As always before any holiday or trip I do my research. I emailed P&O's special diets department to check the process and have them note my intolerances on my booking. Due to the type of booking we'd made they couldn't make any prior meal arrangements as I wasn't finding out my dining option until I was on the boat. I was told to speak to the restaurant manager once my dining had been confirmed.
We had a 6am flight to Venice to meet the ship so by the time we boarded we were all pretty hungry. I grabbed a plate of fruit before jumping in the water taxi to discover Venice. Once back to the ship later in the afternoon a card had been left in our cabin with our dining details. We had the 8.30pm sitting in the Baytree Restaurant. I went along to reception and asked them to let the relevant people know about my intolerances. It was not a problem and the chef/head waiter was emailed. With it being short notice I was advised they would do their best on the first night but future nights would not be a problem.
So, let the eating begin....
I'm not a big breakfast eater at home but I am partial to some bacon & tomatoes. We decided to use the buffet restaurant each day for our breakfast so I could pick my own safe options. There was every breakfast item you could imagine. I mainly stuck to melon (which I love) and bacon & tomatoes. I took a pack of seeded wraps with me so I could make a bacon sandwich for a few mornings. Washed down with juice and a peppermint tea I was happy.
We were back on the ship everyday for a late lunch so again we opted for the buffet restaurant. There was a big selection of hot & cold foods so something to suit everyone. As you can see from my photos I was very happy to have salad, jacket potato, rice and cold cuts of meat and fish. The restaurant did get pretty busy so I didn't want to interrupt staff with questions (although I'm sure they would have happily answered them) but I was more than happy picking out obvious safe food and I really enjoyed each lunch.
Every day around 4pm an afternoon tea selection was put out. I only went to look one day just out of interest. It was mainly small filled rolls and a lovely selection of cakes and tarts. I wanted to see what special diet options they offered so to make things simple I asked for just a Gluten Free option. The server went off to the back and then presented me with a slice of GF chocolate cake. It looked great but was obviously not DF or EF. But for research purposes if your just GF there was options.
On the first night we were introduced to our waiters who would serve us each night. I mentioned straight away about my intolerances and he had them noted down from the email which was sent. He said they'd do their best for the first night. I made it easy by choosing a melon starter, steak and fruit salad. During the meal the head waiter came over and told me each night he would give me the following days menu to make my choices, that way the chef could make them suitable for me. Each night I chose a 3 course meal (could have been 4 if I wanted a soup course too).
On the 2nd night I was presented with my own GF, DF, EF fresh baked bread. I really liked this as I didn't feel left out when everyone else was picking their bread. It was really yummy and spongey too (I've since emailed P&O for the recipe and it turns out it was Orgran Easy Bake bread mix).
So for starters I stuck to what I partly knew could be easily adapted and what I really enjoyed. I had Melon, Smoked Salmon, Palma Ham and Prawn Cocktail.
Main courses were varied, some nights I received meat/fish with vegetables but other nights I got a meal more similar to what was on the menu. They were all really tasty and well cooked. My favourites were the blade of beef, seabass and the duck with blackcurrent jus.
There was me thinking I'd have fruit salad coming out of my ears but I was pleasantly surprised. I had two delicious sorbets of Passion fruit and Melon. The head waiter said he could arrange me some jelly and ice cream which I jumped at the chance of. Turned out the ice cream they serve is Swedish Glacé which is my all time favourite so I was very happy.
As we were on the cruise for my dad's birthday we booked a meal in Atul Kochhar's East Restaurant as a surprise. The night before I popped into the restaurant to mention my intolerances and straight away the head waiter offered me the menu to choose from. I picked Duck with a lychee salad for my starter and made an easy choice of Scallops with Lobster on vegetables in black bean sauce for my main. This was served with a bowl of rice and my own bowl of rice noodles. He asked the chef what he could adapt for dessert and I was pleased to hear that he could do the deep fried banana with ice cream. Heaven. The whole meal was delicious. It was my favourite meal of the holiday.
Overall I was very impressed with how P&O dealt with special diets. I'm sure if I'd have asked at other meal times I'd have found even more options. I was more than happy with all my choices and never went hungry or found it a struggle to find suitable food. The staff were very helpful and obviously understood. I'd highly recommend cruising with P&O on the Ventura.
Not only was the food great but it was a fantastic ship and we visited some amazing places.
I hope lots of other allergy & intolerance sufferers can enjoy cruising too :)