Kidney Diet Tips

10 Cruise Dining Tips for a Great Vacation

Cruises are a great way to see the world while only unpacking once. I have been on many cruises and while the amenities vary at times I can assure you that you will be able to cruise and follow your renal diet if you desire. Here are some suggestions that might make your dining experience:

  1. Be Cell Phone Savvy. Use your phone to take pictures of your kidney eating guide.  If you are presented with an unusual food you can look it up on your phone and no one will be the wiser.
  2. Waiters aim to please. Your waiter can be your best friend on a cruise. This is particularly true if you take the same seating each night as the staff will be the same. Having the same wait staff should reduce the number of requests you make over time. They will often automatically know your preferences by Day 3; at least that has been my experience.
  3. Don’t let the menu fool you. The menu will have an appetizer, soup section, salad section and main course. You can mix it up, or skip sections.You can order 4 appetizer if you want. They will accommodate most requests including low salt – just ask.  You will need to know your renal diet however, as most cruises do not have dietitians overseeing the kitchen.
  4. So now that you know how you can have it your way here are some suggestions:
    • Skip the soup – its often high in sodium.  The exception is the fruit soups which would count as 2 or more fruit servings.
    • Order a high protein appetizer such as crab or shrimp cocktail (easy on the sauce).
    • Salad tends to be small.  On the last cruise I was on I estimated the salad to be 1/2 cup – 1 cup.
  5. Plain doesn’t mean tasteless. Usually the menu provides a description of the foods. Some of the courses may include cheese and other hidden items. Ask questions. When in doubt pick the food most in its original state for example steak vs. casserole.
  6. Fluids can be tricky. You may want to decide before the day starts when and how much fluid you will have at meals and in between. Let your waiter know you don’t want your water glass refilled. Free on most cruises is iced tea and lemonade.  The iced tea is usually fresh brewed, not from a mix (free of phosphate additives) and unsweetened.  My experience is that the lemonade is premixed and may contain phosphates. Soda is an additional charge and, if you prefer diet, the only choice many cruises have is diet coke. Some of the bigger ships have the soda machine that lets you make your own. Coffee and tea are free but specialty drinks are a charge. If you do choose to opt for specialty coffee I suggest an espresso for your caffeine boost in the morning – it will save you some fluid.
  7. More fluid happenings. On the big ships such as Oasis of the Seas, they have a juice bar. If you would like to juice, order the smallest size and watch it being made so you can get an estimate of how many fruits and vegetables are in it. To keep your potassium in range 5 daily low potassium fruits or vegetables are the maximum.
  8. Contact the cruise line. Some of the cruise lines will ask if you have dietary restrictions or special requests when you are making reservations. This would be an ideal time to make dietary requests.
  9. Last Day Trick. Your cruise line will tell you what time you are scheduled to walk off the boat. If it is early and you have a refrigerator in your room, order room service the night before. Cereal, rolls, small yogurts, fruit, cottage cheese, coffee (make an iced one in the morning) or anything else on the room service menu you may want. Room service does not operate the morning the cruise ends so stock up. Or visit the buffet before it closes the night before end of cruise and pick up some breakfast type foods there.
  10. Seasick?  Well I haven’t seen too much of this on the cruises I take because the boats are very stable. Leaving out of New York can get a little rough certain times of the year. Many cruises leave from Florida and I have not encountered the roughness I experienced exiting New York. If you are not sure you get seasick, pack some Dramamine®, ginger pills or other motion sickness medicine recommended by your kidney doctor. You can also ask for Dramamine at the courtesy desk but sometimes they run out there and in the gift shop. You can also purchase bands at a drug store that you wear around your wrists – these help.

Your dietary vigilance will pay off. There are temptations but also so many good choices. In most cases you have to go looking for the food so it is easy to avoid it too. The exceptions – Don’t sit near the pizza/hamburger joint on the pool deck and steer clear of that ice cream machine. Just think of how great you will feel on your excursions in those foreign ports with some diligence and a little planning. Bon Voyage!

For more eating tips while cruising read “Eating Tips for Travelers with Kidney Disease.”



Lisa Buneo, RD

Lisa Buneo, RD

Lisa Buneo (Lisa the Travelista) has been a renal registered dietitian for 14 years. She serves on Davita’s Dietitian Council where she leads the Education Committee. She is currently working with kidney patients on Staten Island. Travel is Lisa’s most enjoyable hobby. With 32 years of travel experience under her belt she enjoys sharing her travel tips and experiences at Her travel expertise lies in budget travel, cruises, USA, Caribbean and Europe.