Sailing away on a cruise ship is a great way to get away from it all, and with a Disney Cruise Line cruise it’s a chance to enjoy the magic of Disney without stepping foot in the parks. The Disney Parks & Resorts are known for being one of the top destinations for gluten free and food allergy vacationers, so it seems only natural that the Disney Cruise Line would be equally wonderful at accommodating special dietary needs.
We’ve now been on several cruises on the Disney Dream and have learned first-hand how great DCL is with special dietary needs. While we’ve always enjoyed our experiences aboard the ship and our meal experiences, the cruise experience is definitely different from that in the parks & resorts. With that in mind, here are my top 10 tips to help make your Disney Cruise Line experience gluten free (and with other special dietary needs) a little bit more magical.
10. Make sure to note your dietary needs on your reservation
Even before you set sail, you can alert the Disney Cruise Line of your gluten free needs. Your online reservation form will accept a variety of special dietary needs, just like the reservations for Disney World dining. Noting your gluten free needs on your reservation is another excellent way to make sure the DCL cast members are well-prepared for your cruise. If you’re booking with a Disney vacation planner, like Pixie Dusted Dreams, they can assist you by noting the special dietary needs for you too.
9. Check out reviews and blogs before your cruise
Reading reviews from fellow gluten free cruisers is a great way to see what dining options you will have on your upcoming Disney Cruise. Bloggers like Alexis from Alexis’s Gluten Free Adventures have reviews of multiple cruise experiences which can be a great resource for tips, tricks, and dining suggestions. You can also read our gluten free and special dietary needs dining experiences on the Disney Dream, here on the blog!
8. Check out the dining session on embarkation day
Depending on the Disney Cruise you embark on, a select dining location will have dining staff on hand to answer any specific questions about dining on the cruise and to help make any adult dining (if you have not done so in advance prior to your cruise). If you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat with a cast member, this is the place to go. Currently, on the Disney Dream, this dining session is held for a select time after embarkation at the Royal Palace.
7. Connect with your Disney head server and servers
Unlike the Disney Parks & Resorts, your Disney Cruise experience will include a team of assistant servers, servers, and head servers that will be assigned to you for the duration of your cruise. While they won’t serve you at breakfast (except for on debarkation day), lunch, or at adult dining locations, generally, you will see them at most meal experiences on your trip. They will get to know your dietary needs, personal preferences, and are there to help answer any questions about your meal.
6. Make adult dining reservations
Because a cruise ship serves a large capacity of guests, sometimes the rotational dining meal options for gluten free diners can feel a bit uninspired. However, adult dining is a terrific option for guests looking for a more customized and unique gluten free meal offering. We’ve dined at both Palo and Remy on the Disney Dream and absolutely loved the experiences. In fact, Remy is hands down the best meal we’ve ever had anywhere! Both Palo and Remy offer brunch and dinner options, depending on the length of your cruise. Adult dining experiences do have a monetary upcharge (i.e. they are not included in your Disney Cruise vacation price) should you choose to dine at those locations.
5. Bring your own snacks, drinks, and treats
Disney Cruise Line policy allows pre-packaged and sealed food and beverage to be brought on board the ship. If you’re like us, we like to enjoy a few treats here and there on vacation, so we always stock up our favorite gluten free sweets to take with us. If you are interested in bringing your own gluten free friendly alcohol, like gluten free beer, you can also do that too. Do take note of any restrictions or limits that Disney Cruise Line has currently for bringing such items aboard the ship.
4. Ordering meals in advance with your server can be a good and bad thing
The Disney Cruise Line cast members often encourage guests who are gluten free or have other special dietary needs to order meals in advance. In our opinion, this can be a really great thing and a not so great thing. Here’s why. Ordering meals in advance is typically done the night before you dine at another location. While it often ensures that your meal is ready when you arrive, sometimes it means your meal is a bit more…bland (though not always). This was particularly true on our first cruise on the Disney Dream at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. A friend and her daughter who were also on the cruise pre-ordered meals to pick up at Cookie’s BBQ. The options they received were a bit plain, as opposed to our non-pre ordered meal where we were able to enjoy BBQ chicken and a burger. Your best bet is to consult with your server team when you pre-order, especially if you’re having difficulties deciding what to order the night before to ensure you’re happy with your pre-order options. We also recommend for any special dietary need guest visiting Castaway Cay to dine at the main Cookies BBQ dining location, as other dining locations like Serenity Bay BBQ may have limited options for special dietary needs guests and cannot accommodate pre-orders.
3. Take care at buffets
On embarkation day and at locations like Cabanas and Cookie’s BBQ on Castaway Cay, you’ll be faced with buffet options. Always double-check with a Disney cast member to ensure that you have safe options. We personally prefer avoiding buffets, especially on embarkation day, and have chosen to eat at more full-service dining locations (on embarkation day on the Disney Dream you can dine at Enchanted Garden for an a la carte meal for lunch). If you do dine at buffets, you can always ask members of the culinary team to prepare your food in the kitchen directly to minimize the risk of cross-contamination. When in doubt, ask for fresh items from the kitchen. We also recommend that guests dining at buffets be prepared for longer than normal waits for your food, if they are being prepared in the kitchen for you.
2. Enjoy room service and snacks throughout the ship
As a gluten free diner, you can take advantage of room service options, just as safely as you would throughout the other ship’s dining locations. When ordering, consult with a room service cast member for assistance with safe items. If you’re only gluten free, options like the cheese plate (minus the crackers) can be a protein packed snack. If room service is not your thing, there are plenty of areas to pick up snacks along the way. Our personal favorite? The popcorn for purchase near the theatre locations on the ship. You don’t have to be attending a show to purchase it, and it’s the exact same popcorn you can buy in the Disney Parks & Resorts (which is gluten free and vegan). You can bet, we took this to our room for an evening snack on more than one occasion.
1. Plan ahead in case you have tummy troubles
Between sea sickness and potential glutening (which is always a risk, especially when we dine outside of our own homes), it’s always a good idea to have safe and soothing stomach relief on-hand. Whether you have medications that help or natural products like ginger, it’s always a good idea to bring remedies with you that you use at home. Bring the items that you know work best for you. And, of course, you can always speak with cast members in the onboard medical facilities too.
These are just a few of my top tricks and tips for having a magical and safe gluten free cruise experience on the Disney Cruise Line.
Have you been on the Disney Cruise Line gluten free or with other special dietary needs? What are your tips for cruising safely?