Celebrity Cruises Goes Vegan and Gluten Free
By Ricki Linksman
Celebrity Cruises has already been ahead of the times when it comes to healthy eating. Now, Celebrity ships such as the Equinox has created a vegan menu and has many gluten free options as well.
Celebrity has always been customer-service oriented, providing for special dietary needs no matter how challenging—and with a smile. For example, in years past during times when vegetarian food was still rare on cruise lines, Celebrity’s talented chefs found a way to prepare delicious, nutritious and artistically-presented vegetarian meals by special request. My comment cards to evaluate their service always included a note, “Your meals are amazing. As a suggestion, it would be great if you had a regular vegetarian menu like what you are serving us for all passengers!” A year later, when cruising again, it was exciting to see they offered a vegetarian menu on their Solstice Class ships, such as Silhouette, Reflections, Eclipse, Equinox, and Solstice. They also offered a healthy cuisine menu at their Aqua Spa café in their adults-only solarium.
Recently, as vegan and gluten-free diets became more popular we saw these also were being offered on Celebrity by special request to passengers. Still it was difficult to pass by the dessert counter in their Oceanview buffet restaurant and the dessert cart in their dining room knowing there was nothing for those who were either vegetarian or vegan who did not eat eggs. Our new comment on their evaluation form was, “Vegetarian and vegan foods are excellent. It would be great if you had some eggless pastries on the normal menu and not only by special order for vegans and vegetarians.”
Surprise! On this current February 2018 sailing, we saw that Celebrity came through again! For the past six months they had been offering a new vegan menu in the dining room and Aqua Spa Café. Finally! There were desserts without eggs, both for vegetarians and vegans. Even in their elite Captain’s Club members-only special events, for the first time there were hors d’oevres for vegetarians! Potato croquette balls and skewers of tomatoes and olives for vegans and added slices of buffalo mozzarella for vegetarians who ate dairy but no eggs. Eggless crackers with cheese and strawberry slices were served for egg-free vegetarians. To top it off, they served chocolate covered strawberries.
Aqua Spa Café Goes Vegan:
Six months ago, Celebrity switched from contracting out their healthy diets with Aspira to making their own. The improvements were dramatic!
The Aqua Spa café now serves vegan breakfast offerings such as their own three types of chef-made energy bars: Pumpkin granola bar made with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds (really!) white raisins, and cashews; Apricot energy bar made with coconut, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and honey; and Honey Almond Bar, made of dates, almonds, figs, apricot, and honey. So sweet yet no refined sugar!
Another new offering was their banana bagel, featuring a whole wheat bagel half topped with peanut butter, apple banana, blueberries, garnished with orchids.
Daily breads include honey oat bread, whole wheat bread, and multigrain bread.
Gluten free hot oatmeal with apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, and apples were served daily along with choices of cold cereals.
With delight the Aqua Spa chef still delivered to me on my perch on a chaise overlooking the ocean special eggless muffins—moist, rich, and light blueberry, banana, or quinoa options.
Daily fruit platters include melon and berries.
They even now serve healthy fresh juices and smoothies. Choose from combinations where you can mix and match carrot, beet, kale, apple, banana, pineapple, and more as fresh juices, or a variety of smoothie combos.
Daily lunches at the Aqua Spa include vegetarian options such as bow-tie pasta with pesto sauce, udon noodles with Asian flavors, fresh salads, and even quinoa bowl with cut vegetables.
Going Vegetarian and Vegan at the Oceanview Café Buffet
In the Oceanview Café, there is now gluten free pizza with choose your own toppings. Among the vegetarian sauces is a delicious marinara tomato sauce, to which you can add onions, mushrooms, zucchini, tomato, among other toppings. The gluten free egg-free pasta includes spaghetti or penne.
There are daily vegetarian offerings from their international food stations. Indian vegetarian includes puri and vegetable curry and yogurt for breakfast and papadum, dhals, and sabzi for lunches and dinners. The Mexican food station offers corn tacos, wheat tortillas, beans, rice, and guacamole and chips. There is always a rotating variety of vegetables from sautéed, to steamed, to fresh in their salad bar. There are roasted and mashed potatoes, potato cheese croquettes, hash brown cakes, and French fries. Vegetable dishes include carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, eggplant, corn, peas, etc. either steamed, sautéed, or grilled. On some days one could find vegetable lasagna.
Vegan and Vegetarian Options in Celebrity’s Main Dining Room:
What’s new is the vegan menu. In the seven-day cruise we enjoyed a culinary feast. Celebrity’s executive chef, Alexander Capello, Food and Beverage Manager, Safar, Shane Straika, Executive Sous Chef, and many others in their amazing staff delivered gourmet quality, artistically presented and delicious vegan meals each night.
Chef Alex described his attention to finding new sources of vegetarian and vegan products that could be certified for use on the ship. Food and Beverage Manager, Safar, is excited in expanding the vegan options. He says, “A vegan diet is growing in popularity and we are looking forward to testing and rolling out new menu options for those who are vegetarian who do not eat eggs, and vegans who eat no dairy at all. I know a friend who felt ill even though the doctors could find no sign of any health issues. But after going on a vegan diet for a few months, he lost ten pounds and felt great.”
Executive Sous Chef, Shane Straika described how hard they work to expand their vegetarian, eggless, and vegan options. Time and again his pastry staff produced the most amazing desserts, from vanilla panna cotta topped with strawberry sauce, to lemon eggless cake, strawberry shortcake, and even chocolate lava cake with a rich chocolate moist filling. Where else does one find such delicacies so delicious and artistically presented, even in land-based restaurants and hotel?
Vegan soups included tomato, smoky tomato, broccoli soup, corn soup and cold soups such as strawberry, blueberry, and pumpkin soups.
Memorable appetizers made vegan were spring rolls made with rice noodles; mushroom tarts, creamy polenta with mushroom; lightly fried crispy mushroom caps, farrota with butternut squash, among many more. For vegetarians who eat dairy but no eggs the above were also offered with cheeses, such as goat cheese or buffalo mozzarella, or parmesan cheese, etc.
For entrees, there was grilled tofu, penne with marinara and vegetables, stuffed peppers with either wild rice or quinoa and vegetables, mushroom risotto, vegetable korma, empanada with tofu or cheese, Israeli couscous cakes, and more.
There were always choices of breads, bread sticks, and house-made eggless gluten free breads. Toppings for the bread ranged from butter, to hummus, to baba ghanoush, or flavored butters such as with chive, pepper or garlic.
For the eggless desserts Celebrity chefs are extremely creative and we have enjoyed eggless chocolate cakes, lemon cakes, strawberry cakes, panna cotta (from chocolate, to vanilla, to white chocolate with raspberries, tapioca pudding, rice pudding, and fruits such as papaya and berries. They even serve eggless ice cream, sorbet, and soft-serve. Whatever you need, whether vegetarian with dairy and no eggs, or vegan, or gluten-free, they make something to please the palette.
Want to go off the grid for healthy, but still stay vegetarian or vegan? The Grille offers Vege-burgers and French fries and sautéed onions if you want to splurge. The Oceanview is open 24/7 if you want to slip in another between-meal snack. Its ice cream bar with add your own topping calls! These descriptions are just for the all-inclusive meals that come with the price of the sailing. There are still specialty restaurants with their own menus at an additional cost and offer some vegetarian and vegan offerings.
The Future is Now
For vegetarians and vegans, food while travelling is always a challenge. Unless one goes to a special hotel resort where their chefs are prepared to cater to the special dietary needs of vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free guests, there are usually only one or two vegetarian options. For a longer stay, to avoid eating the same meal each day, one is forced to drive around town looking for vegetarian or vegan restaurants. For those looking to relax and be pampered that poses a lot of work. Celebrity’s vegetarian and vegan dining options are so diverse and delicious, that one does not need to worry about driving around to find a good meal. Vegetarian and vegan meals are available 24/7 in all venues. One can relax and be totally pampered by being served by some of the world’s best chefs on Celebrity cruises.
Their new slogan “The Future Is Now” truly captures Celebrity’s philosophy. The future of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free dining is now—right on Celebrity’s Solstice class ships.