An Evening at Wilderness Lodge

We’ve been craving a martini at Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge for some time now. It would be a nice change from hoofing it around a hot park – air conditioning, peace, quiet, ah…

We each had a dirty Ketel One Vodka martini, the Oregon White Cheddar Chardonnay Cheese Fondue that comes with 3 pretzel breadsticks and grapes, and the Asian Sticky Wings. The Cheese Fondue is amazing and the wings are quite tasty, although tonight they were especially salty.

We noticed the famous Artist Point Mushroom Soup is on the lounge menu along with the Berry Cobbler (we’ve had the Cobbler in the lounge before), but we decided to save those two items for our final Artist Point dinner at the end of next month right before it becomes the silly Snow White Character dinner. I mean, did they have to convert it completely? How about special occasions or just until 8 pm or something like that?

 

We noticed Artist Point was quite busy last night so maybe it hasn’t been hurting or maybe everybody is just booking it now because they know time is running out but it seemed like there were many families with the stroller brigade crowding the restroom area. Obviously, Disney World is going after the family dollars above all else.

After our lovely little meal and drink, we walked the grounds and while it’s as beautiful and mostly peaceful as ever. We stopped with another couple to get some photos of a rabbit hiding in the flowerbed and took turns taking photos of each other.

Later on our way to what was once the Trout Pass Bar, we were almost run over by two New Yorkers when I paused for two seconds to take a photo. People seem to be storming over to Geyser Point – that place is always a madhouse these days – and the smores area is making it even more crowded.

Note: Rich is standing in front of where we last sat on stools and enjoyed a glass of wine before our last meal at Artist Point over Thanksgiving 2017. Sigh…

We did enjoy another lovely walk over to the cabins – wouldn’t we like to live there? Wow! Of course, we love Wilderness Lodge and in some ways really hate to see these changes impacting that peaceful experience it used to be. It’s sad that the Trout Pass Bar is now a nail salon – I mean, a nail salon by the pool? Seriously? Oh well, I may have to give it a try for old times’ sake.

It was such a beautiful night and we were wishing we were staying over, but, alas, it was soon time to go home. But first we had a quick look around the gift shop and then out to the parking lot to retrieve our car to begin the drive home via the Windermere townhome for old times’ sake. After all, when we lived there, Skipper, Lovey, and Buddy were still with us. It wasn’t such a bad life, now was it? 🙂

Back when the townhome community was new. The trees in front of the townhomes are so huge now, it makes the neighborhood seem much more crowded.

Review: Terralina Crafted Italian, Disney Springs

Like last year, we thought about going to Epcot Food & Wine Festival but because it was Labor Day weekend and the very first weekend (since they started the festival a month early beginning with last year), we decided against it. With so many alternatives, we soon found another choice. In fact, Disney Springs has such a plethora of choices.

Since Terralina Crafted Italian opened on June 28 at Disney Springs, we have had it on our list of places to try. This past weekend, we finally got the chance.

We parked in the Lime Garage but were early so we made our way to DisneyStyle over by the Orange Garage not far from the Chicken Guy – another place to make time for. We looked at the stuff in the store but didn’t find anything we had to have. But we did have fun sitting in the tea cup.

Then we walked back over to World of Disney and found a few items we had to have for our kitchen. 🙂

We arrived a few minutes early for our 11:30 AM reservation at opening. We were soon seated at a cozy table by the window overlooking the water. The dining room is pleasant with a casual Italian feel. There are booths and tables. I’m sure it can be quite noisy when the restaurant is full, but we were there with the early lunch crowd, so it wasn’t too bad.

Menu

Drinks
Kathy:
Cozy Terrace
Cathead vodka, Cappelletti, fresh watermelon, lemon, and cucumber

Rich:
Negroni
Malfy gin, Cappelletti, Cocchi vermouth di Torino, and orange

Entrees
Kathy:
Capellini with Crab
Toasted Garlic, Olive Oil, Serrano Chili Pepper

Rich:
Bucatini with Clams
White Wine, Garlic, Olive Oil, Parsley, Lemon Butter, ‘Nduja

We had considered having wine with our meal, but it was a hot, sweaty day, so we opted for some refreshing cocktails instead. And the cocktails didn’t disappoint. Kathy’s Cozy Terrace was refreshing and bright, and my Negroni was a fabulous discovery. I think I have a new favorite cocktail.

The entrees were even more exciting. Kathy’s capellini pasta was wonderfully thin and flavorful, with chunks of light crab meat. She took half home for dinner.

I had the amazing bucatini with clams. I love this pasta, and it was made even better with the ‘nduja paste that flavored the pasta along with the clams. I ate every bite and had to resist the desire to order another plateful to go.

James Beard award-winning chef Tony Mantuano and Executive Chef Justin Plank have created a delightful restaurant inspired by Italy’s Lake District. The food, service, and atmosphere were outstanding, and the whole experience was an enjoyable way to be transported to Italy if only for a lunchtime.

Welcome Home to Florida

We caught an early flight out of Las Vegas yesterday morning and as the plane circled over our former home, heading out into the open desert, I said something like, “What a pile of dirt!” – lol!

It had been an emotional roller coaster revisiting the place we’d called home for 9 years. I was reminded not only of the excitement we’d had flying in from San Francisco and staying in different hotel properties, but also living there. I was also reminded of why we felt compelled to leave.

The flight on Southwest was pretty good going back – the service was quite attentive – and before we knew it, we were landing in Orlando via over Tampa to avoid some storms. What a sight for sore eyes! I mean, literally! All the greenery and water! What a contrast from the Las Vegas desert.

And I began to feel a renewal of my original love for Florida as we drove the hour back home. So pretty. So peaceful. Sunny but not too sunny. Hot but not too too hot – even the humidity is a welcome relief from the oven-like temps of Vegas. Maybe that was the point of the trip for me. For Rich, well, he had a very productive week at work. Everybody so excited to see him. They’d love to have him back at headquarters but I don’t think I could live there again.

We’re definitely looking forward to getting back to Disney, and especially for the Food & Wine Festival. Rich’s brother will be here for that – looking forward to reconnecting like we did on our trip in 2010. What a year that was – doing the F&W Festival with our Disney friends and family. Looking forward to seeing who we can meet and connect with this year.

We stopped at our little downtown deli and Rich got us some sandwiches to take home because neither of us wanted to prepare food. We noticed a musician set up outside the market/deli area and we stopped for a listen and offered a tip. I took some video and captured a pic of that. What a fabulous welcome home!

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.

1999: Where the Disney Florida Dream Started

You might have noticed our new domain for this blog – DisneynCruising.com. It all goes back to 1999 when Rich and I flew to Orlando from San Francisco and stayed at the Yacht Club for the first time. This was Rich’s first trip to Disney World – I’d been twice before: 1982 after my first Caribbean cruise and in 1987 on a combo Big Red Boat cruise to the Bahamas/WDW trip. It was always about Disney and cruising.

1999 was quite the year. In May, we went to WDW, and in November we celebrated Rich’s parents 50th anniversary on a Caribbean cruise on the Holland America’s Westerdam out of Fort Lauderdale – our second cruise together – the first was on Celebrity’s Century (see header pic) in 1997.

By December, we bought our first home together after Rich transferred to the “Silicon Forest” office in Oregon and I continued contracting for a couple of Silicon Valley companies. That’s when this whole journey began that led to three moves to Florida and where we are today.

Skipper and Buddy were born April 9, we moved into our home on April 14th, and Skipper and Buddy came home June 19th. We got Lovey a year later. The 3 Musketeers. Skipper was devastated when we lost Lovey last year. And, now, with Skipper gone, we are grieving the end of a very special time.

Shadow is grieving terribly – running around yelling all night – not every night, although tonight is one of those nights and neither of us can sleep. So I figured it was time to pay a little tribute to the journey that started with Disney World and cruising.

After church on Sunday in Orlando, I think we’ll drive by the Windermere townhome remembering when I pulled up in front of the townhome and Rich opened the front door and Skipper just walked outside to greet me. I was horrified that he was outside – for 18 years I put my heart into loving him and protecting him and worrying about him getting outside. And now he’s gone. The end of an era that leaves me feeling rather empty.

Here are a few photos from the early days.

Buddy and Skipper with their personalized collars they hated as kittens (those were soon dispensed of) in first house in Oregon

Lovey in the dishwasher

Skipper never very far away from Lovey

Little girl with her big bruiser

“The Little Couple” (Skipper and Lovey)

Lovey loving the fireplace

The 3 Musketeers – Lovey and Skipper with the “Brother/Brother-in-law”

Living 2 miles from Cinderella Castle – remembering when I parked in front of the townhome and Rich opened the front door and Skipper just walked outside to greet me

 

Saying Farewell to July from Port Canaveral

July was a tough month, as it always is. Usually, it’s about the weather but not for the weather this year. I’d much rather spend July in Florida than Las Vegas. Much easier to handle.

Still, I didn’t escape a tough July. In the midst of celebrating my birthday back in California, we lost our precious Skipper and then two weeks later, my father.

It was a tough weekend trying to cope. But we did take a little trip to Port Canaveral to check out the route to our upcoming cruise. Any excuse will do – lol.

This time we tried brunch at Fish Lips. Rich had the chicken and grits and I had the shrimp and grits and he had a Blue Triangle and I had a Jalapeno Margarita.

Chicken and Grits (bottom) and Shrimp and Grits with Margarita (top)

Bermuda Triangle

After brunch, we walked outside to take some photos of the Carnival Liberty (our next cruise) and then were drawn into walking down to Grills, where we usually dine when we’re in Port Canaveral, to see the ginormous Oasis of the Seas (RCI). Well, that was an amazing sight and we were enticed to sit down at the Tiki Bar area and order a couple of drinks and desert. What a blast!

We were anxious to get home and find out more about this ship, thinking it would be awesome to sail again from Port Canaveral. But when we watched a Youtube video, we realized (once again) these ships are so not for us. We don’t want so much inside activity – outside Promenade decks seem to be disappearing in favor of more revenue producing venues. Even Princess has cut back on the outside Promenade Deck and aft pool, which were our two favorite things about Princess.

Being at sea is the whole point of the cruise for us and we want to be aware of that as much as we can.

Carnival Liberty

Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas from Grills

Rum Runner (Rich), Margarita (Kathy), and Key Lime Pie (shared)