Posted February 13th, 2012, 09:07 PM
I have Celiac disease have cruised many times successfully on Royal Caribbean. My family loves to cruise because my gluten free diet has been easy to manage on Royal Caribbean. That is why we cruise! Everyone has always been so helpful and my food has been truly outstanding.....until my Jan. 22nd cruise on the Freedom of the Seas.
I did everything that I was supposed to do....I notified them of my gluten-free diet at the time of booking, my “Diamond Plus” preferences on-line notes my "gluten free" diet, I wrote to the "Special Diet Needs" e-mail months before the cruise, I called the Crown and Anchor phone number ahead of time, and I met with the Matre'D soon after boarding.
The Freedom of the Seas was HORRIBLE with my diet! If this had been my first cruise, it would have certainly been my last! All of my previous cruises were great, but the Freedom had untrained staff who seemed to not care.
When I told my waiter of my gluten free diet before dinner the first night, he said he didn't understand and quickly left. The headwaiter came some time later and said very firmly that there was "nothing on the menu that is gluten-free except for the Caesar salad and the salmon." I knew this was not true (since I have dined with that menu many times before), but I did not complain because I wanted this cruise to be FUN! (I had talked two of my friends and my daughter in taking a Royal Caribbean girl's cruise and I wanted to show them how great RC cruises are!)
Our dining time was 8:30. My plain salad was served to me soon after the other appetizers were served. My salmon arrived over an hour later as the waiter was taking my table's dessert orders. It was cold, dry, brown and curling on the edges. It was served with no garnish, no sauce, no seasoning along with some icy cold broccoli. No one spoke to me about dessert at all. They ignored me. (and the Pavlova - which is gluten free and always served the first night - is my all-time favorite dessert!) I sent the cold food away with the assistant waiter and I left the dining room in tears at 10:30 with no food. I spoke to another headwaiter as I left. I was so embarrassed. As my party was leaving, they were handed some Indian food (from the menu) and a Pavlova to take to my room. There was no apology.
The next day, we went to lunch in the main dining room. The dining experience was very similar with the same cold fish and cold broccoli arriving at dessert time. This took over 2 hours! Finally, a headwaiter came over to speak to us as we were leaving to go to the Windjammer. He brought some freshly prepared fish that was delicious. Still, no apology. We did get out dinner table changed.
Our new waiter was outstanding, but the dining room was very slow with my food - which mostly had no sauce or garnish and was cold. After waiting an extra hour for my food, my friends asked for all of our food to be served together. Most nights, we got our entrees when others were leaving the dining room.
The Windjammer was bad too. There were fewer choices than in the past. Many of the salad bar ingredients were almost always empty each day. There was not the same attention to replenishing salad bar items as on other ships. Each day, we were scraping the bottom of the black deep containers. The carving stations had rolls and crumbs up on the cutting area. One day, I asked one of the chefs what was gluten free and he replied…”the tomatoes and the pickles.”
The headwaiter in the evening told me that they would have something for me in the Windjammer the next day. After asking a chef and two headwaters about the meal that I was instructed to ask about, no one knew what I was talking about. I made a scant salad and was preparing to leave when a very nice headwaiter came and offered to bring some fish forty-five minutes later. My party waited for the food and it was very good, but it was so frustrating and it took so long to get it. It was embarassing.
Overall, I was treated very poorly and have never experienced this before. People acted like they were doing me a favor just to bring me any food at all! I am not that picky, but cold unseasoned fish and broccoli are really not suitable to eat.
I truly feel like the dining room management is the problem on that ship. We recently cruised on the Allure of the Seas and that ship and the food was perfect.
I am VERY embarrassed that my friends had to endure my horrible long meals. I dreaded each meal. I told the concierge of my problems, and he said it would improve. It really never did and no one really apologized.
When I got home, I wrote an e-mail to the Crown and Anchor Society and the Special Needs Diet address, and their response was.....
"We are very sorry you were unhappy with the food on this sailing. We certainly understand that the dining experience is a key piece of your vacation. While it is our goal to provide choices that will meet everyone’s expectations, we recognize that some selections may not always do so."
They were sorry that I was unhappy with "some selections." WOW!!!!! Truly, I had trouble finding ANY food at times. I don't eat a lot and I was not asking for a lot. I just needed some food, and I wanted to be treated normal. Their response and the lack of apology on the ship makes me feel like I need to vacation elsewhere in the future. I truly do not feel welcome and I can't trust that they care about continuing with their past excellence. I am afraid to try it again and I have over 200 cruise credits!
(Oh by the way, on the last sea day, we were invited to a special diamond breakfast with officers seated with many of the guests. It was lovely. I ordered my food and it arrived in five minutes, hot, tasty and perfect - just like my many other cruises. I am sad that my friends were not there to see how my other cruises have been. Instead, I was treated like a freak and a problem at all of the other meals!)