Ironically, after I researched several possible cruises and cruise lines for my vacation, I ended up picking a desert location instead. But my research wasn’t wasted: I heard from several readers who had considered taking a cruise but had been worried about doing so because of their gluten intolerance and, in a couple of cases, their food allergies. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that many cruise lines are sensitive to these issues.
Others responded to the post by sharing their own experiences with cruising. Janet Rinehart, the Chairman of the Houston Celiac Support Group, had terrific things to say about the cruise lines she’d traveled with, and also some good advice for anyone taking a cruise:
I have found from years of experience that Holland America also does gluten-free very well. Holland America has tours from Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe, New Zealand/Australia, and more. Also, Vantage and Viking Tours in Europe are excellent. We have traveled on the rivers from Amsterdam to the Black Sea on various legs of river boat trips with Vantage. The sightseeing (all included) is excellent and they do gluten-free very well. It helps to have translated restaurant cards (laminate several to have with you) in English and the country’s language in which you are traveling for both the ship’s chef and off-shore restaurants.
For language cards, I recommend one of my favorite sites, Celiac Travel. For some guidelines about dealing with celiac disease in a foreign language, check out this post.
Another reader, Alice, had a particularly terrific experience to share:
I went on a cruise with the Norwegian Cruise Line last March & experienced first class service.Â I was presented with the menu a day in advance & the Assistant Maitre D’ would assist me with choosing items that could be made gluten free by the chef.Â If he had any doubts about anything he would communicate with the chief chef.Â The Assistant Maitre D’ would serve me personally; he would make sure that no one would make a mistake with my meals.Â I was astounded by the degree of care & attention my meals received.Â People were jealous of the personal service that I received.Â I was treated like some royalty.Â It was the most relaxing holiday I ever had since being diagnosed with celiac disease. The only restriction was that we had to eat in the 2 main dining rooms in order to obtain the meals I had ordered the previous day. Otherwise, it was like going to any other restaurant â€” studying the menu & discussing the different items with the waiters & deciding on a safe meal.Â The Norwegian Cruise Line has several restaurants on board & one can eat at any of them.Â There are no restrictions as to sitting times, etc.Â I’m going on another cruise this winter with the Norwegian Cruise Line.Â I would highly recommend it.Â I hope this is of help to your readers.
Thanks so much to Janet and to Alice for sharing their reports. As for me, Iâ€™m hoping to have some new restaurants to share â€” when I get back from Las Vegas!
I have been on several cruises. Being Gluten Free it is my vacation of choice. We have had good service on Princess and not so good service on Royal Caribbean (which we were Shocked to experience). By far the best experience is with Norwegian. They have so many products on board and are familiar with how to handle it.
In 2010 we went on the EPIC and I ate most of my meals at the BUFFET! I know – incredible – right?! One of the Maitre’ D’s would immediately spot me in a crowd and bring me bagels and cookies and cake! I had pizza and bread and pasta. There were so many other things that I did not even get to try! As always for breakfast they have an omlete station and I received any type of breakfast fare I wanted! All of the potato items (french fries, hashbrowns, mashed) are gluten free! It was awesome!
The year before we went on the Caribbean Princess and had a very similar experience with bread and Gluten free Pizza (yum). They had over 100 people on board with the allergy so there was a lot to choose from. There were freshly baked muffins, cereals and they even made gluten free carrot cake for afternoon tea!
This year we ventured on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Sea. Upon booking I was told they would accomodate my allergy, so naturally I assumed that I would be getting the same eperience as the last two cruises. NOT! They had virtually nothing onboard. Rice pasta and a loaf of gluten free bread does not a vacation make. Certainly not after paying more on this line than I did on the other two. (not so Royal indeed) The week consisted of them telling me what I could not eat off the menu. Even the fries and the mashed potatoes were off limits. I have to say, the staff tried really hard to make me happy, even attempting pancakes (that were AWFUL)! When I called to complain to corporate they said they did not violate my rights because they had bread and pasta and kept me away from allergens. UMMMM? I did not indicate rights were violated… just want to have the same service received on other ships…. ok…. Norwegian it is! We are going back to NCL!!! (By the way, the same policies are imposed on Celebrity cruise lines as they are sister companies. I called Celebrity to see what their policies were and got the same info – I did know the lines were related but I did not know that closely.)
All in all we love to cruise and hope you have a good experience!
Have fun cruising –