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Our 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. We’re so excited to celebrate this milestone with you and we have many new and fun things planned for this upcoming voyage.

Looking back over our journey since 2003, we wanted to thank you for Holistic Holiday at Sea’s success and growth, as well as share some memories with you and take stock of just how far the plant-based movement has come in recent years. We wouldn’t be here 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 we first set sail from Port Everglades with 410 people, traveling across the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Our 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 us! We owe this tremendous growth 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 100 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 with us, giving voices to so many animals who suffer from factory farming and horrific food industry practices.

We are honored that 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.

In 2018, we are excited to welcome 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. We’re 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 our 15th cruise, instead of the usual seven days, the cruise will be extended to ten days, including President’s Day weekend. In addition to onboard adventure (including poolside socials and entertainment), we’re certain guests will 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 (and we’ve traveled 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 Eastern Bahamas: 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 our 2017 guests signed up to attend the cruise in 2018. This means we’re doing something right. We crunched the numbers and figured out that we’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 our talented kitchen team! The gourmet meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are such an essential part of the experience.

We’ve also learned a lot from our experience running the cruise. During one of the first cruises, we left from Ft. Lauderdale only to realize that the majority of our produce order for the week didn’t make it onboard! Fortunately, we were able to contact the supplier who would bring us 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. What touches our hearts the most is hearing how lives have changed for the better through the cruise. While many guests have returned year after year, we always welcome aboard new faces! Make memories that will last forever and book by midnight on May 25 for the best rates and availability.

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.

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!

Vegan Cuisine at Its Finest

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Vegan Pad Thai on Holistic Holiday at Sea cruiseNow in its 14th year, Holistic Holiday at Sea’s seven-day cruise experience, March 11–18, 2017, includes presentations by leading authorities in holistic and alternative health, offboard excursions at four exotic ports of call, workshops, and restorative activities such as yoga, Pilates, and meditation. From cooking classes to poolside socials, vegan cuisine is at the heart of the cruise, bringing people together to share delicious, healthy food with loved ones and new friends made aboard.

Guests enjoy meals in a continental atmosphere. Elegant dining rooms are staffed with attentive servers and food is expertly prepared under the supervision of Mark Hanna, an internationally known natural food chef who has cooked at yoga retreats, meditation centers, and macrobiotic and vegan conferences around the world. Head chef since Holistic Holiday at Sea’s debut in 2004, Hanna has designed the menu to feature dishes that are nutritious, delicious, and 100% vegan.

Options for Everyone

Chef Mark Hanna

Chef Mark Hanna

Cruise goers love that there are so many option to fit their dietary needs. “Over the years we’ve found that to happily include everybody, there needs to be options,” says Hanna. “We offer gluten-free and oil-free options in every case when the dish includes oil or gluten.” Please inform us of your dietary needs and we’ll do our best to accommodate you. The ship’s menu is also available on request.

For lunch and dinner, four-course meals (plus dessert) await you. Menus are often themed and work with innovative twists on traditional styles of cooking, such as Italian and Caribbean. Hanna shares, “My favorite menu over the last few years is the Thai-themed meal including Pad Thai—a tempeh dish, peanut sauce, etc. It’s a little bit spicy.” If you’re looking for a more informal, faster meal, buffet options are available for breakfast and lunch.

Desserts are sugar and dairy free and prepared by pastry chefs. The key lime pie and chocolate cake are among guests’ favorites. The menu changes each year, says Hanna, as people’s tastes change and there are always new trends to keep up with. Themes may be mixed and matched so that whole grains, vegan proteins, cooked and raw greens, and vegetables can be evenly incorporated over the course of the week.

Macrobiotic foods (such as seaweed, umeboshi, tamari, and miso) are also used in several dishes, and many macrobiotic principles are applied in the preparation, says Hanna.

Collaborations in the Kitchen

Chef Mark Reinfeld (Photo by Megan Sorel)

Chef Mark Reinfeld (Photo by Megan Sorel)

This year, Mark Reinfeld joins the team as a menu and recipe consultant. “I am excited to be sharing some of my Vegan Fusion recipes with the guests of the Holistic Holiday at Sea,” he says. Reinfeld is an award-winning chef and the author of seven books, including the best-selling 30 Minute Vegan series and his latest, Healing the Vegan Way. He has more than 20 years of experience preparing creative vegan and raw food cuisine.

One of the hopes of Holistic Holiday at Sea is that guests can learn new techniques to promote a healthier lifestyle. Reinfeld will be teaching a discussion and Q&A session titled “Food Activism: Bridging the Gap Between Nutritional Knowledge and Life-Changing Action.”

In his session, Reinfeld says he will “discuss the importance of creating plant-based food that tastes amazing, with tips and tricks on how to create world-class cuisine to share with others.”  

He will also present a template-recipe format that “allows you to break out of the recipe trap to create hundreds of variations of recipes.”

Why Wait? Our Recipe for Kale Salad

Vegan Kale Salad on Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise

Want to try one one of Mark Hanna’s dishes for yourself at home? Check out these steps to prepare a crowd pleasing Kale Salad as featured in Greens and Grains on the Deep Blue Sea Cookbook by Sandy Pukel and Mark Hanna.

The cabbage in this light, bright-colored, fiber-rich salad is pressed in the traditional Japanese manner. It is a perfect accompaniment to any meal.

Yields 6 to 8 servings

2 cups shredded red cabbage

2 teaspoons umeboshi paste

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 ½ cups corn kernels

Pinch sea salt

5 cups finely chopped kale

1 cup julienne-cut carrots

1 cup red radishes, cut into thin half moons

1 cup julienne-cut daikon

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Vegetable salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

To prepare:

  1. Press the cabbage with the umeboshi paste and vinegar for 1 hour.
  2. While the cabbage is pressing, fill a 4-quart pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the corn and quickly blanch for a minute or two. Remove the corn with a slotted spoon and place in a large salad bowl.
  3. Add a pinch of salt to the same water, then add the kale and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and spread on a tray to cool.
  4. Add the cooked kale to the corn, along with the carrots, radishes, daikon, pressed cabbage, olive oil, and lemon juice. Toss the ingredients, add salt and pepper, and toss again before serving.

Variations:

-Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

-Add ¼ cup toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

-Add sauerkraut or slivers of dill pickle.

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