Posts Tagged Panama

Gluten-Free Princess Cruise to Panama

    Once again Don and I were off on a cruise. Don’s sister, Pat, flew in from Maine to meet us at the ship terminal in Fort Lauderdale where we were to board the Island Princess for our ten day trip. This meant airline travel and it was my first experience in coach on a 737 with seats jammed six across each row. I am not a large person but this experience was extremely claustrophobic. We are strategizing for our trip to visit Pat and other family in New England later this year. So far it will involve a Kindle pre-loaded with a lot of books and Dramamine which will give me several hours of total unconsciousness.

    Again I tried to prepare for gluten-free travel. It was not one of my better efforts. Success on previous travel left me overly confidant. Basically I had a Larabar for every day of travel plus some of my flax meal biscuits for bread-type carbs. I started the trip with a hearty breakfast of Giant Upside-Down Apple Pancake  that I had saved from recipe testing for Ricki at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs plus an almond milk latte and that sustained me all through the morning.

   A surprise dining bright spot was the one hour layover at Dallas-Fort Worth airport. At the Au Bon Pain Deli I found a nice little boxed salad with ultra-fresh veggies and four small rolls of ham with a savory cheese filling plus a Black Cherry Dragonfruit SOBE life water beverage. It was satisfying without bogging down the digestive system.

   We met up with Pat at the ship terminal and once aboard we all headed to the Horizon buffet for a snack. Fruit and a slice of cheese would get me through safety drills, setting sail and planning our activities. It was at dinner and asking questions of the Horizon staff that I discovered that gluten-free was only guaranteed in the Bordeaux dining room. Line server asked someone else who fetched the chef who called his supervisor. No one spoke fluent gluten-free.

   We tried the Bordeaux at noon the following day. The menu is published each afternoon at four o’clock for the next day. You are supposed to negotiate your gluten-free meals for the next day from that menu. While the impromptu meal they served me was totally delicious and artistically presented I was not pleased and neither was Don. Pat was OK with the dining room option. She is such a happy person by nature that there is not much that she cannot deal with. While ‘anytime’ dining was the option in that dining room it was much more formal, white tablecloths, ordering from a menu selection (the day before for me), someone else putting your food on your plate and then several waiters hovering, refilling your beverage every few sips, and asking ‘is everything is all right?’. We did not plan to do that.

   Ships that traverse the Panama Canal have a size restriction. Most of them squeak by with only inches to spare. The ship sides are constantly repainted to repair the damage caused by scraping the canal walls while passing through. With a smaller ship there are fewer facilities and amenities as well as passengers. And so it was with the galleys and chefs.

   And then there was the weather. In Costa Rico we were advised that they do not have seasons as we know them but there are seasonal variations in wind and rainfall. The Caribbean was smooth by most standards except that of my own personal gyroscope. Most of the time it was marginally queasy but a couple of days were mostly sea sick. This limited my interest in eating at all and when I did it was mostly the very plainest and safest options. Fried rice with steamed vegetables with small selections of anything that was plainly prepared sustained me. Some prepared salads met that criterion as did the build-it-yourself salad bar. The vinaigrette dressings were creamy in appearance so I avoided them and chose a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and Pepitas to add flavor. For dessert I tried an individual baked flan that was not at all tender with a thin syrup layer on the bottom. Everything else was cookies, cakes, pies, and tortes.

   All-in-all the buffet food on this trip was disappointing for me after last year’s trip on the Ruby Princess. Don and Pat enjoyed themselves and by walking the decks for several miles every day managed to only gain a couple of pounds. I was a bed and/or balcony slug and lost a pound.

   On the balcony we read, planned excursions, and chatted while watching for flying fish. During one of those times we spotted a sea turtle swimming off to the side of the ship. We were not quick enough to get a picture. Instead we came home with a sea turtle image from the clay works in Jamaica as one of our trip souvenirs.

Wassi Arts Sea Turtle

Wassi Arts Sea Turtle

   We managed several shore excursions and several of those were outstanding. The butterfly farm in Aruba is simply a delight. Don and Pat were all over taking pictures while I wandered around in awe at the beautiful butterflies everywhere. The banana plantation tour in Costa Rico was a university level education in local topography, wildlife, vegetation, transportation, business planning and earth friendly processes thought out in detail. All of that was packed into a 3.5 hour excursion by bus. In Jamaica we visited at Wassi Arts pottery works where nothing is automated. Their clay is delivered as burlap sacks of dry stick and rock contaminated clods about the size of softballs. Outside on a terrace the clods are soaked, pounded in barrels, strained through about a 15” sieve, and poured into cement troughs for evaporation to reach a workable consistency. The troughs must be covered when it rains.

   It really was a wonder filled getaway in spite of my grumpy comments. Don and Pat are great companions for me and each other. And I do look forward to visiting with Pat as well as my family later this year. At least it will be on land once we arrive.



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