Jump to content
  • Sign Up
0
farmwife67

Planing A Cruise Any Advice?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

We are thinking of taking our kids on a cruise in December. Does anyone have any advice for me as far as eating gluten-free? Maybe you've had experience with good cruiselines or bad. If I call ahead will they better accomodate me or am I on my own???? We are starting to make plans now and it might make a difference on which cruiseline we decide to use. I'm kind of freaked out about this, but I don't want to become a hermit. (I'm only about 7 weeks gluten-free and my husband is just starting and he says he feels better already)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've sailed Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines since going gluten free. I had excellent experiences on both.

Royal Caribbean has the standard situation- dining in the main dining room is included in the price and you get the same waiter every time. You then tip the main waiter at the end of the week. For this reason, they get to know you and your food needs. Our waiter had gluten-free bread made for us every night, and actually went to the crew dining room to get us plain rice for breakfast. RC also has other premium restaurants on board (e.g. steakhouse), and those usually cost an extra $10-$20 bucks per person. You have to notify RC a certain number of days in advance for special diets. I don't think it's critical that you do this, however, since you don't have to use the dining room for every meal. You may not have many choices in the buffet areas, but there's always the dining room option.

Norwegian Cruise Lines does "freestyle dining," meaning you just pick a different restaurant every time. I'm not sure if you have to notify them in advance or not, but it's a good idea. I went as a crew ride-along with my ex-bf, not as a paying passenger. I didn't make reservations, but I basically was a passenger. I explained my food needs at every meal, and they did a great job accommodating my requests. Because my ex was an employee, he chatted with some of the wait staff and the kitchen staff. He learned that they had just done a huge training program for special needs diets. (This was 2 years ago.)

In general, I think a cruise is the safest gluten-free option for certain countries with gluten-heavy cuisine. Just call the cruise line ahead of time to verify specifics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are thinking of taking our kids on a cruise in December. Does anyone have any advice for me as far as eating gluten-free? Maybe you've had experience with good cruiselines or bad. If I call ahead will they better accomodate me or am I on my own???? We are starting to make plans now and it might make a difference on which cruiseline we decide to use. I'm kind of freaked out about this, but I don't want to become a hermit. (I'm only about 7 weeks gluten-free and my husband is just starting and he says he feels better already)

Disney is wonderful about accommodating "special" dietary needs on their cruise line as well as in the resort and theme parks.

You can even order gluten-free Birthday Cake(s) if you are celebrating while on vacation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would AVOID Carnival! I had a terrible experience with them. I was on the Mariner of the Seas last summer and had a MUCH better experience. One thing I do now is take a couple of hours during the cruise to write how they could improve their gluten-free diet dinning experience as part of the comment card experience. Good luck with the planning and enjoy yourself!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We just got back from a Caribe cruise on Princess. I notified them in advance of our dietary needs, and it was a great experience! We had the traditional dining, and the head waiter and table waiter both were very attentive and helpful. We could have nearly everything on the menu made gluten free! (except for the pasta dishes unfortunately). They brought us the next nights menu and allowed us to choose what we wanted. When there was nothing that could be accomodated (mostly with desserts) they made a special item for us.

Unfortunately, the buffets were not that way, but it's understandable when you're got such masses to feed. By the end of the cruise I was sure tired of eggs for breakfast!

I even took along my own gluten-free ice cream cones (in an empty pringles can to keep them from being crushed in the luggage) so I could have ice cream whenever I wanted it.

All in all I was very pleased with the extent of their concern and service for us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just got back (a week ago!) from a cruise on the Celebrity Solstice (Celebrity Cruises (note: Celebrity is a subsidiary of Royal Carribean)). I have taken 8 previous cruises, all with Princess, and all pre-diagnosis. I should mention, I am extremely sensitive to ANY cross-contamination whatsoever--ANY--> I know if 2 drops of soy sauce made it onto my chicken, or my toast was toasted in a toaster w/regular toast. So, suffice it to say, I was a nervous nelly going into this vacation... but I shouldn't have been because Celebrity was AMAAAAAAAZING!!!!! I would recommend them to ANYONE!!! They went above & beyond any and all expectations I could possibly imagine, and they made me feel like I was a queen the entire cruise! In fact, there were times my husband (not gluten-free) felt jealous because of the star treatment I was given :) Let me give you a run down on the highlights... but, again, it was AMAZING!!

1. Definitely contact the cruise line ahead of time. I marked "gluten-free" on the special dietary needs list online, but then contacted Celebrity's special needs department and faxed them a more detailed description of my gluten-free needs, since, as we know, not all gluten-free folks are the same. I followed up w/a phone call, and they were FANTASTIC. They transferred me to the dining dept on the phone, and I spoke with someone, who assured me that a table for 2 was no issue, and they preferred to put special needs at smaller tables (if the party is small in size) because it was easier for them as well.

2. The first afternoon on the ship, I went to the main dining room to explain I was gluten-free & expected a hassle. WRONG. Two different maitre d's sat with me with that night's menu, and we walked through the options on EVERY single dish. They brought out a chef as well to talk through it. Additionally, because neither of those maitre d's were "mine" (i.e. were I was assigned to eat for dinner), they would pass the information along. That night at dinner, my waiter came over, immediately says "I understand you are gluten-free, do not worry, we have it under control, I will ensure everything comes out correctly." And he did. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. My maitre d for my area also came over at the beginning of the meal to introduce himself, mention he knew of my gluten-free, and then ask if I needed anything at that point, and that he would watch the food as well. Of course, it being the first night, I was still leery... but sure enough... clean food came right out! Hot, good, and CLEAN.

3. Every night, I ordered for the next night in the main dining room, through the maitre d. If he didn't know if something had gluten in it, he went and asked the chef himself. Sometimes, he would surprise me & say "oh, we already talked and agreed we can make that sauce without the flour and soy sauce if you would like it. If you want, you can come early and taste it to see if you like it." How's THAT for customer service? They also offered to cook me anything off-menu that I wanted--all I had to do was ask. Often, I got steamed veggies that made the people next to me oogle. And, I should mention, our food always came out together (husband + mine), but mine was NEVER placed in the pile of the other food (it was walked directly out from the special area of the kitchen to the table), it was double checked by the maitre d & the waiter at every dinner, and, on the one meal I was doubtful of the chicken on, they immediately swept the dish off the table & brought me a steak (even though I am positive the chicken was gluten-free).

4. My husband REALLY wanted to try a specialty restaurant, but I was leeeeery, given that they all specialize in highly-gluten foods. However, I inquired with our maitre d at dinner. His reply? "Tell me which one & when. I will organize it and no problems at all. Gluten free is not a problem anywhere." Well how nice is that?? We had the most amazing meal at the Silk Harvest (Asian) & ate TWICE at the Italian (Tuscan Grille), and I didn't, not ONCE, have ANY cross-contamination or glutination issues. At the specialty restaurants, the maitre d for the restaurant would come over to the table at the beginning, express that they understood the dietary restrictions, and throughout the meal would bring the dishes & let us know what was in EVERYTHING. Sure, I had to "adapt" various dishes (i.e. can't have the orange chicken), but they were fantastic! And, they even saved me from myself a few times :)

5. We wanted to eat at the extensive buffet, but worried about cross-contamination. Oh, no concern. The Celebrity Solstice has maitre d staff in the buffet 18hrs/day. If I couldn't find something I thought was safe, I merely walked up to one of them & asked if I could have ________. And they ALWAYS found it, or would find me something. And, generally, I didn't have to ask--it was like I was low-jacked, because when I walked into the buffet area, one would immediately walk over and ask what I wanted for that meal and would guide me to good, gluten-free options. Again, NEVER a cross-contamination problem. NEVER.

6. The beverage manager also bent over backwards. I am sensitive even to certain white wines (barrels wrapped in flour). The beverage manager ensured that our dinner sommelier knew of my gluten-free needs, and suggested and knew of which international wines were gluten-free (i.e. made in stainless steel barrels). I got to try a dozen wines I wouldn't have ever tried... and it was great!! I don't feel comfortable "guessing" on wines while at home (i.e. BevMo!), but these guys... wow!!!

7. Any issues/concerns I had were immediately addressed. Early on in the cruise, the head of Food & Beverage for the ship came by to express that if I needed ANYTHING, I should just ask. The Restaurant Manager (oversaw all the maitre d's, who oversaw the wait staff) was constantly checking in on us to ensure we had what we needed AND what we liked. We did discuss with them early on that their gluten-free bread (made on board) had a little to be desired (it was horrrrible--and we all have had bad gluten-free bread--we know what it tastes like), so over the course of the cruise, they changed their recipe, letting me try each version, until they found a version I liked, and the other celiac on board liked. What a success!!! And going way above & beyond!

Vacations are meant to be *relaxing*, but I know for most of us the only thing they are is pressure-filled, as we worry about food on a constant basis... where to eat next, is it going to be safe, how many salads are we going to have to endure. However, Celebrity Cruises was such a great experience for my husband & I that I wouldn't hesitate to sing their praises AND to cruise on them again anytime, anywhere.

On a side note... I did end up getting gluten-ated on the vacation... courtesy of the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. *laughs* Note to those traveling through FLL, avoid Chili's Too: "Gluten? Is that glue?"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most cruise lines areavery sensitive to gluten free needs...my experience is with Princess cruises...we have cruises numerous times since being diagnosed and it is a joy to know that the worry about eating gluten-free doesn't exist...I always fill in the online cruise personalizer requesting gluten-free and then follow up with a fax to passenger services...When we arrive in our cabin there is a card telling me that the maitre'd has been made aware of my needs and I should introduce myself to him on our first visit to the dining room...I have had nothing but good experiences from them bringing the next night's menu to me to choose from to our head waiter actually showing up at one of the specialty restaurants to supervise my selection and the preparation of my meal..I was told that each gluten-free meal is made at a dedicated gluten-free area in the kitchen. I have never had a problem cruising since I have been diagnosed...but oboy....before I knew what my problem was we were eating those delicious dinner rolls and pizza and bagels and I was suffering the whole time I was on a cruise....isn't it funny how long it takes some of us to figure it all out. Sissy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We just returned from a Carnival Elation cruise leaving Mobile, AL on 8/14. Our experience was terrible. My son and I have Celiac Disease. I e-mailed the special needs request on 3/1. I received confirmation that Gluten-free food would be available. THERE WAS NO Gluten-free FOOD AVAILABLE. We were on the Adkins Diet for the entire 5 day cruise. I lost 5lbs and my son lost 2lbs. I e-mailed Carnival and have not received a response. I don't expect to either, after reading these reviews. I only wish I reviewed Carnival before making the reservation. I went with Carnival to save a bit of money. In the end, the savings was not worth the frustration. I will never sail Carnival again. They really disappointed me!!

Good luck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've done Princess and Celebrity Equinox gluten free. Good experiences on both.

You do need to notify them in advance. They pick an experienced waiter for you so you will have a minimum of problems and the ship knows to have gluten free supplies on hand.

In terms of things to bring. Bring enough snacks for all your on-shore activities. Finding a gluten free meal in a foreign country or while on an excursion is often impossible. No food can be taken off the ship unless it is prepackaged. I use the Kind bars and prepackaged Ian's cookies and have not had a problem. Sometimes they pull them out during inspection but I say I have a food allergy and all is fine. However you cannot bring any sandwiches or fruit off the ship so don't count on taking a picnic.

Often the gluten free bread on ships is horrible. I bring my own loaf and use that which works well.

Pick a fairly new ship. They often have dedicated kitchen facilities for food allergies whereas the older ships may not. You will find that you have plenty of good food to eat. I've had cake, pasta, crepes, marzipan cookies, crab cakes etc. all gluten free on cruise ships. If you like Indian food often that choice has no gluten in it and can be a nice change from the meat and potatoes choice. I've also had great luck ordering from room service for lunch. My favorite is always the turkey club with gluten free bread. Often when you come back from an excursion the buffet is the only thing available and buffets on many cruise lines are easily contaminated by the people using them. Eating in the dining room or from room service is safer.

Be flexible and zero in on the choices your cruise ship has to offer and you will be happy. The availability of certain gluten free choices can vary widely from ship to ship. Don't try to get things made gluten free that they aren't offered up. Don't have your heart set on any particular item. Stick with the offerings and if you do try to eat at the buffet look at what is in front of, behind and to the sides of what your looking to get as that is where the cross contamination will come from. One ship I was on had the pancakes behind the hard boiled eggs. I had to have them bring me fresh hard boiled eggs from the back do to the cross contamination in the egg water which got gluten in the shells. Also bacon can be put on top of white bread to absorb the grease. You have to look carefully at everything.

Don't be afraid to ask a manager in the buffet area to get you something from the back as they are often very happy to do it. Often the servers don't know what is and what isn't gluten free in the buffet area and will often say it has gluten in it just to be on the safe side. Talking to a supervisor or a chef will get you more accurate information.

I've sailed about 135 days gluten free on cruise ships and I think it is one of the best ways to travel gluten free. The other is in your own RV with all the gluten free food at your fingertips.

I should mention that the Celebrity Solstice post above is right on target. Excellent choice for gluten free. I did the Celebrity Equinox (sister ship to the Solstice). You can even get gluten free meal and gluten free desert crepes in the $5 specialty restaurant. What a treat! The first time they had to get the rice flour from the store room but after that they had it on hand for us to have our delicious crepes. They made them in a fresh pan and we never had a problem with cross contamination. Here is a picture with info.

http://celebrityequinoxancientempiresandtran.blogspot.com/2009/11/transatlantic-6-days-at-sea.html

And more pics.

http://celebrityequinoxancientempiresandtran.blogspot.com/2009/11/crepes-restaurant.html

Best,

Michelle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
0

×