It was the worst possible time for us to go but my husband had won a cruise last summer and now it was time for us to leave for a week long vacation. Normally I’d be excited but we’d just moved into a brand new house and still had boxes to open, things to put away, and so much to do before our house would feel ready to be lived in plus it was the holidays.  I get easily overwhelmed and hate big changes so I was a ball of anxiety as the date for our departure inched closer.

Typically I prepare for a week, putting clothes in the suitcase, taking out clothes, trying things on, gathering all of my many supplies I need for a week outside of my home including gluten free snacks since it’s not always easy to find GF food. This time, I tossed clothes and makeup in my suitcase and prayed I didn’t forget anything.

I brought along a box of Kind bars and hoped food would be easy to find, oftentimes when I travel, it’s very difficult to find safe foods. If you have Celiac disease, you will understand.  Traveling with celiac takes a lot of planning.

I advise anyone with a gluten allergy or celiac to look up airports ahead of time and check out what is available to eat as well as pack snacks for yourself. There are many times when I have nothing to eat because everything at the airport is either full of gluten, full of sugar, presents a danger of cross contamination or is packaged with something containing gluten like a salad that is packaged with croutons. To a person who can safely eat anything, this is trivial but when you are hungry and options are very limited, it can ruin your day.

My suitcase always tips the scales at 49lbs and this time it weighed a breezy 40. Either I packed efficiently or I forgot items and I’d be sorry. I probably forgot something.

We left for Florida and I hoped for the best.

A little background info: my husband LOVES to cruise. LOVES IT. In fact, we’ve lost count of how many cruises we’ve been on over the years but I can say we’ve been through the Panama Canal, all over Mexico, up to Alaska numerous times, to Bermuda, and have visited many islands in the Caribbean and the only places left for us to explore is Europe and the far east.

What he likes (loves) is that you unpack once, get to see new places, have food available all day and night, can do as much or as little as you want. When the kids are with us, there are lots for them to do as well.

I like seeing new places but have anxiety and dislike crowds so I mostly stay in my room and read- which is heavenly- until we pull into a port and then I take off with my camera for an adventure.  I am not afraid to venture off by myself and since my husband and I like doing different things, he often goes fishing or does a water sport while I do a city tour.

I knew going in that the Allure of the Seas was going to be HUGE. I didn’t anticipate the overwhelming size of the ship and the thousands of people around ever corner.  The ship holds over six thousand people and on the first day,  you couldn’t get something to eat without waiting in an epic line which made me want to walk off and go home. We experienced quite a few crowds and lines over the week but nothing as bad as that first day. You can’t go on such a giant ship and not expect crowds and lines here and there.

There are seven “neighborhoods” to break up the thousands of people on board. The ship itself is a work of art with a tree-lined Central Park featuring tons of real plants, restaurants, and retail shops, a Boardwalk with restaurants and a carousel, an ice-skating rink, various clubs and lounges, a huge workout center and spa that smells like lavender, there’s also a few pools and sports area, walking track and a place to play miniature golf. There is a

There is a zipline, plus an Aqua Theater where an anxiety-inducing show features daring acrobatic divers twirling into a small pool of water from heights that made me swell with panic.

If you want to find something to do, there is always a place to go or some activity, but as an introvert, I like to exercise, nap, and read.  We had a balcony so I was more than content to sit out there and read for an afternoon.

Now, about the food! 

The only problem for me was finding food and this is what happens on every cruise. In the main dining area (the Windjammer buffet), there is very little that is gluten free. You have no way of knowing which sauces contain flour or if dressings are thickened with flour or other gluten-containing ingredients.

Flour is used in so much that it’s likely everything is made with it or contains it to some degree. All of the mouth- watering dishes that smell so good- yeah, not for you if you have celiac!

To determine what each dish contains, you have to find a dining manager and ask, they then have to consult the kitchen as you stand there waiting. Everyone is very nice about it but this is frustrating. You cannot be a normal person and grab what you want and be on your way.

This is always difficult for me because I hate speaking up. I tend to eat a lot of vegetables, salad, and always olive oil instead of dressing with fruit for dessert. One day I wanted a sandwich but was told that wasn’t possible since there’s always a risk of cross-contamination. I sat and watched my husband enjoy his roast beef sandwich and sauce while I spooned more lettuce into my mouth.

I really wanted a burger and fries but they didn’t have a gluten free bun and I wasn’t sure if the fries were okay to eat. It would be very helpful if they had placards near each food station highlighting the gluten free options. Unfortunately, cross-contamination happens quite easily but at least knowing where gluten lurked would be nice.

If you love a good dessert, and who doesn’t? Sorry! I was dismayed to find the only GF desserts that were offered was puddings, jello, and the occasional crustless cheesecake which was actually very good but options were extremely limited.

Standing in front of a display of cookies, muffins, cakes, and other treats, it’s disheartening to know there is nothing for you. For someone with celiac or a gluten allergy, eating on a cruise is very, very difficult.  And it’s sad that you cannot indulge like everyone else. In Royal Caribbean’s private Diamond member area, there is a morning buffet with pastries (not safe for celiac) and in the evening, light snacks before dinner, nothing safe for people who have celiac or gluten allergies, only raw vegetables with a questionable dip.

When you go to the formal dining room, it’s a little easier as the waiter can make sure the kitchen is aware of an allergy and they do work hard to make sure your food is prepared safely with no cross- contamination.  Though again, the desserts were mainly jello, puddings, and a creme brulee and once, a flourless chocolate confection that was super decadent.

The whole dessert thing was very frustrating because I know it’s possible to make great desserts and muffins using flour like Bobs Red Mill or Cup4Cup. There’s a cost in the gluten free flour but with all the passengers suffering from GF issues, hopefully, Royal Caribbean will work on this. We want desserts and sauces and dressings too!

As all vacations do, the time flew by and soon we were on our way back home.  If you haven’t tried cruising before, do it now, it’s fun and relaxing thanks to no cooking or cleaning for seven days. I like to prepare ahead of time, which I wish I had done more of with this cruise, but I had been overwhelmed with moving and unpacking.

If you do have celiac or any food allergy, traveling is hard so do your research, especially in airports. I usually do a search before we leave looking for Gluten free + (name of airport). And I try to remember to pack lots of snacks for the trip.

I am happy to answer any questions you have about cruising, celiac, travel. I will be writing up my travel essentials soon and in the meantime, check out my vacation photos on Instagram: CindyBokma.