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Single? Book a Ride on the Love Boat!

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Robert & Karen aboard the ship.

Robert & Karen aboard the ship.

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

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

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

Go to the Welcome Party!

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

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

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

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

Common Interests

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

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

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

Make Plans

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

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

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

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

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

The Travel Bug

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

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

Find Love Next February!

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

 

And the Winner of our Cruise Photo Contest is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holistic Holiday at Sea dessert- Photo by Hollie Kempton

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

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

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

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

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

Ten Days of Plant-Based Fun

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

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

In 2018, the MSC Divina will depart from Miami, Florida, and head to the following ports of call in the southeastern 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. You can view the itinerary here.

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

The Ports

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

Basseterre (Photo courtesy of MSC)

Basseterre (Photo courtesy of MSC)

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

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

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

Road Town (Photo courtesy of MSC)

Road Town (Photo courtesy of MSC)

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

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

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

Super Early Bird Special Ends at Midnight May 25

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

A Mother & Daughter Set Sail on Their First Vegan Cruise

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Lael & Laurel HoneyWhile some guests on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise come solo, others bring along a companion, such as a friend, partner, or relative. The adventures onboard can offer wonderful bonding experiences. One popular travel duo is mothers with their adult daughters. This year, Laurel and Lael Honey embarked on their first Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise. We caught up with them about their plant-based journeys and wanted to share their story with you!

Living in the community of North East, just outside of Erie, Pennsylvania, Laurel Honey recalls how far Erie has come in having vegan or vegetarian options. Last September, the city held its first VegFest, where Laurel and Lael learned about the cruise from Derek Tresize and Marcella Torres. They loved the idea of not having to worry about what they were going to eat.

“It’s hard to vacation,” says Laurel. “When my husband and I would take the children anywhere, we packed everything… We were never guaranteed that there would be a grocery store where we could find decent stuff. Just to be able to stay somewhere for a week and not worry about the food was so amazing.” In preparing for the cruise, Laurel was looking forward to attending Christina Pirello’s cooking classes, and Lael was excited about hearing Dr. T. Colin Campbell speak, as she kept up with his research.

It Wasn’t Always Easy

Ever try a soybean donut? According to Laurel Honey, they weren’t the best tasting thing she’s ever made. In her early years of being a vegetarian in the 1970s, Laurel often experimented in the kitchen, grabbing recipes from cookbooks and working through a lot of trial and error. “Soybeans were the staple, the ‘meat’ that we used,” she says. “I tried to make everything out of soybeans. The soybean donuts were not a success.”

At the time, Laurel was attending the University of Oklahoma, in a state with a booming cattle industry, where veganism/vegetarianism was a foreign concept to most people, and there were basically no substitutes in the commercial market. Still, Laurel was inspired by her love for animals to stop eating meat. “I had to make everything. There was nothing wholegrain so you had to make your own noodles. I had to make my own tofu, my own tempeh. I kept reading and reading—anything I could get my hands on. I exposed myself to people who were likeminded. And it just grew from there.”

Good Plant-Based Living

After graduation, Laurel returned to her hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, where she met her husband Tony McCullum, a master herbalist and Seventh-day Adventist. Laurel converted to this religion. Calling themselves Natural Hygienists, Laurel and Tony ate a completely plant-based diet, emphasizing whole grains and clean foods.

People would laugh and say that Tony and Laurel were “living as country as they could in a city,” but they didn’t mind. They had a little house near Lake Erie, a huge garden, and a wood stove. When they began having children, the family relocated to the country in Waterford.

Lael is the middle of their five children. Now 31, she says her parents always encouraged curiosity. “They educated us on how it’s affecting our bodies, and why we’re choosing to eat in better ways.” By age 6, Lael was completely vegan. “We kept experimenting how to supplement,” says Lael. “It’s pretty much still all I know. I’ve never had a glass of milk or meat or fish. I couldn’t cook those things for you if you asked me to.” Lael remembers packing her own lunch on school field trips. She recalls, “I got teased a little for it, but because they gave us that foundation as to why it was this way, I had confidence in it. No one wants to be teased for anything they do, but I felt confident that I was doing the right thing.”

Healing Ourselves, Healing the World

While Lael grew up with a plant-based lifestyle for health purposes, she soon had other reasons, including how a plant-based diet benefits the environment. She loves watching documentaries such as Cowspiracy and PlantPure Nation.

Laurel and Tony eventually opened a co-op to fit the needs of people who were interested in this healthier lifestyle. “I’m a purist, I don’t mess around,” says Laurel. While they no longer own the co-op today, its launch was critical in helping the community find better food options. Lael’s sister Selah is a vegan cook who partnered with Laurel (an avid baker) to open a vegan bakery. It was in business for 15 years, but closed two years ago when Selah became a full-time mom. (Her child is a third generation vegan!)

Socials & Excursions Foster a Community of New Friends

Lael, who has done a lot of traveling for service work and mission trips, enjoyed exploring the cruise’s ports of call with her mom. Lael hiked up Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica and her mom joined her for a snorkeling adventure over a shipwreck in the Cayman Islands.

“Another thing I love about this cruise is that the social life is amazing,” says Lael. “You get to meet people from all over the world. You get to hear all the different stories on how they became vegan and why. It’s just really interesting. You can’t get a culture like this anywhere else. Especially coming from the town that I come from where I feel like I’m one of the only vegans. I don’t know any other vegans outside of my immediate family. I know they’re there, but I don’t know where they are.”

As for the plant-based movement becoming more mainstream, most people have heard of veganism now. “They may have a cousin who is vegan.” says Laurel. Lael adds, “And they don’t instantly start telling tofu jokes. That’s kind of over with.”

Vacation With Us!

Next year marks the 15h anniversary of Holistic Holiday at Sea. Click here to learn more about the 10-day voyage, from February 15–25, 2018. Book by May 25 for the early bird rate!

Cruise Photo Contest 2017!

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

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

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

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

Entry Directions for Guests with Private Social Media Accounts

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

Got questions? Message us on Facebook.

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

Remember to Pack These 5 Things for the Cruise!

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

1. Comfortable Shoes

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

2. Fitness Gear

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

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

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

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

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

3. Layers & Sun Protection

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

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

4. The Essentials

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

5. Your Talent for the Talent Show!

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

Plan Your Schedule

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

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.

Pre-book Your Excursions Today!

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Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise day excursion to Jamaica (Photo by Robert Cheeke)

Jamaica (Photo by Robert Cheeke)

As a passenger of the 2017 Holistic Holiday at Sea voyage, March 11–18, you will find ample opportunities for relaxation, fitness, education, and entertainment aboard the ship. Did you know that there are also dozens of activities off the boat? Beginning and ending in Miami, the cruise stops at four exotic ports of call: Ochos Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; and Nassau, Bahamas. From cultural tours to sports-oriented activities, more than 60 pre-arranged excursions—from Monday, March 13, to Friday, March 18, (with the exception of Thursday)—are available for older and younger guests with a range of tastes.

Explore Ochos Rios & Dunn’s River Falls

Six excursions include vegan lunch options. One such activity takes place on Monday, March 13, in Jamaica. The “Ochos Rios & Dunn’s River Falls” is a favorite among returning guests. After a scenic drive, you’ll reach the falls, a recreational area and park that has an interesting history. Originally named “Las Chorreras” by the Spaniards (which translates to the waterfalls or the springs), the Falls are near the site of a battle by the same name that decided ownership of the island in 1657. It was fought between the English and Spanish Expeditionary Force from Cuba and the English proved victorious. In 1972, the land was ultimately acquired by the Jamaican government. Over the years, the name “Ocho Rios” replaced “Las Chorreras.” It translates to eight rivers, although there are only four rivers nearby. (And each one flows into the Caribbean Sea.)

Excursions Offer Opportunities to Socialize

Robert Cheeke is an award-winning author, two-time bodybuilding champion, vegan athlete, and touring public speaker. He runs Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness. In his first year, he dreamed of becoming a presenter the following year and his wish soon came true. This cruise will be his sixth as a presenter. The cruise and its excursions have been hugely influential in his life. (He also met his now fiancée the first year!)

“As the schedule would have it, four of the past six cruises have also landed on my March 2nd birthday,” says Robert. “That usually meant friends taking me out on excursions to participate in the fun and adventure to be had beyond the cruise ship itself. That’s really part of the whole experience—taking part in some of the onshore options for exploration. For example, I have kayaked and floated down a river in an inner tube in Jamaica, have snorkeled with the stingrays in Grand Cayman, and on a past cruise, before my time with Holistic Holiday at Sea, I climbed the famous Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.”

Robert describes his experience at the Falls. “After hiking through a lush environment you meet the nearly 200-foot tall Dunn’s River Falls and have the opportunity to climb directly on rocks while water descends all around you. You’ll likely hold hands with a neighbor to make a human chain for some added safety during the somewhat challenging climb and you will be impressed by the views and the scenic environment.” As an alternative to the climb, there are also safe spots from which you can watch the others ascend the falls. There’s also a beautiful tropical forest to explore with ferns, bamboo, ginger lilies, orchids, palms, and breadfruit trees. Following a buffet lunch by the sea, guests can take a sightseeing drive around Ocho Rios.

Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Robert also swam with stingrays and snorkeled in the open sea. On Tuesday, March 14, in George Town, guests can meet these friendly fish on “Cayman Beach Break & Stingray City Combo with Vegan Lunch.” The first part of this tour includes a trip to Stingray City on a fully-equipped snorkel boat, boarded from the Cayman Islands Yacht Club. There guests can feed and play with stingrays—a magical moment! Afterwards, guests return to the Yacht Club and are driven to the Seven Mile Beach, a beautiful stretch of seemingly endless sand.

“Though it was a bit intimidating to be so close to stingrays and actually touch them, it was also exhilarating and a memorable experience,” says Robert. “After sailing out to sea and putting an anchor down, snorkeling in the open sea, away from the beach, was also intimidating, but exciting.’

Whatever You Decide to do—Have Fun!

A full menu of excursions awaits you. “Regardless of what adventure you set out on, enjoy everything the vegan cruise has to offer, from the gourmet meals to the social events, from the lectures and classes to Broadway-style theater shows. There is much to enjoy from early morning until late at night. I will be leading daily fitness classes and giving lectures about plant-based health and fitness, calling upon my experiences from more than 20 years as a plant-based athlete. I look forward to seeing you on board the Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise in March”

Be sure to check the available excursions out here and pre-book any “must do” activities. Here’s a tip on booking: Pre-booking online is strongly recommended, although onboard booking is also available if that is not possible for you (select your top choices and try to book the first day of the cruise). Many excursions will sell out quickly through onboard booking, and pre-booking saves you the hassle of waiting in line. Please note that the six excursions with a vegan lunch must be pre-booked with no onboard booking available. 

Meet the Bad Ass Vegan: John Lewis

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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.

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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.

Supporting the Chefs of the Future

“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food” – Hippocrates

One of the most amazing things about the food movement in the last two decades is its ability to recognize and celebrate the variety of people making different dietary choices. There are delicious meals to be had within every food genre, even for people with food allergies. This has supported an increasing demand for chefs who are able to cook tasty and creative meals for an increasingly growing demographic. In previous decades, people were mainly trying to avoid sugar and sodium. However, with constantly updated information about what foods can contribute to certain ailments, one may be left searching for new dietary options –the tastier and healthier the better.

Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts

Lo and behold the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts, founded in 1994 by Elizabeth Ann Foster, a certified macrobiotic counselor. Elizabeth started the school to manifest her vision of advancing the appreciation and practice of natural, whole food cooking in the Southeast. This vision was continued under the stewardship of Dawn Pallavi, experienced teacher, counselor and macrobiotic chef. With culinary training in France and the US, Dawn brought a culturally eclectic flair to the art of natural, whole foods cooking.

For the last 3 years, the Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise has had an extern program as part of the on-board educational track.  Last year, the vegan cruise started a partnership with the  University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s  iCamp—Integrative and Complementary Academic Medicine Programs to offer CME credits for allied Health Professionals.

Internship Program on the Cruise

Below is an inside look at the externship opportunity on the cruise and how it serves as a great experience for these already well-rounded culinary students. This will be Jeanine Perla’s 3rd year on the cruise and she will be working with 2 new interns from the academy. We look forward to meeting the three of them and tasting some of their unique and mouth watering creations!

Jeanine Perla

 

HHaS: How did you initially learn about the cruise?

I was a student at The Natural Epicurean. John Belleme reached out to The Natural Epicurean requesting interns and I responded. I had to go through an interview process and I was so excited to be selected.

HHaS: How did you become on of the chefs in the kitchen on the cruise this year?

I worked extremely hard my first year as an intern, so they asked me to come back for a second year. I did well enough in 2013 that they selected me to come back again :)

Will you be assisting Mark Hanna with his duties or are you running a particular part yourself?

The two interns and I will be responsible for helping the Mark Hanna’s staff stay ahead of the game. We will be working in the evening pulling inventory, chopping vegetables, prepping meals and more. We are honored to be a key team in the orchestration of the kitchen functioning smoothly. 

Can you tell me a bit about the interns?

Kelly Ritter was drawn to The Natural Epicurean as a result of a trip to Africa. She realized how there is a global need for more preferable foods. She completed her studies and she now does chef work in restaurants, yoga retreats, Africa and more. Dustin Lundewall was working in the restaurant industry and realized that he wanted to develop a career in the plant based food industry. His goal is to become a macrobiotic counselor, so he is looking forward to being part of the Holistic Holiday at Sea chef team.

What would you like for our readers to know about you and your career as a chef?

I come from an Italian family, so cooking has always been a central part of every get together. When I was looking for culinary schools, my father was becoming very ill. I selected The Natural Epicurean because I wanted to be a chef that promotes healing from food. My journey has led me to guest chef work, instructing and catering. It is such a delight to feed people food that is, first and foremost, delicious and also nourishing.  

What’s your favorite part about being a chef?

My favorite part about being a chef is watching my client’s reaction to the food. A good meal requires a lot of hard work. The chef has to forage the food, store it properly, cook it perfectly, balance it with sauces and make sure that multiple textures are present. But the moment that the client eats the food and tastes all of the dimensions and love that was put into the food, all of my body aches wash away as I watch the client revel in the satiating meal.

We’d like to thank Jeanine for sharing her path with us. We wish her the best of luck in her career and her other endeavors. We look forward to seeing her on the ship in March.

Welcome to 2014!!! We are so very excited to be in our 11th year of bringing you great lectures, amazing activities, community building and a celebration of living a compassionate vegan lifestyle! 2014 promises to be an incredible year with new presenters, new and cutting edge fitness opportunities, new entertainers and amazing cooking classes with celebrity vegan chefs! Bring a friend or your entire family. The gift of health is the one that keeps on giving. We look forward to seeing you in March!

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