I have been grain, sugar, and dairy intolerant for easily a year and a half when I started applying for Semester At Sea. Growing up, I knew I was intolerant to dairy and I knew the difference between high quality yummy healthy food and worse-than-dirt-because-dirt-isn’t-all-that-bad cheap food that would inevitably make me sick whether it be a stomach ache or a full blown cold. The last thing I wanted to do was go on SAS and feel like crap the whole time. Before fully signing up, I talked to SAS and they put me in touch with the person in charge of ordering food for the ship.
On the ship, meals quickly become repetitive, but they don’t allow voyagers to go too long with that feeling before they change something up. Although, there was very few surprises towards the end of the trip but by the end ship food was kind of comforting – might as well call this Stockholm Syndrome. While food can be different voyage to voyage, SAS seems to follow a simple protocol, breakfast: scrambled eggs, other egg (omelette, poached, boiled, etc), French toast/pancakes, meat (bacon, ham, sausage, etc), something hot & white (oatmeal, grits, etc), fruit (pretty much the same fruit for the whole voyage), yogurt, cereal; lunch and dinner are pretty much the same although lunch can feel a little more casual b/c this is when there will be sandwiches, but it’s pretty much: fish (SAS please stop, no one wanted to eat fish ever again after speaking to the first Interport lecturer), meat, potato (in many forms) (occasionally replaced by rice), pasta, pasta sauce, side item that usually is some form of vegetables, vegetables (pretty much the same mixed bag the whole time cooked in about 4 different ways), salads, etcetera.
Drinks were water, juice, tea, coffee. Bring or be prepared to buy your own tea and coffee in country. Bring a water bottle, stainless steel or glass, and bring something for hot beverages preferably that can travel (have a lid).
In summary, the meals on the ship are repetitive but actually good considering. The kitchen and wait staff will try to make you something if you don’t feel like there’s enough to eat (or if you just want a treat b/c you don’t get one all that much). I had grain-free pasta several times, at my request, preferably with advanced notice. There is a snack/pool/grill bar and a coffee bar on the ship, which all costs extra. The prices for the made-on-ship food is pretty cheap, $2 for a burger (even though I never had one), etc.
General Guidelines for eating in country:
Off the ship though can be a bit more of a challenge. It’s hard to know what to expect. You can’t control your options on field programs or independent tours.
-A note on field programs: the field office will receive a note from the medical team of everyone’s allergies, confirm this with the field office once you’re on board. The more discussion the better your chances are! That being said don’t be annoying, they really can only do so much, which is why you research before you go.
-If you are up for straying from your eating restrictions, strategically choose a time to eat one or two meals that you wouldn’t normally have.
-Say what you need. If you do not have severe reactions, decide what’s important. For example, in Japan and China it was easier for me to eat dumplings.
So for the SASSP19 Voyage of Discovery Itinerary this was my experience, while currently this itinerary is slated to repeat it, it’s a little different next time so be sure to compare and always do your own research.
You will only be let off the ship if you are on a field program. That being said, most people had an amazing meal and at some point got to visit a store (shh, don’t tell administration). My field program Chocolate & Coffee in Hawaii advertised a farm fresh lunch and it was amazing!! Personally, that one meal was worth the entire field program.
Japan is amazing! Now the naturally healthy food and lifestyle of the Japanese means they do not have very many food problems (like allergies). You will want to eat all the food. I did have to veto a couple of places that only served ramen, but for the most part I was able to get food. I did regularly end up getting dumplings from 7eleven though…
So, in China I was on a field program this meant that %90 of meals I was provided by the tour company. Luckily, since we are in China this meant Lazy Susan restaurants! Meaning at every restaurant we sat down to a table with a Lazy Susan that was quickly filled with a ton of food from rice, meat (a lot of pork it was Chinese New Year), dumplings, seaweed, sweet and sour chicken, and more!
Vietnam was a little more challenging, but also easier. In Vietnam, I stayed the whole time in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). By the time, I had gotten to Vietnam, I had reminded myself that many cities have expat stores, so I googled for a Western Grocery Store, a couple different ones popped up. I went to Amnnam Grocery Store at the Saigon Center. It had a lot of American, British, Australian, and French brands. I was able to get food that I’d be more likely to eat at home here. I opted to not eat street food mostly because of safety concerns but also because many of the options didn’t fit into my diet. I ate on the ship a couple times, and ate in my hotel at least once. What I did eat in Vietnam was Japanese (we thought it was Vietnamese before we went inside), Korean (intentionally), and spring rolls, maybe something else? On the last day, I went to a Coconut Plantation.
I spent the whole time in Yangon. The grocery stores here (I think they were City Markets) offered some really good options. I also found a vegan restaurant, I went twice, I think it mostly caters to expats or tourists. It had kombucha and cashew cheese. The Rangoon Tea House is also a definite must go! And if you like skyline views YangonYangon for nightime drinks or SkyBistro for daytime eats. I wish I had gotten to eat more Burmese food but I went into it so uninformed that I didn’t venture out much.
I also did an overnight field program in India. This was all buffets mostly at hotels. The spiciness of the food did have me eating more dairy and naan than I normally would. Overall though, it was easy to get my hands on meat and vegetables. I had Indian food before visiting India but now I love it, and am looking for real Indian food whenever I can.
My field program “Island Sustainably: Luxury Tourism” (or something like that), had lunch at 5-star resort which was also a buffet, mostly of very good food.
I do not even need to give you a blow by blow. The food and options were all amazing and fresh. You know what? If you’re reading this post, one of your best bets will be moving to Cape Town.
I only ate lunch out this was a restaurant once and on my field programs the rest of the time. I enjoyed some chicken, vegetables, and plantains.
Hi, I ate bread again. It was EU and South Africa level-good. I loved tajine, it was usually chicken or lamb, a broth, potatoes, and vegetables. Most places seemed able to accommodate food issues. but I was on a field program so it was pretty touristy. There were a lot of international options in the cities. I am not aware of anybody who had a particular food issue for all of Morocco.
Fresh, pretty much non-GMO, bless Europe. Dutch food. International food. Yo estoy en amor. Enough said.
Go back to Europe or South Africa.
I would love to help you with anymore questions about SAS or Travel Eating, stick them in the comments below or DM on insta!
I won’t be of much help if it’s not general or related to grains, gluten, sugar, or dairy, but I have friends I can ask if needed.
Also, apparently I need to take more and better pictures of food.
I hope you get to eat healthy & yummy food on your travels!