Welcome to my blog, through which I hope to be able to share my experiences of gluten free cooking, baking, experimenting and eating.
When my daughter was diagnosed (age 6) with Coeliac Disease, our world of eating changed overnight. From breads, pastry and pasta to cakes, biscuits and puddings.......... suddenly most of what we knew was 'off the menu'. I think I must have tested every available gluten free product on the market, seeking out replacements to try and keep things as normal as possible. I was disappointed to find that what was available was often dry, crumbly and flavourless.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to turn my kitchen into a laboratory, turn all I knew about cooking on its head and start creating!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Blog Camp On Board the MSC Preziosa with MSC Cruises


I've never been on a cruise before..... I'll be honest, cruising is not a holiday I would normally consider. I think of myself as someone who prefers to be based amongst the natives, experiencing the culture and local flavours, smells and sounds at close quarters..... But I do have an open mind on most things in life and when it comes to holidays, I am always willing to be persuaded....



So when last week I was lucky enough to join #BlogCampOnBoard and spend a day on the MSC Preziosa, courtesy of MSC Cruises and Foodies 100, I lapped up the opportunity to see what cruising might be about..... and all without getting sea-sick (we didn't actually leave Southampton Dock).


Although I have been blogging for some time now, this was my first ever blog camp, so I was very excited..... not only to spend the day on board such a beautiful cruise ship, but also to spend time with the amazing bunch of people that are bloggers.


The ship itself was huge..... I know that everyone who has ever been on a cruise ship tells you it's a floating town, but it isn't until you get on board that you really appreciate just how massive these ships are..... The MSC Preziosa has no less than 14 guest decks and accommodates more than 4,000 passengers..... That's..... well....... HUGE!



It has 20-odd bars and lounges, a range of restaurants to suit all tastes, a gym, spa, swimming pools, aqua park, whirlpools all over the place, bowling alley, jogging track, gym, 4D cinema, casino, shops and even a theatre that seats upwards of 1,500 guests...... Seriously massive.



But....... If you ever thought cruising was a holiday for the oldies (and scarily, I am not that far off), think again. When Antonio (MSC's UK Director) joined us for an afternoon Q&A, he was keen to emphasise that MSC Cruises is a family-run company with a child-friendly outlook. The Preziosa has a number of kids clubs aimed at phased age-groups from littlies right through to 17 with a massive range of activities to keep the brood entertained and out of mischief....... which must mean happy mums and dads too..... right?

                                Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises

And for those who need reassurance about who you've left your kids with (I most definitely put my hand up to that one), rest assured...... All child care staff are required to have a relevant child care qualification, references from child-related employment, current police/DBS check, undergo a comprehensive medical and have received training in safety and security. Should your child need potential EpiPen intervention whilst they are in staff care, the ship will also ensure a trained nurse is stationed in the kids club, providing you've let them know of the risk.


If you have concerns about your children being photographed, the team will work safely around this too and if any concerns are raised about other passengers taking pictures of them on board, we have been reassured this will be swiftly checked out by the on-board security team....


Phew!
Parental anxieties dealt with...... what of the decor? These ships are fancy..... truly decadent. It seems no expense has been spared and attention to detail surpasses all expectation....... I mean, look at these ..... Aren't they the most beautiful stairs you've ever seen? Filled with Swarovski crystal, they are sparkly, shiny, glamour with every beautiful step. And so they should be..... They come with an astounding price tag of £8-10K....per step that is!



Beyond the show-stopping staircases, you will find room after room of themed and eye-catching decor, but my favourite feature by far was this stunning bauble lighting that hung from the high ceilings in one of the lounges...... smooth, beautifully formed balls of clear, glass loveliness...... Perfectly photogenic.


In addition to the morning's tour and a spa hair and make-up demonstration, we were treated to lunch in one of the ship's extravagant restaurants...... As a gluten-avoider, this was perhaps the part of the day which was most worrying me. Being gluten intolerant means meals out can often raise anxiety and I always scrutinise menus for information on allergens. The delicious-looking menu we were given when we arrived was sadly not labelled and the waiters seemed more than a little unsure as to how to manage dietary enquiries from what were a number of 'intolerant' bloggers.


Being quite assertive about my food needs (it becomes a bit of a life position when you need to know the risk in what you are eating), I went in search of a boss-waiter and chanced upon a 'guy who knew'..... After a short while, he reappeared, gluten free menu in hand and advised that the ship's allergen kitchen would prepare the meal. Although the gluten free menu was limited, it was reassuring to know that the health and dietary needs of guests would be taken seriously...... and I am assured that had we been actual passengers, the restaurant team would have been attentive and willing.

Turns out that MSC has a certificate from the Bureau Veritas to provide gluten free menus on a number of their ships, including the Preziosa and will work closely with guests from the point of booking to ensure they get things right.





After all the cruise stuff laid on by MSC Cruises, my first blog camp treated me to two workshops..... one on food photography with Sandhya Harihara from Sandhya's Kitchen and a session on metrics with Sally Whittle, who blogs over at Who's The Mummy as well as being founder of Foodies, Tots and Trips 100. Both presentations were fun and informative and full of helpful bloggy wisdom...... It just left me wondering why I have never made it to blog camp before.....

Either way, Sally and her team did an incredible job in conjunction with MSC Cruises organising the day and I send my sincere thanks to them all for being such stars!

So having spent a day on board, would I consider a future cruise? Well.... Since visiting the Preziosa, I may have excessively pored over the MSC Website ..... dreaming..... and with easy departures out of Southampton on the MSC Preziosa and MSC Magnifica heading out to Europe or further afield from other non-UK ports, I certainly wouldn't rule out a little trip...... destination dependent.


Shared with : Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum

I spent the day on board MSC Preziosa courtesy of Foodies 100 and MSC Cruises, but was not required to write a blog post. As always, all views and photography (except where other credit is given) are my own.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

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