Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cruising Gluten and Dairy Free with Princess Cruise Line

For those of you who noticed a lull in posting here, I was away the week after Thanksgiving on a cruise on Princess Cruise Line. (I was then stuck commuting into NYC for a training class for a week - my was it wonderful to go from 80 degrees in San Juan to 18 degrees in Manhattan!)

Anyhow, before booking the cruise I poked around online and found that Princess seemed to be one of the better lines for those following a GF diet. Overall it was a pretty positive experience with just a few caveats.

In the main dining room, any time you mention a food allergy to a waiter, he immediately summons the head waiter who then takes your order. I had selected any time dining which meant that at each dinner I had a new waiter, but always the same head waiter. The head waiter also brings the following night's menu and recommends the dishes that could be modified to accommodate your food issues (in my case, mostly gluten and dairy).

The down side to this approach is that the waiter (the person who picks up the order in the kitchen and delivers it) is sort of out of the loop. My second time eating in the dining room, I had veal cutlets (without the Marsala sauce) that had been dredged in flour. It was hard to be sure there was flour on it, until I took the first bite. Thinking it possible they had a GF flour (such as brown rice flour) on board, I decided to double check. Nope, turns out the chef had removed the sauce but not the dredging. They replaced the dinner and the head waiter became even more attentive to details afterwards. Mistakes do happen, but I think had the waiter been involved in the ordering, he may have caught the mistake before it was brought out.

At my third dinner in the dining room, I had GF spaghetti in garlic and olive oil as an appetizer. The waiter brought the plate out followed by a second waiter with a bowl of Parmesan - the head waiter intercepted him and waived him off. Again, their hearts are in the right place but in having the head waiter as the only point of contact, the other staff isn't as informed as they could be.

On one of the days we weren't getting into port until late, I decided to try the dining room for breakfast. Since they had GF pasta at dinner I figured I'd ask the breakfast head waiter what my options were. Other than bacon and eggs (I can't really eat pork or any more than a fraction of an egg) he offered an assortment of Kellogg's cereals with Rice or Corn in their names. I explained the joys of "Malt" and the fact that this ruled these cereals out and returned to the breakfast bars I brought from home (thank you EnviroKids) and the many fruit options at the breakfast buffets.

Now for the positives:

1) Eating at a different table each night, I met a lot of different people, including one woman who is allergic to milk. No, not intolerant, actual "rush me to the hospital" allergic. She was thrilled with how careful everyone was being and at the fact that she was being fed so well. If she felt safe, then that is a pretty solid endorsement.

2) The grill out by the pool had a menu on which the only fried food was french fries. This meant by default these french fries were fried in a dedicated frier! I see nothing wrong with a large bowl of french fries as a snack! :-)

3) There were three buffet rooms on the ship, at least one of which (and as many as all three of which) was open at all times 24 x 7. The staff at the buffet instantly knew (or, if as was rarely needed, instantly found out) the ingredients of all of the buffet items. There were certainly some items I couldn't eat (lots of rice dishes had butter) but plenty of others that I could.

Overall the dining on the cruise was a good experience. No, not perfect, but then again my own mother tapes her flour canister shut before I visit for dinner so she doesn't accidentally gluten me!

As with dining out anywhere, make sure you ask and double check on everything. I would certainly consider another cruise with Princess in the future!

1 comment:

Jason said...

I recently gave a talk on Traveling Gluten Free and shared all of the tips online as well.

Visitors (Counted on Gluten Free/Dairy Free Waffles!)

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