Guide to Cruising with Allergies

One of my readers contacted me this week asking for my tips when traveling with children with autism that also have food allergies. As spring break and summer are fast approaching, I thought I’d share some tips to use for your next cruise or all-inclusive resort stay.


cruising with allergies ship ship view

 Planning stage

Contact your company and ask the representative
All cruise lines in the USA have a special needs department known as Access or the Disability Desk
Royal Caribbean

Make sure you contact them as soon as possible and have the representative tag your booking as ‘special needs ‘so they can be aware of your particular circumstances.

  • Follow up with a detailed email or phone call.
  • If you call do write down the representative’s name and his/her extension.
  • Verify with the cruise line whether you can bring any drinks, snacks, prepackaged foods on board for use and if your cabin is or can be equipped with a refrigerator.
  • Print out a detailed but simple list of allergen foods since everyone is a little different.
  • Make multiple copies of your list to use on board and consider translating into different languages to use on shore excursions.
  • Get your doctor to write a letter specifying your needs along with the diagnosis and other pertinent information.If you want to bring pre-packed snacks (many countries will not let you bring any open foods ashore) on shore excursions, you might have to translate this letter too.
  • If your traveler with autism is young and nonverbal, you might want to check using temporary tattoos to inform temporary babysitters or caregivers (kids clubs) about his/her allergies.

    cruising with allergies promenade view

    Packing stage


  • Pack the foods and drinks you have cleared with your cruise line Don’t forget snacks for the shore excursions.Two good websites to look at and
  • You might consider bringing, at least, one (two if the child is young) set of bed sheets, pillow and a thin blanket to avoid any contact allergy from the industrial soap the hotels and cruise lines use.
  • Bring your laundry detergent, soap, and shampoo to prevent unnecessary complications.
  • Do not forget the medicines to treat the allergies, including those in the time of an actual allergy attack.
  • Pack everything you need for your allergy traveler in your hand luggage and do not let it out of your sight.
    cruising with allergies food

       On  Board


  • Notify your cabin attendant of your particular needs, including the fact you do not want your home provided sheets washed with the general load and whether certain detergents should not be used in the cabin while you are occupying it.
  • Make sure the cabin vent is not directly over the person’s bed.
  • Talk to the Main Dining Room Maître D’ and give him/her a copy of the food allergens. Ask for a small table that should be cleared of gluten products (even crumbs) especially if you have the late seating or anytime dining.
  • If not already suggested by maître d’, ask to speak to the chef and coordinate how you can be accommodated. Most cruise lines will ask you to preorder the GFCF meal a day in advance so make sure you order at least two viable options for your traveler with autism, especially if he/she is nonverbal and young.
  • Tell the dining room servers what foods to be avoided, and ask for fries or a veggie platter to be ready on your table in case the GFCF food is later than other dishes, so your autistic person will have something to nibble on.
  • If you intend to eat at the Buffet, then go and have a quick chat with the chef about your autistic globetrotter’s preferences. Ask to double check labels as many products appear GFCF but are no such as salad dressings and pre- mixed sauces.
  • For those highly allergic, ask the staff about the different dishes and methods of preparation to avoid cross contamination was much as possible. While helping yourself to food in the buffet area substitute the set thongs with a clean fork or ask the staff to bring a fresh set from the back.For foods prepared before you such as omelets insist on the cook using a new pan and utensils.Be extra careful with cross contamination when you eat off the soft ice cream or yogurt machines if cones are offered.
  • FAMILY TIPS Quantum of the Seas,allergies kids club

Kids’ Clubs

Inform the general manager as well as the daily staff what items are forbidden.
If possible, give your printed food allergens page each day to the caregiver in charge, in case the prior one got misplaced.

Shore Excursions Desk

Let them know that you wish to bring food on trips, so it does not become a point of contention and misunderstanding the day of the actual trip when everyone is anxious to go sightseeing, and your family is perceived as keeping everyone back.

cruising with allergies cabin


If you or your family member are on a GFCF diet or suffer from allergies, how do you keep healthy and safe while cruising?
                                                         Revised October 17, 2015.

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A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook
Margalit Sturm Francus

Margalit Sturm Francus

A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook

0 thoughts on “Guide to Cruising with Allergies

  • KreatesKards

    We never had problems before with inside or oceanview rooms, so booked Balcony only if a really good deal. Then on one cruise to Alaska (we had a balcony cabin), we walked into the cabin and my chest started to hurt. Whatever disinfectant they were using triggered my allergies/asthma. We immediately went out on the balcony to see if fresh air would help. I seriously considered just walking off the ship and forgetting all about the cruise. We had planned this for months and good friends were going too.

    About the time I was ready to call it quits, our room steward walked in. We immediately talked to him about the “smell” of the cleaner they used. He said that he could ask “permission” to switch it out for us and he would be right back. He had to talk to his supervisor. Came back, had the OK. Agreed that while the ship was in port (until we left that day) he would leave our balcony cabin door open to air out the cabin. Also agreed that even with switching the cleaner, that while he was in our cabin that he would prop the balcony door open to air the cabin out for us.

    Fortunately it made all the difference in the world. Once we left the cabin area, we tried to stay away until late morning knowing that they would be done cleaning the other cabins.

    What I really feel happened … is that they used a bleach type cleaner to help eliminate the Noro Virus. Our ship had not had problems, but some had and therefore they were being more conscious than ever before. I’m super sensitive to scents. Luckily if I can walk away from them quickly, typically I am OK without the needs of meds etc. In the cabin, you can’t get away from it that easily.

    This is the first and only cruise I’ve had problems. But it has convinced us that a balcony is a must have for me. Also I now know to complain immediately if there is an issue, and if the room steward won’t help to go over his/her head.

    I also have food allergies … all the cruise lines (RCCL, Princess, Carnival) have been fantastic about watching over me and helping. I always let them know ahead of time, and each night they give me the dinner menu for the next day … so I order a day in advance. For me breakfast and lunch aren’t a problem as long as I stay with simple things like eggs, bacon … sandwich or burger. Norwegian Cruise Lines (only went once years ago) was the only one not totally in tune with my food allergies. So we don’t book with them.

    Our neighbor’s daughter has Celiac Disease (no gluten) and we were excited to see that Carnival now offers a gluten free menu.

    • Hello,
      We are so glad you shared your story with us so our readers can learn from your experiences.
      More and more cruise lines are starting to understand the serious issues that involve food allergies and are starting to come up with more menu options to accommodate guests with allergies.
      Please come back and share your future travel experiences soon.


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