Cruising gluten free on Marella Cruises

Cruising gluten free on Marella Cruises

Looking at Marella Cruises for your next holiday? I recently cruised on Marella Spirit on their Continental Coasts itinerary, visiting Malaga, Mahon, Toulon, Barcelona, Valencia and Cartagena. Here’s how I got on eating gluten free on Marella Cruises.


A little background

My first cruise was in 2010, on the Island Escape, then operated by Thomson Cruises (now Marella cruises). I remember being really not sure what I’d make of cruising – who knew! 

In July 2018 we booked what was possibly the most spontaneous cruise ever, because it fitted in with a holiday we had booked to Torremolinos on the Costa Del Sol. When I say spontaneous, the sentence “Shall I ring for a quote” and “Yeah book it” came within about 5 minutes of each other. Whilst in a car on the way to a National Trust day out. Disgusting really, but that’s cruise addiction for you!

Anyway – our cruise was with Marella Spirit, which I had cruised on before around 2011/2012. I wasn’t gluten free back then, so I was very intrigued to see how I’d find gluten free on Marella Cruises.


TLDR – yes you can eat gluten free on Marella Cruises.


The Buffet

Buffets can be an absolute nightmare when you’re gluten free, both in terms of identifying the food and worrying about cross contamination. Major brownie points to Marella Cruises for being the first cruise line I’ve been on that has had gluten free options marked at the buffet – no special diet section like P&O’s ship buffets have,  but hot dishes are marked when they are gluten free, vegetarian or vegan. Good for if you want to grab something quick and can’t find the right staff members to ask. 

My only gripe about the buffet (at least my experiences on Spirit) was I found that the gluten free sides and ‘mains’ didn’t necessarily go together. If you’re someone that likes a mish mash on your buffet plate (Emma – your recent Facebook post comes to mind!) it’s not too much of an issue. I didn’t particularly love my plate of gammon steak, egg fried rice and salad!

Looking at Marella Cruises for your next holiday? I recently cruised on Marella Spirit on their Continental Coasts itinerary, visiting Malaga, Mahon, Toulon, Barcelona, Valencia and Cartagena. Here's how I got on eating gluten free on Marella Cruises - buffet labels are marked

The Main Dining Room

If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know this tends to be the place where I feel the most comfortable – you preorder the night before so the kitchen have a full day to adapt any dish you want to make it gluten free.

On Marella Spirit, they did also have gluten free options marked on the dinner menus. Maybe it’s just the printing facilities on the ship, but the menus looked a bit cheap and amateur compared to some of the other cruise lines.

Eating Gluten Free on Marella Cruises - an evening MDR menu
An example of an evening menu

As per other cruise lines, there were some ‘Always Available’ options – Grilled Cheeseburger, Hotdog, Pasta Pomodoro, Chicken Breast, Spicy Ma Bo Tofu and a Triple Decker Club Sandwich. 

I have to say, I never struggled to order anything but the food was really quite bland for the first half of the cruise (and yes I fed back). It wasn’t inedible, but they’d been very over cautious with seasoning. From speaking to my parents it sounds like it might have been more so the gluten free, although they didn’t love the food either.

I understand that they have to cater for the majority, but for a few dishes I had, it was like they hadn’t seasoned anything whilst cooking. I’m not one for adding salt and pepper at the dinner table but found myself doing it a lot.

Some of the nicer options I had were a spicy chilli filled pasta (although it is quite oily if you don’t like that), a really nice noodle soup and roast lamb (pictured here with mint sauce – don’t worry I didn’t eat it!)


Siroccos – Speciality Restaurant 

The speciality restaurant on Marella Spirit was Siroccos – it’s about £20 for around 5 courses. Be warned, it’s a long night.

On a happy note, the Crepe Suzette is FIT! They make it at a little chef station so you can watch all the flames and booze drizzling – YUM!

Eating Gluten Free on Marella Cruises - Sirocco's menu
Eating Gluten Free on Marella Cruises - Sirocco's menu

Drinks on Marella Spirit

It’s worth mentioning, the drink prices on Marella are pretty decent, and spirit measures are generous. A lot of people go for all inclusive packages, which we hadn’t opted for – it did seem like there were a lot of supplements even if you were on all inclusive. Marella Cruises are very port intensive which is wonderful, so I think you do really need to like a few drinks in the evening to make any all inclusive drink package worth the money. For us, it wouldn’t have worked out well.

Money saving hack! If you’re ordering 2x G&Ts, you only need to order one can of tonic – it’s a 330ml can and we split it between three of us. 


In Conclusion

I honestly wish I had more nice things to say about my experience on Marella Spirit – we didn’t go hungry and things did improve later on. Food is something that is entirely subjective, and I’ve heard great things about people’s experiences on newer ships. 

I do have to emphasise how lovely the staff were. Very friendly and pretty efficient, across the room stewards, bars and restaurants. Special shout out to the lovely ladies on Reception for ringing to check where I was when the system was showing I was the only person not on board whilst preparing to sail from Cartagena – I was in fact upstairs in Raffles bar with a G&T!

Our first experiences of cruising were with Thomson, and this trip reminded us what we first loved about cruising – seeing new places. It wasn’t about the shiny ships, but the waking up to a new horizon every day.  Marella do absolutely amazing port packed itineraries, and I’m sure I’ll cruise with them again. 

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3 Comments

  1. 20/08/2018 / 9:43 am

    It’s a cruiseline we’ve been looking at for a bit based primarily on the itineraries and what we’ve heard about the staff. Can’t honestly say that we’ve given much thought to food aboard although I suppose if I’d had to have guessed I might have assumed it wasn’t quite up to the level of Princess, for instance, just based on price alone, and while it’s a shame that that turns out to be correct it is one of those areas that’s quite far down the list of why we’d pick any line for travelling so probably not a game-changer for us. Nice, honest review; good to see and read and to be prepared for when we probably inevitably bite the bullet and try one of their cruises.

    • glutenfreehorizons
      Author
      20/08/2018 / 6:47 pm

      As I say, they do amazing itineraries so I’d certainly cruise with them again, at least I know they do offer gluten free which to be fair is good enough for me – as long as I’m not just living on salad for the week!

  2. 20/08/2018 / 8:06 pm

    Great post! You know I love those odd buffet meals 😉 ha ha.

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