Cruises are becoming more popular these days and they are my favourite type of holiday. We’ve travelled with different companies: MSC, Thompson (TUI), Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Fred Olsen and Norwegian. Since my diagnosis of Coeliac Disease we’ve only cruised with Norwegian. We like them as they have exciting ships and some great deals including an ultimate beverage package.
It can be difficult to know which companies provide well for their gluten-free guests, so I thought I’d write this post to let you know how our holiday went. We recently cruised the Mediterranean and Trans-Atlantic on the Norwegian Epic. I won’t go into detail about the ship, ports etc and will focus on how they coped with my dietary needs.
After purchasing the holiday we sent dietary information to the company so they’d know in advance about my needs. Every time I scanned my keycard at restaurants on board it flagged up my gluten-free needs. The best experiences were in the restaurants in the evenings, so I’ll talk about that first.
We ate in the Taste Restaurant most evenings and ate out at a few of the speciality restaurants on other nights. On the first day I called by at the restaurant to ask about gluten-free options. My waitress came along and introduced herself and let me look at that evening’s menu. The menu had one starter and one main course labelled GF but I could request other items. She let me know if courses could be prepared specially for me. I could have almost anything on the menu. Obviously items with pasta or couscous as key ingredients weren’t available. At each meal I could pre-order the next evening’s meal. If I’d booked a speciality restaurant I could pre-order for there too. The waitress was great as she always checked I had the right order.
Taste and Manhattan Restaurants
I had a few favourite meals in the main restaurants. It was fantastic to have gourmet food with dressings that matched the meal but didn’t contain gluten. I’d recommend the Duck and Fava Bean Salad and the New York Strip Steak if you’re unsure where to start. The dessert menu usually contained something I could eat and there was always flourless cake available, although it wasn’t amazing. I tried a few desserts but was trying to be a bit careful. The coconut flan is particularly tasty.
The Moderno Churrascaria is a speciality Brazilian restaurant. You can start with the amazing salad bar and then skewers of slow-roasted meats including beef, pork, lamb and chicken – all carved tableside. The only items I couldn’t have on the menu were some of the salad bar items, the mexican beans and the pork sausages. Believe me, there is plenty left to eat. On the Norwegian Epic I could have their tasty cheese bread. Be careful, as on some Norwegian ships these may not be GF.
We had a meal at Le Bistro. Again, delicious food. I shared a chocolate and fruit fondue with my husband, which was a unique treat.
Cagney’s Steakhouse is my favourite venue. I started with the Iceberg Wedge, which is a huge wedge of lettuce with bacon, a creamy sauce and stilton. The Baked potato soup starter is also worth a try, complete with GF bread. I went for the 20oz Porterhouse Steak – why not? It was wonderful and served with baked potato (you could have fries). I skipped dessert!
In the restaurants it was easy and convenient to get GF toast and cooked items. We generally chose to eat in the Garden Cafe buffet. I didn’t choose toast on these days but they would have accommodated me. I spotted GF Cheerios so usually had these. I also went for fresh fruit and yoghurt, and some cooked items such as bacon, egg, beans and tomato. I avoided anything fried as they don’t have separate friers for gluten-free food (you could get GF fries in some areas of the ship).
We ate at the buffet for most of the lunches on board the ship. This was a little trickier than other meals. Many items did contain gluten and I had to ask the servers about any dish I wanted. Many of the Indian foods were GF and I often enjoyed a dahl, rice and poppadoms. There were many salads and cooked meats too. Again, I avoided anything fried. I didn’t ask about desserts but there was always ice-cream, jelly and fruit available.
We sometimes ate at O’Sheehans Irish Bar and Grill. Not as many choices here but I could get a chopped salad and a burger or hot-dog in GF bread. They’d usually apologise that the shape of the bread wasn’t suitable for a hot-dog but I didn’t mind! I had mine with crisps (potato chips) instead of chips (fries). I didn’t eat any desserts here.
I was really impressed with the options available. I know I could get glutened anywhere, even at home but I wasn’t ill once. I was a bit naughty by having a few desserts and plenty to drink but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. There are other eating options aboard the ship that I didn’t try this time…maybe next year!