Anniversary on the Love Boat, Day 4: Ensenada

Every time I’m in Ensenada, I’m impressed all over again. Somehow, in-between trips I forget how much I enjoy it.

The last time we were there, we took the wine country tour. And I tell you, among the vineyards, Ensenada seems very Italian. It’s probably that Mediterranean climate. Very San Diego. After all, it is Baja California.

The night before, we put out our room-service breakfast thingie so we’d have breakfast before getting ready to meet up with the tour group at around 9:30 a.m. We each had cereal, coffee, and OJ, which we enjoyed out on our balcony. Our bathrobes had arrived and we were wearing them while eating our breakfast. We won’t share those pictures. :)

We met our tour guide and group out on the pier and once we were all there, we walked to the bus and met our driver. We chose seat #5, which would remain our seat for the entire trip. Our driver drove us through town and the guide pointed out different places of interest. In fact, here’s the tour description:

Your journey begins as you board your air-conditioned transportation for a city tour of Ensenada, as your guide provides narration on various points of interest throughout the way.

Then, you will continue on to Riviera del Pacifico. Once a glamorous resort and casino built in the roaring 1930s, it is a renowned example of Mexican architecture where famous and infamous clientele, such as Douglas Fairbanks and Al Capone used to frequent. Sip a margarita and enjoy the splendid surroundings.

Next, you will visit the wine tasting room and shopping gallery of Baja California┬┤s oldest winery. Founded in 1888, Bodegas de Santo Tomas produces over 34 types of wines from different grape varieties and is one of Mexico’s most celebrated and largest wineries, with well over one million bottles produced annually. You will visit the company’s first winery site and have time to try the excellent wines produced in the tasting room with bread and cheese.

Before returning to the ship, you will have an hour to visit the shops located at main downtown Ensenada and after which you will be escorted back to the ship on the bus. The main shopping district has many shops offering everything from Mexican handicrafts to imported merchandise.

We especially enjoyed the Margarita and wine tasting. And when the tour broke for shopping, we asked our guide for advice on where to have lunch. The restaurant she recommended was the one Rich noticed as we drove by – the one with the chickens roasting on the pit.

We had an awesome lunch with a gigantic Margarita (lol), were serenaded twice, and Rich even bought me a rose. Overall, a perfect, perfect day!

buildingRiviera del Pacifico

The Margarita Bar

The taste of Margarita left us thirsty for more…

RichshopChecking out the street market

Alfresco Margarita tasting

RichmargaritaRich loving Mexico… or was it the Margarita?

Chips & Salsa

Incredible Chicken Taco, Beef Tamal, and Cheese Enchilada

The first serenade

sprinklesIce cream back onboard the ship

We didn’t take any pics at the winery, I fear. We met this couple on our tour, though, who stood in front of us in the wine tasting. When the winemaker said, “Do we have any wine lovers here?” I said, “Oh yeah.” The young couple in front of us looked at us with new respect – lol! In fact, he made sure we got all of the wine we were tasting before he did. He also asked our wine tasting advice.

Later on the bus, we chatted a bit more and he said he liked the Merlot best, as did we. And then he said he was from Madera, explaining it was about 20 miles north of Fresno. So I said, “Oh, I know where Madera is. My step dad is from there – he went to Madera High.” He couldn’t believe it. He said he’d never run into anyone who knew where Madera was. I know the feeling – I’ve been explaining it for most of my life. :)

On our way back to the ship, we drove to the beach and it looked quite inviting. Maybe on a future trip.

We stopped off for some ice cream by the ship’s pool before hitting our stateroom for a long Margarita nap. The rest of the day was a blur. In fact, my notes are blank. :)

But I think we pretty much took one last tour of the ship before returning to our stateroom to pack, order room service for dinner out on the balcony (chicken club sandwiches with potato chips, cookies, and milk.) We enjoyed the sunset from our balcony and then called it a night.

The next morning Rich ran down to the IC and brought back 2 coffees and a couple of donuts, which we enjoyed out on balcony before getting ready to disembark.

donutsBreakfast before Disembarkation

Disembarkation wasn’t nearly as smooth as embarkation. Guess it has to do with over 3000 passengers trying to get off the ship at once. We were given walkoff #19, meaning we couldn’t walk off with our luggage until the 19th group was announced. That would not do for us – no, not at all. We had a 4-hour drive ahead of us and we wanted to get going as soon as possible. I’m sure we were not alone. :)

We went to the theater where group #1 was meeting but it became very clear we would have to have our official group number noted on a piece of paper and could only disembark then. So Rich went to the Purser’s office and eventually talked him into allowing us to join group #4. So we headed for the Explorer’s Lounge where that group was meeting. After a short wait, we walked off, went through customs, retrieved our car and began the drive home.

Embarkation was a lot better in San Pedro than Long Beach but disembarkation was far worse. The Carnival ships we’ve been on are much smaller and not nearly as many passengers. There are benefits to sailing on a smaller ship.

After a brief traffic delay, we were home about 4 hours later, greeted our kitties, unpacked, and prepared for jumping into another work week. A couple of days later, we booked another cruise – this time back on Carnival for a 3-night to, you guess it, Ensenada. We can’t wait!

Anniversary on the Love Boat, Day 3: Day at Sea

What I haven’t mentioned yet is how uncomfortable the bed was. The Residence Inn bed was so soft that, by comparison, this one felt too hard. This was surprising because on the Grand Princess, our bed was the most comfortable we’d had on a cruise ship. Of course, the Grand was newer when we sailed on her, so maybe the Ruby beds need to be replaced.

But we were also feeling claustrophobic. The layout was odd – the closet was in a hallway, which worked on the Grand, but somehow the bathroom and the hallway collided on the Ruby. One great thing about Carnival is that their staterooms are the roomiest in the mass market industry. Also, the shower and the bathroom was very small. I think it was worse for Rich because he’s 6 feet – the shower worked okay for me.

Anyway, because of my back issues these days, I need to stretch for the first hour or so before I can go anywhere. So Rich ran down to the IC and brought back a couple of coffees and pastries and we had our breakfast out on the balcony.

By 10:00 or so, we were ready to leave the cabin so we took our morning walk along the Promenade deck, grabbed our books, and ended up at Skywalkers, which was very quiet. Unlike the Grand, where Skywalkers is located on the “handlebar” overlooking the aft pool, on later ships, including the Ruby, the handlebar is no more and so Skywalkers is set a bit back from the aft pool. This made the pool area nicer because the handlebar didn’t shade the pool area. We read for awhile and at around 11 a.m. we stopped by the midship pool for a slice of pizza and an ice cream cone.


At 12:15, we checked out the Mexican Buffet just because they were actually serving Mexican food on a cruise to Mexico. Carnival Miracle did not have any Mexican food on the entire 7-night cruise to Mexico! I think we sampled a couple of things and then took another walk around the Promenade deck.

By 1 p.m. we were in our stateroom for our afternoon nap, then showered and got dressed to have a glass of wine in Vine’s Wine Bar in the Atrium. Well, it was on the sunny side of the ship and very crowded. We sat down briefly but it just didn’t feel right. So we returned to our stateroom to share the mini bottle of wine we’d brought onboard.

From 6:30 to 7:30, we were sipping a glass of Chardonnay in the Crooner’s Bar overlooking the atrium area. There, we listened to the Desperado Trio playing Mariachi music, which was awesome!


Desperado Trio in the Atrium

Before dinner Chardonnay in the Crooner’s Lounge

One of the features we love on Princess is being able to reserve your table at a certain time for Anytime Dining. Rich called this morning and reserved a 7:30 p.m. dining time. We were escorted to a window seat and several couples followed us down the row. We each have a table for two but we’re still close enough to chit chat with our neighbors, which we did when it felt natural. No obligation but an option.

Our waiter, Rodel, was very friendly and helpful. The food and service on the Ruby Princess has really been the best ever on a cruise. Rodel gave us his recommendations and then we ordered.


Garlic Cream Soup
Fettuccine Alfredo (appetizer portion)
Diver Scallops (entree)
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and decaf (dessert)


Crab Quiche (recommended appetizer)
Garlic Cream Soup
Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken (entree)
Macadamia Nut Ice Cream and decaf (dessert)

RichDRSeated in the dining room

viewView from seat in dining room

GarlicSoupGarlic Soup


Fettuccine Alfredo (perfecto!)




Mint Chip Ice Cream


Macadamia Nut Ice Cream

Our neighbors told us they were being careful not to overeat because last night they said they couldn’t sleep after dinner because they were too full. We know the feeling. Rodel had encouraged me to add chicken to the Fettuccine, but I ended up putting the chicken to the side to focus on the amazing Fettuccine but I couldn’t even finish it.

The food was all delicious, but we have to give the Carnival Miracle the nod to having better ice cream. It wasn’t quite amazing enough to make much of a dent in it after already being so full.

After dinner, we kicked around a few ideas like returning to the Crooner’s Bar for one of their famous Dino Martinis or the Wheelhouse Bar, but we ended up returning to our stateroom and relaxing out on the balcony, enjoying the night sea air before going to bed. Tomorrow we’d be in Ensenada and we had an excursion to get ready for in the morning.

Anniversary on the Love Boat, Day 2, Part 3: After Dinner Drinks with Funch

After dinner, we walked the Promenade deck. Not only is it wonderfully romantic, but it’s always good to do a bit of walking after a meal like that. And we weren’t alone. Like I said before, this was the busiest Promenade deck out of all of my cruises. We just think there are too many passengers for the public spaces on Princess.

Btw, I forgot to mention the photographer who stopped by and took our picture while we were at Sabatini’s. We checked it out in the Portrait Studio and because mine came out rather well, we purchased it. And now Rich has a wallet-size, which he is super excited about.

We wandered through the Wheelhouse Bar, looking for some evening entertainment but it wasn’t quite the music we were in the mood for. Then we tried the Explorer’s Lounge because the Princess Patter said there was “Big Band” music that night. Well, it may have been a “big” band, but it wasn’t “big band music,” if you know what I mean.

We found ourselves in the Atrium, which is really the center of activity on a Princess ship. Entertainment there can be hit and miss and changes often. A pianist was playing and that was just what we were in the mood for so we grabbed a couple of seats and when a waitress stopped by, we ordered a Scotch for Rich and a Courvoisier for me. And┬á then two cute but annoying Asian girls started to play on the dance floor, rolling around, screaming, running and a guy sitting next to us started snapping away, taking their pictures. I’m pretty sure he was hired to do it. Unbelievable! But this cruise was heavily Asian with a Japanese tour group so maybe that’s just part of their culture.

This was so not the mood we were looking for. So we wandered up the stairs to the Crooner’s Lounge and much to our delight, this wonderful international entertainer, Funch, was playing the piano and singing. He so sounded like Barry White and we thoroughly enjoyed the next hour or two sitting and sipping. This was what we were looking for.

Funch was amazing! He sang one song after another. He took me back to my Disco days, reminding me of the wildly varied adventures I’ve had in my life. And reminded me that I can claim them all, that they’re all a part of me.

Atrium Piano Bar


Scotch on the Rocks


Barry White

Anniversary on the Love Boat, Day 2, Part 2: Sabatinis

After our nap, we showered and dressed in our best, even if we weren’t “dressed to Impress.” But we were dining at Sabatini’s and impressive dress was not required. Originally, Sabatini’s had a tasting menu and it was amazing. But they dropped the tasting menu part and replaced it with ala carte items.

On the Ruby Princess, Sabatini’s is located on the top deck overlooking the aft pool. On the Grand Princess, it was located off the Promenade next to other dining and lounge venues. We preferred the location on the Grand. I’m not really a fan of restaurants overlooking pools. Take the Yacht Club Steakhouse at Disney World, for example, or Buzios at the Rio in Las Vegas. When I’m dining in a nice restaurant, I don’t want to see people in their swimsuits chugging a beer – lol!

So, of course, we were seated at a table for two overlooking the pool and 2 guys in their shorts with beers. We ignored them and paid attention to the menu. Our waiter (Silviu from Romania) was wonderful – he even offered Rich another appetizer. Guess he looked hungry after he wolfed his down and I was still eating mine. :)

First, we were presented with bread and an olive oil/balsamic vinegar for dipping along with our glasses of Estancia Pinot Noir – so Pinot Noir, if you know what I mean. I’m craving more now.

A note on the wine from Rich:

2013 Estancia Pinot Noir, Monterey County

Ruby red in color

Raspberry, baking spice, cigar box, black cherry, and oak

Richly concentrated, jammy dark fruit

Gold Medal
– 2015 Sunset International Wine Competition


Antipasti: White bean/mussel soup

Pasta: Short Rib Penne

Entree: Sea Bass

Dessert: Zabaglione


Salad: Shrimp Salad

Pasta: Seafood Spaghetti

Entree: Lobster Three Ways

Dessert: Tiramisu

Everything was scrumptious!!! Really everything on Princess was delicious. There was a $20 pp cover charge but it was well worth it. And, no, we don’t normally eat like this at home. Far from it.

Here are a few pics:

For the Table

olivesOlives, Prosciutto and Cracker

oliveoilOlive Oil/Balsamic Vinegar for Bread Dipping

wineEstancia Pinot Noir

RichdinnerAnticipating the Meal

Rich’s Dinner

soupWhite Bean Soup

ribpastaShort Rib Penne

seabassSea Bass


Kathy’s Dinner:

whitebeanShrimp Salad

spaghettiSeafood Spaghetti

lobster2Lobster Three Ways

dessertChocolate Tiramisu

Anniversary on the Love Boat, Day 2, Part 1: Isaac in Catalina

This cruise was a celebration of several things: the 63rd anniversary of my parents Mexican marriage, the 50th Anniversary of Princess Cruises, and my first trip back to Catalina Island, 35 years later.

catalina-express-birthdayCatalina Island is a tender port but it has to be better than my first trip to Catalina. I was so sick on that boat, I worried I wouldn’t be able to cruise at all. People reassured me that cruising was a totally different experience. And I discovered that for myself a couple of years later. Anyway, I had no plans to return to Catalina unless I helicoptered over. So a cruise was a great way to go.

But having experienced Catalina before, we decided the best thing to do was to stay on the ship and live like celebrities sailing over on their yacht.

We browsed the buffet for some breakfast items at around 7 a.m. , but were not that impressed with the buffet the way we’d been back in ’02. So then we walked the Promenade, snapped some pics, and made our way to the Atrium and listened to some music.

Then we checked out the International Cafe and purchased 2 coffees and a couple of donuts (which are free), sat down and ate, and then brought the rest of our coffee back to our stateroom. We sat out on the balcony and attracted a friend.

donutsInternational Cafe Breakfast

Breakfast friend on our Balcony at Catalina Island

We took advantage of the mega crowds being off the ship and we enjoyed the aft pool all by ourselves from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. No kidding! It was spectacular!! We had a spectacular view of the island and we slurped down the drink of the day, which was an Isaac, which Isaac the bartender created for the 50th Anniversary. It was delish!!! And it put us in a happy, happy mood!

aftpoolAdults Only Aft Pool

isaacThe “Isaac” (See video on Youtube)

Casino Avalon Casino

After our pool and drink time, we decided it was time to grab some lunch so we headed over to the Trident Grill poolside. I snagged a table and Rich brought back a couple of burgers and fries. A server came by to take our drink order: 2 ice teas.

Then it was naptime until our dinner reservation at Sabatinis at 6:30 p.m. Princess had sent us an email listing the dress code for each night of the cruise and all evenings were listed as “Smart Casual.” So we packed accordingly. Imagine our surprise when we got onboard and this night was listed as “Dress to Impress” night with formal portraits. We soon learned not to believe what Princess put in writing – the actual would be different throughout the cruise.

Btw, the other complaint we had was our cabin steward. From the moment we arrived, he wanted to take control, telling us how it was going to be. Well, after 30 years of cruising, I know it’s been the rule that the passengers make requests of their cabin steward, such as ice twice a day, and they are happy to comply. In our case, he seemed to resent requests. The printed information said to ask your Cabin Steward for robes and he seemed put out to deliver them. The truth is, we are very easy to please and do not make unnecessary demands from anybody.

Elope to Mexico Anniversary on the Love Boat, Day 1: Embarkation

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Coastal California Cruise (Los Angeles, Catalina, Ensenada, Mexico, Los Angeles)
What: Ruby Princess
When: September 25-29, 2015
Why: End of Summer Sea Escape

After another hot, dry summer in Las Vegas, we needed to run away to sea. The May cruise seemed like a mirage. So when we noticed a 4-night cruise on the Princess Ruby, we booked a balcony cabin on the Caribe deck. Ironically, embarkation day would be a day forever etched in my brain: the day my parents eloped to Mexico. What a perfect day to set sail for Mexico! How romantic! Even if they weren’t celebrating, we certainly could.

We’d cruised the Grand Princess back in 2002 and one thing we didn’t like that much was how the balcony cabins stair stepped along the side and you could look down on everyone. So we booked a lower cabin, which gave us a better view of the sea and only the Mini-Suite cabins. This also gave us a much deeper balcony. Overall, this was a terrific location.

We also decided against driving the 4 hours to the Port of Los Angeles on the day of the cruise. So we left our home in Las Vegas at around 3 p.m. the night before, arriving at the Huntington Beach/Fountain Valley Residence Inn at around 7 p.m. We brought mini bottles of wine with us so we could relax a bit once we arrived.

Unfortunately, the bed was just as uncomfortable as before so we both woke up with sore backs. After showering, getting dressed, and having a quick complimentary breakfast, we drove to the beach to watch a few waves before proceeding up PCH to San Pedro.

We arrived at the port at around 11:50. We’d been instructed not to embark until about 1:30 but we also heard that it really doesn’t matter. We parked the car in the open lot, noticing that Long Beach has a parking garage, which we prefer. But when we arrived inside, we noticed how organized Princess was. Unlike Carnival in Long Beach, where all waiting is done outside, San Pedro felt more like Florida ports with inside seating and organized by number.

There was no line at check-in and the Princess staff was very friendly and helpful. We found our sitting here for group #8 and waited for half an hour or so before we were called. The seats were comfortable and we sipped some water while we waited.

Finally, our number was called and we were onboard by 12:45. We dropped our carry-on bag in our room and headed to the Da Vinci dining room for embarkation lunch. This is not widely publicized but is definitely one of the pluses for Princess.

We were seated at a long row of tables for two and our friendly water took our order promptly.

Rich: Antipasti, Beef Tenderloin, Apple Tartin

Kathy: Shrimp and Avocado Salad, Salmon with amazing sauce, Apple Tartin

Lunch was delicious. In fact, we’ll go ahead and say that everything onboard was delicious. Princess has the best food! It’s probably too good – lol!

We returned to our stateroom and our suitcase had arrived so we unpacked. Our muster drill was at 3:30 and we were so disappointed it wasn’t as short and sweet as our last Princess cruise. Last time we just sat in one of the lounges. This time we stood in a hot, stuffy hallway and waited for like forever until we were able to leave. It was painful and we were all sweating.

Afterwards, we toured a bit of the ship and returned to our stateroom for the anticipated sailaway at 4 p.m. We waited and waited and waited. We finally sailed at 5:30 p.m. We had planned to drink our remaining mini bottles of wine for sailaway but we were facing the sun and it was way too hot. In fact, this whole cruise was too hot. We were having a late September heatwave and didn’t escape the heat like we’d hoped. Sailing this time of year was too warm and sunny – we’re used to more winter sailaways and cruises, which we prefer.

Because we’d had lunch in the dining room, we decided we’d have dinner in the buffet. So at 6 p.m. we went to the Horizon Court for dinner.

Kathy: Shrimp cocktail, Scallop ceviche, Alaskan crab cake, Shrimp & Mussels, Paella. (I really stocked up on seafood on this cruise.)

Rich: Ceviche, Ham, Mussells, Pasta, Smoked Salmon, Bread

Dessert: We shared apple pie and fruit tart.

We then walked the Promenade Deck. But one thing we noticed on the entire cruise – we’d never seen the Promenade Deck so crowded. But, actually, all public spaces were crowded. The Ruby carries 3000 passengers, 1,000 more than the Grand Princess, but doesn’t have any more public spaces. We really noticed the crowds on this cruise.

Embarkation day is always tiring so we returned to our cabin and sat out on the balcony sipping a glass of wine until bedtime. And then the ship rocked us to sleep, although we were barely moving since we were on our way to Catalina Island, 26 miles across the sea.

A few photos from the day taken from both our camera and our cell phones:

IMG_6016Red Jeep in the foreground; Ruby Princess in the background

IMG_0225San Pedro

IMG_0226Looking down on the Mini-Suite

IMG_0228Carry-on bag in our cabin

beefRich’s Beef Entree, Embarkation Lunch

salmonKathy’s Salmon Entree, Embarkation Lunch

tartTart Tatin, Embarkation Lunch Dessert

IMG_6025Rich on our Balcony

KathyatSeaKathy at Sea

IMG_0230Sunset at Sea

Lessons Learned from “Frozen”

I have to watch some movies a second time before I really embrace them. This was, ironically, true for Cars (didn’t get very far the first time), and then it became a top favorite, especially with Cars Land at DCA. Once I heard a whole land was being built, I had to give it another chance and I’m glad I did.

So with Frozen stuff popping up all over the place and not going away anytime soon, I thought I should give it another chance. And I really, really liked it!

There’s been a whole lot of discussion and analysis about the meaning of Frozen, but I think it reflects life in general.

As much as I adored Anna, I knew I was more like Elsa. And while Elsa cut herself off from other people to protect them, I sometimes cut myself off from people to protect myself. This is often misunderstood. Thankfully, some friends do understand and love me anyway. Others judge me by what they see.

Like Elsa, I’m working on it. :)

As for Avatar, we had no desire to watch it but when Avatar Land was announced, we tried to give it a chance but couldn’t get very far into it. Maybe the time isn’t right. Maybe we’ll have to actually experience Avatar Land before we can watch the movie.

As a Disney fan, I want to love it all but sometimes you just can’t.