Big Birthday Celebration: Disneyland or Cruise?

It’s really hard to plan vacations when you’re in the throes of a “Relocation Year” or “Repositioning Year” as we like to call it. So, we’re still tossing around ideas for how to celebrate Rich’s special birthday in August, and I think we’ve got it down to either Disneyland or a Mexican Riviera cruise.

But with all of this Galaxy’s Edge hype, we’re leaning toward the cruise. We’re not big Star Wars fans – I mean, it’s okay, but nothing to obsess over – so Galaxy’s Edge holds little appeal for us. And we’re hoping it doesn’t change our Disneyland experience forever. And oh the crowds and expense these days – Yikes!

Also, I’m working on my third novel set on a cruise – this time the Mexican Riviera – binge watching our favorite cruise vloggers such as CruiseTipsTV, SoTweetie, and ScottSingerCruises. So I’m totally engaged in the cruise experience.

As some of you know, my other two cruise novels are Real Women Wear Red (Caribbean cruise) and the sequel Real Women Sing the Blues (Hawaii cruise). Originally, there were plans for a third in that series per my agent’s request, but as it looks now, the third book will be a standalone with new and fun characters. I’m really excited about it.

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day Four, Wrap-Up

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

I didn’t sleep much at all – either the big dinner or the chocolate cake at tea – but I was definitely ready to get off the ship. I couldn’t get to Port Canaveral soon enough. Maybe I was cruised out or maybe it was the oddness of the cruise or just too many short Carnival cruises. We do feel like we’re slumming it a bit when we’re sailing on Carnival – lol!

There are also highlights that are some of the best at sea, namely, the Alchemy Bar, the Steakhouse, and like we did on my birthday cruise, the Chef’s Table. You don’t even know you’re on Carnival then – no wonder they are our highlights. We’re already missing those – especially the Alchemy Bar. And the excellent service we had on our last cruise when we sailed in a suite. So even Carnival can come through for up-charge items and bookings.

But Carnival is always there to give us a quick fun affordable cruise fix when other ships aren’t available or too long or too expensive to do often. So I can’t say we’ll never cruise them again. But we’re both definitely missing a longer cruise on Princess and our mini-suite. đŸ™‚

Our “Faster to the Fun” group met in the “any time” dining room where they offered tea, coffee, and pastries. We arrived at about 6:30 and were off the ship by about 6:45? Rich probably remembers better than I do.

The garage was right there, so easy to pick up our car, and drive the hour home, the fastest/closest cruise port we’ve ever traveled to.

Chocolate cake (amazing!) and Fruit Tart at Afternoon Tea

The Birthday Boy

Good-night!

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas: Day Three, Part Three: Dinner

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

Just before our 7:00 PM reservation time, we made our way around the pool area on deck 10 and found the entrance to the Diamonds Steakhouse. The room is quite lovely, divided into two areas overlooking the forward sides of the ship.

After a brief wait, we were seated at a four-top table. We sat next to each other on the bench seat looking out over the starboard side of the ship.

The service was excellent with several servers working to make our experience special. This meal was my birthday dinner, and we wanted it to be memorable. It was that and so much more.

Our menu:

DRINKS

Classic Martini (Kathy & Rich)

BREAD SERVICE

Roll (Kathy)

Parmesan Crisp & Bread Stick (Rich)

AMUSE-BOUCHE

PARMESAN CHEESE QUENELLE (Kathy & Rich)

APPETIZERS

RISOTTO (Kathy)

Crab, Mushrooms, Brown Butter

SMOKE AND ICE FRESH OYSTERS (Rich)

Apple Mignonette

SALAD

CLASSIC CAESAR SALAD (Kathy & Rich)

Hearts of Romaine Lettuce, Anchovies, Traditionally Prepared

ENTREES

BROILED FILET MIGNON (9 oz.) (Kathy)

Red Wine Sauce

Black Lava Salt

Side: Sautéed Medley of Fresh Mushrooms

SPICE-RUBBED PRIME RIBEYE STEAK (18 oz.) (Rich)

Red Wine Sauce

Red Hawaiian Sea Salt

Side: Yukon Gold Mash with Wasabe Horseradish<

DESSERT

ART AT YOUR TABLE (Kathy & Rich)

Abstract in Presentation, Focused in Flavor

We started by ordering our classic martinis. They were prepared perfectly and were fabulous.

The amuse-bouche was a very creamy parmesan quenelle that was a pleasant start to the meal. Kathy spread the cheese on the fresh roll from the bread service. Quite lovely.

The appetizers were amazing. Kathy’s risotto was like an entree in itself, rich and delicious. I had the oysters that were served in a glass cloche that was lifted to release the smoke trapped inside and reveal the three oysters on the half shell. And it wasn’t just the show that was fabulous — the oysters were fresh and smoky with a splash of sweetness from the apple mignonette.

The Caesar salad was tasty, especially the anchovies that we love. We didn’t eat all of our salads because we knew we had much more to come.

When we ordered our steaks (both medium-rare), we were given the choice of salt for the steaks to be cooked with. Kathy chose the black lava, and I chose the Hawaiian. Since Kathy had a starch with her risotto, she ordered mushrooms as a side to her steak. I ordered the mashed potatoes and had them serve the wasabi on the side.

About halfway through our meal, we were treated to a glorious view of the sunset that made the atmosphere and the experience even sweeter.

The steaks arrived, and they were cooked to perfection. We both ordered the red wine sauce that was served on the side. Kathy’s filet was so tender, it could be pulled apart with a fork. These were excellent steaks, perfectly seasoned and delicious. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish them, but we enjoyed every bite.<

For dessert, we tried the newly-available Art at Your Table. We had seen several other tables order this, so we were excited to try it. The ingredients were brought out, and then the pastry chef came out with a large palette where he created the art of the dessert, painting the palette with a variety of flavors and textures, culminating with a white chocolate ball he cracked open to reveal a tiramisu cake that he topped with two flavors of ice cream.

Then he took out his chocolate sauce bottle and wrote Happy Birthday on the palette for me. Very special.

This dessert is hard to explain, but it was fun and delicious. As we were finishing our dessert, we were presented with two glasses of champagne and a candle for my birthday. Kathy and the server sang to me. I loved it.

This was an incredible experience. The food, service, and atmosphere were impeccable. It was a birthday experience I will never forget.

Gin Martini

Dinner Roll

Parmesan Crisp

Oysters

Crab Risotto

Ribeye

Mashed Potatoes

Filet  Mignon

Pastry Artist

 

Birthday Dessert Art

Champagne Finale

 

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day Three, Part Two

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

We finished getting ready after packing and showering and headed for the Alchemy Bar. This time Rich had the Caribbean Old-Fashioned (Rum), and I had the Antioxidant. Our favorite server arrived with snacks – thank goodness because I was starving – lol!

Our view from the Alchemy Bar

Caribbean Old-Fashioned

The AntiOxidant

Mixed Nuts, Cheese, Kalamata Olives

We then headed to the Steakhouse for dinner. Rich’s report is next.

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day Three, Part One

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

Today was a sea day so we started off with Sea Day Brunch at about 8:30 a.m. We were seated at a table for two, our head waiter, Marcel, introduced himself and the assistant brought us the bread basket. Of course, I had to have the cappuccino muffin! This time I got a photo of it before I took a bite but I have to tell you, they seem to be smaller now. Rich had the lemon slice.

We decided to skip the Bloody Mary this time – so many drinking opportunities on a Carnival cruise  – you have to pace yourselves – lol!

I got my usual Huevos Rancheros with a side of Hash and Rich started with the Flaming Tomato Soup, Blueberry Pancakes for his breakfast entree with a side of hash. We both had coffee.

Cappuccino Muffin

Lemon Cake

Corned Beef Hash

Huevos Rancheros

Flaming Tomato Soup

Blueberry Pancakes pic from last cruise – no bacon this time

After brunch, we stopped by the Photo Gallery and picked out two photos with frames.

Pools on sea days are always packed – experienced cruisers usually stay onboard on port days and use the pool then – and today was no exception. Eating, drinking, and napping was in order for the big day.

Back to the cabin for some birthday Prosecco on the balcony, watching the sea go by – a favorite activity. We napped and then got up for Afternoon Tea – our first on Carnival and what a silly tea it was. Certainly isn’t Princess!

We were first to arrive, waited for about 5 minutes and then were seated in the back next to a window at a table for six. We were offered tea – I asked for decaf so was given Lipton for free and Rich chose the Coconut Tea and was charged $2 – is that silly or what? And even sillier, were offered two tiny tea sandwiches – cucumber and salmon – and dessert. I had an amazing chocolate cake and Rich had a tart.

Salmon and Soggy Cucumber Sandwiches

A mother/daughter from North Carolina were seated at our table and we chatted for a while – I think I included the gist of that in the opening post about how odd the cruise was. Ha!

We returned to the cabin to pack and shower and get ready for the Birthday Steakhouse dinner with pre-dinner cocktail at the Alchemy Bar.

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day Two, Part Two

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

We made our way back to the Alchemy Bar for sailaway drinks. Tatiana appeared and took our drink order: French Kiss for me this time and Rich’s usual Perfect Storm and brought us some snacks.Have we mentioned how much we love the Alchemy Bar? It’s a relatively new bar fleetwide that was part of Carnival 2.0 a few years back. It’s so different than the rest of the Carnival experience – super fabulous and classy. We hung out with people from Tampa and other like-minded people. Super fun!

(Note: the French Kiss made an appearance in my novel, Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon – a favorite drink from Top of the Mark in San Francisco).

We were seated next to a photographer so we decided to try getting photos done there. Then we spotted another theme so we posed there and then Rich noticed the photos at the piano and suggested we stop there. We ended up purchasing photos from the last 2 stops – they turned out really nice.

We continued on to the “Anytime” dining room and were seated right away. This was also done really well on the Liberty – better than any ship on any cruise line – no wait at all.

The menu was just okay – Carnival food is hit and miss. I had a Shrimp Cocktail for a starter. It was fresh. And the I had Prime Rib, which was quite tasty but the menu had listed horseradish but they brought around this gravy. It came with a small, shriveled baked potato, which I skipped.

Rich had the Stuffed Mushrooms as a starter and then the Teriyaki Salmon with rice cake. He really enjoyed it. We both had Vanilla Creme Brulee for dessert – at least a few bites.

The Lemoncello man came by so Rich had one of those and the guy in the pink sport coat sitting next to us toasted him with his Tequila shot. So wished I’d gotten a photo of him. He was so entertaining. That’s one thing that’s true about Carnival. Later you look back and think “Wow! What an interesting cruise!” lol!

After dinner we strolled the deck noticing the fascinating clouds at sea.

The French KissThe Perfect Storm

Rich at the Alchemy Bar

Kathy at the Alchemy Bar

Mushroom Appetizer (Rich)

Shrimp Cocktail (Kathy)

Teriyaki Salmon (Rich)

Prime Rib

Creme Brulee (R&K)

Lemoncello at Dinner

Interesting lighting on deck/clouds at sea

 

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day Two, Part One

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

We placed a 7:30-8:00 a.m. room service breakfast order the night before and it arrived around 7:20 a.m. Coffee, Raisin Bran, banana, and a couple of pastries. I had coffee, half a banana, and Raisin Bran and Rich had Raisin Bran, half a banana, and the pastries, which he said were pretty boring. They looked it – lol!

We stood out on the balcony and watched the Nassau arrival, noticing two ships were already in port. One was obviously a smaller RCI Majesty of the Seas” size ship and the other I said was either a hotel or a ship – lol! Turns out it was the new MSC Seaside we’ve been hearing so much about. Here was our chance to check her out.

Huge and stylish, I suppose, but so not our thing. None of these humongous ships these days are our thing. Ruby Princess is about as big as we go, at least if we have a choice. If not, we’re not sure if we’ll even cruise anymore. We booked both the Royal Princess and the Regal Princess, Princess’ new huge ships, and we cancelled both of them.

Once docked we watched the MSC Seaside passengers disembark and gather for tours. Tons of people! It was quite hot in Nassau this time of year (I was there in May once and it was too hot for me), so we stayed onboard the ship – been there and done Nassau a few times.

After our ship started disembarking, we headed for the aft pool. We swam in the pool and had it to ourselves for a bit. Then we got out and Rich ordered us each a drink of the day, which was some blue thing but wasn’t too sweet – it had more of a lime tang.

We decided to take our drink and dip our feet in the pool but some know-it-all swore that yesterday people were told drinks were not allowed in the pool. We thought that was odd because we’re usually quite turned off by the number of people standing in the pool with their drinks. It was also odd because a bar server had asked if we wanted drinks when we were in the pool earlier.

Anyway, this woman would not rest until we took our drinks out of the pool. What a weirdo! We didn’t want to make a scene so we got out and finished our drinks. Sheesh!

We started to get hungry but the Seaside Shack didn’t open until noon so we waited until about a few minutes before and Rich went over to place our order. He came back with a beeper. He also brought us each a soda.

I had the Lobster Roll, which was a bit odd – it was so bready with a bit of lobster sitting on top. This was $12. The fries were amazing – they might have been Guy’s fries. Rich had a Clams basket.

We returned to our cabin for a nap and woke up to watch the MSC Seaside leave. Then Rich went to Scoops and brought us each some soft serve in a cup. We then waited for all of our passengers to return to the ship before getting showered/dressed and ready for another fun sailaway at Alchemy Bar, photos, and “formal” night, which is now called “Cruise Elegant.”

Beautiful turquoise waters of the Bahamas

Cruising into Nassau

MSC Seaside Foreward

MSC Seaside Midship to Aft

Port of Nassau with Atlantis in the Background

Sailing Away from Nassau