Before you book,
- Consider using a travel agent to book your cruise they are experienced with people who have food allergies and will help you with the forms you need to fill out.
- Some cruises requests for dietary requirements are easier to accommodate due to geographical regions.
- Take with you more adrenaline auto-injectors and medicine more than you can think of.
- If this is your first cruise? Consider a short cruise, this would help you to consider longer cruises in the future depending on if the short cruise went well or if you have had problem.
- Consider the severity of your allergies and reactions. If your reactions are very severe and it is possible that you might need to be flown to hospital, it might be prudent to cruise nearer land and not across the ocean, so the helicopter can land quicker for hospital.
- Some cruises have flights either to or from destinations, please check Airlines And Food Allergies Policy guide.
- When booking a cruise not all cruise lines are equal when catering to your dietary needs, always do your homework and check reviews. Please remember some reviews can be false, and if a good or negative review this only reflects on the day as staff and environment factors can change hourly/daily.
- I have found some cruise lines do not have information about allergies or limited information on their website so please be aware that you may have to contact. When searching on websites companies can differ on their terminology, some will have under food allergies or special diets. See photos 1 and 2 below list
- Do not forget your travel insurance, see Travel Insurance For Food Allergies guide. Buying trip insurance might be better, although more expensive it could save you money if have anaphylactic reaction and need to be flown to hospital.
- Most cruises need to know about dietary requirements 45-90 days prior to travelling. If possible, get in writing mutually agreed meal plan. Make sure you have done this as the cruise company might not accommodate or they are unable to your needs on board ship without prior knowledge.
- Some companies will ask you to send an email request.
- Ask will there be an extra charge for my meals?
- Once booked phone the cruise line directly. Cruise ships have limited stock go onboard at port, mention products like your milk. Some cruise lines will only need to have allergies registered at time of booking, but if you require alternatives milks e.g., almond, soya, oat then a specific requirements form will need to be filled out.
- Consider shore excursions, search for restaurants bakeries, and cafes of shore destinations before going on the cruise, checking the internet before you go will save internet charges if internet is not free on your ship. Notify shore excursions desk upon embarkment as they can contact restaurants about your dietary needs. See Allergens lists on this site which include meals from other cultures. Translation cards would be especially useful. Some cruise line companies may already organised lunch, speak to shore excursions desk. Also. Consider shorter 2–3-hour excursions, so you can eat back onboard.
- 3-5 days before departure phone to confirm your dietary requirements.
- Some shore excursions include are all day and could include a meal, speak to cruise line before embarking 45-90 days prior.
- Try and make sure if the pre-sailing form for allergies has made it to the ship, ask if you should photocopy the form so more than one can be sent in.
- Some cruise lines will say people with severe food allergies should not select certain tours. See photo 3 below list
- On embarkment speak with the Maître d’ or guest services about your requirements.
- Some cruise lines supply welcome chocolates, arrange for alternative or for them not to supply.
- Some cruise lines will invite you to meet jointly with the Restaurant Manager and Executive Chef, normally in the afternoon.
- Ask if there a specific restaurant on board that caters for allergies.
- Book a tour of the kitchen, see how the food is cooked and this may address the concerns you have. These tours charge and can be expensive but if it reassures you for the whole time of the cruise it may be worth it. Some kitchens are not totally allergen free and may contains might not be taken into consideration and will be discretion of the individual. See photo 4 below list
- Ask for the allergen menu.
- Order meal in plenty of time – order previous night.
- Do not be surprised that food said was available before departure is not available upon request on departure.
- Can you order your food in all one go, or do you need to do it daily?
- Will the same member of staff be serving you all week? Some cruise lines will assign one waiter for you, but this depends on your severity of your food allergy.
- There may not be an allergen menu, but information should be supplied upon request.
- As meals are customised expect to wait up to an hour for your main meal.
- Some companies supply the top 14 allergen free meals.
- Be aware of cross contamination, ask what precautions are taken? Please note that some cruise ships serve up to 12,000 meals a day, the chance for mistakes is greater than in a high street restaurant. Kitchen and waiting staff will be trained in food safety but that does not mean that they have been trained in allergy safety. Some companies will have dedicated staff that will cook your food separately to avoid cross contamination.
- Is there medical staff or first aider onboard? What are their medical procedures for anaphylaxis? Is the medical staff 24/7? Some cruise line companies do not have medical facilities, and do not have medical staff on board, and depend on local shoreside facilities or the coastguards. Some ships have their own pharmacy, but they still advise you to bring your own medication. Medical facilities can vary from like a GP surgery service to mini hospital, medical centre, nurse centre, or a first aid point.
- If you are taken ill onboard is the treatment chargeable?
- Does the cruise company have adrenaline auto-injectors in board? Do they stock steroids and breathing apparatus?
- If you are thinking about bringing your own food onboard, check with your cruise line what is allowed, some cruise lines only allow non-perishable snack and baby milk formula. You might need special permission to bring quantity of food onboard, get this in writing in case staff tries to stop you boarding with the food. See list below photos for ideas.
If there is a mini bar asked the staff to remove the stocked items (this way you do not get charged for items not used) then store your items of food in the fridge.
- On embarkment seek out restaurant manager or head chef and confirm your dietary needs. Make sure it is flagged and flagged on the computer system, making sure you have given your cabin number.
- Speak to restaurant manager or head chef about cross contamination, make sure you speak to the right staff as this stops any communication not getting to the right people, or the information is miscommunicated.
- If your child has allergies speak to the activities coordinator. Ask if there will be onsite or do, they close for mealtimes? Ask if they are planning events that include food, or activities that might include the allergen to which they are allergic? E.g., playdough, pictures made of food items.
- Children’s clubs may have their own rules about carrying adrenaline auto-injectors. It varies from each cruise line companies; some youth staff will carry adrenaline auto-injectors with them. Other companies will not allow the youth staff to administer the adrenaline auto-injector, but the staff are trained to recognise emergencies and call medical staff on board.
- Are the staff of the children’s club trained to administer adrenaline auto-injectors?
- Children’s clubs, teach your child to ask questions about their food, and educate not to share food.
- Some cruise lines supply, tea service, and bread baskets, speak to cabin steward to organise alternatives or not to supply.
- Although it would be nice to try all the restaurants it would be advisable to stay with the same dining team. If you do want to try the other restaurants give advance notice and pre order the day before. Some cruise lines will have a rotational dining plan so you can visit different restaurants and your server will come with you.
- If your cruise offers set seating dining it worth choosing that option, as your waiter will be used to you being in same seat. If this not an option when being seated ask to be in the same section with the waiter who knows your allergies.
- Some cruises offer spa-inspired cuisine (healthy, balanced meals), these meals are simpler and easier to change to your requirements.
- Do not be shy or embarrassed to ask staff to use gloves, wash hands, and use different utensils.
- Buffet- ask staff to accompany you at the buffet so they can point out dishes that you cannot have. Do not be shy to ask if they have fresh ingredients in the kitchen for the buffet that you can have that has not been cross contaminated by other guests.
- Always ask what your food is cooked in e.g., what type of oils.
- Sometimes something you might like and can have may not be available every mealtime, do not be shy to take a food that you can have later during the day, but ask staff if intend to take the food off ship on excursions because they may not be allowed because of customs regulations.
- Room services your orders should be addressed to the manager.
- Always remind everyone about your allergies, due to amount of people the staff serve they may not remember. Never assume it is safe to eat, always ask questions.
- See Alcohol And Allergies page.
- Try to eat at less busy times so more time can be given to your meal.
- If your meal is served and it has an allergen on it hold onto the plate until fresh comes out, making sure the pate is not near you, this stops the allergen being taken off the plate and being reserved with same plate and cross contamination.
- Dining and kitchen staff may not be native English speaking, their English might be good, but information can get lost in translation. It is worth having chef cards to give the chef.
- Sometimes it is impossible for yourself to read the food labels as the food deliveries are in bulk boxes or containers.
- Always leave feedback whether positive or negative, it is always nice for the staff to get a thank you, but do not be shy to give negative feedback. Please remember you might have been lucky with your safety, but the next person might not be.
- Contact travel agent or directly to cruise company if you did not go through a travel agent.
- If you feel your complaint was not taken seriously or not dealt with then contact ABTA if the company is registered with them.
- If your cruise line was not covered by ABTA, then contact Citizens Advice https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
Some ideas but do talk to staff when booking what else you can bring, also check if the ideas below are ok to bring as well.
- Add-hot water instant soups
- Cookies, chocolate bars, fruit snacks, and sweets
- Crackers, popcorn, and crisps
- Granola bars
- Non-perishable packaged fruits raisins and dried mangos
Cruise Lines – The Complete List
The buttons below can be used in conjunction with this guide.
This information is only given as guidance and not extensive. Information to be used at individual’s responsibility. Always seek medical advice.
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