A CRUISE MIGHT BE THE SAFEST BET TO CATER TO THE WHOLE FAMILY’S SPECIAL DIETARY NEEDS
In Cruise Critic’s experience, cruises are the easiest, most reliable and least stressful holidays for those on special diets. This is because cruise lines make an effort to accommodate all passenger dietary needs and strive to provide delicious and suitable choices on request.
In general, cruise lines can provide food for vegetarian, vegan, low/no fat, low/no salt, lactose intolerant/dairy free, gluten- or wheat-free (celiac), low cholesterol, diabetic, Kosher and Halal diets – as well as for those with allergies. While some diets can simply be accommodated by the extensive menu choices onboard – vegetarian options are nearly always present in all dining venues, for example – most require that the cruise line gets a heads-up in order to stock the right food items (soy milk, gluten-free bread, etc.) to alert the ship’s dining staff.
Cruise lines are increasingly responding to their passengers’ differing dietary needs with enhanced options. Royal Caribbean recently began highlighting menu items that are gluten-free, low-calorie, lactose-free or vegetarian and have introduced gluten-free foods in all onboard dining venues. Holland America also now offers a separate vegetarian menu in its main dining rooms, and Seabourn’s ‘The Restaurant’ has a separate spot on every menu to list vegetarian starters and mains. Uniworld’s onboard butlers also always consult passengers prior to the evening to ask if they have any special dietary requirements, in which case other dishes will be substituted.
If you or anyone in your family has any special dietary requirements, we recommend that you make sure you alert the cruise line as early as possible – ideally when you first book. Be specific about your requirements, and take a printed copy of these with you to give to the head chef onboard. Visit the restaurant manager or the executive chef to ensure they have all the details they need and that these will be passed on to other managers at other onboard restaurants. Check that any of your own special food or drinks are onboard, and find out where to locate them – perhaps they will be kept at a certain restaurant or smoothie bar. On your first visit to the main restaurant, ask the restaurant manager to accompany you so you can ask questions and pre-empt problems. Be wary of turn-down chocolates, canapes and bread baskets. They’re probably standardised and not prepared especially for you. Lastly, try and book a galley tour, to see where and how your food is prepared.
Cruise lines take special diets and allergies seriously and will try their best to accommodate your needs. They can’t afford to make mistakes, as your health and enjoyment depend on their reputation for being meticulous and stringent. A competent food and beverage team will work cohesively and unnoticed. So relax and don’t worry about the family – you’ll all be able to enjoy your meal together.