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  • 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.

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    My better half and I have had several cruises with Carnival. She is Celiac and we have never had a problem - they have fresh pasta (gluten-free) made as you wait and in the dining room the Head Maître always came to the table at the end of dinner with the next days menu and discussed what was available, what they could make gluten-free and this included all 3 meals. Excellent service and recognition of this disease.

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    Since being diagnosed with celiac disease I have cruised on Royal Caribbean and Carnival and have had great experiences on both. I made sure they new several weeks in advance of cruising my dietary needs. Once on the ship I ordered each meal the night before. I was even able to have dessert every night, not that I needed it. I have sailed on Disney, but it was before I was diagnosed. However, I have heard all Disney theme parks and cruise lines understand those of us that must eat gluten free and are also very accommodating.

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    Your experiences mirror mine. I frequently cruise and Princess and Holland are, in my opinion, the best. I had issues with Oceania: felt I had to be on high alert, that they did not understand the importance of this diet and I could not trust them to be complaint. However, I must say that the captain made every effort to protect me. One evening, as I prepared to spear a morsel with my fork, I ended up hitting the table: He had realized the item could not be gluten-free and promptly removed it!


    Yes, we are the aliens. Yes, people do not take us seriously. We need to educate them. Take every opportunity to teach people about this. On a holiday trip to my son's home, I got glutened. The severity of my reaction surprised everyone in the family. Even they had not taken this as seriously as I would have expected them to. Nowadays, they are the ones who are hype-alert!


    One last thing: While on a tour in France we stopped at a family run inn. I did not expect to be able to eat there and asked permission to bring out my nut bar. The owner came over and in French told me that since every one in his family, including himself, were celiacs, everything on the menu was, in fact, gluten-free. I ate the best poultry I have ever eaten in my life! Wish I could go back there every weekend!

    Hi, Going to France in August of 2017, could you please give me the info to this family run inn owned by the family who have Celiac? It would be great to be able to stay there. Thanks

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