Friday, July 19, 2013

Beaches Negril Resort Allergy Review

A few weeks ago we embarked on our first international travel since 3 kids and Roo's food allergies joined the family. In case there was any doubt, traveling with food allergies is daunting - nuts nestled  in airplane seat crevices, unfamiliar restaurants, driving 15 miles out of the way in search of a well-stocked grocery store only to discover you made a wrong turn 9 miles back...uh-huh.

Traveling out of the country can feel downright impossible. I'm here to tell you it's not. At least for us, at this point in time, with our current set of allergies (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and peaches) we have proved it not only possible, but dare I say...enjoyable.
We selected Beaches Negril Resort and Spa based on several positive reviews we read regarding the handling of food allergies. Beaches touts a no worries to food allergies stance and that's really great except we all know it's a big fat lie. There is always some worry with food allergies. Always. That said, Beaches Resorts have made a commitment to take food allergies seriously and are making a concerted effort to welcome and accommodate guests with special dietary needs. Rock on, Beaches!
We notified the resort several weeks in advance of our visit about Roo's allergies and received an email confirmation that they would be able to accommodate his needs. Upon check-in we reminded the staff of his allergies, which had not been notated anywhere in our reservation but turned out not to be necessary. Within a few minutes, we were meeting with the resort's head chef who gave us a rundown of allergy protocol and assured us that Roo would be able to find safe things to eat throughout the week. Nice, right?

At each resort restaurant we informed our server or a manager that we had food allergies. A few minutes later, a chef would come to our table to discuss safe options. At the buffet style Mill restaurant, a chef was available to walk us through the buffet line pointing out which items were safe and those that weren't. Overall, Roo didn't have problems finding things to eat. Special thanks to Chef Conray who went so far as to prepare delicious egg-free, nut-free, fruit-filled muffins especially for Roo which turned out to be some of the tastiest treats any of us had on the trip. Talk about going the extra mile!

Our beachfront suite was large enough for the five of us and had a mini fridge and microwave. We brought along plenty of safe snacks and microwavable foods just in case but ended up barely using any of it. Best of all, no one ever seemed inconvenienced in the least if we asked to double or triple check to make sure certain items were safe. The kids particularly loved eating at the tappenyaki style Kimono's restaurant one night where our chef was careful to avoid eggs and nuts for us as well as onions, due to another traveler's allergy.

I should point out that while the food is ample and edible, it is not gourmet. I don't know about you but on a trip when I'll be spending 70 percent of the time in my bathing suit, gourmet meals are not a huge priority anyway. 24-hour access to soft-serve ice cream at Sweeties was enough for me, thank you very much. For us, food safety and sustenance were the priorities and Beaches Negril delivered on both accounts.
We tried to be smart at the buffet and avoided areas where there was high potential for cross contamination from peanut-butter, eggs, etc. Roo enjoyed packaged cereal, bacon or sausage, cheese, and fruit for most breakfasts and there were always options available to him at lunch and dinner (pasta, chicken, quesadillas, etc.). 

The Venetian was hands down our best meal of the week though surprisingly it was the least accommodating restaurant we tried in terms of allergies. Our waiter checked with the chef regarding our allergies and we were told he would make spaghetti and meatballs for Roo. Luckily, that's what he wanted anyway but we were not provided any other options. Despite the claims to the contrary, I couldn't get past the notion that there could be egg in the meatballs so Roo skipped the meatballs, ate the pasta, marinara, and extra Parmesan. He was happy and satisfied to the point that the rest of us were able to enjoy dessert - pumpkin doughnuts, chocolate tart, and tiramisu while he sucked on a ring pop I brought along in my purse. 
Looly relaxing at The Venetian
The bottom line is be smart. Be prepared. Be gracious. Notify the resort in advance of your needs. Be specific. Remind, remind, remind - everyone and every time. Bring along several packs of epipens. The resorts are located far from the nearest hospital. Better safe than...well, better safe, okay? Express gratitude and remember names. Don't assume ingredients are the same abroad as they are at home. Bring back-up. We brought an entire suitcase packed with safe foods just in case. We ended up not using most of it, but it was so much more relaxing knowing we had it available if we needed it. 
To be fair, after reading a few complaints from other visitors to Beaches Negril, I concede the following. It's Jamaica. And it's the tropics. There is extreme poverty in many areas. There are bugs. Milk comes in a box and according to Bean tastes different than milk in the US. The driving is chaotic. It's hot and humid. The birds tend to visit the open air restaurants for their breakfast too. All true. But, guys, it's the tropics!

There are enormous sparkly pools, a lazy river and water slides, breathtakingly clear azure seas, the softest coconut white sand that doesn't burn your feet even at high noon, multiple swim-up bars, fruity rum lunch, a warm, gracious, enthusiastic staff to cater to your every whim, palm trees fluttering in the breeze, and smiling, dripping, sun-exhausted kids. Relax and enjoy it.
 

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for the info! going to Beaches soon with our peanut, egg, tree nut and almond allergic child so this was great for me to read.

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  2. Thank you for the info. How long was the flight from airport to hotel? And also, how far is the closest hospital?

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  3. Thank you for your post. I believe I read your post on Tripavisor as well. I'm doing mega research on Beaches before I take the plunge to book a trip with my eggs, dairy, peas, pork, beef, and PN allergies son. Disney and Atlantis both have been great with food allergies (and I say great, meaning he didn't have a reaction but it wasn't gourmet at any means. So I get what you were saying!). So from one allergy mama to another, thank you!

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