Travelling with Food Allergies/Intolerance: Cruising; Part Two

Of course these weren't allergy friendly, but I loved the little leaning towers 'drawn' with chocolate!

Read about the beginning of our cruise here, in case you missed it.

The second morning of our cruise, I woke up feeling hopeful. I had read so many encouraging things online about decadent, gluten free chocolate desserts, and about specially prepared meals and assigned chefs. How could it not improve! My experience wasn't quite the same, but I managed:

Breakfasts on Board:
We ventured down to our first breakfast on board, opting for the seated breakfast in the formal dining room. I was more confident in this choice, because I knew I'd have a designated waiter who could act as my go-between with a chef. Communication was rough, and I wound up simply with some scrambled eggs. I learned that first morning that it was important to ask for freshly cracked, 'real' eggs, cooked without any oil or butter. The eggs in the buffet line have been re-hydrated from powder and contain more than just eggs. Fruit was readily available, and completed my meal. This actually wound up being my breakfast each morning on the ship.

Lunch on Board:
I didn't really want to mess with eating in port, and we really weren't off the ship long enough most days to necessitate stopping for lunch, so I got by with snack bars {LARABAR is my favorite! Enjoy Life Chewy Bars are also awesome!} and then we headed to the Windjammer for a late lunch each day. On the second day, I did manage to talk a sweet chef into cooking me some chicken. He made a heaping plate of grilled chicken! I was thrilled, and eagerly took the extras with me to our room, planning to stash it in our mini fridge to get me through the next couple of days. Unfortunately, the water and soda in the mini fridge was barely cool, and there wasn't an option to change the temperature setting. I wasn't eager for a bout of salmonella, so I let my precious chicken go. For the remaining days, I found that I simply didn't have the mental energy to beg for specially made meals. I filled up each day with salads and steamed rice.

Dinner on Board:
Dinner improved slowly. Every night, after dinner, our head waiter visited with a copy of the menu for the next night. Together, we discussed the choices, and I suggested alternatives/asked the important questions. What stood out to me most in planning was the lack of chef presence. If I had been able to speak to a chef personally, or had someone been 'assigned' to me, I think I would have felt more understood and taken care of. What stood out most about the food itself was a lack of flavor. I was asked to provide my dietary considerations 90 days in advance, so I was a bit stunned to find that they simply prepared bland, watered-down versions of the normal menu choices and that plans hadn't been made ahead of time. I found that I wondered why the early notice, if extra plans aren't made?

Anyway, the following nights looked like this:

Night Two: Beef tenderloin with steamed vegetables and a plain baked potato. I am *not* a beef eater, but decided to live dangerously and give it a go. I ate a couple of bites, but quickly remembered why you'll never find beef in our fridge.

Night Three: Vegan Indian curry dish with rice. This was by far my favorite! The flavor was excellent, and the meal was something I would have chosen to order even if dietary restrictions didn't exist.

Night Four: Herb crusted chicken with a plain baked potato. The chicken on this night was yummy! A bit dry, but again, that's a personal problem. I felt 'normal' on this night, when I received chicken that looked like what others were having. Sure would have loved a bit of Earth Balance for that potato, though.

Night Five: I skipped dinner. This was our day at sea, and I unfortunately woke up with a nasty... something. Croupy sounding cough, a high fever, and an achy body. I was so thankful for that day at sea and a chance to sleep off the crud.

Every night, I was offered a fruit plate for dessert. The fruit was beautiful, and really tasted great. I'm a dessert girl though, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit sad about this part. Certainly not the end of the world, though. I had packed a bag of Enjoy Life chocolate chunks in my luggage, and usually grabbed a handful of those each evening before we headed off to a show.

Snacks on Board:
This was an area where I would have failed miserably had I not planned ahead. Cruising is a funny thing, in that your schedule shifts, and you find yourself up late after a show, craving a sweet treat or a slice of pizza. For your average cruiser, this is no problem. The promenade featured an ice cream shop, cupcake shop, pizza and salad bar, and several other tempting places to sit down and snack. Unfortunately, there were literally no safe choices for me 'after hours,' and so I was left to my own devices. One night, I searched high and low for a banana, finally found one, and then sat in our room topping bites of banana with Justin's Peanut Butter and Udi's granola. I was so thankful to have packed those things! I also made countless cups of hot peppermint tea. Hot water for tea, coffee, and water are always available on board.

I included the following in my checked luggage, and used up at least some of everything:

Enjoy Life Chewy Bars
Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks
Udi's Granola
Justin's Nut Butters {more of those individual packets!}
Individual serving size almond milk {asked at the cafe one morning, and they used my almond milk to make me an iced chai tea!}

Wrapping all of this up, I want to explain that I didn't expect a special red carpet for me and my needs. The staff at Royal Caribbean International are probably so completely overwhelmed with each new set of guests, that providing extra for everyone who needs it would just be... well, crazy. I won't lie--I was a bit bummed that my 90-days advanced notice seemed not to matter, and I'll also say that I no longer look at cruising quite the same. {Not that I look at anything the same as 'before!'} I am, however, incredibly thankful for those on board who helped me and who patiently listened to my barrage of questions each day.

And, finally, if you're considering travelling overseas without the cruising aspect, have no fear! Had we been staying on dry land, I still would have taken along the same snacks and supplements from home. Once we had checked in to our hotel {I would have booked one with a fridge in the room}, I would have ventured out to a market to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, and whatever else I might have found.

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  1. It's too bad you didn't venture out for food on dry land. Especially in Italy where they have a much broader knowledge of Celiacs and other dietary restrictions. Ordering senza glutine (or just tell them "Io ho celiaco" (I have celiacs)) is pretty easy. And I'm guessing it wouldn't be too difficult to add senza latteria (no dairy) to your requests. And I don't remember seeing any soy oils anywhere when we were last in Italy... just lots of scrumptious olive oil!! So antipasto and salads should totally be safe.

    Have you tried to eat butter and hard cheeses like Parmesan? Everything I read says that most people w/dairy intolerances actually tolerate butter and hard cheeses quite well because they are both virtually lactose and whey free and casein allergies are really quite rare. I've also read that most people initially dx'd w/gluten intolerance also seem to have a diary intolerance but that it clears itself up for the majority after being gluten free for a year. In other words, giving the gut time to heal allows most to reintroduce other offending foods w/out issue.

  2. Given more time, I would have definitely tried to eat more on dry land. For that reason, I wish we'd simply flown to, say, Italy, and had stayed in one area. It would have been fun to be more adventurous! {Maybe next time?! :) } You'll see some pictures probably tomorrow of gluten free goodies I spotted in a market right near Trevi fountain, and you're right--soy is very uncommon over there.

    I also have not tried butter or hard cheeses. Partially because I'm a pretty "all or nothing" kind of person, and for me, it's easier to simply eliminate it all. Granted, that's definitely a personal choice!


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