Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas

We’re counting down to Rich’s birthday cruise to the Bahamas. After the month we’ve have, we really need to get away – we’re so glad we made the decision to book another cruise when we got back from my birthday trip to L.A./cruise to Ensenada.

I’m looking forward to my first Margarita and Rich can taste those Guy’s Burgers. Sipping, relaxing, noshing… ah, life at sea!

Shadow, Daisy, and I are up again during the night. I’m hoping they’ll keep quiet and let Rich sleep before getting up for work in a couple of hours. They’re now asleep at my feet as I write this. In this moment, we’re all okay so it’s hard to get up from the computer and go back to bed.

Shadow is getting better about howling his grief – I suppose we all are. It still takes Rich and I by surprise, though, like all the places we still see him or the little things we did with Skipper in mind and now we either don’t need to or don’t especially want to. His presence is all over this house – I suspect we built it for him. After all, he was king! 🙂

Looking back at a few photos from the Vegas years, I’m posting a few of Skipper that especially stood out this morning. And as much as I was desperate to leave Las Vegas, I do miss it sometimes. Certainly, the memories. I definitely needed a break from it, though.

Late Sunday afternoon reminded me of how good we have it here. We just hopped in the car and drove to the beach and there I was dipping my feet in the water. Heaven! You can’t do that in the desert.

A friend and I were talking about meeting my father 16 years ago and how it was too short and I realized I knew Skipper longer than I knew my father.

That reminds me of a story about a woman I worked with in San Francisco when we were in ours 20s. Her dog died and then her father died and I said to another co-worker, “She seemed more upset about her dog dying than her father.” And Stefany said, “I suspect she got a lot more love from her dog than she ever did from her father.”

Anyway, here’s to Skipper. Look at those eyes – he would give me that look and he seemed so human. I will miss him forever! Love you, sweet boy!

 

 

 

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

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)

Today was Ensenada day. We’d been to Ensenada several times so we weren’t sure what we wanted to do but found a tour called “VIP Wine and Lunch Tour” and thought that sounded fun. We’d done a couple of winery tours but this “VIP” with lunch sounded even better.

We were to meet the group on the pier at 11:10 for 11:30 tour. We were there a little early after a room service breakfast at about 8:00 a.m. Eventually, it was time for the tour so our guide led us to a small, cramped mini-bus. We were stuffed in there like sardines. Knowing how long the drive would be to the winery, having been there before, I started to panic, especially when a very large woman sat in the solo seat next to the door because she couldn’t fit on the side with the people in her row. Hey, she said it–not me.

If there was an emergency, none of us would be getting out of that van easily. I remembered the regular buses we’d had on our other tours and we hadn’t filled them. I never expected this type of vehicle. Nothing about this tour seemed “VIP.”

Rich told the guide we wanted to get out. This was just past security. I said I was having a panic attack. The woman next to the door said, “She’s having a panic attack.” I think she was afraid what I’d do next – lol!

So the driver stopped and let us out. We filled out a form. Another driver heading in stopped to see what was wrong and when told, he offered to drive us back to the ship. We’d thought about walking into town but by this time, it was hot outside and, frankly, I was really quite tired from the night before.

So we took him up on his offer. He was very nice, and Rich tipped him when he dropped us off. We stopped in at a gift shop and bought a magnet. Then we ran into our friend April and her friend from the Chef’s dinner from the night before. We chatted a bit. In fact, we kept running into them and chatted each time. They were very nice. So good to be with my people again. People really aren’t that friendly in Florida, especially if you’re not from where they’re from. This has always been the strange part about Florida. This is outside of Disney – on Disney property, we’ve had some really great interactions with other guests – one of my favorite parts about Disney World.

Anyway, not going on the tour allowed us to have lunch at the new Blue Iguana Cantina where we each had 2 or 3 tacos after we’d changed into our swimsuits. Then we found a couple of loungers on the Serenity Deck and Rich got us a couple of drinks, Margarita for me and Rum Jumper (I think) for Rich. That’s what my notes say, although I’m starting to wonder if that’s what he had. I think he had a Mai Tai, actually

We returned to the cabin for a nap and some packing before dinner. Dinner was in the buffet and then we went to the 70s/80s Rock show, which was absolutely amazing!!! We stopped in at the photo gallery and used my birthday discount to get the Ensenada photo and frame.

We stopped in at the buffet for a slice of cheesecake and some milk for a bed time snack. We later discovered that Carnival had refunded our money for the tour. We hadn’t even asked and thought that was a a great move on their part. Say what you will about Carnival, and we’ve probably said it, too, but their customer service is excellent.

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day Three, Part Two: Chef’s Table

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 requested our places at the Chef’s Table before the cruise, but we didn’t hear whether we were included until we got a call in our stateroom on Thursday. Originally, they told us the Chef’s Table would be Saturday night, a disappointment for us since we wanted it to be on Kathy’s birthday.

Thankfully, they called us back that night and informed us we would be seated at the Chef’s Table Friday night. The next morning we received a letter in our cabin inviting us to meet at the Lobby Bar at 6:00 PM Friday night.

We arrived in the Lobby Bar a little early to find a large group of people mingling as if they knew each. One of the group, Steve, was kind enough to let us know that 300 people from their Orange County company were onboard and 10 of them were attending the Chef’s Table. There were 17 of us altogether, and while we anticipated having an awkward night with so many people who knew each other, it turned out to be a very pleasant group.

Just before 6:00 PM, we were each given a glass of champagne, and at 6:00 PM, our Chef’s Table host, Eduardo the ship’s sous chef from the Philippines, welcomed us and led us to the kitchen for a tour. We stopped in the middle of the kitchen to meet the Pastry Chef who demonstrated the preparation of the famous Carnival chocolate melting cake.

We were then led to another section of the kitchen where we were served four enticing appetizer bites:

Mango Sphere, Rosemary Biscuit
Salmon Tartar Cornets, Sesame Seeds
Beef Carpaccio on Air Pillow, Chocolate Bacon, Apple Ribbons
Double Cooked Lamb

The mango sphere exploded flavor in our mouths and was quite surprising. The salmon was delicious and fun in a cone. One of our favorites. The beef carpaccio was served on a parmesan-filled air pillow. This was my favorite appetizer, although the best part was the air pillow. The lamb was served as a small meatball in pastry and was quite good. All the appetizers were delightful, and it was fun having our nibbles in the kitchen.

We were then led through the dining room and into the Library where our long table was set up. First, we posed for a group photo, and then we found our places at the table marked by name cards. We were seated near six people from the company group and Kathy was next to April and her friend from Phoenix.

They gave us a choice of wine, Zonin Pinot Grigio or McGuigan Australian Merlot. We both chose the Merlot. They refilled our wine glasses throughout the meal.

We each had a menu that detailed the seven-course meal to be presented to us, starting with bread service.

Bread Service

Beef Blanket, Spiced Grape Tea
Asparagus Cauliflower, Honey Carrot Tian, Mache, Lemon Streusel
Comments: The grape tea was especially exciting and enjoyable.

Beef Blanket Before Spiced Tea

Beef Blanket After Spiced Tea

 Crab Stack
Corn Custard, Polenta Cracker, Tangerine, Passion Caviar
Comments: I am allergic to crab, so they substituted chicken. Unfortunately, that pretty much made this course disappointing.

CT_chickenstack_orig
Rich’s “Crab Stack” ala Chicken

Kathy’s Crab Stack (delicious!)

Duck Textures
Creamy Quinoa, Parmesan Churros, Olive Snow, Port Wine Jus
Comments: The duck was very rich, and we didn’t finish this course.

Duck

Bisque Our Way
Two Tomatoes, Three Basil, Crisped Brioche, Garlic Chip
Comments: They served the soups separated in the bowl, and then had us mix them. A fascinating and tasty dish.

Soup “Dry”

Soup “Wet”

Sea Bass
Chorizo Crust, Fried Pop Corn Pudding, Lemon Macaroon, Lobster Foam
Comments: This was one of my favorite dishes. So flavorful. They omitted the lobster foam due to my allergy.

Waygu
Bone Marrow Souffle, Scallion & Garlic Panisse, Gremolata Crisp
Comments: Wonderful Waygu beef. Very rich. Couldn’t eat all this.

Waygu Beef

Pastry Chef
Sea Salt Praline Chocolate, Raspberry Mojito, Key Lime Cake, Apricot Vanilla Gel, Citrus Cream
Comments: We were so full by the end of the meal, but we managed to eat most of the dessert plate.

Dessert Plate

As you can see, we were served a lot of food, all of it well thought out, well prepared, and full of interesting flavors. After the dessert course, Eduardo brought out two birthday cakes with candles for Kathy and another guest who were celebrating birthdays. Everyone sang Happy Birthday. And the birthday cake was fabulous.

Eduardo was a superb host. We gave him the highest ratings on our post-cruise survey. The conversation around the table was enjoyable, although, with the long table, we really only interacted with half of the group. One of the company guys had an allergic reaction in the middle of the meal and had to leave mid-meal with his wife. We later heard he collapsed but was recovering well by the time we finished.

At the end of the meal, we were each given a packet that included a copy of the group photo and the recipe for the chocolate melting cake.

The food and service were amazing. We were quite impressed with the quality of everything. This was very good food served interestingly. Eduardo and his team prepared the dishes in the Library and then served them to us. Very impressive.

There were only two things I would critique. First, in the middle of the meal, we took a break from eating to be “entertained” by a magician. Neither of us cares for magicians, and this one was no exception. Boring. The other critique is that they only offered us one wine from a choice of two for the whole meal. We would have preferred several wines served throughout the meal to pair with the food. However, these critiques are minor. Overall, it was a marvelous and memorable experience. It was a 9 out of 10 for us, and an amazing way to celebrate Kathy’s birthday.

 

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

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)

Today was my birthday and lucky for us, it was “Sea Day Brunch” day – one of our favorite things about Carnival. We’ve sailed on all the major cruise lines and we love Carnival service.

Rich started the day with a birthday card for me, and then we were off to the dining room at the opening of Brunch – about 8:30 a.m. I think.

I wasn’t sure about the Bloody Mary but when the couple next to use ordered one, we decided to join in but made mine a Bloody Maria (tequila instead of vodka).

I had my usual Huevos Rancheros with a fruit plate starter and Rich started with a Bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon and then the Blueberry Pancakes with a side of bacon for his entree.

But the highlight for me is this particular muffin – I think it’s a cappuccino muffin. It’s amazing and I have to have it every time. The chocolate muffin isn’t bad either. I really need to get a good photo of the muffins – I only have a pic of a half-eaten muffin take a few years ago – lol!

We ate our brunch and took our drinks to the Xanadu Lounge, then returned to our suite to change into our swim suits and hung out on lounges on the Serenity Deck.

We returned to the room to nap. For lunch, Rich ran up to Guy’s when we got hungry and brought back a couple of burgers – not sharing this time – lol!

Oh my, no wonder I’m still trying to work off this trip. But birthdays only come once a year, thank goodness!

I was worried about being too full since tonight was my birthday dinner at the Chef’s Table so we skipped the fries. 🙂

Rich will write up the Chef’s Table report.

“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.

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.