Last updated: 10:30 AM ET, Thu August 18 2016

How Cruise Lines Cater to Special Diets and Food Allergies

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) | Jason Leppert | August 18, 2016

How Cruise Lines Cater to Special Diets and Food Allergies

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Anyone who has taken a cruise has likely heard their waiter ask them if they have any special dietary concerns or food allergies prior to ordering because cruise lines take accommodating them very seriously, but one might wonder just how they do so.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has compiled a primer on just that subject.

These days dietary restrictions are prevalent, as an estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies while others still are limited to no/low fat or no nut, vegetarian, vegan, dairy or lactose-free, gluten or wheat-free, low cholesterol, diabetic, Kosher and Halal diet options, and there is an ever increasing number of food and restaurant selections to choose from that are happy to facilitate your specific needs onboard.

Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA said, “In the cruise industry, we pride ourselves on offering the perfect cruise vacation for every type of traveler. People with food allergies or restrictions are no exception. There has never been more culinary options available on cruise ships, and this includes choices for those with food allergies and restrictions. Cruise lines offer top-notch cuisine to please the palate of every guest aboard their ships.”

 READ MORE: 10 Best Parts of Seabourn’s ‘Taste of Asia’ Food and Wine Cruise 

The first step is personal consultation and answering any questions about various menu items.

A friend and colleague of mine has a nut allergy, and every cruise I’ve sailed on with him has been very mindful of alerting him to off-limits dishes and alternatives. CLIA cites that Paul Gauguin Cruises is such a line that dedicates the time to review each course with guests.

For guests looking for healthier options in general, cruise lines are altogether conscious of offering more and more vegetarian options that still taste good. Companies are even beginning to cater to the lifestyle with entire vegetarian menus — Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is one, and Avalon Waterways is introducing its Avalon Fresh menu with items crafted by Austrian Chefs Karl and Leo Wrenkh.

SeaDream Yacht Club has similarly teamed up with the Hippocrates Health Institute to offer a raw food or “living” food menu that features raw, organic and vegan ingredients prepared under 118 degrees Fahrenheit.

While onboard Viking Ocean Cruises, a traveling companion of ours was vegan, and the line’s dedication to her diet extended to its exclusive Kitchen Table experience, wherein a select amount of guests join the chefs to pick out fresh local ingredients ashore (additional vegan ones in her case) to cook and serve them back on the ship. 

 READ MORE: 8 Cruise Lines For Dining With Celebrity Chefs 

Thankfully, gluten-free does not mean taste-free either. MSC Cruises serves accordingly in its main dining room, preparing such items in a separate part of the galley to avoid any contamination, and extending gluten-free lunch boxes to guests on excursions as well.

The best idea is to always alert the cruise line of your dietary needs before the cruise to prepare for your arrival via request form, as is the case for religious-based diets. On a cruise to Alaska on Celebrity Cruises years ago, we witnessed that a Jewish group even brought their own cutlery onboard, but Crystal Cruises is going beyond in training their crew in kosher food preparation using appropriate pots, pans, dishware and utensils.

“Cruise lines are always focused on allowing travelers to enjoy every aspect of their trip,” D’Aoust added. “The cruise industry goes beyond the call of duty to offer each type of traveler the chance to both dine safely as well as experience delicious cuisine while traveling the world.”


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