River Cruising with Dietary Restrictions
Updated: Mar 20
Can I Still Eat Well on a River Cruise If I Have Dietary Restrictions?
In a word, yes! Whether you’re vegan, gluten-free or lactose-intolerant, you can still get your fill, and enjoy every bite, when you cruise. There’s no need to miss out on all the great culinary offerings onboard or onshore, where there are bound to be local delicacies you’d love to try. Today, more than ever, cruise lines are adapting to passengers’ dietary requirements and ensuring that all palates and preferences are accounted for.
That said, preparation and forward-thinking are key. I’ll offer some tips here for considering a cruise when you have dietary restrictions, then together we can look at your choices and determine which will be the best option for you while satisfying your foodie predilections.
Communicate on the Culinary Front
As soon as you’ve decided on a destination and particular cruise line, let them know about your dietary needs. Remember, this is a ship that’s sailing away from port and as such, the boat will have a limit to its supplies and ingredients. The further ahead of time they know of your diet, the better they can address it, whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, low-/no-fat, low-/no-salt, lactose-intolerant/dairy-free, gluten- or wheat-free (celiac), low-cholesterol, diabetic, kosher or halal. Make sure you’ve communicated this to your travel advisor (who can relay to the cruise line) 45 to 90 days before departure.
Pro Tip: You may think it’s easiest to just bring aboard your own items that fit your diet, but perishable items are not allowed. Nonperishables are generally okay.
Gluten-Free Almond Cake made with almond meal or almond flour is a wonderful dessert
served aboard AmaWaterways ships.
Even More Communication is Better
Take Tip #1 one step further and be in touch with the dining department as soon as you get onboard. Chat up the restaurant manager or the chef to make sure that there are notes with your passenger dining and stateroom profile. You can let your cabin steward know of any allergies, as well as the activities coordinator as often there are meals taken off the boat when you’re on an excursion.
Consistency is Key
If possible, choose set-seating dining so that you’re with the same waitstaff throughout the voyage. That way, you won’t find yourself having to double-check ingredients and explain your restrictions over and over to new waitstaff. But, you say … what if I want to try out all of the amazing culinary offerings on my ship? Not to worry … sometimes a chef can prepare a special meal from the dining room menu and then have it served in another venue so that you can enjoy some variety with your travel companions.
Be Bold at the Buffet
The buffet is going to be your most challenging culinary conundrum. The ingredients won’t also be clearly marked and utensils may be mixed. Check in with the staff to see which dishes meet your personal dietary requirements and if you see something that fits the bill (say, gluten-free muffins), feel free to grab a few so as to have a snack for later! Even if you’re choosing items from the buffet, there are times you can ask to have a dish prepared especially for you, i.e., an omelet with olive oil instead of butter.
Think Ahead About Dining Ashore
As previously mentioned, be sure the activities coordinator or shore excursions desk knows of your culinary restrictions, as well. They can recommend places to eat, or do research for you, in port of call so that you’re not wasting time hunting down a restaurant for lunch that can cater to your needs. It also helps to have a physical note in the local language that details your dietary restrictions, which you can hand to the waitstaff in local restaurants.
Make an Informed Decision
As you’ve probably realized as you’re thinking about your cruise, there are numerous options out there. When it comes to dietary needs and restrictions, cruise lines will vary in their offerings and ability to satisfy your requirements. Together, we can sort through the choices, whether that’s looking at their websites, talking to their staff or even contacting or reading reviews by past guests to learn of their good (and not-so-good) experiences.
My ultimate goal is the most enjoyable cruise experience for you - both in and out of the dining room. Let’s chat about how to find the most appealing, and appetizing, voyage for you.
Reach out by booking a consultation through my Services page.