Life, LIBERTY, and the Pursuit of a Sweet Vacation – Pre-Cruise.

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Its the saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, how about a good mixed drink?

I made some pretty good friends when I cruised on Carnival Splendor last fall. Many of us very much like cruise vacations, so it was natural that at some point we’d try to have a go at another get-together for a good time on another ship. Sure enough some decided on the 11/1/15 sailing of the then, Carnival Valor (before the ship was switched to Carnival Liberty). The itinerary was the same that I had sailed on Valor in 2013. Embarking in San Juan, St. Thomas, a day at sea, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten, before returning to San Juan. Once the ship was switched to Liberty for that date, I was a lot more interested. Liberty was not only the first ship I sailed on, but also had the great 2.0 upgrades that include the fan-favorite Guy’s Burgers, and Blue Iguana Cantina. Sign me up!

As much as I wanted to go, I had an issue and it was that I really needed to do it on the cheap. My family and I were planning to book a cruise for my mom’s retirement and I wanted to set my cash aside for that cruise. On top of that, both the itinerary and ship I had sailed before. I usually try to cruise on ships I haven’t seen or ports I have not set foot on. I really lucked out. Amberly and Stacy (two that I had cruised with before on Carnival Splendor) reached out to me to let me know they would be cool sharing a cabin. The total for me being just over $500, including pre-paid tips. Sure! The other shoe that would need to drop would be flights. Fortunately, because I fly JetBlue very often, I had earned enough points to use for one free flight. Awesome! I purchased the return flight for $208. Travel insurance was inexpensive as well at less than $70 through AIG for their top-end plan. Good to go!.. Right? Ehh, not so much.

In late Spring I started developing digestive issues. I started to find that many foods began to disagree badly with me. Things I had been able to eat in copious amounts previously. I also started experiencing awkward pains in my abdomen, fatigue, bloating, and irregularity (if you catch my drift). “Great! What’s wrong with me now?!” I had to take numerous visits to several doctors and specialists before eventually being diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Doctors believe the cause were all the antibiotics I had been taking for all the stuff that was bothering me before my cruise on Breeze earlier in the year. Antibiotics are not easy on anyone and I had taken several to get my issues then under control. Getting this diagnosis was a pretty big bummer. I consider myself a little bit of a foodie and enjoy having beer whenever I can on vacation. Especially when it’s brands I’m not able to find back home. My doctor instructed me that I would need to follow a Low-FODMAP diet.

FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols) are types of foods that are known to be difficult for your digestive system. They include anything from artificial sugars (which are bad for you anyways) garlic, apples, onions (which I hate already) to rum. They also encompass food containing gluten and lactose. What a tough spot I was going to be in! So much of my favorite foods include these so-called FODMAPs.

In the few weeks prior to the trip, I began to change my diet. Buying lactose-free milk, gluten-free bread, caffeine free coffee/teas. I stopped eating foods I loved with the mindset that I didn’t need to eat things I really loved, like a real good pizza. I could eat to sustain. I actually did feel a little better with the diet changes. I found that less-sweet wines would be good for consumption as well as most clear liquor, rum being the lone one I couldn’t have. There were some gluten-free beers available to drink. I was determined to make this trip work though and let others know how well it worked out for me.

I contacted Carnival Cruise Line to see about making making dining arrangements or what options I had. First, I contacted John Heald on his Facebook page to inquire about being assigned to a set-time, set-table for the duration of the cruise. My roommates had chosen Your Time Dining (open seating) when they booked which wouldn’t have been as easy for me to organize my meals. It wasn’t given I would not have the same wait staff each night unless I requested it (though I’d probably have wait). The cruise had both early and let set dining times wait-listed, meaning I would only be able to be seated if a slot opened. I emailed Carnival back and forth a couple times to get information and 3 days prior to the cruise, I wrote on John Heald’s Facebook page asking for the assigned dining once more (see below for information on the dining options and how to contact Carnival concerning them). I did get what I desired and I will cover that in the next post about the first day of my next cruise.

Here is one of the emails from Carnival:

Dear Sean Odonoghue,

Thank you for contacting us about your cruise aboard the CARNIVAL LIBERTY.
We have made the necessary notation on your reservation, therefore your Maitre ‘d and wait staff will be aware of your dietary needs prior to your cruise.

‘Your Time’ open seating allows you to dine any time in the Main Dining Room between 5:45pm and 9:30pm and you are able to request any table size or waiter. Therefore the same waiter can assist throughout the cruise.

Our chef’s will make every effort possible to fulfill your requests and will gladly prepare freshly made options that meet your dietary needs. However, you will need to make arrangements in advance with your headwaiter and hostess. Once onboard, we ask you speak with them so they can assist in planning your daily meals in the dining room. This will allow us the necessary time to prepare foods, as requested, in a timely manner.

Additionally, we have available gluten free bread for deli sandwiches, hamburger buns for burgers, and cake upon request. Plus, our ice-cream and yogurt are Gluten-free and we offer Gluten-free pizza at the Pizzeria, as well as, Gluten free pasta on the pasta bar (only available on the Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Sunshine). However, please keep in mind that sandwiches, burgers, and pizza are prepared fresh upon request. Therefore, they may take a little longer than regular menu items. We ask for your patience while we prepare your requested dish. We’d also like to mention we carry Gluten-free beer, Estrella Daura for your enjoyment.

Our dining staff is knowledgeable and can confidently answer any questions regarding a specific menu item. Please feel free to discuss with them your specific needs so you can determine what you can or cannot eat.

We look forward to providing you a FUN and memorable cruise vacation. See you on board!

Sincerely,
Guest Access Support
Carnival Cruise Line | 3655 NW 87th Avenue | Miami, FL 33178 |
800-438-6744
iCare@carnival.com

If you (kindly) ask John Heald on his Facebook page, he and his team will likely be able to help you as well. This is how I wound up being able to have my preferred seating in the main dining room.

With my apprehension about the diet issues, and how much fun I’d be able to have, I spent my Halloween night packing for my morning flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was excited about seeing my friends again and revisiting the great ports on an equally as great ship. Bumpy start, be damned! I was going to have my vacation and enjoy it!

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