Thursday, 18 January 2018 16:58

Family Cruising with Food Allergies

Written by

When the weather outside is frightful, many families will consider a cruise on the warmer, open seas ever so delightful. For families who have to manage food allergies, considering even just a weekend cruise can trigger a flurry of panic-laden questions. This leads many families to assume a cruise is not a realistic option for them.

“That could not be further from the truth about today’s cruise lines,” says Jennifer Trinidad, travel agent with Modern Travel Professionals, LLC. “Many cruise lines have designated ships and itineraries that focus on families; this goes beyond offering a child rate on an adult cruise.”   

Common concerns families have about cruising include meal preparation; managing nut, wheat and dairy allergies (among others); and the crew’s readiness to handle an anaphylactic emergency. 

“There are several things for families to think about when researching a cruise,” states Trinidad, who has years of experience planning vacations for clients who have food allergies, including her own school-age child who has several food allergies.

“All of these factors will weigh differently, depending on the age of the child, the extent of the allergies, and the family’s willingness to go a few extra steps in making sure their needs will be met.”

  • Cruise Lines that Focus on Family. Cruise lines such as Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival are all family-friendly, with a wide range of activities for the kids and teenagers. Royal Caribbean is also an Autism Friendly Certified Cruise Line, so if your family includes a child with autism and dietary needs, they may be an excellent option to consider. 
  • Allergy Friendly Itineraries. Allergens exist not only on the ship, but in port as well. For example, if you have contact or respiratory nut (peanut, tree nut, including coconut) allergies), an itinerary that includes ports where nut-based foods are dietary staples (e.g., Southeast Asia, certain islands) is not an optimal choice. You know your family’s allergies and reactions best, so wherever you intend to travel, ask your agent about these things.
  • Get a Copy of the Food Allergy Policy. Most cruise lines have a policy for how and when passengers must provide food or nutritional requirements (e.g., during the booking and/or pre-deployment). Comply with those guidelines because a cruise ship at sea is not going to be able to receive an emergency airdrop from Amazon. Ask your travel agent to help you obtain the most current policy. 

“If you need an EpiPen, make sure you have a doctor’s note and any cruise line specific paperwork completed before you say Bon Voyage,” explains Trinidad. “Remember, not all cruise line staff are qualified to administer prescriptions, including EpiPens, so knowing who, when and where in advance will ease your stress level significantly.” 

Questions for the Travel Agent—Before Your Book

Having an agent who understands food allergies is important as they will be more thorough in navigating the pre-deployment and on-board policies that apply to you. Ask the agent about their experience booking trips for families with food allergies. Look for a “full service” agent who will be there to support you throughout the planning process, not just the booking process. 

Other questions to ask:

  • Does the ship have an on-board nurse or other medical staff?
  • What is the policy for on-board allergy emergencies?
  • Do the children’s areas have designated nut-free play and eating spaces?
  • Who is the on-board “go to person” if there is a problem with dietary accommodation?

“Whether you’re in the dining room or at the pool deck, never hesitate to ask the serving staff for assistance,” explains Trinidad. “Most staff are more than willing to help in any way possible. If there is a situation that doesn’t seem to be handled properly, ask for the Manager of that dining venue or head to Guest Services for assistance.” 

Don’t Say Bon Voyage without These Items in Hand

  • Passports for All Travel Party Members. Even if your cruise destination does not require a passport, it’s in your best interest that everyone in your party has a passport that is valid for 6 months or more after the end of your trip. This is critical in the event of a medical emergency. If you need to leave the cruise early and receive treatment outside of the United States, you won’t be able to gain re-entry to the country without a passport.
  • Travel Insurance. Travel insurance can save more than your sanity; the right policy can also save you tens of thousands of dollars and prevent many sleepless nights. You can learn more about the benefits of having travel insurance here.
  • Medical Records and Medications. Documents that provide detailed information about your family member’s allergies, dietary needs, and any medications should be kept on your person at all times, plus a copy in your room safe and on file with the ship’s medical staff, if applicable.

For additional information, see our related blog articles about "Stress-free Holiday Travel with an Autistic Family Member" and "Vacation Planning Services for Families with ASD and Other Special Needs".

Resources “What you Need to Know about Cruising with Food Allergies” 

Modern Travel Professionals: “How to Cruise with Food Allergies”


Read 167 times Last modified on Friday, 19 January 2018 13:47

What's New at The Center?

Comprehensive Austism Program
Learn More >

Enrollment Currently OPEN
Contact Us >

New Social Skills Groups
Learn More >

We are now in-network with Cigna. Learn More >

The Talcott Tale

Sign-Up for our FREE newsletter and we'll keep you up to date with news & events!
Please wait