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Daxin

gluten-free On Cruises

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My wife and I have just booked a cruise for this January, and are very excited. I'm just curious though. Has anyone here been on a cruise? They tell me gluten-free is not a problem, but I'm understandibly cautious.

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The only thing I would worry about is eating at the buffets. Pretty much any dietary issue can be easily handled in the dining room, but you can't control cross contamination and such at the buffets. Also, things may be difficult on shore. I would probably take a box of packaged gluten-free bars (Lara bars, or similar) so you're sure to have something to eat during the day. There are really strict rules about not taking any produce on or off the ship, so make sure whatever you take is packaged.

What cruise line are you going on. If it's Royal Caribbean, make sure you get some of their Flourless Chocolate Cake. It is WONDERFUL, and naturally gluten-free!!!

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We went with Royal Caribbean last year in January, and it was great. Make sure you talk to the maitre d (forget how you are supposed to spell that) as soon as you are able to, to avoid problems before even the first meal.

I had a schedule, where the hostess would come to my table every evening after dinner to check the menu for the next day with me, and to figure out substitutes for foods I couldn't have. It worked out very well.

And for land excursions I sneaked food off the ship in my backpack, nobody bothered checking. With thousands of people getting off, they simply don't have the time.

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My wife and I have just booked a cruise for this January, and are very excited. I'm just curious though. Has anyone here been on a cruise? They tell me gluten-free is not a problem, but I'm understandibly cautious.

I told our waiter and the head waiter. Anytime they saw me anywhere near food they were at my side giving me suggestions. Buffet, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Room Service!!! I was on Royal Carribean and will hesitate to travel any other way! The cruise was wonderful!!!!!

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We did a Disney Cruise last year, and it was heaven. They assigned a waiter and chef to us that would either guide us through our choices or, if needed, would go and fix us something special.

I wish every place was that easy!

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We're going on Holland America, and our travel agent already called and informed them of my gluten free request. They told her it would certainly not be a problem, so I am excited. We're not leaving until January, so I will keep checking this thread from time to time for more information/reviews etc. Thank to all of you who have replied so far.

I will also be back to offer up critiques/praises when I get home.

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Hey Ryan! I've been on three cruises so far and about to leave on my fourth. I didn't know about the gluten issue on my first two cruises, but on the last cruise I checked gluten free on my pre-cruise information, and was advised to talk to the Maitre'D once on board, which I did. I actually didn't have any problems, except one time at the buffet, I took some sliced beef which had some kind of coating on it. My fault, I should have known better and fortunately I didn't eat a lot of it (it was like an appetizer and I just took a couple of small slices).

My friend likes to eat at the buffet, so we did that regularly and I'd advise to be very careful, but I was willing to take the risk. One of the chefs noticed me staring at different things and asking for ingredients. He kindly took it upon himself to watch out for me every time I came through. Once he even went back and made me a special dinner because there wasn't anything I could eat that was safe. All other times he'd point out which dishes were safe and which weren't.

The dining room was the easiest of course. The head waiter was also very "protective", lol. I ordered a baked potato with no butter or sour cream and the assistant waiter forgot and put butter. The head guy made him take it back...I never had to say a word, lol.

I ALWAYS take supplemental foods just in case. I take nut butter, nutrition bars, nuts, and this time I'm going to try packing a small cooler in my checked bag with sliced turkey meat. Keep in mind that in some ports you won't be allowed to take food off the ship that isn't factory sealed...I took some nuts in a small ziplock bag, and was told that that wasn't acceptable...they had to be in the factory bag and sealed. No one searched my bag, and if I hadn't asked I'm sure no one would have noticed, but if for some reason you are searched at the port and they find it you CAN be fined I believe. So this time I'm taking small bags of nuts, and of course the nutrition bars are factory sealed so they are okay.

Have a great time!!! I always do. Where are you going? I leave at the end of this month to the Mexican Riviera. So far on my cruises I've been to the Caribbean, Western Europe, Panama Canal, and now the Mexican Riviera.

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My experience was not so great (with Amadeus). The waiters & the kitchen seemed unable to understand what was in the food they were serving. I was frequently advised to order food I knew I couldn't eat -- and they looked at me like I was being difficult when I told them.

It was particularly bad for those of us on board (6 celiac/intolerants on a cruise with a little over 100 passengers!) who couldn't have casein either (I don't know the stats on that -- at least one more; I was the only one who couldn't handle egg and who wanted vegetarian meals). About every sauce or dressing this chef could make contained cream or cheese. One lady told me that she had recently had a cruise with Norwegian, though, and it was wonderful. I wonder if the size of your ship and availability/nonavailability of different dining options makes a difference? We were on a small ship with one seating and limited kitchen facilities, staff, & ingredients onboard.

Twice I got sick.

First time they recommended "oriental vegetables" for me. I asked if it had soy sauce and explained that this may contain wheat and that I was intolerant to soy too. I said don't bring it if it contains soy sauce. A different waiter brought out the food (the way it often was). I ate some. Yes, indeedy, soy sauce.

Second time they recommended the fish dish (I had to just give up on vegetarianism onboard -- that, or starve) which said it was coated in egg. I pointed out I was allergic to egg (each time this was a revelation to them -- as was the fact that mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce contain egg). They said they could serve me plain fish instead. I started eating it, and realized it had cooked bits of egg on it. All they had done was rinse the fish, and not too thoroughly.

I don't know what more I could have done. I advised the cruise line ahead of time, in writing. I called the cruise line, too, to make sure they got my fax and could accommodate me. I talked to the head of hotel services onboard, more than once. I gave her a copy of my fax. I talked to the maitre d more than once. I talked to the waiters. It was difficult, though, because their English was not very good. (They also did not have the same native language as the chef, who didn't speak English, apparently.) I told them all, in as polite but firm a manner as I could, when they had messed up. They were always so apologetic ... but nothing changed. It proved impossible to get anything to eat that wasn't on the menu (no plain rice, baked potatoes, plate of steamed veggies, etc.).

In terms of the food I ate -- very limited. It seemed like I could have potatoes for breakfast (which they first told me was fine and then on the last day told me had wheat on them :angry:), the salad bar for lunch (rarely anything like beans or something to make it more filling), and plain, unseasoned fish with a couple spoonfuls of veggies for dinner. One time I got a spoonful of sorbet; other than that, the only dessert I ever could get was fresh fruit.

They did have gluten-free bread (nice of them, not a very good one, though) and after a few days, got gluten-free pasta onboard. Unfortunately, practically everytime pasta was made it was not a dairy-free dish. (And no, I couldn't order a different sauce; I tried that.)

The only good things the cruise had going for it was that the rooms were nice, the entertainment was good, the places we visited were interesting, and the tour guides were excellent. That and we got free fine wine with lunch & dinner. Probably why I didn't go ballistic on them. I ate the dry gluten-free bread & washed it down with wine. Oh, I forgot to mention that we always had two courses before the main course & those who didn't order the earlier courses (rarely anything I could eat) had to sit there for an hour until the main courses were delivered for everyone.

It would have gone much better, I suspect, if I only had to avoid gluten. The other things I couldn't eat or didn't want to eat just was more than they could deal with.

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Donna,

What cruise lines have you had good luck on?

Thanks,

Michelle

I've only cruised with Princess. The first two cruises I didn't know about gluten yet, but I was eating an anti-yeast/candida diet, so it was low in that by default.

The third cruise was last December, and that was my first cruise gluten/casein free, so I was more concerned about hidden ingredients, etc. I eat fairly simply out of necessity (too many intolerances), so basically I stick to meats and veggies, and don't normall eat desserts anyway. While cruising, for my desserts, I usually just get fresh fruit. That all makes it a bit easier to stay well. Even at the buffet, I try to stick to that...usually getting the carved meat, but I always ask about coatings and seasonings for that.

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[sorry, had trigger finger and got a double post]

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Cruises are actually pretty good. I've been on a few recently. I went on Royal Caribbean a few months ago. They were great in the main dining room. The waiter is the same for the whole cruise. They work for tips, and I think they know how well people with food allergies tip when things go well. (At least I tip well for it!) The thing you have to watch out for is the buffet, obviously. And actually, I told our waiter how sick I was from eating eggs every morning because they had no rice. He actually went to the crew mess and brought me rice. (It's considered too common for vacationers, but I guarantee they have it for breakfast for crew on every ship.)

I also went on a Norwegian Cruise Lines trip in August. I traveled with my friend who is an officer, so I got some behind the scenes info. I told him how impressed I was with the gluten-free knowledge. He told me that all the servers were getting additional training on food allergens at that time, so I was able to put their new training to the test. They did great. They do "Free style cruising" which means you can pick the restaurant and the time. It's nice and flexible, but the downside (for us) is that you don't get the same waiter every time.

My only problems cruising were in port.

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Did Princess cruise lines have a gluten free menus? I have been trying to contact Princess cruise lines and they tell me they have gluten free menus, but they don't tell you what's on their menus.

We're going on Holland America, and our travel agent already called and informed them of my gluten free request. They told her it would certainly not be a problem, so I am excited. We're not leaving until January, so I will keep checking this thread from time to time for more information/reviews etc. Thank to all of you who have replied so far.

I will also be back to offer up critiques/praises when I get home.

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Did Princess cruise lines have a gluten free menus? I have been trying to contact Princess cruise lines and they tell me they have gluten free menus, but they don't tell you what's on their menus.

I never saw a separate menu, and the menus change fairly frequently anyway. On my first day on board the Maitre'D went over what on the regular menu they could make gluten free for me. They'll do that each night for the next day menu items if you want them to. They said they could make gluten-free pasta for any of the pasta dishes, etc. I don't eat any grains anymore, so I stay fairly simple with meat and veggies and on my last cruise also had baked potatoes ocassionally.

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We've cruised with Celebrity 5 times since gluten free. I've only had one problem in over 50 days of traveling with them and that was my fault for mistaking orzo for rice in a salad. Each trip has been a better experience that the previous trip. I do believe they are learning as time goes on.

While they do not have a gluten free menu, the maitre'd shows you the next evenings dinner menu. You choose you selection then and they make the necessary adjustments. Occassionally a selection will not be able to be prepared gluten-free. They will also show you the lunch menu if you request it.

We seldom dine in the dining room for breakfast or lunch. We always have lunch in the dining room the day they have liver and onions. The maitre'd's in the other areas have always been helpful and will go out of their way to get what you need. The chef has also been very accommadating. Desserts are usually custard, fruit, creme brulee or something along that line. On my last cruise, the chef made 2 gluten free selections (cakes) for the dessert extravaganza. I didn't go and felt really bad since he went out of his way to please me. Bread was brought at dinner but I usually request it not be since I really don't need the empty calories, I may carry rice crackers to nibble while the bread basket is passed. I found that on several occassions the chef, maitre'd's or waiters would ask questions about the diet and appeared to really have a desire to improve their service to the gluten-free population.

I do carry cereal, cookies to enjoy at tea time and bars to carry onshore just in case. On our last cruise I also carried a six-pack of Red Bridge to enjoy occassionaly. The only place that did not accommodate the gluten-free diet was the specialty restaurant.

Their brochure states: "We happily accommodate the following special diets: diabetic, low-fat, low-sodium, low-cholesterol, kosher, gluten-free and lactose-free". Gluten free and lactose free do require advance notice which I give but have never requested special items.

I wish I were packing for a cruise now but must wait a bit.

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Well, here's the final report on the cruise!

There were only 2 minor glitches that did not result in a glutening incedent.

The first night, they had prepared some gluten-free pasta for me for dinner.

Brekafast was buffet style, but they had some gluten-free bread on board, and were concious of me needs and used fresh pans etc for all my omlettes and eggs.

For all dinners, I was brought the next nights menu after dessert each evening. They allowed me to make my selections in advance and prepare the meal I requested accordingly. This way I was not relegated to eating plain grilled meats for the whole cruise. I was able to enjoy all the gourmet foods the rest of my family was enjoying, and it was HEAVENLY!

The one complaint I had was with our travel agent. Apparently, even though we made the note on the booking that I needed gluten free, there was a form we were supposed to send in 90 days before sailing to "purchase" (at no cost) breads, brownies etc. We were not aware of this and missed the deadline. However, calling the cruise line on another matter, the young lady emailed the ship's executive chef. They called me back within 30 minutes and told me there were gluten free items loaded as there were other people on our cruise that had the same issue, and there were also a few loaves of gluten-free bread left over from the previous week. They keep them frozen so they were not stale. I was so impressed with that.

All in all, the cruise was awesome. I just want to let all the members here know that these people bend over backwards to help and were more than accomodating.

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