Jump to content
  • Sign Up
  • Join Our Community!

    Get help in our celiac / gluten-free forum.

  • Daniel Cojanu
    Daniel Cojanu

    Cruising with Celiac

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Spring 2016 Issue - Originally published April 14, 2016


    Caption: Photo: CC--kansasphoto

    Celiac.com 05/10/2016 - As we all know, traveling with celiac disease can be somewhat challenging. Trying to avoid situations of contamination can be quite difficult, yet we accept this challenge so we can go about a normal routine which in my situation, includes traveling. My wife and I who travel quite often do enjoy a good cruise due to the relaxing atmosphere and great care we receive for my dietary issues. Our experiences on Princess Cruises has been very positive and clearly, they take dietary issues quite seriously.

    Photo: CC--kansasphotoUnfortunately, not so much with Oceania Cruises. First of all, this experience is based solely on my recent trip. I suspect some other folks with celiac may have had a positive experience. That's great. This article is based solely on how I was treated by this cruise line in August of 2015.

    Oceania insists that any request for special diets be submitted by the travel agent. Not sure what happens if you book online.

    Once on board, the person in charge of special diet requests met us at dinner and explained we would get a menu in our mailbox every evening. We are to circle our choices and bring it to the desk by 8:30am. We made the mistake of going on a tour and not having it in until noon and guess what? Yup, you order off the menu.

    After this discussion, I was directed to dinner choices that could be prepared gluten-free. I was surprised to see my dinner entrée loaded with croutons. O.K., first day shakedown, let's see what happens. Strike 1.

    As we all know, buffets can be dangerous but I attempted to try and see if they had any gluten-free foods available. I selected a breakfast item that was clearly battered and asked the server if this was gluten-free. He looked somewhat quizzical and said "yes". Strike 2. I then asked for gluten-free toast. It took a full 15 minutes for them to toast 2 pieces of bread. Strike 3. Later in the cruise, we stopped for lunch at the poolside café where I ordered a sandwich with gluten-free bread. "We don't have gluten-free bread on board" was our waiters' response. After I indicated that was surprising since I have it at dinner nightly, he finally went off and secured my lunch. Strike 4 ?

    I could go on and on but I will spare you the rest. Oceania is a high end cruise company with prices to match. Princess on the other hand was exemplary. Once your request is in, you receive an email with a list of gluten-free menu items that will be available. If you want gluten-free beer, this is also offered albeit at a price. Every evening, the maître d comes by so you can order for the next evening. Clearly, they take people with dietary issues seriously.

    Why the disparity? I believe it's what I encounter as many restaurants. Since gluten-free dining has become the latest fad diet, I honestly believe that many establishments (and cruise lines) don't feel the need to take proper care. My suspicion is that they just look at gluten-free requests like "oh good, another one of them" and don't take it seriously. I guess my final advice before selecting a cruise would be to see what the initial reaction is to your request. If they respond like Princess, and I suspect other cruise lines, I would at least look carefully at booking a nice vacation. Would I go back to Oceania? I would not. I have put my concerns into writing to them and two months later, no response. My travel agent also followed up about this situation, again, no response.

    Traveling with celiac is difficult enough, and I hope that certain companies will begin to take us more seriously.


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    Viking Cruise Line was FANTASTIC about my offerings, in most cases my meals were better than the other passengers. The maître d met with me at every meal to review the offering for the following meal, the wait staff was also very knowledgeable about celiac. I am looking forward to my next cruise with Viking and would highly recommend Viking Cruise line to anyone traveling with celiac disease.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I had a horrible experience on Oceania in October 2015 on a Mediterranean cruise. I was given cookies that were according to the maitre d' gluten free only to be told on another occasion the cookies were not gluten free. There seemed to be a lack of understanding on the part of the dining room staff on what constitutes a gluten-free diet. Off the ship, I found delicious gluten free items, clearly marked and in sealed packages. At our end of cruise stay at our hotel in Barcelona, the bread and pastry gluten free choices were a big surprise after the steady diet of the not so great gluten free bread on the Marina. In a letter responding to my post-cruise letter of complaint, Oceania admitted to falling short with respect to knowledge about the gluten free diet. As these cruises are more "upscale" than say Princess, (where my past experiences were positive), I had expected everything would be okay. I was ill on the ship and the cruise triggered GI problems that took four months to resolve. I would never ever cruise with Oceania again.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Thanks for the heads up on Oceania. Disappointing that such a high end line couldn't accommodate a gluten-free diet. I've cruised over 30 times on Princess, NCL and Carnival (also on RCL and Celebrity-but before I was diagnosed) and have been treated well. The only mistake I've noticed is a pie with a "Rice Krispy" crust was being served as gluten-free (before Rice Krispys could be bought as gluten-free). I usually don't ask for gluten-free bread--don't like it and it is a waste of calories. I prefer the sauces to be left off rather than made special. Again "gravy" is a waste of calories.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Great article, thank you.

     

    I also cannot agree more with this statement; "Why the disparity? I believe it's what I encounter as many restaurants. Since gluten-free dining has become the latest fad diet, I honestly believe that many establishments don't feel the need to take proper care."

     

    I'd be curious to know if your gluten free toast was in fact toasted in a safe gluten free toaster or oven? Something tells me it probably was not by the sound of your experience.

     

    I believe that dining establishments just do not fully understand that celiac is a disease. And when people come in saying they need to gluten free, when in fact they don't, with that so called meal being either contaminated or cross contaminate the person who "needs" to eat gluten free goes on their merry way without any ill effects or sickness. This gives the restaurants and so-called "need" to eat gluten free customers a false sense of accomplishment, when in fact the entire time there was some amount gluten in the meal being served and consumed. This is the very reason why I no longer eat out, I was tired of getting sick all the times that I did. It is also the reason why I haven't had a true vacation outside the States since getting diagnosed with celiac in 2007.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    We just got back from our second cruise with Disney Cruise Line. They did an exemplary job at making gluten free as easy as possible. Even on the buffet line, one of the head chefs will come out and walk you through the buffet line and offer to make you special items. They have free room service and when you look at the menu it appears they don't have much that is gluten free, but if you simply request things like gluten free doughnuts or cookies, they are able to comply. I have cruised with Royal Caribbean before, and I was underwhelmed. Their staff is not well trained and once they even told me that regular rice krispies (blue box-before gluten free rice krispies were even available) were gluten free! Needless to say, I won't be sailing with Royal Caribbean again, but Disney is a line I trust with my dietary needs. Thank you for reviewing two other lines!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Lonna Swearingen

    Posted

    I had booked a cruise a year in advance on Valentine's Day with Carnival Cruise Line in 2009 for 2010..Before the year was up I was diagnosed with celiac disease...I contacted Carnival and they were very accommodating by providing gluten free dinner choices for me. As far as other meals I just chose to eat salads...

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Guest Sophie Chenoweth

    Posted

    I have had similar experiences on holiday however some tour companies and restaurants are fantastic. I agree that many ignorant people in hospitality think it's just a fad diet and have never heard of Coeliac disease. That disappoints me.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    There is no excuse for a high-end cruise line like Oceana to be so sloppy about something so important to our health. Thanks for the warning--I will cross them off my try-someday list. For a great high-end gluten-free experience, I highly recommend SeaDream.

     

    I've been on Princess and it was fine, but of all the mainstream cruise lines, I think Celebrity is the best. At least half their regular menu items are naturally gluten free (including all soups and sauces--thickened with cornstarch, not flour), and gluten free selections are clearly marked on the regular menus so you don't need to order in advance. It's such a pleasure to be able to decide what I want at the last minute like everyone else. They have separate gluten-free toasters in their buffets at a totally different station from where the gluten bread is--they are super careful to avoid cross-contamination everywhere.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Celebrity is wonderful for gluten free. I was treated so well for every lunch/dinner. Everyone was served a souffle for dessert one evening - I got one the following night - made at one of the specialty restaurants. It's why we always cruise with Celebrity when possible - sound a lot like Princess!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Too Bad the Author had such difficulties. Fortunately my multiple experiences with Holland America have been just the opposite. I have had zero problems. They have my dietary requirements on file and refer to them when I book. The concierge and waiters all know of my status from the moment I enter the dining area (good cross-communication), and I look at the next nights menu to choose what I would like. The chefs prepare my selections gluten-free and if they cannot modify the recipe for me they offer other options. I have never (knock on wood) had any gluten reactions on the 4 cruises with them. Even the smorgasbord staff are knowledgeable about gluten. Even tho I trust what they do, I admit I am still vigilant (that is my responsibility). I love and trust Holland America.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Join the conversation

    You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Guest
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • About Me

    Bio not available,

×
×
  • Create New...