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.

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)

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.

 

Rosé Tasting with Master Sommellier at Wine Bar George and a Walk Down Memory Lane

Oh my, my, where to begin? Well, when I saw the special event posted on Instagram, well, I had to forward it to Rich and he immediately bought our tickets for Saturday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. It soon sold out and we noticed that in addition to the Friday afternoon event at the same time, a new event was created for 1:00 p.m. before our tasting. Nice to see the popularity of such an event. As you will recall, we ate lunch at Wine Bar George on the first full opening day a couple of weeks ago. We were so impressed, we knew we’d be back, but not so soon and at a special event.

Loving wine, vineyards, wineries, and anything related to wine, having grown up in a family’s Central Valley vineyard, living near Napa/Sonoma/Livermore and even a few years living near the Willamette Valley vineyards, well, let’s just say neither of us can resist such an event.

George is amazing, so friendly, knowledgeable, sef-effacing, and a great storyteller. We’re not that into Rosé but he made it an awesome event. And we came away with a new respect for Rosé.

We were divided into groups of six at five tables. We managed to sit next to the woman who won the little contest identifying all six wines by region – she identified all six correctly, a feat nobody had managed at the two previous events. She’s quite the Rosé drinker. 🙂

Each table also had a charcuterie/cheese/bread board – amazing! What’s not to love – food, wine, good company, and Disney?

So stoked after the event, we decided this was the time to walk over to Saratoga Springs for the first time since we’ve been back in Central Florida. We used to do this walk often when we lived in Windermere. In fact, this was my “go-to” place to celebrate (i.e., let off steam) the release of my books.

We noticed the new boat dock and shortcut to the walkway leading to Saratoga Springs, which was a great improvement. We stopped in at our favorite pool bar and Rich asked about bartender Rich to see if he was still there. He was, much to our surprise, but he wasn’t working that day. Well have to go back and say hi.

In the wine mood and a bit hungry after just a few snacks during the tasting, I found a table and Rich ordered two glasses of Cab and a cheeseburger flatbread. It was a bit warm sitting here, so we found our way to some shadier chairs on the other side of the pool near the Agapanthas, a flowering bush found all over California, including the Disneyland resort. After our meal, we stopped in at Artist Palette and the gift shop for old times’ sake.

 

We walked back and made our way to the Orange garage, and ended up walking 4.5 miles again. But this time, unlike at Epcot, whenever my hip started hurting after about 3-3.5 miles, we sat down and took a break so I was able to make it back to the car without any problems.

We stopped off to listen to some music reminiscent of what we used to hear at Downtown Disney near the Grand Californian. Disney Springs has so upped their vibe, Disneyland is going to have to work hard to keep up. 🙂

 

 

First Guests at Wine Bar George

Yes, that was us – the first guests on the first full opening day, Sunday. 11 am. George himself greeted us both coming and going.

The atmosphere was way cool, the food incredible and the wine perfectly paired.

We shared the Skirt Steak (with fingerling potatoes and asparagus) family platter meant to be shared. We ate about half and brought the rest home. Heated up for dinner, it was even more awesome – the flavors all married together.  So tender… we’ll be back for more.

As for wine, I had a glass of Argentinian Malbec and Rich had a California Merlot that reminded me of more of a Cab. I don’t recall the names but I took photos of the bottles, which I will post.

We also shared the Olive Oil Cake. I’d wanted to try that for a long time and it was also amazing!

Our server Jason was simply the best!

We were well-rewarded for the long drive through a deluge of epic rain. This was the kind of Disney magic that dreams are made of and we renewed our Annual Pass.