This Cruise Experience Is A Safe Haven For Gluten-Free Travelers

Traveling with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity isn't easy. You have to request in-flight meals for dietary restrictions in advance, research gluten-informed restaurants, and stock up on safe snacks for long days of exploring.

Going on a cruise can be a similarly challenging feat. While cruises are meant to be relaxing, they can be stressful if you're constantly monitoring ingredients and onboard menus. Thankfully, there's an entire cruise company dedicated to providing a gluten-free environment. The cruise is, appropriately, called the Celiac Cruise, and it began out of one mother's experiences traveling with her husband and children, who were diagnosed with celiac disease.

The Celiac Cruise doesn't have its own cruise ships, but it reserves space on other cruise lines' ships (including those run by Royal Caribbean, AmaWaterways, and other companies) so gluten-free travelers don't have to fear cross-contamination or an upset stomach after eating dinner. Finally, the hardest part of your vacation can be deciding which cruise shore excursions to book — not enduring a week of hunger pangs.

Celiac Cruise offers gluten-free foods and other amenities

Arguably the biggest draw of Celiac Cruise sailings are their dedicated gluten-free kitchens and dining facilities. The chefs and crew members are thoroughly trained on food safety and gluten-free dietary needs before each and every journey, and the kitchen is cleaned from top to bottom according to Celiac Cruise's guidelines. Jenny Levine Finke, the blogger behind Good For You Gluten Free, documented some of the food options she was served during a Celiac Cruise trip to Alaska. She shared that meals are often similar to what is being served in the ship's main dining facilities, albeit adjusted to be safe for gluten-free passengers. Think lobster tail, baked cod with a wheat-free crust, and salads with pine nuts instead of croutons.

Other amenities are provided to guests who sail with Celiac Cruise. For instance, Finke wrote that a gluten-free beer tasting and a sushi-making class were offered during her trip. Crafts and other activities are also available for children. 

Note that while the ships have gluten-free zones, celiac cruisers aren't limited to those sections. You're free to dine at other restaurants and facilities and enjoy poolside snacks, as long as you ask for gluten-free options. And, of course, you have access to all the same events and entertainment offered to non-gluten-free guests on your ship, such as live performances and zip-lining.

How to go on a Celiac Cruise

Even though Celiac Cruise charters ships run by Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines, you must book through Celiac Cruise to access all the gluten-free benefits. Costs vary depending on the journey, but it's worth noting that the prices are set based on group rates for all Celiac Cruisers. This means that while regular passengers on board might have noticed price fluctuations when booking, Celiac Cruisers are given one fixed rate that doesn't change based on demand or special discounts.

Finding a sailing that works for you and your schedule isn't too hard, considering Celiac Cruise offers multiple trips each year. Some are your traditional ocean cruises, while others are relaxed river cruises spanning several cities. Destinations have included the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Danube River, and northern Europe. Most cruises last around a week, though some shorter sailings are also available. Choose between winter cruises headed for warm destinations, summertime journeys, and a holiday market-themed sailing each December.