Ratatouille is one of many vegetarian-friendly options available onboard AmaWaterways ships. // © 2014 AmaWaterways
Feature image (above): The number of vegetarians and vegans is growing rapidly, making it a significant market for river cruise lines to consider. // © 2014 Thinkstock
I was on a flight recently where there were so many vegetarian meals being served that the flight attendant quipped that the airline should start referring to “regular” meals as specialty meals and make the vegetarian option the standard choice.
With the number of vegetarians, vegans and individuals who follow a vegetarian-inclined diet growing rapidly, nearly all river cruise lines also now serve a vegetarian dish at every meal. Some lines consult with vegetarian passengers every morning as part of arranging the day’s menu.
While these practices are now commonplace, there are four river cruise lines that go above and beyond the standard in catering to their vegetarian passengers.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s chefs are all trained in vegetarian cuisine. According to culinary director Bernhard F. Zorn, chefs on company-owned ships are able to prepare meals for almost any particular kind of vegetarian or vegan diet a guest follows. The chefs include choices ranging from vegan margarine, cookies, cakes, breads, cheeses and yogurts to tofu (smoked or silk), tempeh, eggless pasta, quinoa and products made without yeast. Buckwheat, amaranth, bulgur and couscous are used to create everything from breads to pancakes. Every dinner has a separate four-course vegetarian menu; six or seven vegetarian courses are offered for formal dinners.
“All of our culinary corporate teams have been professionally trained in workshops, including at Hiltl in Zurich, which is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, according to The Guinness Book of World Records,” Zorn said.
AmaWaterways has developed a full menu for vegan passengers. I found the vegan menu was well-thought-out, and the food was delicious and beautifully presented. Vegetarians get an even broader field to choose from. For example, breakfast buffets include beans, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, oatmeal, yoghurt and much more. The staff pays close attention to guests’ culinary choices. The waiter who served us at the table where I happened to be sitting for lunch bustled over to tell me there were eggs in the pasta I was eyeing, and the woman behind the soup tureen assured me without my asking that the soup was completely vegetarian.
American Queen Steamboat Company
American Queen Steamboat Company features the inventive genius of celebrity chef and author Regina Charboneau behind all its menus, including vegetarian options available at every meal onboard. One night, I had a Portobello mushroom dish for the dinner entree, which looked as though it belonged on the cover of Gourmet magazine and smelled so incredible that even the meat eaters at my table were eyeing the dish with curiosity and a bit of envy. One day at the grill, I asked for a vegan-style po’ boy sandwich — the results were so excellent that I had to cut up the first one and share it before I went back to get another.
Victoria Cruises caters to vegetarian and vegan passengers on an individual basis. Staff members meet with guests who have dietary restrictions at embarkation so they can tailor meal plans specifically for individual passengers.
Victoria, which operates in China, offers a variety of menu items made without meat. This starts at breakfast, where the company offers freshly made soymilk for cereals and a variety of fresh vegetables, steamed Chinese breads and stir-fried noodles. For lunches and dinners, Victoria includes entrees such as vegetable lasagna, eggplant parmesan, Sichuan style noodles and mapo tofu (tofu in a spicy chili and bean-based sauce). Buffet cold stations also offer many options of both Chinese and Western vegetarian appetizers and salads.