A few weeks ago I went on a cruise with my boyfriend. After having a great previous experience cruising with Princess and them being able to accommodate celiac disease, I figured my experience would be just as good if not better with Royal Caribbean. The experience was very similar as far as reporting our food allergies online ahead of time and meeting with the maître d when we got on the boat. I was very excited for this trip because when it came to the food experience and not getting ill Princess excelled. I figured Royal Caribbean would do just as well.
We went to our first dinner at the assigned dining room and spoke to our headwaiter. Immediately I was less confident in how this trip was going to go. Our headwaiter knew what food allergies were but wasn’t willing to go too far out of the way to get us something we really wanted. On top of that the food was very sub-par. We were never super thrilled with our dinner options, although they did have some meals that were quite good. In addition, they only went out of their way to make us one specialty dessert that was a meringue cookie with strawberry sauce on top. This was delicious and we kept wanting more of them but the head waiter did not understand what I meant by meringue cookie. That was just devastating to me since we did get them 2 of the nights and really actually enjoyed them. I expected more variety though considered on Princess they got me a different dessert almost every single night. One night, they only brought out a gluten free dessert for my boyfriend, and I had to sit there and they only told us then they didn't have dessert made. It would have been nice to have been notified earlier.
Every evening, we were provided with the following day's menu and we were to place our orders for the next day. The process didn't seem to work very well, as we would get to lunch the next day and they had no record of what we had ordered. Our headwaiter for dinner was not in the same area we went for breakfast or lunch, but after the second day we found a headwaiter that we ate with for these two meals for the rest of the cruise except port lunch days. This headwaiter was extremely helpful, and if we didn't have an order in, he would place it and we did have to wait a little longer for our food than most people, but it wasn't a big deal. One day we were getting our salads from the salad bar, where they had servers making it with what you selected. We tried to put our own dressing on them, but they wouldn't let us. They were tossing all of the salads and we stated we had food allergies. He grabbed out a pair of tongs from under a cart to mix ours, and it looked like it had been previously used with ranch dressing on it. We asked again to just apply the dressing ourselves, but the worker got confrontational and asked if we didn't trust him. We let him mix our salads, and notified the headwaiter when we sat down, and from then on he made our salads each day and brought dressing to our table. This was probably the closest call that shouldn't have even been a close call.
One evening, we had a craving for Mexican and wanted to order tacos. The headwaiter was unaware of what we wanted, or didn't understand and we ended up with nachos. They clearly had corn tortillas on board which we saw other people eating. It wasn't a huge deal as it tasted good. In addition, we asked for gluten free salsa and they said they would make some. We ended up getting a Mediterranean style salsa with an eggplant base instead of tomato. Our headwaiter didn't seem too familiar with salsa, but it ended up being extremely good and much better than we anticipated. One thing we liked was that they made three different types of gluten and dairy free bread on board the ship, and we were served that with almost all meals. They were much softer than a lot of prepacked breads you can purchase. Two mornings we ordered french toast and they used this bread.
My boyfriend's favorite meals were the breakfasts by far. We were able to order eggs with bacon and hash browns which were excellent. The breakfasts rivaled any diner that you could go to. He also really enjoyed the hamburgers and even ordered them for dinner two nights. I really enjoyed the fish for dinner, although the portions were small a couple of nights. Later in the week we would sometimes order two meals just to make sure we had enough food, and some nights they would even bring us a dish even if we didn't order it. There definitely wasn't a shortage of food at mealtime! We didn't have a ton of options for snack type foods on board. Whereas people without food allergies could go to the buffet anytime, we didn't really have that option. We did bring some snacks along in our luggage which came in handy, but we would probably bring a few more on our next cruise.
When booking the trip, we had requested a table for two, but there were no two person tables available. We ended up sitting with another couple similar in age and they were very pleasant. They were knowledgeable about celiac so it wasn't too awkward explaining to them why we had special food and had to order ahead of time. We had wanted our own table just so cross contamination at the table wouldn't be an issue, but it ended up being fine.
Overall I would be hesitant to take Royal Caribbean again with our current food allergies. We had some bad experiences that could have been really close calls. The worst was during the 4th night, my boyfriend ended up with food poisoning and puking everything up from the entire day’s meals. We both have celiac but he definitely got some form of food poisoning with the severe vomiting he suffered. He didn’t leave the room and was quarantined for one day in case he was contagious, but still didn't feel good the following two days and only left the room a few times the second half of the trip. This really made the trip not as enjoyable as it should have been. Hopefully if we take another cruise with them, we will have a better experience, but will be looking at other cruise lines as well.
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