Thursday, December 19, 2013

Disney Cruise Line Gluten Free

Last Thursday, we headed to Port Canaveral, which is about an hour away from Disney World, for our fourth cruise on the Disney Dream.  We have always taken the three night cruise from Thursday to Sunday.

We like to arrive by 10:00 and get in the line on the 3rd floor of the parking garage.  At 10:30, passengers are allowed into the terminal to check in.  The earlier you check in, the earlier you get to board the ship.  I was impressed by all the Christmas decorations at the terminal and on the ship.  At 11:30, boarding began, and by 12:00 we were having lunch at Cabanas on Deck 11. 

Cabanas features an impressive buffet that we have always been pleased with.  I asked one of the cooks behind the line if I could talk to a chef about gluten free choices.  The chef pointed out what items were gluten free, and I have always found them willing to get you food from the back if you are worried about cross contamination.  I enjoyed my lamb chop, salmon with prosciutto and pea puree, beef with onion, chicken, potatoes, and steak fries. 

My only disappointment with lunch was the dessert options.  Cabanas had Rice Dreams Vanilla, a dessert with jello, and Enjoy Life Snickerdoodle Cookies.  I settled for the cookies, which were good, but I expected something better with all the dessert offerings that were available. 

After lunch, we headed back down to Deck 3 to check out the gingerbread display.  It definitely rivaled the displays at the Contemporary, Beach Club, and other Walt Disney World resorts. 

We also signed up for Gingerbread House Making.  This was an awesome free activity being offered on the Dream.  It wasn't gluten free, but I had fun helping my kids decorate our house. 

By 1:30, we had access to our stateroom, which was midship on Deck 8.  I highly recommend this location.  I am a light sleeper and didn't like the vibration we could feel from the engines on our last cruise, during which we had a stateroom at the very back of the ship on Deck 7.  We had one good experience and one very bad experience down on Deck 2, so we have decided to avoid that deck in the future. I value my sleep! 

Here's another view of our stateroom and my husband getting his last fix of technology.  Internet access is very pricey on Disney ships, so we avoid it, plus it's nice to be unplugged for a couple of days.  The couch where my hubby is sitting converts into a single bed, and another bed pulls down from the ceiling right above it. 

We had to bring Mickey, aka Elfie, our Elf on the Shelf.  The 12 Days of Christmas was starting while we were on the Dream.  We have a family tradition of the kids getting small gifts in their stockings each morning for the 12 days before Christmas.  My daughters think Elfie is involved in this, so he had to come along. 

Here's a view of the terminal at Port Canaveral from our stateroom. 

For dinner on the first night, we ate at the Enchanted Garden on Deck 2.  Your dining rotation will be noted on your stateroom key.  As usual, I was served the dreaded Ener-G Tapioca Rolls.  These rolls can be edible if prepared correctly, but that happens so rarely.  I told our server I didn't want them anymore after the first night.  I enjoyed my spinach salad with raspberry dressing, raspberries, and pine nuts.  For the appetizer course, I had the tuna and avocado dish, minus the tuna, and for dinner, I had the prime rib with roasted vegetables and a baked potato.  The first night is always the hardest because I can't order ahead of time.  I asked the head server if there was anyway I could do that on future cruises, and he told me to talk to a chef during lunch in the Enchanted Garden the next time I sail. I know you can contact Disney Cruise Line (DCL) ahead of time, but I have never done that.  I have always had my travel agent note my gluten allergy on my reservation so my servers are aware of it before I arrive.  For info on contacting DCL ahead of time, you can check out Allergy Free Mouse's post on dining on a Disney Cruise with Food Alleriges here

For dessert, they brought me this amazing apple sundae.  It was like eating apple pie with ice cream and whipped cream.  After dinner, I was brought a menu for the Royal Palace, the restaurant we would be eating at on the second night.  I picked an appetizer, soup/salad, and a main course, and the chefs made a gluten free version of each one for me. 

For breakfast on Friday and Saturday, we ate at the Royal Palace instead of going to the buffet at Cabanas.  I enjoyed my gluten free pancakes, sausage, bacon, kiwi, and orange juice.  Gluten free muffins, donuts, and waffles are available, but don't expect the amazing Mickey waffles you get in Disney World.  I think they use Vans frozen waffles, so I skip them.  

For lunch, we headed to Cabanas again.  The rosemary and thyme polenta cakes and the jerk marinated pork were delicious. 

The chef at Cabanas told me about the gluten free pizza at Luigi's Pizza on Deck 11.  I waited for about 15 minutes for my pizza, and sadly it was not worth the wait.  The crust had potential, which is usually the part I am most fussy about, but in this case, it was the cheese that ruined this pizza.  It tasted fake to me. 

For dinner on day two, we ate at the Royal Palace.  I enjoyed my potato leek soup, which reminded me of my favorite soup at Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom.  My Bosch pear salad came out without dressing, which was odd, but that was quickly rectified.  My lamb chops lacked the breading that was on other family member's lamb chops.  I wish they would have added some herbs for more flavoring, but they were cooked well.  The cheesy potatoes were awesome, and I enjoyed my Brussels sprouts.  I have had the creme brulee every time I have dined here for dessert, and it is divine! 

Day 3 is my favorite because it is the day the Dream visits Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. 

Everything was all decked out for Christmas, even their vehicles. 

We weren't able to get a private Cabana this time, so we found a nice shady spot on the beach to chill and relax for a few hours.  The private Cabanas are very pricey, but they are so worth it if you can reserve one. 

Emma and my dad enjoyed the hammocks.  We always rent bikes on the island, but other than that, we did not book any other port adventures on this cruise. 

While at the Royal Palace for dinner, I was asked if I wanted any food prepared for lunch on Castaway Cay.  This was the first time I was asked this, so I ordered chicken, ribs, and rice, even though I knew there would be gluten free options on the island.  I picked up my food at Cookies on Castaway Cay.  The manager that gave me my meal also told me all the choices on the buffet that were gluten free, including grilled chicken and fish.  They also had some gluten free BBQ sauce available in packets for me to put on my ribs. 

I picked up a bag of Lay's Potato Chips, which are labeled gluten free, and some of my favorite tropical fruits.  They have great papaya, mango, and pineapple on the island. 

Before we reboarded the ship, we took some pictures with Olaf from Disney's Frozen, my girls' new favorite movie.

Check out the huge Christmas tree they put up on Castaway Cay! 

For our last night at Animator's Palate, I had pre-ordered two soups, baked potato and squash, and red snapper with potatoes & shrimp.  For dessert, they brought me a delicious chocolate cake with strawberries and fruit purees.  For some reason, desserts cannot be pre-ordered.  Thankfully, they didn't try to serve me anything with coconut!  We had the first seating at 5:45, then we went to the shows each evening.  I can't imagine eating at the later seating at 8:15.  Wherever you dine on the last night, that is where you can have breakfast the next morning, or you can head up to Cabanas.  We chose to go to Cabanas, where I ate scrambled eggs, bacon & fruit.  Gluten free pancake were not an option, and they didn't have any gluten free waffles, muffins or donuts.  The chef seemed completely disinterested in helping me, which was surprising, because I had some amazing gluten free pancakes at Cabanas on the last morning of a previous cruise. 

A couple of shots in front of the huge Christmas tree on Deck 3, and we were ready to disembark. 

It's always sad saying good-bye to the Disney Dream, but we only have to wait four more months for our next cruise.  In April, we will be sailing on the Dream again, but this time for the four night cruise from Sunday to Thursday.  We usually book another cruise while on board because of the 10% discount and stateroom credits, but I have heard that Florida residents and Disney Vacation Club members can get some amazing deals on cruises that are not fully booked by making their reservations a month or two in advance.  

I bought two new Disney Cruise Line ornaments for my Disney tree.  I love this adorable ornament with Minnie hugging her Mickey sailor doll. 

We love our Tervis Tumblers, so I couldn't resist this cup I saw on Castaway Cay.  It's much cuter without my Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie.  :-)  I always bring my super-sized Mickey Tervis Tumbler on the Disney Dream so I can easily get water from the beverage station on Deck 11.  There is no reason to have to pay for bottled water on the ship or on Castaway Cay, where you can get water at Cookies.

I could write about our Disney cruises for another hour or two, but I am not sure where to start or how much info to give you.  Plus, you can get tons of general information from DCL's website or from a DCL travel book. Here are a couple of final thoughts.

Is the Disney Cruise Line worth it?  Yes!  These cruises might be pricier than other cruise lines, but if you love Disney, you have to take a Disney cruise.  I sailed on a small Royal Caribbean ship out of Miami, and it paled in comparison with the Disney Dream.  I am sticking with Disney from now on.

Do you need to bring food?  I did not bring one item of food onto the ship.  There was plenty for me to eat.

How do we book our cruises?  We book with Leigh McCarty at Small World Vacations

Be prepared!  Do your research!  I own Birnbaum's Disney Cruise Line and PassPorter's Disney Cruise Line books.  They are great for reading about what you should bring with you, the restaurants, port adventures, etc.  I don't use them anymore, but they were very helpful for our first two cruises.  Bring warm clothes because the ship is very cold!  The AC makes the restaurants and theaters pretty chilly. 

My husband and I took a cruise on the Disney Dream for our 10th Anniversary without the kids.  Our students thought we were crazy, but it was amazing!  We got to enjoy the adults only areas of the ship and the adult beach at Castaway Cay.  We ate at both Palo and Remy, which I highly recommend.  You will pay a small upcharge to eat at Palo, and a large one at Remy.  The first time I ate at Remy, it was worth the extra $75 per person.  It might have been the best meal I have ever eaten in my entire life.  I still salivate just thinking about the lobster course and the desserts they made me.  It was a 2 1/2 hour, eight course, eating extravaganza!  The second time, it was good, but not amazing.  I would highly recommend dining there on the first night of your cruise if you are going to go to Remy.  It won't be as crowded, and the chefs will have more time to make you special dishes. 

Please don't hesitate to ask me questions on my Facebook page or on my blog.  I would also like to hear about your experiences with the Disney Cruise Line, so please comment away! 

April 17, 2014 Update -- You can read my review of dinner at Palo here, brunch at Palo here, and my latest post on eating gluten free on the Disney Dream here.

June 30, 2014 Update  -- I just learned that The Disney Magic has been marking gluten free and dairy free options on their menus since the ship was re-imagineered last fall, but I haven't gotten confirmation from anyone that the Disney Dream, Fantasy & Wonder have updated their menus.  


  1. Wonder has a GF and DF menu, but they will also do other menu items GF and DF - or just make something up that isn't on the menu! Best to pre-order everything for the next day the night before to ensure you're served in a timely manner. The dinner server will take care of this.