There’s nothing quite as stressful as trying to plan a holiday when either you or one of your party members suffer with either a food intolerance or an allergy.
Allergies to food can come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes from wheat to nuts, from gluten free to dairy free, which makes dining somewhere new a tricky situation.
Whilst we can understand the temptation to book a land based holiday where you can control exactly what you order or cook, the truth of the matter is that cruise lines bend over backwards to cater for those with specialty dietary requirements. You just need to know what to do…
1- Do Your Research Before You Book
We know cruising is great for people with dietary requirements, which means other people know it, which means other people will have done it, which means they will have written reviews about it.
Reading what other peoples experiences were like and their tips and hints can be invaluable to planning your own cruise so spend a bit of time reading about your chosen ship first. You can start here with all of our expert cruisers’ reviews!
2- Make A Note On Your Reservation
The first step to a problem-free holiday is letting the cruise line know about any special dietary requirements you may have. This can (and should be) done the moment you’ve booked your cruise. You can note it online, call them direct or ask your specialist cruise consultant to take care of it for you.
Letting them know early means they’ll be able to order special food in just for you that will be stored on-board and used during your stay which is much better than picking through the menu hoping to find something you can eat (we understand your struggle!)
3- Introduce Yourself To The Maître d’
Once you get on-board, head down to the main dining room and introduce yourself to the maître d’! Although your requirements will have been noted on the booking already, it doesn’t hurt to double check.
You’ll also be able to discuss them in a lot more detail with them and putting a face to the name will guarantee you get that personal service that you deserve, putting your mind at rest!
4- Did You Know You Could Order Most Of Your Meals In Advance?
Going down this route can be a double edged sword; you can discuss the next night’s options with your waiter and put in an order so you know exactly what you’ll be getting, but this can mean the choices will be a little bland.
It’s better than trying to pick something off the menu that you think you’ll be okay with, but it does rather take the surprise out of the evening. You’ll have to decide which option makes the most sense for you- your call!
5- Try The Speciality Dining
Just because you’ve made arrangements in the main dining room doesn’t mean you have to eat there each night. If you’re worried catering for your dietary needs is making the food a little bland, why not make a booking in one of the speciality restaurants?
Discuss your needs with them when you make the booking and you’ll be fine! This is a great way to add a bit of excitement to your evening meals but remember; it’ll be worth the extra cover charge.
6- Avoid The Buffet!
The cruise lines will do their best to label all the food with allergy advice and the serving staff on hand will always offer their help, but for us there’s just too much risk of cross contamination in a buffet environment to make it a sensible choice.
Obviously it will depend on how severe your food allergy is, but our advice would be to stick to one of the main restaurants and skip the buffet completely. You can be safe in the knowledge that you are guaranteed to be eating something exactly to your requirements!
7- Don’t Forget About Room Service
Most people that are new to cruise assume that there’ll be an additional charge for room service. The odd cruise line will have a charge if you order over a particular time (normally around midnight), but on the whole it’s free so if you’ve special dietary requirements don’t ignore this option.
You can still call down to order something, you just need to explain your requirements and the kitchen will be happy to rustle you something up. No-one can turn down special treatment!
8- You Can Always Bring Your Own Snacks
Some food and drink you can bring on-board, but others (like alcohol) you can’t. If you want to pack a few treats for yourself however, treats that you know are fine for your dietary requirements, as long as they’re pre-packaged and sealed most cruise lines will be fine.
If you’re not sure you can always ring up and check (or again ask one of our specialist cruise consultants to do it for you). The information will always be available to you pre-cruise!
9- Expect The Best But Plan For The Worst
Hopefully all the preparation you’ve done will deliver you a smooth (and fantastic) cruise holiday but, just in case, it’s always best to plan ahead.
Make sure you stock up on any meds that you may use at home for when you get an upset stomach– a thousand miles out to sea isn’t the time you want to realise you haven’t bought anything with you.
All cruise ships have fully qualified doctors on-board but you do have to pay (and then claim it back on your insurance); just a little bit of forward planning will stop this from happening though.
There’s no reason anyone shouldn’t be able to enjoy a cruise holiday and definitely not because of food allergies! Have you ever cruised with a food allergy? How did you find the service? Let us know in the comments below…
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