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!
After 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!).
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.”
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!