Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gluten Free Cruising

We boarded the Pride of America on Saturday, after our day at Pearl Harbor.  We wouldn't be eating with all 45 people again for a few days, but we still had a large group.  The eight of us (my brother's family and mine) usually ate together, and we were often joined by Mom and the others in our immediate family. On board the ship, finding seating for a big group was not usually a problem.  Finding gluten free choices was another story.

When we arrived in our stateroom, there was a letter waiting for us that said they knew we had a dietary restriction and asked us to call the Dietary Needs Manager.  I called and spoke to him, and he basically told me to ask to see the chef in each restaurant and to remember that the menu changes daily, so the ingredients one day might not be the same as the next, so we need to see the chef before every meal.

This is what I do anyway, so I'm not entirely sure a "Dietary Needs Manager" is much of a benefit.  My travel agent had spoken with someone from the cruise line that promised we could get a gluten free box lunch to take to shore with us.  The DNM didn't know anything about that, but said he would look into it and get back to me.  He never did.

Our first dinner on the ship was at the Aloha Buffet.  The non-gluten challenged people just started helping themselves, but Mom and I had to flag down someone to take us through the buffet.  We were very lucky in that the first person I grabbed turned out to be the Executive Chef in charge of all the restaurants on deck 11.  He was very helpful and took us through the buffet himself.  Mom and I got lamb and beef from the carving station.  I had asparagus and mashed potatoes.  Suprisingly, the broccoli was not safe, as it had a butter sauce that contained wheat.  I would probably have assumed that was safe, so I'm glad he was there to steer me clear.    The food was good, standard buffet fare.  Not extraordinary, but nice and relatively fast.

Breakfast the following morning, however, was a different story.  The fellow from last night was not on duty yet.  He had instructed us to find someone with black buttons, if we couldn't find him.  These are the chefs (as opposed to the cooks or servers).  The lady I found was not particularly knowledgable, so she went to go get answers for me.  I stood around for quite some time before she came back and told me what I could eat.  I had scrambled eggs and a grilled tomato, as well as some skillet potatoes.  The hash browns, the bacon, and the sausage contained gluten, though, so those were off the menu.  She also brought me some gluten free blueberry muffins.  The problem was, as she explained to me, that she didn't have a gluten free oven to warm them in, so she tried heating them under the lobster broiler.  Creative, but not particularly effective as the were warm on the top and cold on the bottom.  She also said she had GF bagels and toast.

Rather than endure that long wait again, I decided I would just eat the same thing every morning, but two days later I showed up to get my grilled tomatoes, and they had bread crumbs on them.  Just as the Dietary Needs Manager warned, they had changed the menu items. (Note: Mom says that she was told that the tomatoes had panko crumbs, so it may just have been that I got incorrect information, not that it changed.)

One of the best parts of breakfast on the ship was the fresh fruit.  The pineapple and watermellon were both Maui grown and were sweet and delicious. 


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