Welcome to part 3 of Cruising with Disney, Gluten Free Style! In the event you missed the first two installments, you can check those out here:
Before I share our specific gluten free experience regarding lunchtime aboard the ship and during the port excursions, I definitely recommend reading Dining on a Disney Cruise with Food Allergies over at Allergy Free Mouse (I can attest that everything written in the article held very true to our own experience).
I wish I had come across the above mentioned article before we embarked, because I hadn’t been successful getting in contact with a knowledgeable Disney representative (who could fully discuss our dietary needs and answer my questions) beforehand. The best response I could get was that our dietary needs were duly noted in our reservation. Talk about nerve wracking for this Type-A gluten free mom! Had it not been for the many reassurances of my fabulous gluten free and food allergic Facebook friends, I may have chickened out before we even got on the airplane. And for certain, that would have been a sad shame because we would have missed out on the vacation of a lifetime.
And hours upon hours of amusement as I watched my 5 year old struggle to stay upright against the crystal clear waves of the breathtaking Caribbean:
They don’t make swimming pools like this back home in the desert…why does everything keep moving?
Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get (my drawers) up! **um, mom…I could use a little help here, so could you please quit laughing, put that darned camera down and come save me?!
As it turned out, there didn’t appear to be any allergen/food sensitivity that could not be accommodated by the amazing Disney culinary team. I was bafoodled by the many different gluten free lunch options on-board the Disney Fantasy, I had honestly only expected 2 or 3 different options. Boy was I wrong! We were offered everything from pizza, hamburgers (with gluten free buns by Ener-G Foods), hot dogs (sans a bun), chicken fingers, mac and cheese to french fries and even cookies. A gluten free kiddie food wonderland for sure. Not necessarily the “healthiest” of fare, but the way I look at is this: when you have a gluten-mediated medical condition (such as celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity), the word “healthy” can be subjective at times, especially when you’re on vacation when you’re not able to prepare your own food.
Gluten free pizza is a heck of a lot “healthier” than pizza of the toxic gluten variety, no?
Most days, we dined on Deck 11 (a.k.a. “the all important main pool deck”) for lunch, which is also home to the food court, where you simply walk up to your counter of choice and place your order. The V8 Cafe is where we met the phenomenal Disney duo, Dierdre and Ady, both who seemed to make it their personal mission to put a gigantic smile on Sam and Luke’s faces during our week on the ship. I really wish I had thought to take a picture of those two.
Each day, as soon as we stepped in line, either Dierdre or Ady would pull us off to the side (no matter how far back in line we were) and tell us about the gluten free offerings of the day. They pulled us ahead in order to minimize our wait time while they prepared our food in the safest manner. No matter how much I told them we didn’t care how long we had to wait (safety is paramount), it was apparently against their supreme Disney customer service nature to accept that notion. Dierdre and/or Ady would send us off to play on the awesome AquaDuck while our food was being safely prepared and they personally delivered it to our “regular” table once it was ready.
Tip: If you go on a Disney cruise ship that sports the super cool AquaDuck water roller coaster (Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy), a great time to have easy access, at least during the busy summer season, is the late afternoon (5pm – on, when half the ship’s population is at dinner). You can easily cut the wait time from 30+ minutes to less than 5. And if you are ocean/sharkphobic like myself…don’t look down!
The AquaDuck at night
Sam and his friend Caden on the AquaDuck
And along with lunch, Dierdre and Ady came along bearing gifts of the gluten free, dairy free chocolate chip cookie nature by OMG…It’s Gluten Free:
Which of course elicited this response from my little chocoholic:
Gluten Free Pizza
While we were on the ship, Disney had several gluten free pizza options to choose from. You could build your own pizza with a gluten-free pizza crust by Ener-G Foods. Or if dairy is completely off limits in your diet (as it is for my boys), they even offered a gluten-free, dairy-free pizza thanks to Amy’s.
And if you try to follow a grain-free diet like myself, there is even a pizza option for you (albeit not dairy or egg-free), courtesy of Against the Grain Gourmet pizza crust. My husband ordered a grain free pizza on the second day and my curiosity got the best of me, so I took a bite. I have tasted Against the Grain’s baguettes before and they are phenomenal (truly…I keep them on-hand for when I entertain my glutenator friends and family and they gobble them up). The Against the Grain pizza crust wasn’t bad, although I think the texture could have been better, had the crust been pre-cooked directly on an oven rack before applying the toppings. Considering that would have exposed the pizza to gluten contamination however, we couldn’t complain.
Grain-Free Pizza (above)
Gluten Free Chicken Fingers
After watching one of his best friends chow down on gluten-full chicken fingers for a few days in a row, Sam was over the moon when the Disney “fairies” magically produced a plate of gluten free chicken fingers just for him (courtesy of Bell and Evans). And gluten free french fries (fried in uncontaminated oil).
And wouldn’t you know it, the glutenators who sampled Sam’s GF chicken tenders…actually liked them better that the glutonium variety. I just love it when that happens.
Grain-Free Lunch Options
While I certainly partook in more than my fair share of french fries, my daily lunch routine consisted of two of my favorite foods; shrimp and crab legs. The best part? They come in their own “wrappers,” nature’s protection from gluten cross contamination!
I kid you not, I think I ate my weight’s worth in shellfish during our week at sea and could not have been happier.
Navigating the Gluten Free Diet while Visiting the Ports of Call and Port Excursions Booked through Disney
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, apparently you can request an allergen-free sack lunch to take with you during port excursions booked through Disney, at least those where a meal will be served. We didn’t book any excursions on the island of St. Maarten – I was parking it on the beach – so we didn’t stray too far from the ship, that way we could head back for a light meal mid-afternoon.
We did book an excursion to Coral World Ocean Park on the island of St. Thomas however (the polar opposite side of the island from where the ship docked), so I stuck several of those giant GF/CF chocolate chip cookies in my mom purse in the event of a hunger emergency. So glad I took them.
The only time we partook of hot dogs was during our visit to Castaway Cay, Disney’s very own private island.
Chillin’ at Castaway Cay: Sam and one of his best buds, Garrett
I hadn’t been planning on being able to eat much (if anything) during our visit to Castaway Cay, so I was elated when Sutas (the waiter extraordinaire who was assigned to us for dinner each night on-board the ship), said he could pre-order a safe meal for us and have it delivered to Cookies BBQ for pickup.
Cookies BBQ is one of the main restaurants on Castaway Cay (buffet only) and I definitely wouldn’t risk eating there. Unlike the buffets on-board the ship (where there was impressive segregation between the naturally gluten free food offerings and those of the gluten variety), the risk of cross-contamination appeared more pronounced at Cookies BBQ.
I wasn’t quite sure where to pickup the food we had pre-ordered the night before, so I simply asked one of the staff and he knew exactly what was up, presenting me with a tray of four well-wrapped meals of hot dogs and french fries that had been prepared on the ship earlier that morning:
The French fries didn’t hold up very well between the hours when they were prepared and when we sat down for lunch…but no worries, there were plenty of potato chips, fresh whole fruit and smoothies to be had as well.
The following picture was taken during our port excursion to Coral World Ocean Park on the island of St. Thomas. When you arrive at Coral World, you will be amazed by the dozens of iguanas who seem to be completely domesticated by their food court! They will almost let you reach out and touch them. At one point, we heard a loud *bang* which turned out to be this opportunistic fellow who figured out that rather than begging for food, the garbage can had more than he could ask for. Of course this chicken nugget is not gluten-free, but you have to admire the ingenuity of this little guy!
Clearly this is not what this animal’s natural diet should be, but it is curious to me that even this cold-blooded reptile can be seduced by a glutonium laden chicken nugget. Now, Mike and I are the kind of parents who don’t mind using any means necessary to get our boys to comply with our wishes (after all, Santa IS watching you!). In the immortal words of Bill Cosby, parents are not interested in justice, they just want quiet!
So um yeah, don’t be afraid to tell your kiddos that this is what they will turn into if they ever cheat on their gluten-free diet.
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