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caitlynmariah

Gluten Free On Royal Caribbean? Anybody?

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Hello, all!

 

     I will soon be setting sail on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas (yay!) for a ten day cruise. While this is by no means my first cruise, it is my first time traveling with a severe gluten intolerance, and on this specific cruise line as well. I have a few questions & really just wanted some personal testimony from others who have traveled successfully with a gluten-free lifestyle. My travel agent is extremely helpful and has definitely done whatever was necessary to accommodate me and my dietary needs, however, she is not gluten-free and therefore does not understand the full extent.

 

     Like I said, I will be gone for ten days, and I need to ensure I have enough food to eat at all times. I am already underweight enough and really, really cannot afford to lose any more & do not have a desire to either. I am bringing a small suitcase as a carry-on with my foods full of snacks and anything else. Does anyone recommend any snacks that travel well or things they brought/wish they had brought? Suggestions are definitely encouraged and celebrated! Aside from dry items; I really am concerned with bringing items I may need that do need refrigeration (ex, salad dressing - I'm really picky & need my blue cheese). My travel agent said this is fine and even requested a refrigerator for my cabin for medical reasons, telling me this would be no problem AT ALL and that I could bring whatever foods I want - perishable or non. Upon doing some of my own homework/research this AM, I saw that RCCL says you can only bring non-perishable items on board? Is this true, can anyone validate? If I have a refrigerator for medical reasons, I can't imagine them telling me that I couldn't bring my items that I will travel with in an insulated bag prior to refrigeration? Thanks in advance for the validation. 

 

     My other questions surround eating the food already prepared on the ship.. I really am having concerns surrounding this, but if enough people can ease my fears with their (positive) personal experiences, I will feel a lot better, which is ultimately why I am here posting. I am aware the sit-down dining restaurants easily cater to gluten-free/other dietary needs and cruisers have had no issues eating there but I am curious about the buffet. My family (including myself!) LOVED the buffets aboard our previous cruises because of the freestyle dining anytime you want, anywhere you want, and anything you want. I really would love to be able to eat this way with my family but don't know the set up of the buffet dining hall. Are there certain sections dedicated to gluten-free diners? Or will someone be there to show me which items are "safe/okay" for me to eat, and which ones aren't? Obviously I know I cannot indulge in a plate of pasta, or a bagel or toast, but there are items such as salad dressings, potatoes, meats etc. that I can eat if they are prepared/handled safely. Are any of these items in the buffet safe for gluten-free diners who have been on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas? If so, what kind of foods did they have? Please be as specific as possible. I understand that the restaurants can prepare something for me while my family eats at the buffet, but this will mean that my meal isn't free and I will have to wait for my food to be prepared. This translates to my family (especially my father and sister) eating without me and me eating by myself, which will then make me feel rushed and alienated. Ugggh. 

 

     If anyone has had any personal experiences, would you please share? Please, please, please don't hesitate to share ANYTHING - good, bad or indifferent. I WANT to know if you had a horrible experience on an island port because you hadn't thought to bring any food off the ship to eat there while you did your excursions so I can be prepared and bring my own! I WANT to know if you got sick from eating X, Y and Z so I can avoid those items as well. Please don't be afraid to upset me in anyway, I will be upset either way at some point in time, I am sure (especially when I see people sinking their teeth into bagels!  :angry: )

 

Thank you!  :D

 

 

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We had a great experience twice on RC. Will write more in a few hours. Have lots of tips! I am heading out the door!


Non-functioning Gall bladder Removal Surgery 2005

Diagnosed via Blood Test and Endoscopy: March 2013

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis -- Stable 2014

Anemia -- Resolved

Fractures (vertebrae): June 2013

Osteopenia/osteoporosis -- June 2013

Allergies and Food Intolerances

Diabetes -- January 2014

Celiac.com - Celiac Disease Board Moderator

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Hi!

 

RC was wonderful, but there is only so much that they can do to insure your safety.  So, start with a clean slate as far as your past experiences and expectations go.    Hopefully, your family will cooperate so that you can all enjoy the trip!  

 

You can bring your gluten-free snacks or special dressing on board (purchase at your starting port and do not try to carry your dressing  on an airplane).  Most rooms have a frig, so there is no problem storing food.  The Caribbean port stops are short.  We just took snacks and a few apples to eat while in port and purchased chips or drinks in stores and restaurants.   We did not bother to search for safe gluten free restaurants.  There simply was not enough time.  We made sure that we got up early and ate a hearty breakfast in the dining room.  

 

 YOU CAN NOT EAT IN THE BUFFET RESTAURANT AS RC WILL NOT INSURE YOUR SAFETY.   That advice was given to us by staff who were being realistic.  Of course, there are gluten-free menu items labeled in the buffet line for those folks who think gluten-free is healthy but do not have celiac disease or NCGI, but are you really going to trust that there has been no cross contamination?  Staff told us NO WAY!  I believed them.     But, what to do about that first meal as you board?  Go to the buffet restaurant and several of the head waiters (managers) will be there to greet you.  Tell them about your dietary restrictions and ask if they could go back into the buffet kitchen and prepare a plate for you from an untouched chaffing dish.  You can not be picky.  It might be simply some chicken and rice.  But it is food.  Grab an apple or banana later (to wash in the restroom) for a snack.   I can not stress enough that you need to be really NICE!

 

There is no way the staff will want to do this every single day.  They have too many people to assist.  So, plan on eating in the main dining room for ALL MEALS.    We prefer this anyway, because we like being waited on.  Our kids would hit the buffet at lunch, but our over 50 crowd and moms who normally slave away in the kitchen at home, love the serve and attention from our wait staff.  

 

We made fast friends with our head waiters, bar staff and waiters.  Even at breakfast, when you never know where you will sit, everyone got to know us.  That is because our evening headwaiter informed them in advance.  (We tipped him big!)  Make sure you ask for fresh eggs.  They get scrambled in some big bag and no one could verify if the eggs were safe.  No breakfast buffet either.  The risk of cross contamination is great.  Who wants to be sick on a cruise?   Each night, they baked muffins and fresh bread for us (that the rest of our extended family would snag.)  The same was available in the morning.  I ordered two shrimp cocktail appetizers every single night and loved it!  (That was in addition to my main meal!)   The waiters will let you know (and it is printed on the menu) what is gluten-free or can be made gluten-free.  We were never hungry.  

 

DO NOT ORDER FROM ROOM SERVICE.  Those kitchens are not equipped to handle gluten-free and cross contamination issues.   So, what to do?  When we returned to port, we grabbed fruit and coffee  from the coffee shop.  Our head waiter sent down in advance to the pizza kitchen, frozen UDI's pizzas.  We placed our order, came back in  30 minutes and got a safely wrapped pizza.  Pre-wrapped UDI cookies were also sent down to coffee shop.  I would get my coffee each morning before going to the diningroom by running down to the coffee shop and going right next door to the specialty coffee area for added soymilk that was free of charge.  (I did purchase some soymilk for my frig initially, but could not find replacements in ports like St. Petersburg, etc. due to language issues.)  You can make coffee in your room or order just coffee or tea from room service and they have half and half.  But again, do not order food from room service!     Some bread, cookies and crackers were sent to our room for the times we were hungry.  I can not tell you how delighted we were to have such a helpful headwaiter and waiter.  They were the best!  (Love you, David from Italy!)  

 

We did not eat the ice cream from the soft serve machine that everyone touched and handled.  We bought ice cream from stores on the islands that were prepackaged.  We had ice cream served to us in the dining room that was safe along with lots of creme brulee!  

 

So, the best thing is to get your family to eat with you in the dining room for all meals.  Remember, they can ask for anything off the menu.  We have a couple of food-obsessed people in our family, but we do not travel with them.  Their goal is to eat and gorge and our goal is to spent time with family and see the sights. 

 

Finally, I can not stress enough the importance of being nice, polite, thankful and ever demanding.  I would hate for RC (or any other cruise line) to stop catering to those with celiac disease or NCGI because of a lawsuit from some disgruntled passenger who did not do his due diligence and think it is his right to be 100% safe.    Be realistic!  You get more flies with honey than vinegar!  

 

Have fun!  


Non-functioning Gall bladder Removal Surgery 2005

Diagnosed via Blood Test and Endoscopy: March 2013

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis -- Stable 2014

Anemia -- Resolved

Fractures (vertebrae): June 2013

Osteopenia/osteoporosis -- June 2013

Allergies and Food Intolerances

Diabetes -- January 2014

Celiac.com - Celiac Disease Board Moderator

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Hi!

 

RC was wonderful, but there is only so much that they can do to insure your safety.  So, start with a clean slate as far as your past experiences and expectations go.    Hopefully, your family will cooperate so that you can all enjoy the trip!  

 

You can bring your gluten-free snacks or special dressing on board (purchase at your starting port and do not try to carry your dressing  on an airplane).  Most rooms have a frig, so there is no problem storing food.  The Caribbean port stops are short.  We just took snacks and a few apples to eat while in port and purchased chips or drinks in stores and restaurants.   We did not bother to search for safe gluten free restaurants.  There simply was not enough time.  We made sure that we got up early and ate a hearty breakfast in the dining room.  

 

 YOU CAN NOT EAT IN THE BUFFET RESTAURANT AS RC WILL NOT INSURE YOUR SAFETY.   That advice was given to us by staff who were being realistic.  Of course, there are gluten-free menu items labeled in the buffet line for those folks who think gluten-free is healthy but do not have celiac disease or NCGI, but are you really going to trust that there has been no cross contamination?  Staff told us NO WAY!  I believed them.     But, what to do about that first meal as you board?  Go to the buffet restaurant and several of the head waiters (managers) will be there to greet you.  Tell them about your dietary restrictions and ask if they could go back into the buffet kitchen and prepare a plate for you from an untouched chaffing dish.  You can not be picky.  It might be simply some chicken and rice.  But it is food.  Grab an apple or banana later (to wash in the restroom) for a snack.   I can not stress enough that you need to be really NICE!

 

There is no way the staff will want to do this every single day.  They have too many people to assist.  So, plan on eating in the main dining room for ALL MEALS.    We prefer this anyway, because we like being waited on.  Our kids would hit the buffet at lunch, but our over 50 crowd and moms who normally slave away in the kitchen at home, love the serve and attention from our wait staff.  

 

We made fast friends with our head waiters, bar staff and waiters.  Even at breakfast, when you never know where you will sit, everyone got to know us.  That is because our evening headwaiter informed them in advance.  (We tipped him big!)  Make sure you ask for fresh eggs.  They get scrambled in some big bag and no one could verify if the eggs were safe.  No breakfast buffet either.  The risk of cross contamination is great.  Who wants to be sick on a cruise?   Each night, they baked muffins and fresh bread for us (that the rest of our extended family would snag.)  The same was available in the morning.  I ordered two shrimp cocktail appetizers every single night and loved it!  (That was in addition to my main meal!)   The waiters will let you know (and it is printed on the menu) what is gluten-free or can be made gluten-free.  We were never hungry.  

 

DO NOT ORDER FROM ROOM SERVICE.  Those kitchens are not equipped to handle gluten-free and cross contamination issues.   So, what to do?  When we returned to port, we grabbed fruit and coffee  from the coffee shop.  Our head waiter sent down in advance to the pizza kitchen, frozen UDI's pizzas.  We placed our order, came back in  30 minutes and got a safely wrapped pizza.  Pre-wrapped UDI cookies were also sent down to coffee shop.  I would get my coffee each morning before going to the diningroom by running down to the coffee shop and going right next door to the specialty coffee area for added soymilk that was free of charge.  (I did purchase some soymilk for my frig initially, but could not find replacements in ports like St. Petersburg, etc. due to language issues.)  You can make coffee in your room or order just coffee or tea from room service and they have half and half.  But again, do not order food from room service!     Some bread, cookies and crackers were sent to our room for the times we were hungry.  I can not tell you how delighted we were to have such a helpful headwaiter and waiter.  They were the best!  (Love you, David from Italy!)  

 

We did not eat the ice cream from the soft serve machine that everyone touched and handled.  We bought ice cream from stores on the islands that were prepackaged.  We had ice cream served to us in the dining room that was safe along with lots of creme brulee!  

 

So, the best thing is to get your family to eat with you in the dining room for all meals.  Remember, they can ask for anything off the menu.  We have a couple of food-obsessed people in our family, but we do not travel with them.  Their goal is to eat and gorge and our goal is to spent time with family and see the sights. 

 

Finally, I can not stress enough the importance of being nice, polite, thankful and ever demanding.  I would hate for RC (or any other cruise line) to stop catering to those with celiac disease or NCGI because of a lawsuit from some disgruntled passenger who did not do his due diligence and think it is his right to be 100% safe.    Be realistic!  You get more flies with honey than vinegar!  

 

Have fun!  

Wow, thank you so incredibly much, CyclingLady! Your reply has been very helpful and I really appreciate the thorough manner in which it was composed. Thank you, thank you!

 

I have already thought of a few more questions that I hope you wouldn't mind answering (and I'm sure more questions will come in future days!). As I stated above, I am definitely bringing my own suitcase full of safe foods for me to eat throughout my trip in effort to reduce the stress/anxiety surrounding my allergies and I don't mind over-packing but I was curious about the potential of specific foods that I may not need to pack! Do you recall that the ship had Oatmeal and yogurt out for breakfast? I know the last cruise I was on (different cruise line, however) did have prepackaged (safe) yogurts and a vat of oatmeal, which for most with Celiac would not be safe although I have no issues with oatmeal. I eat Quaker frequently with my NCGI and have no issues surrounding that particular food, which I have heard is common among other sufferers and that gluten-free oats are typically necessary for those with celiac, which I do not have. That being said, if Royal Caribbean does indeed have oatmeal, I will eat it.. but if they don't have it at all, I would want to bring my own instant packets. Do you remember these two specific foods? I consume a lot of both of these foods as I really love them, and the health benefits of yogurt are highly beneficial to my nutritional deficits stemming from my food intolerances as well as previous oral issues I had due to my NCGI. 

 

I am not a "picky" eater by any means, but I do have certain staple foods that I enjoy eating and I am not very adventurous because I easily get an upset stomach from spicy or "ethnic" foods.. e.g. chinese, etc. I love any kind of Italian food though, so I am thrilled to hear about the pizza! My family actually has reservations at Chops Grille.. Did you eat there? And if so, was it a successful/enjoyable dining experience? Please let me know! Also, my sister is over the moon to have Ben & Jerrys on the station on board.. Do they have any gluten-free options? If not, that is understandable and really, I'm not even an ice-cream lover, just curious! ;) 

 

Thank you again. I really apologize for the seemingly endless questions!  

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Oatmeal in the diningroom should be safe in your case and any prepackaged yogurt is usually fine (read the label). We never eat at the specialty restaurants as we were told that for the most part they were not set up to handle gluten free (e.g. Pizza or burgers) and we travel in such a huge group. I would talk to the manager at the Chops Grille since most high-end restaurants on land can accommodate gluten-free. As far as the ice cream, we eat Ben and Jerrys (depending on the flavor). You need to ask for a clean scooper and a new tub of ice cream to prevent cross contamination.

My parents cruise many times a year. They have found that the extra restaurants (you pay extra for them) are not worth it (and they can afford it). So they have stopped going to them. They prefer fine dining while in ports (they are not gluten-free).


Non-functioning Gall bladder Removal Surgery 2005

Diagnosed via Blood Test and Endoscopy: March 2013

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis -- Stable 2014

Anemia -- Resolved

Fractures (vertebrae): June 2013

Osteopenia/osteoporosis -- June 2013

Allergies and Food Intolerances

Diabetes -- January 2014

Celiac.com - Celiac Disease Board Moderator

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I  know this is an old thread, but I had a recent experience on the Majesty of the Seas and I wanted to throw it out there at ALL SHIPS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL in regards to training. This was my first cruise and I had read online about the lovely head waiters who take care of everything. This was the case at dinner. 

 

For any of that days that lunch was not served in the dining room (all three for my case), I was not able to eat. I had emailed the Special Needs team at Royal Caribbean and they informed me that for the buffet, they would be able to go to the galley to get a safe meal. This was not the case. The head waiter and the chef looked at each other and kept offering me "french fries", which is cool and all, but not a meal. Seemed as if that was the only meal that the chef knew was safe the first day when we got on the cruise. 

Another lunch before getting off the ship, a manager at the buffet told me I could eat some Roasted Turkey that they were carving. Appeared to be a brand new roast and they were the only ones carving the meal. He told me it was safe, so I asked for 5 slices. After eating it (which it was good) went back to get more and he offered to have the head chef "walk me around and show me the options on the buffet"...which is still a no-no for a Celiac. He insisted and the head chef came out and saw the refill turkey on my plate and said "she can't have that"... the two of them looked at each other dumbfounded and he was nodding like that "yes, yes she can... i already gave her some"... and so I finally stopped the shenanigans and said "look, I'm going to know in like 30-45 min if I can or can't have this... be honest"... and they called another chef to ask and settle the argument.

The bartenders were clueless. I was asking about the frozen beverages and the guy looked at me and said "its juice, I think" and so I went down to guest services, who directed me to the head bartender... who didn't know and directed me to the Schooner Bar to a lady who said "don't do it, cross contamination". I was thankful for her, as she was the ONLY person that seemed to know what they were talking about.

The dinners were great. They asked ahead of time and the head waiter was on his game and brought me more shrimp cocktail after I woofed down the first set from not eating lunch. 

 

I've reached out to Royal Caribbean multiple times and they wouldn't let me talk to a manager, only the customer service reps... which doesn't give me high hopes that it got to the right person. I was asked to email my concerns, so I did... no response, but my parents weirdly got a message on their phone with an apology. 

 

I got sick. They didn't seem to mind too much because nobody posts about it. I more just want to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else.... but I don't feel confident in RC anymore.

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5 hours ago, gfkh said:

I  know this is an old thread, but I had a recent experience on the Majesty of the Seas and I wanted to throw it out there at ALL SHIPS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL in regards to training. This was my first cruise and I had read online about the lovely head waiters who take care of everything. This was the case at dinner. 

 

For any of that days that lunch was not served in the dining room (all three for my case), I was not able to eat. I had emailed the Special Needs team at Royal Caribbean and they informed me that for the buffet, they would be able to go to the galley to get a safe meal. This was not the case. The head waiter and the chef looked at each other and kept offering me "french fries", which is cool and all, but not a meal. Seemed as if that was the only meal that the chef knew was safe the first day when we got on the cruise. 

Another lunch before getting off the ship, a manager at the buffet told me I could eat some Roasted Turkey that they were carving. Appeared to be a brand new roast and they were the only ones carving the meal. He told me it was safe, so I asked for 5 slices. After eating it (which it was good) went back to get more and he offered to have the head chef "walk me around and show me the options on the buffet"...which is still a no-no for a Celiac. He insisted and the head chef came out and saw the refill turkey on my plate and said "she can't have that"... the two of them looked at each other dumbfounded and he was nodding like that "yes, yes she can... i already gave her some"... and so I finally stopped the shenanigans and said "look, I'm going to know in like 30-45 min if I can or can't have this... be honest"... and they called another chef to ask and settle the argument.

The bartenders were clueless. I was asking about the frozen beverages and the guy looked at me and said "its juice, I think" and so I went down to guest services, who directed me to the head bartender... who didn't know and directed me to the Schooner Bar to a lady who said "don't do it, cross contamination". I was thankful for her, as she was the ONLY person that seemed to know what they were talking about.

The dinners were great. They asked ahead of time and the head waiter was on his game and brought me more shrimp cocktail after I woofed down the first set from not eating lunch. 

 

I've reached out to Royal Caribbean multiple times and they wouldn't let me talk to a manager, only the customer service reps... which doesn't give me high hopes that it got to the right person. I was asked to email my concerns, so I did... no response, but my parents weirdly got a message on their phone with an apology. 

 

I got sick. They didn't seem to mind too much because nobody posts about it. I more just want to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else.... but I don't feel confident in RC anymore.

I am sorry that you got sick on that particular ship.  I would recommend posting your comments a forum like Cruise Critics because I bet RC employees are checking out comments there.  I also suggest sending a letter and not an email to the CEO.  

Every cruise has risks for celiacs.  We cruise with our extended family, but we prefer to travel on our own where we have control over our food.  

Thank you for sharing!  


Non-functioning Gall bladder Removal Surgery 2005

Diagnosed via Blood Test and Endoscopy: March 2013

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis -- Stable 2014

Anemia -- Resolved

Fractures (vertebrae): June 2013

Osteopenia/osteoporosis -- June 2013

Allergies and Food Intolerances

Diabetes -- January 2014

Celiac.com - Celiac Disease Board Moderator

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