Gluten Free River Cruising in Canada

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Ocean EndeavourRecently, a fellow celiac, E’Louise Ondash, contacted me about her gluten free experience cruising the St. Lawrence River with Adventure Canada. Since this is the first year that the company, based in Toronto, offered the “Mighty St. Lawrence” itinerary, we want to share her thoughts on traveling gluten free with all of you. So, in her own words:

Adventure CanadaI’ll be honest; my husband and I are not the cruisin’ kind. We’ve had chances to travel via large luxury ships, but so far have passed. But earlier this year, we were offered the opportunity to participate in an 11-day cruise on their ship, Ocean Endeavor. This beautifully converted Russian ferry leaves from Quebec City, zigzags its way down the St. Lawrence, and completes the cruise in the North Atlantic at St. John’s, Newfoundland.

One of the appealing things about this early-June cruise is that the Ocean Endeavor is a smaller ship. With a capacity of 198 passengers, the ship can sail into smaller ports where the big ships can’t or don’t want to go, and even destinations with no ports.

Of course, with any trip, a person with celiac disease has to think ahead and try to anticipate how difficult it might be to access food and meals. I was relieved to see on the Adventure Canada registration form a question about special dietary needs. I let them know that I have celiac (diagnosed in 2004) and that eating gluten free is not just a trendy option for me.

There was no further discussion with Adventure Canada about my dietary needs, but meals were never a problem. Breakfast and lunch were buffets, and there were always ample selections of gluten-free entrees and side dishes. When I had questions regarding an item on the buffet or menu, the staff went quickly to the kitchen to inquire if they didn’t already know.

Birdwatching at Perce Rock near the Gaspe PeninsulaDinner was a casual sit-down affair, with a choice of four entrees. At least one was a gluten-free entrée, and on a couple of occasions, the chef altered the entrée to accommodate me. I often chose the fish because it was prepared so well.

Fresh fruits and vegetables also were in abundance, and there were plenty of choices for those who were lactose-intolerant or vegetarian. The kitchen also had gluten-free bread or toast available whenever I asked, which usually was at breakfast. I didn’t want to pass up the smoked salmon and cream cheese!

Other attractive elements of the cruise were the opportunities to learn and be active from over a dozen authors, musicians and experts. These professors and explorers also piloted the Zodiacs (motorized rubber rafts) that took us to offshore and onshore destinations. There were activities to meet all ability levels and desires.

A Zodiac launches from Ocean Endeavor on the Gulf of St. LawrenceThe Zodiac rides were just plain fun and required no strength or agility to participate. Just hang on and enjoy! We spent one morning in Zodiacs circling giant rock formations in the waters off the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula and watched more than 100,000 gannets soar above us.

For our shore excursions, I could always grab fresh fruit at breakfast and when we took an all-day hike, my sandwich for the trail was made with gluten-free bread. The kitchen also provided gluten-free cake at tea time after our Zodiac rides in the late afternoon. I even learned that four of the 169 passengers aboard the Ocean Endeavor required gluten-free food!

Thanks again E’Louise for sharing your gluten free river cruising experience with us!
And thanks to Jerry Ondash for the incredible photos!

E’Louise Ondash is an award-winning journalist, newspaper reporter, feature writer and columnist who lives in San Diego County and writes weekly travel features for The Coast News. For more information, contact her at eondash@coastnewsgroup.com, or through her Facebook page.

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