Wednesday 2 January 2013

Dreamy Vacation

My review of Dream's Tulum...

Let me make it clear that I did not get sick at Dreams Tulum. Not ONCE - not even a little hint of cross contamination. This is fist pump news. Do the dance of joy that Balki Bartokomous does, call home, rent a skywriter because that is freaking awesome!!

Let me ALSO make it clear though that I was convinced I was going to get sick at almost EVERY single meal.

The terror started twenty four hours before we left when I wrote a quick email confirming that the food and beverage manager and the chef would meet with me upon my arrival to discuss my GF options. I had previously engaged in a lengthily email conversation with the hotel and the food and beverage manager as to my dietary issues. Suddenly, the day before we leave he responds with,

"I Hope you arrive during morning time, because I will be leaving from the hotel at 2 pm and I will come back Monday morning.
Our chef is leaving also a this time."

That's a quote.



I lost my shit. Imagine the Hulk writhing and frothing at the mouth while trashing a sedan. That was me. I fucking lost it, my travel agent loses it and my husband loses it. If we could have changed resorts at that moment, we would have. I was terrified. We wrote back long and expressive emails stating how this attitude simply would not do. We called the hotel and vacation company to ensure that my file had indeed been noted.

I was desperate for reassurance.  I always wish I had some magic phone that allows me to call for help. Like, what if I called He-man? After all, he has the power of Greyskull. I doubt that would have helped but still, wouldn't it be AWESOME to call He-Man when you needed him for Celiac emergencies? Right?

I digress...shocker

When we did arrive at the hotel, a chef named Raul came to greet us. He was very kind and told me everything would be fine if I just told my server and the hostess about "my allergy". I couldn't seem to impress upon anyone that I have a disease and not just an allergy but at the end of the day, it didn't really matter. Frankly - it's semantics, call it what ever you want, just take it seriously.

Raul explained that each restaurant had listings of any special requests by guests. This was true. Every hostess knew I was "allergic to gluten" - most however, had no idea what gluten was. Raul also showed me a long list of exclusively gluten free food that would be available to me at the resort. It was in Spanish but the concierge translated that there would be things like "gluten free bread" and "gluten free pancakes" and "Gluten free muffins." when I asked HOW I get any of these items, Raul told me just to ask and the servers would bring it.

This NEVER happened.

I asked every single morning if there were gluten free pancakes or muffins available and they had NO idea what I was talking about. Like staring at me as if I had ten heads type of confusion.

I was given gluten free bread without me asking one night in it's own little basket at dinner at the Portofino while my family ate the soft golden rolls from another basket. I was so thrilled that I asked day after day, over and over, even at the same restaurant again but was told that the resort had nothing of the sort.

 Generally, the servers seemed to have little idea what gluten was and were pretty lackadaisical about the whole thing. When I told them I was "allergic to gluten" they often just smiled, nodded and wrote it down. I had to say a small prayer that someone somewhere understood what I could eat and what I couldn't. This is not to imply that the servers were bad in any way. They were lovely and charming and eager to please, they just had NO idea what Celiac Disease was and therefore took little notice of the seriousness of my issue.

I only had two instances of poor service. When we went the the Chinese Restaurant, I kindly informed our server of my "allergy" the server simply stared at me, stunned and quivering slightly before stuttering the words,"No - no eat here." and walking away as if on a moving sidewalk.Trev and I burst out laughing (the fact that I had consumed buckets of daiquiris that day helped) and were about to leave when another server came over and took care of us. The meal ended up being fantastic.

The hostess at the Bordeau Restaurant attempted to turn me away on Christmas Eve claiming that they had a special menu that night and there was NO way to change it for me. I got upset - really really Kardashian level of upset.

The Bordeau was the only "Adults Only" restaurant in the resort - the kids were at Explorers Club and we were having the first quiet dinner alone that we have had in a long time. My voice cracked as I told the hostess (in front of a ring of servers and a pile of other customers behind me) that this was NOT what we had been told by the many people we had talked to. I had been told that I could eat anywhere on any day. Being sent away shamefully would NOT happen. She panicked completely and rightfully and ushered us inside implying that there had been some confusion. She begged me to "please don't cry - it's not pretty for your face."

 Damn right it's not. You know what's pretty for my face? Champagne, that's what.

 Merry Christmas.

My recommendation for Dreams Tulum would be to add some sort of stock response for your staff when anyone says they have Celiacs. Something like, "We have served people with Celiac's before and the chef can prepare something that you will love and it will be safe for you to eat."

Something - anything to reassure the guest. IF someone emails to enquire, have another stock response that you send back to the guest, one that reassures and instills confidence in the guest. Despite language barriers, your customer will feel confident about staying at Dreams Tulum.

Celiac's SHOULD feel comfortable about staying there, you guys GET it but you just don't TELL the guest that you get it. Brag about it, tell people that you KNOW what you are doing because at the end of the day, you DO know what you are doing and you do it well. Just instill that confidence in your guests and you are golden.

A shout out to Claudia in the World Cafe and El Patio for being one of the most authentic delightful human beings I have ever known. Other amazing service was given by Ivan at El Patio and Sebastian at the Seaside Grill. As far a liquids go, Jesus (pronounced Hey-zeus NOT Jeee-zuz for the fucking morons I sat beside at the swim up who were sadly Canadian - they also thought my wedding rings were for show) and Bento made our vacation perfect.

Let me also make it clear that I enjoyed every single meal I had at Dreams Tulum. The quality and plating was stunning, the flavours amazing and the service outstanding. My children were treated like valued guests and were fawned over with bright happy faces.

We will be back to visit Dreams Tulum because it had a gorgeous mix of the comfort of the small resort mixed with an extravagant luxurious private vacation. It was beautiful and delicious and fantastic and I loved every minute of it.

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