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15 Inspirational Quotes from Health Survivors

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HHAS Caribbean sunsetEach year, one of our most popular sessions on the ship is the Recovery Panel. With courage and grace, participants share personal stories of illness and health, and how a plant-based macrobiotic diet and holistic wellness regimen contributed to their success.

Macrobiotic teacher, counselor, and chef Jane Stanchich served as moderator for our 2018 panel. She started the session by explaining, “We consider the Recovery Panel as the heart and soul of the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.” Fifteen people had five minutes each to summarize their life experiences. Attendees were visibly moved by the end. Here are 15 nuggets of inspiration, wisdom, and advice from the participants that we hope will help you on your own path to optimal health.


Jane Stanchich

Found relief from debilitating arthritis.

It’s a joy to be able to heal with a plant-based diet and to avoid what for me was unnecessary surgery. Although we know that medicine and surgery can be miraculous as well. But let’s prevent when we can.


Roger Mulley

Survived exposure to mustard gas, which had caused hepatitis C, universal reactor syndrome, and lack of immune system.

I shouldn’t be standing here. Most people die with a three- to four-second whiff of mustard gas. But I’m here and I thank God for it.


Sheldon Rice

Survived a growth between bladder and spine.

During the time I was healing, all I could think about was wellness. I would get up every morning and I would focus on the now. I would go to work every day. I stopped being a victim. I stopped thinking, ‘Poor me.’ And I changed my whole lifestyle. I let go. Two important words in the English language. Letting go of crap. Things that you hold onto that you don’t really need. It took me a long time to figure it out. I never really understood just how much I let go and how important that was in my healing.

Shannon Farrell

Survived aggressive lupus and diabetes, which put her in a wheelchair and on 26 medications.

What I can advise people is: be a pillar of positivity. Don’t judge people. We’re all on our own journey. Nutrition is a very personal journey.


Doug Schmidt

Survived the “widow maker,” which is a heart attack in his lower anterior descending artery, and another heart scare that led to plantar fasciitis.

At that point, that’s when Caldwell Esselstyn came back into the picture. I started following his protocol: whole-foods, plant-based, no oil. All of a sudden, the weight started dropping off. I was 225. Today, I am 165. I dropped 60 pounds. And I had so much energy after this, that I couldn’t sleep at night.


Tracy Fettinger

Survived multiple sclerosis.

I love being plant-based. People think I am very extreme because I don’t eat animal products, but I think that being in a wheelchair and not being able to walk is pretty extreme and I don’t want that extreme.


Paula Branson

After major whiplash caused by a car accident left her permanently disabled, she was later diagnosed with a rare condition in her brain stem. Survived her ailments without surgery.

I went to that place. It was raw food, organic plant-based. I thought I got into a cult. I ended up staying there. I didn’t believe anything they said, but I did it anyway… Gradually got off all 18 drugs. Never had the surgery. I had to learn how to sit up, walk, and run. But it worked… Brain stem healed itself. I believe this could happen to everybody.


John Funk

Survived after suffering from low testosterone, obesity, and a heart attack.

In May [2015], I had a heart attack. Everyone said, ‘You’re the healthiest person I know.’ Listen you guys, I was paying for past sins. The amazing thing was, I didn’t have a long recovery. They told me I’d be in the hospital for four days. After two days, they asked me if I wanted to go home.


Judy MacKenney

Survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

I know that changing our diet is so important. The spiritual part of it is very huge. The family and love that is around you is such a gift. To be able to eat the nourishing foods and the plant-based foods is so important to us. Keep living your life and keep spreading the word because this is the answer to having a health body.


Virginia Harper

After stroke caused paralysis on the right side, she was diagnosed with a rare blood disease, Crohn’s disease, and an autoimmune condition. Survived all conditions.

As I have practice and journeyed through my health all these years (over 40 years now), I’ve learned that it doesn’t make you bulletproof because health is something you always have to work at, but it sure makes you resilient and this is what we see here on the panel today. As other problems have arisen for me healthwise, the fear isn’t there. It’s just information on how I need to adjust.


Sheila Cardinale

Son was in a near fatal car accident that left him with broken legs, tore ligaments in his feet, lung protrusions, and ripped fractures. He regained his health using a whole-foods, plant-based diet.

I’m finishing up to become nurse practitioner in holistic health. I would implore you to help me with my goal to restore health and hope around the world.


Peggy Harvey

Survived Stage IV uterine cancer, which metastasized to both lungs.

We’ve got to go down last row of vendors and encountered a man selling wheatgrass. He looked directly at me and said, ‘If I had a serious health condition, I would go to the Optimum Health Institute in Lemon Grove. It’s a holistic healing center, mind body and spirit. Raw vegan diet, wheatgrass juice, meditation, spiritual activities.’ I went there, did the program in a very determined and sustained way. No cheats, shortcuts, or compromises, except for that one bag of family-sized Lay’s potato chips. My results? Unbelievable. Unbelievable what these lifestyle changes could do.


Joel Grace

Survived stage III metastatic melanoma.

There are basically two things I tell people these days if they’re looking to make a change to their health, first one is start early. You can imagine that all the people I know who have been diagnosed with cancer. The ones with the best chance of success are the ones who integrate a plant-based lifestyle very early in the picture. Secondly, stick to it… ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,’ and that’s how I live my life these days. It’s the reason why I still live how I live and eat how I eat because I can’t afford to go back to how my life used to be like because that’s the environment where cancer grew. Live in an environment where cancer can’t grow.


Sandy Clubb

Survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

What I learned about the power of food was shocking to me. I knew that cabbage was good because I was forced to eat it as a kid, but I didn’t know the power that was really in food. That’s my message today: help people realize what’s in your hands. That’s why we need to support farmers who feed cities, do clean, and just keep the fight going to have a clean earth and avoid all that other crap out there. To be kind to each other and help, help, help, and everything comes back to you when you tend to do that.


Amanda Johns

Survived congestive heart failure and immune thrombocytopenia (ITP).

So I guess I had no clue how this was going to change my life forever. It was definitely a blessing in disguise for sure. Through that, it gave me my passion. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had no passion. I had a whole lot of anger. All that stuff you have to work through when you’re going through this because you’re thinking to yourself, Why is this happening to me? It gave me that passion to help others. So that’s what I do.


Jim Miller

Survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Wheatgrass is really loaded with oxygen. A great detoxing agent and it has lots antioxidants. If you want to be young forever, drink wheatgrass. It’s so easy to grow. It’s like a Chia Pet.


Sally Lipsky

Survived late stage ovarian cancer.

Just go plant-based, everyone.



The Recovery Panel is just one of many educational and motivational sessions we offer aboard the MSC Divina as we sail on the Caribbean. Wherever you are on your journey to wellness, we hope that you’ll join us on our 2019 cruise!

Tips for a Healthy Transition from Summer to Fall

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As summer transitions to fall and cooler weather sets in, we can make simple lifestyle and diet changes to prepare our bodies for the drop in temperature. For this blog, we turned to Warren Kramer, an internationally recognized macrobiotic counselor, educator, cooking instructor and cruise presenter, for some tips on how to transition into fall with vitality.

“Fall is a time of cleaning out, so to speak, of getting rid of what we do not need,” Kramer says. “As we make ourselves a little more empty we feel more optimistic and hopeful about the future. When the lungs and colon are healthy we experience a nice orderliness in our being, a healthy groundedness, and a nice disposition.”

Fall is the perfect time to support the lungs and large intestine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the fall relates to the paired organs of the lungs and large intestine (colon). Issues with these organs will often appear in the fall as that is the time they are going through a kind of cleanse.

Beneficial Fall Foods

When it comes to food, Kramer says that the first step is to start reducing cooling foods such as fruit, juice, raw salads, and frozen desserts. There’s no need to stop eating these foods completely, but Kramer advises consuming them less often to avoid being cold when the cooler weather arrives.

Some of the most beneficial foods to incorporate as we move into fall include: short or medium grain brown rice, millet, root vegetables such as carrot, daikon, parsnip, burdock, and if you can locate it, lotus root. Kramer said that these root veggies truly nourish our “roots,” which are our intestines.

From a macrobiotic point of view, late summer is an important time to harmonize our bodies. Any disharmony in the pancreas (which controls our blood sugar levels), can directly affect our digestion, energy, and overall bodily function. Round vegetables like onions, winter squash (buttercup or butternut), cabbage, turnip and rutabaga are wonderful for supporting blood sugar levels. Cut these vegetables in larger chunks and slow steam them to bring out the sweetness. Emotionally, Kramer says these roots make us feel rooted in our lives, which provides a nice sense of groundedness.

The fall is also the time to increase consumption of lightly cooked leafy greens like kale, collards, and watercress. Besides being great for the liver, leafy greens also support lung health.

Warming Soups

As the temperature drops, soup season kicks in. Kramer shares that there’s nothing quite like a bowl of miso soup to warm the system and support digestion. Miso soup, Kramer says, is like a natural probiotic.

Kramer recommends trying some barley or brown rice miso in a soup. You can also purchase some naturally fermented sauerkraut or pickles and have a small serving once or twice a day with a meal or two as they are fabulous for digestion.

Experiment with using pungent flavors such as mustard, ginger, horseradish, grated daikon, and wasabi. These flavors support the lungs and opens them up.

In addition to these food adjustments, Kramer suggests chewing well, eating sitting down, and avoiding late night eating. Kramer said that these lifestyle habits will dramatically change your health. And, for the fall, Kramer recommends spending plenty of time outside enjoying the cooler weather.

About Warren Kramer

Warren Kramer is an internationally recognized macrobiotic counselor, educator, and cooking instructor. For the past 30 years, he has studied and lived the macrobiotic way of life. Warren teaches the macrobiotic approach to health and wellness, including principles of food selection and preparation, exercise, work and personal relationships.

Set Your Intentions This Spring Part I

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Angelica KushiSpring is the season of rebirth and rejuvenation. It’s also a time when we may feel more ready to bring changes to our health and wellness regimen.

While some people practice moderation and a balanced diet year round, many opt for detoxification through a spring cleanse to jumpstart a new pledge to health. In a two-part blog series, we are exploring these options with advice from three Holistic Holiday at Sea presenters about spring cleanses—what they are and what they aren’t. We’ll start here with thoughts from Angelica Kushi.

To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse

There are a lot of different types of cleanses; some more extreme than others. Some people do really well with cleanses, and some do a cleanse and then immediately afterwards add all the stuff they cut out back in, almost creating the reverse effect of the cleanse. These are the opinions of Angelica Kushi, a yoga teacher, health and wellness coach, aerial performer, and stunt woman. Her belief is that gradual change is more beneficial than a cleanse. “That being said, the type of cleanse you do is key, make sure it aligns with you, your goals, and your lifestyle,” she adds.

Here are a few tips from Angelica to follow when choosing a cleanse or making gradual changes.

Check in with your intentions

Why do you want to do a cleanse? Doing a spring cleanse can be a buzz phrase. Are you being tempted to do something because other people say it’s a good thing to do? Are you feeling an urge to energetically lighten up after the heaviness of winter?

Create a supportive environment

This goes for cleansing and general lifestyle and dietary changes. You want to set yourself up for success, which means clearing the junk food out of your home and hanging out with friends/family who are supportive of your choices.

Eat seasonally

This is a big one. Each season has different qualities, weather, energies, and foods. Spring is related to the liver/gallbladder. This organ system likes lighter cooking, fermented foods, sour flavor, and especially greens. Choose foods like lemons, green apples, sprouts, dandelion greens, arugula, spring onions, and lots of green leafy veggies.

Crowd out the old by bringing the new

Oftentimes, cleanses are about eliminating foods. This is tricky because then the focus is on what we can’t eat, and that can feel negative. Instead, I’m in favor of adding foods in. What you do is, eat the new food first. Then eventually you won’t have room for the foods you are trying to limit. For instance, if you have a sweet tooth, try eating sweet potatoes, onions, and carrots before you go for the cookies. It may not happen right away, but eventually you won’t be eating as many cookies. In fact, your body will have time to adjust and catch up with your mind knowing that the cookies aren’t as good for you. Eventually you may not even want the cookies anymore because your body has had the time to realize it feels better without the cookies. But if you just tell yourself that you can’t have the cookies, your body is going to protest and one day you’re going to find yourself eating the cookies and not even knowing how the cookies got into your hand. The body can play tricks on our mind!

Taking the Miso Soup challenge

In January, Angelica ran a miso soup challenge with weekly recipes and macrobiotic info. If you would like to do this challenge now, you can get it here, and a series of videos will be sent directly to your inbox.

Stepping up to the daily greens challenge

Starting May 26, Angelica will guide people on eating greens daily. Instead of doing a greens juice cleanse, you’ll look at:

  • different ways to prepare greens
  • different types of greens and what they are good for
  • the theory behind when is best to consume them as a juice, raw, steamed, boiled, or sauteed in water or oil.

This challenge gives you info to be a wise eater of greens.

Movement/Yoga practices

Twists and twisting motions are great for the springtime. Even just standing with your feet planted on the ground and swinging your arms side to side. This moves the liver/gallbladder area and helps support those organs.

Remember, no matter what you choose to do this season, take it one step at a time. As Angelica says, “Gradual changes last a lifetime.” Happy Spring!

Crown Maple Infusions, Recipes & Spring Giveaway!

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The Crown Maple Estate (Photos courtesy of Crown Maple)

Win free syrup: Details below!

When choosing which ingredient can enhance the flavors of your rich dessert, saucy appetizer, or savory main course, reach for a bottle of maple syrup in lieu of conventional sugar or alternative sweeteners. Your body (and taste buds) will thank you—and the environment will, too! Naturally vegan, kosher, sustainable, paleo, gluten-free, earth-friendly, and nutritious Crown Maple’s maple syrup and maple sugar are the best that nature has to offer.

If you were a guest on a recent Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise, you’ve likely enjoyed the delicious taste of Crown Maple products onboard. Many people agree that breakfast is the most important meal. In this post, we share a couple simple recipes for granola and oats to ensure you start your day off right.

We’re also giving one lucky HHAS fan the chance to win a trio of syrups. Keep reading for how to win!

Pure & Simple

Founded in 2010 by Robb and Lydia Turner, Crown Maple has set a new standard for organic maple syrup in terms of purity and quality, from bark to bottle. The Crown Maple Estate in New York’s Hudson Valley is home to the production and bottling of about 60,000 gallons of syrup each year. The maple syrup and sugar comes from forests comprising the Taconic Hardwood Forest, a unique territory extending from the New York eastern mid-Hudson Valley to central western Vermont.

Not just a sweetener, maple syrup is super versatile in the kitchen:

  • Use as a finishing ingredient
  • Topping, baking, saucing, and basting
  • Elevates & enriches savory flavors
  • Enhances depth of sweetness, and caramelization
  • Key focus on usage in coffee and tea and as topping for (vegan!) yogurt and oatmeal

It’s also a superfood sweetener! This year, Crown Maple is rolling out an Apple Cider Maple Vinegar, which has all the benefits of regular apple cider vinegar with the tantalizing sweet taste of maple. Learn more about Maple Crown’s harvesting techniques and snag a recipe for a vegan maple-roasted brussels, shallots, and farro salad by reading our post about Crown Maple from last August.

Easy Vegan Granola Recipe from Crown Maple

This easy vegan granola is a delicious and versatile base. Add your favorite dried fruits and nuts and you have a healthful and crunchy snack or topping.

Prep: 10 minutes

Total time: 1.5 hours

Servings: 10 cups


2 c Crown Maple Very Dark Color and Strong Taste Syrup

7 c Rolled Oats

1/2 c Flax Meal

1/4 c Chia Seeds

8 oz Coconut Oil

1/2 tsp Salt


  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine oats, flax meal, and chia seeds.
  4. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the syrup, salt, and coconut oil until combined.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well.
  6. Divide between the two baking sheets and spread out.
  7. Bake 45 minutes, then stir and rotate pans.
  8. Bake another 45 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Crown Maple Coconut Cream Pie Overnight Oats

A delicious maple coconut combination you will eat right up! This overnight oats recipe combines the tropical flavor of coconut with a hint of maple sweetness. Sneak in some superfoods like chia seeds for some added brain fuel and you won’t even know. You will for sure start your day off on the right foot feeling nourished. We recommend using our Crown Maple Madagascar Vanilla Infused syrup for a soft added flavor.

We thank Lorie from the blog Lemons + Zest (formerly Be Whole Be You) for the delicious maple coconut breakfast combination.


2 c Crown Maple Very Dark Color and Strong Taste Syrup

7 c Rolled Oats

1/2 c Flax Meal

1/4 c Chia Seeds

8 oz Coconut Oil

1/2 tsp Salt


  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine oats, flax meal, and chia seeds.
  4. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the syrup, salt, and coconut oil until combined.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well.
  6. Divide between the two baking sheets and spread out.
  7. Bake 45 minutes, then stir and rotate pans.
  8. Bake another 45 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Enter for Your Chance to Win

We’re doing a special spring giveaway of Crown Maple’s Royal Treatment box that includes Amber Color Rich Taste, Bourbon Barrel, and Madagascar Vanilla. That’s right—it’s three prizes in one! Three runners-up will receive one 10 oz bag of Crown Maple Sugar!

When it comes to infusions, the makers are rather simple in their approach. “We split a organic Madagascar Vanilla bean and place it in the bottle and then fill it with very hot Dark Color syrup,” says Mike Cobb, CEO of Maple Crown. “The vanilla is infused in the bottle and the bean can be reused after the syrup is gone. For bourbon, we age the Dark Color syrup in a barrel and the flavors of the bourbon are infused from the oak.”

The sweepstakes starts on Monday, March 19. We will be choosing grand prize and runner-up winners on Tuesday, March 27. Click here to enter through Facebook!

Can’t wait? Didn’t win? Use the code HOLISTIC20 for a 20% discount on your order at crownmaple.com (good through June 2018). Cook and bake using ingredients that are good for the planet, your body, and your senses. With Crown Maple products, the sky’s the limit!

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

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This post is the final installment of a two-part series in which we spotlight several participants from the Recovery Panel on the 2017 Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise, which sailed March 11–18, 2017.

Holistic Holiday at SeaAs you read in our July post, one of the most well attended sessions on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise is the Recovery Panel. Members of the audience watch in amazement and relief as a dozen people share how they overcame a serious illness using holistic and alternative therapies. By the end, there are tears, smiles, and follow-up questions.

We want to share with you three amazing stories from participants Jane Quincannon Stanchich, Tricia Slimbarski, and Kim Hoffman.


We look forward to the next Recovery Panel on our special 15th anniversary 10-day voyage, February 15–25, 2018 in the southeastern Caribbean.

Plant-Based and Pain-Free

Jane StanchichThis year’s panel was facilitated by Jane Quincannon Stanchich, a macrobiotic teacher, counselor, and chef for more than 35 years. This was her 14th time attending the cruise. She opened with, “Welcome to what I think is one of the most important and inspiring sessions on the whole cruise and any event. Truly. I love this. Very courageous people who are sharing their stories with you—stories of healing. They’ll be telling you about their condition, what they decided to do, and their triumphant results.”

Jane’s personal healing story dates back 35 years ago. At the time, she was in tremendous pain and suffering with osteoarthritis. “I was determined to find out what was causing the pain. And I was determined to do whatever it took to reverse it,” she says. At the time, she was following a vegetarian diet, but was still eating eggs and dairy. A holistic doctor assured her that she could restore her bones without operations.

“It was only when I began a vegan diet (that) … my monthly cycle became easy and pain free; my hip pain, knee pain, and foot pain went away because I was giving myself the nutrients I needed and I was eliminating the foods that were trigger foods, that were causing the inflammation and degeneration.”

In closing, Jane said “I feel better and actually younger every day. And I’m tremendously grateful because I get to meet people like you and I get to share my story with many.”

Fighting for My Life

Tricia Slimbarski

Tricia Slimbarski decided to go to the doctor because she wasn’t feeling well. The diagnosis was type II diabetes. Four months later, she returned to the doctor for testing and complained about pain in her jaw and left arm. He referred her to a cardiologist for testing and she was diagnosed with severe coronary artery disease and had a quintuple bypass surgery in February 2008. “Upon discharge from the hospital I was told to eat a Mediterranean diet, which includes fish, olive oil and dairy,” says Tricia. She was still having angina every day. When all was said and done, she was on 13 pills and two shots per day.

In February 2014, Tricia was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic due to severe angina. They placed seven stents into her coronary arteries. One week later, another stent was added. Upon discharge, the doctor told her that she had so much damage that she would be back in the hospital within six months.

When she returned home, Tricia was scared and depressed. She decided to go on the internet and do some research on reversing her condition. She discovered Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and purchased his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. “When I got it, I became vegan ‘now!’” She shares, “Mind you, I had angina every single day for 10 years. After I started this lifestyle, no oil, the agina stopped within two weeks and I haven’t had it yet, and that was three years ago.”

As for tips? Tricia, who says she was fighting for her life, advises others, “Take charge of your life and take control of your own health.” Today, Tricia has a plant-based nutrition course and teaches cooking.

Do You Really Believe This?

Kim Hoffman, of Cleveland, Ohio, thought she was bulletproof until she wound up in the hospital for eight days at the age of 30. Doctors told her that she had multiple sclerosis and that she’s had it for the past decade. Against doctor’s orders, she checked herself out of the hospital and hit the internet.

“My neurologist thought I was crazy and the Cleveland Clinic did not support me because I didn’t want to be on medication,” she says. She discovered Dr. John McDougall and his dietary approach to MS. She signed up for his 10-Day Live-in Program in Santa Rosa, California. She wanted to look him in the eye and ask him, “Do you really believe this?” They talked, and she eventually believed he knew what he was talking about.

She says, “Once I was properly educated, I stopped all medications. I have been on a whole foods, plant-based, oil free diet, and in full remission for six years.”

This was Kim’s first Holistic Holiday at Sea experience. For someone in similar shoes who is seeking recovery, she tells them, “Hit the internet, books, lectures, anything you can get your hands on and educate yourself on your condition. If you can learn how the disease works, you can find ways to combat it. Do not blindly follow doctors and just become another patient number in the system. Educate yourself, then trust your gut instincts.”

Join Us in 2018!

Haven’t seen the Recovery Panel firsthand yet? We’d love to have you onboard. Reserve your spot on the 2018 Holistic Holiday at Sea experience and get ready to be inspired! There are so many new ports of call, exciting lectures by world-renowned leaders in the plant-based movement, and unique excursions to help you on your journey to wholeness. You won’t want to miss it.

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!

Special Offer for First-Time Guests Booking in January

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Holistic Holiday at Sea CaribbeanIf you’re considering a first-time experience on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise March 11–18, 2017, then definitely consider booking your spot today! This year’s cruise programming includes an engaging lineup of presenters, special events, classes, and amazing plant-based food. With dancing and fitness classes, it’s a party-meets-conference-meets-retreat on the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

To make the deal sweeter, we are running a special January promotion for first-time cruise goers. If you reserve your spot in January, we will give you $100 onboard credit that can be used for private treatments, consultations, or bookstore items.* Use the code “January Special” when asked how you learned about the cruise to claim this offer.

If you still need convincing to book right now, we have a ton to share. Did you know that the fun isn’t limited to onboard adventures? Excursions in exotic ports of call include Ochos Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; and Nassau, Bahamas. There are more than 60 pre-arranged excursions that include snorkeling, horseback riding, ziplining, and sightseeing, among other activities.

Six excursions include a vegan lunch. Attendees for these excursions with lunch are required to reserve their spots by January 25. (The 7-Mile Beach Break at Tiki Beach with vegan lunch on Tuesday, March 14, is already sold out.) If you’d like to read a first-hand perspective, check out this blog post with vegan athlete and bodybuilder Robert Cheeke sharing some excursion highlights.

We hope to see you onboard the MSC Divina this March! Please contact us with any questions. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

*Offer only valid for first-time guests (adults only) registering for the cruise in the month of January, 2017. Cannot be combined with other onboard credits. This offer can only be applied during cruise registration. Credit can only be used for items sold onboard by Holistic Holiday at Sea.

Four Amazing Stories of Health Recovery as Shared by Holistic Holiday at Sea Attendees

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Recovery Panel at Holistic Holiday at Sea

From cancer recovery to animal rights activism, the reasons why people choose a plant-based and/or macrobiotic diet and lifestyle vary widely and, in many cases, overlap. Each year on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise, president Sandy Pukel arranges for a Recovery Panel on which a dozen courageous and grateful people share with the audience how their lives have changed thanks to a plant-based (and oftentimes macrobiotic) diet and lifestyle. “The heart and soul of the cruise is this Recovery Panel,” says Sandy. “People go there and listen to these stories. They come out crying, they come out inspired. It’s truly remarkable.”

Sandy, who discovered his life’s purpose after being introduced to macrobiotics in 1970, adds, “Over the years, I’ve seen remarkable recoveries. My answer always is: Macrobiotics works if you embrace it wholeheartedly. You’re going to see improvement. The whole philosophy and food thing is stronger than you are, if you’re willing to embrace it.”

One Family’s Story

Thomas Kahn

Thomas Kahn

Thomas Kahn attended the cruise in 2015 with his sister Susan Bondi. “I heard the cruise helps people who had the same problems I had,” says Thomas, who has type two diabetes. Three years prior to attending, Thomas had a heart scan that revealed the beginnings of blockage. At the time, at 5’7”, he weighed 240 pounds. Susan, a gourmet cook, followed a vegan, low-fat, oil-free diet, and influenced Thomas in making a shift. He lost most of his weight within a year. “I lost 80 lbs from diet alone,” he shares.

The cruise helped Thomas solidify his oil-free, plant-based diet and, over the years, he has been greatly influenced by cruise presenters Dr. Michael Gregor and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Thomas’ father was a type one diabetic who had a heart attack at age 49 while on the low carb diet. Doctors encouraged him to use olive oil. Nine years later, he was in need of a quadruple bypass. “The olive oil messed him up,” says Thomas. “Then he went on a true low-fat diet and lived to be 80.”

Thomas’ is just one of the inspirational stories we hear from our guests each year. We got the chance to catch up with past panelists Christina Pirello and Janet Vitt Sommer, and 2017 panelist Judy MacKenney to hear where they are in their journeys.

A Life of Gratitude

Christina Pirello, Holistic Holiday at Sea Recovery PanelAuthor of six bestselling cookbooks, Christina Pirello is also the Emmy Award-winning host of the national public television series Christina Cooks. She will lead four cooking classes on the 2017 Holistic Holiday at Sea and is on the faculty of The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College.

At age 26, Christina was diagnosed with terminal leukemia and her cancer had already advanced to the acute stage. She saw a hematologist/oncologist who gave her three months to live with no treatment, and six months to a year with treatment. Having seen her mother pass away at the young age of 49 from cancer, Christina saw that conventional treatments seemed to have worsened her mother’s condition. Christina’s coworker suggested that she meet Robert “Bob” Pirello, a whole foods advocate. The two went grocery shopping together and Bob replaced all of the food Christina had at home with healthy options. He also gave her a copy of Michio Kushi’s The Cancer Prevention Diet, Revised and Updated Edition: The Macrobiotic Approach to Preventing and Relieving Cancer.

Christina’s strict macrobiotic diet consisted primarily of brown rice and millet, cooked vegetables (particularly green leafies and beans), tofu, tempeh, and miso soup. She went through a toxic discharge period, and knew that, despite the discomfort, her health was improving. Within 14 months after beginning her new diet, Christina’s white cell count was within the normal range. Hers is also a love story, as she and Bob later married!

Christina’s philosophy is that living a whole and healthy life should make us passionate and full of gratitude. Her recovery has helped her put things in perspective and she doesn’t waste time on petty things or people she does not resonate with. She shares, “It makes me humble and grateful for each moment of each day. My life is blessed, but since I don’t know how much time I have, I waste nothing. Each minute is precious although I admit I don’t fear death. I just feel like I am not done yet. I have work to do and would like to do more.” For more on Christina, visit her presenter page.

The Power of Food

janet-vitt-sommer-holistic-holiday-at-seaAlthough she will not be attending the 2017 cruise, Janet Vitt Sommer was on the Recovery Panel for more than ten years. In 1995, she was diagnosed with stage IV small cell lung cancer, with three tumors in her left lung, seven tumors in her right lung, three tumors in her liver, one on her pancreas, and another in her abdomen. A registered nurse since 1971, Janet saw her mother die from lung cancer at age 42 and knew the seriousness of this illness. “As a nurse, it’s difficult to believe I didn’t understand the power of food,” says Janet. “I thought of food as just nourishment, not a healing modality.”

Her oncologist said she had three to six months left to live. A dose of chemotherapy left Janet severely nauseous and underweight. Her internist Dr. Grossman, of Cleveland, Ohio, suggested that she try a macrobiotic diet. Janet enlisted the help of a macrobiotic counselor who told her she could be healed. After ten months on this healing regimen, her tumors disappeared.

Janet is now a nutritional counselor who leads cooking classes and prepares macrobiotic “meals to go.” The cruise has become an important part of her life—and romance! She and now husband Gary were married in Fort Lauderdale before the ship left the dock. “After all, where else could I go for my honeymoon and not have to prepare my own meals? Gary and I always get an efficiency suite when we travel. The cruise was perfect. Plus we were surrounded by many caring friends.”

Healing from the Inside Out

Judy MacKenney, Holistic Holiday at Sea Recovery PanelJudy MacKenney was introduced to macrobiotics in 1992 after receiving a diagnosis of stage IV non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She completed seven months of chemotherapy and suffered from a multitude of side effects. Like Christina, she pored over Kushi’s The Cancer Prevention Diet after she was given a short time to live. “My new health regimen was to change my diet and lifestyle by eating organic whole foods, miso soup, grains, proteins, root, round & leafy vegetables, and pickles for enzymes, plus natural remedy drinks to cleanse and strengthen my body,” says Judy. “I also chewed my food seriously until it became liquid, walked, did breath work, body-scrubbed, developed a positive mindset to heal, and showed gratitude for everything in my life on a daily basis!”

This year, Judy celebrates 25 years of being cancer free. She shares, “I still rely on a plant-based, macrobiotic diet and lifestyle to keep me healthy. With so many delicious, nutritious recipes to choose from nowadays, I find it just keeps getting easier!” A Kushi-certified macrobiotic counselor, educator, and cooking instructor, Judy will share her story on this year’s Recovery Panel and facilitate a follow-up discussion group. Read more about Judy on her presenter page.

On Your Own Path to Wellness?

We’d love to help you wherever you are on your journey to feeling your best. Our 14th Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise is set for March 11–18, 2017. Book your spot today!

Earn CME/CE Credits Aboard Holistic Holiday at Sea

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Holistic Holiday at Sea CME/CE Program

Guests aboard Holistic Holiday at Sea’s 14th annual cruise, March 11–18, will spend the week dining on plant-based cuisine, mingling with fellow voyagers at poolside socials, taking excursions at several ports of call, and participating in cooking, fitness, and mindfulness classes. They’ll also have ample opportunities to learn from experts. Dozens of presentations and panels will be led by more than 40 leading authorities in holistic and alternative health. While many cruise goers consider this event to be their yearly vacation, others are licensed health professionals who combine pleasure with business, earning CME/CE credits while on the ship.

A Collaboration Between HHAS & iCamp

After spending years in school and training, it is crucial for physicians and other healthcare professionals to continue learning and staying on top of the latest research in nutrition.

The CME/CE program is a collaboration between Holistic Holiday at Sea and iCamp (Integrative and Complementary Academic Medicine Program) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Since the ’80s, Donna Franklin, director of operations for iCamp, has been friends with Sandy Pukel, a cofounder of Holistic Holiday at Sea and longtime promoter of macrobiotics and holistic health. Donna says that a few years ago, they had a conversation that led to this highly successful partnership and program between the cruise and iCamp. “It all fell into place,” says Donna.

This year, there are a total of 35 available continuing education units approved by the Florida Boards of Acupuncture, Chiropractic Medicine, Dentistry, Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, Mental Health Counseling, Psychology, Pharmacy, the Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition, and MidWifery. There are 30 attainable Prescribed credits for MDs, DOs, PAs, and ARNPs, 35 CEUs approved by the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, and 35 ACBN hours approved by the Diplomate for the American Clinical Board of Nutrition.

While everyone is invited to attend all courses, these specially denoted courses go deeper into evidence-based research on plant-based living and eating. Attendees registered for CME/CE credits must sign in and out of each class and these sign-in sheets are used to document hours. All CME courses are also approved as CEs.

Exploring the Benefits of a Plant-Based Lifestyle

The ship offers a unique environment for learning to take place. Donna says, “It’s more than just a class. You’re eating the food and living in the environment. It’s very empowering … You really get it at a different level when you’re surrounded by people that are ‘walking the talk.’ They are eating this way … They’re doing their yoga or their meditation or they’re learning how to cook.”

By experiencing a plant-based diet while learning about it, medical doctors are better positioned to help their patients with nutritional concerns. In this way, the professionals can better understand and explain the challenges and benefits. Donna says, “When you physically experience it, it is life-changing. It changes something in the brain … You’re eating with like-minded people. You’re hearing their stories and they’re hearing yours. You’re hearing their struggles. They’re hearing yours.”

A Range of Topics

The topics covered in the CME/CE program are vast in scope. “You have a variety of different approaches and people really need to see what’s out there and what will work for them,” says Donna.

For instance, Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. MD, FACS, will examine the vascular system in “Making Yourself Heart Attack Proof by Treating the Cause of Coronary Artery Heart Disease.” His pioneering research is summarized in his bestselling Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

David Blyweiss, MD, began his medical career as a pharmacist and since then has become an experienced practitioner of what is known as “functional medicine.” He will present a keynote called, “Chronic Disease is Never One Thing: It’s about Diet, Lifestyle & Environment in the 21st Century.”

Another presenter, T. Colin Campbell, PhD, believes the time has come for the public and professionals alike to understand the importance of nutrition. He discusses the main principles of nutrition and evaluates popular diet types with that understanding in his keynote, “Fundamentals of a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet.” View the full CME/CE Program here.

Interested in Learning More?

There’s no better way to learn about the science surrounding nutrition and wellness than by experiencing it both in and out of the classroom. If you’re a healthcare professional interested in learning more about the CME/CE program on this year’s Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise, click here for more information. Curious about the schedule? View the entire HHAS program and itinerary here.

If you’re interested in earning credit, you must first book your ticket to Holistic Holiday at Sea before signing up for the CME/CE program. Why wait? Book today!

Meet the Bad Ass Vegan: John Lewis


Yaaay! We are so pumped for you to learn more about our second Special Guest for the cruise. We have the pleasure of welcoming a member of the vegan body building community.  John “Bad Ass Vegan” Lewis comes to us from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, but is originally from Missouri, the “show me state.”  As a nationally certified fitness trainer, John Lewis has spent more than 8 years in the health and fitness industry and played Division I College basketball. John is decidedly passionate not only about his own health and fitness, but that of others as well.

In addition to his extensive knowledge in body sculpting and contouring, what makes John one of the top national fitness trainers is his creative ability to understand and live a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle while maintaining a highly commendable physique.  In essence, he is able to cater to a diverse group of individuals, masterfully creating and developing personalized, unique and healthy nutrition plans. Thus, his services are highly sought after.

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to become a vegan?

I would have to say my most pivotal moment was when my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer.  I remember asking the doctors how do you get cancer or how did she get it? The doctor said too much animal protein contributed to this disease. So once I saw that it …I decided to choose the plant-based/vegan route.

What changes have you noticed in your body since you made the switch?

I have noticed that I have been able to train much harder in the gym and not have the fatigue and lack of energy that I had when I was consuming animal-based products. I can honestly train for hours and hours. The next day I have little to no fatigue or little to no pain and I am able to train just as hard as the day before. I have also noticed a rise in my mental clarity that may have not been there before.  I would have to say I am the king of multitasking and actually getting everything done without losing track. I have also noticed that my digestive system is working much better.


What made you decide to go into bodybuilding?

My college career in basketball presented a need to stay in excellent shape because I always wanted to perform at my best on the court. Bodybuilding really came about because I just wanted to take it to the next level and challenge my body even more. I feel as if we should always challenge ourselves and never get too comfortable.  It’s okay to enjoy the moment but always look at how you can improve your life.

Do you have any specific goals for your future as a vegan athlete?

Right now I would have to say that my main goal as a vegan athlete is to show the world that you can be vegan and be powerful and strong, and push your body to the limits without any hesitation. There are so many people that are curious about the vegan lifestyle and culture; I want to make sure that they can see that they can accomplish great things with a vegan diet, no matter what your dietary background has been.  At one time in my life, I used to weigh 315 pounds, and, yes, that’s when I was eating poorly.  I want people to know about my past weight because I want them to know that they can take hold of their lives. People should understand that what we decide to eat is a choice.  We choose what to ingest.  Anyone can take control of their life, and anyone can take control of their health.  The choice is up to us to decide to live better or decide to live worse.

What is your favorite vegan desert?

I know this may sound biased but I can honestly say that the badass Power cookie is my favorite dessert/go to item. I am sort of a cookie monster so if I can have a good cookie then I am going to be happy! My Badass Power Cookie is not necessarily a desert, but it does have a lot of vital nutrients that can sustain a bodybuilder or somebody that’s just looking to stay in shape. The main ingredient in the cookie is Spirulina, but it also has the amino acids and proteins that help the body recover and also build muscle density.

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