For some people, the thought of sailing on the high seas on a large cruise ship is heaven – their kind of holiday. For others, the thought of being 'trapped' on a cruise ship with hundreds of other people is not their ideal holiday. For a celiac – being on a cruise ship can be heaven because you will have all your meals cooked for you and you will have lots of yummy food choices.
I love cruising and have found it to be a great way of traveling without all the hassles. You get on the cruise ship and unpack your luggage (once!!) and then all the fun starts. Most of the modern cruise ships are very aware of the food allergies that people suffer and provide beautiful food for you.
When you decide to go on a cruise, check with the Cruise company or the travel agent to see what information they have about catering for a celiac. Certainly the bigger cruise ships have more of an ability to cater for celiacs and offer more choices than some smaller ships. Do your homework well before you book the cruise as the “ship” can make or break your cruise. It is all about cruising and the ships facilities rather than just the destinations.
After you have decided on the cruise you will have to fill in a booking form, (either with your travel agent or through the internet with the cruise company), ensure that you state your full dietary needs.
When you arrive at the embarkation port and are registering onto the ship, make sure you state your dietary requirements (once again!!) to confirm that the information has been passed on to the cruise company from your travel agent.
Some of the cruise ships have formal dinner arrangements where you go to dinner in the main dining room and sit at a table of (say) 10 people and you get served by a Maitre d' and waiter. At your first dinner, introduce yourself to the Maitre d' (he/she will be your friend on the cruise) and also your waiter. They should advise you what meals can be adapted to be gluten free. Most cruises will adequately cater for a gluten free diet. You may even be presented with freshly baked gluten free bread at dinner. (For those cultures not used to tipping or paying gratuities remember if you are doing a second or back to back cruise I would suggest you tip well after your first cruise. You want the same excellent service on the second cruise).
For breakfast you could go to the the buffet and have eggs cooked to order, fruit, yoghurt and they may have gluten free cereal. You can ask for gluten free bread that you can toast. It may be easier to go to the formal breakfast sitting in the dining room where you are served breakfast. This will allow you to talk to the waiter about what food is gluten free.
For morning and afternoon teas you may find it a little more difficult to get some food that is gluten free. All the pastries and cakes from the coffee shops will probably contain gluten but you may be lucky to have a couple of choices. May be you could go to the “pool” bar and have some fresh fruit or yoghurt. Remember you do not have to eat everything that is available – your waist line will appreciate it after the cruise.!!
Most ships also have boutique restaurants such as Japanese (sushi), Italian, pizza bars, ice-cream outlets, pool bars etc. You would have to check out each food outlet to see what you can or not eat. Regrettably you may not be able to eat at all the restaurants but you should get a pretty good choice. At least once you ask the question of what you can eat, you will be right for the next time and not have to keep asking.
Research your destinations on your cruise so that when you go ashore for your day visits you are able to sample the local food. You might find this difficult due to a language barrier but you can find comfort in knowing that when you get back on the ship, you will be able to have your choice of wonderful gluten free food. Sometimes going ashore gives you an opportunity to have a break from eating.
For information on how to research gluten free food on your shore excursions, read our article on Destination Research for helpful hints.