Cruising has become a very popular way to travel. We love it as you can unpack once and be in a different place almost every day. We are here to tell you that keto on a cruise is definitely possible. We have cruised on a few different cruise lines now and have discovered it can be a good option when eating keto.
Keto on a Cruise
Keto on a cruise can also have its challenges as there is a lot of food around all the time. Yes, there are great keto-friendly options available for most of the meals we have encountered, but there are also lots of carbs and desserts EVERYWHERE.
In this article we cover the best keto food options, drink options and the food we take with us when managing keto on a cruise.
On most cruise lines your breakfast options are going to be to either go to the dining room or the buffet. We usually go with the buffet as you have slightly more control of your choices. Some cruise lines also offer a room service option, but it is generally a continental style breakfast consisting of pastries and cereal.
Best buffet options
- Create your own omelette. We absolutely love the omelette station on a cruise. It means you can add whatever you like to your omelette and keep your breakfast keto. Dan’s favourite order is sausage, capsicum, mushroom and lots of cheese. Erika’s favourite is jalapeños, ham, mushroom and cheese. Our tip is to be make friends with the guy on the omelette station, we did and he always looked after us.
- Bacon is usually available at the buffet on most of the cruise lines we have been on. The Australian based ships, even do Australian style bacon, so that’s a big win.
- Aside from the omelette station, there are plenty of other egg options at the buffet. You can get poached, scrambled, boiled and fried eggs. At the omelette station, they will usually fry the eggs to order.
- We have also found that you can usually get some type of sausage and a ham steak.
- Other good keto options that we have seen available include; deli meats, cheese, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds.
Best dining room options
- Eggs are always the safest bet for breakfast. You can usually order your eggs to be made in all the different forms, poached, fried, scrambled, frittata, boiled and of course omelettes. You would just need to ask for no bread, just like when eating breakfast out at home.
- Sides – These are usually great to add to your eggs or create your own breakfast with just the sides. Good options include; mushrooms, bacon, pork sausage, sliced ham, turkey bacon and grilled tomato.
The common lunch options on board are the buffet, dining room, burgers and pizza. Occasionally you might get a Mexican option as well.
Best buffet options
- The great thing about a buffet is you can create your own salad. We have found all the usual choices like mixed lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radish, onion, olives etc. We have also found bacon bits, boiled eggs, pumpkin seeds, a variety of cheeses and deli meats. There are a range of dressings available as well. There is obviously no way of determining what is in these, so you will need to make your own decision around using these. We do, as they add deliciousness and fat.
- We have found you can usually get a carved meat like roast pork etc. Some carved meat and a create your own salad makes a delicious keto lunch. We have also been able to get sausages at lunchtime.
- Other options. There will often be a theme at lunch like Mexican, Asian or Indian. You will need to check out what the options are at these and make the best decision. For example, a curry minus the rice may work well.
Best dining room options
- This will depend on the menu each day. Our advice would be to check out the menu first before making the decision to eat lunch at the dining room.
- We have found that if you order your burger and ask for no bun, the staff are happy to provide you with that. Ask for them to make the burger your favourite way, that might be a double patty, extra cheese, bacon, extra pickles or salad.
- If Mexican is an option, you can ask for a burrito bowl without the rice or beans. Choose your protein and then top with guacamole, cheese, sour cream and fresh salsas. We find most staff on board are happy to provide with what you want, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Dinner has probably been the toughest meal to navigate. The main options again are the dining room and the buffet. Different cruise lines will also have different speciality restaurants available for dinner. These may include Italian, sushi, pizza, seafood, steak and a chef’s table.
Best buffet Options
- This is going to usually be pretty similar to the lunch options. The salad bar will still be available. For the other options, you will need to check what is on offer each day and make a decision around what is the best keto choice available. Again there is usually some sort of carved meat option and a fish dish
Best dining room options
- On most cruise lines the menu has 2 sections. One section which is always available and a one section that is different each day. The always available would usually have a steak and a fish option that would both be keto friendly and are usually fairly plain.
- Check the menu each day to make sure there is a suitable keto option.
- Due to the large number of people they are serving the meals are usually pre-prepared and making alterations is usually not an option. It can also be difficult to convey these alterations to the waiters, as there is often a language barrier.
- We find it best to order what you feel works and don’t eat the stuff you don’t want. For example, there may be a roast beef main dish but it comes with potatoes. We would order that and just only eat what we wanted to from the meal.
- Add suitable sides like steamed vegetables to replace any of the carb portion of the meal that you won’t be eating.
- Keto dessert options are limited to cheese. Other options that may fit your style of keto are the fruit platter, sugar free ice cream and no added sugar desserts.
As mentioned above there are usually speciality restaurants that you can go to for an extra fee. The extra cost is usually worth it for the quality of food you are getting. On P&O Australia ships they have a Luke Mangan restaurant, which has steak and seafood, and it is a fraction of the price you would pay to eat in his restaurants on land.
Best Speciality restaurant options
- A steakhouse is the best option as they offer a variety of cuts of meat, that you won’t get access to in the dining room. Other choices would usually be a chicken dish and a surf and turf. Also remember that adding the keto-friendly sides to replace the standard potato offering is the best way to go and you can’t say no to a good bernaise sauce!
- Seafood restaurants can be another good speciality option. You should be able to get grilled fish, prawns, lobster and crab. Just watch out for sauces and the sides.
- The Italian restaurant may have some keto options, check the menu before deciding if this will work. The Sushi restaurant may also work if they offer sashimi and it may be worth asking if they will make a sushi roll without the rice. It never hurts to ask.
For many people cruising is all about the cocktails and the drinking. We have never been big drinkers, but on cruises pre keto we would consume a few sugary cocktails. Those sugary cocktails are out now, but we have found some keto/low carb options.
- Soft drinks – On our cruises we have been able to find diet coke, coke zero and sprite zero and also sparkling mineral water.
- Sports/energy drinks – We found sugar free Mother and sugar free Powerade. We have never been interested in these types of drinks, but it is good to know they are available for those that are.
- The coffee choices will depend on the cruise and what your preference is. If you are a bulletproof coffee fan, you may be able to order a shot of espresso and use the butter from the buffet. It may be a bit difficult without the blender though. If the cruise line is American based you could possibly be able to get half and half to add to your coffee. Also, it would be worth checking what non-dairy milk options they have.
- We love a good cup of tea in the morning. Some cruise lines have a really good selection of tea available for free and others don’t. We usually travel with some of our own tea bags so we have the tea we love on hand and we just need to run up to the buffet to get some hot water. At the speciality coffee shop you could get a wider variety of tea at a cost. We should also mention that you will not be able to take your own kettle on board due to safety restrictions, but hot water is available 24 hours at the buffet drinks stations.
- Alcohol – This will depend on the type of alcohol you prefer. If you are a beer drinker, know your low carb beer options and ask once on board if they have them available. We have found Pure Blonde on an Australian based cruise before, which was a big bonus. Spirit drinkers can always drink them straight or mix with diet soft drinks or water. Check out our Alcoholic drinks guide for further assistance around making the best decisions.
Things you may want to take
As mentioned in before you go being prepared will be your new motto when travelling on keto. Cruising is great, especially if there are no flights involved to get on the ship, as there are no weight restrictions with your luggage. This allows you a bit more flexibility when deciding to bring some things with you. Just be aware usually you will not be able to take any food off the ship at the end of the cruise so don’t bring too much! Also, depending on the countries you are visiting there may be restrictions about taking food off the ship in port.
- It can be really hard to find keto snacks on board and in port, depending on your destination. We like to bring some nuts, Mia Ringsparr crackers (great to have with some cheese) and Essentially Keto bars. The Essentially Keto bars were great to take ashore, as we could have one of these as our lunch, if the lunch options ashore were not keto friendly.
- Low Carb Bread – We had never done this before, but one of the things we find toughest is when we feel like we are missing out (especially with mountains of pastries all around). On the most recent cruise, we decided to buy some Hermon Brot bread (just 1 loaf) and take it with us. We froze it and then stored it in our fridge and it lasted. It meant we could pop some of it in the toaster in the buffet and still feel like we were having eggs on toast. We didn’t have it every day, but when we did it felt like a real treat.
- We usually travel with a snap lock bag full of tea bags. If you are a tea drinker, we recommend bringing your own tea so you can be drinking the tea you prefer.
- Dark Chocolate – We highly recommend taking some of your favourite keto dark chocolate. This can really help you avoid those sugary desserts. We would pass on dessert and come back to the cabin and have a couple of squares of our favourite chocolate. It didn’t feel like we were missing out and in fact, like we had our own secret stash we could sneak back for.
A note from Erika
Prior to going on our most recent cruise I knew we would be able to find keto-friendly options on board from my experience on previous cruises. What I hadn’t factored in was how challenging it would be being surrounded by foods I don’t normally eat all the time. At home, I don’t have those things in the house, and I may eat out 1 or 2 times a week. On the cruise, it was like eating out every meal and having to make so many decisions every day about what I was or wasn’t eating or drinking. I found this very challenging, so it may be helpful to think about some strategies for coping with this prior to cruising. If you find you can easily choose keto-friendly options then you will find cruising a breeze.
Travelling is our passion and this series designed to encourage people that travelling whilst living a ketogenic lifestyle is possible. Make sure to check out the rest of our Keto Travel Essentials series.
Have you continued keto on a cruise? We would love to hear your experience. What were your struggles and what did you find easy?
Have you been able to incorporate your keto lifestyle into your travels. We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments. We really love hearing about other people travels as it sparks an interest in new places to add to our ever growing list of places to visit.
- Eating out on Keto – Travel Essentials Series
- Keto On a Road Trip – Travel Essential Series
- Keto On a Plane – Travel Essential Series
- Keto On a Cruise – Travel Essentials series
- Travelling on Keto – Travel Essentials Series – Before You Go
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I enjoyed reading your Keto post. I needed some food ideas while on board. Not only do I enjoy eating keto; but I cannot eat gluten. It was challenging on our last cruise in February 2017; but our next cruise which is in 11 days will be just as hard. I plan to pack my own snacks; the drinking will be harder. I normally drink diet tonic with lemon vodka. Last cruise I drank all the those fruity drinks; bu not this time.
It is definitely more of a challenge than when you are at home, but Keto is definitely achievable. I agree the drinking would be the harder part as those cocktails are some inviting and easy to drink. Straight spirits or mixed with diet soft drink would be the best alternative. What cruiseline are you going with? We have done a few cruises and may be able to offer more info if you need it.
Just done a Alaska cruise in May. I basically fasted until late morning, then when I did eat it was salad and meat based. Dinner was in the restaurant I tried to keep to the food I knew, being on holidays I didn’t get to obsessed with it all but absolutely avoided desserts and stuck with cheese. I also took snacks so that worked for me. I do find I get quite bored with the food at the buffet after a few days as it’s seems to be the same, so fasting became easier when I have no desire to eat the same bland thing.
Sounds like you worked out how to make it work for you.
Audrey Bronson says
Leaving for a Cruise on the Island Princess in a few days. Heading down to Panama Canal. Really worried about eating, but your comments have helped. I don’t want to fret over food, or drinks. I was thinking for dessert if I had sugar free cheesecake, without the crust might work a few nights. Thanks for your insight. I liked the Lemon vodka idea.
Enjoy your cruise. it is definitely doable, but also harder as there is just so much food around all the time.
Cristina Mora says
I’m just going to break my keto for my cruise. There are too many experiences and foods to enjoy in life and the Keto Police aren’t going to come get me. I’ll feel pretty grotty for the week afterward – but the best diet is the one you will stick to sustainably. And taking a vacation that includes space to eat the fun stuff makes the 95% of the year on keto much more valuable. Humans have done such wonderful things with food. Why should I always miss out?
We are definitely not the keto police. This is just a guide for anyone wanting to see how to do keto on a cruise. It’s about what works for you. Enjoy your cruise.
Thankyou for this great information, Im going on my cruise today – will let you know how it goes…
Enjoy. Have a wonderful time
Have just completed a cruise to Northern Australia and think I did pretty well. Probably had more wine than usual and had one martini (blew up carb manager) but other than that did well and had fish when onshore (got my oysters in) so happy with how it went. I found your post when I have been back a week 🙂
Sounds great. Glad you enjoyed it and kept it keto/low carb whilst on there. Cruising can be easy and hard for keto at the same time.
Just read your post and felt I needed to reply. Love your “havebutterwilltravel” sights. My husband and my self are just 3 weeks into Keto and love it. Before having a 2 year blow out on a carb binge (health issues and covid19), we lived a Paleo lifestyle for about 4 years and it worked great but as natural sugars were in and cheeses were out I had sweet cravings that I battled all the time, so we decided to try Keto…… sorry rambling.
During our Paleo times (not unlike Keto) we cruised a lot (perhaps around 8 times per year) and we found that we stuck to whatever clean protein was offered and the low carb vegetables or salad we could stay on track. We always asked for oil and vinegar for the table to make our own dressing it worked great. We did eat mainly in the restaurants as we loved being served and felt special. We were also better at portion control that way.
When we cruise next (whenever that will be possible) we intend on working on the same principal and perhaps just ask for whipped cream and berries for dessert. I know if you ask for something to be a standard order the wait staff will be prepared for it and it will not be a problem.
Thanks so much for your message Jette and sharing your story! Hopefully we will all be able to cruise again some time soon.