Cruising – Eating so well you could sink a ship!

Readers of my blog will know that I love to travel and that is why I love cruises so much. Unpack in one room and yet get to see so many different, wonderful places in one holiday. Plus, the food and service is amazing.

I’ve been on a few cruises since being diagnosed with dietary requirements – two with Thomson and one with MSC (and one prior to diagnosis also with Thomson). Although, I was catered for by both companies, Thomson offered another level of service.

Last year’s summer holiday was a Mediterranean cruise with Thomson, aboard their new ship, the TUI Discovery – and as well as my Coeliac Disease, I had my lactose free diet for them to contend with this time round. Plus, it was our daughters’ first cruise and we were due to renew our wedding vows on board.

Our travel agent Claire, at Thomas Cook, Brigg Street, Norwich made sure to make a note of my dietary requirements on our booking and as per my past experiences we were told to make sure we went to the restaurant once we were on board so that we could discuss this with the staff.

Onboard, they couldn’t be more helpful. The plan was that each morning they’d post the menus to the two waiter-service restaurants under our cabin door, I would select a top 3 dishes for each course and they would tailor one of those to suit my dietary needs. To be honest, I think every day I got my top choice (although I always tried to pick dishes that I thought could be tailored to suit), plus my family liked having an insider look into what was for tea! It helped us choose between the two on board, sit-down restaurants – 47˚ and Gallery 47 (the Italian restaurant).

On the first evening one of the senior officers came to our table to introduce himself and to let me know that he would take good care of us and oversee all my meals – Carlos. He became a very familiar face to us in the restaurant, always going out of his way to come and chat, entertain my daughters and give us hints and tips about our next ports of call, as well as making sure I was happy and well catered for. The food was delicious! This eve I could choose from the menu and they would tailor it, as I hadn’t been able to look at the menu ahead. I decided not to order a dessert – I’m not a big dessert fan and I thought I’d save them having to make something to suit (tired of the staple offering usually being fruit salad when you have 3 course meals), but they surprised me by bringing out a lovely crumble and custard.

Each day, I would select my options and which restaurant we planned to go to and dropped it in at the reception before we headed ashore. Each evening, a delicious meal awaited me. I had antipasti, bruschetta, pasta dishes, lasagne, spring rolls, steak… you name it! Lots of beautifully presented and tasting meals… and, not once did I feel like an awkward, fussy pain!

The options were there to have breakfast and lunch done in the same way, but as we were often off the ship exploring, we used the buffet restaurant most of the time. In the Islands Buffet I could always find things to have with really tasty fresh gluten free bread and naturally gluten and dairy free options such as eggs, bacon, etc. Lunches were trickier and I know I could’ve asked and had something made for me, but usually we were off the ship or I was full from breakfast or the evening before. One afternoon, I popped down to The Glass House (near the indoor pool) and the chef there was very helpful getting me a very tasty lunch. The first week The Snack Shack didn’t offer any gluten free dishes – I asked and quite helpfully they said because of the size of the prep area they had there they couldn’t caterer for allergies – but I did notice the next week, when the ship seemed busier, they did have ‘free from’, pre-prepared and boxed-up salads.

To celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary we had our vow renewal on the bridge with the captain. The whole day was amazing and we were treated like royalty. To top it off, I was pleasantly surprised when they said they could make the chocolate cake gluten and dairy free and the canapés, too – and boy were they delicious. The cake was the best I have ever tasted! Lovely moist layers with a glossy chocolate coating – and this is all from someone who isn’t a huge fan of cakes!

We didn’t just eat our way through our two-week holiday – although at times it might have felt like it and this post does certainly sound like it – the destinations were also amazing. How else can you travel to five countries and so many stunning destinations in only two weeks? It didn’t in any way feel like a whistle stop tour. We managed to fit so much in and the girls learnt and experienced an incredible amount. They can now say they’ve seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum (known to my youngest as ‘Colin the Sea Man’) in Rome, Lisbon’s famous trams, Cadiz beach as featured in James Bond’s ‘Die Another Day’, the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell in Barcelona… to name only a few of the things we saw and did.

So if you’re thinking of booking a cruise, but your allergies are holding you back, I’d say go for it. It is the best I’ve been catered for abroad. I wouldn’t hesitate to go again and recommend it to everyone I know as the best holiday in all areas! It helps my girls are now avid cruisers, too.

Notes….

We went on a two week cruise on board the TUI Discovery. Our itineraries were:

MAGIC OF SPAIN followed by HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

Flying into Palma, Majorca.

Followed by days in…

Gibraltar

Lisbon, Portugal

Cadiz, Spain

Malaga, Spain

Cartagena, Spain

Palma, Majorca

Barcelona, Spain

St Raphael, France

Livorno (we visited Pisa and Lucca), Italy

Civitavecchia (we visited Rome), Italy

Ajaccio, Corsica

Then back to Palma, Majorca to fly home.

During the two weeks we had 2 days at sea.

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