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Recovery Panelists Tell Their Stories: You Won’t Believe Their Results Part I

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Are you fairly new to plant-based eating? Or have you been vegan for years? Are you able to maintain optimal health? Or are you feeling frustrated and searching for answers? No matter where you find yourself on your journey to wellness, the Holistic Holiday at Sea experience is designed to meet you exactly where you are. Our next vegan cruise is a 10-day voyage in the southeastern Caribbean, February 15–25, 2018.

Among all of the activities we have planned, one of our most popular sessions is the Recovery Panel. Many people around the world have adopted a whole foods plant-based diet when faced with a life-threatening diagnosis. Each year on the panel, a dozen people share their personal stories of how they triumphed over a serious illness using holistic and alternative therapies.

In part one of this series, we wanted to share with you some insight from three of the participants: Judy MacKenney, Jarod Jacobs, and Jodi Seitlin. Stay tuned for part two in August when we chat with Jane Quincannon Stanchich, Tricia Slimbarski, and Kim Hoffman. We hope you find their journeys to health as inspiring as we have!

Our Bodies Want to Heal

Judy MacKenney is a macrobiotic counselor who has attended the cruise for the past 12 years—and has participated on the Recovery Panel for all of those years. In our previous Recovery Panel blog post, we spotlighted Judy, who has been free of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma for 25 years.Judy MacKenney, Holistic Holiday at Sea Recovery Panel

After she was diagnosed in 1990, she was advised to do chemotherapy. After seven months of radiation, the oncologist showed her the X-rays. Her tumors had shrunk considerably, but he said, “I must tell you, please don’t be excited. It’s not natural for you to heal like this. It will come back with a vengeance. You must be prepared for this.” Disheartened, Judy knew there had to be another way to heal. She read about Michio Kushi and the Kushi Institute. A macrobiotic counselor told her she could be healed and that food was going to heal her. Today, Judy has been cancer free for 25 years.

“It’s such an amazing thing. Our bodies have that opportunity to heal—of any condition you have,” says Judy. “It’s just a matter of being able to change your lifestyle and really put your mind to it. Our bodies do want to do that.” One takeaway Judy shares from the 2017 Recovery panel is a common thread she noticed. “The different types and magnitude of health challenges this panel faced was extraordinary and how nutrition, love, support, persistence, and positive reinforcement played such a huge part in each person’s recovery!”

Judy adds, “There’s a special joy I get from being among like-minded people who are eager to learn more about the benefits of good health and how to obtain it. This year’s schedule of classes and fun events was outstanding and I so appreciate the efforts of Sandy Pukel, David Magaziner, and their excellent staff for the extensive preparation they put into this cruise. It truly is a life-changing event for so many people!”

Every Day is a Gift

Jarod-Jacobs-Holistic-Holiday-at-SeaIn 1986, Jarod Jacobs was just 29 years old when a doctor told him he had multiple sclerosis and that he’d be in a wheelchair by age 40, and possibly dead by 50. Jarod says he was in denial until 2006 because he was asymptomatic. His neurologist prescribed him drugs that he started taking in 2006. At the end of 2007 he was told that the drugs weren’t working and he shouldn’t take them anymore. For the next two years, Jarod was detoxing and bedridden. He says he had an aha moment one day while lying in bed: If I always do what I’ve always done, I’m going to keep getting what I’ve always got. So if I do nothing and keep having a bad time, then I’m probably going to die. Or, if I do something different—change my lifestyle, change my diet—I might get better. “Sure enough, that’s what I did.” By the beginning of 2010, he’d adopted a vegetarian lifestyle.

In 2010, he began physical therapy and chiropractic care. He went to Palm Beach’s Hippocrates Health Institute in 2012 and became vegan. In 2013, he went raw and walked unaided for the first time since 2007. “Not eating hot food made all the difference,” says Jarod. “Digesting hot food is tiring. Heated food kills digestive enzymes the body needs.”

Celebrating his 60th birthday this year, Jarod says that men his age with MS 30 years are not usually alive, let alone cured as he is. This was Jarod’s first year on the panel and the cruise. He told the audience, “I’m so vegan, I don’t even go to Kevin Bacon movies.”

When asked what’s on his bucket list, Jarod answers simply, “Tomorrow.” His advice to people who have been given a diagnosis and are having to figure out the next step is “Be scared, not dumb. Taking a drug and thinking it can do anything is stinkin’ thinkin’. Change your diet and lifestyle. Go raw vegan. Get physical therapy and chiropractic.”

When Life Gives you a Second Chance

Jodi-Seitlin-Holistic-Holiday-at-SeaAfter law school, Jodi Seitlin embarked on a career path dedicated to helping others. She became licensed to practice in 1990, starting out as a criminal prosecutor before moving into civil prosecution for abused, neglected, and abandoned children. She went into private practice in 2007, representing children directly. She describes her style as “the Wonder Woman technique,” that is, “not slowing down long enough to feel.”

She blamed a pain under her left thigh on a yoga injury and hoped it would resolve itself. It didn’t. After an X-ray, MRI, and other tests it was discovered she had spondylolisthesis, a condition of the spine. The pain got worse each day and after a year and a half, it felt like the whole left side of her body had become immobile. In May 2008, she underwent surgery. She described recovery from the surgery as a “walk in the park” when compared with the nerve pain that had “poisoned everything.”

Soon after, Jodi returned to work and continued her non-stop lifestyle until a traumatic event. She received a call in October that a client and the client’s father were murdered. While making phone calls to ensure that her client’s children were safe, Jodi was trying to catch a flight to visit her mother who wasn’t doing well.

“I’m beside myself,” she recalls. “I’m dragging my luggage behind me. I’m going through scanners in the airport.” She says she would’ve kept going like the Energizer Bunny except that the lower half of her body from the waist down went numb. All of her muscles were working, but she felt like her skin had fallen asleep. This was the beginning of a series of emergency room stays, neurologist visits, and many tests. On Halloween evening, Jodi was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 51.

Today, Jodi says she has a sense of humor about the whole thing, but her journey to find the right care was anything but easy. She has nailed down a regimen that works, found a neurologist who respects her preferences, and has chosen to live a simpler life with no more high-stress cases. She has incorporated holistic therapies, including a regular yoga practice, and through them seeks unity of mind, body, and spirit

In the middle of 2014, she began her recovery from alcohol and found a 12-step program. Now, her first preference is to treat things as naturally as she can. She told the Recovery Panel audience, “I can’t tell you what a joy living life without chemicals, without alcohol, the clarity, the purpose that has come back.”

Like Jarod, this was Jodi’s first year on the cruise. She loved all of the learning opportunities and the inspiring people she met. “I wasn’t a vegan before,” she says. “I had no knowledge base on the distinction between vegetarian and vegan… In two days on that ship, I was convinced my body was telling me so clearly that this was so right and everything was just working better. It was remarkable how much better I felt and how much easier things seemed to be in terms of how my body functioned. In tune with all that—much more so because of recovering from the worst of MS—I’ve done a lot of work on making sure that mind-body connection is really drawn. It never occurred to me that I’d jump in with both feet and that it would be so easy. It feels right.”

Recovery is Possible

As all of the Recovery Panelists participants finished their stories, a palpable sense of inspiration and hope filled the room. When it comes to wellness, there is always something new for us to learn. We invite you to join us on the 2018 Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and experience a voyage with such optimistic and inspiring people. Book your spot today!

From Lecturing to Snorkeling, New York Times Bestselling Author Jonathan Balcombe Shares Voyage Highlights

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Jonathan Balcombe at Holistic Holiday at SeaLast March, Dr. Jonathan Balcombe made his Holistic Holiday at Sea debut on our 14th annual Caribbean cruise. As a featured presenter, Jonathan gave insightful lectures about the amazing abilities, personalities, and feelings of animals, from fish to baboons. Often humorous and always compassionate, Jonathan pulled from scientific facts and his own observations as an expert in the field of ethology, the study of animal behavior.

Jonathan is the director of animal sentience at the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy and a favorite among animal advocates around the world. He’s authored several books, including Pleasurable Kingdom (2006), Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals (2011), and his latest What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins (2016), a New York Times bestseller that was released in paperback this month.

We’re so excited Jonathan will be returning for our special ten-day 15th anniversary cruise to the southeastern Caribbean, February 15–25, 2018! We recently got the opportunity to catch up with him about his trip highlights, how the ethical and nutritional aspects of veganism work so well together, and why he’s so often curious about animals who don’t typically get the spotlight.

Fish Sightings on and Under the Deep Blue Sea

Jonathan Balcombe SnorkelingIn the early morning on the first full day at sea, Jonathan, with binoculars in hand, looked hopefully out over the sea. “I was delighted to see flying fishes taking off and moving away from the boat,” he says. “I saw them on like three or four occasions that day on different sides of the boat. We were definitely in waters that had a lot of them… I never saw any cetaceans. I talked to another group at my table one night who saw a pod of about 90 or so dolphins passing, coming toward the boat, and then kind of going past. I was green with envy at that time. Unfortunately I wasn’t party to that.” Timing is everything!

Our first port of call was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Jonathan took part in the snorkeling excursion and saw many kinds of fish, including tarpon. “Tarpon are quite big, they’re like silvery white fish. They grow to over six feet long. The ones we saw were probably in the four foot range, the bigger ones. They just glided around so gracefully… I watched a boxfish blowing sand on the bottom, I guess trying to uncover food, that was pretty cool.”

On our last stop in Nassau, Bahamas, Jonathan snorkeled once again: “I enjoyed that, beautiful colors, lovely fishes of various species, and beautiful reef habitat as well.” Since the waters were very cold that day, Jonathan made a reminder to himself to pack a thick wetsuit for next year. Other fish Jonathan recalls seeing on his adventure are squirrelfish, yellowtail snapper, and porkfish, among others. He spotted yellowfin and mojarra, which are two kinds of fish he can also find at Boynton Beach in southeast Florida, where he lives.

A Compassionate Way to Live

Many people who choose plant-based lifestyles do so from a concern for the welfare and protection of animals. During his keynote lecture “What a Fish Knows,” Jonathan told the story of when he decided as a child on a summer camp outing that he did not want to fish like the rest of the kids. “From my earliest memory I was always smitten with animals, fascinated with them, wanted to know what it was like to be them. Of course I’ll never fully know. I was also deeply empathetic toward them. If there’s an empathy gene, I was born with it. I always went out of my way not to step on the ants. So it was that element. I was an animal person from my earliest memory.”

Jonathan Balcombe at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Jonathan Balcombe with Clover at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Jonathan earned three biology degrees, including a PhD in ethology from the University of Tennessee, where he studied communication in bats. When asked how he went from bats to fish, Jonathan replied, “I think I tend to consciously or maybe subconsciously gravitate towards less popular animals. Nowhere is that more evident than in my currently planned next book which is on one of the most reviled, least liked group of animals on the planet, that is flies.

“I almost did a graduate study on snakes which would have taken me in other directions, another very unpopular group of animals. I think that’s a big element for me, because I identify very much with animals ethically, I want to improve their lot, and the ones who are least liked by us probably need the most help.”

Humans are a Varied Lot

When he wasn’t underwater, Jonathan was exploring all of the onboard activities. “I went to quite a few lectures,” he says. “Most of the ones that I went to, the people who were speaking I had already heard before, which is not to say I didn’t learn new stuff or that they didn’t cover new stuff. I thought Caldwell Esselstyn’s presentation was really very interesting. Gene Baur, I always enjoy hearing him speak.” A pianist himself, Jonathan attended Luiz Simas’ jazz concert on Wednesday evening titled “A Musical Voyage to Brazil.” He says, “I really enjoyed it. I bought the CD. I love it and listen to it all the time.”

On the discussion of meat substitutes in the mainstream food industry, Jonathan said he was excited to see these products keep rolling out even if he wasn’t personally hankering for them. “Humans are a varied lot. We need a lot of doors for people to go through to get to a more compassionate way of eating. It may not be compassionate for them, it may be saving money, it may be whatever. It may be feeling like this food is safer, whatever works. But I think that’s an important sector that will draw in some more converts away from the conventional meat eating that we currently have now which we need to switch. So I’m very excited about those.”

One of the most magical aspects of the cruise is the way that people from all walks of life can come together over mindful eating. “One of the things I most liked about the cruise was that the meal seating was random, and you almost invariably got sat at a table with other people, and they were people you didn’t know. They were people you didn’t plan to sit with. That was great because it really helped with integration to meet different people, different angles, different geographies, where they’re coming from, how many times they’ve been on the cruise… It was really fun, I really liked that. I think that played a big role in the integration of different ways of thinking about it and different priorities for why people were there. We always found common ground.”

Join Jonathan on the 2018 Cruise!

Book a spot on our 15th anniversary sailing, February 15–25, 2018. In 2018, the MSC Divina will depart from Miami, Florida, and head to the following ports of call in the southeastern Caribbean: St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda; Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; Fort-de-France, Martinique; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Freeport, Bahamas. View the itinerary here and start planning!

Single? Book a Ride on the Love Boat!

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Robert & Karen aboard the ship.

Robert & Karen aboard the ship.

Since Holistic Holiday at Sea first set sail in 2004, we’ve earned the nickname The Love Boat. And with good reason! In addition to discovering or rekindling a love for plant-based nutrition, many guests on our vegan cruise in the Caribbean have also cultivated relationships with each other—lots of them of the romantic variety.

But what is it about our programming, amenities, lectures, and ports of call that go into the recipe for love?

Robert Cheeke and Karen Oxley met on the cruise in 2011 and got engaged last August. We spoke with them about how they met, why the cruise was the perfect environment for their love to grow, and what advice they have for others who may meet on the cruise.

Go to the Welcome Party!

Robert & Karen Holistic Holiday at Sea-2After traveling on a red eye flight from the west coast, Robert was exhausted when he finally boarded the ship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for his first Holistic Holiday at Sea adventure. “I almost didn’t go to the Welcome Party. I was just too tired, running on an hour of sleep, but I like to dance and have a fun time so I decided to go.”

Karen and her best friend Traci were also first-time cruise goers. Traci had heard about the cruise through VegNews and encouraged Karen to go with her. Earlier that day at lunch, while still docked, one of the people at their table pointed across the room and said, “Oh my gosh, that’s Robert Cheeke over there.” Karen turned, but could only see the back of Robert’s head. She hadn’t heard of this person before. Robert was a well-known athlete in the vegan community for his blog and Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness book, so many people were pumped to spot him on the ship.

So when Traci approached the publisher of VegNews at the Welcome Party, Karen turned to Robert (who was standing beside him) and said, “Am I supposed to know who you are?” Robert smiled and replied, “No, you don’t have to know who I am.”

Karen, Robert, and Traci became fast friends—Traci and Robert danced for hours at the welcome party. Karen, who is more of an introvert, loved Robert’s outgoing personality. The next day, after a lecture, Traci and Karen dined on the ship. They bumped into Robert and decided to explore Key West together (although Robert had already spent several hours exploring the town in the morning. He was excited to hang out with these fun ladies!).

Common Interests

Once they met, it was easy for Karen and Robert to find things to do onboard that they both enjoyed. In addition to the boat’s acrobatic shows, the couple also enjoyed attending the Holistic Holiday at Sea Talent Show. It wasn’t long before they developed a core crew of people to hang out with. Robert says that the intimate nature of the cruise lent itself to the building and nurturing of relationships: “We met in a place where 800 friends and colleagues with similar interests were all together.” While the cruise has grown in size since 2011, it’s still very easy to make friends and spend time with them.

Robert and Karen attended lectures by doctors, wellness coaches, and other influencers in the plant-based movement. They connected through a shared love for animals.

Robert became vegan at the age of 15 after growing up on a farm and gaining a respect for all the animals who lived on it. Karen adopted the lifestyle a bit later in life. She shares, “I was never really comfortable with meat, but I thought that was just how it was. We just eat meat. Then I read a book, which kind of touched on all those things. It touched on the animal side, the health side… The thing that resonated the most with me was the animal cruelty and really getting in touch with those feelings I had: I’ve never been comfortable with meat for a reason. I’ve never been comfortable killing animals to eat them for a reason. And now I know we don’t have to. I don’t have to just accept it and eat it anyway. I do have an option and I can say no. And so that was the main thing, but I just thought the health benefits were an added bonus.”

Make Plans

At the time of their first cruise, Karen was living in Seattle and Robert was touring to promote his first book. It just so happened that Robert had plans to visit Seattle for Veg Fest three weeks after the end of the cruise, and Karen was already signed up to volunteer at the event. “From the time we said goodbye at the cruise, we already knew we were going to see each other in a few weeks,” says Robert.

The two kept in touch for the weeks leading up to Veg Fest, and Robert extended his trip by a few days so they could spend quality time together. While this coincidental planning will not happen for everyone, there are ways to stay in touch once the cruise is over.

“What I think is a nice thing to do—if there is some sort of spark on the cruise—is to not wait until the next year’s cruise, but to find a way to meet up. Find some neutral ground, such as a Veg Fest or a vegan festival,” says Robert, who adds that he sees this happening with people he knows who have met on the ship.

Karen adds, “I think it’s important, too, not to wait too long. If there’s really chemistry and mutual interest, just find a way to make it happen so you guys can spend time together again. Things do fizzle out. All relationships take effort, whether it’s romantic or not. Every relationship takes effort to maintain. I think you have to put forth effort in a budding relationship.”

This goes for friends, too! Robert and Karen love meeting up with the friends they’ve met on the cruise over the years, and with the abundance of vegan events across the country, it’s easier now than ever before.

The Travel Bug

If you’re in attendance on our vegan cruise, then chances are you love to explore new places. It’s always exciting to find a new companion with a common interest in travel. Their 2011 Holistic Holiday at Sea adventure was the first of many. Karen joined Robert and helped him with his book promotions. She wasn’t 100% happy in Seattle, so Robert encouraged her to join him on his tour. They spent three weeks driving around the country together. “We’d just met, but that was part of our immersion together in our relationship,” says Robert.

Attendees on every cruise since then, Karen and Robert love traveling together. After the 2011 cruise, they both moved around a bit before moving in together in LA. After that, Robert and Karen lived in Canada, Oregon, southern California, Colorado, and (now) Arizona. They’ve traveled to Australia, Europe, Mexico, Canada, and every corner of the US. Now that Robert is wrapping up another book, they are excited to see what opportunity awaits.

Find Love Next February!

Our 15th anniversary sailing will take place February 15–25, 2018. While all previous cruises have lasted a week, this next cruise will be extended to ten days! This means more exotic ports of call in the southeastern Caribbean, more lectures, and more opportunities to meet that special someone. Book today!

 

Vegan Cruise Turns 15: A Look Back Through the Years!

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Holistic Holiday at Sea 15th Anniversary-1February 15–25, 2018, Holistic Holiday at Sea will embark on its 15th vegan cruise! Over the years, more than 15,000 cruise goers have come aboard to learn more about plant-based lifestyles in presentations and classes by world-renowned doctors, holistic practitioners, chefs, athletes, and other influential leaders. The cruise organizers are so excited to celebrate this milestone with you as they have many new and fun things planned for this upcoming voyage.

Since 2003, Holistic Holiday at Sea has grown exponentially, with so many wonderful memories made. The plant-based movement has come so very far in recent years. Such an event wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the support of a vibrant and compassionate community.

 

The Growth of a Movement

Although it was back in 2004, it feels like just yesterday the ship first set sail from Port Everglades with 410 people, traveling across the beautiful Caribbean Sea. The small, but mighty, group visited Key West, Mexico, Jamaica, and the Grand Cayman Islands.Holistic Holiday at Sea cuisine

Participants learned from amazing presenters, such as the late Michio Kushi, who was a pioneer in the natural foods movement and an earlier proponent of the idea that one’s diet, environment, and health are connected. After the cruise, Michio said it was a great success: “People who worked to care for the participants were very entertaining. Throughout the period at sea, weather was continuously fine celebrating our dream. People could study, enjoy macrobiotic meals, sing together with Italian music and develop friendships. I hope everyone will join in the future.”

Guests on the cruise started off as strangers and quickly developed friendships and connections (many of the romantic variety!) that continued even after everyone returned home. 2004 was certainly an amazing beginning.

During this last cruise, 1,650 people shared the week with one another! This tremendous growth is due to a variety of factors, including the strength of the vegan movement itself. Sandy Pukel, HHAS president and founder, say it’s always been the cruise’s mission to help people choose lifestyles that will make them happier and healthier. Back then, however, he says it was almost like a secret society of people who followed vegan or macrobiotic lifestyles. But times have changed. “Now it’s okay to shout it from the rooftops,” he adds.

Michio Kushi

Michio Kushi

More doctors are also becoming more outspoken about their scientific findings. “In the beginning, we had maybe a hundred doctors (MDs) on the cruise, but only 10 or 20 would say they were doctors because they were going against the accepted culture at the time of being vegan and being an MD and espousing this kind of philosophy and lifestyle. Now we have 150 doctors on there who are proud to say they’re part of it. It has become kind of like a magnet for people to see those doctors who are into alternative health.” Many of these doctors are presenters and participants in the CME program, earning continuing education credits. The CME program itself is a testament to the demand for education around the science of nutrition and wellness.

There are also more families and multi-generational groups on the cruise now than before. Sandy says that many people came in the beginning and “put their toes in the water,” so to speak, to see what it was all about. Those who raised their children with vegan or vegetarian diets are bringing them on the cruise for an educational and cultural experience. Guests of all ages can enjoy delicious food, engaging workshops, and exotic ports of call.

Is it Nutritional or Ethical?

Many people ask if this conference at sea gives a nutritional or an ethical emphasis on veganism. Well, it provides both—and more! Due to an increasing demand, Holistic Holiday at Sea is continuously expanding the focus to include more animal advocacy and environmental presentations and discussion. The mission has always been centered on education and there’s so much under this umbrella.

Neal Barnard at Holistic Holiday at Sea

Dr. Neal Barnard

Last year, new presenters included animal rights activists Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows and Gene Baur, co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary. Returning again in 2018, they will continue to share their compassion and knowledge, giving voices to so many animals who suffer from factory farming and horrific food industry practices.

Many presenters return again and again. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study and Whole, and Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, have participated nearly every year.

2018 brings many new presenters, including health activist and food writer Rip Esselstyn, registered dietitian and nutritionist Julieanna Hever, and Dr. Ron Weiss, founder of Ethos Health. HHAS is also welcoming Ingrid Newkirk onboard. As president and founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Ingrid has spoken around the world on animals rights issues.

When Learning is Fun

Sandy stands by the idea that “no one minds learning when they’re having a good time.” For the 15th cruise, instead of the usual seven days, the cruise will be extended to ten days, including President’s Day weekend. In addition to participating in onboard adventure (including poolside socials and entertainment), guests will certainly have a good time exploring the ports of call.Holistic Holiday at Sea

While the ship’s route alternates between the Eastern and Western Caribbean every year (guests have been to more than a dozen coastal cities and towns), there are always new spots to see. The 2018 ports of call are primarily brand new to the cruise. The MSC Divina will depart from Miami, Florida, and head to the following ports of call in the southeastern Caribbean: St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda; Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; Fort-de-France, Martinique; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Freeport, Bahamas.

But Who’s Counting?

HHAS Infographic 15th anniversary

Click to check out our Retrospective Infographic!

Nearly 50% of the 2017 guests signed up to attend the cruise in 2018. This means HHAS is doing something right. They crunched the numbers and figured out that they’ve offered 1,738 classes over the last 14 years. They’ve been wide ranging, from yoga, Pilates, meditation, and fitness classes to cooking demonstrations and lectures on topics including plant-based nutrition, cardiovascular health, and integrative medicine. Each year, cruise goers look forward to the always inspiring Recovery Panel.

One year, the kitchen staff (led by the talented Mark Hanna) dished out nearly 38,000 meals in seven days. Kudos to the talented kitchen team! The gourmet meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are such an essential part of the experience.

Organizers also learned a lot from our experience running the cruise. During one of the first cruises, the ship left from Ft. Lauderdale only to realize that the majority of the produce order for the week didn’t make it onboard! Fortunately, they were able to contact the supplier who would bring them the greens at Key West (our first stop). There was a dock strike in Key West, so they had to be carried on case by case. Fortunately, it all worked out and the rest of the trip was smooth sailing. A good lesson in remembering the importance of going with the flow.

 

A Bright Future

Holistic Holiday at Sea sunsetSo many of you have adopted a plant-based diet because you want better health and a more peaceful world. While many guests have returned year after year, HHAS always welcomes aboard new faces! Make memories that will last forever and book today for the best rates and availability.

And the Winner of our Cruise Photo Contest is…

We were blown away by all of the amazing photos that everyone took in our first-ever 2017 Holistic Holiday at Sea Photo Contest! From snapshots of crystal blue waters and yoga poses on the ship, to pics of decadent desserts and cruise goers’ favorite entrees, we feel like we’re reliving the experience every time we look at the photos. A big thank-you to everyone who participated!

Congratulations to our winner Hollie Kempton! She’s been awarded $200 in onboard credit on next year’s cruise. We wanted to share three of Hollie’s cool shots with you.

Holistic Holiday at Sea in Tulum, Mexico- Photo by Hollie Kempton

In Tulum, Mexico (outside of the Cozumel port). “The cruise is not only about nourishing your body, but also nourishing your mind. With a view like this one you can’t help but feel at peace and in awe of nature.”

Holistic Holiday at Sea Dr. Michael Gregor- Photo by Hollie Kempton

“Meeting one of my biggest inspirations, the incredible Dr. Greger. I love that he fizzes with energy and passion for improving people’s health through well-researched and easy-to-understand information.”

Holistic Holiday at Sea dessert- Photo by Hollie Kempton

“I believe that eating delicious and health promoting whole plant based foods is the way of the future. Who could say no to this dessert?”

This was Hollie’s first year attending Holistic Holiday at Sea. She is a qualified health and nutrition coach, teacher, and blogger (Powered by Vegies) who wants to inspire and empower people to choose whole plant-based foods to create a healthier body and mind. She hopes to help them gain a greater understanding of how nutrition, movement, and our mindset impact the way we feel. On her website, you’ll find wonderful recipes like her guilt-free chocolate and honeycomb cookies and eggplant rotolo. Her recipes have also been featured on NutritionStudies.org.

As for next year’s cruise, Hollie and her husband have already booked their spots! She says, “It is a long way from home (Australia), but totally worth the journey!” Want to join Hollie and hundreds of others who have already reserved their spots? Book today! Early bird special ends on midnight May 25.

New 2018 Ports of Call Announced: You Won’t Want to Miss These!

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Holistic Holiday at Sea Port of Call 2013It’s been a little over a month since our 2017 Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise returned to the port in Miami. Friends from cruises past were reunited and strangers became close pals. (Not to mention all the sparks flying from the love boat!) Seven days were jam packed with lectures, socials, excursions, and amazing plant-based food, and we know so many of you have kept the momentum going even long after you returned home.

Ten Days of Plant-Based Fun

We are excited to say that there are new ports of call for next year’s Holistic Holiday at Sea, which is extended from a week to ten days. “There is extra time so we will not be pressed to fit everything in,” says Sandy Pukel, HHAS president.

In 2017, we traveled to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Mexico, and the Bahamas. Historically, the cruise has alternated between the Eastern and West Caribbean, but for our next cruise, there will be primarily brand new ports.

In 2018, the MSC Divina will depart from Miami, Florida, and head to the following ports of call in the southeastern Caribbean: St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda; Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; Fort-de-France, Martinique; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Freeport, Bahamas. You can view the itinerary here.

Lectures will take place when we are not at a port so the maximum amount of time can be allotted to exploring these new places. Giving guests many opportunities to see new sights and learn about different points of history is an important part of the cruise’s mission. “Different cultures are always educational and exciting to experience,” says Sandy.

The Ports

St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda and the first settlement on the island, is famous for its festive farmers markets, colorful architecture, and rum. Guests love relaxing on the sandy beaches (Antigua has 365!) or snorkeling in the waters below. The white baroque towers of St. John’s Cathedral can be spotted along the skyline.

Basseterre (Photo courtesy of MSC)

Basseterre (Photo courtesy of MSC)

Founded in 1627 by the French, Basseterre (French for lower ground) is one of the oldest towns in the Eastern Caribbean. The capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Basseterre attracts visitors for its beaches, resorts, and marinas. One of the two centers features a green clock tower and water fountain known as the Piccadilly Circus, or the Circus.

Many visitors to Martinique’s capital city of Fort-de-France check out the Fort St-Louis, after which the city was named. Beach goers will not be disappointed as there are many spots to lounge by the water. Exports of Fort-de-France, Martinique, include rum, bananas, cacao, and pineapples.

St. Maarten is a constituency country controlled by the Dutch, about 230 miles east of Puerto Rico. We will travel to the capital city, Philipsburg. St. Maarten is the southern part of the island, and St. Martin is the northern part controlled by the French. European influences abound with these two island colonies that share the same 37 square miles. With more than one-and-a-half miles of white-sand beaches, you’re sure to spot elegant heron and pelicans.

Road Town (Photo courtesy of MSC)

Road Town (Photo courtesy of MSC)

Road Town, on the tropical island of Tortola, is the capital of the British Virgin Islands. It was once occupied by pirates, the Dutch, and the English. There’s an easy going vibe and lots to do! On the island of Grand Bahama in the northwest Bahamas you’ll find the city of Freeport. Just 80 miles from Palm Beach, Florida, Freeport is home to many white-sand beaches.

“The new ports were chosen after viewing different itineraries. These ports seemed the most exciting—truly the ones you read about as the exotic ports of the Caribbean, but could not visit in the usual seven-day sailing.” By summer, we will post information for all the excursions available at each spot.

And 2018 isn’t just any cruise—it’s our 15th anniversary celebration! Check out the blog next month for a special look at these past 15 years.

Super Early Bird Special Ends at Midnight May 25

Book by May 25 for the cheapest rates we will offer. Reserve a spot so you won’t miss out on any of the exciting new exotic ports, excursions, and 15th anniversary excitement!

Here’s Who’s Cookin’ on the 2017 HHAS Cruise!

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Pasta Holistic Holiday at SeaFrom galas and poolside socials to lectures and movement classes, this year’s Holistic Holiday at Sea has all the ingredients for a fun and educational experience. While every aspect is important, food is at the heart of it all. In elegant dining rooms, guests will be able to choose from sit-down menus for all three meals. There are also buffet options for breakfast and lunch.

Whether you’ve been following a plant-based diet for decades or you’ve recently considered switching to one, you’re likely on the lookout for delicious and easy recipes. Cooking classes led by master chefs are here to help! Guests can watch these demonstrations and sample some of the prepared food.

Cooking Classes Cover All the Basics—And Then Some!

Mother and daughter duo Ann and Jane Esselstyn will discuss and demonstrate the practical side of staying heart healthy in their cooking class, “The How and Wow: Discussion and Demo of the Guidelines to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.”

A hypnotherapist, macrobiotic cook, and actress, Jessica Porter is a highly entertaining performer who makes her lectures funny, inspiring, and informative. She will lead the cooking classes “Elegant Plant-Based Party Dishes” and “Optimum Health on a Plant-Based Diet.” She will also offer a Cooking Boot Camp titled “Cook Your Way to a Better Relationship: Kitchen Secrets for Creating Harmony, Laughter, and Sexual Spark.”

Author of seven books and widely acclaimed chef, Mark Reinfeld joins the Holistic Holiday at Sea team this year as a menu and recipe consultant. He contributed more than 25 vegan fusion recipes to this year’s menu.

Mark will celebrate the world’s plant-based cuisine, including raw items, in “Vegan Fusion Healthy Snacks and Salads.” Recipes include golden turmeric milk, hemp energy balls, and a raw walnut taco salad. Mark shares, “I like to empower people with as many of the tools and tips that I can share in a class or workshop. I show people how to view recipes as templates, or ‘Template Recipes.’ By altering any of the components in a dish, you can create a new recipe. So even in a short cooking demo I can share hundreds and even thousands of recipes.”

He views cooking classes as a form of food activism: “Empowering people with the tools they need to create healthy and delicious plant based cuisine is a way of promoting human health, protecting the environment and creating a more peaceful world. To me this is a worldwide movement.”

You’ll likely recognize Christina Pirello from her national public television series, Christina Cooks. In “To Soy or Not to Soy: That is the Question,” Christina will dive into controversy around what she calls this “oh so humble bean.” Most heart disease is preventable and treatable, and Christina believes it all begins in the kitchen. Learn how to make heart-healthy food choices in “The Heart of the Matter.”

During Cooking Boot Camp, “The Joy of Plant-based Cooking,” Christina will turn your passion for cooking “from simmer to boiling over.”

If you have the fantasy of sitting in the Italian countryside, enjoying a meal with your friends and family, Christina dives into the secrets of how to create authentic Italian cuisine in “The Italian Table.” Christina shares, “One of the big misconceptions about Italian food is that it’s all cheese and eggs, and nothing could be further from the truth. That’s the American approach to Italian food. I cook with more traditional techniques using whole grains, beans and veggies to create authentic Italian-style dishes, and I use some of my own tricks to create some of the familiar flavors we love with no compromise to wellness. In all my classes, people can expect to have their questions answered. to see some amazingly simple and delicious recipes prepared, and to leave the class with a deeper understanding of the subject.”

If you’re following popular vegan food blogger Kathy Patalsky, then you’ve likely read about her super popular veggie burger. “This is a very different variety of veggie burger because it is really not trying to imitate meat at all!” says Kathy, “It is just super flavorful and has a unique soft, yet burger-y texture!” In her cooking class, “Super Smoothies and Scrumptious Veggie Burgers,” Kathy will cover plenty of veggie burger variations and techniques, as well as smoothie techniques and flavor combinations, including superfood add-ins.Holistic Holiday at Sea Cuisine-1

Dig Right In!

Don’t miss your chance to learn a new recipe or three at this year’s Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise, embarking March 11! Cooking Boot Camps last two and a half hours and are priced at $150 per person. Click here for a full program schedule.

Cruise Photo Contest 2017!

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Holistic Holiday at Sea Photo Contest!Attention all 2017 Holistic Holiday at Sea goers! Do you like taking photos of your travels? Are you on Facebook or Instagram? Do you want to win $200 in onboard credits for next year’s cruise? Then, keep reading!

Our cruise photo contest is new this year. Use the hashtag #vegancruise whenever you post your pictures on social media, and one person will win $200 onboard credit for the 2018 cruise. The photo contest ends on April 30, 2017.

Watching a sunset from the ship’s deck? Snap a pic. Want to share the view from Dunn’s River Falls near Ochos Rios, Jamaica? Take a photo (just don’t get your phone or camera wet!). Ready to dig into a beautifully plated, chef-prepared vegan meal? Take a moment to photograph the scene before you devour your food. Having a spectacular time at one of the evening parties? Capture the fun. We welcome creativity and a variety of shots.

The winner will be randomly selected at the end of April, but you have to use the hashtag #vegancruise in order to enter. Even if you have a private Instagram account or non-public Facebook account, you can still play along!

Entry Directions for Guests with Private Social Media Accounts

For those with private Facebook accounts, share your best photos on your profile using #vegancruise, and then share them or direct message them to us at Holistic Holiday at Sea – Vegan Cruise. For private Instagram accounts, share your best photos on your profile with #vegancruise and then direct message them to us @hhas_vegan_cruise.

Got questions? Message us on Facebook.

Thank you and have fun taking pictures. We’re excited to see them!

Remember to Pack These 5 Things for the Cruise!

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Holistic Holiday at SeaSailing March 11–18, the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise is less than a month away! Are you ready for warm breezes, vegan cuisine, and the chance to move, expand your mind, and get inspired? It’s time to start thinking about what to bring! While 200 pounds of personal luggage may seem like a lot (it’s the max for guests to bring aboard the ship), it’s important to plan wisely so you’ll have everything you need.

1. Comfortable Shoes

Whether you’re a serious athlete or a professional beach bum, bringing a couple different options for footwear is important. Certified personal trainer and masters triathlete Larry Krug advises folks to bring a good pair of walking shoes and running shoes. Flip flops are fine for lounging, but they’re discouraged for off-boat excursions where sturdier shoes are more appropriate. Of course, when it comes to yoga and Pilates, barefoot is always in fashion.

2. Fitness Gear

As you read in our recent blog post, fitness classes are one of the favorite, most anticipated aspects of the cruise. Derek Tresize, a vegan WNBF Pro Bodybuilder, will teach several courses, including “Total Body Conditioning” and “Prehab and Rehab: Exercises to Support Pain-Free, Long-Term Fitness,” where participation is encouraged (although guests are also welcome to watch).Holistic Holiday at Sea Yoga

He says, “The trip includes a very large and diverse group of people from all over the world. That means there will be people from all different fitness levels and age groups on board, and everyone should have the opportunity to improve their health and maximize the benefit of their trip by participating in the fitness offerings.”

If you choose to take Pilates or yoga classes, instructor Bianka Steinfeldt recommends bringing your own mat. “We provide towels, but not a mat. The floor is hard, so to get a better experience, a mat is helpful.”

Robert Cheeke, a bodybuilding champion, suggests that guests stay hydrated by bringing their own water bottle or cup of water from the café (in case it’s not provided for that particular class). He says, “The weather and the nature of the cardiovascular type of workout typically leads to thirst and sweating, so be prepared.” He suggests athletic clothing for the Caribbean weather, such as tank tops, shorts, and athletic socks. “Whatever your fitness interest, you will find something fun to do on board,” he adds.

Shop in the Holistic Holiday Sea lifestyle store, accessible through the online shop, and find shirts, hats, and even aprons with special designs just for HHAS fans.  

3. Layers & Sun Protection

While you may be traveling from a cold climate, keep in mind that the Caribbean will be warm and sunny. As the ship is air conditioned, a sweater or light jacket is recommended. Yoga teacher Angelica Kushi says, “Bring layers, it can start off chilly on the deck in the morning, or we may have to go inside due to rain.”Holistic Holiday at Sea

The sun will be strong, so be sure to take measures to protect your skin. Angelica says, “Pack sunscreen for sure! But make sure it’s a good brand! I’m currently using Thinksport, I’m not affiliated with them at all! I just think the ingredients are great! Check out ewg.org to find one that is best for you and for the environment.”

4. The Essentials

While it’s good to remember items that will make your voyage more enjoyable, it’s super important to be able to get on the ship. Remember essential items such as your passport! Other important info and FAQs can be found on our website.

5. Your Talent for the Talent Show!

The annual Holistic Holiday at Sea talent show is a chance for attendees to strut their stuff. Bring along your props or instruments and sign up with Blair Karsch during the cruise, or leave your contact information at the registration desk. Due to the high demand, acts will be limited, so sign up early.

Plan Your Schedule

Larry recommends that guests plan their schedule ahead of time, so they can get the most out of the experience. “Go over the lectures a week or ten days before the cruise,” he says. “Check off lectures and activities that you’d like to do, so you don’t have to make this decision the night before you come on the ship. Understanding programming for first-timers is the real key for making this experience as beneficial as possible.” There are many private consultations available as well. You can view the full program here. See you on board!

Goodbye 2016: Hello 2017!

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Kathy Patalsky

Kathy Patalsky

As 2017 is well underway, we’re about one month out from the 14th annual Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise, which sails March 11–18! As we near our departure from Miami, our guests are getting excited about this year’s lineup of presenters. In addition to delicious food, poolside socials and camaraderie, health and wellness activities, and fitness classes, returning attendees have reported that they always look forward to hearing from leading authorities in holistic and alternative health in the form of lectures and workshops.

Since the very first cruise, Holistic Holiday at Sea president and founder Sandy Pukel has made it his goal to invite influential and popular presenters with a range of expertise, from distinguished physicians to fitness experts. “The whole mission of the cruise since day one has been to introduce people to a lifestyle that will make them happier and healthier,” says Sandy. “We think accomplishing this through diet, knowledge, classes, and exercise is the way to go. Our job is to make this information available to everybody. We try and pick the best people who can communicate that message.”

We recently got the chance to catch up with a few presenters for our upcoming cruise. As 2016 has recently come to a close, we wanted to take a moment and ask them their thoughts on this past year, and let us know what they’re excited about for the months to come.

Plant-Based Diets in the Mainstream

When we asked author of The MILF Diet and The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics, Jessica Porter, what she hopes to see with regard to science, awareness, or popularity of veganism and plant-based nutrition for 2017, she replied, “I don’t have any specific hopes in this department only because I think that plant-based eating and veganism are moving quickly and powerfully into the mainstream with or without my hoping!”

When Jessica recently visited her hometown of Toronto, Canada, she noticed that three new plant-based restaurants sprouted up, in addition to the two already there. “It was fantastic! And the two I ate at (one of them twice) were very crowded and energetic. So the plant-based revolution is moving along quite nicely, thank goodness.”

A vegan chef and advocate for healthy living, Nancy Montuori says, “Awareness about plant-based diets is flourishing, and I predict plant-based nutrition will become more mainstream than ever in the next few years. According to a study published by US National Library of Medicine, motives of consumers interested in a plant-based diet are health and wellness, animal-related, or for the environment. But the vast majority of respondents mentioned more than one reason. That is a great sign.”

Holistic Holiday at Sea Robert Cheeke

Robert Cheeke

The plant-based lifestyle is gaining momentum. Vegan bodybuilder and fitness instructor Robert Cheeke shares, “I am confident that the growth of the plant-based movement and the rise in awareness of the vegan lifestyle will reach an all-time high in 2017. The signs are all around us. What was once a fringe lifestyle is now more mainstream than it has ever been. For example, when I look on Amazon.com, some of the top-selling books Amazon carries are vegan books. I mean, top 100 sellers out of millions and millions of titles available (such as Thug Kitchen, Forks Over Knives, and How Not To Die to name a few). Even my fellow plant-strong friend and colleague, Rip Esselstyn, had his new book, The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet, peak at #82 of all books the first week of January 2017.”

Leading by Example

In addition to authors who share their work with the world on an easy-to-access platform like Amazon, many individuals and organizations also contribute to these efforts. Gene Baur co-founded Farm Sanctuary in 1985, which saves animals from the cruelty of factory farming and encourages consumers to make mindful choices about the way we live.

Gene Baur (Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)

Gene Baur (Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)

Gene shares, “Among the biggest news and advancements over the past year is the growing engagement of business leaders and entrepreneurs who are interested in challenging our animal based food system and supplanting it with plant foods. It is exciting to see vegan businesses selling their products in mainstream markets, and major investors leveraging their influence to promote a more responsible, sustainable plant-based food system. It’s also significant that traditional meat companies are starting to invest in vegan companies.”

The press and media also affect how people view this lifestyle. Emmy Award-winning host of Christina Cooks, Christina Pirello, says “I wish that people living healthy lives enjoying a plant-based diet got more press as opposed to the extreme stories of imbalance that seem to create a poor image of plant-based eating.” She adds, “I like that we have placed a good focus on ancient foods, fermented foods, and other natural processes to create healthy approaches to eating for people. I also like that the health benefits of plant-based eating are taking center stage.”

Blogger and best-selling author Kathy Patalsky says, “I think more people are realizing the positive climate change effects of veganism. For the earth and animals!”

A researcher funded by the National Institutes of Health and adjunct associate professor of medicine at The George Washington University, Dr. Neal Barnard notes that vegetarian diets were officially listed among the three healthiest food patterns Americans should know about in the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015–2020. The report was published in December 2015: “The three were vegetarian, Mediterranean, and Healthy-US. Veg diets are now mainstream!”

2016: A Big Year in Veganism

Robert has a slew of important new stories from 2016 that involve the vegan lifestyle. Among them are the fact that major companies, like Ben & Jerry’s, are also offering vegan products, and that famous folks, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, are encouraging their fans to ditch meat and help save the planet.

Robert says that according to the Plant Based Foods Association, plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy accounted for $4.9 billion in sales last year. “This, of course, doesn’t factor in produce which most of us consume daily,” adds Robert. “We’ll likely see the plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs surpass $10 billion in sales in the very near future, and this is good news for the animals and the planet—and for people’s health, although a diet focused primarily on whole plant foods would do even better for one’s health.”

Nancy Montuori believes the biggest health and wellness news story was in March when five major food companies announced GMO labeling: “GMO awareness and food safety is now trickling down to the mainstream which will help advance veganism.”

Resolutions for 2017

Holistic Holiday at Sea meditationWhether you’re a new year’s resolution maker or not, taking stock of where you are in your health is always an important thing to do every so often. While many presenters said they had no new goals this year, quite a few expressed an interest in mindfulness.

Gene Baur says, “I intend to maintain my cardio exercises and to complete my first ultra-marathon, and also plan to add more strength exercise to support bone health as I enter my mid-50s. I also hope to take steps toward yoga and/or meditation. For years, I’ve been in what I call my ‘pre-yoga’ phase, and I think it’s time to move into doing yoga and meditation.” Along similar lines, Jessica Porter made a commitment to meditate every day for half an hour in 2017.

Kathy Patalsky answers simply, “Balance and peace. Trying to keep things energized yet also finding plenty of quiet time in this very noisy world we live in.”

Education Continues to Change the World

Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. is a pioneer in preventative and restorative cardiovascular medicine. “We are at the cusp of a seismic revolution in health for this country and the world. This whole food plant-based nutrition revolution will eliminate chronic illness. It is safe, prompt, powerful, and enduring without added expense and no side effects. This whole food plant-based approach has been shown to halt and reverse cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, vascular dementia, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, allergies, asthma, renal disease, GERD, obesity, and hypertension to mention a few.”

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr.

Dr. Caldwell B Esselstyn, Jr.

Thus, opportunities to hear from experts in health and wellness, animal advocacy, and fitness are going to be key in helping change mindsets and heal the planet.

Dr. Esselstyn adds, “This revolution will not come from a pill, a procedure, or an operation, but will come about when we as a profession have the will, grit, and tenacity of purpose to share with the public the lifestyle, and most specifically the nutritional literacy, that will empower them to vanquish chronic illness.”

Looking Ahead

Whether you’ve attended the cruise in years past or this is your first time, all the presenters are looking forward to having you on board! View the full 2017 Cruise Program here, and begin planning your itinerary today!

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