Which Cruise Line is Best for a Gluten-Free Diet?


More and more people are living by gluten-free diets than ever before, whether to accommodate a medical condition or as a lifestyle choice. We now know more about the effects of gluten in our diets, and more coeliac conditions are being diagnosed than ever before. What was considered an unheard of condition until recently has had plenty of media coverage over the past five years, with high-profile names such as Bill Clinton, Novak Djokovic, Victoria Beckham and Gwenyth Paltrow living life without gluten.

But despite this increase in exposure and coverage, many people living a gluten-free lifestyle are still struck by limited choices when they go to dine in restaurants and bars, with many dishes featuring the protein component, gluten. Whether they are following the diet for medical or lifestyle reasons, it can be distressing for the millions of gluten-free people to see their options limited by the appearance of the one protein they are most trying to avoid.And whilst seeking out gluten-free restaurants in your local area can be difficult, finding them on holiday can be a nightmare. 

Dining is a large part of the cruise holiday experience, with the major cruise ships boasting a huge number of eating options with cuisines from all over the world to amaze and please their guests. Those following a gluten-free diet should not miss out on these experiences aboard a cruise ship, enjoying the wonderful dishes whipped up by some of the world’s most respected chefs.
So to help those who follow a gluten-free diet but love to cruise, we have researched the lines which provide the most generous and delightful offerings for those remaining free of gluten.

Carnival Cruise Lines

The Carnival Cruise Lines team have positioned their gluten-free offerings to be as comprehensive as possible, serving up gluten-free breads, pastas, cakes, pizzas and beers throughout all their ships. A single meeting with the ship’s head waiter on the first night of the cruise is all you need to discuss the meal options and make special requests. Thanks to the large size of Carnival’s fleet, all their ships are stocked with gluten-free ingredients, so you don’t need to notify the line of your dietary requirements until you step aboard your ship.
If you choose to dine in the Lido restaurant of the ship, have a quick chat with a senior member of the dining staff before tucking into the buffet. They’ll be able to direct you to the dishes which are gluten free and which to steer clear of.

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Cunard Line

Not surprising for a cruise line dedicated to providing a sophisticated stay on the seas, the Cunard team handle dietary requests in the least intrusive manner. Each of the three ships in the line employs specialist head waiters and chefs to manage special dietary requests, and they’ll chat to you about the options available.
Gluten-free bread is available throughout all meal times, and separate sauces are whizzed up to meet dietary requirements. On top of this, gluten-free pastas, biscuits, cookies and cereals are provided throughout the cruise.

To ensure you receive gluten-free service aboard your Cunard cruise, you are required to inform your operator at the time of booking and confirm the request at the purser’s desk when you board the ship.

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Royal Caribbean

As the owner and operator of the world’s six largest cruise ships, it’s hardly surprising that Royal Caribbean have gone to great lengths to ensure all dietary requirements are catered for. In 2013, the massive cruise line employed the help of a licenced dietician and nutrition expert to oversee all the food served aboard the line – ensuring that all lifestyle choices and medical requirements were accommodated.

Each of the Royal Caribbean ships are packed with a huge number of different eateries and dining options, and every menu is marked with the gluten-free options which are available. This extensive choice is sure to accommodate all palates and all dietary requirements. Additionally, if a non-gluten-free option on the menu has caught your eye, have a chat with the restaurant manager – most menu options can be whipped up to be gluten-free upon request.

After booking a cruise with Royal Caribbean, let them know your dietary requirements by sending an email to [email protected] detailing your requirements and your travel details. The restaurant managers are available every night for a chat about the next day’s dining options, giving you greater freedom to pick from a huge dining selection.

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Gluten Free Holiday

Tips for Gluten-Free Cruising

Want a stress-free, incident-free and above all gluten-free cruise holiday? We’ve compiled a selection of tips to help you make the most of your time on the open ocean without impacting your diet.

Be Suspicious

Be sure to check with waiting staff when they take your order that they’re confident a gluten-free option is available and that the chefs understand your requirements. If something tastes/feels as though it contains gluten, ask the waiting staff to double check with the kitchen. Even if you feel rude doing so, always be on the look-out for mistakes.

Don’t Let Mistakes Go Unraised

Rather than leaving a bread roll because of the presence of gluten, make sure you raise the issue with senior members of the restaurant team. Polite, constructive feedback can stop the same mistakes happening again in the future – for yourself and for other guests.

Make friends with the Waiting Staff

If you’re planning on dining in the same on-board eatery numerous times during your cruise, you’d be best served getting friendly with the waiting staff. Get to know your waiter or the senior members of the team, so as soon as you walk through the door, they’ll be ready with the night’s gluten-free offerings and options.

Asian Chinese room service waiter serving food in hotel

Book a Galley Tour

Many cruise lines offer galley tours aboard their ships, giving you an insight into life below passenger decks, and more importantly, how your food is prepared. You’ll be able to witness first-hand how the gluten-free offerings are kept apart from the gluten-rich foods. This tour can either put your mind to ease regarding how your gluten-free meals are being prepared, or help you raise potential red flags with the kitchen team.

Check the Free Choccies

Coming home to a freshly-cleaned cabin is a wonderful experience, and the chocolate on the pillow is often the proverbial icing. However, don’t just pop that choc in your mouth, as it may contain traces of gluten. Despite the efforts cruise lines go to in order to accommodate gluten-free diets, these chocolates are often standardised for all guests so may not be suitable for your specific dietary requirements.

Research the Excursions

One of the great benefits of a cruise holiday is the opportunity to explore new lands. However, for those following a gluten-free diet, it is advisable to research the dining options once you reach the shore. If the cruise line is providing the day’s fare, make sure a gluten-free option is available and sign up for it. Alternatively, if you’ve got to find your own fare on land, TripAdvisor can help you research the gluten-free options in the destination.

For more information and help picking the perfect cruise itinerary for your needs and tastes, why not give the Cruise1st UK team a call on 0808 2746 777. Alternatively, head over to our homepage for a full list of deals.


About Author

Sandra has worked in the travel industry for over 20 years and has gained an extensive knowledge of the cruise industry. Sandra regularly writes for the Cruise 1st blog on a wide range of topics from destination guides to cruise line news.

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