How to go on a cruise if you have food allergies

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  • Travelers who have dietary restrictions or food allergies require additional planning while traveling.
  • Celiac Cruise facilitates celiac-specific training for all crew members on board the ship and has a dedicated gluten-free kitchen for the duration of the voyage.
  • They also choose crossings based on customer feedback and strive to safely recreate otherwise gluten-rich experiences.

David and Sara Stubler went on a honeymoon cruise in 1995, but after David discovered he couldn’t eat gluten six years ago, he thought it was his last.

“Due to my severe reaction to gluten and cross contact, we never thought we would cruise again,” said David Stubler, who has celiac disease and eosinophilic esophagitis and does not produce dairy. at USA TODAY.

Then the 51-year-old came across Celiac Cruise online, which offers gluten-free sailings in partnership with Royal Caribbean International and AmaWaterways. He and his wife embarked on a Bahamas cruise with the company in January 2020 to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

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“At first I was skeptical so I had the suitcase full of snacks and emergency food and quickly realized I didn’t need it,” said the mechanical engineer, based in Kansas City, Kansas.

For travelers like Stubler who have food or diet restrictions allergic, going on a trip requires extra thought and planning. And while taking a cruise can present a challenge for those with specific dietary restrictions, travelers can do so safely.

Try a specialized sail

Maureen Basye co-founded Celiac Cruise after her son and husband were diagnosed with celiac disease. She and her family had traveled extensively before the diagnosis and wanted to continue to do so, but the experience was different as she considered every detail, from what they could eat at the airport to how many bags of food they had. she had to pack.

On vacation, she said, “the point is to disconnect and really relax and be able to just focus on family, friends or whatever, and you’re 100% consumed. with, ‘OK, what am I going to eat next, and what if I get sick?’ “

Celiac Cruise facilitates celiac-specific training for all crew members aboard the ship in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital, and has a dedicated kitchen – a kitchen on cruise ships – gluten-free for the duration travel.

In addition to regular meals, they offer late-night snacks and members of the Boston Children’s Hospital medical team and other experts present research to cruise passengers and “really give people the chance to learn something about how to sail better and live the day better”. today with this disease,” Basye said.

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They also choose cruises based on customer feedback and work to safely recreate otherwise gluten-rich experiences, such as providing gluten-free pretzels to passengers in Austria.

Basye said that instead of passengers feeling like they can’t eat a certain food or participate in a certain activity, she said the Celiac Cruise is about saying, “No, actually, you can with us. That’s what you can do.”

Do research in advance and be prepared

Allie Bahn, a food allergy travel consultant who runs the Miss Allergic Reactor website, cruised Bermuda with her family in high school and has been on several smaller cruises as an adult.

“I think over the last decade it definitely seems like they’ve become much more used to dealing with different dietary restrictions as well as food allergies,” she added. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, recently launched a food allergy program.

Bahn, who is allergic to foods like peanuts, tree nuts and fish, said researching beforehand is the best way to cruise safely.

  • She recommended reading cruise line reviews, reviewing their protocols, and contacting them to “find out what it will be like when you’re actually on a cruise.”
  • She also stressed that travelers should check what kind of medical facilities, personnel and supplies the ship has and determine their own level of comfort. “If it’s a family that hasn’t traveled a lot before, or a person that hasn’t traveled a lot before, they really have to decide if they’re comfortable with the distance they’re going, the destination, in the middle of the ocean,” she said.
  • Bahn-recommended cruise passengers wonder if they’ll need a translated “chef’s card” showing their food allergies, especially if they’re traveling to places where English is less commonly spoken.
  • Buffets can also be tricky for travelers with food allergies. “It’s really hard to know,” she said. “People can mix the different utensils with things.” She suggested opting for a seated option instead, where guests can communicate their allergies to a server who can relay them to the chef.
  • Also bring plenty of safe, packaged snacks, “so you always have a backup plan,” Bahn said.

Lizzie Reynolds, a food allergy travel agency that focuses on Disney as well as other destinations, said she needs to check the rules about what types of food you can take off the ship while in port. , as restrictions may vary.

“If the cruise line doesn’t know this information, it should be a red flag,” she said. Reynolds added that the company should be aware of these rules.

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Reynolds added that not all companies treat allergies the same. She works with Disney Cruise Line, AmaWaterways and SeaDream Yacht Club, and has also recommended Windstar Cruises, which she says have “constant great care” for food allergies.

What to do if you are exposed to allergens?

If you’re exposed to something you’re allergic to, Dr. James Baker, director of Michigan Medicine’s Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center, said it’s important to have an epinephrine auto-injector with you and to make sure it is up to date. .

“If you’re going to be on the (ship) for an extended period, say a two week cruise, you might even want to have at least two and maybe four, so if you have a reaction you can deal with it,” he said.

He also recommended telling medical staff about your allergies before or when boarding, showing them your emergency medications, and “making sure they feel comfortable treating you beyond that.” “.

While Reynolds said traveling with food allergies is always difficult, her 17-year-old daughter, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and dairy, has been on more than 20 cruises. She had anaphylaxis several times, but never on a boat.

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