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Disclaimer: Royal Caribbean had zero idea I was a food blogger when I got on the cruise. I went for my other business and was treated just like any other guest aboard the ship. I have in no way been paid or otherwise compensated for this review and the opinions are mine alone.
Why Would a GFer Go on a Cruise?
I recently earned a free cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas as part of my distributorship with It Works Global. The cruise was paid for by my upline for hitting certain milestones.
I will admit I approached the idea of being on a boat in the middle of international waters with nothing to eat but what was onboard was a little scary to me as a gluten-free girl. Before accepting the reward, I decided to spend some time on Google, and I found some positive reviews from GF food bloggers. I agreed to go on the cruise, but I questioned my decision a few times to the point I thought I was nuts for being willing to do it. But my want of the upper level training available on this cruise won out. I decided to pack a suitcase full of dry goods, just in case, and set sail.
How it Works
I had never been on a cruise before, so I was a clueless newbie. I did a little research. On a cruise, the food is usually included in the price of the ticket. When you get on board, unless you choose to dine at a specialty restaurant to eat things like lobster, you can eat what you want to, as much as you want, with no additional charges. The menu in the main dining room had no prices.
On Royal Caribbean, you have the option of purchasing packages for your drinks, which I did. I got a package including bottled and sparkling water, non-alcoholic frozen drinks, and fountain drinks for $20 a day. Since bottled water was so expensive on board, the drink package was the least expensive way to go, and it gave me a nice variety. I drank still or sparkling water all day, and had non-alcoholic daiquiris at lunch and dinner each day. I skipped the fountain drinks, and found out on the last day that flavored waters were included in the available drinks. I wish I had tried them.
This trip was done without my family- they stayed home and remodeled the guest bathroom while I sailed. My flight and roommate was another local distributor and I had multiple close teammates and my upline with me. In total, there were about 90 people in our group.
We boarded the ship in the afternoon, around lunch time. We weren’t due to set sail until 4:30 that evening. We dropped our stuff in our rooms, met up with our teammates from out of town, then headed to the buffet. I didn’t expect that food would be available upon boarding, but I found out that people could board the ship as early as 10:30 and the buffet was open when they boarded.
The buffet, Windjammer Cafe, was a large buffet of multiple stations, including salads, breads and starters, main dishes, international dishes, a grilling station and a dessert buffet. This 24-hour buffet was HUGE. Multiple items were labeled as gluten-free, which was enough to create a plate. The buffet was the only way to get lunch on our first day. The food was good, other than the meat being well-done and therefore somewhat dry. The paella was good.
That night, we had our first dinner at My Fair Lady. I was rather concerned about how I’d be provided with a meal, until I was given a menu and I saw that the gluten-free options were already marked on the menu. When I spoke to my server, he was very aware of the issue surrounding gluten-free food, and was able to make recommendations and tell me the details of the dishes I asked about. In fact, he was able to do this without going back to the kitchen and double checking. He knew the preparation methods, ingredients and all the details very well. I’ll admit I was impressed. I was brought a nice selection of gluten-free bread, ordered my appetizer and my main course, got a non-alcoholic daquari, and settled in to see if the meal would be ok.
I was amazed.
The food was GOOD. I had no reaction. I sat at the dinner table and fought back tears. If you’re gluten-free and a real foodie, you know how much work is involved to get meals on the table every single day, meal after meal, with few to no breaks. I was able to eat safely, had no reactions, and I didn’t have to do any work. I ate way more than I should have.
After dinner, we had a lovely dessert. I ordered decaf coffee with my dessert. After dessert, the waiter brought me the next night’s menu, and asked me to choose what I would like. We talked over some options, he got to know my taste preferences, and made recommendations. He had already figured out I liked more exotic dishes, after he mentioned escargot on the appetizer menu when we first sat down, and my eyes lit up. I was disappointed to find that it wasn’t gluten-free.
Some others seated at the same table had other dietary restrictions. There was another gluten-free woman, and a vegetarian. They both received the same type of service that I did.
The next morning, we went back to My Fair Lady for breakfast. I ordered a smoked salmon and cream cheese plate and was provided with a nice selection of gluten-free breads. Breakfast is more informal and without assigned seating. The wait staff was careful to make sure my meal was handled appropriately.
Saturday’s lunch was back at the Windjammer cafe. There were no GF labeled meats and not as many options as there were on Friday. This was the only meal I had any complaints about, as I am a protein type. The gluten-free dessert, roasted pineapple, was placed in a bowl in front of some gluten-containing foods, and crumbs from the gluten-containing cakes had obviously fallen into the GF pineapple dish. I skipped dessert. All of the other gluten-free foods weren’t placed like that and didn’t appear to be as prone to tong sharing, so we didn’t have issues with contamination with those.
Saturday night’s dinner was at My Fair Lady. Each night for dinner, you’re seated at the same table, so you have the same wait staff. I was immediately greeted by name, GF bread was brought to me without having to request it, and everything was handled with great attention to detail. I didn’t have to ask for decaf coffee, they remembered that was my preference. The waiter remembered my food preferences from the previous night, and at the end of the meal, made recommendations for the following night in line with what he thought I would like. He recommended the right dishes for me- he really had me pegged. lol
I slept in and missed breakfast in the main dining room on Sunday, so I went to the WindJammer for breakfast. Nothing was labeled as gluten-free, much to my disappointment. I ate a sealed container of yogurt, some bacon, fruit, some smoked salmon, and a hard-boiled egg, all I figured were safe choices. I had no reaction.
Lunch on Sunday, we were at sea. Due to high winds, we could not go ashore to CocoCay, as it wasn’t safe to run the tender boats. So the main dining room at My Fair Lady was open for lunch and we ate a little later than normal. I had a burger on regular gluten-free bread with no fries. I skipped dessert. We were scheduled for dinner just 4 hours later, so I didn’t want to over-eat and not enjoy dinner.
Dinner on Sunday was a repeat of the same wonderful attention to detail of the previous two nights. Everything was handled wonderfully and it made me feel like a normal diner that didn’t have to be paranoid. If you’re GF and you eat out, you know how special and uncommon that is. I knew they all knew my needs and would take care of it, right down to the decaf coffee.
Monday morning we had to disembark, which meant breakfast in the main dining room was very early. Once again, I missed breakfast and wound up at Windjammer. I ate the same thing as the previous morning, without incident.
You WILL gain weight. Plan your clothing accordingly. The Cruise Director told us to expect to gain 3-4 pounds a day. I thought I wouldn’t just because I wasn’t eating a lot of desserts, I was limiting myself to one a day at dinner and I wasn’t drinking alcohol. Joke’s on me. He was right. I was wrong. I ate an inch-thick prime rib as big as my face one night. And it was worth every bite. 😀
Expect a 24 hour buffet plus fine dining. The food is unlimited, even the shrimp cocktails, the duck, the lamb shank, prime rib… The only restaurant that cost money you knew in advance, you had to book your table and it’s $30 a person for lobster and the like.
There’s a ton to do on a cruise that doesn’t involve drinking, gambling or sunbathing. I was surprised at how many activities they had available. They have seminars on all topics, from understanding and choosing diamonds to health topics to scrapbooking and napkin folding. The comedian and the love and marriage game show were PG, and both were great entertainment. Anything that wasn’t family-friendly was clearly labeled so it was easy to avoid.
The picture of your state room is taken with a wide angle lens. The bathrooms are tiny and only contain stand-up showers. The rooms are really small but very efficient. You won’t spend much time in your room anyway. The bed was comfortable and I had no complaints about the room.
Pack an over the door shoe pocket organizer. It’s perfect for all of the little odds and ends that need a place. We used it for all of our supplements, personal care and the like.
Bring a power strip. Each room only has one outlet.
There are no irons allowed onboard. If it wrinkles in your luggage, you have to wear it like that. If you want candlelight, bring flameless candles. No open flames are allowed.
Bring small bills for your ports of call. Some places don’t make change. But there’s enough to do that you don’t have to ever leave the boat if you don’t want to.
Sunscreen and a hat are mandatory, even if you don’t plan on lounging by the pool. I found crushable hats on Amazon that traveled well and I didn’t have to worry about damage in my luggage.
Your ankles are going to get a serious workout from the boat rocking. Don’t plan on wearing your nice heels a lot, bring sensible shoes. I only wore my nice heels to dinner then changed afterwards. I’m seriously sore.
Some cruise lines don’t allow you to bring bottled water on board. Look at purchasing the drink packages instead of paying for all of your drinks. I paid $20 a day for unlimited bottled water, sparkling water, fountain drinks and non-alcoholic frozen drinks. Cans of coke were $2.25 each, bottled water was $3-4 a bottle, I think. The package is a good deal.
Bring at least one change of dress clothes for the Captain’s Dinner. Some people like to dress up every night.
Royal Caribbean allows you to book your excursions in advance in your online account. It’s a good idea because it frees up your time from standing in long lines at guest services when people are trying to decide.
Plan to shop. Lots of boats have duty-free shopping and good specials while out in international water.
The staff was amazing and very professional. Bring some spare money to leave them a tip. I left extra tips for the waiter who was very good to make sure my meals were GF and I got what I wanted, and the stateroom attendant who did an excellent job.
They clean your rooms twice a day.
If possible, carry your own luggage off of the ship. It’s far quicker than having to disembark in groups and wait in long lines to wait for your bag.
The Bottom Line
Overall, I was very satisfied with my dining experience on Enchantment of the Seas. I do wish they would pay more attention to the placement of the gluten-free desserts at the buffet, and would label the safe foods for breakfast. An educated gluten-free diner should be able to feed themselves safely despite these limitations. I would have also liked to have seen the international dishes have some gluten-free options, as some friends who ate the Indian foods said they were really good.
In the end, we have decided to take some cruises with Royal Caribbean as a family. I now know we can eat safely, and I was very happy with the activities offered for all age groups. We are looking into different ships and different ports of call to celebrate our 15th Anniversary next year.