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Gluten Free Dining Tips For Cruisers

Norwegian Cruise Line chefs preparing a gluten free option at Cagney's Steakhouse

If gluten is your kryptonite, chances are you either have a sensitivity to gluten or celiac disease. Taking a cruise vacation sounds fun but when you think about what you are going to eat, it becomes quite stressful. Gluten allergies, sensitivities, and celiac disease have become a common ailment that restricts diets and the cruise industry has taken notice. The good news is they have also taken action. Cruise lines such as NCL, HAL, Crystal, and Princess have altered some of their menus to include gluten-free options. Here’s how you can have an awesome gluten-free cruise vacation!

Notify Cruise Lines About A Gluten Free Requirement Before Cruising

Contact the cruise line before your sail date to alert them you require a gluten-free experience. Try to contact them as early as possible and make sure you don’t wait until the last minute. The cruise line needs time to prepare for your arrival so your food options are always available.

For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines needs to learn about your diet restrictions ahead of time so they can order the right ingredients to make gluten-free rolls, hamburger buns, baguettes, pasta, pancake flour, and more. Also, Holland America can offer gluten-free muffins, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, premade desserts, and pasta as long as you alert them ahead of time.

Don’t let a gluten-free diet ruin your cruise vacation. Plan ahead by contacting the cruise line about 30 days prior to your sail date, pack gluten-free snacks to bring with you, and find the gluten-free options in each restaurant and food spots throughout the ship.

If you have specific questions about what is or isn't allowed on the cruise ship to help maintain your specific diet, it is always best to contact the cruise line directly. Thankfully most major cruise lines have made it very easy for gluten free cruisers to maintain their diet.

Gluten Free and Food Allergy Cruise Line Resources

Norwegian Cruise Line Accessibility Assistance

Carnival Cruise Line Guests With Disabilities

Royal Caribbean International Special Diet Guest Accomodations

Holland America Line Special Dietary Restrictions

The Main Dining Room Is A Gluten Free Cruiser's Best Friend

Most upscale and luxury cruise lines offer gluten-free meals in specialty restaurants and the dining room. The galley may even have a dedicated area to avoid any cross contamination to ensure your gluten free items stay that way. Additionally, by dining in the main dining room, you can ensure that the dining team is aware of your needs.

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Despite this, gluten free cruisers should still make a habit of speaking to the Maitre D every evening to go over the menu for the next day. This will save you time and make your cruise meals easy to find and eat. This will also give the dining room team to suggest additional gluten free options, as well as share insights about dishes that might be available in other parts of the ship as well.

If you forget to speak to the Maitre D, speak to your server and ask them to recommend gluten-free options from the menu. You will be surprised to learn there are appetizers, desserts, and gluten-free main courses. 


Buffets Aren't Easy For Gluten Free Travelers - But Not Impossible!

The buffet is often a difficult place to find gluten-free foods because most dishes are prepared in large quantities and without regard for food alergies. Despite this, many buffet restaurants will be able to offer baked goods such as bread but you can find other healthy items you can eat such as vegetables, salads, and protein options. With advanced notice, you may even be able to have one of the chefs provide you with a tour of the buffet area that highlight the gluten free options available that day.


Some Cruise Lines Are Better Than Others In Identifying Gluten Free Options

Holland America purposely highlights gluten-free items on their menus to make things easy for passengers to order without speaking to a Maitre D.

Royal Caribbean’s Park Café offers gluten-free sandwiches and specifically uses a separate microwave and Panini press to prepare gluten-free options. They go above and beyond to avoid cross-contamination which makes passengers who eat gluten-free feel safe and happy.

Where to Find Gluten-Free Beer

An ice-cold beer while on a West Coast cruise vacation is the perfect way to relax. Royal Caribbean offers Estrella Daura gluten-free beer and you don’t even need to give advance notice. Estrella Daura is also available on all US-based Carnival ships as well. However, if you are sailing on Norwegian Cruise Line, you need to preorder more than 30 days before sailing. They need time to order cases of Redbridge brand beer for their gluten-free passengers.


Where To Find Gluten-Free Pizza

Carnival, Norwegian, Holland America Line, and Royal Caribbean all offer gluten free pizza dough in their pizza restaurants. While some have it ready to go for any guest who requests it, other ships require you to request the accomodation in advance.

Gluten-Free Travel Snacks to Pack

While your meals in specialty restaurants and the main dining room will be gluten-free, it might be difficult to find snacks to enjoy in between meals. Keep in mind it’s especially difficult to watch other passengers gorging on ice cream and other items you can’t have so make sure you pack the following gluten-free tasty snacks for you to enjoy.

  • Gluten-free snack bars
  • Plantain chips
  • Beef jerky
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Hard fermented cheeses
  • Gluten-free crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Popcorn
  • Rice cakes
  • Corn chips
  • Gluten-free granola bars
  • Travel size hummus or avocado dip

Before you pack these items, check with the airlines to ensure you can bring this type of food item on the plane. Some airlines have strict guidelines and the TSA changes their rules from time to time. Stay updated on what types of foods you can bring with you through security and plan ahead of time.

Find Your Favorite Spots on the Ship That Offer Gluten Free Options

Take the time to find all the food spots on the ship to ensure you have as many options as possible. Chances are you will find your favorite little gluten-free pizza kiosk, snack bar, and a restaurant that you favor. Do your best to visit these eating spots frequently throughout your cruise to help lower your anxiety about finding gluten-free food. This way you will already know where to go and you will even become friendly with the staff running the food service area.

Chances are you will find your favorite place to have breakfast overlooking the ocean and enjoying every moment of your cruise vacation.