For anyone with a food allergy, traveling (especially overseas) can seem a bit overwhelming. The uncertainty of where your next meal will come from can cast a shadow over your desire for adventure and exploration of new and exciting places. Even so, I just couldn’t imagine my life without travel which is why I can’t allow my gluten allergy to keep me locked up at home.
Of course, when I cruise to various places around the world it is still important that I feel safe and informed. This is one of the many reasons that I enjoy exploring Europe with Viking Cruises. From the helpful, caring waiters and waitresses all the way to the careful, conscientious chefs and kitchen staff, I could not be more at home aboard Viking Sea for my first (and hopefully not last) Mediterranean cruise.
Anyone who has been on a cruise before knows the drill on embarkation day: check-in, board, and head straight for the buffet. Well, things were no different when my husband and I boarded the ship. When we arrived at the buffet I found the first worker I could who wasn’t already occupied and asked who I should speak to about my allergy. She directed me to the Restaurant Supervisor who keeps a “watch list” of all those passengers with special diet restrictions and food allergies, my good buddy, Mark! (Mark is officially my favorite man on board, no offence to my wonderful husband).
He added me to his list and then let me know that for lunch only the buffet is open (not the Restaurant)….Anyone with Celiac knows what happened next…yep, my heart leaped into my throat and began strangling me! BUFFET??? He continued to explain that each time I came to the buffet I would need to ask for the chef and he would walk me through the buffet to let me know what I could and could not have.
Most every staff member on-board appears to be extra knowledgeable about the dangers of gluten allergies and Celiac Disease. This alone has made me feel safe and comfortable throughout our cruise.
I was very surprised to find that most of the options the buffet had were prepared gluten free. For those items which are not gluten free they are usually kept separate from those which are. They have rice flower on-board as well so that they are usually able to make a gluten free option of the items available for you upon request if you are willing to wait for them.
Each station of the buffet is well monitored and the kitchen is open so that you can see through to the other side of the buffet. If you are still concerned about eating at a buffet, which is completely understandable, the kitchen staff is willing to prepare pasta, steak, or fish and serve it to you at your table.
Breakfast in the buffet is the same each day with everything you would expect to see. There is a station for fruit and yogurt. At the next station, scrambled eggs are always available but they also have a staff member there to prepare eggs any way that you like right there at the buffet. They also have bacon but (as is standard at any buffet) the bottom of the bacon tray is lined with bread so that was not an option for me. However, if you go to the Restaurant for breakfast this is not an issue.
If you decide to have a quick dinner in the buffet one or two nights of your cruise you will not be disappointed. Every night there is a seafood and sushi station at the buffet and all but one of the types of sushi they offer are made without soy sauce. This made me one happy lady as I absolutely love vegetarian sushi but am rarely able to have it back home.
For dinner in the Restaurant they do have a system in place for those with allergies to pre-order. The pre-order menu is delivered to your room each afternoon for the following night. However, I never noticed a difference in wait time whether I turned in the pre-order or not. When you arrive they give your pre-order form to the waiter and he goes over it with you and puts it in just as he would if you were ordering right in that moment. Of course, my friend Mark always checks on me and makes sure that the wait staff is taking excellent care of me.
You can order just about anything offered on the menu and they will alter it to fit your needs, with the exception of items like Beef Wellington. There is a wide variety of options to choose from with some being always available and others changing nightly so you don’t feel like you have to eat the same thing every night.
Now to talk about my favorite part of dinner, dessert! There are a few option in the dining room to choose from but somehow I ended up eating the same one every night that we dined in the Restaurant. The Creme Brulee is the best I’ve ever had. I absolutely love it and could not bring myself to pick anything else.
My favorite thing about Viking is that I’m not chained to the main dining room only like I have been with other cruise lines in the past. Viking Ocean’s Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s, is my favorite specialty restaurant at sea. I don’t know what I would do with myself if I was not able to eat there! Every time I have been there I have felt completely safe and taken care of. The staff is excellent and the food is perfection.
The number one choice for me when we dine at Manfredi’s is the Ribeye. I have a hard time ordering anything else because it is the most flavoring, tender steak and never disappoints. However, though the steak is at the top of my list, you wouldn’t at all be disappointed with a bowl of gluten-free pasta at Manfredi’s either. I have also had my personal favorite, Caprese Salad, as a starter every meal but you can have the pasta as a starter as well if desired.
Dessert at Manfredi’s has quite a few options to choose from. You definitely can’t go wrong with a couple scoops of Gelato (chocolate is my favorite) but there are other options such as a flowerless chocolate cake-like dessert or traditional Italian cream and fruit. Make sure you save room for this part of the meal because it is well worth it!
I could not be any more please with my dining experience aboard Viking Sea. To anyone who is unsure about whether or not they could cruise due to a gluten allergy I am more than happy to report that you can cruise worry free with Viking. Cruising is, after all, the best way to see the world! Why should we have to miss out on it?