All pasta and no chocolate: What it’s like consuming gluten-free on a cruise 

“Will I have the ability to devour the rest in this cruise send?” isn’t a query you regularly pay attention about floating vacations identified for twenty-four/7 eating and large buffets. However if in case you have celiac illness, like my mother, it’s a logical worry. 

I had invited my mother to sign up for my children and me on a seven-night Caribbean cruise aboard MSC Beach from MSC Cruises, an under-the-radar line unknown to many American citizens. In reality, even though I’ve written about cruising for nearly two decades, I’d by no means sailed with that line. Its eating choices weren’t acquainted to me, so I couldn’t ensure what gluten-free choices we’d to find at the line’s latest cruise send. 

Spoiler alert: My mother didn’t starve, however we couldn’t have foreseen that in accordance with the restricted knowledge we have been in a position to search out sooner than our crusing. Right here’s the great, the unhealthy and the glutenous we skilled on our crusing, so long run gluten-free cruisers can make a decision if MSC is the road for them or now not.

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Pre-cruise knowledge used to be both missing or now not encouraging

Let’s get started with the legitimate phrase from MSC Cruises’ web site:

MSC's gluten-free information
(Screenshot from

We have been happy to search out this knowledge, however our send – MSC Beach – used to be now not indexed. Did it be offering the gluten-free delicacies program and Bureau Veritas certification? The MSC telephone reps may now not give us a definitive solution. 

On-line evaluations have been decidedly blended. One girl raved in regards to the gluten-free menu at dinner, whilst some other reviewer claimed, “MSC used to be the most efficient GF revel in I’ve had together with Royal and Superstar.” Alternatively, one Cruise Critic poster used to be pressured to devour the similar hen with carrots and zucchini for meal after meal and concluded, “Frankly, I couldn’t wait to get off this send. It used to be singularly the worst gluten-free revel in I’ve skilled on a boat. Carnival and Norwegian do 10 instances higher with out even attempting.” 

So we seemed for commute brokers who specialised in gluten-free cruising to peer what they knew. One gluten-free and celiac commute specialist at Go back and forth Leaders advised my mother flat out that she would now not suggest happening an MSC cruise. Every other beneficial Superstar Cruises. My mother’s relied on AAA commute agent didn’t even promote MSC Cruises. 

After all, I requested a public members of the family consultant for MSC Cruises about MSC Beach in particular, and she or he replied that the send did have devoted spaces for dealing with gluten-free meals. My mother used to be keen to take a jump of religion with that solution, and we booked. 

My mother stuffed out the MSC particular wishes shape, indicating that she had celiac illness and may now not devour gluten. She were given a generic reaction again that stated to speak to the maitre d’ on board and that the road “can’t ensure a 100% allergy-free zone.” Nobody contacted her to speak about eating choices or ask if she had any particular meals requests. 

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With that loss of reassurance, we headed to our send. 

The principle eating room used to be best possible — however there used to be no gluten-free menu

Elegantly dressed woman in cruise ship dining room
My mother within the Tribeca Eating Room on MSC Beach. (Photograph by means of Erica Silverstein/The Issues Man)

Once we boarded the send at the first day, the buffet used to be the one venue open for lunch. My mother flagged down any person at the eating place group of workers, who principally stated she couldn’t devour the rest at the buffet they usually’d make her some hen with gluten-free pasta. The youngsters and I ended consuming sooner than she even were given her meal. However she ate one thing, and it wasn’t terrible. 

At dinner at the first evening, one of the most eating room managers got here to speak about menu choices with my mother. MSC Beach does now not have a separate gluten-free menu, as on-line reviewers reported from different ships, however he identified which common menu pieces might be made gluten-free. 

He additionally introduced some pre-packaged rolls. At each meal for the remainder of the cruise, a waiter would carry my mother pre-packaged, gluten-free bread merchandise. At breakfast, it could be a packaged muffin or croissant. At dinner, it used to be one in every of two types of rolls. It used to be at all times a marvel, and diversity used to be restricted. (To be truthful, the common dinner rolls didn’t have a lot selection both.) 

After the primary evening, we switched eating instances and eating rooms, and our knight in shining gluten-free armor changed into Jason from South Africa. I swear he used to be the toughest running individual on that cruise send, aiding the entire visitors with allergic reactions and nutritional restrictions at dinner, supervising the buffet at lunch, even cycling round Ocean Cay turning in ketchup from one meals truck to some other. 

Each and every night, he’d consult with my mother what she may and couldn’t devour from the principle menu, or even display us tomorrow’s menu so he may run any questions by means of the chef upfront. He advised her about off-menu pieces she may order, reminiscent of gluten-free pancakes at breakfast and gluten-free pizza at lunch. We puzzled if there have been different off-menu pieces she will have to be taking into account, however no person may give us a just right solution. 

My mother used to be in a position to devour osso buco and lamb shank, gluten-free pasta dishes and French onion soup, amongst different dishes. She had a unique meal each and every evening at dinner – no unending hen dinners. Her eating revel in used to be now not any worse than the ones people consuming off the common menu. She almost certainly had extra alternatives than I did as any person who does now not devour meat or shellfish. 

Dessert used to be a bust

Coffee and hot chocolate affogatos and a small dish of ice cream
Affogatos and gelato at Venchi. (Photograph by means of Erica Silverstein/The Issues Man)

Dessert used to be a unique tale. 

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The gluten-free dessert in the principle eating room used to be at all times some variation of a white cake with frosting — or she may order the cheese or fruit plate. However we’re chocolate folks. 

When my mother requested if she may get a chocolate dessert, the chief replied that the road’s chocolate suppliers didn’t ensure their merchandise have been gluten-free, so that they couldn’t make her a chocolate cake or gluten-free cookies.  

He additionally stated not one of the ice cream on board used to be marked gluten-free, so he couldn’t serve it to her. She ate it on the buffet and Venchi gelateria anyway and felt effective. 

We have been satisfied to peer the eating place group of workers taking the hypersensitive reaction scenario significantly. The drawback used to be that the rest that used to be clearly gluten-free, like undeniable chocolate ice cream, nonetheless may now not be served to my mother. You need in an effort to have a laugh cakes on a cruise line, and flourless chocolate cake and ice cream are so easy to make gluten-free. It used to be disappointing that the road couldn’t trouble to search out providers for this stuff. 

The buffet used to be most commonly off-limits

Bread selection at MSC Seashore buffet
Buffet on MSC Beach. (Photograph by means of Erica Silverstein/The Issues Man)

Not anything at the buffet used to be marked in anyway. Now not handiest may you now not inform if a dish used to be gluten-free or vegetarian, however you additionally couldn’t to find out what an unassuming dish contained with out tasting it. Working example: Sooner or later, there have been two vats of tender yellow-orange stuff facet by means of facet. I requested the server — one used to be polenta and the opposite a squash dish, however that used to be now not evident to any individual by means of sight. 

My mother figured she may devour the salad, the recent fruit or any made-to-order eggs. It wasn’t price ordering a gluten-free meal that may take 20 mins to reach. So she have shyed away from the buffet, which means she took just about all her foods within the eating room. 

Fortuitously, my daughter and I weren’t large lovers of the buffet both, and regularly got here with my mother to breakfast in the principle eating room. Sooner or later I had a leisurely lunch together with her when the youngsters weren’t hungry and stayed at the back of to look at TV within the cabin. 

Snacks and bagged lunches have been difficult to obtain

One of the vital on-line evaluations discussed gluten-free snacks at an onboard bar, however we by no means got here throughout the ones. (I did discover a gluten-free drink record, together with gluten-free beer, on the Brooklyn Café.) My mother requested her good friend Jason about snacks, and he gave her a couple of, together with one who used to be necessarily a gluten-free Twinkie. 

My mother’s different worry used to be lunches off the send. We had a number of tours that happened over the noon mealtime, and she or he’d learn that there wasn’t gluten-free meals on Ocean Cay, which Jason showed. 

She requested the primary evening about the potential of getting a packed lunch and used to be advised to invite Visitor Services and products. They stated they’d need to touch Shore Tours, which reported again that they didn’t maintain meals nor may they ask the excursion operators about their meals choices. It used to be like a wild goose chase simply to search out knowledge. 

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As soon as once more, Jason got here to the rescue. I will order you packed lunches, he stated, simply inform me which days and ring a bell in me the evening sooner than. The lunches have been nice, full of two sandwiches (generally turkey and/or tuna), fruit and several other snacks. The drawback used to be of the 3 days my mother ordered them, two times they weren’t in a position and she or he needed to wait 20 mins sooner than the lunch seemed. 

Consuming gluten-free, it seems, comes to a heck of a large number of ready round. 

There used to be no sliced bread

Packaged gluten-free breakfast pastries on MSC Seashore
Packaged gluten-free breakfast pastries on MSC Beach. (Photograph by means of Erica Silverstein/The Issues Man)

My mother no doubt ate her fill of carbs – rolls, cake, croissants, pasta and pizza. What the send didn’t have on board? Gluten-free sliced bread. 

Any time my mother were given a sandwich, it used to be on one of the most identical pre-packaged rolls she were given with dinner. She would have preferred some sliced bread, both to devour as toast with eggs within the morning or as a sandwich base at lunch, however for no matter reason why, the send didn’t inventory it.

Base line

Cruising gluten-free on MSC used to be now not the horror tale some on-line reviewers and commute brokers made it out to be. My mother had numerous other meals to devour, and she or he didn’t get ill. 

Had been her choices restricted? Sure. Had been there meals, like ice cream and bread, that MSC will have equipped however didn’t provide? No doubt. Had been there further hassles concerned with ensuring my mother were given fed — and used to be her delight with cruise eating depending on us being assigned to Jason’s desk and now not a much less useful eating supervisor? You betcha. 

In the end, I don’t suppose my mother might be cruising on MSC once more, however that’s now not fully because of the gluten-free eating scenario. My takeaway is that your revel in consuming gluten-free on MSC Cruises might range in accordance with the send you’re crusing and the area of the sector you’re touring (since that might impact provisioning). The most productive tip I’ve for a success consuming with a nutritional restriction, and this is applicable to any cruise line, is to stay asking questions and suggest for your self till you get what you want.  

The squeaky wheel, on this case, will get the grease — preferably, in gluten-free pizza shape. 

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