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Well, That Was Miserable

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 08:08 AM

I just got back from a trip, and I'm not sure what all I should do about the experience - but I DO know I need to do something, because this was just beyond the pale.

My husband received a "mandatory corporate award" from his company, which boiled down to 2000 employees all stuck on a boat for 5 days being grateful for the company telling them they are spiffy workers. Usual corporate life stuff.

Royal Caribbean was the cruise line. I filled out their little forms online detailing my food allergies and celiac (they say no problem at ALL in handling it). My wonderful husband? The moment we got onto the boat, he hoofed it down to Guest Relations to make sure everything was hunky-dory and was told "No problem, just talk to the chefs at meal time."

Meal time rolls around, the boat has pushed off from the dock, and......


BIG problem.

Actually... problem(s) - plural.

Not a d$%med thing on the ship to eat. Not safely. Breakfasts and lunches? Buffet-style. Potatoes - rolled in wheat flour "just to crisp it up... but you can scrape off the outside, right?" and same with the sausages. Fruit... sure. Too bad it's next to the toast - and covered in crumbs. (If you ask for something cut fresh, they smiled... and walked straight back to the buffet you just bypassed and pick up the fruit from the same area.)

Day 2 - A very sweet girl happily announces at the buffet table that of course she knows what celiac is, and how I can't have gluten. NO PROBLEM. She will walk me around the buffet and show me what I can have.

(Now, to be fair - I should explain, I'm also allergic to shellfish, bananas, treenuts & eggs. But all that was on the form, filled out, and told in advance - no problem. Except, as you might be able to guess by now.... problem.)

She pulled me to station after station - talking to her coworkers. No luck at the carvery - they buy everything on the corporate cruises premarinated and seasoned. And crusted. On to the salads... where I nearly got my hand smacked when she saw the croutons in the lettuce and the pasta salad mixing into the olives. "No, no. Will make you sick." I was told. Her shoulders starting to slump, she perked up at the Asian station. "Here. Here no problem, I'm sure. Cornstarch to thicken, no problem!" she chirped. Just about to load up my plate for me... she spoke to the coworker stationed there "Celiac" pointing at me. "Can't have wheat - this is all fine, yes?"

I'm not sure who was closer to crying when he shook his head and said "No! Can't eat THIS!"

As she led me (empty plate in hand) back to my husband and I's table... she told me "They make and sell gluten free pastas and breads - if you want to buy and bring them on board - along with gluten free flours, and other ingredients... we'd be happy to cook it for you!"

Ummm... not sure about all of ya'll, but I don't have the number of an air-delivery grocery service in my cell phone. And if I did, I don't have the $$$ to PAY for that!

Next day? My husband tried for me - he was cheerfully told "Hope she likes salad!" by the chef.

The one attempt at the sit down dinner? Even though I told the maitre de about the celiac and the shellfish - to the table comes a crusted steak... covered in shrimp. When I refused the plate - he turned around, plucked the shrimp OFF the plate, and handed it back to me.

~headdesk~ You Can't DO that! Gluten will make me sick but shellfish? That allergy can KILL someone!

Five blasted days. I had a single yogurt (in a sealed tub) and a small carton of semi-frozen skim milk. Some lettuce leaves, shredded carrots, and pineapple. (All CC'd. Got a lovely rash and sick as a dog - but it was in the 90's, 10+ UV, and HUMID. I had to have something, even if it WAS going to make me sick.) That's it. Total. Private island owned by the ship - they brought the food off the boat so it was all the same deal. The one day we stopped in Key West - it was in a private section and other than bar food - not a grocery store or meal to be found.

I'm sick. I'm tired. And I know Danged well (and if I wasn't trying like... heck to remember I'm on an open and family-friendly website, the language would be a LOT... firmer.) I wasn't the only one. I saw parents trying to find food for little kids with peanut allergies - all got met with a shrug and a "If you can't tell by looking, don't eat it." Folks with shellfish issues trying to figure out what "May contain seafood" meant on a sign.

Royal Caribbean (majesty of the sea, to be exact) rents out their two oldest and crappiest ships to the corporate world. On the public excursions - apparently they rock when dealing with this. On the corporate deals? They are floating... crap. My husband's company is pissed - we kept running into VP's who cheerily asked if we were having a wonderful time, and by day three neither my husband nor I were too into worrying about playing politics - so folks got an earful. To my ever-growing relief, instead of being annoyed WE weren't smiling, they were angry on our behalf. (One health-food junkie was angrier than I was! We had spoken on the bus ride in about different health issues, had talked about how we both had been getting healthier and losing weight, and I had told both he and his wife what a huge and wonderful difference in my life knowing about celiac had made. When I had to admit that the grand caloric amount I had managed that day - after 3 hours of snorkeling in the ocean.... cut short when I blacked out from heat stroke/hunger/cc - was a piece of pineapple and that I had found a candybar in the general store... eeesh. The last time I felt like THAT was when my mom found out in college I was dieting by living on diet Mt Dew and caffeine pills! He was.... not amused.)

I really am not sure what to do. The experience was MISERABLE. I'm sick and worn out - going 5 days without eating anything really, being CC'd, all while traveling... not a great thing health wise. I also have fibro and a slight heart issue (usually, the latter isn't a problem in my day to day life. I have to make sure to keep hydrated, consume enough salt to keep my blood pressure high enough, but beyond that - no real problem. But after this last week? I've blacked out almost SEVEN times! Flying was fun, let me tell you!

If it had just been me, I would likely just chalk it up to "Yeah, that sucked" and forget it - but this is just.... criminal. To claim they understand the issue, to make a BIG thing of how they train their staff... and than this? Acknowledging is NOT the same as Accommodating. KNOWING that celiac exists - and than not doing a danged thing about it to a trapped audience? It's like being told in advance someone is in a wheelchair, telling them no worries, but when they get there saying "Well, yeah. We can SEE you're in a wheelchair. Definitely, that's a wheelchair. Still, the stairs are over there. Have fun."

I think also, the fact that they HAVE trained their staff is a huge sticking point for me. If they didn't know, if they didn't understand... that would be one thing. A miserable thing, but one thing. But knowing - and choosing to willfully ignore it after? If you decide to not bother to check the boat and miss the hole and it sinks - that's bad. But KNOWING there is a huge hole in the boat and sail anyway.... is worse.

I know I need to write to the cruiseline. (I also know it's likely not gonna do jack - my husband's company bought the tickets and will be taking money out of his paycheck to cover mine and the taxes. No refunds forthcoming.) I've spoken to my husband's company and rather doubt they will be using the line again (there were a LOT of problems on EVERY level. Not just little ol' me.) But I feel like I need to do more - the blatant disregard of serious health issues is going to HURT someone... BADLY. Drop a tiny bit of peanut into a small child's food that is allergic... you have moments to get to an epi-pen. This kind of behavior could KILL.

I never thought I would consider myself lucky to work from home and have the ability to take time and recoup and just deal with being sick. Not everyone HAS that ability. I know I'm stuck with another week or two getting my health pulled back - but what would a single parent who worked full time out of the home DO? Just suffer?

This is wrong. So very very very wrong. And I am not sure how to try and make them fix this before someone gets really hurt.

Or worse.

Sorry about the novel - it's been a looong week and I'm still a tad bit pissy! And tired. And sick. And really hoping I've managed to write at least semi-coherently, because my brain is partially melted and I'm honestly not 100% sure I'm making any sense at all.
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Diagnosed with celiac in the summer of 09 - after being sick since I was a teen with no answers. I miss "real" pasta - but its a fair trade off for getting my life BACK.

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 08:15 AM

I'm so scared to travel because of stories like this. It sounds absolutely miserable. :(

I would call and write Royal Caribbean for a refund. Your husband's company may have bought the tickets, but you are paying through the paycheck deduction. Fighting for your money back will make the point you are trying to make.
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Posted 15 June 2010 - 08:19 AM

OOOH I am SO sorry that was so awful!! That's my absolute worst fears brought to life. I would start at the top of the cruise line ladder- write a VERY strongly worded letter and detail your experiences. Give them an earful (when you feel up to it- right now recover!!).
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Diagnosed with Gluten Allergy April 2010. Family history of Celiac disease and bowel cancers. Already feeling a billion times better since going gluten free.



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Posted 15 June 2010 - 08:21 AM

Be sure to send in writing your story to their main office. Remind them that you could have been killed because of their lack of concern. And cc it to the local newspapers. A little PR might wake them up. So sorry you had such a terrible time with the food.
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1960s-had symptoms-could have been before but don't remember
1970s-told had colitis or nervous stomach-was given phenobarbital, felt great but still had symptoms
Me, dd and ds diagnosed with Lactose Intolerance
2001-had stroke because of medications I was given
June 2003-saw Chiropractor who specialized in nutrition: Celiac Disease not Lactose Intolerance, went gluten free with once in awhile cheating, off soy and dairy for about 6 months
June 2003-found excellent doctor for fibromyalgia (who has found out she has Celiac Disease)
May 2006-went gluten free with NO cheating-excellent! Made all the difference in the world



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Posted 15 June 2010 - 08:24 AM

I'm so glad you gave a heads up on this. I agree, you should have been informed prior to the trip that they could not comply with your wishes. Ignorance on their part regarding celiac disease is no excuse, you asked ahead of time and accepted their word in good faith that they could accomodate your dietary issues.

I know you don't feel like fighting right now, but when you are better you should definitely at least call this to their attention. Sounds like it could save the life of someone with allergies severe enough to kill.
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K Wylee

Gluten Intolerant, Positive test, June 2010
Casein sensitivity, Positive test, June 2010
Reactive to soy, most processed foods & preservatives, June 2010


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Posted 15 June 2010 - 08:26 AM

I'm so sorry to hear of your experience...what a nightmare. They should have forwarned you so you could bring your own food. As you stated, I've been on two cruises on RC since going gluten-free, and they were beyond accomodating. What's up with their corporate trips? Both my sister and I went together on our trips and both times the wait staff is the dining halls would wait for us to enter, signal to all the other staff that the "gluten-free girls" were in and every meal was safe and tasty. I was so impressed. I'm so not impressed by your experience. I feel so bad for you!
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2010- Gluten, Soy, Corn, Dairy, Eggs, Nut free. Sugar, non-gluten grains lite(Yes, still plenty to eat!)
2010-Doctor diagnosed me as Celiac then took diagnoses back, then said avoid gluten for life
2009 Low T3 thyroid hormone, muscle twitching and adrenal fatigue
2006- Elevated Speckled ANA. GI suggested Celiac. Started gluten-free diet, but sloppily
2005 - Thought I had wheat "allergy." Stopped eating bread, oats problem too
College years - Still vegan -sickest point in life. Every classic celiac symptom
Teenage years - Stomach pain prompted veganism -> BIG mistake!
Child - Awful gas, D, C. Chronic infections, appendix and tonsils removed



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Posted 15 June 2010 - 08:26 AM

I think companies that expect the employees to bring family to things are extremely intrusive. My hubs company used to try this. I had babies at that time and didn't want to leave them to go to a boring work event. Fortunately, others felt this way and hub has gotten high enough in company to not require it of his employees.

Do you have a friend that is a lawyer? Doesn't matter what kind, not going to really sue at this point. If you can get her to help you with a letter on lawyer letterhead. You need some to the cruise line. Send to every department head you can think of. You also need one to the husbands company. By requiring your hub to bring his family and not able to provide a safe environment, they are negligent. If they had sent you to a country that is known for kidnapping Americans and didn't provide security, they would be liable.

Maybe the company will realize that employees would rather have the money as a bonus. This is probably a big company, should definitely go to Human Resources. Maybe the press if no one responds.

I am so pissed for you. Will run this by hub later. If he has any thoughts, will let you know.
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Posted 15 June 2010 - 09:14 AM

Wow, total bait and switch! I'm so sorry you had to endure that.

Go to the top. Write to the head honchos. Do it soon while it's all fresh in your mind and make sure to cite specific details. If you have anything in writing from your correspondence before the trip include it. Show them they assured you that you would be safe.

CC' a newspaper or two, a news station or two, food allergy groups such as (FAAN and Celiac.com and heck, ping Elizabeth H on the View.

No one likes a squeaky wheel and in this economy no one wants bad press.
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40 year old former foodie on a quest to feel better!

-IgE to oats and rye
-Diagnosed with Colitis via endoscopy/colonoscopy Oct '10
-Following FODMAP diet since June '10, Positve SIBO test, July '10
-Diagnosed non-celiac gluten intolerant June '10 (celiac in March '10, endocsocopy in Oct '10 shows no signs of celiac)
-Osteopenia June '10
-Gluten free since July '09 & Soy free since December '09
-Dairy free since '06
-IBS & Sjogren's diagnosed '05
-RA diagnosed as a toddler



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Posted 15 June 2010 - 09:35 AM

I am not a person who usually would say this but I would contact a lawyer. You should be compensated not only for the cost of the trip but also for your pain and suffering. What they did was not excusable and should never happen to anyone else.
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Courage does not always roar, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying
"I will try again tommorrow" (Mary Anne Radmacher)

celiac 49 years - Misdiagnosed for 45
Blood tested and repeatedly negative
Diagnosed by Allergist with elimination diet and diagnosis confirmed by GI in 2002
Misdiagnoses for 15 years were IBS-D, ataxia, migraines, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, parathesias, arthritis, livedo reticularis, hairloss, premature menopause, osteoporosis, kidney damage, diverticulosis, prediabetes and ulcers, dermatitis herpeformis
All bold resoved or went into remission with proper diagnosis of Celiac November 2002
Some residual nerve damage remains as of 2006- this has continued to resolve after eliminating soy in 2007

Mother died of celiac related cancer at 56
Twin brother died as a result of autoimmune liver destruction at age 15

Children 2 with Ulcers, GERD, Depression, , 1 with DH, 1 with severe growth stunting (male adult 5 feet)both finally diagnosed Celiac through blood testing and 1 with endo 6 months after Mom

Positive to Soy and Casien also Aug 2007

Gluten Sensitivity Gene Test Aug 2007
HLA-DQB1 Molecular analysis, Allele 1 0303

HLA-DQB1 Molecular analysis, Allele 2 0303

Serologic equivalent: HLA-DQ 3,3 (Subtype 9,9)



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Posted 15 June 2010 - 09:45 AM

My gosh, how awful :( I'm so sorry you had to go through all that--if they had only been honest you could have brought things with you. Their attitude once on the ship was terrible--it's deplorable that you had to go that whole time without any real food.

I hope you feel better soon :)
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Posted 15 June 2010 - 11:13 AM

Oh, I hear you.

I don't react physically the same way as many of you do when cross contaminated- I get neuro symptoms, a bit of brain fuzz, some queasiness, and my arthritis flares instead. But I just won't do regular types of travel anymore where I am forced to depend on "others" feeding me, without packing gluten free backups, because they will either capture me in an airport with delays and they won't let you carry a lot of different food items past security, or they'll just plunk you down in the venue, consisting of a grocery store desert in a hotel situated miles from anywhere you could pick up gluten free items, and the food available for everyone else is hopelessly gluten heavy. Even though you have filled out the form that says "please specify diet restrictions." :angry: :ph34r: <_<

I was so torqued off after the last time I tried it, I said to **** with it, I'll spend $ on other things. Or do self driven travel, where you are not treated like a terrorist criminal, for wanting to have a water bottle with you to wash down all the dry, dry trail mix you are surviving on, until you get back to food choice civilization.

Oddly enough, I did run into a waitress and staff at a well know Las Vegas casino that did totally "get it" ( I don't gamble, but I was food foraging with other people, and they had dinner specials) and when she brought me my plate of really uncontaminated plain stuff, I nearly wept with joy (and boy did they get a good tip.)

You should try cross posting this on different venues besides celiac / gluten free forums.
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Posted 15 June 2010 - 12:06 PM

Your post may have done more than you realize. I have a background in Web marketing, and these days companies pay more attention to what people say about them online than anything else. They actually track messages that appear online referencing their brand name. That's because a scathing review like yours can seriously impact a company's brand.

Think about how many people are going to see this post in the next few days - hundreds. Many more will see it over years to come. This site comes up in the top results for an internet search, so anytime someone types "Royal Carribean" and "gluten free" into google, it's likely they'll read your post.

No celiac or gluten intolerant person is going to risk taking a cruise with Royal Carribean after reading your message. Considering that at least 1% of Americans have celiac and a bigger percentage are gluten intolerant, that's potentially a big group of people. Royal Carribean has now lost the income from those individuals, and also from their spouses, siblings, and children who would have accompanied them on their cruise. These same people meanwhile will be recommending some other cruise line to their friends and coworkers.


When you feel better, I'd still recommend writing to the company and requesting a refund. What a horrible ordeal!
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Posted 15 June 2010 - 03:32 PM

I emailed them but the email address on their site did not work. Or does not work for complaints.
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1960s-had symptoms-could have been before but don't remember
1970s-told had colitis or nervous stomach-was given phenobarbital, felt great but still had symptoms
Me, dd and ds diagnosed with Lactose Intolerance
2001-had stroke because of medications I was given
June 2003-saw Chiropractor who specialized in nutrition: Celiac Disease not Lactose Intolerance, went gluten free with once in awhile cheating, off soy and dairy for about 6 months
June 2003-found excellent doctor for fibromyalgia (who has found out she has Celiac Disease)
May 2006-went gluten free with NO cheating-excellent! Made all the difference in the world




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Posted 15 June 2010 - 04:06 PM

What a simply ghastly and unforgivable experience. You must certainly pursue this because a full refund is in order. I am so sorry you had to suffer through this.
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"Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted." - Albert Einstein

"Life is not weathering the storm; it is learning to dance in the rain"

"Whatever the question, the answer is always chocolate." Nigella Lawson


Caffeine free 1973
Lactose free 1990
(Mis)diagnosed IBS, fibromyalgia '80's and '90's
Diagnosed psoriatic arthritis 2004
Self-diagnosed gluten intolerant, gluten-free Nov. 2007
Soy free March 2008
Nightshade free Feb 2009
Citric acid free June 2009
Potato starch free July 2009
(Totally) corn free Nov. 2009
Legume free March 2010
Now tolerant of lactose

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 05:23 PM

This site comes up in the top results for an internet search, so anytime someone types "Royal Carribean" and "gluten free" into google, it's likely they'll read your post.

True, that. This site has so many hits daily and so many links, that Google and other engines give it a very high ranking. (BTW, that is why we have the zero-tolerance policy for self-promotion.)
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Diagnosis by biopsy of practically non-existent villi; gluten-free since July 2000.
Type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes diagnosed in March 1986
Markham, Ontario (borders on Toronto)

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