We love to travel. We have cruised probably 5 or 6 times, in different parts of the world, and on many different cruise lines. Believe me, I feel lucky.
In June 2017, we traveled with my husband’s parents and his sister and her family on Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas to New England and Canada. We had a great trip! Lots of seafood!
This was my first cruise since my Celiac diagnosis in March and everything was all still so new to me. We started our preparation by calling Royal Caribbean so that my account was noted that I needed gluten-free options. This is basically just so that they know what kind of food to have available on the ship. Grandeur of the Seas is a smaller ship with much less space and staff than some of the other ginormous ships they have now, so things may be different on other lines.
Here are my other main tips for cruising gluten-free!
Befriend your head waiter.
This is so so so important. If I can suggest you do only one thing, befriend your head waiter (it’ll be the same person for your whole trip). He/she is the one in charge of putting orders in and overseeing that it is prepared correctly for your needs. It’s always good to have someone on your side, someone you feel comfortable asking questions of, and someone that you trust has your safety in mind.
Ask questions and make sure you know what you’re getting. The first night on the ship, I pre-ordered my lunch option for the following day in the dining room. Turns out it was just so that the kitchen would be prepared for gluten-free food that may be ordered at lunch, not that it would necessarily be ready for me when I arrived. Of course we had a different waiter at lunch who had no idea what I was talking about. Well, my lunch came out just a cold turkey burger on a dry, crumbly, gluten-free bun. That was it. No french fries, no nothing. I was so disappointed.
Why didn’t anybody tell me that I needed to order exactly what I wanted?? Well, probably because I didn’t think to ask about it. One of the head waiters asked about our lunch on the way out and I actually started crying because I was so worried that was how it was going to go the rest of the 9 days on the ship. I learned my lesson then and I made sure to ask my head waiter lots of questions from then on!
Eat the majority of your meals in the main dining room.
If possible, eat most of your meals in the dining room. We ate breakfast and dinner in the dining room every single day. They had gluten-free french toast, pancakes and bread available for breakfast for me every single day. So I had an omelet with bacon and french toast every day. It was great. We were typically in port for lunch and eating off the ship, but even on our sea days I just felt more comfortable in the dining room. You just do what you feel most comfortable with.
Don’t eat the food directly from the buffet lines.
The buffet on our ship did have gluten-free items identified on the signage. However, I wouldn’t touch that food with a 10-foot pole. Well, maybe the salad bar if I was desperate. Maybe. The gluten-free options in the buffet were limited on our ship. And I also don’t trust the other passengers to use the correct utensils when serving themselves on a buffet. Once you befriend your dining room waiter or a chef from the buffet, you will be able to go through the buffet line and tell them what you’d like to eat. They will then go back to the kitchen and prepare your meal with fresh food and using safe utensils to avoid cross-contamination.
As mentioned above with befriending the your head waiter, also find a chef in the buffet area that you can get to know (your head waiter may also be available and working in the buffet for breakfast or lunch). They are there to make your experience 100%. Everyone always seemed extremely willing to help me. Also, these chefs in the buffet are able to prepare you whatever you’d like. I sought out one of the chefs in the buffet with a tall chef’s hat on – I thought that looked official. He was so helpful! I told him about my Celiac and he said “What do you want? A hamburger? A pizza? I’ll go back to the kitchen and make you anything you’d like!” It turns out this guy was the head chef for the specialty restaurants on the ship so I picked a good one!
Pack some gluten-free food and snacks so you have those available in case you don’t have immediate access to food on the ship or if you’re at port and on excursions and you need food fast. I packed things like beef jerky, Lara bars, oatmeal packets, dried fruit, crackers and shelf-stable cheese, small peanut butter packets, gluten-free pretzels, chocolate bars (for those sweet cravings!), etc.
Have fun! Be cautious, obviously, but trust your gut (is that a pun?) and don’t eat anything you don’t feel confident and comfortable eating.
A couple last important details:
- Be aware that you will have to tell your head waiter what you want for lunch/dinner the next day in the dining room. I understand that it’s hard to know what you’re going to feel like eating 24 hours from now, but that’s how they can make sure that they have safe food ready for you.
- VERY IMPORTANT for all of my dessert lovers out there, like myself. Some cruise lines used to have a flourless chocolate cake as their “signature” dessert and it would be available every night. Grandeur of the Seas didn’t have that option so my dessert choices were basically creme brûlée, ice cream or sorbet every night. That got old quick. I finally told my head waiter that I was really needing something chocolate-y. Sure enough, the next two nights he brought out a delicious gluten-free chocolate cake. He asked them to prepare some chocolate cake special for me!
- If you want something just ask!! I really wanted french fries one night but was told that they would have to fry them separately (which they were totally willing to do). Our head waiter, Glen, had french fries ready for me every night for the rest of the trip!
Here are some photos of our food experience on Grandeur of the Seas:
I will also work on a post about my food experiences off of the ship! We had great celiac-friendly food in every port we were in! This was a great vacation to beautiful New England and Canada and I can’t wait to experience the gluten-free cuisine on other ships/cruise lines!