Sticking to Specialty Diets on a Cruise

Cruise lines gladly accommodate various dining preferences and dietary restrictions. Just ask. 

Eat Well On Your Cruise

Sticking to your diet at home is often hard enough. Sticking to it on a cruise has to be impossible, right? Wrong. If your diet is vegan, vegetarian, low- or no-sodium, gluten- or sugar-free, it’s easier than you’d think to stay the course on a cruise vacation, thanks to cruise lines taking your needs into account.

Meatless on the Menu

In the past, vegetarian cruisers could look forward to a salad, a pasta dish and perhaps extra veggies. For some, that might become boring after a couple of days. Now, every menu on every ship has at least one vegetarian appetizer and entrée at dinner, often designated by an easy-to-distinguish icon.

In 2012, Holland America Line created an industry first—a separate vegetarian menu, which includes several vegan options as well. (Vegans don’t eat dairy products or eggs; vegetarians may choose to.) Simply ask your waiter for the vegetarian menu.

Skip the Salt

If you’re on a no- or low-salt diet, you’re in luck. Cruise lines have been catering to this way of eating for years, but many guests may not be aware of how to order. At dinner in the main dining room on your first night, inform your wait staff that you follow a no- or low-sodium diet. At the end of dinner, your waiter or possibly the head waiter will bring you the next night’s dinner menu. You’ll pre-order your meal—appetizer, soup and entrée. Your request will go directly to the person in charge of preparing your meal. The following evening, even if you are at a different table, tell your waiter that you pre-ordered your meal. Each course will be presented at the same time as your tablemates. But be forewarned. We once ordered no-salt French onion soup. Guess what we were served? A cup of salt-free beef broth. No cheese—salt!—and no toasted, crusty French bread—salt!—that would have been smothered with the drippy, gooey cheese. 

The takeaway: If you order salt-free, you’ll get salt-free.

Forego the Gluten

Gluten-free? No problem. It’s handled the same way, upon request in the main dining room, whether you’re travelling with Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises or another cruise line. At the buffet, you are likely to find signs indicating which foods are gluten-free. There is even a selection of sugar-free desserts.

Perfect For You

If you love to try specialty restaurants on a cruise, you can have your cake and eat it too (gluten- and sugar-free, of course). When you know which nights you’ll be in a specialty restaurant, simply stop by and see the maître d’, or whomever is in charge. Explain your dietary needs and you’ll be handed the menu so you can choose your selections. As with all special orders, always contact the restaurant the day prior to your reservation.

If you have specific allergies or a diet that conforms to religious practice, do your research and consult your doctor or your religious leaders about maintaining your diet while you are cruising.

And there’s no law against trying something new on a cruise, either. Why not mix things up a bit and ask your maître d’ to recommend the best vegetarian option while at sea There’ll be steak (and probably lots of it) the day after. Mangia!

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