We recently had the pleasure of going on a Royal Caribbean cruise. We sailed on the Allure of the Seas from Ft Lauderdale to Labadee Haiti, Falmouth, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico.
I have Celiac Disease [About Me] as a result this review will focus primarily on the food and service we experienced not so much the ship itself or the ports we visited. However, I would like to briefly say that The Allure of the Seas is beautiful. It’s a massive ship (one of the largest in the world), modern, very well maintained and offers diverse dining and entertainment options. Even though the ship accommodates 5,000 or 6,000, we very rarely felt cramped. There is ample room to move around and it was always easy to find a lounging chair. We’ve taken a good number of cruises, although this was our first Royal Caribbean cruise. We were very, very impressed. Overall, this was our best cruise experience ever. On to the food…
First, Ft Lauderdale…
We came in early to Ft Lauderdale. I always like to arrive at least a day early for cruises. This time, we actually stayed three nights ahead of the cruise. We had a great time in Ft Lauderdale. I always want to be very careful when eating, However, I wanted to be very, very careful while in FLL. We had a full week of vacation ahead of us and I didn’t want to be sick for it. For the most part, we ate at exclusively gluten free restaurants.
Weezie’s Gluten Free Kitchen – 1321 East Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park, FL
Weezie’s is that diner you used to go to when you could eat gluten, only everything at Weezie’s is gluten free! Diverse menu, baked goods, pizza, sandwiches, desserts and pies. This is run by a Celiac and is a real gem. We had some great food and service here.
Roast Beef and Horseradish Cheddar Sandwich with Hummus and Tortilla Chips
Patty Melt (on faux Rye) with fries. This was a real treat, I thought I’d never eat a patty melt again.
We also had the key lime pie which was delicious.
Fresh First – 1637 SE 17th Street, Ft. Lauderdale
I cannot emphasize how great Fresh First is. This is an awesome restaurant. In the span of two days, we ate here three times. It would have been four or five if they were open for dinner. The food was genuinely amazing – not even “it was good for gluten free food”, no, it was amazing regardless of gluten content. Our server was extremely nice and confided in us about her own food issues, a real delight. We also chatted with the owners for a minute. This is a great place, run by great people… go to this place!
Omelette, Waffle, Griddled Red and Sweet Potatoes and… a Chocolate Chip Pancake. Just outstanding. I would nearly hop on a plane to go get another one of these pancakes. Get the pancake!
Eggs Benedict with perfectly, I mean perfectly done eggs. Delicious.
Chicken Salad sandwich – pulled chicken breast, Granny Smith apples, celery, dill and vegan mayo served on a delicious GF bun with potato leek soup.
Rocco’s Tacos – This was the one non GF dedicated restaurant that we went to. I was a little nervous eating here because it is A: busy and B: loud. Two things I don’t like as a Celiac. I want quite and slow, so I can communicate well and so the restaurant isn’t in too much of a hurry. I talked with the manager along with my server. Rocco’s did have a very good rating in Find Me Gluten Free and we ended up having a delicious meal here (tacos for me) and table side Guacamole. They had a dedicated fryer for their chips, so those were safe. Overall very good experience.
The remaining two dinners were had at… Whole Foods. We grabbed a few things in the store and ate in the cafeteria area. I love that Whole Foods has this area in most (maybe all?) of their locations. We also grabbed our two bottles of wine for the cruise at Whole Foods. Royal Caribbean allows you to bring one bottle of wine per adult, up to two per stateroom. That’s pretty common for cruises, but RC goes a step further and does not charge a corkage fee at restaurants. Nice!
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Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas…
Note: I purchased this cruise and with my own money. Beyond that I did not identify myself as a gluten free blogger or the writer behind Gluten Free Finds. I was an anonymous full fare paying passenger on this cruise.
Before the cruise – Contact Royal Caribbean and inform them of your gluten free requirement. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or give them a call.
As someone with special dietary requirements your main point of contact on the ship is generally your head waiter. They take orders for the next day, answer questions about food on board and can help with special arrangements. It seems people are generally directed to get with their head waiter after boarding. I was unable to do that until our first dinner at which time I identified myself as having Celiac Disease. I asked several questions and got the answers. Notable things I found out…
- I would pre-order main dining room meals after dinner each night.
- All specialty dining venues had gluten free options and were considered safe by my head waiter.
- When dining at a specialty restaurant, you should ask to speak with a supervisor for assistance.
We had chosen My Time Dining. Even with MTD, I always had the same head waiter each evening. Our head waiter, Adina, was one of only a couple female head waiters on that particular sailing. She was… amazing. Really, actually, literally amazing. Keep reading for an illustration of that, but she was amazing.
I don’t have a lot of pictures of food, because I have a tendency to want to just eat the food when it arrives, but I did take a few…
Burger in the main dining room. Do you ever have those questioning moments, where something looks so good, you’re worried that it isn’t gluten free. That was my reaction for the first time I saw this bun. It was very tasty and, the lab I keep built in to my body 🙂 also confirmed that it was gluten free.
A note about Johnny Rockets: I tried to eat at Johnny Rockets for lunch one day. Can you, as a Celiac or otherwise gluten intolerant, eat there? Probably yes. After speaking with the supervisor I learned that the fries were fried in a shared fryer and that my burger would take 30 minutes because they would bake it. They also weren’t sure if they had a GF bun or not. So, 30 minutes for a baked burger in a lettuce wrap and no fries? I appreciate the safety and all of the clear information, but I got up and went to the main dining room. The Royal Burger is delicious and the fries are safe.
Fries from the main dining room. Delicious steak-fry cut, fried in a dedicated fryer. Umm… yes please.
Gluten free bread from our dinner at Chop’s Steakhouse. I had the filet and couple sides and our meal was outstanding…
Head Waiter Heroics… While we were profusely enjoying our dinner at Chop’s I wondered how I would pre-order my meals for the next day. Towards the end of the meal, our head waiter Adina showed up with the next day’s menus. She had noticed we hadn’t shown up in the main dining, looked in the reservation system to find where we were…. dressed up in a Chops uniform and showed up at our table to take my pre-order. Umm… wow. That level of care and service is amazing to me.
A carnitas taco (with table-side guacamole) at Sabor. Sabor was our first eating experience on the ship. Several reviews I read indicated that Windjammer Buffet (Did someone say buffet!?) was the only venue open for lunch on embarkation day. That’s just not correct. At least on the Allure of the Seas, several venues were open, including Sabor. The fryers at Sabor are not dedicated, however, they will heat up a kettle of oil when you order and fry you up some fresh chips. It takes a little while to get the first order, but it’s pretty amazing that they do that. Our food at Sabor was delicious. Both times we went (one lunch and one dinner) we got table side guacamole. Great venue with great food!
I read great things about the (gluten containing) roast beef sandwich at Park Cafe and I also read it was possible to get a gluten free variation and indeed it is. After talking to the supervisor… Adel (not that one, but a superstar nonetheless… Thank you Adel) he made me a sandwich himself. When he started warming up a toaster, I objected asking if that had been used to toast gluten containing items. He pointed out the sign on the top of the toaster. You can’t see it very well in this photo (click to zoom) but it’s clearly marked gluten free. Nice! They pulled a fresh pan of roast beef from the kitchen and assembled the whole thing right in front of my eyes.
Park Cafe Roast Beef Sandwich on Udi’s Bagel. Pay no attention to the extra roast beef on the side. I asked for extra roast beef and they obliged. Delicious GF roast beef sandwich!
Another plate of gluten free bread I received. In all, I had three types of bread (not counting buns) on the cruise. The topmost one was the most common and my favorite, it has some sort of nut in it. The bottom-most one was good too, it had a combo bread/cornbread feel to it. The third variety I received (only once), was extremely white and had very little flavor and the texture of styrofoam. That was only on one occasion and even then, I had two other good choices on the same plate.
The Royal Shrimp Cocktail was a nightly appetizer for me. Remember you can order as many appetizers, entrees and desserts as you’d like. Portions tend to be smaller, so this isn’t as bad for you as it sounds.
Here is the breakfast menu from the main dining room. I think it’s the same menu daily, at least for the most part. Do you see gluten free pancakes as an option… no, they are not an option. Keep reading.
Gluten free pancakes. Whammo. Pretty delicious too. My amazing head waiter special ordered these for me every day. You could also do gluten free waffles or french toast. Here’s a secret… your headwaiter can make just about anything (food-wise) happen for you.
Here’s my standard breakfast. Gluten free pancakes and the “Classic” with eggs over medium, bacon and hashbrowns.
A visit from Chef Brad… One morning during breakfast one of the Chef’s visited my table. Remember… I did not identify myself as a gluten free blogger or as a writer, at all. Chef Brad stopped by my table and introduced himself and said that he was one of the Chef’s responsible for gluten free cuisine. He told me how important it was to him and Royal Caribbean. Gluten free peoples of the world… Where does this happen at?? That’s amazing service and it also shows that Royal Caribbean and… Brad really care about gluten free and the health of gluten intolerant people. Bravo!
This is an aerial shot of the Boardwalk. Sabor is toward the end of the Boardwalk on the right side. “Cups and Scoops” is also on the right side. It serves cupcakes and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I stopped in to Cups and Scoops one day to ask about gluten free options. The worker quickly listed off gluten free flavors… Yay! I asked about getting a serving from an unopened and uncontaminated container in the back and the person was unable or unwilling to do that. I didn’t really push it and if I were, I would have asked for a supervisor, like I was supposed to do anyway, and I’m assuming they would have made it happen.
Odds and Ends…
GF Beer… Before departing on this vacation, I tried to figure out if Royal Caribbean has any gluten free beer options. I found an older picture of a beer menu that had Dogfish Head Tweason’ale on it, but couldn’t confirm that that’s a regular offering. Here’s a photo of part of the menu from Allure’s Bow and Stern English pub. They indeed serve GF beer!
Here it is Dogfish Head Tweason’ale. Really a pretty tasty beer. I had several just to make sure. I understand why they chose this as their one and only GF beer. It’s flavorful, yet mild enough to be drinkable for those who enjoy lighter beers. It would be nice to see Royal Caribbean pick up a hoppier beer that may have appeal to both gluten free and non-gluten free folks alike, something like Glutenberg’s Pale Ale or IPA. It is great to have a gluten free beer option! Cider options and of course wine and mixed drinks are also available.
Labadee Beach BBQ – Food on Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private resort, comes from the ship. My head waiter told me what was gluten free and directed me to talk with a supervisor at Labadee. I did so, and the supervisor kindly got me an uncontaminated plate from fresh food. I had ribs and beans and rice along with some fruit. I also had the option of pre-ordering a specific meal from the ship. You can also return to the ship to eat lunch. Everything is pretty close, so you could do that without too much hassle.
Eating at other ports – I had a large breakfast each day before leaving the ship and brought along protein bars. I ate at no restaurants what at Falmouth or Cozumel. I could probably have pulled it off at Cozumel, but with the amount of time we were there, I just didn’t want to hassle with it.
A note when traveling to foreign countries – This is an important tip. The formula for products you know and are familiar with can be region specific. For example, Ruffles and Doritos are (as of this writing) gluten free in the sense that they have no gluten containing ingredients. That’s in the US. All bets are off when you hit the border. I almost purchased and consumed both Ruffles and Doritos while in port at Cozumel. FORTUNATELY…. they both called out the fact that they have gluten in the ingredient list. Why would Ruffles have gluten in them? Why? Ruffles and Doritos in Mexico are… unsafe. Keep the fact that formulations can change by region in mind when you are traveling.
Udi’s Single Serve Cookies – I read several reviews saying these were available at the Cupcake shop. On the Allure, I found them at the Promenade Cafe. You just need to ask at the counter. I received both chocolate chip and snicker doodle and both were nice snacks.
Other things I didn’t Try – Sorrento’s Pizza – I had read that they can make a gluten free pizza, but I didn’t try it out. Several specialty restaurants – we went to Chops and Sabor, but every special restaurant has gluten free options, again If you have Celiac Disease or are otherwise very sensitive… speak with a supervisor when ordering. Windjammer Buffet – they have a gluten free section and some items are marked gluten free, but I didn’t feel comfortable eating at a buffet.
Non food related thoughts – Royal’s VOOM Internet service is amazing. It’s very fast and the prices are reasonable. We got one device for free as part of our package and purchased another (20% discount pre-departure) for about $65. That’s for unlimited internet the whole week. That combined with iPhone’s Wi-Fi calling meant we could keep in contact with the family. Valet Luggage Service – If your departure flight falls within certain parameters on certain carriers, you can pay $20 per person and RC will print out your boarding pass for you and check your luggage. This was a very handy service that I would use again.
This was an amazing vacation that I would relive in a heartbeat. I was encouraged that a company would take my eating limitations so seriously. Royal Caribbean does gluten free right. Thank you to RC and to your awesome staff! You’ve won a lifelong customer.
Be kind, thankful and generous… Let’s face it folks, we are non-gluten eaters in a gluten filled world. It takes extra care, effort and cost to safely serve us. A main concern we have is eating safely. Be kind and thankful to those that are going out of their way to serve you. Spread the word about great companies like Royal Caribbean and be generous. We left the automatic tips on our account and then tipped an extra cash amount directly to our entire dining room staff. How much is it worth to you to feel well for an entire week of eating away from your home. For me, that’s worth a lot.
Thank you Royal Caribbean and keep up the amazing work! You went beyond my expectations and I look for to returning.
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