February 2014 - Carnival Elation to Caribbean - Western
Unfortunately, this vacation was really dampened by the food service on this cruise. I went with high hopes and an optimistic attitude. The first night at dinner our table server suggested I order the Indian food, which I did and found quite good. He then confirmed I am not quite vegan (I am vegetarian and cannot consume dairy, but I eat eggs.) and thus would not need the vegan menu and then asked me to make selections for the following day. I did tell the server I would happily order off of the vegan menu, if it would be easier but he declined. As they were serving eggplant/zucchini parmesan as the vegetarian entree and also a pasta dish with peas, turkey, and a cream sauce, I thought it would be simple to prepare some veggies with pasta and marinara sauce with a salad. I also ordered the roasted tomato soup and some steamed vegetables for the next morning with eggs. I was also advised that I could get the veggie patty at the grill.
The following morning, we were seated, and I ordered as I had previously indicated but the soup arrived with cheese in it, though this was not listed as an ingredient on the menu. Apparently, I was supposed to speak to someone about the preordered meal, but no one bothered to tell me this, so I assume there was a non-dairy bowl of soup that went to waste. I tried to visit the grill for the veggie patty but there was not one ready. When I asked for one, the person behind the counter rolled his eyes and then hollered down the line for someone to put one in the microwave for me. It appeared as I was eating it that it contained cheese, as strings formed when I took a bite, but I am not certain it contained cheese. That night, I was presented with a pile of (cold) zucchini and eggplant without sauce or spice of any kind and a separate dish of turkey, peas, and pasta, again without sauce. I reminded them I was vegetarian and was presented several minutes later with a dish of plain pasta. I barely touched the dinner.
I ordered for the following day and played it safe by ordering al la carte from the every-day menu. I requested a baked potato, plain, and some steamed vegetables. This was moderately better but again cold, and some of the vegetables and the potato had black spots. Also, on the following day, there was no brunch served, as it was a shore-excursion day, so I went to the buffet to find something to eat. The buffet had just closed, so I was forced to visit the grill, where I discovered that only fruit (which I had to beg for from the people dismantling the buffet) and a roasted tomato were avaible to me. There was no utensil with the tomatoes, so I requested one and was presented with the tongs used for the sausage. I said I was a vegetarian and thought that, regardless, separate utensils should be used and was met with a glare. (We had no issues accomodating my dietary restrictions in Cozumel.)
The following day was again a shore day, but my husband was sick, so I managed to get to the breakfast buffet for some fruit before they closed it up. I intended to go to the Mongolian grill for lunch, since I figured I would finally be able to get my hands on a large quantity of fresh vegetables. I went to the grill for lunch, compiled my vegetables, and presented them to wok cook. He asked what meat I would like, and I told him I was a vegetarian and did not want any meat. He continued to put my veggies in the wok and added some liquid from a small pitcher. I asked what it was, thinking it might contain fish sauce or something, and he stated it was chicken broth. I reiterated that I was vegetarian, and he told me to put together another pile of vegetables and he would redo it. He put the new vegetables in the wok and added about 1 1/2 cups of water instead of broth, so when I received my food, it was soup. By this time, my hands were shaking as I was angry and starving, and I took my plate to the customer service desk and explained my problem. They called the head person from the deck grill and buffet who arrived about 10 minutes later. I reveiwed my complaints with him, and he promised to correct my food from the grill and again mentioned a vegan menu. I said I had been informed there was one but had not seen it. I again said I would happily order from it, but he declined since I eat eggs. (I am in doubt of the existence of this menu, as I also find no mention of it anywhere online.) He did fix my Mongolian grill food, but the battle with the food situation continued the entire cruise. I had three more dinners, all of which were lukewarm to cold and most of which included very few actual vegetables. I assume the temperature issue is because the meals are prepared early and are not adequately kept warm. With regard to the quality of the food, I can only guess that the chef never actually tried any of the food he prepared for me, as it was incredibly sub par - Subway, Chipotle, any Asian food place, and most fast food joints offer food that I can consume and that tastes better than what I was served. It was dry and flavorles and showed a complete lack of imagination or understanding of cuisine, vegan or otherwise. For desert, they made some kind of pudding with soy milk (every night except one). It was okay but nothing special, not what I would eat on a vacation for sure.
The entire situation was embarrassing. I actually had brunch the last sea day and requested a salad with vinaigrette dressing and no cheese (the only salad on the menu was Caesar), and the waitress acted like a change of dressing was going to cause her incredible distress. The continual public notice of how difficult it was for me to find food suited to my needs was humiliating and only served to draw attention to a subject I don't really care to discuss anymore - why I'm vegetarian. I am not sure my husband and I will take another cruise, but, if we do, we will be researching who has the best vegan options beforehand. It just did not occur to me that, with all of the options now available to me (different from when I became a vegetarian in 1991), it would be so difficult for them to accommodate me as a guest.
I can recommend the Indian food and sincerely wish I had simply had this every night of the cruise. I hope this helps anyone out there with questions about finding vegan food on this cruise.