My husband and I took a two week Southern Caribbean Cruise on Celebrity Cruise Line in March 2018.
For me, travel is very much about the food, and since I am gluten intolerant (highly sensitive), it is important for to me to choose a vacation where I can relax and not worry about cross-contamination.
When I booked our cruise, I was sure to notify Celebrity, well in advance, of my gluten-intolerance. This is important to do on any cruise.
This review is going to be about my food experience only. The ports of call were nice, but for me, a cruise is more about the food, socializing, and the onboard experience.
This is our second time sailing on Celebrity, and both experiences have been good. We booked Aqua Class, which, in addition to the Main Dining Room, allows access to Blu. Blu is the dining area for Aqua Class travelers. Those sailing suite class may also dine in Blu, if there are tables available.
We sailed with a couple who were booked on suite class. They dined with us many nights and were given seats without issue. They also had their own restaurant, Luminae, which is for suite class only. Others can dine in Luminae if they pay to dine there, which my husband and I did, twice. More about that later.
The Eclipse also has three specialty restaurants: Murano, Qsine, and Tuscany. We dined at all three.
And then there is the Aqua Spa Cafe (located outside of the spa area), which is open for lighter fare, on small plates, for breakfast and lunch. I ate there many days.
There are other outside food areas, but because I was afraid of cross-contamination, I did not try them.
Where to eat:
If you are truly gluten-intolerant, Celebrity recommends dining in the Main Dining Room, Blu, or Luminae (depending on which class you've booked).
I agree. The risk of cross-contamination at the buffet is too great. Even if you ask someone to serve you something from the back, I would still avoid the buffet on the Eclipse. One reason: they have free-flowing flour in the pizza area -- right out on the furthest counter area, so people can watch them work with the dough.
I am one who cannot handle airborne flour, so I stayed away.
It didn't matter though, because the food everywhere else was amazing.
No matter where you plan on dining, it is important to speak to the Maitre D' the day before so they can make sure what you order will be safe for you.
The Main Dining room has gluten-free options listed on the menu, but I would still recommend placing your order in advance whenever possible. It helps make things safer. Plus, it's fun to see what will be on the menu the next day.
The Main Dining Room, Blu, and Luminae were all excellent. Because Blu was our dedicated dining room, we got to know the servers quite well over two weeks, and they were dedicated and delightful.
Blu's food was good, but next time, I am going to pay more attention to what is going to be served in the Main Dining Room. There were many nights that the MDR had dishes I wanted, and those dishes were not offered in Blu.
I also found that there were more gluten-free breakfast choices in the Main Dining Room, although, in Blu, they had a gluten-free muffin for me every day, and that was a real treat!
Luminae was good, but on the two occasions that we dined there, I wasn't as wowed by the food as I hoped, but I also wasn't really working with them day to day on what I wanted to eat. The staff and servers there were great. I want to try Luminae more, and I will be dining there again in 2019 (more about that later), and I will post a more extensive review about it then.
The very best meals were in the specialty restaurants. There are three: Qsine, Murano and Tuscan Grille.
Our favorite restaurants are Qsine and Murano. Each went out of their way to take excellent care of me . . . and the food, OMG! So good.
Tuscan Grille is good, but the gluten-free choices there are more limited. There was also one issue with misunderstanding if one of the items served to me was gluten free. It was corrected, but, just as with any restaurant (outside of dedicated gf), it is important to always check and double check everything.
Also, Tuscan Grille serves Lemoncello at the end of every meal. As of this writing, it is not gluten-free, so be sure to check and ask for a substitution.
Tuscan Grille serves a a gluten-free bread that isn't very good. It tastes like it was made from a Chebe bread mix. I like Chebe, but not the way they served it at Tuscan Grille. The flavor did not mingle well with olives, olive oil dip, and the like.
I asked for them to bring me gluten-free toast (available in MDR and the rest), which, for me, was more enjoyable.
Qsine favorites: Sushi lollipops and Painters Mignon. There was nothing we ordered that wasn't a wow, and I felt as though any changes made to make my food gluten-free still delivered an outstanding dining experience.
The same was true of Murano. The tableside lobster preparation is beautiful as well as delicious and definitely worth a try. Note: The lobster comes in a very rich sauce which -- yay!-- is gluten-free. They are also happy to make it for you without the sauce, if you prefer a more traditional lobster experience.
Wherever you dine, be bold when ordering for the next day! If there is something on the menu that is not gluten-free, with enough notice they will do all they can to accommodate you.
On some Celebrity ships, if there is something offered in the Main Dining Room, you can order it in Blu or Luminae. However, this is not true on Celebrity due to the kitchen and delivery logistics. A few items are always available, such as escargot (which is amazing), but if you really want something from the MDR, opt to dine there instead.
Get to know the crew! On our cruise, we fell in love with the Executive Soux Chef as well as the Maitre D' from the Main Dining Room. Wow. They went out of their way to take special requests and make sure I was given an excellent dining experience throughout my trip.
Some thoughts on lunch:
Blu is never open for lunch.
Luminae is always open for lunch (again, included for suite class or at a charge to others, if there are tables available). If memory serves, it was around $40 per person. Lunch may have been slightly less.
The Aqua Spa Cafe is always open for lunch, and they have some lovely gluten-free offerings. However, the choices are limited and they are the same every day. You'll find fresh fruit, various salads (including meat salads such as tuna or chicken), gluten free cookies (more savory than sweet - treat them like bread), and soup.
On embarkation day and on all shore excursion days, the Main Dining Room is closed for lunch. The exception is that, on embarkation day, the Main Dining Room is open for lunch for those sailing concierge class, which is a class below Aqua Class.
Room service is risky. If you use it, be sure to go through the Maitre D' or you may risk cross-contamination.
The buffet is open for lunch . . . well, for everyone but me, that is. Too risky.
So, that means that if you are Celiac or hyper-sensitive like me, and if you are not sailing suite class, your only choice for lunch on shore excursion days will be the AquaSpa Cafe. The hours there are limited, so plan accordingly.
Next time, we are going to try sailing suite class. I want to get an idea of how much easier it might be to eat gluten-free without being restricted at lunch.
Suite class offers butler service, and I am told that they go above and beyond. There is also Michael's Club, which is the bar reserved only for suite class travelers. They have high tea each day, and I want to explore how they handle it for gluten-intolerant folks.
Stay tuned, because I will be sure to write about it!
One more thing: A big difference between this Celebrity cruise and our last one is that Celebrity now participates in the Dine Aware Program, which means the crew goes through special training in how to handle food allergies and intolerances.
While my first Celebrity cruise was good, on this last cruise, I definitely noticed the difference in how much better everyone understood how to handle gluten-free requests.