Food allergies are increasingly common and in many cases can be severe. When Azamara guests have food allergies or special diets for health or religious reasons, it's something our staff and cruise take very seriously. I interviewed Mario Kucko, Restaurant Manager of the Azamara Quest, and Iwan Pennings, Executive Chef of the Azamara Quest, to discuss food allergies and how they are handled onboard.
Marco and Iwan
Before You Board
Throughout their considerable years at sea, Mario and Iwan have seen a significant increase in the number of cruise guests with varying degrees of food allergies or special diets for health or religious reasons. They have also seen a significant increase in the training materials, videos, and procedures for recognizing, preparing, serving, and respecting the privacy of guests with food allergies and special diets.
Mario told me that upon booking your Azamara cruise, you will be asked to specify any particular food allergies, sensitivities or special diets. Two months prior to each voyage, the ship receives a report with a list of upcoming guests' special dietary needs. Why is it so far in advance? Because this is when the "grocery list" for a voyage is prepared, and the Executive Chef begins planning for any special diets. Sometimes dietary needs come to light following the two-month period, and the Executive Chef may be able to accommodate by making purchases at local markets when possible.
Gluten-free, fat-free and sugar-free nuts and dates souffle, with pineapple saffron sauce.
Once You're Onboard
Upon boarding, guests who have specified any type of special dietary need will find an invitation to meet jointly with the Restaurant Manager and Executive Chef that same afternoon. At this meeting you'll discuss your needs, food allergies, taste preferences and palate, and review what level of individualized food preparation and serving attention will be required. For example, someone with a very serious food allergy would have their meals cooked separately, carefully plated behind the scenes, and served by one assigned waiter, typically by the head waiter, all to avoid cross-contamination.
All foods offered onboard are clearly coded as to whether they are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free or healthy choice.
Guests may receive the next day's menus in advance if they wish in order to pre-select their food. Everyone in the Food and Beverage department onboard has a cheat sheet on the guest's needs but privacy is always respected. Chef Iwan says, "It all revolves around trust. Trust is very important in all matters of food and service. As long as the guest gives us proper information, their needs will be met. We never compromise when it comes to food allergies or religious diets."