Now the sleep deprived delirium of new parenthood to twins is (very) slowly starting to lift, my thoughts are turning to where their first proper overseas trip should be. Having babies (and especially twins) now means extra considerations when we travel. Just for starters: Will there be lifts on the transport system for us to get around with a double buggy or will we have to walk everywhere? Will the accommodation allow two travel cots in the room (this week’s drama)? Will the hotel/apartment even have two travel cots? And which double umbrella stroller should we buy for travelling? All on top of the usual considerations and preparations required for gluten free travel. It’s a very good job I love a challenge!
Back in the summer I received an invitation from MSC Cruises to hear about how they cater for Coeliac guests on selected ships. Just imagine waking up in a new port every day but with no packing and unpacking AND gluten free catering. Sounds good doesn’t it?
As the twins were only 6 weeks old on the day of the MSC Cruises presentation being held onboard one of their ships, on this occasion leaving two tiny babies for the day to go to Dover wasn’t an option. So instead I asked MSC Cruises a few questions, including the one which all Coeliacs going on holiday need to know…will there be (gluten free) beer on an MSC Cruise?
1. What prompted MSC Cruises to offer gluten free catering for Coeliac guests?
As a company committed to meeting the dietary requirements of all guests, MSC Cruises is constantly looking to improve its culinary offerings for those who suffer from particular illnesses, including celiac disease.
MSC Cruises has therefore been collaborating with the AIC [ed - the Italian Coeliac Association], a member of the Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS), since 2008. Since 2010, MSC has also adhered to the special ‘cruises project’ which guarantees compliance with the AIC’s safety rules and directives for gluten-free foods on board its ships.
2. What measures and training are in place to prevent cross contamination in the kitchen (and in the restaurants if there are buffet style dining options)?
MSC follows strict regulations for preparing its gluten-free menus on board. Gluten-free products are stored in special areas and at least one kitchen on each ship, managed by specially trained staff, is reserved for the preparation of gluten-free dishes.
3. How are gluten free meals identified on your menus?
We have dedicated menus for our Gluten-free meals.
On board MSC Preziosa, MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia, MSC Splendida, MSC Magnifica, MSC Orchestra, MSC Poesia and MSC Musica guests with Coeliac disease can follow a delicious gluten-free diet in each of two main restaurants.
During the summer season we offered twenty nine special menus, depending on the itinerary of the ship, from breakfast through to lunch, dinner and afternoon snacks.
4. Many Coeliacs are also unable to tolerate dairy products, do you also offer dairy and gluten free meals?
Yes, we do offer dairy and gluten free meals.
5. What does a typical day’s menu feature for your Coeliac guests?
I have attached an example of our Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Gala Menu.
6. One of the biggest attractions for me of cruising is waking up each day in a new and exciting port without having to keep packing and unpacking my suitcase. How does MSC Cruises help its Coeliac guests when they go ashore on excursions for the day? Can you offer a gluten free packed lunch?
A gluten-free lunch box for shore excursions is also available, meaning that even when exploring a port of call, guests need not worry about finding a gluten-free lunch.
7. Finally, do you stock gluten free beer on board to enjoy at the end of a fun day of sightseeing?
During the day, or for a relaxing after dinner drink, guests can head to a dedicated Bar to enjoy its special “gluten free” list of beverages, which includes a number of tempting cocktails as well as a gluten free beer and bitter
Further details on gluten free catering aboard MSC Cruises can be found on their website by clicking here.
Many thanks to MSC Cruises for the interview. I hope I’ll be able to join you again sometime soon.