“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day Five

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

We got up early, Rich brought us some coffees and pastries while I showered, and we made our way to the Theatre to wait for disembarkation. We were off the ship by about 7:15 a.m. We saw our friend April and her friend again and we chatted once again. She wished me “Happy Birthday” again – really fun girls!

We had so many ideas about what we might do this day since we were flying back to Florida until the next day. One popular idea was to go to Disneyland if we got off the ship early. Well, we were off early but we were exhausted so we drove to Newport Beach.

It was only 8:30 am but already all parked up. So we drove to Huntington Beach and had breakfast at Norm’s – where our favorite pancakes in the world awaited and the friendliest, hometown experience.

Then we went to Mass at one of our regular SoCal churches. We were blessed to have been part of a baptism. So far, we were really feeling at home again.

We also drove around some of our favorite neighborhoods and when our hotel wasn’t ready early like we’d requested, we drove to Corona del Mar, hoping to enjoy the beach there. Nope – parking full. We ended up taking the ferry to Balboa Island, although there was quite a line of cars ahead of us.

This was a favorite childhood hangout for my family, including my mother who used to hang out there as a teen. My novel, Letters on Balboa Island, was inspired by all that.

Exhausted from getting up early and driving around, we decided to park at our hotel and wait in the lobby for our room. They’d offered a pool view room but we waited for our water view room.

We ended up ordering room service – burgers and wine – and relaxed and sipped and watched the sun set over Balboa Bay where I used to go with my family to watch 4th of July fireworks!

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day Two

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

As I mentioned here, we ate the leftover steak from Napa Rose for breakfast this morning along with some eggs from the hotel breakfast buffet. Then we headed for the port of Long Beach via my old stomping grounds – childhood home, high school, and other neighborhoods. I’ve posted enough pics about them so I won’t repeat that – lol!

We were a bit confused by the entry to the port due to some detour. But when we looked confused, a bus driver asked if everything was okay via a thumbs up? And so I rolled down the window and asked how to get to the port and he very nicely gave us directions. We were so impressed!

We parked the car in the garage and headed for the new check-in area at were directed to priority boarding and were onboard in no time at all. Because we were suite passengers, our room was ready so we dropped off our luggage and I noticed there were birthday decorations and a bottle of Prosecco that Rich had ordered. Yay! We met our cabin stewardess who was amazing and kept our ice and water well-stocked and cleaned.

 

We then headed for Guys Burgers for lunch. We shared the Straight Up – amazing!! Maybe even better than In N Out! Ohhhhh!!!

Then we made our way to the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar and Rich ordered a Blue’s Patron Margarita for me then ran over to the Red Frog Rum Bar on the opposite side of the ship and brought back his Rum Jumper (aka Rum Runner).

Rich’s Rum Jumper

Kathy’s Blue’s Patron Margarita

We did a bit of a ship tour, although we have sailed on two sister ships, the Paradise (twice), and the Inspiration. One of our favorite areas is the Adults Only Serenity Deck, especially on this class of ship.

We unpacked our carry-on bags and then it was off for the Muster Drill. Ours was located up on the pool deck. Carnival has improve somewhat with accounting for people by electronically beeping people’s Sail & Sign cards, similar to Princess but Princess is far more efficient. Then it was time for sailaway, although there seemed to be a bit of delay.

Our Prosecco was on ice waiting for us but due to the delay, we headed to the salad bar (Carnival’s is the best!). We made our way back to the cabin where chocolate covered strawberries, cookies, macaroons, and truffles awaited! Eventually, the ship began to move and Rich popped open the Prosecco, poured us each a glass, and we sailed away from our balcony.

I don’t remember doing much more after we sailed away. I think we pretty much just hang out on the balcony, which is our favorite thing to do on a ship. This is why we cruise. We texted with our pet sitter a few times before leaving range. We were pretty tired, as we always are on embarkation day.

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day One, Part Three: Napa Rose

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

Birthday Dinner at Napa Rose

We were enjoying sipping our Pinot Noir in the Napa Rose Lounge when a server came by, told us our table was ready and carried our wine as she led us to our table. We were seated at a table for two near the open kitchen where I could watch Andrew Sutton cook. If you’ve read our prior Napa Rose reports, you’ll know I am a big fan of Andrew Sutton and his food.

Our server, excellent throughout our meal, took our order and brought us a basket of delicious breads, including tasty rosemary rolls and delightful parmesan crisps.

MENU

Appetizer (Shared)

Barbequed Bristol Bay Diver Scallop
with Forager Mushrooms, Apple Bacon, and Summer Peaches

Entree (Rich & Kathy)

Grilled Creekstone Farms “Prime” New York (Medium Rare)
Bone Marrow Fritter, Onion Fondue, and Mustard Crème

Wine (Rich & Kathy)

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir

Dessert (Shared)

Valrhona Blond Chocolate Crunch Covered in Dark Chocolate Ganache
Caramelized Bananas and Honey Sauce

We always wanted to try the diver scallop appetizer at Napa Rose, and we finally got our chance. Andrew Sutton changes the preparation often, and this preparation was exquisite. This has to be the best scallop we’ve ever had. Amazing!

We both ordered the New York Strip. Sometimes a steak is just a steak, but not at Napa Rose. Cooked perfectly, the steak was luscious, juicy, and seasoned splendidly. The accompaniments were good, but the steak was the star.

Since it was Kathy’s birthday, our server offered her a free dessert from the menu. She chose the Valrhona chocolate dessert that we shared. What can we say? YUM! That about sums it up. It was rich, chocolaty, and, well, incredible.

This was our best Napa Rose experience, even better than the Chef’s Counter. The service, food, and atmosphere were delightful. This was a fantastic way to start the celebration for Kathy’s birthday and kick off her birthday trip.

Bread Service

The Amazing Scallops

Awesome Steak

Complimentary Birthday Dessert

Kathy’s Comments: Looking at the photos, it might seem as if we were skimping but neither of us could finish our steak – Rich left a couple of bites on his plate and we took about half of mine back to the hotel, stored it in the fridge, and the next morning heated it up with the hotel eggs and had Steak and eggs for breakfast, which was absolutely scrumptious the next day.

 

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day One, Part Two

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

Picking up the story where we left off in Part 1 (pulling over to figure out how to get to 405S and to make arrangements for Skipper with our pet sitter), we found our way to the freeway, amazingly enough. We were both quite devastated over the news and I suggested we cancel my birthday dinner at Napa Rose and just rest up at the hotel before boarding our ship the next day. The good news was that when we picked up our car in the Emerald Aisle, a black Challenger just like ours at home was sitting there waiting for us. Amazing. We’ve never seen a sporty car like that in the Emerald Aisle. So we were at least feeling comfortable driving a familiar car in the midst of all this craziness.

We were also happy we’d chosen the Residence Inn in Garden Grove just a few miles from Disneyland. We’d stayed there many times when we came in from Las Vegas and it felt like home. We’d booked and unbooked so many choices before we finally settled on this hotel, and we were glad we’d stuck with this choice. By the time we arrived at the hotel, we decided we should go ahead and celebrate and keep our dinner reservation at Napa Rose. Skipper would have wanted it that way.

We checked in and relaxed for a few hours and then valet parked the car at the Grand Californian. Unfortunately, the porte cochere was under some sort of refurbishment and we had to park over by the Conference Center, which meant a roundabout walk to the lobby. We admired the lobby, the oh so familiar Hearthstone Lounge, and our favorite gift shop before heading into Napa Rose a bit early. They seated us at a table in the Napa Rose Lounge and asked if I’d like a birthday pin. I said yes and we ordered a couple of glasses of MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir for old times’ sake.

Rich will write about the actual dinner. But let me say that this was our best experience at Napa Rose and the Napa Rose staff surprised me with so many wonderful birthday touches – far more than they had before. Maybe because Andrew Sutton was in the house and everybody outdid themselves. 🙂

And now for a few pics – we’d made a pact that we wouldn’t take any photos of each other because after travel day and the news about Skipper, we decided it would be best not to.

“Good Neighbor” Residence Inn Hotel along Hotel Row, Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove/Anaheim with our Black Challenger rental car (just like Home)

The Grand Californian Lobby – a site for sore eyes!

Our usual table at Hearthstone Lounge – ah….

A glass of MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir in the Napa Rose Lounge while we wait for our 7:30 p.m. reservation

Our Florida Vacation

We called 2017 the “Year of Repositioning” and many of you followed our journey from Las Vegas to Florida and the fits and starts along the way.

2018 is the “Year of Adjusting,” and I’ve really been struggling lately, actually even before the one-year anniversary of arriving in Florida. The first 7 months were spent in an apartment in North Orlando while we house hunted and then built our home in a beach city we’d never lived in before. So the adjustment period started all over again, although we might have been further along in our adjustment if we hadn’t had to split our time. But, then, this is our third time in Florida and I always get homesick. Hence, the upcoming birthday trip to SoCal, a short cruise to Mexico, and a couple of days at Disneyland Resort. I can’t wait to touch down once again!

Just for kicks, I looked at some pics of our Las Vegas home and the surrounding area and am so thankful we’re out of the desert – the best thing about living there was that feeling of home and being only 4 hours from Disneyland/SoCal childhood. I miss that! Sometimes I can’t believe I’m so far away now. How did this happen? 🙂

Anyway, here are two pics that show the contrast of living in Las Vegas and living in Florida – no wonder I struggle to adjust – it’s a huge change!

The back of our Vegas house – solar screens are popular as a way to block out some of that hot desert sun. We also had blackout drapes on the back side of the house for that intense afternoon sun.

This morning’s view from my screened Lanai where I sip my coffee every morning – glorious!

Two different worlds for sure!

Saturday, we shopped for the trip in the morning and then had our lunch at La Fiesta, which is so authentically Mexican, we’re there practically every week. At least the weeks we’re not at Disney. The Margaritas are amazing!! Growing up in Southern California surrounded by Mexican culture, margaritas and tacos are a taste of home.

Tequila, take me home!

Halfway through eating lunch. 🙂

We were shopping at Target the other day and we picked up some food items like tortillas, black beans, rice, tortilla chips and salsa and the clerk said, “Are you having a Mexican Fiesta?” I just looked at her and said, “Every night is a Mexican Fiesta for us.” The thing is nobody would say that to you in California or the West Coast or the entire SW. In this day of the Food Network and food education, I’m a bit shocked even somebody in Florida said it.

No doubt we’re having a blast in Florida, enjoying frequent trips to Disney and the beach – what a welcome change from the desert. Our house is wonderful, the golf community is gorgeous – both a dream come true. But it’s not home. And, as always, it’s starting to feel like we’re on another extended Florida vacation.

 

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip (Pre-Trip Report) Updated

So excited, I’m jumping up and down! We’ve been going back and forth with how to celebrate my birthday in SoCal. Longing for home, we’ve booked and unbooked hotels near the beach, near Disneyland, and then finally booked a cruise. But I started to miss Disneyland. So, here are the latest plans:

Wednesday:

MCO to LAX, check into Anaheim Hilton. Dinner at Napa Rose

Thursday:

Drive to Huntington Beach, breakfast at Norm’s, then drive up PCH to Long Beach where we will board Carnival cruise ship at the new terminal – can’t wait to try the new terminal! Cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada, round trip.

Friday:

Day at Sea – Sea Day Brunch, Chef’s Table birthday dinner

Saturday:

Ensenada – booked a wine and lunch excursion in the vineyards. Were so wowed by the vineyards in Ensenada several years ago. Who knew Ensenada had such a wine culture? You usually think of Tequila when you think of Mexico.

Sunday:

Return to Long Beach. Drive to Disneyland – get park hopper – do Disneyland in the morning, check into Anaheim Hilton for afternoon rest, and then back to DCA for the evening – Dinner at Carthay Circle (martinis and amazing biscuits, here we come!)

Monday:

LAX to MCO

I’m so stoked about getting to do Disneyland, the beach, and a cruise for my birthday! In the meantime, we’ve got a little overnight trip planned for Epcot and the MK as a pet sitter test run. She seems really great and was recommended by our visit but it’s always good to do a short trip close to home before flying across the country and going out to sea. Just in case anything needs to be ironed out.