A Family Cruise with Food Allergies


by Andrew Cheng, FARE Teen Advisory Group Member

As many of you with food allergies know, it can sometimes be difficult to find safe places to eat when you are on the road. Ever since my anaphylactic reaction last year, my parents have been even more wary about going to new places where we don’t have complete control of the food and cleanliness of the place. So, imagine my surprise and apprehension when mom and dad said we were going on a cruise to Alaska.

This past June, we started our vacation in Vancouver, BC. Vancouver is a fun city. We wound up staying there two days before the cruise. Our biggest challenge was finding restaurants that could accommodate my peanut, tree nut and lychee allergies along with my two younger, very loud siblings. Our hotel concierge recommended a restaurant that wound up having peanuts, cashews, almonds, and/or walnuts in every single dish. We literally walked a few blocks to the restaurant, looked at the menu posted outside, and left.

The problem with eating out with food allergies is that you never know if a restaurant “gets it.” Many restaurants have small kitchens where the chance of cross-contact is high. Or the server or cooks simply don’t understand (due to a language barrier or just a plain lack of knowledge about food allergies).

Thankfully, our family found a cruise line that gets it. We boarded the Disney Wonder in Vancouver and spent a week cruising in Alaska. The Disney Wonder was able to handle my food allergies (and even my very loud brother and baby sister). The boat has three main restaurants where the kitchens are huge. The chefs were able to cook my food separately and safely. It was awesome that I could order food off the adult menu and eat without worrying about whether the food was safe.* Too many times we go to restaurants where the “safe” food is just plain pasta or chicken nuggets.

Although we felt safe with the food onboard, I still carried my epinephrine auto-injectors in a big waist pouch. At school, I always have them in a waist belt under my shirt (my other medications are in my backpack). I thought having the waist pouch would be a pain on the cruise, but it worked out fine. I was able to have my emergency medicines, camera, wave phone, and daily schedule in it. I usually snuck some candy in it too.

One day on the cruise, my younger brother really needed a nap. He wound up seeing me eating candy and immediately threw a temper tantrum. He complained that “it wasn’t fair that you get to eat candy and I don’t.” He went on and on and on. So, I told him that lots of things in life aren’t fair - like how I have food allergies and wear a hearing aid. I also reminded him how he gets to eat lots of really yummy foods that I often can’t even try. I admitted that sometimes, I feel jealous about others without allergies or hearing aids, but I have learned to deal with the fact that life isn’t fair.

When you think about a “normal” life for a tween, you think about a guy waking up to go to school. He brushes his teeth, gets dressed, eats breakfast, and then leaves the house. In my case, I have to do the same things, except I have to get my hearing aid, put on my allergy alert bracelet, pack up my emergency meds, and put my waist belt under my shirt too.

Yes, living with food allergies can be a challenge…I like to think that food allergies won’t stop me from enjoying life - especially on a Disney Cruise!

Editor’s note: Individuals with food allergies should inform their server, a restaurant manager or the chef about their food allergy every time they dine out – even if they have safely dined at the same restaurant in the past. For more information and tips, visit safefare.org/for-diners

19 August 2014 ·

Find Your Food Allergy BFFs

Find Your Food Allergy BFFs #bloggers #foodallergy #community #parenting

walkwomenYou have friends you exercise with, go on vacation with, and spend nights out with, but do you have friends who are also managing food allergies? Whether you branch out and make new “food allergy friends” in your town, or you connect online, it’s beneficial to build your support network. Having someone to talk to about challenges you’re facing, swap recipes, and trade tips is invaluable in the…

View On WordPress

15 August 2014 ·

How My Nut Allergy Made Me More Monogamous | TIME.com

12 August 2014 ·

Northwestern Athletics Welcomes Families Managing Peanut and Tree Nut Allergies

Polisky_MikeA food allergy dad got the ball rolling with a phone call and one request: could Northwestern consider having a nut-free game so that his son could attend a game? Northwestern decided to not only grant this one request, but to do something that hasn’t been attempted by a college athletics program to date: go peanut and tree nut free for many games in multiple sports during the year, offering…

View On WordPress

12 August 2014 ·

"Don’t let your allergies define you. Yes, living with them is crazy, but you can’t let them hold you back from doing what you want to do. You may have to go about it in a different way than others, but you can do anything as long as you take the right measures to ensure your safety."

~ Caroline B., age 13

7 August 2014 ·

Behind the Facade

Melissa Engel, a member of FARE’s Teen Advisory Group and speaker at the FARE National Food Allergy Conference, has started a blog about her “running reflections and autoimmune adventures.” Check out her latest post about going to her sorority formal with food allergies. 

1 August 2014 ·

Discover the Positive Effects of Yoga

Discover the Positive Effects of Yoga #foodallergy #stressrelief

At this year’s FARE National Food Allergy Conference, teens with food allergies participated in a 90 minute yoga workshop learning how to enhance their quality of life and experience the mind-body connection. The workshop was led by Kristen Kauke, a licensed clinical social worker and 200-hour registered yoga teacher who teaches yoga weekly. Kristen’s two sons have food allergies, and Kristen…

View On WordPress

22 July 2014 ·

About Me

Advice and resources for teens with food allergies. Managed by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Send questions or topic ideas to teens@foodallergy.org!

Stuff I Like

See more stuff I like