8

Vegan Cruising To Kangaroo Island on the Pacific Jewel

So, this is going to contain a fair bit of first world problem whining.

We’ve just returned from a four night P&O cruise to Kangaroo Island in South Australia. I wasn’t that keen on another cruise, my first being a Dawn Princess four nighter to Tasmania in 2014, but we had an offer for something like a 75% discount. And I’d always wanted to see Kangaroo Island, plus I like a little research for the blog, so off we went.

Armed with information based on that previous experience, I knew how I had to order in the main dining room to get a vegan meal. I checked with P&O beforehand about vegan meals. Yes, we cater for that, they said.

I’ll let you be the judge of that. Oh, and they clearly catered for bed bugs in my bed because I’m currently covered in massive bites from head to toe and my doctor said I’m the most interesting patient he’s seen in weeks (after his very sympathetic “ewwww owwwww yes that’s bed bugs”). Yay for antibiotics.

So, cruise ships have a main dining room (the fancier restaurant looking places) and the more casual eating areas like the traditional buffet. The Pacific Jewel, like some other ships, has done away with the buffet concept and now has different outlets you can get food from. The main dining room is called the Waterfront and you can get breakfast, lunch or dinner from a set menu.

The deal is you go to the head waiter or maitre d’ the day before you want your meal and arrange to have something veganised from the menu, or something else. On the day we boarded I went straight to the Waterfront to organise a vegan meal for that night, which was still okay. Vegetarian meals are marked, but nothing else is. The best they could do was a rice paper roll starter, which was already on the menu so I’m wondering if it was vegan by default, then a penne in a tomato sauce with mushrooms for my main:

The penne was nice enough but just not mind blowing and it’s what I make at home, whereas all the other meals served were the fancy things. Still, we were there to celebrate my mum’s birthday, so this was satisfactory:

They gave me plain boiled veggies on the side. I mixed them in to the pasta:

I had ordered sorbet but all they had in the end was… the chilled fruit plate. The ‘dessert’ equivalent of the dreaded vegie stack:

I decided to give the Waterfront another shot for the last dinner on the ship. They were able to make me spaghetti in tomato sauce for my main and mini spring rolls (which tasted exactly like the ones from the freezer section). A little basil garnish would have been nice at least. What do you think? Again, tasted fine and was a decent portion size but yeah:

I never got to have sorbet after all, boo.

The Pantry is made of a number of different food outlets that replaced the buffet. There’s the Curry House (Indian), Mexicana (Mexican), Kettle and Bun (for salad stuffs), Stix (Asian), and a handful of others.

I know what you’re thinking. Veganopoulous ate heaps from the Curry House, that lucky girl! I’m here to tell you again, like I did in 2014, that THEY FREAKING PUT BUTTER IN  E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. In the dal, butter. In the chickpea masala, butter. Butter in the saffron rice, butter in the teriyaki rice, butter on the roast potatoes, butter in the veg curry, butter everywheeere. WHY WHY WHYYYYY do they persist in doing this?! They have dairy intolerant people on the ship who register their dietary restrictions beforehand (you can tell who they are because they’re asking for soy milk). Why add dairy to dishes that don’t need it? Teriyaki rice doesn’t need butter! Gahhh.

Another big frustration is that serving staff, and often the more uniformed kitchen staff can not tell you if something has dairy in it. Okay I can sort of ‘get’ how they may not understand vegan, but the same applied to people asking about gluten free meals. Serving staff just didn’t know so every time someone asks about the food, the serving staff have to stop and go back in to the kitchen, which holds up the big queues and people get shitty and serving staff don’t always want to hold up the line that way. Hardly anyone knew what vegan meant and some didn’t know what gluten free meant. I don’t fault the staff, but clearly something needs to be done to educate staff and bring them up to speed on what this all means.

Also, the menus are planned in advanced and all the signs and labels are printed out. Why not include whether something is gluten free, or vegan, or whatever? If they can do this for breakfast and write the amount of fibre or such, they should do it for their other foods.

Okay, big whinge over. Here are some of the foods I was told were vegan, or rather, didn’t have egg/dairy/meat. I’m still not convinced everything shown below is in fact vegan.

From Curry House, I was told this was a vegan meal: plain rice, the vegetable sambal and salad. This was okay and hit the spot given how hungry I was:

Another Curry House meal was the is-it-really-vegan cumin potatoes with the I-really-hope-it’s-vegan biryani:

I figured Mexicana was a safer bet. No, not always. Butter in the rice too, now and then. I was told these Mexican potatoes were cooked in oil, no butter.  Ditto for the Mexican bean rice. The taco is just lettuce and salsa:

Another day I had the jalapeno rice with potatoes, guacamole and a taco. Another passable meal:

At the start of the trip, a serving staff told me to talk to the manager of The Pantry to find out what I could eat. I found the manager (I think he was the manager) and he pointed me to Kettle and Bun, which is raw salad and beans from a can. Yeah nah.

Another day I noticed an important looking chef walking around the area so I asked him if he could tell me what was vegan. He said “what would you like to have?” Ehh?! So I showed him the Mexicana bain-marie which had capsicums stuffed with beans but topped with cheese and said that looks good minus the cheese. So he arranged for the kitchen to make me a vegan version. Much appreciated! It took about fifteen minutes though, but that was fine. I commented positively on this and the chef said “if you don’t ask, you don’t get!”. I wish I’d thought to ask the chef the previous days but from the start I felt like the annoying pain in the arse vegan.

Another Mexicana meal was paprika rice and a bean casserole:

Things must be dire if you consider fries to be one of the highlight meals of the trip:

I was holed up in the cabin for the first full day because of sea sickness. I couldn’t stomach food but husband brought me a plate of boiled veg, the star highlight being zucchini that was overboiled by about ten minutes:

I didn’t get to have breakfast in the Waterfront, despite being told they could put together items from the big breakfast (tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, avocado) and that the vanilla bean porridge with stewed rhubarb was vegan (made with water, not milk). But porridge with water has always grossed me out so I went to the Pantry again for cereal and peaches. When I saw the carton of soy milk that said suitable for vegans, I nearly cried:

I got a vegetarian-minus-cheese pizza from a cafe on Kangaroo Island. It was okay, the kind of thing that seems fabulous when you’re really hungry:

On to some of the worst meals. This was the vegetable sushi. I had some nice looking pieces but then ended up being served what you see below. This is before I started eating. No points for presentation… the rice was also dry and bland but at least they offered soy sauce and wasabi. By this time though, I considered the sushi rolls a lifesaver:

These noodles were just labeled vegetable noodles at the Stix outlet. I stopped eating after one forkful and noticed quite a few plates lying around where others must clearly have shared my thoughts:

Hmmm, looking at all those photos it kinda doesn’t seem so bad. I guess when you’re so hungry and surrounded by chillis and curries that are probably vegan except for the BUTTER EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME, it seems like there’s nothing. I did find it all very same-same, I mean you go on a cruise to enjoy food too, you know?

I liked the portion sizes they served you, but you can always ask for more. On the whole my non-vegan family weren’t that impressed with the foods. They said stuff was either too salty, too sweet, or too dry (mum said some of the cakes were terrible). There were ‘donuts’ for breakfast one morning which were clearly just bread rolls in a donut shape and iced, or the croissants which weren’t very croissant like, according to my family. They did enjoy their meals at the Waterfront though.

Enough whinge! On to Kangaroo Island (KI)! 

We had two full days at sea, then on the third day we docked at Kangaroo Island at 7am. We booked a too-expensive four hour coach tour which was pretty disappointing. The bus driver guide was great, but the tour was pretty bland and others I spoke to felt the tour could be so much better and more detailed. We saw a seal though, which made up for a bit of the disappointment.

Here are some interesting facts we learned on the tour:

  • KI has a serious problem with feral cats and pigs. Ditto for turkeys and koalas. The cats are destroying the wildlife and the pigs are damaging the land, but the pigs have mostly been driven to the west of the island.
  • KI is Australia’s third largest island (first is Tasmania, second is Melville Island).
  • Koalas were being culled and there was was a massive outcry when the story made it to the media. People were boycotting KI and as KI heavily relies on tourism, the culling stopped. Instead, the koalas were captured and sterilised and the trees were GPS tagged. While this had some success, it is still a problem because the koalas the parks authority did not capture continued to breed. The introduction of koalas has resulted in the koalas’ preferred food source (manna gum) being close to local extinction.
  • In 1802 British explorer Matthew Flinders named the island Kanguroo Island due to the western grey kangaroo being everywhere.
  • French explorer Nicolas Baudin came soon after, and he was the first to circumnavigate the island. This is why some places on KI have French names.
  • Although France and England were at war, Flinders and Baudin met peacefully and exchanged information.
  • KI’s population is just over 4000. There are about 180,000+ tourists annually.
  • KI has the only pure bred disease-free Ligurian honey bee. Because of this, there are very strict quarantine regulations in place about bringing in any bee keeping equipment and bee products.
  • KI has South Australia’s only eucalyptus oil distillery, using the KI narrow leaf mallee.
  • There are no traffic lights on KI.
  • There are no foxes or rabbits. Foxes weren’t introduced though rabbits were, but it’s thought that goannas would eat the rabbits as they burrow.
  • The western grey kangaroos are shorter and stockier to help them push through dense brush.

Our coach tour took us to the town of Kingscote (everything was closed) and the lighthouse at Cape Willoughby. The tour had some rough, rocky roads that made our teeth and spines rattle– really not okay for the senior citizens so at the very least, there should have been a warning on the tour brochures!

I would have enjoyed the cruise more if I hadn’t been so sea sick and covered in bed bug bites. That, and the butter in everything. But there’s a good schedule of activities and we enjoyed the trivia, a talk by a Titanic enthusiast, live shows and the family party-discos. So glad to be home though!

 

12

Vegan Eats In Warrnambool: Day Kitty, Brightbird Espresso, Fishtales Cafe, Brown Grain Thai

Day Kitty Warrnambool

We had a short holiday down in Warrnambool, thanks to a gift voucher we received for some accommodation. Warrnambool is a former port city on the south-west coast of the state of Victoria and about a three hour drive from Melbourne. I haven’t been there since I was kid, about thirty years ago I’d say. Of course I did all my veganny research last week and was pretty pleased to see I’d have quite a few vegan friendly places to eat. A shout out goes to Natalie from the vegan blog Appetite Affliction for recommending places to try.

Let’s go Warrnambool!

DAY KITTY

52B KEPLER STREET

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First up is Day Kitty. I can’t find a Facebook page for them but here’s an article. There was a bit of a queue which I was glad about because I was having trouble deciding what to get. There was a good amount of vegan/vegan option meals on the menu but fortunately at the last minute I noticed a little daily specials board on the counter with what is one of my favourite meals ever (no matter from where): crumbed tofu curry don. I didn’t need to look at the menu after that, but I did look at the desserts cabinet and chose the raw banana peanut mesquite cheesecake (there were about three raw vegan desserts if I remember correctly). The crumbed tofu was excellent and I decided I’d go there again and cross my fingers that they’d have this special running for the week. That’s the meal up there in the top photo. Really, really good. Warrnambool, we were off to a most excellent start!

I was a little dubious about the cheesecake and wondered if it had been in the cabinet a little too long, but it tasted great. I forgot to ask if the desserts were made on site or purchased from a supplier but regardless, this was delicious:

Day Kitty Warrnambool

I went back a couple days later hoping I’d see the crumbed tofu curry don one last time but alas! Devastation. It was about 10:15am and I didn’t feel like anything that wasn’t more brunch-y (apart from the tofu curry don, which had been nice and light and not heavy at all). The only brunch option that appealed was the smashed avo on toast which I admit disappointed me a little. See, I’m a bit biased again smashed avo on toast lately. I kinda feel like it’s everywhere, you know? But I ordered it anyway because I was starving. There was a nice dollop of cashew cream and I was told it would be buttered with vegan butter. Nice! I noticed some Half Pint Vegan Dairy butter being sold there so perhaps it was that. Anyway, I really enjoyed this and have now done away with my smashed avo on toast bias. I think when it’s done well, it’s thoroughly enjoyable and Day Kitty did this really well:

Day Kitty Warrnambool

I decided not to get a sweet treat. Aaaaand then I saw ‘vegan wagon wheels’. I never liked the well known marshmallow-chocolate of the same name but since becoming vegan I love the vegan versions of stuff I formerly hated. Like gravy. Anyways, I got myself one of these raw vegan wagon wheels.I was expecting it to have the marshmallow-jam filling like the famous round chocolate bar version, but it wasn’t. Fine with me, I don’t mind what it was because it was delicious!

Day Kitty Warrnambool

Day Kitty stock a range of products catering to different dietary requirements and many ingredients common to my vegan pantry. The fridge section had Half Pint Vegan Dairy butter (Butter Me Up), tofu, tempeh, falafel and (I think) some coconut yoghurt. As well as a menu there were also other items in a cabinet like chia puddings, salads, noodle boxes and wraps. If I’m ever in Warrnambool again, I’m heading straight for Day Kitty. Service was great too.

 

BRIGHTBIRD ESPRESSO

157 LIEBIG STREET

WARRNAMBOOL

For another brunch, I checked out Brightbird Espresso. The friendly staff there told me what could be veganised. I settled for the slow cooked white beans with toast. Great choice, this was incredibly filling and really tasty. I wanted to have a second visit to Brightbird but ran out of time. This dish rekindled my love of slow cooked white beans and I would happily order this again if I went back:

Brightbird Espress Warrnambool

 

FISHTALES CAFE

63 LIEBIG STREET

WARRNAMBOOL

With a name like Fishtales Cafe, you’d be forgiven for thinking this sounds like a regular old school fish and chip seafood family restaurant kinda place. Except they have a big colourful board out the front boasting a huge vego, vegan and coeliac range. I’d heard about Fishtales Cafe from a few vegan sources and was confident it would be a good place to eat with the fam, where we’d all find something we like. We stood in the doorway for a while looking at the menu. There’s no set vegan menu (or vegetarian), so vegan options are peppered throughout the pages making it a little overwhelming (it would be better if everything veg*n was in one section). I gave up and decided to ask for help once we sat down. Staff were helpful with pointing out what I could have. I chose the veg satay and asked for tofu to be added and they were happy to do that. This came with rice underneath and was really tasty and quite a good serving size. Really enjoyable and a lesson not to judge a restaurant by its vegan unfriendly name!

Fishtales Cafe Warrnambool

Again I was impressed by another cafe offering raw vegan desserts in their cabinet. There were truffle/bliss balls, a mint chocolate cheesecake and this Snickers style cheesecake. Once more I forgot to ask if they make their own raw vegan desserts or get them in but I was too busy stuffing my face to care:

Fishtales Cafe Warrnambool

The family all enjoyed their meals and this would be our first stop to eat out as a family if we find ourselves in Warrnambool again.

 

BROWN GRAIN THAI

190 TIMOR STREET

WARRNAMBOOL

I got to have dinner on my own because the fam went off to a pizza place. I’d heard that Brown Grain Thai can veganise meals for you and I was told by friendly stuff that the curries (red, green, jungle, Penang, yellow curries) were (or could be made, I don’t remember) vegan. I went with the Penang curry as I wasn’t in the mood for anything too hot. This was excellent and probably one of the nicest Thai restaurant meals I’ve had.

Brown Grain Thai, Warrnambool

I tried to check out as many vegan friendly looking places as I could (by looking at menus in windows). I didn’t have a chance to eat at The Liebig at 76 Liebig Street, but here’s a photo of the menu in the window:

The Liebig Restaurant Warrnambool

* * *

We took a short day trip to Port Fairy. I had a list of places I’d found online that were listed as vegan friendly. Unfortunately they were all busts. If you’re going to advertise yourself as having vegan options, that should mean you have genuine vegan options. Not one lonely “we can remove the eggs” avo on toast meal where the staff seem surprised that you ask if something else is added in place of the eggs they will remove. So it was pretty disappointing to drive around to these ‘vegan friendly’ places only to see they didn’t have anything. Sad (and annoyed) face.

SLITTI CAFE

10 BANK STREET

PORT FAIRY

Slitti Cafe did tell me they could make me a falafal wrap/sandwich which I would have ordered, had it not been for me eating falafel and hummus back at our holiday cabin. I love falafel, I love hummus, but I very quickly get hummus-falafel overload. Staff were friendly and pointed out which of their chocolates on display were vegan (dark chocs, chocolate bark with hazenuts) as well as being able to make me vegan hot chocolates. Tempting, but I went for the raw vegan mini chocolate covered Christmas pudding. This was so thick I could barely stick my fork through it but in a good way! Loved it and I would definitely stop in again if we pass through Port Fairy in the future.

Slitty Cafe Port Fairy

The family had morning tea at Clonmara Tearoom. There wasn’t anything vegan available though I had done my research and ate beforehand. DeeW enjoyed a huge scone she proclaimed as “the greatest scone I’ve ever tasted” with raspberry jam (she’s vegetarian). Staff were really friendly and we browsed around the gift shop for a while. It’s a lovely little place (Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe has blogged about her visit there in 2013) with a small tearoom inside and courtyard seating out the back. I loved the garden view through the window. While the family I ate, I entertained myself by thinking up what I would serve in an all-vegan tearoom:

Clonmara Tearoom window

 

We did some of the touristy things in Warrnambool, like visiting the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village and museum. We went on a weekday and there was nobody there so we had the 1870s (and ducks!) to ourselves.

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village Warrnambool Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village Warrnambool Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village Warrnambool Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village Warrnambool

We took a drive to Hopkins Falls Scenic Reserve:

Hopkins Falls Scenic Reserve

and spent a bit of time at the beach. Beautiful sunny weather, a cool sea breeze and fortunately the awful weather started on the day we were leaving!

Warrnambool beach

I was really pleased to see that Warrnambool has a number of vegan friendly places to eat so if you’re heading there, you’ll be alright if the above places appeal to you. Just check opening and closing times as Fishtales for example said they were open til late, but when we went out on a Thursday evening they were closing up before it was what we’d consider late. If we had more time there I would have contacted the Clovelly Restaurant in advance (as recommended by Natalie in her blog post mentioned above), gone to The Liebig Restaurant and Cactus Jam. There were a few pizza places too where I’d guess some of the pizza bases are vegan.

All in all, a nice holiday with lots of good vegan food!

8

A Bus Tour Around Melbourne

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This past weekend, the family and I went on a double decker bus tour of Melbourne. Yes, our home town! Husband had bought some cheap discounted tickets and we figured this would be a good educational activity on a pleasant day where we could pretty much sit down the whole time. We took two tours, the first around Melbourne and the second down to St. Kilda.

It was educational for all of us but by far the best fact we learned was that Melbourne could very well have been called Batmania. Missed it by that much!

This post is a little photo heavy so I’ll keep the text to a minimum. Here are images from around Melbourne and down to St. Kilda, taken from the top deck of the bus. While I would recommend the bus tours, especially if you find Groupon or Scoopon discounts, please I beg tourists not to believe that all Australians talk with ‘Aussie slang’ like the tour commentary may make you believe! Plenty of us say ‘wine’, not ‘bottle of plonk’!

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There are quite a few bus tours around Melbourne, as well as the Melbourne visitor shuttle bus. There’s also the free Melbourne City Circle tram. If you’re visiting our city there will be loads of family friendly options for bus tours, though we all found the speakers on the bus to be unbearably loud and lots of children were covering their ears!

9

Lunch At Another Mother, Burnie Tasmania

After my initial dismay at the vegan food options on board the Dawn Princess, I was glad I came prepared for our first port excursion to the town of Burnie, on Tasmania’s northwest coast. I’d looked up vegan options for Burnie beforehand and the only result seemed to be a vegan-friendly cafe called Another Mother.

Arthur and I did a little sightseeing before my growling stomach got the better of me. We mercifully discovered our tour bus dropped us off around the corner from Another Mother. You couldn’t get me in there fast enough:

Another Mother, Burnie TAS

I really liked the decor you can see in the photos, though vegans be warned there are animal hides on the floor:

Another Mother, Burnie TAS

Another Mother, Burnie TAS

There was a menu board listing many non-vegan options but two looked vegan. A very friendly, helpful member of staff told me the risotto was vegan as they used Massel stock (don’t you love that level of knowledge?!) but the brown rice burger I wanted wasn’t available, though they had a pumpkin cashew pumpkin seed burger instead that was vegan. Yes please!

My burger was served on a bed of brown rice, currants, orange and some greens along with some chutney. It was a very welcome and delicious meal and incredibly filling too. I’m glad I got to stuff myself because all I had to look forward to on the ship was the salad bar:

Another Mother, Burnie TAS

I had a really good experience at Another Mother and would happily recommend it to people looking for a vegan friendly cafe. I didn’t ask about dessert so I don’t know what vegan options they have. If I’m ever in Burnie again, I’ll be going back!

Another Mother

14 Cattley Street

Burnie, TAS

 

Our port day in Burnie saw us catching private shuttle buses in to town. The first stop on our tour was the Burnie Maker’s Workshop. What a brilliant place! Artists and craftspeople create their products there in front of you and you can purchase them as well:

makers workshop burnie glass

Makers Workshop Burnie

I loved this beautiful handmade paper sculpture by Ruth Rees and Pam Thorne:

Rees and Thorne paper sculpture Makers' Workshop Burnie

Arthur and I went on a paper making tour. Here we are watching some paper being made from kangaroo poo. We were fascinated with this tour, and Darren Simpson of Creative Paper explained how he makes paper from apple pulp, denim jean offcuts, wombat poo, seeds and more. He even makes paper with seeds in it, so that you can plant the paper when you no longer need it. The photo below is of a poo paper (though the brown stuff wasn’t all poo!):

Makers Workshop Burnie paper making

Our next stop was the Burnie Regional Museum. Arthur and I really enjoyed this the ‘100 Years 100 Objects: World War 1‘ exhibition.  Well, I’m not sure ‘enjoyed’ is the right word, given some of the information we were reading about experiences of World War 1. But the exhibition was very well put together. We saw people weaving and making lace, though Arthur loved the free ANZAC biscuits on offer:

Burnie Regional Museum

Burnie Regional Museum

Burnie Regional Museum

We also looked at the Federation Street exhibit which shows life in Burnie around 1900:

Burnie Regional Museum

After the museum we walked around the main shopping strip before catching a bus back to the ship.Burnie buildings

 

Our second port day was in Port Arthur. Port Arthur is a former convict settlement in Tasmania. Arthur and I did a pretty quick tour as it was hot and we were both fairly tired. Lots of uphill walking and beautiful scenery:

Port Arthur

Port Arthur

Our final Tasmanian destination was the capital city of Hobart. I love Hobart and blogged about last year’s visit. I was a bit annoyed to arrive there on a Sunday, which meant missing out on the famous Salamanca market (held on Saturdays). I was double annoyed to learn that the two vegan places I wanted to visit were also closed on Sunday which meant a sorry trek back to the ship’s salad bar.

Around Hobart

Around Hobart

Around Hobart

Around Hobart

Arthur and I did get to go on one of those 90 minute hop on-hop off double decker bus tours, though we stayed on the bus the whole time. I took photos of the beautiful houses and streets through the back window of the very bumpy bus but they didn’t turn out that great, so here’s the best one:

Around Hobart

 

I would have liked to visit these locations in more depth, especially Hobart as I’d love to walk around the hilly streets (on my own, without kids, taking my time!) Hopefully we’ll get to go back one day.

25

A Vegan Cruising On The Dawn Princess

We’ve just returned from a five night cruise around Tasmania aboard the Dawn Princess. We left Melbourne last Thursday and sailed to Burnie, Port Arthur, Hobart then back to Melbourne. Even though we’ve been back for a day, I still have that sensation of the floor moving. Urgh! I will confess right now that I didn’t want to go. The day before we were set to depart, we got notified about a norovirus outbreak and we were now to depart hours later because the ship was being disinfected. It didn’t help ease my mind about a cruise where I knew I would be feeling sick anyway!  I get terrible motion sickness, I can barely watch children on a swing without feeling dizzy. Husband was all “on such a large ship you can’t feel the motion as much”.

Well, he lied. I can tell you folks that you can absolutely feel the motion! Husband tried to comfort me by saying “this motion is nothing, on my cruise the drawers were falling out of the desk”. And he told me you can’t feel the motion? Lies! I had brought along some travel sickness tablets which didn’t help much.

Apart from feeling a little sick, the cruise was pretty good with great weather. Following now is my review, but it is from the perspective of a vegan traveler.

Embarkation involved joining a looong queue at Station Pier in Port Melbourne. Fortunately the queue moved relatively quickly, it took us fifteen minutes and there were lots of staff members at the desks. We were able to leave our suitcase and have it delivered outside our stateroom.

Stateroom sounds rather fancy. In reality, we had interior cabins (DeeW and I in one, Husband and Arthur next door). You know, the cheapest cabin possible with no window:

stateroom

That’s the room before we messed it up. That’s a luggage mat on the right bed. Below is the bathroom, the shower is on the left (not shown):

stateroom

We had a room steward meet us and he was our friendly contact for anything we needed. Our room was made up beautifully every time.

Arthur and DeeW had fun riding in ‘the great glass elevator’. You can see the band stand and chairs for the string quartet in this photo. There was also a pianist so we had music many times throughout the day. Lots of Christmas trees and decorations around too:

dawn princess promenade deck

There were many scheduled activities and we would receive a newsletter every day letting us know what was happening. The entertainment staff did a great job and you could see they clearly enjoyed themselves! Here’s the Vista Lounge where many activities took place:

dawn princess vista lounge

I went to trivia style games hosted by cruise staff. Husband and I won a bottle of champagne on one night, on the second night I was solo but was invited to join a team of four elderly people. Thanks to me knowing the answer to “which singer’s hips don’t lie”, we won. Everyone else answered ‘Elvis’ 😉 There was line dancing, a 70s night (people REALLY get in to this stuff. You know the whole ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ thing? Lots of solo people doing just that), some musical theatre-ish shows (I really enjoyed the Moments To Remember show), a cooking demo by the executive chef and lots of activities geared towards elderly passengers, who made up most of the cruise. Gotta hand it to the senior travelers, they sure now how to dance and have a good time!

Arthur and DeeW had the Kids Club and to be honest I thought it would be some kind of watered down playgroup scenario in a small space. Boy was I wrong. It was fantastic and the staff were really good. The kids loved it:

dawn princess kids club

dawn princess kids club

The pictures above show the main room for the younger kids, where DeeW spent all her time. Not shown is the older kids room where Arthur went. Every time I had my camera, the room was full of kids so I didn’t want to take pics. That room had gaming consoles, booths and couches for activities. Arthur wanted to try every activity they had scheduled such as yoga and country western (involving Wii games and crafts like making cowboy hats and bandanas), badge making and other fun stuff. DeeW mostly did crafts, played some Wii games with other kids and they also had a pizza lunch party. There’s also another space for teens. A word of warning though, some of the activities and games put on by the staff were basically casino style betting games. I know not all parents are comfortable with this. Also, there were some arcade style games and one was a rifle game where you hunt animals– obviously being vegan this is something I was unhappy about, though some of the non-vegan parents were unhappy about a shooting game too.

I can highly recommend the Kids Club, we had no hesitation leaving Arthur and DeeW there. Parents must sign the children in and out and pagers are available. You need photo ID to sign your child out. Older children can sign themselves in but not sign out. Arthur and DeeW both say they loved Kids Club. Arthur in particular surprised us by trying everything. He even had a turn at karaoke, something we would never have thought he’d try! The staff member in charge used to be a school psychologist and she told me she now has the best job in the world. I believe her, given how involved she was with the kids and how happy she was to be with them!

There is of course the pool deck, with two small-ish sized pools and jacuzzi. You can get towels in your stateroom or from a table near the pool. There was a big screen above the pool area so you could watch the movie and swim at the same time if that’s your thing. There were some scheduled pool deck games. For those of you who grew up watching the Love Boat, yes there really is such a thing as shuffleboard!

dawn princess pool deck

dawn princess pool deck

It took me four days to locate the library on deck 7. Turns out you have to go in past the Internet cafe:

dawn princess library

There was an art gallery, with a silent art auction:

dawn princess art gallery

There were bars and lounges scattered around the ship, some with live music and dancing:

dawn princess wheelhouse bar

There was an exhibition of old Hollywood photos and other memorabilia:

old hollywood exhibition

old hollywood exhibition

I used the gym facility. There are a number of cardio machines like bikes, cross trainers and treadmills. There are dumbells but no barbells or kettlebells. The dumbells were in pounds and in 5lb jumps. From memory the machines are chest press, cable machine where you can do a variety of moves like chest and triceps, straight leg press, preacher curls, leg extension and a lat pulldown machine, though the bar was up so high I couldn’t reach it! The gym had a water fountain and towels were supplied. Outside the gym is a small pool and jacuzzi. I planned to use the gym again but felt too sick, so I only got to use it once. Although it’s obviously not a fully kitted out gym, it is suitable enough if you are confident with changing your routine to match the equipment available. There were also scheduled aerobics classes but unfortunately these clashed with other things we had planned. Like sleep: some of the classes were very early morning before DeeW and I were up!

Now let’s talk about the food! Welllll in general I wasn’t really that happy but other times I appreciated the staff trying to help me. I’ll break this down in to the Horizon Court buffet and the main dining room. Please excuse some of the photos, I sometimes used my phone in low light conditions!

Horizon Court Buffet

horizon court

I was told beforehand, by a Princess cruises employee, that the servers at the buffet would not know what was in the meals. I found this to be true, though some of the servers were, I believe, sous chefs (dressed differently to the servers, though I didn’t always get to read what their badges said) and were able to tell me if something had butter in it.

Well, butter was pretty much in everything. I was very disappointed (and to be honest, damn annoyed) that the healthier options like steamed vegetables or baked pumpkin were coated in butter. Green beans? Coated in butter. Asian stir fried vegetables? Butter. Indian pulao rice? Butter. I was happy to see a label saying channa masala but knew better than to think I could get lucky and have it be vegan. Sure enough, butter and cream.

This means that vegan travelers, or those who can not have dairy (like me) had to pretty much eat plain salad and fruit with a dressing of say balsamic vinaigrette. Even the bread rolls had a shiny top which may have been a non-vegan glaze. Health conscious travelers who don’t want all the high fat dishes were also doomed to the salad bar. There was a pasta with tomato sauce which would have been great, had it not been for the parmesan mixed in to it. Husband isn’t vegan but he hates parmesan with a passion (the smell makes him sick) so this ruled him out too and other diners who hate parmesan. Even as a non-vegan it always bothered me when pasta arrived with parmesan on it. Not everyone wants that!

So here are some photos of what I ate from the buffet. Look, it’s a little tear-inducing. But looking at the bright side, I’m still following a nutrition plan where I have to basically eat healthy wholefoods. So for that reason, I did actually feel glad there were no big temptations for me because I can tell you now that if there was a cashew alfredo available, I would have fought people for it.

dawn princess horizon court

dawn princess watermelon

Hello breakfast! And dessert:

dawn princess horizon court

horizon court buffet breakfast2

This was a special day because there were ROAST POTATOES. Can you imagine seeing roast potatoes after days of fruit?!

horizon court buffet snack

horizon court buffet breakfast

Some snacks around brunch and early afternoon. I was so excited to see chickpeas one day and beans the next. That is what boring salad and non-vegan hot food options does to you:

horizon court buffet lunch

Another happy day for there was macaroni in a plain tomato sauce!

horizon court buffet lunch

The salad with sneaky ham at the bottom. Yay.

horizon court buffet lunch

The vegetable salad label said it was tossed in oil but I had one bite and couldn’t rule out butter, so I didn’t eat it:

horizon court buffet lunch

Hello raw dinners. I never want to see you again:

dawn princess horizon court

This was a special gourmet dinner. They had plain beans! Roast potatoes! Cherry tomatoes! And I took along my raw olive herb crackers from Life To You (who were at World Vegan Day Melbourne 2014):

life to you crackers

The tables in the Horizon Court Buffet were torture. They look like slabs of tofu:

tofu tables

The carpet gave me a giggle though:

horizon court carpet

 

Main Dining Room: The Venetian (with one dinner in the Florentine)

dawn princess venetian dining room

We chose the 5:45 early dinner sitting. Before the cruise, I exchanged email with a Princess employee about my dietary requirements. I was told that there has been positive feedback by vegan passengers and that I should speak to the Head Waiter or Maitre d’ to discuss my meals. Easy enough.

Unfortunately there was a bit of confusion. On the first night we had to eat much later because the ship was being disinfected and we weren’t able to board until 6pm. I spoke to our waiter and asked if there was anything that could be done for me. I explained I was vegan with a dairy intolerance (I clearly explained what vegan meant). The waiter went back to the kitchen to see if I could eat the Moroccan Vegetable stew, which was the only main meal on the menu that sounded vegan. He brought it out, after being told it was okay apparently, but it was obviously a cream dish. The waiter took it back to ask the kitchen again and this time he said yes it contains cream. I also ordered the salad with the non-Caesar dressing and was given the Caesar dressing. Not a promising start at all and I got that awful sinking feeling many a vegan has experienced. I ended up getting the only vegan option which was the chilled fruit plate. I was starving and even handled the ‘chilled’. I have sensitive teeth and don’t like chilled anything but damn, I was so hungry:

dawn princess chilled fruit plate2

The Head Waiter then came to chat to me and again, I explained the whole vegan thing. He wrote down my requirements and said he would pass it on so I was relieved. I ended up eating another fruit platter, DeeW asked for plain mango and I asked for some too.

The second night was the formal dinner. We all got dressed up, Arthur in his little Doctor Who bow tie and DeeW in a beautiful dress. Aaaand we sat down, I was given a menu and again, nothing for me but more chilled fruit. I spoke to the Head Waiter and told him the previous night I had spoken to another waiter (in the different dining room). This Head Waiter told me “I only have one request for a special meal but it contains meat”. I even saw my meat-eating Husband’s face sink on my behalf. The Head Waiter asked the name of the person I’d spoken to and I said Pete (not his real name, obviously) and went to chat to him. Apparently Pete had no idea what I was talking about. Two days later, I learned that there was another employee there called Pete and they had gone to the wrong Pete to confirm my order. Argh! I went to the buffet, got a raw salad again then at the end I saw a piece of ham on my plate. So back I went to the stateroom, turned on the TV in a big show of defeat and at least got a grin out of The Love Boat reruns. But really, I felt like this:

love boat

The third night I went back to the buffet, again feeling that kind of sinking feeling of “they just don’t get it after all the assurances when I booked”. To be honest I felt really ripped off. Husband went to the dining room for dinner and was given a copy of the next night’s menu to pass on to me, so I could decide on what I wanted. But I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it– rock up on the night and ask “okay I’ll have this but can you make it vegan?” Husband wasn’t told what we were supposed to do so we just assumed we could go to dinner and the kitchen could modify something on the menu.

On the fourth night, we met another family for dinner as our daughters had made friends. I ordered more chilled fruit plate:

dawn princess chilled fruit plate1

I think I’m getting this out of order and mixed up with another dinner, but here’s a cauliflower and pickled onion salad I ordered off the menu, which I think was already vegan:

dawn princess appetiser salad

The other little girl ordered plain pasta so I asked for that too with some tomato pasta sauce if they had any as they had some in the buffet kitchen earlier in the day. The Head Waiter came over and asked what my specific requirements were. It went like this (and by this time, I’d explained the vegan thing to a handful of different staff and had no confidence whatsoever):

Me: I don’t eat meat so I’m like a vegetarian but I also don’t eat eggs, honey, gelatin or dairy and I have a dairy intolerance. Basically I don’t eat anything that comes from an animal.

Head Waiter: Oh, you mean vegan?

love boat

I promise you I could have jumped up and kissed this guy. I looked at Husband, he had a big look of relief on his face too. I know vegans reading this can imagine the feeling of wanting to run around the room with your undies on your head, you’re that happy that someone in a restaurant GETS IT. Even the people we were eating with were relieved for me (one ate a gluten free diet so she understood where I was coming from!)

The Head Waiter went through the menu telling me what I could have had, saying things like “you can’t have the risotto because it has chicken stock but if you were here for lunch yesterday you could have had the vegetable risotto because it was made with vegetable stock”. All I could think was I WANT TO KISS YOUR WIDDLE CHEEKS. Anyway, my pasta dish was essentially a little plain but after living off (mostly) boring salad and fruit for the cruise, this was heaven sent:

dawn princess vegan spaghetti

They even had a green apple sorbet! This was delicious, you could really taste green apple:

green apple sorbet

Now this is where the miscommunication and confusion happened. Apparently I was supposed to have put in an order and by that I mean someone had to write everything down for my dinner the next day (there was no writing down of anything in the dining rooms, the staff just remember everything). That’s what I had done on the first night, but there was the confusion because of two employees with the same name and I had given up trying. But at no point was I (or Husband) told “you must make sure a waiter writes it down to place your order”– when the Head Waiter was discussing the menu with me I was saying “that sounds great, yes I’ll have that”. Husband and I (and the other diners) all thought this was me making the order, as I was saying what I wanted! I didn’t know they had to formally write it down and so on (and I had been given two lots of different information by two different people, so it was all a bit confusing, with one telling me “just tell the Head Waiter what you want and they’ll tell the kitchen”. This is what I did in our conversation, which obviously wasn’t enough).

To be fair to the Head Waiters and other staff, they really did try to accommodate me and make me happy. But I felt like a big fat vegan pain in the arse and didn’t want to trouble them. Vegans, you know that feeling right? The Head Waiter then told me “there’s a linguine on the menu tomorrow that could have been made vegan but the linguine is an egg pasta. But you can have the spaghetti because that’s all wheat and we can throw in some broccoli, whatever vegetables you like, a pasta primavera”. WIDDLE-CHEEKS MAN I WANT TO HUG YOOOOOO. So this time the order was taken (but I don’t recall seeing it be written down!) and so the final night I was able to have a really nice, simple but tasty pasta dish. Look, they even cut up the zucchini and carrot nicely. *CRY*

dawn princess veg spaghetti pasta

This was the appetiser I’d ordered, the orange grapefruit cocktail. I don’t like grapefruit but if there was something vegan on the dining room menu I WAS GOING TO GET IT:

dawn princess grapefruit orange cocktail

I got to have dessert again! Pine orange sorbet:

dawn princess pine orange sorbet

love boat

We did get to see some dolphins from our table:

dolphins

DINING SUMMARY

DeeW also had her seventh birthday while we were on the cruise. The staff bring out a mini chocolate layer cake (with the Princess logo on the side) with a candle and the waiters gather to sing happy birthday. DeeW didn’t want the singing but she was very pleased with her special cake. These little cakes are for birthdays only, you can’t order them off the menu.

It was unfortunate that I only found the ‘rules’ for ordering special meals at the end of the cruise. I think Princess should provide more specific instructions in email correspondence as well as in person. Also, all staff should know what vegan means (some didn’t). I think these days, there’s no excuse for not knowing this especially on a cruise ship that claims to cater to vegans.

My advice would be that if you need special diet meals that require 24 hours notice, be very specific and ask “what do I need to do to make sure I get my meal”. Ensure an order is taken down on paper and take note of the person you have spoken to and their job title.

If I ever go on a cruise again, I will follow my own advice here. I could have had a greater variety of vegan meals in the main dining room and I had really been looking forward to seeing what the chef would come up with. So it was a bit disappointing but the Head Waiters and the Maitre D’ were great.

For the buffet I was really disappointed that most things that could have been vegan were loaded with butter and/or cream. I asked a sous chef why they did this and he said it enhances the flavour. Sorry guys, but throwing butter and cream in to dishes that don’t really need it is not ‘enhancing’ in my eyes. It’s just making it unavailable to people who can’t eat dairy and there are loads of options already there for people who can eat dairy! Give vegans (and dairy intolerant) people a fair go. Please don’t relegate us to the raw salad ingredients– it seems like people wanting to eat a low fat or plant based diet are not considered at all. Given all the high fat high calorie stuff on offer (and I get that buffets are places to go all out), I really don’t think it is too much to ask that there be a vegan curry or lentil dish (the curried lentils in the buffet had cream). We all know these days that vegan dining can indeed be ‘fancy’. We’re not all rabbit-food eaters and the lack of one proper 100% plant based hot meal is something that I think needs to be rectified. My meat eating friends and family say they don’t want meat all the time and they like to throw in vegan meals when they can. In this age of information about the benefits of a plant based diet and the dangers of the animal-based foods like those in the buffet, surely there could be one flavourful plant based option. Hell, if I could get that kind of meal from a mom-and-pop cafe down the road that has people queuing up, I would hope to see such a dish on a cruise ship that claims to cater to all special diets. As for desserts, all they need to do is a quick Google search to find the most amazing vegan desserts. There are blenders on the ship: there’s your vegan cheesecake right there.

So in summary, the buffet was a let down for vegans/plant based eaters in my opinion.

 

Other ‘free’ food options on the Dawn Princess include the Sundaes ice cream bar. Think cheaper ice cream served up in cones or cups from a dispenser. A small selection of toppings were available for either chocolate, vanilla or mixed choc-vanilla ice creams. Non-vegan of course:

dawn princess sundaes bar

There was the La Scala Pizzeria with your standard pizza toppings. I asked about the ingredients in the bases and was told “I don’t know sorry, we don’t make the bases ourselves, they’re packaged”. Come on guys, tear off the ingredients panel, stick it up in the kitchen so that at least kids with egg and dairy allergies can know if they can order pizza! It bugs me when people put egg and/or dairy in pizza bases (WHY???) and I really think the pizzeria employees should know what’s in the bases so they can advise customers:

dawn princess la scala pizzeria

There was a bar and grill by the pool and a patisserie on another deck which I never saw with pastries, though Husband went a few times.

 

The staff were all incredibly helpful and friendly. We chose to go on this cruise when school kids are still in school, so although there were children on board it wasn’t crowded. We learned that the staff can be on the ship working for up to nine months (some still get sea sickness after all that time). The decor of the ship is a little dated here and there but that doesn’t bother me and it certainly didn’t bother the kids and after all, this was really a family trip. Having a windowless room wasn’t a problem either as we only went there to sleep. There are many things that were exceptional such as the dining staff in both the main dining rooms and the buffet being quick with your orders and refilling drinks. And yes, I did get up and give a big cheer for all the dining staff when they did the baked Alaska parade. Had I not been holding a camera I would have joined in with the enthusiastic waving of napkins. There was even the chicken dance but I was too busy taking photos 😉

dawn princess baked alaska parade

 

Disembarkation for the ports was quick and efficient. You have to present your cruise card at all times (best to wear it on a lanyard) and in some cases photo ID. In Burnie we had buses to take us in to the town, in Port Arthur we had to take the ship’s tenders. In Hobart we were able to walk straight in to the Salamanca area whenever we wanted. In Melbourne the final disembarkation was easy and we had a short wait for a taxi home. We didn’t go on any pre-arranged shore excursions but everything seemed very efficient.

If you don’t mind a smaller (by cruise ship standards!) ship, or decor that’s a little dated, then I’d happily recommend the Dawn Princess. If you’re a vegan traveler, please take note of my suggestions about the main dining room!

If it wasn’t for me feeling sick, especially for most of the final day which was an at-sea day, I would go on another cruise. Five nights was more than enough for me though as I don’t like being confined to small spaces. Husband is now talking about a longer cruise that goes up to Fiji and thereabouts but they’re too long for me. The kids had a good time, though they overloaded a bit on junk food and didn’t really have many options in the main dining room.

Thank you to all the crew on the Dawn Princess!

Have you been on a cruise? What can you recommend?

cruise sunset