Farewell Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George and the Chicken Guy

When we got the email about Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George, we knew we had to do it for our good-bye to Florida. This would be our third time at Wine Bar George and one of the places we will miss when we’re back West.

It was a beautiful day – we arrived at Disney Springs at around 10:30 a.m. for our 11:30 reservation. The lime garage was already full but we’ve grown to appreciate the orange garage so that was no problem. We strolled around the springs, enjoying the atmosphere and Christmas decorations and our first stop was the Ganachery – another place we will totally miss. We got some chocolate toffee bark to take home and a milk chocolate Mickey and a vanilla with dark chocolate, shared them, while we strolled the Springs and made our way to World of Disney to get our first peek at the remodel.

We browsed and ended up getting Minnie Mickey coffee mugs. By this time it was getting close to 11:30 so we headed back to Wine Bar George and were seated on the balcony across from another couple, who were just being served a huge plate of Thanksgiving turkey. We exchanged appreciative glances and comments and ordered the same. The dinner was a traditional turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and haricot vert. We paired it with Argyle Pinot Noir. It was quite tasty, but I asked for a box to take half of it home for my evening meal.

We skipped dessert but made a point of stopping at the Chicken Guy. I’m not a fan of chicken tenders, but this was our last chance to try them. We were especially interested in the Nashville hot honey sauce – we were wowed by Nashville’s hot chicken when we evacuated there last year. I’m not usually a fan of hot chicken as in Buffalo Chicken Wings but Nashville chicken is amazing!

Anyway, we picked up an order of 3 tenders and the Nashville sauce for Rich’s evening snack since he managed to finish his turkey dinner. And then we headed home. It may seem to silly to complain about an hour and fifteen minute drive but it does get old. But that’s probably because we’re so ready to move back west. Our Florida vacation this time around is so over.

The toffee was incredible, my leftovers were even tastier heated up later, and the bite of chicken tender I had was the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had, although Rich remembers Cane’s in Las Vegas as being just as good if not better. We’ll have to make that one of our first stops when we get back so we can double check that memory. 🙂

 

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. 🙂

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 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 One, 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

It was too hot to do our usual sailaway from our balcony so we headed to the Alchemy Bar for martini tasting. We really enjoyed the Alchemy Bar on the Miracle, although we skipped it on our last cruise on the Imagination. It was still the Rotterdam Bar when we sailed on the Paradise and the Inspiration, sister ships to the Imagination.

The Alchemy Bar on the Liberty was positioned much more like it was on the Miracle, which we really enjoyed.

Rich was torn between two different drinks but our server’s input convinced him to go with the “Perfect Storm” and I had the “Fiery Tropical Passion Martini.”

The Alchemy Bar

Sailing away from the Alchemy Bar

“The Perfect Storm”

“Fiery Tropical Passion Martini”

We popped into the piano bar, which was next door, but didn’t make it back for the entire cruise – lol!

We were getting hungry so we tracked down the Sushi Bar,  which was in the buffet area.

I grabbed a booth and Rich ordered the Sushi.

Sushi platter – “Spicy Tuna ” for Rich and “Bang Bang Bonsai Roll” for me.

Rich’s comments: The Spicy Tuna roll was absolutely incredible. It was very spicy, but the flavors came through too, including the asparagus. This is some of the best sushi I’ve ever had, and I had to return to the sushi bar to let Fakim know how much we enjoyed it.

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

This was Rich’s first cruise from Port Canaveral – I’d done the “Big Red Boat” cruise with WDW package back in 1987 when Disney was affiliated with Premier Cruise Lines before they launched their own cruise line. This was also our first cruise living this close to a cruise port. So one hour from home, we parked in the parking garage and were onboard by 11:15 a.m. – pretty awesome!

We dropped off our bags in our cabin and started to unpack but then realized we should make our way to Guy’s before it got too busy. I claimed a table and Rich placed our order – 2 burgers (came with 1 order of fries). This time we knew better than to share – we each had our own – lol! I skipped the fries this time – they’re delicious but I was saving room for the burger! Ha!

Back in the room we continued unpacking and Rich’s birthday cake arrived from Cherry on Top – I’d preordered it. The bottle of Prosecco was there, too.

We each had a slice while the Prosecco was in the fridge chilling. It was tasty but we aren’t big fans of  fondant.

We hadn’t seen our room steward so we didn’t have ice yet. We were in a junior suite on our last cruise and we were spoiled by the service. It really helps to book a suite or special cabin of some kind to get good service.

Our balcony faced the sun and it was too hot and sunny to sit outside so we rested on the bed until our muster drill at 4 p.m. We sailed away promptly afterwards – always seems to be on time from Florida – sailaway is always running late in California. Gorgeous view!

 

Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas: The Oddest Things about an East Coast Short Summer Cruise

As I mentioned before, after my birthday trip to California with a short cruise to Ensenada, we decided 3 days was not enough. So then we booked another 3 day cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Liberty from Port Canaveral for Rich’s birthday about 3 weeks before the cruise. We got the last balcony cabin on Deck 7 (the Empress deck?), which is a desirable sandwiched deck, meaning, there are cabins above and below instead of being under or above a public room.

We just returned home today and we had a blast but before I get into the report, I’ve gotta say, out of 18 cruises, it was the oddest cruise I’ve ever been on. I’m going to have to clear my mind of this before I can even think about getting to sleep tonight.

It’s like all the stuff you hear about on social media coming alive on the cruise. It’s an honest observation and I hope nobody takes offense.

In the Minority

Was it summer or was it Orlando or was it the 3-day itinerary? I’ve done 3-day cruises before – even from Port Canaveral –  but this is the first time we were so obviously in the minority. Were we, perhaps, onboard a Black Baptist Church convention or something? On our Ensenada cruise, there was a group of 300 that was part of a Mobile-app company cruise. So it could be we were onboard with some sort of special interest group.

What makes these groups odd or even a short cruise odd is the most people are first-timers and first-timers can seem odd to experienced cruisers. For the first time ever, during the lifeboat drill, one man complained about not seeing the demonstration well enough. “Hey, can we get a demonstration of how to wear that?” as if he were being deprived of life-giving information, as if it were being deliberately withheld. I tell you, I’ve never seen anyone complain of that. “Just get it over with and let me get on with my cruise” is the usual attitude.

And the two groups of white and black were quite segregated throughout the cruise. I tried to be friendly and get them to open up whenever I got the chance, because in my world, we mix. But this is another thing I’m noticing about cruising these days – people are cruising with large groups or families and they’re remaining closed within the group. This isn’t what cruising has been about since I start cruising in 1982. But I’m noticing it more and more. At least on Carnival… in the summer…

Black Women Shaking Their Booty

What’s with this thing with crowds of people shouting and egging on Black women bending over shaking their booty? Must be a cultural thing. On our L.A. cruise, it was all about Hip Hop. I don’t even know what to call what I saw here – “Baby’s Got Back?” Belongs in the category of “Things I Wish I’d Never Seen.” Probably not part of a church group – there goes that theory.

Good Old Boys, Pink Dinner Jackets, Shots at Dinner, Border Crossings

Oh my! That was one of the more entertaining things about the cruise. The young southerner in his Pink sport coat downing shots next to us at dinner wished Rich a happy birthday when we ran into him again the next day. Too bad I didn’t get a photo of him. Belongs in the “Things You Usually Only See in the Movies” category.

The women from afternoon tea who when the sever asked where she was from said, “The United States.” “Duh,” he said. “It’s a big place – where exactly?” Turns out “North Carolina.” She talked about “crossing the border” driving down to Florida for the cruise. Has she never left the state before? Apparently so because she talked about traveling for her job. And when California was mentioned, as in where I’m originally from, she said she was supposed to travel to either San Diego or San Francisco and asked which one was north? Really? I’m from the West Coast but I think I’ve got East Coast geography down pretty well – even before I ever moved East.

Face Tattoos

I’ve also gotta say this tattoo things is getting way out-of-hand. A discreet tattoo is one thing, but I’m not a fan of sleeves or body tattoos or now face tattoos. It’s not a good look for the long term. Besides, I’d seen it all back in San Francisco in the 1980s – I thought we were done with all of that back then.

Culture Shock, My Faith in Humanity Restored, and a Life-Saving Moment

I’m reeling a bit from the culture shock, as I usually do living in Florida and cruising brought it all up close and personal in a tight space. But my faith in humanity was restored when a man we’d seen at the Alchemy Bar over the course of the cruise was  celebrating his 17th wedding anniversary with his wife in the Steakhouse (amazing food, by the way) as we were celebrating Rich’s birthday.

We were sipping our martinis and heard some really loud noises, not understanding what was happening. But then we realized the man named Steve was choking. It was quite frightening and a couple of men got up to help him, with other people offering suggestions on what to do.  Finally, one man lifted him up out of his chair and executed the Heimlich and released the lodged meat and we all applauded.

Steve and the man who saved his life hugged and became best friends for life with Steve buying the man rounds of drinks. It was an incredible moment!! And my heart soared at such generosity among us sometimes crazy, whacked out humans in this scary screwed up world we all live in. So often we’re the problem but sometimes we’re also the solution. It’s a beautiful thing!

Steve (right) and his life-saving hero (left) sharing a celebratory drink

As our crowd cleared out of the Steakhouse, the new group coming in were all Black. What’s up with that? Is it a culture thing – do they prefer to eat later? Were they cruise newbies and hadn’t discovered it until there were only later reservation times available? I don’t know but it seemed odd to me.