Costa Fortuna—Cruising Your Way to Health

An adventure into healthy lifestyles

The Costa Fortuna
The Costa Fortuna | Larger

Cruises are a fun and inexpensive way to vacation. The biggest problem is meals are included in the cruise price and many travelers tend to overeat and come home with an extra 5 or 10 pounds and it's not just in our luggage loaded down with souvenirs of our trip.

Well, this is one time I didn't gain weight on a cruise. Not only that, I ate delicious food and I also learned a great deal about eating and preparing healthy, nourishing food.

My cruise was a special one offered only once a year by Costa Cruises in cooperation with A Taste of Health, a non-profit educational foundation dedicated to organic, sustainable living and holistic health. The beautiful ship with many amenities was the Costa Fortuna.

Sandy Pukel, a holistic health advocate and owner of Oak Feed natural foods store in Coconut Grove, FL, founded A Taste of Health in 1988. Since then, A Taste of Health has sponsored seminars and conferences around the country on alternatives in eating and other health related topics aimed at changing our nation's attitudes towards food and health.

The "A Taste of Health Foundation" developed a national audience and Pukel teemed up with Costa Cruise Lines to present a seven-night "Holistic Holiday at Sea" for people interested in learning more about healthy lifestyles and for those who desired vegan cuisine, instead of the typical fare served on cruise lines. Passengers could eat the regular cruise line food if they desired but the largely organic, vegan cuisine was available at every meal and it was delicious!

An Entree
An Entree | Larger

The first Holistic Holiday at Sea took place in 2004. The special holistic cruise was attended by more than a thousand passengers. Pukel brought his own holistic chef, Mark Hanna and a staff of assistants, who whipped up many innovative dishes for participants. I was very impressed. As a veteran foodie and cruiser, I know it is far easier to prepare food that is loaded with sugar, salt and preservatives or to take a big, juicy steak and grill it, rather than to prepare outstanding healthy soups, vegetable dishes that taste like meat or create fantastic desserts without sugar.

The menu featured recipes that were vegan/natural, non-dairy and organic whenever possible. Desserts were prepared by natural foods pastry chefs and were sugar and dairy-free. Macrobiotic quality condiments such as miso, shoyu, umeboshi, and sun-dried sea salt were used. Non-dairy and sugar-free beverages were also served.

Chef Mark Hanna
Chef Mark Hanna | Larger

But the cruise was much more than just about food. This natural health cruise included more than 100 classes taught by three-dozen of the world's leading alternative health professionals, research scientists, shiatsu practitioners, yoga and Pilate's instructors, macrobiotic healers, and vegan and macrobiotic chefs.

I enjoyed the cooking classes taught by outstanding chefs whose cookbooks were available for purchase in a special holistic bookstore on the ship.

There were so many classes that I wanted to attend that I had difficulty deciding between them. My husband and I decided to split up and take notes so we would be able to learn as much as possible during our one week cruise.

We also took yoga classes, learned about meditation and a myriad of other subjects from how to get a better night's sleep to improving digestion.

One night a Recovery Panel of survivors shared their stories of courage and healing through alternative methods of diagnosis and treatment. Their stories were amazing.

Dancing in the dining room
Dancing in the dining room | Larger

The cruise was an interesting experience because of the demographics of the passengers who came from around the nation and were already enjoying a healthier lifestyle. I enjoyed talking to the passengers and learning about their daily eating habits and how they prepared their food at home.

But this wasn't just a cruise about health and diet. There was also plenty of entertainment on board the Costa Cruise Line. There were fabulous shows, dancing nightly and a Toga Night. There was dancing in the dining room, too! The week also included a talent show comprised of Holistic Holiday passengers.

St. Maarten
St. Maarten | Larger

The cruise departed from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale and visited the ports of San Juan, St. Maarten, Tortola, BVI and Grand Turk. Many tours were available at the ports and I especially enjoyed a night club show in San Juan and shopping in St. Maarten.

The once yearly next "Holistic Holiday at Sea", seven-day Caribbean cruise will depart Ft. Lauderdale on March 1 and return on March 8, 2009. The ship will sail to the Western Caribbean on Costa Cruise lines. Shores excursions will provide time to explore Key West, Roatan, Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico.

In addition to these natural health programs and dining options, Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise participants have full access to all on-ship amenities, shore excursions and dining rooms. The ship features multiple fresh and saltwater pools, theatres, disco, lounges, casino, state-of-the-art gym, Turkish bath and spa treatments.

For detailed program information, visit or call 828-749-9537.