When I found out I could take a cruise if I could book it for the next week, I wasn't sure if I could find a cabin for a cruise leaving in days or if such a short planning period could work. I had the added problem of needing to eat Gluten Free and tree nut free without giving the cruise line any notice. I learned that it is not only possible but also fun to be an impulsive cruiser.
As I started trying to book the cruise, the rooms that were available quickly sold out while I was on the phone. I was put on a waiting list for three different ships, two with Carnival and one with Princess. This required a deposit that was later returned. On the Tuesday afternoon I had a room on the Dream and then booked plane tickets to leave Ottawa, Ontario on the Friday. We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites across the road from Port Orlando both the day before and the day after the cruise. I had stayed here on my last cruise so it was an easy choice. When we arrived and picked up the rented car, we got directions for the Walmart down the road from the airport to pick up two bottles of wine to take on the cruise. At midnight New Years Eve we were sitting at Fishlips in Port Orlando having dinner and watching as a fellow from another table got down on his knee and proposed to his girlfriend. This was a fun start to our holiday.
This is the first cruise that I was able to bring on wine and I loved this. I also brought gluten free crackers bought at Costco and some cheddar cheese and this was my gf snacks for the flights there and back. We had wine, cheese and crackers every afternoon in our room on the ship before I headed to the spa. I really loved getting the spa for the week and this was a highlight for this cruise. I went every day, but would of liked to have it open later so that I could go before bed. That would be really useful on the Magic cruise in Europe which has such a heavy itinerary I don't know how you would fit in the spa most days. The spa package cost $140. As much as I loved it, on the Glory they had a private very large hot tub in the gym area and a steam room and sauna that was all free and I enjoyed that every day just as much while saving the $140. My husband Mark skipped the spa and did the Behind the Fun Ultimate Tour instead at a cost of $95. for a four hour tour. This was the highlight of the cruise for him and he loved the attention to details the staff put into this tour.
I loved the Dream. It was very easy to learn your way around. I really liked having all the bars in the same area. I hated that the piano bar was the smoking bar. This was our favorite bar on the Glory and we went every day. This cruise we had to avoid it and the whole hallway in the area due to the drifting smoke and my allergies. They need to move the smoking bar to one that has a closed door or get rid of this all together. I believe there are many more people cruising that need to avoid the smoke then those that smoke. I did love that there was lots to do on the last night as usually there is not much going on the last day and I always want to enjoy every minute on that day. The other thing I did for the first time on this cruise was to move from being a lurker on Cruise Critic to joining into the roll call for this cruise. I went to the meet up on the first day and the large group betting at the casino. These were great fun and I met people that I saw again in the spa and on the decks. We met new friends Cindy and Glen at the meet up and did the islands with them. From the Cruise Critic roll call we got lots of good advice, met new friends and made memories.
Eating gluten free on the ship is both easy and a landmine, just like eating gluten free at restaurants across Canada and the United States. At the buffet I was on my own. I usually avoid buffets as they are a danger zone for hidden gluten and allergens and also cross contamination. I always preferred the buffets on the ships for breakfast and lunch before my Celiac diagnosis so I was really careful and ate a limited selection at the buffet everyday for lunch and most days for breakfast. I had heard on this board before I left that the burgers at the grill were gf if you asked for no bun so I ate there often, having the mushrooms, potato salad and one or two cheese burgers with no bun. If the grill made the slight change of making their fried tortilla chips from corn ones instead of wheat ones then the entire selection at the grill could be gluten free including the fries. I also asked at the pizza bar if they had gluten free crust. They did and prepared me a pizza in about 10 minutes. The only downside is that they give you the whole pizza so I only did this once. I asked at the pasta bar if they had gf pasta. They did and again it took about 10 minutes. The rest of the lunch options I avoided. On the Friday they had a chocolate buffet and I was so happy to see rice pudding and chocolate fudge on the list. I stood in line only to find out they put nuts both in the fudge and on the rice pudding so that was the one day I was really sad about the food options. The only desert/snack type option is the ice cream in a bowl, which was great but got boring by the end of the week. If you are lactose intolerant as well then you are out of luck.
Eating gluten and allergy free in the dinning room is easy. The hostess Natasha came to my table every day with the next days menu and helped me to order for the next day. She was wonderful and so was our wait staff. She said she had 10 people on our cruise with gluten problems. It is a little strange trying to decide what you will want the next day and how hungry you will be but it is worth it to be safe. Mark met the chef on his tour who is responsible for preparing the meals for those with allergies in a separate area of the kitchen. Most of the items on the dinner menu can be prepared gf. For desert I switched back and forth between creme brulee and warm chocolate melting cake. The creme brulee is on the menu the first day and can be special ordered after that - this is the best thing I ate all week. My other favorites were the seafood pasta, lobster tail, stuffed mushrooms, wild mushroom soup. Don't eat the gf bread or pancakes. There are a lot of gf products that are pretty bad but these are the worst of the worst. I think they are using a 100% corn flower or 100 % white rice flour instead of a gf flour blend which really doesn't work. The bread was like a slab of sticky dough and the pancakes were like a glob of dried out grits. For breakfast in the dinning room or lido deck I always had grits and an omelet or bowl of cottage cheese and fruit slices. My food choices were much more limited and repetitive then most on the ship but I was really careful and kept my choices simple. For those of you reading this who are trying to travel gf, I am extremely sensitive and will react severely to crumbs or cross contamination and will have symptoms that last up to a month, I never had any reactions on this ship. Carnival does make it possible to cruise with food issues and that is a good thing for our quality of life. They could do better with just a few small adjustments and hopefully that will happen as they see the demand for safe food options grow.
The best tips including those I got from the Cruise Critic forums are: Join in for your cruise roll call it is a great way to meet people. Put the cruise critic sign on your door - this is the first cruise I always found my room. Bring wine to enjoy in your room. If you have food allergies bring some snacks for back up. A waterproof watch is useful to relax in the spa so you don't worry about being late for whatever you have planned next. An extension cord or power bar is useful if you have things that need to be charged. Pack less stuff so you have room to bring stuff home. Bring larger shoes to allow for your feet swelling causing blisters. Relax and have fun, your week will fly by so enjoy every minute.