Nine Tips To Stop Food Intolerances Ruining Your Cruise

June 4, 2015

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 (well we’re sure there is but you get our point).

Allergies to food can come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes…

Wheat Allergies;

Gluten free diets

Dairy Free diets;

Lactose free diets;

Shellfish allergies;

Nut allergies…

And those are just the few that occurred to us whilst writing this… We’re sure there’s dozens more out there that people might suffer from!


Now a cruise may not seem a natural holiday choice for someone with food allergies, after all you’ve no control over what will be served…. Or do you?

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…


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 read unedited reviews from real cruisers here

Wheat free

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 be (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 do it for you (there helpful people don’t‘ch ya know!)

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.

lactose allergy


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.

allergy advice


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 choice’s will be a little bland.

It’s better than trying to pick something off the menu that you think you’ll be OK 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.

dairy allergy


Try the specialty 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 specialty 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 – a lot of specialty restaurants do include a cover charge.

Special diets


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.

gluten allergy


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.

food allergy infographic


You can always bring your own snacks

Some foods and drink you can bring on-board 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).

fruit allergy


Except 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?

Do  Food Intolerances Ruin Your Cruise?

Let us know in the comments below…