I was recently invited onto a Travel Agent preview sailing onboard the wonderful Celebrity Cruises Apex ship. It was a short 3-night sailing departing from Amsterdam and ending in Cork. While I didn’t have enough time to sample all the food, I did have time to explore the main dining room, review the menus, and gather information directly from the chefs and waiters. Here’s my Gluten-Free Guide to Celebrity Apex, based on what I tried and the information I gathered.
Table of Contents
Gluten-Free Guide to Celebrity Apex Oceanview Cafe – The Buffet
The main buffet offers fantastic views over the aft of the ship, and has more of a market stall style set up with various counters/stations located in the centre, and flanked by further counters.
Each of these counters offers different cuisines from around the world, with a regular selection of salads, pasta, American-style home comforts and world cuisine like a selection of curries, and so much more.
As typical for day one on our cruise, I checked with the maitre de to ask how they operate their buffet gluten-free.
It was explained that Celebrity commits to providing clear dietary information on all stations to ensure there are no accidents and so that guests can self-service during their sailing, without having to wait for a member of the crew to explain what may be safe to eat.
I was very impressed at how easy it was to read the food labels and work out what I could eat, and there was always a wide range of options. Since most dishes are made from scratch in the galley, they clearly mark everything with dietary needs.
However, you should still be cautious about cross-contamination at stations where cakes and other items are served without permanent utensils. Requesting clean utensils will help minimize any potential reaction for those particularly sensitive to gluten that cross-contamination could cause concern.
For breakfast specifically, there was a marked station with gluten-free bread, and there was a section of desserts in the evening. Still, for lunch service, it was a case of checking each item to see what was gluten-free rather than having a singular gluten-free station to head to.
Unfortunately, they don’t offer gluten-free bagels or pastries, and the bread is toasted using a panini machine, resulting in a more pressed and warm texture rather than a crispy toast. Lactose-free milk options are located next to gluten-containing cereals, but no gluten-free cereal options exist.
In contrast to breakfast, the rest of the day, the selection and variety of food were fantastic, and I always found plenty to eat, never getting bored of the same options as has been known to happen on other cruise lines.
As a personal note, I would suggest avoiding the sausages at breakfast as they lack flavour and texture; on the other hand, I highly recommend the gluten-free pancakes from the pancake station, they prepare the batter on the ship and cook the pancakes to order.
My only niggle would be for the plates to be kept warm, as the bottom pancake was cold by the time I reached it. Nevertheless, they are currently my favourite gluten-free pancakes at sea.
The cake selection was limited to one choice per day until our last day when there were three options. The strawberry slice and caramel crumble had the best flavour. However, these were always served sheet-style, making it feel like a lesser option than the wheat-containing cakes on display.
More gluten-free options are available in the evenings at Oceanview Cafe than in the four main dining restaurants. So, if you’re on a longer cruise of 7 nights or more aboard Celebrity Apex, I highly recommend trying the buffet on one or two of your evenings if you want a more casual option and to mix things up a little.
Oceanview Cafe Gluten-Free Pizza
Located at the back of Oceanview Cafe, you will find the pizza station where you can order gluten-free pizza with your choice of toppings. They are made to order, which takes approximately 10 minutes to prepare.
Unfortunately, they are cooked in a foil tray, so the base tends to come out a little soft in the middle. The sauce and cheese flavours were good, but I couldn’t confirm if the pizza bases were made fresh onboard or ordered in.
Cafe al Bacio Gluten Free
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any gluten-free options available with my early morning coffees. However, from 11 a.m. onwards, when the cakes came out, there is a gluten-free cake of the day in the fridge.
If you are highly sensitive to gluten, be cautious, as the cake is stored on a lower shelf, and crumbs from the shelves above could fall onto it. The cafe does offer soy and oat milk options for your coffee if you need dairy alternatives.
Gluten-Free Main Dining onboard Celebrity Apex
The Edge Series ship for Celebrity Cruises offers four main dining rooms, each with its own design and decor. The menu is made up of three elements, there is a section of Celebrity Classics, which are the same in each restaurant and tend to be the same each night, these are signature dishes that have been well-loved by Celebrity Fans over the years.
Then, you have the menu for each evening, This is a changeable section of the menu each evening that can take its inspiration from the ports and regions you are visiting.
Lastly, each of the four restaurants has its own section, with a selection of items that are unique exclusives for that restaurant.
The crew did say if we wanted to order from another menu, we were able to, it may, however take a bit longer for us to be served,
You can choose to have traditional seating at the same time, in the same restaurant each night, dining with the same people, which many cruisers have loved for years. Or you can opt for anytime dining, meaning you can choose to dine in any of the four main dining rooms at any time you like. It would be best to make a reservation ahead of time to ensure you aren’t waiting, but there is no official requirement.
Normandie Restaurant Gluten Free
The Normandie restaurant takes its inspiration from contemporary french cuisine.
This restaurant had one gluten-free starter and one gluten-free entree as part of its signature menu selection, which was great.
Normandie Signature Menu
TURKEY TERRINE & RADISH CARPACCIO (GF)
Pickles, Grain Dion Mustard Petit Mache Salad
Pinot Blanc Sauce, Crème Fraiche Gruyere, Crispy Breadcrumb
BAKED BRIE CHEESE
Caramelized Apples, Port Wine Syrup
BEEF TENDERLOIN EN CROÜTE
Puff Pastry, Roquefort Fondue Bordelaise Mushroom Sauce
Shellfish. Creme Fraiche slow cooked Seafood Broth
PAN SEARED DUCK BREAST (GF)
Apple- lavender Compote, Cauliflower, Calvados Duck Jus
Tuscan Restaurant Gluten Free
The Tuscan restaurant has a menu inspired after its regional namesake. With Italian specialties on the menu to choose from alongside the main dining room menus.
Sadly, the gluten-free exclusives in this restaurant were limited to the salad without croutons. I had hoped they would offer gluten-free pasta with the sauces, but that wasn’t possible.
Tuscan Signature Menu
ROASTED PUMPKIN SALAD
Burrata, Pistachios, Pecorino, Balsamic Herbs Focaccia
CREAMY TUSCAN SHRIMP SOUP
Crispy Guanciale, Slow Roasted Sorrento Tomatoes, Toasted Basil Croutons
EGGPLANT CAPONATA BRUSCHETTA
Truffled Mascarpone, Toasted Pine Nuts, Basil
SLOW ROASTED HERBED TUSCAN PORK CHOP
San Marzano Tomatoes-Mozzarella Farro Stew, Broccolini, Sorrento Lemon Pork Jus
PAPPARDELLE ALLA VENEZIANA
Creamy Asiago Cheese Sauce, Roasted Chicken, Slow Roasted San Marzano Tomatoes, Black Olives
Guanciale, Egg, Parmesan, Black Pepper
Cosmopolitan Restaurant Gluten-Free
Cosmopolitan has a contemporary American menu. This restaurant is the closest to the core offering available on the rest of the Celebrity Cruises fleet.
This restaurant had exclusive gluten-free starters but no gluten-free entrees.
Cosmopolitan Signature Menu
Poached Shrimp, Iberko Ham, Green Apple, Pumpernickel Croutons
SALMON GRAVLAX (GF)
Doursin Cheese, Radish and Scallions
YELLOW CORN SOUP (GF)
Charred Corn Kernel, Smoked Oil, Black Sesame Lavash, Pop Corn
SPAGHETTI A LA MALLORQUIN
Aged Manchego Cheese, Garlic Blossom
Salsify Puree, King Trumpet Mushrooms, Heirloom Baby Carrots
PAN SEARED BLACK COD
Fava, Edamame, Quinoa, Smoked Tea, Beurre Blanc
Cyprus Restaurant Gluten-Free
The Cyprus takes its menu influence from its namesake, with greek inspired dishes on its main menu and ample sea food options.
There were no exclusives marked as gluten-free in this restaurant.
Cyprus Signature Menu
HOT MELTED CHEESE SAGANAKI
Kefalograviera Cheese, Lemon, Homemade Sourdough
GREEK MEZZE BOARD
Tzatziki, Hummus, Dolmas, Taramasakata*, Oilves & Feta, Pita Bread
Gigante Beans Tomato Casserole, Lemon-Garlic Aioli, Water-Cress Petit Salad
GREEK STYLE SLOW BRAISED LAMB SHANKS
Roasted Baby Potatoes, Feta, Baby Eggplant, Lemon Zest
CYPRIOT SHORT RIBS
Olive Oil Potatoes, Apricot, Olives, Charred Onions
HOMEMADE KORDELIA PASTA
Smoke Metsovone Cheese, Boutari Wine Sauce, Bottarga*, Citrus Fragrance
I was only offered sorbet or creme brulee each night for desserts across all the restaurants. If I had been on a longer cruise, I would have quickly become bored and disappointed with the limited options.
Celebrity Apex Gluten-Free Speciality Dining
As mentioned, we didn’t get the chance to sample the speciality options onboard, however, I did head to each restaurant to speak with the maitre de to ask them what options were available for each restaurant.
Fine Cut Steakhouse Gluten-Free
The menu in this restaurant did not have any specific gluten-free markings.
When I asked the maitre de, they pointed out four starters that could be made gluten-free. Unfortunately, there were no gluten-free entrees available. However, you can choose from various steaks and sauces, and most side dishes are gluten-free except for creamed spinach and parmesan fries.
The signature dessert of the restaurant is the Ultimate Chocolate Sundae, which is available gluten-free.
Eden Gluten Free
Eden is a concept kitchen and also features a plant-based tasting menu alongside its standard tasting menu.
I was able to chat with the chef of Eden during the daytime, who informed me that 80% of the menu is gluten-free.
They suggested booking an evening meal and informing the team in advance about any specific dishes you may like to try, such as crab cake, so that they can prepare a special batch for you gluten-free.
It’s worth noting that dining at Eden costs $60 per person, but the food sounds amazing, and the view over the aft of the ship and its wake is stunning.
Eden Cafe Gluten Free
Unfortunately, this venue was closed during my visit, and we didn’t find a time it was available on our sailing; this could be due to the ship sailing at 60%, we’re not sure, and we were unable to find out for sure.
Raw On 5 Gluten Free
Raw on 5 is the seafood and sushi restaurant onboard; nothing on the menu is explicitly marked as gluten-free, but most items can be prepared as gluten-free upon request.
Le Grand Bistro Gluten-Free
Although nothing is marked as gluten-free, the Maître d’ mentioned that sandwiches and soups can be made gluten-free, and there is no need to provide advance notice.
Rooftop Grill Gluten Free
This area was closed during my visit, so I couldn’t view the menus. However, this is a casual eatery offering grill-style food alfresco. BBQ-style food, salads and elevated comfort food.
Suite Level Dining Gluten Free
There are two levels of suite service onboard Celebrity Apex. Aqua Class offers its own exclusive restaurant and Retreat Class offers a Restaurant, and two lounges, one inside and one private sun lounge.
Blu Gluten Free
This restaurant is exclusively available to Aqua Class guests. From looking at the menu outside the restaurant for guests to view during the daytime, there were no markings for gluten-free options or crew members available to ask, so I can’t say for sure how easy it would be to dine here gluten-free.
However, given that Aqua Class is a curated wellness level of service onboard, I would expect the crew to offer the ability to tailor menu choices for gluten-free guests.
Luminae Gluten Free
This restaurant is exclusively available to Retreat Class and Suite Class guests. Similar to Blu, there were no markings on the menu. As part of our Retreat tour, we spoke to the Retreat manager, who informed us that your waiter will inform you about the gluten-free options each evening.
Furthermore, you can also make specific requests and receive personalized service when dining in Retreat class and Luminae.
Retreat Lounge and Retreat Sun Deck
Both spaces offered their own snack and drinks services; once again, items aren’t specifically marked as gluten-free, but we were advised that the service team looking after these spaces can suggest alternatives and offer alternatives if desired.
Summary of Celebrity Apex Gluten Free
For my next Celebrity Cruise Apex experience, I would probably choose to stick to one main dining room and fixed seating time to keep the same waiter and table throughout the cruise.
This traditional approach makes it easier for the waiting team to offer more options for gluten-free guests as they can plan ahead if they know when we will be dining. It’s unfortunate that this is still necessary, but given the nature of how main dining rooms prepare food on a mass scale, cruise lines operate best when sticking to this approach.
From my conversations with the crew, if I were staying in Aqua or Retreat class, I wouldn’t be as concerned about quickly becoming bored about the limited options in the main dining rooms as the is more scope for dining off the menu in these levels.
Celebrity Cruises is at the top of my list for traditional style cruising when it comes to gluten-free dining; they were very aware of their menus and could make suggestions. However, much like most mainstream cruises, the concern still stands that I would be offered similar food all sailing unless we choose to mix it up and dine speciality or in the buffet some evenings, but that is an issue with most cruise lines and the way main dining rooms are built to function.