Gluten Free Cruising on Celebrity Cruises: Part 1 - The Gluten Free Experience

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Aqua Spa Cafe
It was about time for a vacation, so Amanda and I decided to go cruising.  We had only been on one cruise together in the past, and it was pre Celiac for Amanda.  So we wanted to share some of our gluten free travel experience.  We were worried because we wondered if there would be a selection of gluten free food for Amanda to enjoy. And if available, would that mean the gluten free friendly meal would just have no seasoning, no sauces and/or no spices. (read: no flavor)

Mid-day snack from the salad bar
brought back to our room to chill
on the balcony
We consulted Meredith Travel of Travel Professionals International about our options.  We learned that cruise lines are all pretty accommodating when it comes to dietary restrictions including a gluten free diet.  After some discussion we reviewed our options and we chose a Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Solstice.

As an outsider (read: a gluten eater), I thought they did a great job at accommodating the gluten free diet.  It was evident from the beginning, as we saw gluten free bread at the Aqua Spa Cafe in the solarium as we were roaming the ship just after boarding.  Also, at dinner in the main dinning room, gluten free bread was provided instead of rolls.  Celebrity also ensured dinners for Amanda were prepared to be gluten free, and not just chicken with no seasoning, but with excellent seasoning and full of flavors.

Me in-front of the Solstice, and
Amanda behind the camera
Since I was so excited to see all these gluten free accommodations for Amanda, I overlooked the fact that some of the steps Celebrity took to accommodate people with Celiac disease could possibly be seen as annoying at times:
  1. Amanda ordered her dinner the night before.  This allowed the kitchen to properly prepare a gluten free meal with all the great tastes of the standard menu item
  2. Ordering anything with gluten free bread from room service required some extra time to ensure that the room services kitchen could have time to retrieve gluten free bread from the main dinning room
  3. There were unfortunately no gluten free pastries or desserts available, unless they were naturally gluten free anyways (read: jello and fruit)
However those few things didn't overshadow the great meals we enjoyed.  The Celebrity Solstice also carried gluten free focaccia bread (made fresh on the ship) and gluten free penne pasta. Both of these items were found in a specialty restaurant on the ship called the Tuscan Grill - Italian Steakhouse. One in which you paid extra for, but it was well beyond worth it. The food in that restaurant was amazing and we both wished that we could have taken the left overs for the next day.

At the lunch buffet, there was staff available to answer questions about ingredients.  There was typically at least one person available at each buffet station that could answer your questions.  If they were not able too, they were always willing to call someone that could answer if the buffet item was gluten free or not. We were absolutely pleased at how accommodating the staff were, and how attentive they were to ensure they got us a correct answer.

Have you gone gluten free cruising before? Let us know about your experience.

Also read Gluten Free Cruising on Celebrity Cruises: Part 2 - The Gluten Free Meals

Gluten Free Edmonton - A Celiac guide and resource for gluten free information in Edmonton, Alberta

1 comment :

  1. Both my wife and I have multiple allergies, so we often do cruise holidays so we don't spend all day trying to find something safe to eat. We've done a few cruises with Celebrity/Azamara and in general our experience mirrored yours. However, you have to always be aware that the level of training for staff varies greatly.

    Some truly don't get it.. we had assistant waiters trying to foist menus on us after we told them several times we'd ordered the day before and so didn't need menus (they didn't know about the special order process at all). It took intervention by other staff to straighten that out. Another several times the request for gluten free bread for dinner was ignored. Meals arrived at the table that very visibly didn't comply with our allergies. Other dining room staff eventually knew which assistant waiters to (sometimes forcefully!) intercept if they saw them headed our way.

    This is generally better when you have the same waiter everytime (as on Celebrity's fixed seatings). With Azamara's no set time in the main dining room we always requested to be in the same section so the staff there knew us (even if we had to wait a bit to be seated).

    On the first day after boarding but before dinner, go to the main dining room and introduce yourself to a maitre'd and explain your situation, request he communicate it to your head waiter if fixed seating, and ask for other advice. (They're always camped out there that first afternoon mainly for people who want to swap dining times).

    Also, if ever in doubt or you are having a problem, don't hesitate to contact one of the senior restaurant staff ... just ask any of the staff on the floor to get them for you. After a couple of bad experiences on a 12 day cruise, we had one maitre'd literally running after us the whole rest of the trip, ensuring nobody else touched our food, offering (and delivering) bag lunches for long shore days, and much more. That guy single handedly turned what would have been a terrible vacation experience (not just the food) into a very enjoyable one.

    Last piece of advice is always be polite and patient; as I said, some staff haven't received the training they should have. Allow for extra time and communicate that you're not in a hurry, and that you appreciate their help, that you're not too picky and just want to eat safely. And make sure to commend outstanding staff members (including those that have learned and improved during your days there) to their immediate supervisors, and mention them by name on the last day comment cards - that determines things like if they get days off.

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