What We Learned About Food Allergy Travel On A Mediterranean Disney Cruise
Ok so I’m writing this in the fog of jet-lag, so please be patient with me. I’m hoping I can write in at least a semi-coherent way!!
This week I’ll be posting on Facebook and Instagram all about our 2-week vacation in the Mediterranean. We had a great time as a family and I’m super glad we took the time to pre-plan and make the vacation possible despite food allergies.
First, I’ll explain that we went on a 10-day Disney Cruise from Barcelona with stops in various cities in Italy and France and then back to Barcelona. We went off the ship every day there were land excursions and there were 2 sea days. We then spent 4 days in Barcelona, Spain on our own before flying back home.
Here’s What We Learned About Food Allergy Travel During This Trip
Disney Cruise line WAS AMAZING with food allergies.
We had the same servers every single day so we didn’t have to explain about the allergies every single meal. That said, our main server was amazing, but our assistant server wasn’t the best. The main server was the one you talked with most so it was ok.
The way the meal worked was that my daughter would pre-order her breakfast every evening and they would make it up as soon as we arrived at the pre-chosen restaurant so it would be fresh. She would also pre-order her evening meal so it could be made as quickly as ours. We really loved this set up. They ALWAYS had a safe dessert that was drool-worthy. She definitely ate like a princess when we were on the boat.
2. We found the off-boat day excursions a little challenging (but doable) as far as food allergies.
I would have to say that the land tours on the cruise were a little challenging because you never had the same guide and the guides would usually set you free in a location for lunch so there wasn’t much help when it came to finding safe food. The guides were also very limited in their language skills and couldn’t communicate well other than “where is shopping” or “where is the bathroom” and their tour “spiel”. Between finding safe fruits at fruit stands, using our allergy cards and the safe food we brought, we managed fine.
3. Make sure you have the right food allergy chef card translations.
We brought French, Spanish and Italian allergy cards. We got free ones from the FARE website. But make sure that you know what languages you need. For example, in Barcelona they speak Spanish, but also Catalan. We didn’t realize this and we found that some waiters seemed to not fully understand our Spanish cards. In the end we figured out it was probably because they spoke Catalan and not Spanish.
4. Pack non-perishable safe foods.
We always had a back up for my daughter to eat if we didn’t feel like the restaurant was safe or if we didn’t feel like they understood our needs.
We weren’t allowed to take any food off the ship unless it was pre-packaged, processed food (so no baked goods, fruit or veggies). We brought Boost drinks, pre-made rice with beans, canned chicken snacks, canned tuna snacks, several safe granola bars and gummy candies. We used all of these on the trip at one point or another. So on the days when we didn’t feel comfortable with the food choices, my daughter would drink a Boost meal replacement or eat granola bars or we would buy fruit at a fruit stand.
After the cruise was over, we rented accommodations with a small kitchen so some days I prepared these foods for my daughter before we headed out so she was full. We also had breakfasts for all of us in our room.
5. It was awkward eating foods in front of my daughter when she couldn’t order.
I like to keep my daughter included in everything we do, but when travelling, safe is better. There just isn’t the ability to search extensively for safe foods so there are times when we needed to eat foods in front of my daughter. We stayed away from treats and desserts and just had regular meals so she wouldn’t feel left out. There was one time when we tried churros and she had the safe gummy candies we brought as a treat for her.
6. I’m super proud of how my daughter is learning that it’s more important that she eats safely even if its different from what everyone else is having.
There were many times when she would just say “go ahead, I’m fine with my Boost or my banana”. I believe this is a sign of maturity and I’m so proud of how well she’s learning to handle not being able to eat what everyone else has. (P.S. I truly believe that whenever possible, she is included in meals and treats. I don’t like excluding her, and especially believe that if there is a celebration specifically for her that all the food should be safe for her. But I also believe that she needs to understand that there are times when she won’t be able to eat when the food isn’t safe and she needs to get used to this).
7. The last few days in Barcelona on our own were a harsh reality.
After being pampered on the cruise and having at least 2 meals per day be safe, delicious and full of treats, it was hard to go back to checking everything for ourselves (especially in a different language). It was a rude awakening to say the least. I think I would schedule this alone time BEFORE a cruise instead of after if I had to do it again. I would also do a better job of researching restaurants before our trip so we feel better prepared.
We had a wonderful vacay, friends. There were definitely some challenges, but nothing that we couldn’t overcome. As always, planning was THE MOST important step for us.
Let me know what you think. Will you travel with food allergies? What questions do you have? Please comment below and I’ll answer them.