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Here’s to a Better Tomorrow: Q&A with Animal Rights Advocates

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Holistic Holiday at Sea’s 15th-anniversary cruise is finally here! We are so excited to have so many friends returning this year in addition to all the new people we are about to meet. We have a full schedule packed with educational material, stories of healing and recovery, and fun ways to live a better life.

To take advantage of all the opportunities, take a look at this year’s program and jot down which classes, lectures, panels, demos, and events you think you’d like to attend. On the evening of Saturday, February 17, as we travel to our first stop at St. Thomas, five animal rights leaders will come together in one place for a Q&A panel discussion. Learn about the plight of animals used in the entertainment, experimentation, clothing, meat and dairy industries and how society is responding to the increasingly large and powerful message of the animal rights movement.

Melissa Karpel

Participants include Ingrid Newkirk (president and founder of PETA); Dr. Neal Barnard (founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine); Dr. Jonathan Balcombe (editor of Animal Sentience); and Gene Baur (co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary). The panel is moderated by Melissa Karpel, Philanthropic Specialist with the PETA Foundation. In a previous blog post, we asked several important questions about themselves and their work. To feed our curiosity (and yours, too), we posed a few more questions. We hope you find their answers as inspiring as we do!


In your professional life, what are the two top obstacles (besides public ignorance) that you face in accomplishing the work you set out to do?

Ingrid Newkirk: Getting into the press when the press is so taken up with celebrities, politics, conflict and nowadays, a lot of natural disasters; and funding because the more funds, the more work any social service group can do.

Ingrid Newkirk

Ingrid Newkirk

Dr. Jonathan Balcombe: The deep-seated hierarchical thinking that puts non-human animals beneath humans. And the deeply-held misconception that we must make sacrifices to help animals, when in fact a human society that is compassionate to animals would be a much kinder and gentler place—a happier place—for humans to live in, too.

Melissa Karpel: I believe that most people have an innate and genuine compassion for animals, and it often shows in their care for the dogs or cats who live in their homes. Sadly, when it comes to changing one’s lifestyle in order not to support abusing animals for food, clothing, or entertainment, people tend to shut down and don’t want to address it. They know it will be upsetting to hear about and will make them question their daily choices. But once people open their eyes to the things that they pay others to do to animals, they’re also willing to hear about how easy it is to eat vegan and live a cruelty-free lifestyle. I live in a very small town that’s in the heart of the animal agriculture industry in Wisconsin, and even our little local Piggly Wiggly grocery store has vegan cheese and a whole variety of non-dairy milks—that’s progress!

I also think that “compassion fatigue” is a very real and present problem among activists. We’re constantly surrounded by images and stories of abuse and suffering, and it takes a massive toll. I’m still in the process of learning how to deal with this fatigue, but I’m reminding myself to stay focused on the victories (and there are plenty!) as well as talking about it with other like-minded individuals. Hearing tips on how others cope is helpful, too.

Gene Baur: Two obstacles I often face when encouraging people to eat plants instead of animals are 1) a fear of change and 2) an infrastructure that enables and incentivizes bad food choices.

Gene Baur


Dr. Neal Barnard: That’s it: public ignorance. But we’re turning it around quickly.

What are three things that someone can do on their own to get better educated on the topic of animal rights and/or feel more connected to animals in general)?

Ingrid Newkirk: These days, it’s easy as pie: just go to peta.org and get an eyeful—some fun, some sad, some funny, all enlightening—and learn tons in a short investment of time; and you can pick and choose which topics you’d like to learn about.  2. Veganize your life: avoid any foods, clothing, entertainments, and products that come from animal suffering and death. I have a book called Making Kind Choices that shows how powerful the simplest daily decisions are in safeguarding animals or putting them at risk of harm. Most people are amazed at their options! 3. Adopt, spay/neuter, and respect the dogs and cats and rabbits in the home because they are not … props, they are emotional individuals with moods, desires, interests, and more, just as all the other animals we are not lucky enough to meet or get to know. All of them.

Dr. Jonathan Balcombe: Stop eating animals. (It will free you to view animals as beings who don’t deserve to suffer.) Watch house sparrows, starlings, squirrels, etc. Gaze at them long and hard. Reflect on their biographies. Read my books Second Nature, Pleasurable Kingdom, and What a Fish Knows.

Melissa Karpel: We’re so lucky to be living in a time when all people need to do is turn on a computer or just look at their phones to be informed about a topic. PETA’s videos get millions of views, sometimes daily, and social media is a huge part of that.

So, I would say that people can do the following three things to be better informed about animal rights:

  1. Watch videos of eyewitness investigative footage. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s depressing. But those animals are living in that hell 24 hours a day, every day, and we owe it to them to know what’s happening and to make positive changes in our lives so that we’re not supporting that abuse any longer.
  2. Take a look at your dog or cat and understand that pigs, cows, chickens, and other animals are just as capable of feeling fear, pain, loneliness, happiness, and love as the animals who share your home.

Watch one of the many awesome movies and documentaries that are both entertaining and educational—Okja, What the Health, Earthlings, Forks Over Knives, and Food, Inc., just to name a few!

Dr. Neal Barnard: It’s very easy. By simply reflecting on the experiences of animals on farms or headed for slaughter, you cannot help but want to avoid being part of it. And of course, there are a million great videos and lots of information online.  

Neal Barnard


Gene Baur: Some things people can do to get better educated on animals and animal rights include, visiting an animal sanctuary, checking out documentaries, and otherwise availing oneself of information online, and getting connected with like-minded animal groups and individuals in our community.

Do you have any numbers or statistics in your personal/professional work that show we’re making some progress in this initiative?

Ingrid Newkirk: We are currently the #1 social cause web presence in China where animals need all the help they can get as there isn’t a single law to protect them; and our video views on peta.org and the related sites now routinely soar into the millions; and our youth division, peta2, is the biggest activist youth group for any cause in the U.S., so those 3 figures are my favorites.

Dr. Jonathan Balcombe: I’m always encouraged by dietary shifts. Just this morning I read that cow’s milk consumption in the US has dropped from about 30 gallons per capita per year in the 1970s to about 18 gallons today. Meanwhile, demand for plant-based milks has been flourishing, with almond milk sales alone growing 250% in the past five years. I was glad to see a moratorium put on cruel cownose ray killing contests in Maryland, where miscreants use bows and arrows to shoot pregnant females in the shallows from boats. May they decide to ban such spectacles.

Dr. Jonathan Balcombe

Melissa Karpel: Oh, the progress is so exciting on every front. I encourage you to visit PETA’s website to see its milestone victories over the last 37 years. It gives me hope every time I see that list!

Additionally, there is progress being made every day for animals. In just one year, PETA saw these watershed moments take place:

  • PETA ended 30 years of maternal-deprivation experiments on baby monkeys at the National Institutes of Health.
  • Following an intensive PETA campaign, SeaWorld agreed to stop breeding orcas.
  • PETA blew the lid off the ostrich slaughter industry and persuaded Global Brands Group to ban ostrich skin and feathers from its brands, including Juicy Couture, Jones New York, and many others.
  • The National Aquarium announced that it would release the dolphins held captive there to an ocean sanctuary after PETA protested the opening of its dolphin exhibit. PETA donated $10,000 to facilitate this release.
  • As a direct result of PETA’s work, The New York Times editorial board condemned the use of animals in military trauma training and called for the Pentagon to ban the practice.
  • Because of relentless pressure by PETA and its international affiliates, the global demand for animal skins fell so far that China—the world’s largest supplier of fur and leather—was forced to close many processing plants.
  • PETA’s youth division, peta2, reached more than 400,000 young people at colleges, music festivals, and other events, and the peta2 Youth Action Team grew to more than 140,000 members.

PETA’s vital role in these sweeping changes is rooted in its unparalleled efforts to change hearts and minds. In 2016, the organization’s videos received an average of 2.75 million views daily. And every day, the group hears from people who say that a PETA video inspired them to go vegan or make other cruelty-free choices. And PETA is there to help people make the transition or to stick with it! Last year, PETA filled requests for more than 508,000 free copies of its vegan starter kit. I’d encourage any kind person who feels overwhelmed by all the cruelty and exploitation out there to take a look at PETA’s victory page. The inspiring progress will lift your spirits.

Dr. Neal Barnard: Meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped by about 10% in the past decade.

Gene Baur: Among the most compelling information showing that people oppose factory farming and desire plant-based alternatives are the growing number of farmers’ markets, and the growing demand and sales of plant based and organic foods.

See You Soon!

This Q&A panel is just one of many wonderful opportunities to learn from the best of the best. Enjoying the session? Take a pic! Enter our Photo Contest for the chance to win $200 onboard credit for the 2019 cruise. Bon voyage!

Enter to Win: Cruise Photo Contest 2018!

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Photo by @powered_by_vegies (Hollie Kempton and Dr. Michael Greger)

Photo by powered_by_vegies: 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.)

In addition to being inspirational, fun, and educational, Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise is also very photogenic! From the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea to the colorful plant-based dishes expertly prepared by world-class chefs, there is no shortage of subjects and scenes to capture and remember forever.

Let us help you show off your photos! For the second year, we are hosting a cruise photo contest.

Use the hashtag #vegancruise whenever you post your pictures on social media, and one person will win $200 onboard credit for the 2019 cruise. The photo contest ends on March 31, 2018, so feel free to wait and post once you get back home.

Our winner last year was Hollie Kempton of Powered by Vegies (@powered_by_vegies). Check out her amazing photos on our blog here. The photo above was taken with Dr. Michael Greger. 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 either email us at photocontest@jbmediagroupllc.com or direct message them to us @hhas_vegan_cruise.

Got questions? Message us on Facebook.

Get Inspired!

Whether it’s a selfie or a shellfie (you will be traveling to beaches, after all), we hope you can snap photos that represent your experiences. Here are a few of our favorite Instagram submissions from last year’s contest.

Photo by @kristinademuth

Photo by @kristinademuth: Seemed fitting to run around the Holistic Holiday at Sea, plant-based cruise in my “okay, but first veggies” shirt and a huge plate of delicious plant-based food. What a wonderful week— dining on delicious food, meeting wonderful people, and celebrating this healthy lifestyle! Ohhh and last night’s dance party was epic!!! 🙌🏼 thanks to all my new plant- powered friends for brining their dancing shoes and wonderful positive energy! 🚢🥕🤗🌞🌴 what a vacation! #vegancruise #plantbased #lifestyle#veggies #eatyourgreens #eatmoreplants#dietitian #canonm3

Photo by @richidich

Photo by @richiedich: Today in Cozumel with @chris_rowe_pt #vegan #vegancruise#portstop #msc #mscdivina #cozumel#mexico #carribean #travel #holidays #art#fountain

Photo by @kristinademuth

Photo by @kristinademuth: Seemed fitting to run around the Holistic Holiday at Sea, plant-based cruise in my “okay, but first veggies” shirt and a huge plate of delicious plant-based food. What a wonderful week— dining on delicious food, meeting wonderful people, and celebrating this healthy lifestyle! Ohhh and last night’s dance party was epic!!! 🙌🏼 thanks to all my new plant- powered friends for brining their dancing shoes and wonderful positive energy! 🚢🥕🤗🌞🌴 what a vacation! #vegancruise #plantbased #lifestyle#veggies #eatyourgreens #eatmoreplants#dietitian #canonm3

Photo by @meg_pukel_photo

Photo by @meg_pukel_photo: She sparkles because she sees magic everywhere ✨💫⭐️💫✨ #vegancruise #her#thingsiwanttoremember

Photo by @kacieamacher

Photo by @kacieamacher: The last breakfast 😥 Seriously, breakfast was my favorite meal aboard the #vegancruise and I am so sad it’s time to head home. Every morning I enjoyed muesli with plant milk, banana, berries, steamed greens, and even miso soup! This trip challenged me to rethink my meals, making each one so filling and full of #plantpowered nutrients! I even started to enjoy eating my steamed kale or bok choy every morning!

Veggie-Friendly Places at Each Port of Call

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Our next Holistic Holiday at Sea ships off on February 15 for a ten-day Caribbean experience like no other! If you’re anything like us, you’re extra excited about not having to worry about cooking for over a week. Plus, with all the great cooking demos onboard you’ll actually leave feeling inspired to try some new things out when you get back home.

While vegan food is offered on the cruise in both sit-down and buffet styles, depending on your preference, guests are on their own if they decide to disembark the ship and explore the ports of call. (If you signed up for one of the six special tours that included a vegan lunch or snack, then you’ll be all set.) Remember that there is a vegan section on the ship’s buffet line that is available until 3:30 p.m on port days.

To help you make the most of your time in town, we rounded up the names of several places where you can expect to find vegetarian and vegan options for each of our six ports of call. We tried to find spots that were within a short walk or cab drive of where the cruise ship will be docked. We recommend doing some research and taking notes on hours and locations before boarding the ship as there will be limited internet access once you’ve set sail. Got a favorite spot that we haven’t listed here? Reach out to us!

Miami, Florida

The elegant MSC Divina will depart and arrive at the Port of Miami on Thursday, February 15 and Sunday, February 25. Here are some restaurants available within a 30-minute drive of the Port.

Bunnie Cakes

2322 NE 2nd Ave

All-vegan bakery. Each cupcake comes decorated with an edible heart. Gluten-free options.

Choices Organic Cafe

2895 McFarlane Rd

Organic food that nourishes the body. Baked fries, smoothies, burgers, and make-your-own wraps and bowls.

Eden in Eden

1248 SW 22nd St

French style. Rediscover forgotten foods and flavors. Vegan and vegetarian organic salads, soups, quiches, crepes, appetizers, and desserts.

GLAM Vegan

3301 NE 1st Ave Suite 103-1

Fast-casual dining with international flair. GLAM stands for Green Living Animals Matter. Menu includes chana masala, spaghetti and meatless balls, and jackfruit “al pastor” tacos.

Manna Life Food

80 NE 2nd Ave

Superfood juice bar and plant-based cafe. Innovative items like superfood arepas and matcha cappuccinos.

Plant Miami

105 NE 24th St

Many whole/raw choices; Certified Kosher. Inspired by Miami’s tropical climate and broad cultural influences.

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI (Sunday)

The Fruit Bowl

9400 Wheatley Center

Established in 1975, this shop specializes in fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world.

Love Livin

Pilgrim Terrace on Mafolie Hill

100% vegan restaurant featuring raw cuisine, smoothies, wines, and snacks, including gourmet popcorn. Please note this restaurant is typically closed on Sundays, but the owner said they would open for this day.

Nile Valley Restaurant

9 Norre Gade

Full-service vegan restaurant with homestyle meals and beverages.

Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis (Monday)

Ital Creations in Fari Organic Farm

Click on link above for directions

Vegan food booth at entrance to U-pick Fari Organic Farm, a quick cab drive from port. Specializes in moringa juice, veggie burgers, and fresh salads.

Lion of Judah Authentic Vital Food – Food Cart

Bay Road

Vegan food cart located along Bay Road facing the Robert L. Bradshaw’s Social Security Building.

Fort-de-France, Martinique (Tuesday)

La Saladier Bio

217-244 Zone de Gros la Jambette

About a 15-minute drive from the port, this salad shop offers guests build-your-own salads and a range of desserts.

Bridgetown, Barbados (Wednesday)

Shabba Cookshop

Deacons Rd

Located in an orange house, this restaurant is mostly vegan, but also has pescatarian and vegetarian options.

Roots Reggae Vegetarian Cafe

Cheapside Public Market, Cheapside Rd

Serves authentic Caribbean cuisine. Situated in a row of huts above Cheapside Market.

Vegan Cottage

Black Rock Main Rd

There’s no menu, but the owner brings you out a plate with a little bit of everything. Take Spring Garden Highway to Black Rock Main Road. Restaurant is about 200 yards down on the right.

Jenn Health & Beauty Cafe

BB11129, Lower Broad St

Casual dining featuring soups, stews, black eyed pea rice, fried plantains, and more.

Indian Grill

Highway 7

About 15 minutes in a cab from the port, this restaurant makes over a dozen different kinds of roti (both vegan and meat).

Juice Bar at ArtSplash Centre

Highway 7

A 16-minute drive from the port, this vegetarian friendly cafe offers salads, healthy bowls, smoothies, and juices.

Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe (Thursday)

Délices Nature

Rue Neil Armstrong

All-vegan, French-style cafe.

See you Soon!

Can’t wait until the cruise to enjoy a vegan meal? You shouldn’t have to! Enjoy a Valentine’s Day celebration with hosts Nanci Alexander and Dr. Neal Barnard of Physicians Committee at Sublime Restaurant & Bar in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on February 14, 2018, from 5:30–7:30 pm. More information and ticket sales here.

We’ll see you on February 15!

Hurry! Reserve Your Spot by These Deadlines for 2018 Excursions

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Turtle Encounter in Bridgetown (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

On February 15, the MSC Divina will set sail for our 15th annual Holistic Holiday at Sea vegan cruise, where vacation meets education on the Caribbean Sea. For this special anniversary cruise, we’re expanding the duration from seven days to ten, welcoming several new presenters to our lineup of experts in holistic wellness, nutrition, cooking, and fitness, and bringing guests to several new ports of call. Whether you’re dipping your toes in the plant-based lifestyle or have been following it for decades, we are very excited to welcome you aboard!

Our program of ship activities (viewable here) is just one part of the whole experience. While there will be plenty of lectures, workshops, boot camps, demonstrations, and time to mingle onboard, exotic ports of call have much adventure or relaxation waiting for guests off the boat, if they so desire. (There are always things to do on the ship if you aren’t feeling like disembarking that day!)

Excursions are pre-arranged experiences that take place at each of our six ports of call: Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI; Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis; Fort-de-France, Martinique; Bridgetown, Barbados; Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe; and Miami, Florida (where we start and end our journey). They range from easy and relaxing to more strenuous and active. The six excursions with a vegan lunch or snack (view here) must be reserved by January 12, 2018, and they must be prepaid. Requests for shore excursions other than the six with a vegan lunch (view here) must be submitted by February 7, 2018.

Here’s a sample of what’s available! Please note that we expect many excursions to book up quickly.

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI

Saint John Island (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

The capital city of the United States Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie is known for its Danish colonial architecture and historic towers and forts.

Want to snorkel and sightsee? We’ve got the excursion for you. The St. John Beach Tour begins with a drive along St. Thomas’ lovely southeastern coastline, with views of Pillsbury Sound and Sir Francis Drake Channel. Hop on a boat to go to St. John and the town of Cruz Bay. In an open-air vehicle, your journey takes you up and over the pretty hills of St. John. At Trunk Bay, you’ll spend some time enjoying the beach (snorkel equipment is available).

The Castaway Girl Barefoot Sail & Snorkel excursion includes a ride on the ’65 Castaway Girl catamaran to Shipwreck Cove, Buck Island. Guests will be allotted an hour and a half at Shipwreck Cove, where experienced crew and instructors will help you find a variety of sea life near the shipwreck of the Catanza Sea, 25 feet below the surface.

On the Abi Beach Getaway, attendees will make their way to Abi Beach, accessible only by boat, which is situated on the site of a former 18th-century plantation. Upon arrival, guests will be briefed on all the on-site facilities and available activities. Take a closer look at the protected reef using snorkel equipment or lounge on your beach chair and relax.

Basseterre, St. Kitts & Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis have been tourist destinations for at least 200 years, and were destinations for European nobility between the 19th and 20th centuries. Although it’s small in size, Basseterre doesn’t fall short on things to see and do.

The Sky Safari Zip Line excursion includes lines up to 1,400 feet in length and 25 stories above the ground. The experience includes five lines based at the Historic Wingfield Estate. You may even spot some monkeys frolicking among the wild fruit trees! Enjoy panoramic views of Brimstone Hill National Fortress, Old Road Village, former sugar estates, the Caribbean Sea and Mount Liamuiga, with its volcano crater ridge being the highest point in St. Kitts.

Scenic Railway Ride & Scenic Drive (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

Since 2003, the St. Kitts scenic railway train has been introducing visitors with the beauty of the island. Before then (starting in 1912), the line was used to transport sugarcane from the fields to the sugar mill in Basseterre. On the Scenic Railway Ride & Island Drive, visitors will have the opportunity to travel along the north-eastern coastline by rail, seeing spectacular views  of the water, cliffs, lush vegetation, villages, canyons, sugarcane fields, rainforest, and Mount Liamuiga in the distance.

Lace up your sneakers for the Basseterre Walking Tour where you’ll get to see the best of Basseterre on a leisurely guided walk through the city. Along the route are 19th-century St. George’s Anglican Church and the Basseterre Co-Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. Art enthusiasts will enjoy a stop at The Gallery to view works by artist Rosey Cameron Smith, known for her studies of the local monkeys (African Green Vervet) and her carnival figures.

Fort-de-France, Martinique

White beaches, coconut trees, and inland vegetation make for a picturesque visit to Fort-de-France, the capital of this French overseas territory.

Recently classified as one of the most important hotspots of biodiversity, Fort-de-France Bay is at the mouth of the Madame River. On the excursion Fort-de-France Bay Discovery with Vegan Snack, guests will board a sailing catamaran and cross the Flemist bay. One of the stops along the coast is at Bat Cave, well-known for its wide variety of marine and land wildlife, and Salomon Cape. Enjoy the beautiful beach of Anse d’Arlet village.

Waterfall from the Hiking & Peace of Mind Excursion (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

Travel through the rainforest to one of Martinique’s best rum distilleries on Folkloric Martinique & Rum Distillery Tour. Not only will this tour inform attendees on the process of making rum, but it will also please the taste buds. Sample the special rhum agricole, distilled only in Martinique and made using freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, rather than the conventional molasses.

Looking for a gentle hike? The Hiking & Peace of Mind outing will take you to the scenic Rue de la Fontaine Didier hiking trail with its lush rainforest vegetation, tropical trees, and abundance of wildlife—not to mention waterfalls! The hike ends at Absalon, where you’ll have time to rest and enjoy a drink on the banks of a small river.

Less than 20 minutes from the island’s capital Balata, you’ll find the Botanical Garden with more than 3,000 species of tropical plants and flowers. The Botanical Garden & Its Suspension Bridge excursion takes you to a replica of the Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre before stopping at the Botanical Garden.

Bridgetown, Barbados

Visitors to Bridgetown appreciate its many colonial buildings, Parliament Building, and the statue of Lord Nelson in the National Heroes Square.

On Best of Barbados, enjoy a scenic drive in the countryside to St. John’s Parish Church, perched on a cliff 800 feet above sea level. Next is Orchid World, which sits on six acres of land and features beautiful outcrops of coral, rock gardens, shady gullies and ponds. The final stop is Sunbury House, which dates back to 1650 (a fire destroyed it in 1995, but it was restored and reopened by 1996).

George Washington House (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

If you’re a history buff, book the George Washington House & Garrison Tunnels excursion, which allows you to travel back in time through historic Bridgetown. Travel to the spectacular British colonial Garrison, a UNESCO World Heritage Site established in 1789. Visit the house that George Washington spent six weeks of his life in.

Snorkel and swim with majestic sea turtles in their natural habitat in Turtle Encounter, or treat yourself to a half day of exploring Barbados’ must-see attractions from the comfort of a restore jitney bus, once common on the island’s sugarcane plantation.

Pointe-A-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

Point-A-Pitre is known for its many small markets, such as the Central Market, the Flower Market, and the Keruland Port Market. There are also many natural sights. Journey to the famous La Grande Soufrière volcano and Carbet Waterfalls with three separate cascades on the Scenic Drive and Walk to Carbet Waterfalls.

Leave the ship and treat yourself to a tour of views on the Panoramic Tour to the Pointe Des Chateaux, an incredible rock formation located at the island’s easternmost tip. A scenic drive along the southern coastline will arrive in St. Anne, a fishing village noted for its lovely seafront promenade and local handicrafts. After a refreshing drink stop, you’ll continue to the Morne-à-L’Eau, a town curiously noted for its artistic cemetery, which represents the unique black-and-white architecture of the West Indies.

Snorkel in the coral reef of the Grand-Cul-de-Sac-Marin on the Passionate Sealife and Snorkeling excursion, or sail to the tiny Îlet du Gosier, which sits opposite Gosier town just out to sea. Since 2003, the uninhabited coral isle has been under the protection of the “Conservatoire du littoral,” a French coastal protection agency founded in 1975.

Miami, Florida

Miami (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

While your Holistic Holiday at Sea experience ends in Miami, the sightseeing can continue! Three special tours end at the Miami International Airport so you can have the fun of an outing without the hassle of finding transportation back to the airport.

Additionally, the Hop On Hop Off Miami City Tour For Disembarking Guests takes guests on one of three bus routes (Beach Loop, City Loop, or Uptown Loop). All routes end at the Big Bus Central Station at the Bayside Marketplace. There’s also a Grand Tour: Everglades & Best of Miami, which is a full-day excursion for those hoping to spend some extra time in South Florida before heading home.

Book Yours While Availability Lasts!

Book today as space is limited! Visit this main Excursions page for an overview, then check out these options (vegan lunch/snack, non-vegan lunch/snack), noting the codes, prices, and titles of the excursions you’re interested in. To complete the MSC shore excursions form, you will also need your reservation number, which can be found on your cruise invoice, where it is called your “booking number.” The ship is the MSC Divina and sailing date is February 15, 2018. Once you have chosen your tours and are ready to submit your request, please click here and complete the MSC shore excursions form. You will receive a confirmation from Lorraine Travel within seven days.

Having trouble submitting your excursion request form? Please call or email Anthony Castillo at Lorraine Travel: 305.446.4433 ext. 3023 or anthony@lorrainetravel.com. Lorraine Travel office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EDT.

Remember, you can only book one excursion per day, so pick your favorites and get ready for fun!

Updated 2018 Ports of Call & Ways to Support Recovery Efforts in US Virgin Islands

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Holistic Holiday at Sea Port of Call 2013

There’s just a little over three months to go before February 15–25, 2018, when the 15th Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise sets sail. We are looking forward to a great event! We are sold out, except for a few suites. If you would like to come, but haven’t booked yet, we do have a wait list in case rooms open up! Email your name, phone number, type of room you would like, and the number in your party to info@lorrainetravel.com.

As many of you know, our original itinerary was changed by MSC Cruises due to the damage to several islands caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. With those islands focused on recovery efforts, MSC arranged for us to visit alternative destinations further south and east, in order to ensure a great vacation experience. We’re especially excited about the four ports that we will be visiting for the first time, and also about returning to St. Thomas, one of the favorite ports of past guests.

Since 2004, Holistic Holiday at Sea has been traveling throughout the Caribbean, and we feel deeply about the communities that were affected by the hurricanes. We’d like to update you on what MSC Cruises is doing and Holistic Holiday is planning in this regard.

First, we applaud the MSC Group—including the Mediterranean Shipping Company and MSC Cruises—for their engagement in both short- and long-term relief efforts, including procurement and complimentary shipping of needed goods to support the Caribbean islands most impacted by the hurricanes. These efforts are ongoing and will continue as MSC helps the Caribbean recover as quickly as possible.

Holistic Holiday at Sea president, Sandy Pukel, will be donating some of the proceeds of an onboard raffle to the recovery efforts. There will be lots of great prizes, so this is another way to contribute and hopefully win something, too!

A number of you have asked about what you can do to help. St. Thomas is the only port we will be visiting that was impacted by the hurricanes in September, and recovery efforts are well underway. Stay tuned for more updates on what we can do to help the people who feel like family in the Caribbean.

The Updated Itinerary

The MSC Divina will depart from Miami, Florida, and head to the following ports of call in the southeastern Caribbean:

  • Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI
  • Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis
  • Fort-de-France, Martinique
  • Bridgetown, Barbados
  • Point-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

You can view the itinerary here.

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 part made possible by the extension from seven days to ten. “There is extra time so we will not be pressed to fit everything in,” says Sandy Pukel, HHAS president.

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

Basseterre (Photo courtesy of MSC)

Basseterre (Photo courtesy of MSC)

Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands was founded in 1681 by Danish settlers. What was then a colonial trading post is now a bustling town. The Three Queens Fountain honors three important women who led a successful 1878 labor revolt against the Danish Government: Queen Mary, Queen Agnes, and Queen Josiah. Listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, Charlotte Amalie features charming cobblestone alleyways and 17th century Danish fortifications. The combination of old and new is any history buff’s dream.

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.

Bridgetown, Barbados

Bridgetown (Photo courtesy of MSC)

Formerly the town of Saint Michael, Bridgetown is on the southwest coast of Barbados. Known for its British colonial architecture, Bridgetown has many historic sites, such as Morgan Lewis Windmill (last operating sugar windmill in Barbados), St. John’s Parish Church, National Heroes Square, and the oldest Jewish synagogue in the western hemisphere.

A city on the island of Grand-Terre in Guadeloupe, Pointe-à-Pitre is a fashion hub with a vibrant marketplace. The smell of aromatic spices will greet you in the marketplace where you can find locally woven fabric and fresh fruits and vegetables. Beautiful French architecture awaits you, such as the Cathédrale de St-Pierre et St-Paul, nicknamed the “Iron Cathedral” because of its iron girders.

Caribbean Hurricane Relief Organizations

US Virgin Islands Recovery

Here you can donate directly to St Thomas and “100% of your donation will benefit those in crisis” (via Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands).

Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has been operating in the USVI for more than 25 years. It has supported past relief efforts in the region and is working closely with government and community providers to identify priorities and direct resources for immediate needs as well as long-term recovery efforts.

YouCaring 21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund

Former San Antonio Spurs basketball star Tim Duncan, who grew up on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, created the 21 U.S. Virgin Island Relief Fund when Irma hit the island. Now, in the aftermath of Maria, the fundraising goal has been increased to $5 million. Duncan matched the first $1 million in donations. $2,742,158 has been raised so far by 21,538 donors. The goal is $5,000,000.

Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)

CDEMA is a regional, inter-governmental agency for disaster management in the Caribbean. Members include the Virgin Islands, Barbuda and Dominica—all territories devastated by the recent storms. Donations to the CDEMA Hurricane Relief Fund will be used to purchase relief supplies and support early recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Our thoughts are with everyone affected by these hurricanes and we will continue to update you on our efforts to ensure an amazing experience for our guests and support efforts of rehabilitation in the US Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands.

A Holistic Cruise for All Ages: Tips from Parents on Vegan Travel

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Do you remember your favorite vacation from childhood? It was probably packed with activities, interesting sights and sounds, and new friends. At Holistic Holiday at Sea, we want our annual voyage to appeal to people of all ages, from the curious toddler to the seasoned world traveler. We work hard to create a fun, healthy experience that every member of your family can enjoy.

Kane and Donavon Borchert on HHAS in Jamaica

Parents tell us over and over again that one of the most special aspects of Holistic Holiday at Sea is the fact that all of the activities and amenities cater to all generations. Our vegan cruise is by no means an experience for adults only. Far from it!

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your next Holistic Holiday at Sea experience if you are traveling with young sailors.

Lectures & Workshops Familiarize Children with Healthy Habits

Lee Salvatore has never missed a Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise. In 2004, she attended the very first voyage with only 410 passengers. At the time, she was exploring integrative medicine and had studied with Michio Kushi. She knew that people with serious conditions were getting better when eating more plants and less meat. At the time, Lee was living in Washington, D.C. About four years ago she moved with her family to Weehawken, New Jersey.

With the cruise, she really didn’t know what she was in for. “I thought this could be something interesting,” she says. “It turned out to be much more than I expected.”

Lee was delighted by the whole experience. She says there were so many presenters on that first cruise who were on the leading edge of the plant-based movement. “They brought all these experts from all these different countries and had them speak.”

The Earnest sisters (from L to R: Brooke, Ashley, Arden & Aubrey) on HHAS in 2007

Lee and her husband Jerry Earnest have four daughters (Brooke, Arden, and twins Ashley and Aubrey Earnest). Their first HHAS cruise all together was in 2005. Brooke was age 8, Arden was 5, and Ashley and Aubrey were 4. At the time, the family was following a pescatarian lifestyle, transitioning into plant-based.

“When they were little, I brought them into some of the lectures and they would sit there and color and do drawings,” says Lee. “By being exposed to that over the years, they started adopting the language and they got old enough to understand charts, diagrams, and statistics. So, in the last few years that we all went, they would sit there and pay attention.” She says that they grew up respecting leaders in the movement, such as Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Sherry Rogers. “Even if at that point in time, the child isn’t eating that way, the information is stored in their heads. As the years went by, they understood the science.”

An Abundance of Culinary Choices

The Earnest sisters (from L to R: Ashley, Brooke, Aubrey & Arden) with Chef Mark Hanna on Holistic Holiday at Sea in 2016

Like Lee’s family in 2005, many folks new to the cruise are just beginning their transition into plant-based. While many are committed to the vegan lifestyle, some are just testing the waters. Lee wants other parents to know that non-vegan food is also available if your child hasn’t gotten used to eating those foods yet. “You can bring your children to the food area and see what they will and won’t eat. You don’t have to be stressed out that if they don’t eat the soup or what’s being offered, you still have all the options available to you.”

Children will often grab a big table and sit together during meal times. At school or friend’s houses, it may be rare that your children are surrounded by plant-based eaters. On the ship, however, your child who is perhaps transitioning to this diet and can see other children eat that way and how delicious it can be! The gourmet food is so tasty that meat-eaters can easily get hooked.

It’s a great chance to make new friendships for kids—and adults, too! “We’re one big family,” says Lee. “It’s almost like somebody handpicked really nice, compassionate, caring people and put them all on the boat. It’s very easy to make lasting friendships.”

Excursions Feed Curiosity

Donavon and Kane Borchert in Puerto Rico on HHAS

Be sure to pack your children bathing suits! While there’s so much to do on the boat, exploring ports of call is a great way to try new things. Lee has frequently done the excursions, which are organized group activities at each stop. Denise Borchert, of California, has two sons, Kane (age 16) and Donavon (12). Her family began going on the cruise in 2011 when the boys were 9 and 5, respectively. Her sons’ favorite aspects of the cruise are the parties, visiting the ports of call, and meeting people and having reunions with friends from years past. They love adventure!

Denise’s advice to parents going on the cruise for the first time is to “include your kids in everything you do (even the lectures on board!), have fun with them in the ports (going on the beach, snorkeling, ziplining, exploring, etc.), and going to all of the social events, and meeting new people.”

The Talent Show Brings People Together

The Earnest sisters playing violin on Holistic Holiday at Sea in 2007

Many cruise goers remember Lee’s daughters from their performances in the Talent Show. In 2005, with violins in hand, the girls played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” for the audience. They also performed for an audience of only children in the kids area. Over the years, Ashley went from violin to viola and Aubrey went from violin to cello, while Brooke and Arden stayed with violin. They are now a complete quartet and attending conservatories for music.

The Talent Show is open to everyone and people are encouraged to bring their instruments (or other talent tools) and sign up!

MSC’s Onboard Childcare Services Offer Peace of Mind

Safety is always our number one priority aboard the ship. The MSC ship has professional and experienced childcare staff to accommodate adults and their children.

Want childcare so you can get an hour-long massage or stroll around the boat? Free baby care and childcare is available while the ship is sailing and during disembarkation for excursions. The Mini Club is reserved for children under three years old to play and mingle. The MSC Cruises Kids’ Club is a free service designed for children between the ages of 3 to 17. Four separate Kids’ Club programs are available, tailored to specific age groups. MSC has partnered with the largest baby brand in Europe, Osservatorio Chicco Baby Research Center, to offer guests free baby essentials, including strollers, backpacks, and high chairs, among other useful items.

MSC Kids’ Club Activities include popular sporting games, arts and crafts, theater, and technology. Onboard space dedicated to the Kids’ Club Program has expanded and kids can now use other areas of the ship, including the disco, theater, and sports courts.

Whether you’re 2 or 92, there’s something for everyone on the MSC Divina. Join us on the 2018 and make family memories that will last a lifetime!

Want to Win a Vegan Cruise? Here’s How!

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What’s the only thing better than spending ten days sailing to exotic ports in the southeastern Caribbean on Holistic Holiday at Sea’s vegan cruise? Doing it absolutely free. This summer, we are going to make that happen for two lucky people!

Introducing our Summer Sweepstakes, open to all first-time Holistic Holiday at Sea guests! At the close of the sweepstakes—which runs July 10 through August 11—one winner will receive two complimentary cruise tickets for our special 15th anniversary Holistic at Sea Voyage to Wellness, February 15–25, 2018. Whether you’re a seasoned vegan or just becoming curious about plant-based nutrition, this experience is perfect for you.

Yoga for all levels.

It’s a life-changing conference, celebration, and vacation—all rolled into one! More than 150 lectures and workshops will be offered by leading authorities in plant-based living and animal advocacy. Featured presenters include Rip Esselstyn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Ingrid Newkirk, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Greger, and Gene Baur, among many others. When you’re not attending lectures and participating in fitness activities, make your way to one of the dining rooms where talented chefs prepare gourmet plant-based meals three times a day—or stop by the vegan buffet for a more casual meal.

Exciting ports of call include Martinique; St. Kitts and Nevis; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Freeport, Bahamas. Choose an excursion in advance, or enjoy exploring the islands on your own.

Gene Baur

Aboard the luxurious MSC Divina, you’ll have no trouble finding something that sparks your interest, whether it’s a dip in the hot tub, game in the casino, or a breath of fresh air from the deck to greet the sunrise. Meet like-minded individuals and create memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoy nightly entertainment, socials, and lots of chances to hit the dance floor.

Your first Holistic Holiday at Sea will coincide with our 15th anniversary celebration, which will be full of reasons to celebrate. We recently put out a history of our vegan cruise on our blog that shares some of our fondest memories and facts that show just how far the plant-based movement has come since 2003.

In addition to two tickets, the winner will also receive tickets to free Cooking Boot Camps, yearly membership to Plant Meal Planner by Hannah Janish (“High Carb Hannah”), signed copies of the “No Meat Athlete” Matt Frazier’s books, signed copy of Robert Cheeke’s Shred It!!! and more!

Find out more information and enter the sweepstakes here. We’ll see you soon!

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.

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!

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