Gluten-Free vegetarian cruising! : Norwegian Sky Cruise Review by berrytarte

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Gluten-Free vegetarian cruising!

Sail Date: August 2013
Destination: Bahamas
Embarkation: Miami
This 3-day cruise to the Bahamas was my wife and my first time cruising since she got her celiac diagnosis. So shes a gluten-free vegetarian, and Im neither. Were in our 30s and we scheduled the cruise for our anniversary. Ill start off with a review of Gluten-Free vegetarian dining on the Sky. We contacted access desk ahead of time and were told there was told there were both vegetarian OR gluten-free options on the Sky, but no guarantee that there would be vegetarian gluten-free food. They offered a list of items, which included GF pasta and pizza and said that gluten-free veggie burgers would not be available. It was suggested that we check in with the restaurant manager on the ship.

We had some trouble locating the restaurant manager on our first day; staff members kept directing us to the buffet to get lunch instead and didnt seem to understand our questions about allergies. Finally, someone directed us to the restaurant reservations desk, and the suggested we talk with More a matre d in the Crossings dining room. Tip: when youre walking onto the ship, turn left instead of going to the right with the herd and you will be right at Crossings. Ta da! You have saved yourself an hour and running around the ship.

The assistant matre d told us we needed to order gluten-free meals 24 hours ahead of time. He brought out a chef and we brainstormed a meal for lunch and a menu for meals. The salad with avocado and gf pasta were filling and cooked well, if a bit bland.

Over the course of the cruise we ate at the Italian and French specialty restaurants, both buffets, the BBQ on Great Stirrup Cay, the Crossings dining room, and room service. Some tips that we picked up:

1) The chefs for the specialty restaurants are only available in the evenings so if you want to have the matre d negotiate a meal with them its better to do it the night before your reservation, rather than during the day of. Other meals, its fine to plan on just one meal in advance.

2) Be prepared to ask for what you want and suggest specific dishes. Our matre d and the chefs we interacted with seemed to assume that a gluten free vegetarian wanted some sort of bland acetic diet. They were often at a complete loss for what to feed my wife that wasnt a pile of vegetables (roasted, steamed, or stir-fried) and were rushed and impatient. But if you are creative for them, they will try to give you whatever you want. When I suggested a curry, they were really excited and pulled together a delicious chana masala, dal, and paneer mahkani. After a disastrous undercooked egg breakfast, we asked for feta and spinach scrambled eggs and they found both even though neither was on the menu.

3) They can prepare gf pizza at Il Adagio for lunch (or dinner) but it is prepared in the same oven and prep station as the wheat pizza. Cross contamination is a real concern.

4) DO eat at Il Adagio. We had a great dinner here our last night and wished wed eaten here every night. Almost all of the dishes can be made GF, and they had gf bread to go with the four different flavored olive oils. They were willing to customize dishes so we could try more than one sauce. We had four pasta dishes and they were all delicious! The Panna Cotta was really amazing and gluten free! The only misstep was that the caesar salad was supposed to be anchovy-free, but they still put them in the dressing.

5) Do NOT eat at Le Bistro. Its not worth the price, especially for a vegetarian. We had a really sad anniversary dinner here. Le Bistro doesnt have its own kitchen, so the food comes from the main dining room and suffers from the same temperature and texture issues that the plague the main dining room. My coq au vin was delicious and the mushroom soup was good, but we tried several appetizers, desserts and entrees and they were mostly disappointing. They serve the same (cold) rolls as the main dining room as well. The sole vegetarian entre is a napoleon, which we had without the puff pastry. It was an impressive but disgusting tower of slimy and unseasoned roasted vegetables spackled together with cream cheese. The chocolate fondue tasted like Hersheys chocolate sauce. This is not a good place for a vegetarian.

6) Try the buffet for lunch. Room service was impossible to get through to every time we called and the main dining rooms are closed for lunch, so the buffet is your best bet. There were a lot of contamination issues but the staff helpfully confirmed which dishes were gf and brought out clean portions for us. We had sweet potatoes fries, salads, two Indian curries (one good, one not), roasted cauliflower (surprisingly delicious), gf toast, and fruit. A lot of the food was bland and mediocre but there were a few tasty things. The buffet tended to be less crowded the first half of the day that the ship is in port (after breakfast), so thats a good time to talk to the staff about allergy issues.

7) The BBQ buffet on the private island is too chaotic to prevent cross contamination and there were nearly no GF veg options. Skip it and eat on the ship instead.

8) Dont be afraid to change matre ds if you dont like the one assigned to you. We had a different matire d the last day and he was so much more helpful than the one we worked with for most of the cruise. Really wish we would have switched earlier.

Overall, you can eat safely as a gluten-free vegetarian on the Sky, if you are willing to advocate for yourself. Still, planning around food and eating so many disappointing dishes made the food the overall low point of our cruise. It's a definite contrast to other vacations we've taken where it was much easy to negotiate diet stuff in a relaxing was...and still get delicious food.

In terms of the rest of the cruise, we loved our stateroom. The steward did a great job anticipating our needs. He brought us ice, without us asking, switched out our towels twice a day, made adorable towels animals for us, and was super friendly. We didnt really try any of the shows because our meals took so long that we kept missing them. The bars were all great though. We got a massage and found the spa staff to be easy to deal with. The massage was just ok, next time wed probably skip it for the price. The pools are small but were only really crowded the first day.

We're independent travelers and don't like to pre-book excursions. We didnt make it out to the private island until midday, by then there were so many people in the water that the water was really cloudy from all the sand. Plenty of beach chairs though and the staff tried hard to get the party started evening though it was very hot out. It felt like a very artificial environment though. We really enjoyed the port day in Nassau, where we did some shopping and spent the morning on Junkanoo Beach (highly recommend!). Less

Published 08/11/13

Cabin review:

Port and Shore Excursions

There's still quite a lot of construction going on. We didnt make it out to the private island until midday, by then there were so many people in the water that the water was really cloudy from all the sand. Plenty of beach chairs though and the staff tried hard to get the party started evening though it was very hot out. It felt like a very artificial environment, and one that was not well thought out given that they'd be depositing 2000 people there at one time. It needs more areas to explore or staff to move folks along to the other beaches.

We really enjoyed the port day in Nassau, where we did some shopping and spent the morning on Junkanoo Beach (highly recommend!) The Museum of Art is great, highly recommend. Unfortunately, Christ Church Cathedral is closed to visitors on Sundays, but it is a beautiful church to look at.

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