Nation and Healing America pioneers), Dr. Will Tuttle (author of The World Peace Diet), Dr. Jonathan Balcombe (a Canadian ethologist and author of What a Fish Knows) and Dr. Michael Klapper.
With this amazing lineup of speakers, I was busy from morning to night. My days started at 7 am with yoga or meditation, and ended after 10 after the last keynote speaker and a quick stop to the pool deck to sample the vegan snacks at the evening dance party (vegan ice cream, pizza, Notcho Nocheez and sushi -amazing).
We also got to see the new documentary Eating You Alive and meet one of the couples featured in the movie.
We have done many holidays, all inclusive resorts and cruises before. While we always find enough to eat, it is sometimes a pain constantly inquiring on what you can or cannot eat. Since going veg at 21, this is my very first holiday where food was not an issue. Vegan sit down breakfasts, lunches and dinners as well as a vegan buffet for breakfast and lunch. The food was healthy and tasty, for the most part. There were oil free options as well. The meals were prepared with very little salt, so at first I found the food a bit bland. I decided to resist the salt shaker, and over the course of the cruise my taste buds adjusted. One of our table mates introduced us to a product called Benson’s Table Tasty, an amazing salt substitute. (So far I have not found a Canadian source but I am looking) For those interested, there was also vegan processed foods -cheese, Beyond Meat burgers and tacos, and vegan pizza available. And I do confess I did stray from my no oil diet a few times and enjoy some of these.
PORTS OF CALL
We set sail from Miami, Florida. The ship had 3 full days at sea, which were days jam packed with speakers for me. We ended up taking our lunches on the pool deck just to get some sun. While in port, there were no speakers scheduled, and we got off the ship to explore and enjoy some relaxing time at the pool.
- Ocho Rios, Jamaica
- Oranjestad, Aruba
- Cartagena, Columbia
- Colon, Panama
- Costa Maya, Mexico
- Cozumel, Mexico
Instead of chocolates on our pillows at night, we found a variety of vegan swag – magazines, cookbooks, sea salt, lotion, etc.
All in all a very good holiday, and highly recommended if you are looking for a cruise. Though I have to admit I had a few guilt pangs as a cruise is not the most environmentally friendly holiday option. And since I went just for the speakers, it would not have mattered if the holiday had been Chicago in January or sunny Aruba. I was content to be “back at school”, filling my notebook with notes and enjoying the company of like minded people.
As a reward for sitting in the car for so long, we got to pick up firebricks for our Kitchen Queen Woodstove in Knoxville, Tennessee (saving shipping fees); enjoy a day long visit with cousins Phyllis and Harry in lovely St. Pete Beach, Florida.
We also spent 3 days in Fort Myers with friend Wayne. Ken had a good fix of karaoke.
Before heading home we stopped to say hi to Mickey Mouse and Goofy at Epcot (thanks to our workaway friend Heather) and visit Elvis’s Graceland in Memphis. We were able to find some great vegan food at Disney – Overnight oats and a hot veggie wrap for breakfast; and a veggie korma for dinner. Graceland was a whole nother ball game. In the diner they did offer a Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich; however it comes grilled in bacon grease. Yeach!
We also utilized Vegvisits, an Airbnb for vegans. Although there were no accomodations that fit our schedule, we did find a lovely fellow vegan in Miami who allowed us to park our car at her place, as the dock parking was full (and reviews for private lots around the dock we sketchy). She drove us to and from the dock and even made us the most amazing lunch when we returned. We also drove through a raging blizzard and glare ice roads in Iowa, and got a four hour detour around the Smokey Mountains due to landslides. But that’s all part of the adventure.