What comes to your mind when you think about cruise? We can assume that a vegan vacation isn’t the first thing, right? Stuck on a ship with no chance to run to the closest healthy shop to buy “emergency” vegan food or any restaurants to go doesn’t sound brilliant. Also traveling with one suitcase full of food isn’t the best option for vegan traveling. Well, this October, one new business company, Vegan Cruise Planners, will row their boat through the Pacific Ocean offering fun and delicious vegan cuisine, with celebrities chefs as presenters on their Vegan Vacation at Sea.
When Franci and Curtis got in contact with us to let us know about their vegan business and event I have already read about it on my “vegan network”, especially because I follow and have interviewed most of their guest chefs and I was really happy to spread the word about it and to get to know more about what this special cruise will offer and also to let our readers know more about them and their company.
Vegan Vacation at Sea will be sailing on the Holland America Line’s ms Westerdam, from Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas and Holland America Line’s private island Half Moon Cay. From October 25th to November 1st, people on board will get cooking demonstrations with Vegan Black Metal Chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Miyoko Schinner, The Vegan Zombie, Jason Wrobel and Eco-Vegan Gal, plus exclusive vegan menu featuring recipes from these chefs and one vegan BBQ, besides other attractions. Exciting!
In your website you’ve said that Vegan Cruise Planners was born as a need in the cruise industry. How hard it is to get vegan food in regular cruises around the world?
It is a bit difficult and requires some advanced preparation. Not every cruise line has embraced veganism equally yet, although we are working to spread the word within the industry and to affect a change. We extensively researched different cruise lines when searching for a host cruise line for Vegan Vacation at Sea. We found Holland America Line to be THE industry leader in vegan dining options, and they understand the needs of vegetarians and vegans to have exciting food options. For this reason, as well as their outstanding and forward thinking environmental programs, we have partnered with them for Vegan Vacation at Sea and are extremely excited to be working with them on this amazing opportunity!
Besides seeing a business opportunity based on your professional experience, was there any other reason (s) to come up with Vegan Cruise Planners?
We spent many years in management working for various companies, mostly in the printing industry. For 10 years we both commuted daily to Orlando from Titusville (about 90 miles round trip). We were spending 45+ hours per week working, and 10+ hours of commuting on top of that, and began to feel like we were missing out on life. At the beginning of 2013 we decided to assess our careers, and we felt that we were spending so much of our working lives doing what we “had” to do, instead of what we loved to do. We’ve all heard it so many times before…”do what you love”. A great theory, but sometimes hard to put into action. Sure, you can be passionate about something…but how do you turn that passion into a career? One night after a particularly long day at work, we decided…enough was enough. Life is short. Life is to be enjoyed. Life is to be experienced passionately. Since we love to travel, we decided to partner with Cruise Planners. We felt that Cruise Planners offered us the path, experience and industry clout that we would need to turn our passion into a sustainable business. We quit our corporate gigs and, to use a poker term, went ALL IN.
Also in your website, you’ve said you are new vegans. When did you go vegan and what has inspired you?
As we moved into the spring of 2013, we had already made a huge professional change, and personal change was not far behind. On March 6 2013, Curt had been watching Vegucated, and when I came home from work he asked did we want to go vegan? We decided as animal lovers it was time for us to “walk the walk”. At that moment we proceeded to go through our refrigerator and pantry and purged all our non-vegan foods. Our friends and family were definitely the beneficiaries of this purge, as we gave away a lot of food to them! We haven’t looked back since. As self proclaimed animal lovers, we knew adopting a vegan lifestyle would be consistent with our beliefs and beneficial to our (and the planet’s) health. We can’t express to you how wonderful we feel about this decision, and it has been an incredible experience. Curt weighed 266 pounds at the beginning of the year, and was tired of being out of shape. The Florida heat and humidity is not a comfortable environment for a man of his….um….girth. We bought a Nintendo Wii, and started a workout program. He is now down to 183 pounds. I have focused on yoga and stretching exercises. I have progressed fantastically, and no longer feel the chronic back pain that I’ve dealt with for so many years.
We became vegan after having already committing ourselves to establishing our travel business. This change inspired us to look at all aspects of our lives, including our business. Our challenge then became aligning our business practices with our personal beliefs. After all, the freedom of owning a business allows for this, and in fact was a deciding factor of ours even before adopting a vegan lifestyle.
So we thought about the industry we are in, the opportunities for the industry, and how we could operate within the constructs and limitations of the industry, yet still be successful while being consistent with our personal beliefs. Keeping this in mind, and considering the resources we had already invested into our business prior to becoming vegan (time, energy and finances); we decided to completely change our focus and assume a new direction.
Thus, Vegan Cruise Planners and Vegan Vacation at Sea were born.
At AAVF we love to get to know more about the people behind vegan business! Could you tell our readers a little bit more about each of you, Franci and Curtis, in a few words?
We live in Titusville, Florida and have lived here on Florida’s beautiful Space Coast for 11 years. I am from Santa Barbara, California and Curt is from Perrysburg, Ohio. Curt grew up in the Midwest in a meat and potatoes environment (if he can go vegan, anyone can!), and I had been vegetarian off and on. We met in Portland, Oregon, when I hired Curt to work for me. We have two dogs that we adore, Brenna and Oscar, as well as three cats: Simon, Squirt and Pearl. We are extremely passionate about animals, and cannot imagine life without our furry family. We LOVE to travel, we love art in all of its forms, and we love spending time with friends and family. Curt is an avid golfer, and I am an avid artist in many different mediums, including photography, jewelry making, etching, and anything else I see that interests me, a list that seems to grow infinitely.
Let’s talk about the Vegan Vacation At Sea 2014 happening this October. Is it the first vegan cruise in America? How is the public interest so far?
Ours is not the first vegan cruise. Our cruise is focused on two simple premises: fun, and delicious vegan cuisine. We wanted to offer a cruise that brought the hottest vegan chefs as presenters, and sailed to exotic ports in the Caribbean. Our goal is to provide a fun vacation, the chance to explore new places, meet fellow vegans and people from different cultures, and dine on gourmet vegan foods. With the itinerary we have chosen, the guest vegan chefs we have invited, and the activities we have in place, we believe we have accomplished our goal! The public interest so far has been outstanding. We can tell from the engagement we’ve seen that vegans want to be able to go on cruises and have the same fantastic dining options that non vegans have.
You have put together a great team of vegan chefs for this cruise (Vegan Black Metal Chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Miyoko Schinner, The Vegan Zombie, Jason Wrobel and Eco-Vegan Gal). What they will be doing during the cruise, besides cooking amazing food?
They will be performing cooking demonstrations in the state of the art Culinary Arts Center on board, meeting and socializing with their fans, and enjoying a great working vacation in the Caribbean!
You also offer support for vegans to help them to book a vegan-friendly cruise, right? Which other services do you offer?
In addition to cruises, which is our specialty, we provide other vegan vacation options. We also offer land tours and cruise/tour packages. As destination specialists, we do not charge fees for our services. We don’t work for the cruise lines, we don’t work for hotels and resorts, and we don’t work for airlines. We work for our clients, and find the best vacation fit for them.
Are you already planning other vegan cruises for 2015? What else can we expect from Vegan Cruise Planners?
Yes, we will have Vegan Vacation at Sea 2015! The itinerary and presenters have not yet been selected, but we promise it will be AMAZING!