I suppose that for the purpose of full-disclosure and proper integrity, I must admit that my career is that of an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations, LLC. I say this so you’ll know but the truth is that I was a long-time Disney lover for many years before I ever became an agent. I was a frequent park visitor, blogger for a couple of websites and enthusiastic student of the Disney way before ever even considering becoming a Disney travel expert. This post is written with the intent to help as many people as I can to feel more comfortable traveling with extreme food allergies/intolerances. Travel is very difficult when so many foods, spices, and other ingredients must be avoided. Also, it can dampen the excitement and enjoyment of the trip if you let it — I hope you won’t let it. Here is an account of my experience with the Paleo AIP and Low-Histamine Diet aboard the Disney Fantasy on a 7-Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on February 27-March 5, 2016.
Welcome to my new world of low-histamine eating. As restrictive as it is, I find myself eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and organic or grass-fed proteins than ever before. The condition I have is referred to by several names: Adrenal Fatigue, Adrenal Insufficiency, Leaky Gut Syndrome, etc. I also suffer with Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria and it has had a detrimental affect on my quality of life.
The most important changes that must be made for the treatment of this condition are: eliminating all foods that are high in histamines; adding probiotics, digestive enzymes and supplements to one’s daily routine; and learning to eliminate, or significantly decrease, the amount of stress in one’s life. All of this combined for a long period of time is the best chance at healing.
A 7-night cruise to beautiful, tropical ports does wonders for decreasing stress levels, but how about trying to eat such a restrictive diet while onboard? Here is how I did it!
Per my doctor’s instructions, I combined the Whole30 Paleo AIP Protocol Shopping List and the Low Histamine Foods Shopping List. Then I printed out 3 copies. At the bottom, I also added some easy to follow guidelines). I packed one list to carry for myself and 2 copies to have on hand for the dining staff.
I had wondered during this phase if I would need to plan and pay to have all of our meals at Palo, as I had heard the chefs there can easily create special menu items based upon a guest’s specifications. Still, I wanted this to be a chance to research options for all guests, those who may wish to dine at Palo and those who enjoy a more casual cruising experience. Therefore, I reserved Palo for one evening during the voyage (our last night). All of the rest of my meals were eaten in the normal, rotational dining style.
I noted on my reservation that I had Gluten and Dairy allergies, which doesn’t begin to cover it, but it was a start. I knew that my list would fill in the gaps for all of the other foods, spices and prep methods that I can’t tolerate.
The Disney Way
Disney’s customer care philosophy is second to none in my opinion. To me, no company even comes close to caring for their guests more than Disney. In order to provide quality service to guests, they don’t just address guest need. They learn as much as they can about them to provide what they want. This helps the Disney Cast Members to deliver quality service that is above and beyond Guest expectations. Disney always attempts to PLUS the experience, by giving you more than you expect, I couldn’t have expected such care and efficiency when I set out on this voyage, Even though I already love Disney, I was completely floored by the success of my trip. I felt good every day with no pains and no hives, I had the best time ever!!!
Meeting Our Servers
Out first night onboard we dined in the Royal Court. This is where we met our serving staff for the cruise: Head Server, Jaime; Server, Bruno and Assistant Server, Nicolas.
After dinner, Bruno came over to the table with the Lunch and Dinner menus for the following day. I placed my order and Bruno told me to go to the Cabanas for breakfast and he would see me there. As a side note, Bruno told me each evening which restaurants I should visit for breakfast and lunch the next day. Dinner was always whichever restaurant was on our rotational dining schedule.
Special Note: Before I left the cruise, Bruno offered me the copy of the guide that all of the chefs were using while I was onboard to prepare the safest meals for me. Here is a photo.
I must take a moment to comment about Bruno and Jaime. I will be writing a special post about them next week but I just have to thank them both from the bottom of my heart, as they would both become my greatest blessings on the cruise.
Preparing a pre-order for food each night makes it much easier on everyone. Each evening at the end of dinner, Bruno brought me the Lunch and Dinner menus for the following day.
How I Chose My Meals
Looking at the menu, I would choose a protein that was being offered and an accompanying side, appetizer (salad or soup) and some fruit for dessert. For instance, there was a Kebob offered which was marinated in dried herbs and although I cannot have that, I did order a kebob with only olive oil and fresh parsley. I must admit that I often chose salad and sweet potatoes as sides because I really enjoy them. I also always ordered fruit for dessert as that was the only thing I could have. The desserts on the cruise always used to be my favorite part…one day I will have them again.
Breakfast on the cruise, just as at home, is the hardest meal for me. A couple of days I allowed myself to have GF pancakes but I greatly dislike the heaviness and denseness of them so I opted for a grilled flat iron steak, similar to what they have on the buffet line, on most days for a good protein start to my day. With fresh fruits and also some asparagus at times, it was a great alternative and they prepared it with olive oil and fresh parsley so it was always tender and delicious.
For lunches, I tried different things like baked chicken with broccoli and cauliflower; pork tenderloin with mashed sweet potato; and many other grest combinations.
One day, on Day 4, I ordered a grass-fed sirloin patty with a GF/DF bun and lettuce, with a touch of mayo and sweet potato fries and fell in love with this lunch so I ordered it for the rest of my days. I knew I would not be able to eat the bun at home so for 2 of the days, I wrapped the hamburger patty in lettuce as I do at home and enjoyed it that way. It was delicious!
You will notice that I ate sweet potatoes with a lot of the meals. The truth is that with the list of foods I am allowed, I don’t like many of the vegetables but I love sweet potatoes, butternut squash and acorn squash. They did not have the squash onboard so I ordered sweet potatoes much of the time.
Some Notes About Cross-Contamination
Fruit is available all day long on the ship at Flo’s on Deck 11. It was reiterated to me several times, though, that cross-contamination of the high histamine fruits (like pineapple) is very likely so I should always order my fruit with my special, pre-ordered meals. This is just the best way to do it if you want to be safe, happy and able to enjoy your cruise.
Day 1: Embarkation Day
Embarkation Day is a very busy day for the cruise staff. They have to feed thousands of people breakfast so they can disembark on time in the morning and then they must prepare to welcome thousands more guests for lunch. Having special food prepared on this day seems like it would be the hardest, and I am sure it was, but a Disney guest would never notice.
Lunch was served in the Enchanted Garden. It was a full buffet with many options but I could not have any of them. The server on this day brought the chef out to speak to me and they prepared a lunch for me of Prime Rib with fresh herbs, a lamb chop with rosemary, carrots and asparagus without butter. For this meal and for every meal on the cruise, I had water to drink.
Dinner on our first day began our rotational dining and our first restaurant was Royal Court. Our server, Bruno, spoke to me about my food allergies in depth and then he came back with our Head Server, Jaime, as they both wanted to make sure they were clear on all of my dietary restrictions before requesting a meal from the chef. I provided them with the shopping list of foods I am allowed to have (which I mentioned above) and they took it with them to the kitchen.
The chef prepared a meal for me consisting of grilled steak with carrots, asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower. I also had a wonderful fruit dessert of honeydew melon, cantaloupe and watermelon. It was delicious!
Day 2: Day at Sea
We went to the Cabanas to have breakfast. Bruno came to the table and reconfirmed my food allergies. He said the chef had told them that they had gluten-free pancake mix to which they only add water and he thought that might be a nice change for me if I could have it. He brought the package to the table so I could read the ingredients list. You must realize that for many weeks, I have only eaten protein, vegetables and fruits — nothing even remotely like a pancake or even a piece of GF/DF bread.
The ingredients looked alright so the chef made me some silver-dollar pancakes with Home Brand sugar-free maple syrup. The GF pancakes are very dense. I felt very full after that meal but I surely appreciated having something new to try. I also had fresh fruit: cantaloupe, honeydew, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. These were brought directly from the kitchen, not from the line due to possible cross-contamination with high-histamine fruits like pineapple.
We had lunch in the Cabanas as well. My pre-ordered meal was Baked Chicken Breast with olive oil and fresh parsley with baked sweet potato sticks. It was delicious! The chicken was so tender and juicy — much better than I can make. For dessert, I had a berry and melon medley.
Many thanks to the sous chef, John Ross, who prepared my meals at the Cabanas during our voyage. Everytime he saw my husband he asked about me; such a considerate and caring young man!
We had dinner at Animator’s Palate tonight. My pre-ordered meal consisted of a salad with romaine lettuce, cucumber and carrots with olive oil as dressing. I had fresh salmon for my main course with cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. I also had blackberries for dessert.
Day 3: Day at Sea
We again had breakfast in the Cabanas. I had pre-ordered a GF muffin but the chef had a concern with the ingredients and did not think I should have it so they came out to show me the ingredients list and he was right, I could not have all of the ingredients. I felt so blessed that he looked out for me and didn’t simply make what I ordered. Instead, I had a couple of the GF pancakes and some raspberries and apple. I also had a Chamomile tea.
We had lunch at the Royal Court. Bruno was there and served my pre-order of a delicious and super tender beef kebob with onion and mushrooms and olive oil with fresh parsley. I also had a sweet potato with no butter and a green apple for dessert. This meal was so delicious — one of my favorites!
Dinner tonight began with a salad with fresh tuna. For the main course, I had pre-ordered Baked Chicken and baked crushed sweet potato, Dessert was berries. It was very good!
Day 4: Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Day 4 was a port day so we automatically had breakfast at the Cabanas. My pre-ordered breakfast was a small steak with berries and a sweet potato.
I had the best lunch — a burger with a GF bun and lettuce and sweet potato fries! I also had grapes for dessert. My best lunch so far as I am a burger girl!
We had a great dinner. It was Pirates Night at Royal Court. I had a Spring Mix salad with green apples and a little olive oil for dressing; Watermelon and Honeydew Chilled Soup, Mahi Mahi with sweet potato fries and grapes for dessert. It was very good.
Day 5: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Another beautiful port to explore, we automatically had breakfast at the Cabanas so we could get going. My pre-ordered breakfast was a small steak with watermelon.
We were on a port adventure today so we waited until after we returned to the boat to have lunch. It was around 2:45 pm. Bruno told me last night that I would need to go to Flo’s and ask to speak to the chef who would make me my GF burger and sweet potato fries, so I had the same lunch today as yesterday as it was the best I could imagine!
We had a fun dinner with our table mates. I had ordered the turkey breast with broccoli, cauliflower and mashed sweet potatoes and a small salad with greens, cucumbers and carrots, with a little olive oil. I also had a red apple for dessert.
Day 6: Day at Sea
We again had breakfast in the Cabanas. I had pre-ordered my usual flat iron steak with olive oil and fresh parsley and a watermelon plate. I also allowed myself 3 scrambled egg yolks for something different. It was very good! I also had a Chamomile tea.
We had lunch at the Royal Court. For the first time ever, I tried Ener-G rolls and I used a tiny bit of honey. What a treat! I had ordered a Mahi Mahi sandwich on a GF bun with sweet potato fries. They brought me TWO sandwiches. It was way too much but they were sweet to do it. I took one of the Ener-G rolls with me to the movies as a movie treat since normal movie snacks are out of the question.
Dinner was a wonderful Oven-Raosted Pork Tenderloin, sauteed wild mushrooms with fresh herbs and olive oil, roasted asparagus and salad with grapes and green apples. I also had watermelon for dessert. It was one of my favorite meals — delicious!
Day 7: Castaway Cay, Bahamas
As always, we had breakfast at the Cabanas. Bruno had me pre-order my lunch and told me that I needed to go to Cookie’s I on Castaway Cay and he would be there expecting me. My pre-ordered breakfast was a small steak with watermelon and Chamomile tea.
Just as Bruno said, we went to Cookie’s I and Bruno walked right up to us, ready to help. I had ordered another burger with a GF bun and sweet potato fries. He told me to go ahead and be seated and he would bring my food to me (although Cookie’s is a grab it and seat yourself kind of place, because Bruno is the best!). He came and found me at the table and was concerned with the ingredients in the GF buns on the island. He said they were a different brand than I had previously been eating and he and the chef wanted to make sure they were ok. Again, they saved me a lot of trouble because there were ingredients I couldn’t have in this other brand. I told him it was fine and that I would just do as I do at home and wrap the lettuce around the patty. He delivered my patty with extra lettuce and my sweet potato fries. It was very fresh and I really enjoyed it. I had red and green apples for dessert. As I said before, I am a burger girl!
We dined at Palo for our last night. In anticipation of our visit, I received a call in our stateroom that morning requesting that I come up and meet with the chef that morning so, before leaving the ship, I went up to speak with the chef so he could make a menu for me. The chef is Alessandro and he wanted to make some special dishes I could enjoy. We discussed the ingredients and I was thrilled that he would be able to make some special dishes for me.
Unfortunately, a couple of the dishes he thought he could make were not possible due to other ingredients he hadn’t realized were in the product, such as vinegar in the artichokes, and I cannot have that. What he did make was very good. One of the best things was a GF pizza bread with garlic and fresh herbs. I cannot tell you the last time I ate something so good. He also provided GF rolls.
My appetizer was an arugula salad with endive and cucumber, drizzled with olive oil and with a sprinkle of sea salt. My next course was a mushroom risotto (dairy-free) with cremini and porcini mushrooms and fresh herbs. This was the richest meal I have had in a very long time. I savored every single bite!
My main course was Sea Scallops with asparagus, drizzled with olive oil. This was my first time to eat sea scallops and I didn’t like it much, although I know that he prepared it very well. I had a berry compote for dessert, along with Chamomile tea. This meal was very good and I appreciate Alessandro’s special attention to my needs and Borys for our excellent service.
Day 8: Disembarkation Day
This is a very busy day for the cruise staff. As I said previously, they have to feed thousands of people breakfast so they can disembark on time and then prepare to welcome thousands more guests for lunch. Having special food prepared on this day is not normally done. However, not everyone has been blessed with the care and awesome service of Jaime and Bruno, While I was dining at Palo the previous night, Jaime was making sure I would have something I could eat for breakfast. Flat Iron Steak again? NO, today I had a New York Strip Steak with fresh parsley and it was delicious!!!
We said our goodbyes, temporary as they may be, because my husband and I already decided to do it all again in October and I didn’t know it but you can request certain servers as part of your reservation. YAY!
I want to say that our table mates were awesome! They were so sweet to try to wait for me to get my food before they ate, which I did not want anyone to do. So to Lana, CJ, Dan, Carolyn, Ron and Kathy it was such a wonderful pleasure being able to meet you and spend time with you each evening. I treasure the time we spent talking and laughing and I wish you another awesome voyage soon! God bless you all!
Although travel is quite difficult with such a limited diet, a fact of which I was reminded as soon as I hit the airport for our 5-hour wait, I never had any problem on the Disney cruise. I ate a large amount of food — 3 great meals per day and I was hive-free, adding indescribable joy to my days onboard.
While spending your Disney cruise watching every single thing you eat, there are so many wonderful experiences, fun and RnR to be had you won’t be sorry you went. The main thing is to bring a good attitude — that keeps us healthier and happier than anything else.