Tuesday, May 24, 2011
In all fairness, the first meal wasn’t bad. Crab Louie served in an avocado shell, a non-descript baked salmon served with boiled potatoes, carrots, and asparagus, and Crème Brulee. After dinner, though, I lit straight away to Guest Services to inquire about my family’s gluten-free meals. The special dietary requests were in the system. So, according to the clerk, there was nothing else I needed to do. Except, perhaps, leave a comment. Which I did: The dining room staff needs to be enlightened about gluten-free meals.
The next day dawned with choppy seas and an overcast sky. Intent on finding my sea legs and a clear mind during our first full day on the water, I headed to a morning yoga class in the fitness center, first passing through the Oceanview Café to grab a plain yogurt and a banana to sustain me until brunch.
Eating from a buffet is always a little risky for people with celiac - a fact confirmed for me when I spied a fellow passenger at the brunch buffet holding a swan-shaped cream puff over an enormous fruit-filled table while someone took her picture. OK, so no fruit for me this morning, I thought. Fortunately, the chef was attuned to the intricacies of the gluten-free diet, and after pointing out safe food at the buffet tables, he went back to the kitchen to prepare a fresh plate for me. It was still rather plain - grilled salmon, potatoes, steamed vegetables, eggs, and bacon – and it was disappointing not to be offered a gluten-free swan-shaped cream puff – but it was still more than I could eat.
Guest Services was one level down from Cellar Masters, so it seemed logical to stop there again to follow up on my comments from the previous evening. The initial response was the same we’d received before. Yes, they had our gluten-free requests. Yes, they had my remarks. Yes, they should be able to accommodate us. So why, I wanted to know, didn’t anyone in the dining room know anything about it? And, why were we not offered an assortment of fancy foods on par with what other guests were eating, especially when Celebrity claimed it could provide for special diets? That’s when the phone got picked up and a call made to the head of the dining room. The answer: we could have anything we wanted, but because it was nearly time for our 6:00 p.m. dinner seating, the choices that night still might be narrow.
All too soon, though, we were herded back on the tour bus and deposited in George Town Harbor with ample time to shop for souvenir t-shirts, sunglasses, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and Rolex watches. Shopping in the various ports was not a draw for us, but for some folks it is a cruise highlight. There was even a “Port and Shopping Talk” onboard the ship the previous day that resembled something from the QVC Shopping Channel.
I was more interested in getting back to the ship for dinner! A light meal of fruit salad, potato leek vichyssoise, and seafood risotto was just what I’d ordered and delicious. Still, when it came time for dessert, I felt my choices were pitifully mundane - either another Crème Brulee or another sorbet. “Do you have any other gluten-free desserts?” I asked Alex, the dining room manager who oversaw all of the restaurant’s assistant maitre d’s and who was responsible for finally getting our gluten-free meals squared away. “Sure,” he replied. “Would you like a chocolate mousse cake tomorrow night?” Answering enthusiastically that I’d love to have something decadent for dessert, I still couldn’t help brooding about having to ask for it rather than be offered it, especially when there were four of us with celiac disease at the table. So then I asked, “What about gluten-free pasta? Do you have that as well?” “Sure,” said Alex. “Do you want pasta tomorrow night?” It seemed the ship could sail to Gluten-free land, as long as I steered.
Our sunny morning was followed by a sunny afternoon at Chankanaab National Park (Parque Chankanaab) where we snorkeled, relaxed on the beach, and had lunch at Laguna Grill. Carefully explaining our “wheat allergy” to the waiter who spoke fluent English, my mother, sister, and I shared chicken fajitas with corn tortillas, fish tacos, and fresh guacamole. From there, we took a taxi to the main shopping area in San Miguel.
Cozumel seems to have been affected negatively by the downturn in the American economy; it was not at all like the energetic encounter I remembered from a previous trip several years ago when American tourists spent their dollars more freely. At mid-afternoon on this trip, many shopkeepers still hadn’t made their first sale of the day, and several asked us why the Americans didn’t come any more. Naturally thrifty ourselves, we nevertheless tried to spread a little sunshine, purchasing a Mayan mask, silver bracelets, and the ubiquitous t-shirts. One owner was so happy that he insisted his wife take a picture of us with him while we all posed wearing floppy Mexican sombreros on our heads. Of course, he then tried to sell us those hats. We left smiling and shaking hands, but without the hats.
Dinner that night was also bright. Melon Midori for an appetizer, Red & Green Salad with Bacon, a vegetarian Vietnamese Yellow Curry, and the promised gluten-free chocolate mousse cake. Then the star treatment began. Would we like GF pancakes for breakfast? What time did we want to eat? How about another chocolate mousse cake the following night?