Whether it's your first cruise aboard Disney Cruise Line or your 10th with an allergen or Celiac disease, here are the facts you need to know to make the magic happen for everyone in your dining party!
Shortly before we learned our kids were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, we took a cruise without insurance and had a sick undiagnosed kid the whole time. Don't do that. Learn from us!
But after the kids were diagnosed and we had been eating gluten free long enough to see the resulting changes in their health, it was a brave step to get on a ship and trust others to take care of their needs, but if anyone could do it, we knew it was Disney!
If you haven't experienced a special diet at the hands of Disney, then let me give you a brief primer - they train chefs and managers to oversee not only the ordering of ingredients and menu planning, but also to be the advocate of the diner every step of the way. Their process is unsurpassed and we trust them (literally) with our children's lives.
That being said, recently there have been changes aboard the ships. Personally, I blame the many "I think i react" people who have made it a bit different. The demand for time with chefs and headwaiters became so great, they've changed the way it works and they no longer visit your table every night. While we understand, we do miss the old way and hope it changes back when the fad of being gluten free passes once and for all.
When you visit a buffet, like Cabanas, then you'll get a tour by the Chef and they will still offer to cook your food separately in the back, if you see that it's displayed a little too close to other contaminated foods. Peanut and other severe allergy sufferers, just ask for the separate preparation. While our kids have never reacted to the foods on the buffet, that's partly because they don't hesitate to ask for separate preparations being made if they need it and they've got the process down from frequent sailings.
Up on deck, when you want pizza or a burger, plan to wait. And wait. And wait. And there is no longer late night dining for allergen sufferers. They shut down the allergen options around 10 pm each night. We had early dining and we regretted it when Joshua would be hungry again after the show. If you have teens or big eaters and they have allergies or celiac disease, then you need to eat at second seating or you'll find out like we did that the poolside area AND the room service options for allergens shuts down and the people who can reopen it are in bed. They offered to wake them up, but there was no way we were doing that. I hope that offer isn't accepted often, or maybe not? Maybe if it is offered, they'll train a second shift person to stand guard? I could go either way. Until we find out they have, then big eaters with allergens must do second dining to stay happy on board!
At dinner each night you'll choose your meal for the following night before you leave the table that night. Don't run off before dessert - it will limit your options and/or make it where your food is served after the rest of your party, because they weren't able to plan ahead.
Finally, two wonderful things for gluten free diners to end on. Because here is the deal - you will never eat as well as you do when you travel with Disney! While we miss the custom meals prepared by visiting chefs of days gone by, and we hope to return to them again, the fact is that we still feel loved every step of the way. And where did we feel the most love? In Palo, there was an actual Gluten-Free souffle! It was Ah-Maz-Ing! And there is always the wonderful fact that Mickey Bars are gluten free and available via room service and as dessert every time you are seated at a table aboard the ship. Mmmmm. Mickey Bars!
Let's sum this up with a few bullet to remember! You can do this and enjoy it every step of the way.
- When you visit buffets, don't hesitate to ask for you food to be prepared separately in the allergen area.
- Choose Late dining to maximize access to allergen friendly food options.
- Stay at your table when you're near the end of your dining time so you can select the next night's food, as needed.
- When you visit Palo, ask about the souffle!
- Bonus Tip: Talk to your servers about options at Castaway Cay the night before!