Eating Gluten Free on the Carnival Breeze!
Want to find out about eating gluten-free on the Carnival Breeze? You’re in the right place! In October, our family did a two week vacation to Florida and the Caribbean. We originally went when we were asked to review Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival and their amazing gluten free options! After that, we decided to tack on a week long cruise. Because, why not?! We were already in Florida, might as well, right?
We had originally booked a cruise on Carnival’s newest ship, the Horizon, but ended up having to rearrange schedules due to a work and blog commitment later on in the month. So, instead, we decided to cruise the beautiful Carnival Breeze! It was her first cruise out of Port Canaveral and what a beautiful (and HUGE) ship she is! I’ve sailed on the Breeze’s sister ship, the Magic, about 4 years ago, but this was our first time on the slightly newer Breeze.
This cruise was also the first time I was cruising while being 100% gluten free. I had tried a few gluten free items on both Carnival’s Paradise and Magic but hadn’t worried about it much if I was served some gluten or not. This cruise was different, I boarded this ship as a completely gluten-free eater! And I have to say, after spending the week previous at Disney World, who always does an amazing job at accommodating food allergies and sensitivities, I was sorely unimpressed. The entire week was difficult, really difficult. While some food was fine, others were down right inedible. I have never had a gluten-free pancake so awful in my life. The gluten-free pizza at the pizza station was terrible as well. The world has come a long way, I think, in gluten-free offerings, so I was very surprised by the low quality of Carnival’s food.
We spent 6 nights on the Carnival Breeze and ended up trying all the specialty restaurants by the end of the week! Yes, they cost more (except for Cucina Del Capitano for lunch), but honestly, it was worth it in the end. I found it really hard to communicate my dietary needs to staff on the Lido deck. It was just so crazy, and so crowded, that it stressed me to hold up the line all the time to make sure I got what I needed. You might have a different experience but this is what I experienced. But here’s a list of many of the different gluten-free options available on board the Carnival Breeze. We had a pretty eclectic taste around the world by the end of our trip!
We actually ate here the most during our cruise, but I wish we hadn’t. I’m not a huge buffet fan and I do think the dining room does a much better job at handling food allergies and sensitivities than the buffet. This was partly my fault because I scheduled the late dining time and that really didn’t work for us this trip. It has in the past, I usually love late dining, but we were very busy during the day all week and were exhausted by the time 8:00pm rolled around.
Lido almost always had a gluten-free bread option available for lunch and dinner. I didn’t notice it at breakfast but I’m sure you could ask for it if you wanted toast. I’m not a huge breakfast fan so I tended to eat mostly bacon and/or rice krispies for breakfast! Most days when I’m home, breakfast is coffee and an apple with almond butter. Or a smoothie. That’s about it. At the breakfast buffet, there was never a gluten-free carb available that I saw. They do have an omelet station where you can get custom eggs cooked for you however you’d like. I just don’t like most eggs! LOL
The one area I loved for breakfast was the Blue Iguana Cantina. Here, they can make you a breakfast burrito with whatever toppings you’d like. Ask for a corn tortilla instead of the flour. They don’t have them on the line for breakfast but they’re more than willing to grab some from the back! Load up on meats, eggs, and hashbrowns. Then, take your breakfast “burrito” (it’s more like a taco) over to the salsa station! Yum!
For lunch, the Lido deck opens up into a bunch of different stations serving everything from hamburgers to Mongolian bbq. While lunchtime has the most options available on the buffet, it’s also the most busy part of the day. The Breeze is a HUGE ship, holding well over 3,500 passengers. Carnival cruises almost always sail at capacity and our cruise was no different. When there’s 3,000 other passengers all trying to get food too, it gets hard to discuss options with each crew member. We found it easiest to wait till the rush tapered off before attempting lunch.
Pizza Pirate makes individual pizzas for each guest and they do have a gluten free crust available. I didn’t like it at all though. It was bready and fluffy and the texture was just off, I thought. I took about 2 bites and threw it away.
The Blue Iguana Cantina is also open for lunch and has wonderful Mexican food, including tacos that you can get on corn tortillas or a taco salad. Just ask them not to put your salad in the tortilla shell. It’s pretty but made of flour. I also made a burrito bowl one time, I just brought them a bowl with rice in it and had them add all the toppings!
Guy’s Burgers is another option for gluten-free. The burgers don’t have any fillers in them so they’re safe to eat. I’ve heard they have gluten-free hamburger buns available but I just had them wrap mine in lettuce. Save the carbs for another time! Their fries are also safe because they use a dedicated fryer.
The Indian station was a favorite of mine! However, there’s very little there that isn’t spicy so my mom (who’s a spicy wimp) didn’t like it much. The stir fry station was a hit too. They usually add regular soy sauce so ask them to fry yours in a clean wok to avoid cross contamination.
For lunch, the Italian restaurant, Cucina Del Capitano, serves made to order pasta bowls. They can make yours with gluten-free spaghetti and it’s delicious! However, the only sauce they can guarantee is gluten free is the Pomodoro. And the meatballs have breading in them. They weren’t sure about the sausage and I didn’t push them to find out. I ended up with chicken and a bunch of vegetables. They can also make you a Caesar salad gluten free as well.
The Dining Room
We actually only ate here twice for dinner and once for breakfast. Like I said, we were pretty busy and set dining times ended up not working well for us so we usually went other places. I also had my heart set on trying every specialty restaurant on board for the purposes of this review, of course!
We ate in the Dining Room for dinner the first night on board and the first elegant night. The first night I was SO seasick and didn’t end up eating much. I ended up choosing the Honey Glazed Pork Loin with a carrot puree and creamed spinach. My mom ordered the salmon fillet from the grill menu with a side of spinach as well.
We boarded on my birthday and they presented me with a cake and sang to me. The cake wasn’t gluten-free though so I couldn’t eat it. You can order a gluten-free birthday cake from one of the shops once you’re on board but you can’t preorder it for the first night. Just a heads up, I tried. Because I was so sick that first night, I think I just got a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. After the first night, your waiter will bring you next day’s menu for you to peruse and order ahead of time. They’ll let you know what they can make gluten-free and will cook yours separately to avoid cross-contamination.
For elegant night, I ordered the gluten-free carbonara (one of my favorite dishes!) as an appetizer and then got the flat-iron steak with a side of mashed potatoes and broccoli as my entrée. They can make their signature dessert, the chocolate melting cake, gluten-free so I ordered that with two servings of ice cream. Delicious!
If you’re thinking you want to have breakfast in the dining room the next morning, your waiter will also bring you the breakfast menu so they can prep your meal ahead of time. They can make you gluten-free pancakes if you let them know ahead of time. I highly recommend you DON’T though! They were awful, just awful. Seriously, the worst gluten-free pancakes I’ve ever had! You’ve been warned.
I think we tried every specialty restaurant on board for the purposes of this review. Some restaurants had more options than others, of course, but all in all, we enjoyed these locations way more than the dining room and buffet. Which makes me sad, because I felt the free dining options had gone downhill in hopes of enticing you to pay extra in the specialty restaurants. We’ve been cruising with Carnival for over 15 years now and feel like there’s been a steady decline in quality. My mom said afterwards that she will probably never cruise with Carnival again. Which is unfortunate because we used to love it!
All of the specialty restaurants were wonderful, they just cost a little extra. The Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse was our favorite. It’s the most expensive though, at an additional $35 per person. I think it was worth it though, I really do. Where else can you get a 4 course surf and turf meal for $35? And I felt the safest there in terms of food allergies. I felt like the waiters and chef really understood what being gluten-free meant and I didn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed asking a bunch of questions.
The only negative I have with Fahrenheit 555 was that even with adding a gluten sensitivity to our reservation ahead of time, our waiters weren’t warned. They had to go to the main galley to get us gluten-free bread and needed extra time to prep our dishes from scratch. I wonder where the miscommunication happened? But our “Art at the Table” dessert was sincerely the best dessert I have ever had, so what’s a few extra minutes? I’m fine with that! 😉
“Art at the Table” dessert
My next favorite dining location was Bonsai Sushi. They have gluten-free soy sauce available (I had to fight with the stir-fry station at the buffet to go get some to make my stir fry with. They kept saying they didn’t have it but I had already been to Bonsai and I KNEW they did! See, these are some of the issues I had with the buffet). I could eat most the menu here so we came back twice during the week! The Bonsai noodle salad (made with rice noodles) and the Spicy Tuna Roll (have them leave off the tempura flakes) were my favorite. We also did a Bento Box one night as well. Delicious!
Cucina del Capitano was somewhat limited in menu options for me. I highly recommend you try this place for lunch (when it’s free) and skip it for dinner. Many of the dinner dishes appear on the dining room menus throughout the week so if you wanted to try something specific, most likely you’ll be able to try it for free in the dining room. We ended up getting the burrata salad, an antipasti plate (they can bring you gluten-free bread with it), Risotto, and Linguini with Clam Sauce. There’s no dessert on the menu that’s gluten-free.
The Red Frog Pub isn’t a restaurant, per say, but a bar with snacks available for purchase, mostly around $3. We went in once on the last night of our cruise to see what was available gluten-free. The only thing they offered was the conch salad. Which was delicious though! They also gave me a basket of plantain chips that’s usually served with their BBQ sandwiches to try. Wish I knew these were available before the last night!
Overall, we had a good time, especially at our island destinations. I think service was lacking on board ship overall and I thought it was too hard to communicate our dietary needs to the Lido deck staff. I also took great issue with the one time we ate breakfast in the main dining room. Service was slow and our waitress was probably one of the rudest waitresses I have ever encountered. Also, like I mentioned, my gluten free pancakes were inedible. But outside of this one experience, I would say all of the crew we had contact with were friendly and accommodating.
I do recommend you give Carnival a shot. It’s a very affordable vacation and great fun for the whole family! If you’ve never cruised before, I might recommend you start with a smaller ship. The giant cruise liners are a bit overwhelming and having thousands of other guests around you can be frustrating. I hope this review was helpful! Eating gluten-free on the Carnival Breeze was overall, completely delicious! Bon voyage!