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MNBeth

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Hi all,

We are just back from our first cruise. It was a fabulous experience in many respects, but the food situation was a bit disappointing.

We were optimistic, having read reports of great cruise experiences, with knowledgeable dining staff helping people navigate menus and buffets. In our case, everyone was kind, but not necessarily knowledgeable. The head chef clearly knew his stuff, but his staff didn't do a great job of keeping our orders gluten-free. We had to send back several plates that had fries or hash browns, as well as some dishes of ice cream that came garnished w/cookies. (The hash-browns were the deep-fried triangles you'd get at Mc Donalds or in a school lunch - disappointing in itself!) The manager of the more casual buffet-style dining room said, "Sure, sure, you eat here whenever you want and I will take care of you!" But he didn't usually offer to help when I came in unless I asked, and in many he cases he told me to avoid lots of dishes because he didn't know whether or not they were gluten-free. Some of them I probably could have eaten if he'd bothered to check it out, and it was frustrating to have to be even more limited than I needed to be.

He did recommend something on the buffet line that was later served to my son with the tongs from the breaded fish. So, no, we didn't feel too safe in there, and mostly ate plain chicken, fruit and plain salad. Not terribly exciting. There were also many other food spots that were simply off-limits, like the burger, taco bar by the pool and the various special event buffets like a huge dessert buffet they set up one night and the "Alaskan Barbecue" on our last at sea day. We just had to skip those, because no one was there who could tell us if anything was safe for us.

The chef in the main dining room would adapt menu items for us, but no-one gave us any recommendations, and often the adaptations meant we'd get the featured item without the sauce that gave the dish it's only interest. They did have on hand gluten-free bread, blueberry muffins, and english muffins - all Kinnickinnick, I think, and that was nice for my son. I don't eat that stuff. But while our pre-cruise paperwork allowed us to choose three desserts to have on board, the only thing they had was a totally stale, dry, freezerburned chocolate cake, and it was cheerfully served to us twice a day unless we asked them not to bring it. Ugh, it was nasty. There were other desserts that looked like they might be safe, but, again, nobody seemed able to tell us. We had also requested cereal pre-cruise, but they didn't have that for us at all.

On the last night we both ordered a pasta w/Italian sausage dish. The main steward wasn't sure they would have gluten-free pasta, but I knew they did - my son had had some once already. When I got mine and started eating, I thought the sauce tasted awfully starchy. My brother-in-law agreed, so we asked them to check it out. Turns out the chef had made a special sauce for my son and me, but the person who dished it up used the wrong kind. Fortunately my son got his well after I got mine and didn't eat any. I never got a very clear answer as to what, exactly, was in the sauce - only that it wasn't completely gluten free. I'm still not too sick, though - to my very great surprise. It's been about 48 hours. I haven't gotten glutened in several months, so I'm wondering whether there was too little gluten in the sauce for a few bites' worth to make me sick, or if it's going to just take longer now for it to hit me, or if God really did a miracle in answer to my sister-in-law's prayer at the time.

When they did finally bring out our genuinely gluten-free pasta dishes, there was no sausage - but no one had bothered to tell us that the sausage pasta dish would be sausage-free if it were gluten-free. I'd certainly have chosen something else.

Anyway, it may be that another Holland America crew might handle gluten-free fabulously, but our experience wasn't too hot. Very limited options, always a certain amount of stress involved in getting meals, and the constant need to be very watchful definitely detracted from the whole cruise experience.

It was definitely worth it all, though, for our day in Glacier Bay! What an thrilling place that was!! :-D

p.s. I should add that the head chef did come to our table and apologize very graciously and without excuses when we got the pasta with the wrong sauce. He also said that it was completely unacceptable, and that the person who dished our plates would no longer hold that position. I appreciated that, and don't know what more he could have said.

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I have been on one cruise since being gluten-free. I find it difficult at times to be surrounded by wonderful looking food and not have any. Part of my issue is prior to dx the food was such a huge part of cruising for me. I need to change my perspective.

I know that Holland America is owned by the same people that own Carnival. I have heard that Carnival will provide safe meals but they are plain. So I am not too surprised by their lack of imagination in the food department.

I was on Royal Carribean and was very impressed with the knowledge of the management. Waiters and bus boys had no clue. I found the desserts to be lacking, as in I had none! I received fresh fruit at the end of my meal as my dh had cake and other goodies. I did get sick but I get sick anytime I seem to go out. Just highly sensitive.

I am hopeful that our next experience will be better since it is a longer cruise, we will see.

Glad you enjoyed the sights!

Hez

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Thanks for posting a review! I had been considering Holland America for my next cruise but the more positive reviews for gluten free food seem to be NCL and Royal Carribean so maybe I will restrict my search to those cruise lines. I really appreciate your taking the time to let us know of your experience.

Michelle

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Your review causes a good bit of conern. We are booked for a 2 week cruise on HAL Maasdam in October.

We have previously cruised with HAL five times but all were pre gluten-free. Since gluten-free we have sailed with Celebrity 5 times. The first was much as you describe without the Kinnickinnick products, unsauced meats, plain food with no imagination. However each trip improved and was more enjoyable. On the last two sailings I could speak with the maitre'd at the buffet and be provided with a safe, enjoyable meal. This enabled me to enjoy my day with family and friends who did not wish to dine in the dining room for all meals. I always carry my own cereal, cookies and a couple of snacks.

I'm sorry you had such an unpleasant experience. I think I will try to contact someone tomorrow and see if I can clarify what I should expect. I may not get results but it is at least worth a try.

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We did a HAL cruise last January (The Zuiderdam) and it was wonderful.

The first night was a bit of a let down (plain gluten-free noodles) but after that, they brought me the next night's menu and allowed me to choose ahead of time. They would modify the menu as required, but I still had tasty sauces, wonderful veggies etc. The meals were excellent.

Even in the buffet, the staff were more than happy to help me make the appropriate selections. The gluten-free breads etc available were Life Bread, and were VERY tasty. I even look for them at our local stores now. They even had a sign on the breakfast buffet that gluten-free bread was available and to ask the Toast Station for it. they even made sure to toast it so as to not get it contaminated.

All in all, it was pretty good. They only complain /I/ had, was that more often than not, they kept forgetting to take DD's order at dinner.


Ryan

Positive blood work May 06

Positive results with diet change

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