I have gathered my thoughts about my all-inclusive trip to Jamaica and I wanted to share my experience over a series of posts. Starting off with the preparation that is required…
Let me first say that I have wholeheartedly avoided going to an all-inclusive resort for the past four winters since becoming gluten free. I mean avoided it like the plague. During the past two winters in a bid to skip out on the cold, we have thought about going to the Caribbean. But after reading many horror stories of fellow gluten free travelers and seeing the price tag at the Sandals resorts where you could eat safely, I always said no. Neither situation seemed worth it to me.
So this winter I once again found myself in the same conundrum, wanting desperately to escape the negative 30 degree weather but not wanting to spend $5,000 on a one week trip when I’d rather go backpacking for a few weeks instead. Then suddenly in the span of less than 24 hours there we were booking an all-inclusive trip to Jamaica. Looking back I am so glad we took the plunge. We went to the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica. My parents and friends have both gone there before to rave reviews. When my parents went two years ago they said the resort offered gluten free menus at the a la carte restaurants. I even found a couple references in an online review board that people with Celiac Disease were able to eat there safely. Plus, in talking with travel agents they said the company is known for being able to accommodate people with food allergies and sensitivities so they thought I would be OK. It sounded promising. Still I was scared.
I called the resort’s Guest Relations in advance to find out what services they provide to guests with food allergies. They assured me that they have catered to many different food allergies and intolerances. They also advised that when I arrive at the resort the Food and Beverage Manager would speak with me. He/She would be able to explain what my gluten free options would be, as well as provide me with an allergy card that I could carry around to show the chefs and kitchen staff. Then after asking the Guest Relations rep a string of thrown together questions that must have sounded like “I can’t eat at a buffet, can the chef make me a plate of fruit before bringing it out to the buffet? Are the drinks safe? Do you want me to bring my own pasta, would you cook it? Should I bring anything else with me or do anything else?” the lady on the other end of the phone politely laughed at me and said, “don’t worry so much we have done this before. Just come here and relax!”
Relax. OK. Easier said than done. I figured at this point I had researched as much as I could given the very little information online and instead relied on the positive reviews of my parents who said the staff were lovely and would be happy to help. After speaking with Guest Relations I felt more optimistic since it really did sound like they had done this before.
To help alleviate some of the worry that I still had, I packed a lot of snack foods with me to ensure that I did not go hungry. Some of the essentials I brought that I would also recommend to other people travelling gluten free are:
- Glutenfreeda’s Instant Oatmeal
- Attune Food’s Erewhon Strawberry Crisp Cereal
- Peanut butter and crackers
- Lara bars
- Homemade trail mix
- Chocolate bars
- Pepperoni sticks
- Wraps (to fill with tomatoes, veggies and cheese)
- Olive Oil – In all honesty the small container of olive oil that I brought was one of the best things I packed with me (thanks for the idea Mom). I am skeptical of almost all dressings since many contain soy or gums. So using my olive oil to top caprese salads, bean and tomato salads, and chef salads was great and tasted much better than the lower quality olive oil they had.
- Homemade goodies – peanut butter energy bites, chocolate chip cookies and a few frozen banana walnut muffins. I took all my homemade treats carry-on and then stored them in the mini-fridge in our room. Both the energy bites and the cookies (which magically get better over time), stayed well in the fridge for several days. It’s no wonder that these turned out to be my favourite snacks while I was there and I am so happy that I brought them. Sometimes all you want is a cookie on your walk to the beach!
It’s funny that people choose to go to all-inclusive resorts because they are easy and involve no thinking or planning, everything is done and included for you. Long gone are those days. For this trip to Jamaica I had to do a lot of planing and preparing before and during this trip to ensure that I could eat safely and not go hungry. All-inclusive trips aren’t my cup of tea. I’d much prefer to be off exploring on my own time and agenda, finding a little known beach where it is not crowded and rarely a tourist in sight. But I tell you, at that point in time all I wanted was a nice little escape from the cold weather and work. So a relaxing week on the beach fit perfectly.