If you're reading this, my guess is you're considering hitting the high seas, but you’re worried about whether you can stay safely gluten free on a cruise.
I’m here ease your mind. Maintaining your gluten free diet on a cruise is completely possible. Let me share a few tips from my own cruising experience.
The first step is selecting a cruise that will meet all your needs. Most cruise lines are expert at dealing with dietary requirements, so I expect you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Cruising is about more
than just food and cruise lines offer diverse experiences. Some have
massive ships that accommodate thousands of passengers. You'll find night
clubs, casinos, and common areas with the feel of shopping malls. Some
center around families with merry-go-rounds and water parks. Others like my
recent Viking cruise have smaller ships and offer a more personalized feel.
They focus on service and exemplary shore experiences. Prices vary too,
My advice is to choose your cruise experience first. This is about the vacation of your dreams. Once you’ve homed in on a few cruise lines that offer what you’re after, then investigate how they will handle your need for gluten free food.
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My most recent
experience was an amazing Mediterranean cruise aboard the Viking Saturn.
Viking, although pricey, is known for their exceptional service. They turned
out to be a gem for me and my dietary restrictions.
From the moment I stepped on board, exhausted from a marathon day of air travel, I was nothing but impressed. Staff were accommodating about every aspect of our comfort, and they were genuinely concerned about my well-being.
My other encounter
with gluten free cruising was Vancouver to Alaska with Holland America.
They did a good job though their approach was very different. Each evening, the
chef presented me with the next day's menu so I could choose my meal. Then he
ensured that it was safely gluten free.
I've also heard good things about AMA Waterways, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Disney.
Are you very worried
about cross contamination? If so, a dedicated gluten free cruise may be right
for you. Celiac Cruise partners with Royal Caribbean and AMA Waterways to offer
several voyages per year.
Step two is to inform
the cruise line about your dietary restrictions. Most ask about this during the
booking process, but if they don't, reach out and let them know. Be clear that
it's not a preference but a serious health need and ask for confirmation that
they can accommodate. You won't be their first gluten free guest so they'll
know exactly how to assist you.
If you have other restrictions let them know that as well.
Once you've booked your cruise, you'll likely need to set up an online profile. You can note your gluten free requirement there as well. Staff will have access to your profile and will be ready for you.
Cruise ships generally
have several dining options:
Buffets can be a
source of anxiety. Gluten free and gluten containing dishes are side by side
creating the opportunity for spill over and for sharing of spoons and tongs.
But there are ways to reduce the risk and put together a safe gluten free meal
at the cruise ship buffet.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience aboard the Viking Saturn. We ate most meals at the buffet with no issues.
Cruise ships typically
have an array of specialty restaurants that will likely cater to your
gluten-free diet. Themes and choices will vary by cruise line, but you'll find
some variation of the following:
There were three restaurants on board the Viking Saturn:
I was especially impressed that staff had my profile at their fingertips and were aware of my needs.
Cruising isn't just about the food; it's also about exploring new destinations. Embrace the unknown and I promise you'll find some unforgettable cultural experiences. With a little planning, being gluten free on a cruise can include the adventure of trying local, authentic cuisines. Here are a few tips for doing so safely:
Back on the ship
there’s sure to be nightlife, so let’s talk about alcoholic beverages.
Most cruises offer a variety of wine, beer, and spirits. There may be a drinks package that you can buy in advance, and some offer complimentary wine and beer with meals.
For you and me with celiac disease, it's essential to know which drinks are safe and which to avoid. Most hard liquors are gluten free as are wines, ciders, and some hard seltzers. There are gluten free beers but they're not common on cruises. I did find gluten free beer in several of our ports, so that was an unexpected treat.
You can find more information about safe alcoholic beverages on my gluten free alcohol page.
I know embarking on a
cruise seems overwhelming. You’re giving up control of your food and
that’s scary. I’d like to encourage you to embrace the uncertainty. You can stay safely gluten free on a cruise. Better awareness of celiac disease had led to better accommodation worldwide,
even in the middle of the ocean.
This is an adventure, and like any adventure, it's unpredictable and exciting. Don’t pass up the trip of a lifetime because of dietary restrictions.