Travelling with Food Allergies/Intolerance: In Conclusion

I wasn't really sure how I wanted to wrap up this whole series of posts, and for that reason, I've been without a plan until right now. My posts have sparked a certain amount of conversation  in various places, and I have answered a lot of questions. I'm sure others are asking the same questions, so my conclusion is going to be a bit of a Q & A. If you're wondering about something that I don't cover here, please, let me know with a comment!

Regarding MY part in making sure my needs were met on board... Royal Caribbean's Policy {here} states that you must notify staff of your needs no less than 90 days prior to an international sailing. I did that. In fact, I called more than once, and I also asked the company responsible for planning our trip to double--and triple--check that my account had been properly noted. It had.

Even with that planning, nobody was "expecting" me, and there wasn't any indication that special arrangements had been made to have specialty items on hand. Was I expecting the red carpet? Absolutely not! But something--anything--would have been helpful. I never once dreamed that a head waiter would tell me, "well, I hope you like salad!" and mean it.

Once I was on board, could I have been a better advocate for myself? Perhaps. If I were a more outspoken person, I might have been a bit more insistent during lunch time in the Windjammer, or I might have asked directly to speak with someone else in planning my dinners. I'm not saying I didn't speak up for myself at all, but maybe I needed to be even more direct.

Regarding packing additional snacks and goodies... I think I did pretty well here! I really appreciated having the variety of snack bars, granola, peanut butter packets, chocolate (!!), and almond milk on hand. If not for those things, I think I might have been a bit worse off. I lost seven pounds over the seven days we were away, even with those extra goodies and treats I had with me.

Something else I did is visible at the top of this post. The notebook you see is something that I carry around with me most of the time. I keep grocery lists and things in that book, and I used several pages to note places I wanted to visit and things. I also printed some allergy 'cards' in Spanish, French, and Italian. I cut them out and used tape to add them to the pages of my little notebook. {Print your own cards here.}

I highly recommend these! Unfortunately, I didn't really have much of an opportunity to "test" these cards. Which brings me to another point...

Regarding our choice not to find more food in port... above all else, this came down to a time factor. While cruising is an opportunity to relax and enjoy, visiting ports, well, isn't. Those who have cruised before may be familiar with the slightly rushed feeling of being in port. If you haven't cruised before, the basics are that a cruise ship docks at a very specific time. Once permission has been granted for passengers to leave the ship, there is a race to get onto land and make the most of your time. Sometime in the late afternoon or early evening, everyone must be back on board, and the ship sets sail for the next port. If you're not on board at that time, the ship will likely leave without you. Being in port is expensive, and must be well orchestrated, and there simply isn't time to wait around. But, getting back to what I was saying, we had limited time in each port, and sitting down for a restaurant meal just didn't seem to fit our schedule or list of wishes. Other factors included cost {we preferred to use our spending money on take-home goodies and experiences.}, and of course my concerns about food. I won't lie--I'm an emotional person! I was tired, and running on a shorter fuse than usual. Sitting down and trying to communicate my needs just wasn't in the cards, and I'm OK with that! Might I have found something amazing? Yes. But I'm OK with the fact that I didn't.

Regarding how I feel about Royal Caribbean International... I like cruising. I really do! This was my fourth time on board a cruise ship, and perhaps not my last. I've said if before, and I'll say again, that I was disappointed. Before we left for our trip, I did plenty of reading online. I wanted to read about what others had experienced, and get a feel for whether or not I would have an easy time. I read wonderful stories of chefs coming to the table to meet their guests and discuss their allergies, and of specially-made gluten-free desserts. Cruise lines varied, but Royal Caribbean WAS a part of what I read! I haven't had a dessert made in a 'commercial' setting in ages, and was so hopeful that my meals on board would be a raging success! So yes. I said it. I was disappointed!

But. They didn't completely leave me on my own. My previous posts mention some specially prepared things, and my dinner experiences. I greatly appreciate those people who took some extra time to help me.

What can YOU do to be more successful on a trip like this? Speak up! Ask questions, and don't back down until you're happy with the results. Pack back-ups in your luggage, because you'll very likely want them at some point. Nothing is perfect.

Regarding the trip as a whole... it was a success! I hope I haven't given the impression that I disliked every minute of our trip, because that simply isn't the truth. Yes--lots of negatives were put on display here, mostly because my main goal was to enlighten those who might find themselves in a similar situation.

I learned that our little guy can be successful and happy without his mommy and dad. He sure did miss us, and we sure did miss him, but we were all successful.

Travelling with Mal de Debarquement Syndrom is possible! I was pleasantly surprised by my general lack of symptoms. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than I expected. I'll forever be thankful for that.

And finally, the food topic. I mentioned more than once already that it wasn't a total loss, and I've meant that each time I put it out there. Advance planning was critical, but something I am more than capable of. Can you do it too? Absolutely.

So there you have it. The whole European Travel 'series.' What have I missed that you'd like to ask about? Did any of this help you? Comments? Criticism? Please use that comment feature, and let me know!

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