Booking a cruise is an exciting time, we envisage a wonderful holiday with enticing destinations, entertainment, relaxation and also great food but for some this can be more difficult than others. We’re talking about passengers with specific dietary restrictions that can often cause concern and even anxiety when planning a holiday. For those of you that have cruised before you will know that cruise lines do all they can to accommodate such needs and will endeavour as much as possible to ensure you still thoroughly enjoy the cuisine on board. For first time cruisers, however, we understand that without this experience under your belt it can be a little un-certain and often quite un-nerving when planning something new.
We understand that dealing with special dietary requirements can often be extremely difficult and frustrating at home let alone when booking a holiday and can often put a downer on something you would otherwise be really looking forward to. With a cruise, it’ doesn’t have to be that way. With a land based holiday you are undoubtedly going to have to go through the trials and tribulations of searching for hotels that may be able to provide some assistance and then you’re met with the choice of all-inclusive, half board, self-catering and more. You may even find yourselves taking along your own food, just in case. Personally when I go on holiday I like to be able to enjoy the cuisine without the worry that the pleasure I’m supposed to be getting from it will soon dissipate due to dietary problems. Speaking from experience and with specific dietary needs myself, I know that the last thing I want to be doing is heading out each night trying to find restaurants that are suitable for what I’m looking for, let alone try and gain a decent enough establishment of the local language to be able to convey these concerns to local restaurateurs. This is one of many reasons why I and so many others fell in love with cruising in the first place.
A cruise holiday is the easiest, most hassle free holiday experience you could possibly imagine when it comes to this issue. Not only are cruise lines experts in this area but they are also highly reliable and never will you feel out of place or a burden to the crew on board. Cruise operators have long understood the need to cater for all their passengers not just have a set menu for people to like or lump shall we say. They strive to create and serve a wide range of spectacular dishes no matter your dietary issues and have a full range of options available for all concerns simply on request.
The most common dietary concerns cruise lines excel in include lactose intolerant, gluten free, celiac, diabetic issues, vegetarian, vegan, low fat, low salt, Kosher and Halal diets. This list is ever expanding and highly impressive considering the vast amount of food that is served each and every day on board.
We thought it was about time we provided you with some advice for getting over your fears and enjoying a proper holiday. Try not to let your special dietary needs keep you shackled in the comfort zone of your own surroundings, especially when you long to get out and see some of the world’s most exciting destinations. Take a look through our advice and you may even be amazed by just how much you can enjoy when travelling aboard a cruise.
Making The Cruise Line Aware
When visiting us in person or speaking to us over the phone, make sure you bring up your concerns. Our cruise experts are just that, experts in all fields of cruising and therefore will have the best answers possible to help ease your mind. Inform us when you come to the time of booking and we will make sure this is looked after for you. Be sure to make your dietary needs known as soon as possible that way this gives us time to inform the cruise operator and for them to be aware. Also don’t be afraid to be honest and specific with us. We’re here to help and make sure we plan the perfect holiday for you so let us know what’s on your mind and we’ll take care of it, you won’t have to worry about a thing.
Not only will we provide your chosen cruise line with your dietary needs via email, we will then ensure you are provided with the appropriate form so that you can fill in all specific details of your needs, which will also be sent to the cruise line in advance of your cruise. For your own peace of mind, if you want to be fully prepared then along with informing us at the time of booking, see your doctor and take along with you a dietary requirement printout to show the crew on your arrival. Trust us, they will already know but this can often provide that extra assurance that we sometimes need, I’ve been there so I know.
Initial On Board Contact
The next piece of advice on our list is for when you arrive on board. Your check in process will be swift and hassle free as always with a cruise holiday so when you get on board we often recommend just reiterating again the concerns on your mind. The next question is who do you reiterate them to? The answer is either the restaurant manager, the maitre’d or if possible as it is with some cruise lines, the executive chef. If applicable, it’s also a good idea to make sure the youth team crew are aware in the case that it is your child travelling with dietary requirements. The first day is the ideal time to make your thoughts heard and to add any additional requests you may have.
When taking a cruise and visiting exciting locations around the world, the last thing we want to feel is that we have to stay on the ship and not be able to head out and explore. Excursions are very popular choices for seeing the best of many destinations and we don’t want you to miss out. For excursions, be sure to notify the crew in advance, this can be achieved prior to your cruise but also at the excursions desk on board in case you fancy a last minute booking during your cruise. These members of staff will make sure that any potential restaurants you may be visiting as part of your excursion will be aware of your specific requirements. These types of excursion also help you relax, safe in the knowledge that this is taken care of rather than the aforementioned anxiety that can sometimes be a factor when taking a land based holiday.
Take A Tour Of The Galley
Long has this been an exciting opportunity for many passengers on board, such is the spectacle of seeing the master chefs at work. Galley tours are available on board most ships and whilst most passengers choose to book this tour to witness the incredible innovators at work, you could also benefit by again putting your mind at ease.
A Galley tour provides you with the opportunity to see first-hand and up close where your food is being prepared. Taking such tours will help you to understand just how impressive the work is that goes on behind the scenes and the incredibly scrupulous standards on show. You’ll also see just how far cruising has come over the years. Dietary needs have always been at the forefront of their minds but taking this tour, you will see the segregated areas now in place for each potential issue, delicately preparing food and ensuring that cross contamination is simply not an issue. Many cruise lines will even run this tour for you complimentary should you cite your dietary requirements on arrival.
Choosing Your Dining Arrangements
Whenever there are dietary needs on your mind, booking in advance is always the answer. This is because you will therefore be able to specify your desired dining choice and have it confirmed, again taking away another potentially stressful concern.
Now for making the right dining choice for you. Most cruise lines now operate two options in the main dining rooms, these are Set Dining times and Freedom Dining. These two options come under various different titles depending on the cruise line you are sailing with but despite their differences in name, the concepts remain the same. Set Dining, often referred to as Club Dining is where you have the option of choosing a specific sitting time, usually first sitting at 6.30pm or second sitting at 8.30pm. This can vary but is usually based on these times. Choosing this option allows you to dine at the same table each evening at a table size of your request at the time of booking. The other option, Freedom Dining provides just that, freedom. This choice means you can dine anytime in the main dining room allocated between 6pm and 9.30pm. You simply head for the restaurant at a time that suits you and you will be seated to the first available table.
Cruise lines have come a long long way and they are exceptional at catering for most dietary issues but again in the spirit of removing all stress from the equation, one good piece of advice is to choose Club Dining and opt for a sitting. The reason we suggest this for dietary requirements is that when choosing this option, you will dine at the same table each evening, therefore being served by the same waiting staff. Often rapport and friendly relationships form by dining with the same waiting staff each evening and this allows them to be always in the know about your preferences and needs. It also saves you from worrying each evening and feeling like you may need to emphasise your concerns to new waiting staff each night. Whilst this is not a must, we feel it to be a good suggestion for the purpose of giving you peace of mind.
Explore Other Dining Options
The main dining rooms are excellent but sometimes we all like a change and we don’t want to feel like we can’t try the other dining venues on board for fear something may go wrong. Rest assured that it won’t. All dining venues on board are extremely stringent and scrupulous with the preparation of their food and the effort that goes into catering for a wide range of diners. You may initially look at the menu and be met with concern but simply speak to your waiter and such is the exemplary standards on board a cruise holiday, often a chef will come out to you and speak with you personally about how they can create the perfect meal for you. Many passengers with problematic dietary needs return from a cruise and rave about how amazing the food was, the same will apply to you, if we had any doubts, we wouldn’t say it. Often these restaurants will prepare a meal just for you that is not even on the menu and based simply on request and they’ll do so with a smile on their faces, happy to help and make sure you enjoy your dining experience.
Relax and enjoy
Last but most important of all, make sure you relax and focus on just enjoying yourself. This is a holiday after all, something you’ve worked hard for and deserve so make sure you make the most of it. A cruise allows you to do just that and takes the stress away from you by taking care of everything on your behalf. Talk with us and we will find the perfect ship for you. Cruise lines take special diets and any potential allergies extremely seriously. At the end of the day, they have to because if they don’t, not only will they lose passengers, they will also risk damaging their reputation and in an industry that is highly competitive with many outstanding cruise operators, this is not going to happen.
Book a cruise now and reap the rewards of a brilliant holiday, you won’t regret it.