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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!

We Gave Away a Free Cruise—Here’s What the Winner Had to Say!

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Lauren Yakiwchuk & Justin Ceksters

Lauren Yakiwchuk & Justin Ceksters

Last year, we held our Summer Sweepstakes and gave one lucky first-time guest two tickets to our 2018 Holistic Holiday at Sea 10-night Caribbean cruise. The randomly selected name belonged to Lauren Yakiwchuk, a lifelong vegetarian and longtime vegan who lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada (just outside of Toronto). A frequent traveler and video editor in the television industry, Lauren runs a travel blog called Justin Plus Lauren, which chronicles her travels around the world (both with and without her boyfriend Justin Ceksters).

We happily sent Lauren and Justin on their first HHAS plant-based cruise on February 15–25, 2018. Afterwards, Lauren featured her amazing experience on her blog (check it out here). We recently checked in with Lauren to get some of her highlights and what she enjoyed most about her Caribbean adventure. Keep reading to see what Lauren loved best!

Excursions with Vegan Options

Lauren in Guadeloupe.

Lauren in Guadeloupe. (Photo by Lauren Yakiwchuk)

Each year, we select ports of call that include a mix of favorite past stops as well as new ones. (In 2019, we are going to a whole new continent for us—South America!) This year, we ventured to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI; Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; Fort-de-France, Martinique; Bridgetown, Barbados; and Point-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe.

Lauren has been on several cruises in the past (ten to be exact!), but this was her first entirely vegan cruise. She says that aspect really made a difference when planning what to do off the ship. She shares, “I’ve booked many cruise excursions and tend to always avoid the ones that involve a prepared lunch, as I’m generally unsure that there will be a vegan option. However, this wasn’t something I had to worry about on the Holistic Holiday sailing. There were vegan excursions offered that mirrored other tours, but offered vegan meals and snacks.”

Cockleshell Bay in St. Kitts. (Photo by Lauren Yakiwchuk)

Lauren and Justin did a combination of booking tours and exploring on their own. Lauren is quite the explorer: “I love nature, animals, and both urban and outdoor adventures. I aim to show that it’s possible to travel in a way that’s both eco-friendly and responsible towards wildlife. I adore long walks, hiking, biking, snorkeling, kayaking, and I’m always up for new challenges.”

From checking out the beach in St. Kitts to snorkeling in Martinique, there was no shortage of activities! “I really loved visiting the all-inclusive resort in Guadeloupe,” says Lauren. “We relaxed by a beautiful beach and had a full vegan buffet for lunch. I’ve never seen anything like it!”

Delicious Plant-Based Meals

(Photo by Lauren Yakiwchuk)

With both buffet and sit-down options for mealtime, our guests have plenty of healthy and tasty dishes to choose from. “Not only was it wonderful to eat vegan food on a cruise ship without having to worry about its availability, but the meals were delicious,” says Lauren. “From the offerings at the plant-based buffet to the five course dining room meals, I loved the taste and originality of each dish. Some of my favorites included a veggie lasagna, a bean burger with rosemary potatoes, and the seitan stroganoff.”

Oil-free and gluten-free options are always available at every meal. Big tables mean that you’ll sit next to someone new and make a new friend by the time dessert rolls around! Socials on select nights mean more chances to feed your sweet tooth!

“It was also awesome to have a sweet treat at the end of each meal. My favorite was the chocolate orange cake. We also loved the parties featuring vegan treats almost every night on the ship, like vegan ice cream sundaes and vegan nachos. Yum!”

Learning from the Experts

Dozens of leaders in the plant-based movement, together, on one boat—how often does that happen?! Well, at least once a year!

Our lineup is always full of intelligent, compassionate, and charismatic presenters. Many of the lectures and workshops include Q&As with attendees so you can get your burning questions answered on the spot. There’s a bookstore onboard so you can take home their works to share with your friends and family.

“It was wonderful to have so many like-minded people in one place, learning from one another and sharing so many goals,” says Lauren. “It was a dream come true to hear some of my plant-based idols speak in person (Gene Baur, James Aspey, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, and Dr. Michael Greger).”

Justin and Lauren were also treated to a screening of the film The Game Changers, hosted by one of the executive producers Rip Esselstyn. It was informative, inspiring, and entertaining. “Produced by James Cameron and featuring athletes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s a documentary showcasing athletes performing at their best on a plant-based diet, dispelling any myths that you need meat to be strong,” adds Lauren.

Included in their sweepstakes package were personal training sessions from Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese of PlantBuilt. “We were inspired to continue working out every day on the cruise ship and as much as possible at home. This cruise has motivated us to live even healthier lifestyles than before.”

Be on the Lookout for Your Chance to Win!


Martinique (Photo by Lauren Yakiwchuk)

As spring is warming up, it’ll be summer before we know it! Keep an eye on our Facebook page for our Summer Sweepstakes announcement for our next Holistic Holiday at Sea adventure, March 3–14, 2019. First-time cruisers can enter to win and if you’ve already attended, you can snag two tickets for the best price now through April 27. Sailing on the elegant MSC Divina for 11 nights, we will depart from Miami, Florida, and adventure to Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Cartagena, Colombia; Cristobal, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Cozumel, Mexico. You can view the full itinerary here. Book your spot today and get the best rates!

Expanding the Social Circle At Sea: Referral and Group Leader Credit

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Each year, cruise guests tell us that Holistic Holiday at Sea is a rare opportunity to form lasting bonds with like-minded and similarly spirited people. Yes, the education our presenters give on healthy eating and lifestlye practices can transform your life and getting wellness treatments on the open ocean while others do the cooking can rejuvenate, but guests especially mention treasuring the connections made with other travelers.

Here’s what Judy L., a participant from Florida, wrote:

“Memories of my first cruise will be with me forever. Wonderful food, excellent programs, and most of all the new friends that I made; unbelievable staff, lecturers and fellow travelers that have become my new extended family…. I feel like I have come home…. Looking forward to next year, and all those wonderful hugs.”

Central gathering spot for Vegan Cruise goers

Central gathering spot for Vegan Cruise travelers

We hope to extend this opportunity for fellowship and hugs to others seeking a community. We also want to ensure those of you already coming know the possibilities for social engagement during the trip.

 So, for the next month, this blog will look at ways to connect through our cruise. We’ll cover the social spaces on the new ship, romances that have formed during past cruises, and the experiences of people who return year after year to spend time with old and new friends.

First up, we’re highlighting two ways you can bring friends into the community with you, and ways to get rewarded for inviting others to the cruise.

Receive On-board Credit for Referring New Cruise Traveler

One option, available to anyone, is a $50 on-board credit for referring a friend who books a ticket. Our goal here is to offer the cruise to those who haven’t yet had the chance to join our community, so the person you refer must be a first-time guest. Though the individual can’t be immediate family like a spouse or child, you can get the credit for referring a friend from your vegan cooking club or the niece you’ve encouraged to embark on a healthier lifestyle. The credit applies to our our products and services only including our bookstore, one-on-one consultations, and special workshops on board. Just have the person mention your name when he or she calls the booking office.

tell a friend 

Earn A Free Cruise with Our Group Leader Program

Another way to expand our cruise family is a program available to *pre-approved practitioners, teachers, and bloggers. When someone names you while booking, you get $75 (off a ticket or in cash) and they get $50 on-board credit. If fifteen people mention you when signing up, you get a free ticket or the commission payment.

Our marketing department can support your effort by providing photos and example content. We suggest using your newsletter, blog, direct outreach, and social media to help support your group leader promotion efforts. You do not have to take the cruise, nor are you responsible for these guests. You’re just leading them to a healthier life.

*To be approved for the program, contact Daniele Martin at daniele@jbmediagroupllc.com. Or if you know someone with a following who might want to direct others to the cruise and get compensated for it, please pass on word of this program.

We can’t wait to gather again soon to renew bonds and embrace new arrivals!

Holistic Holiday at Sea is more than a great vegan traveexperience, it’s an opportunity to stay healthy while enjoying an incredible vacation! Join us in 2014 for our 11th vegan voyage leaving from Miami, Florida March 1st – 8th, 2014!


Clinton Stays Healthy After Clipping Ties from Animal Products

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I… No Longer… Have Relations… With That Cheeseburger

After years of indulging on fast food and a smorgasbord of animal products, Clinton’s classic McDonald’s diet began to take its toll on more than just his flabby tummy. As quoted from an August article on Examiner.com, “Clinton switched to a plant-based diet in 2011 and within several months had lost 24 pounds. The previous year, he had two stents placed in his coronary artery after having undergone a quadruple heart-bypass surgery in 2004.” With a family history of heart disease and a lifelong battle with his weight, Clinton celebrated his 66th birthday this August attributing his newfound healthy existence entirely to his lifestyle reformation. This progression came in phases, however.

“When I had my second heart incident [in 2010] and I had the stents put in, I had passed all my physicals, I was doing great, but I was still building up plaque in my arteries,’ he recounted. ‘So I decided that I wanted to see if I could live to be a grandfather, so I just went all the way.’”

Noting Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. as personal guides into the world of healthier living, the old daily, and nightly, feasting rituals no longer hold the same sway over Bill’s belly.

“’I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now,’ said Clinton, whose weight hovers at around 185 pounds — his weight at age 13! – ‘All my blood tests are good, and my vital signs are good, and I feel good. I also have more energy.’”

From ‘Krispy Kreme’ to Kale & Beans

The former president has formed a massive wave in changing the tide concerning veganism within the celebrity circuit. Veganism is slowly arching into the celestial realm as star-studded elites, including Rev. Al Sharpton, actress Michelle Pfeiffer, and most recently hip-hop artist Usher, align with the concept of removing meat, dairy, eggs and oils from their diet.

With a greener and more grateful outlook on life, Clinton has cited the documentary ‘Forks Over Knives’ and the book ‘The China Study’ as a reminder as to why and how a plant-based diet is such a vital facet in his everyday life. Instead of jogging towards a Mickey D’s, Clinton runs past them, claiming “Getting rid of the dairy was great, getting rid of the meat was — I just don’t miss it.”

So who’s next on the influential former president’s list of new vegan initiates? We’re willing to bet he’ll leave a leafy-legacy with his future grandchildren.

“’Hillary and I, we are happy, we love our son-in-law,’ said Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea got married in July 2012. ‘And we would like to be around if there are grandkids, we would like to do our part.’”

Taste of Health Holistic Holiday at Sea is more than a great vegan travel experience, it’s an opportunity to travel and stay healthy while pampering AND educating yourself with current events and trends in the vegan world. On our holistic cruise you will have the opportunity to eat divine meals, make new friends engage with some of the most celebrated personalities of the Vegan Industry. 2013 will mark the 10 year Anniversary of the Holistic Holiday at Sea and there will be tons of socials, great classes, amazing Caribbean ports and even a few surprises. Learning a new way of living has never been so much fun, so easy and so tasty!





2012 Cruise Testimonial from Lisa S.

Dearest Jan, John and Sandy,

I am not sure where to begin my letter of thanks because since the cruise my life has changed in unbelievable ways.

As you know I work and cook in a friary (a monastery for Franciscan friars) some are elderly and very sick.  One of the friars, with a lung transplant, had a major emergency surgery while we were at sea. When I got back to Tampa I went from the airport to ICU and I have been at his bedside since then. I know how to pray but now, I was able to mediate – a beautiful gift I learned from Yogi Desai, one of the cruise presenters. Somehow this gave me new eyes. I saw sadness and sickness everywhere I looked. After the many lectures on the cruise I could see that much of the suffering if not all was due to bad nutrition and lifestyle. I could only wish that I knew about Macrobiotics a few years ago so that healing foods could have helped the friars.

I watched them pour chemical solutions into Father’s very sick body and saw him go through many painful procedures – it seemed the same scenario was going on in every room throughout the hospital. I love Father’s doctors and hospital staff and I am sure they do what they feel is best but there were no whole grains and very few greens offered on his food trays.  They actually have a MacDonald’s at the hospital. I was disheartened – but I made up my mind not to look back but to devote the rest of my days to help people in my life to heal naturally; and the wealth of knowledge that I learned on the cruise was the beginning.

Then an inspiration came, while at Father’s bedside, to offer to set-up and manage a vegan booth in the hospital food court. I was turned down. Then on Easter Sunday I went to a family picnic. My niece is married to a doctor – I had not seen them for 3 years. They asked what was going on in my life and I told them about all of the above.  The doctor said that he was a partner in 5 Florida Medical Clinics and that they were looking for a food service company. He asked me to come and see the facility.

I went on Thursday and expressed that I would love to give it a try but that I needed to be faithful to my principals – this would be more than a business venture but a calling and that I truly wanted to help people. He still asked if I would consider cooking some meat products. I said I was sorry but I could not – maybe this was not the venue for me. He said to send him a menu and he would be back in touch.

I just received a phone call from him tonight. He spoke with his boss who spoke with the CEO and they are both very interested in the concept! If all goes well I hope to call it “Caring Cafe” – it will provide a full vegan breakfast, lunch and a special Macro Healing Meal each day. The plan is that we will start with one, and who knows . . . there is a possibility of a “Caring Café” in all of the Florida Medical Clinics and beyond –

I live on a meager salary and have nothing to offer except my love and passion – I was told I needed only to request whatever is needed. How can I ever thank you for the many gifts and inspirations you’ve given me?  Impossible!!! All I have is a heart filled with gratitude and a humble thank you and a prayer to wish you every blessing in heaven and on earth for your kindness, generosity and for your many works and efforts to make the world a better place.

Sincerely…from the heart,
Lisa S.

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