GOOD TO KNOW: www.carnival.com/
Specialties: Buffet, dining room, specialty restaurants, quick service
Gluten-free: Preorder for dining room, various items and some locations
Other: Gluten-free beer available
Note: Fill in the special dietary needs section when preregistering online and the info will be tagged to you in the dining room via your room number
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Gluten-free options on the Carnival Breeze
I recently took a 7-day cruise through the eastern Caribbean on the Carnival Breeze - my first sailing with Carnival and also the longest cruise I've taken. The Breeze offers a wide variety of dining options ranging from a large buffet with rotating hot items, salad bar and desserts to Guy's Burger Joint and fine dining in the Sapphire dining room. Overall, the food gets a solid B for variety and taste but Carnival loses points with regard to gluten-free options, labeling, staff knowledge, and a general lack of give a damn for guests with dietary needs. I get the feeling that Carnival WANTS to be good at accommodating dietary restrictions, they just fall short.
Guy's Burger Joint
Burgers and fries made famous by celebrity chef, Guy Fieri.
Pros: Great burgers and fries, gluten-free buns (I ordered mine without a bun), burgers for gluten-free orders are cooked separately when ordered, quick service
Cons: Only open for lunch
Blue Iguana Cantina
Tacos and burritos made to order (think Chipotle)
Breakfast and lunch
My favorite spot to eat hands down. Taco salads and breakfast scrambles.
Pros: Quick service, breakfast burritos with or without a tortilla, corn tortillas kept separate from the flour tortillas, gluten-free meat, items are made to order so it's easy to avoid restricted food items, salsa bar and fresh watermelon
Cons: Only open for breakfast and lunch, same menu items every day
Pig and Anchor BBQ
Smokehouse barbecue with traditional sides like mac and cheese, slaw, and baked beans also a Guy Fieri eatery.
The flavors are good but a pile of meat isn't my idea of a meal.
Pros: Gluten-free meat and sauces
Cons: Long lines, outdoor seating, limited hours, no fresh options for sides, no vegetarian options
Pizza by the slice or made to order
The gluten-free crust was so bad I couldn't eat it.
Pros: Gluten-free crust, custom order, open 24-hours
Cons: Gluten-free crust, very limited toppings, have to wait on the pool deck while it cooks
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
The worst option for a gluten-free meal. My fallback when gluten-free options are limited is salad with protein - usually grilled chicken or shrimp. For dinner in the Lido Market I waited in a crazy long line for the salad bar, which also wound through the hot items counter. Literally nothing for me in the hot items section and no decent protein on the salad bar. I was also told the bread near the salad was gluten-free. My gut feeling was — not gluten-free — and I was right. Very glad I trusted my instincts and not the staff. Beware of buffets.
Pros: Flexible dining, casual, pleasant seating area, gluten-free dessert available on request
Cons: Haphazard food labels, no ingredient lists, hot items are generally slathered in sauce/cheese or breaded, staff is clueless as to what is and is not gluten-free, limited viable gluten-free protein choices with the salad bar, long lines for each of the food theme areas (deli, wok, salad bar, sweets etc.)
Sapphire and Blush Dining Rooms
Full service dining featuring three course meals and dancing waiters
Dinner and sea day brunch (Blush only)
Best dinner option by a mile but set aside approx. 1.5 - 2 hours from start to finish. Preordering dinner the night before worked fairly well but it was inconvenient to be at the dining room to preorder each night for the next night. Carnival has a fancy on board app, Carnival HUB, that has maps, entertainment schedules, dining options, port information etc. and it would be fantastic if preorders could be made through the app similar to ordering room service or pizza delivery. Or, I would also prefer to submit all the preorders online before embarkation day. A couple things to note, my server in the Sapphire dining room was always aware of my dietary restrictions without me mentioning it, so that was nice. One especially conscientious server switched my preorder because the Sous chef forgot to omit lemon juice from the marinade and he was checking my order against my food list. I'm not sure if that was standard practice but I am grateful. Note: If you are gluten-free, preorder the Carnival chocolate melt cake. It is out of this world.
Pros: Full service, preorder 3-course meal, menu changes nightly, some tailor-made items for restricted diets, efficient waitstaff
Cons: Not casual attire, time commitment, hassle
There's a lot to like about a Carnival cruise and I managed seven days at sea without starving or getting ill. If you are severely allergic I would recommend being hyper vigilant and asking to speak to the chef at each location.
Read about gluten-free options on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.
A note to readers:
I am gluten sensitive/intolerant so I am not overly concerned with possible cross contamination. If you have severe reactions, I recommend taking additional precautions.