In February my family and I traveled to Miami Florida and boarded our second Disney cruise. It was so nice to have a tropical vacation and leave the single digit weather far behind.
This was my second cruise, and my second cruise since getting diagnosed with food allergies. The first went well, but I felt like I was much more limited than I needed to be in the dining rooms, and ended up eating more at the buffet than I should’ve (for safety sake). Thankfully, my allergies are not currently life threatening.
Below are my tips for a successful trip.
My family with Donald on Castaway Cay.
1. Tell them right away.
Call Disney ahead of time. Let them know to put it on your reservation.
When you board you can go straight to a couple of places for lunch. Ask the staff for the choice that will allow allergy friendly choices. Once you’re seated, tell the staff immediately.
At dinner the first night, you’ll meet your servers that will be attending to you the rest of your dinners for the duration of the cruise. Tell them. They’ll remember.
At breakfast and lunch each day, you’ll have different servers (if you’re lucky it’ll be the same as your evening). Typically they’ll ask about allergies before you order, but don’t wait, tell them first. If you are comfortable with your night servers, ask them where they will be the next morning. You can preorder meals. They can give you the menu for the next breakfast/lunch/dinner, and you can figure things out ahead of time. On our first cruise I took advantage of this. This time there were many more options on the menus that were initially safe and only needed to be prepared in a clean area that I waited until the meal to choose.
I personally never experienced an issue with our servers that made me feel unsafe, but if you feel like they don’t understand, ask to speak with the head server.
2. Work as a team with the server and chef.
Our first cruise I wasn’t confident about my allergies, and the server didn’t understand what a barley allergy was. He was acting in my best interest, but only served me gluten free foods. This was disappointing when I wanted pasta or couscous, which I knew was safe for me, and he refused to serve it. Better safe than sorry, right?
This time around I was much more confident. It required more speaking with the server and head server, but I knew what to say when they came back with that ticket to talk to me about what I asked for. Even so, you have to be flexible and understanding that they can’t make everything safely. They are very aware of cross contamination, and if there is no way to make something safely, they won’t recommend it.
Currently on the new menus they have icons that identify gluten and dairy free options. I would order those most of the time. However, there were a couple of instances that they couldn’t give me the listed salad dressing. It was listed as part of the DF/GF options, but because of cross contamination and having an actual allergy they erred on the side of caution.
The best part is that they are very cautious. I’d much rather have them be overly careful than not careful enough.
3. Don’t eat at the quick service stations.
Really, you probably could, but everything is in really close quarters, and they won’t guarantee that it’s made in a separate area. Why risk it?
This cruise, the lady at the table next to us was upset that she felt awful after eating fries. I had gathered that she was gluten free, and she ended up speaking with the server, head server, and even one of the captain’s staff at dinner that night. They offered apology after apology, and worked her to figure out the cause.
So I’m nosy, and realized that they had been in line with us earlier to meet Goofy, and I saw her eating fries from the same plate as her daughters hot dog. So the fries she had been eating were not only prepared in a non-allergy friendly area, but they were rubbing against a hot dog bun. No wonder she felt awful.
So if you’re cruising with food allergy kiddos, steer clear of these areas if at all possible.
4. Don’t eat at the buffet.
My confession: I did. Why? My dairy allergy isn’t life threatening. Gastrointestinal symptoms aren’t comfortable, but a little bit of cross contamination from dairy isn’t going to ruin my trip, or my life. I avoid the items I’m not sure about, and eat the things I’m sure I can have (oatmeal, sausage, bacon, fruit).
The only place to eat allergy safely is the main dining rooms. At the buffets they can make certain things to order, but again they are not prepared on a cross-contamination free workspace.
5. Don’t hesitate to ask for something that isn’t on the menu.
The first couple of nights I went without dessert. I don’t need it. By the third night this time around, I was a little disappointed watching my toddler chow down on yet another chocolate coated Mickey shaped ice cream bar. So I asked if there was anything they could make or do for me. I knew it was possible, since they did it without asking on our first cruise, but the staff might not have known that I did actually want dessert. I asked, and I received.
They have a completed dairy free whipped cream (likely Rich Whip), and they made a beautiful parfait with fruit and whipped “cream.” The last night they knew how much I enjoyed the dessert, and made a second amazing dessert. This time it was a flourless chocolate cake with strawberries and more whipped “cream.”
Earlier in the trip they had Ahi Tuna with avocado listed on the menu, but it wasn’t clearly marked as DF. So I asked. They were able to make it safely. It was so good!
This is not the Ahi Tuna. I do think it had some tuna, with Israeli couscous and topped with shrimp.
What was left of my whipped “cream,” fruit, and chocolate parfait.
6. Enjoy every bite!
Seriously. The food is fabulous. It’s art. They made it special just for you, and they take pride in it. The best thing you can do is enjoy it, and make sure you tell them how much you enjoyed it.
I would love for making allergy friendly foods to be a regular thing, and for the staff not to go out of their way to make me dinner, but they did. All of the staff members went out of their way to make sure that my dinner was just a fabulous as my husband’s. Be humble. Be firm about your allergies, but be friendly. They really do take allergies seriously.
Flourless and dairy free chocolate cake with strawberries, chocolate sauce, and whipped “cream.” One bite in.