Monday, February 17, 2014

Dis-glutened Dining Aboard the Carnival Magic

(Again, we will ignore the gaping chasm between posts.)

My first cruise! Thanks to The Sandifers, The Carnival Magic was our home for one week. A Christmas present, we enjoyed seven days of unwrapping chocolate on our pillows, picking and choosing from a full line up of activities, and a 24 hour, floating feast. My favorite was the fitness center overlooking the bow, and the sauna, and the hammocks, the hot tubs, water slides, arcade, daily trivia contests, karaoke, dance club and endless lounge chairs. When they weren't wet from the nonstop winter rains, I'd choose an isolated seat, take in the horizon, write, nurse a cocktail or play my ukelele. In search of a deserted deck to strum on, I ran into a dude playing his recorder, which, for all the world, I couldn't help but snicker at.

In addition to all the on-board amenities, they do of course, provide you with all the tools you need to behave like a reckless food addict, even if you're milk-free and glutarded. Though it would've been nice to see a "gluten free" or "dairy free" line on the food labels, I never went hungry. Plates the size of turkey platters, bottomless everything and 'round the clock dining never more than a elevator ride away, a cruise is the ultimate enabler. Just for waiting in line, they reward you with as many calories as you can carry, encouraging you every step of the way to soak those up with an $8 cocktail in a novelty vessel. But the real problem with seven days of  24-hour dining? The eighth day. Depending on your fridge after a week of nonstop grazing feels like a cruel joke. 

Note: The following is a "dramatization" based on the maximum dining possible.  

off the stern
A knock at your stateroom door brings your breakfast: two plates of smoked salmon with capers, tomatoes and onions, coffee and juice. The salmon. It's divine! It's gonna be a good week. Your husband's still dozing, and you're wondering about the offerings upstairs, so... Clad in your robe you shop the buffet. It has yards of  bagels, muffins, pancakes, and plenty of standard breakfast fare for the general public. Then, in a neglected corner next to the bacon, sits a sliced loaf of sad, dry, crumbly, gluten free grits & gramflour bread. Not bad! Grab a couple slices, some fruit, head back to your room and make a fabulous salmon sammy out of your husband's plate. First and second breakfast down in less than half an hour!
Not even elevenses yet and you're starving? Thankfully the breakfast buffet is still open, so you grab a few hashbrowns and an egg white omelette cooked to order. Enjoy these with some melon while you watch the waves.
The family meets up on the Lido Deck to strategize for lunch. Indian? Burgers? Pizza? Burritos? Heap a few pounds of different salads on your plate and prepare for the next meal. Who knows when it will be?
What's that, a little rumbly? Oh, no! The buffet's closed til 6?!? You could hit the deli for some fries and cole slaw but you decide to trouble the pizza guy for a gluten free pie without cheese.
This will become a troubling habit over the next 168 hours.
Get dressed, you slob! It's time to eat out in the open, with dignity. Utensils, napkins, eye contact with your peers. Each night you can choose from the static menu or the daily specials, always featuring a fish, steak, or fancy option, like escargot, oysters, filet mignon, or lobster. A chat with the host and you'll have gluten free bread, entree and dessert options the whole week.
You went hard at dinner and now you don't know if you'll be able to fit in that late night snack you've been planning on... Take a turn around the ship, burn what calories you can then stop into a bar for some trivia, or some karaoke or maybe a refreshing beverage. Before you know it, you'll be back at the pizza bar like a zombie, ready for more.

I'll spare you the indignities of the in-between times, but you get the idea. 

Day 1 Fun Day at Sea (food)

Day 2 Funner Day at Sea (food+water slides +3 hours of sun)

Day 3 We stopped in Mahogany Bay, Honduras and rode around in a van touring the slums of Roatan Island, hoping to sample some fried iguana but our guide couldn't quite make it happen. Fresh coconut water and tostones almost made amends.

Day 4 Belize! After a two hour bus ride to visit the Mayan ruins, we took in the sights then rode over to the River Wallace where we dined on rice and beans steamed in coconut milk, fried plantains and sampled local wines. Tamarind, pineapple, sorrel, blackberry... all sulfite free. We came back on board with a bottle of cashew wine, locally known as the poor man's whiskey (rumored to guarantee a second day of intoxication 24 hours after imbibing, though after thorough experimentation this proved incorrect). SO delicious, and a little reminiscent of sherry. 

Day 5 Cozumel! Some pocket Spanish delivered us by taxi to a local beach where we spent a gray day enjoying the sand, picking up coral and boozing. They really do pour tequila like water in Mexico. As it's 100% more distilled than the local tap it's probably just as well. Next time you hit San Francisco Beach in Cozumel, ask for Miguel and be sure to order the Shaky Shaky, a local favorite.

Day 6 Back out to sea en route home, the reality of Day 7 was becoming clear. We would eventually have to get off the ship, so I spent Day 6 much like Day 1 and 2 - chewing. 
Day 7 I started the morning with some simple corn flakes and soy milk in attempt to ease back in to the mundane. Vacationing certainly increased my appetite for variety, so going back to small town Texas (oh, but didn't you know I moved home?) is officially a gastronomical let-down.

Yes, I left Seattle for Austin, looking for browner pastures, higher temperatures and breakfast tacos, but that's a blog post all it's own. Post-cruise blues are in full effect, so if you need me I'm probably in the bathroom, trying to fold my towels into zoo animals.
The Disgruntled Diner


Kristina Kay said...

As usual, very entertaining and, having been on a cruise, relatable! You always have a way of making any subject sound fun and alive! Love reading your blogs!

Anonymous said...

Fun post! Good tips for traveling with diet restrictions.