Why Did We Leave Las Vegas?”

The question we’ve asked ourselves more than once during this long, arduous time has been, “Why did we leave Las Vegas?” If we hadn’t, we could have avoided much of the emotional and financial stress, although nobody has any idea what they would have to deal with had they taken a different road.

It would have been comforting to have been in familiar surroundings during all of this, like the second time around when we moved back into our home. But we sold the Vegas home before we moved to Florida last time, and that enabled us to buy the Florida home. That had been a difficult decision to make and we almost didn’t. Still, there were reasons to go. But if we’d known we would leave Las Vegas only to return to Las Vegas, I doubt we would have left. I guess that’s why you can’t see into the future.

When I started thumbing through our photos and vids, I remembered all the fun and excitement of our 18 months in Florida the last time around, including building a beautiful home in a golf course community near the beach. A dream come true! So I put together a video to be able to remember and reflect on that special time in our lives, even with all its difficulties.

This video takes you from the “Welcome to Florida” sign to landing in a local apartment, to house hunting, touring model homes, picking out options from the model home, beaches, tiki bars, Walt Disney World, and the last few gorgeous sunsets from our Florida home.

I now have the answer to the question, “Why did we leave Las Vegas?” We would have missed out on all of this:

Hope you enjoy. Don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thank you.

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!

 

17 Year Anniversary of Our First Trip to WDW Together

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of our first trip to WDW together 17 years ago (actual date was the 22nd, which is Sunday this year) in 1999. We left San Francisco on  Saturday and returned the following Saturday, allowing us a 3-day weekend to recover. This is a preferred time to travel for us. And, this trip, in particular, was  a pivotal trip for us – it really changed our lives.

We were living a hectic life in the San Francisco Bay Area 3 years after our wedding, still trying to figure out where to make our home (other than apartment living) when we decided it was time to visit WDW together.

I’d been to WDW twice before – once in 1982 for the opening of Epcot when I stayed at the Contemporary and again in 1987 when I did a Disney cruise (ala the “Big Red Boat” with characters onboard) and a trip to WDW.

For one of my classes in my Technical Communications Certificate program, I wrote a report about WDW resorts – lol! The conclusion I’d reached in the report was that we should stay at the Grand Floridian. I received an A for the report.

Well, one of my co-workers had just returned from WDW back when the “Institute” was still around (they’d stayed there and taken several classes), and she recommended the Yacht Club for us. She could really see us there.

After much discussion, we decided to give the Yacht Club a try and loved it. She was so right about it. And while sitting out there on our balcony overlooking Crescent Lake with the sounds of Stormalong Bay, we said, “We must live here.” That began the journey we’ve traveled ever since that moment with two moves to Florida with thoughts of a final move for retirement.

So in honor of that important day, I thought I’d post a link to our trip report from that very first trip – Our First Trip to WDW Together (the trip that inspired our moves to Florida) – 17 years later! Where did time go?

A Tropical Florida Christmas

On one Christmas cruise before we moved to Florida, we found ourselves on St. Thomas on Christmas Day. The hilarious thing was when our van drove by and we saw Santa stumbling out of a bar. He waved, we waved, and our whole group laughed uproariously. Nothing like a tropical Christmas – lol!

When we first moved to Tampa Bay in November, 2002, we were surprised by the lack of Christmas decorations that were up around town. Of course, we were living in an apartment in Palm Harbor in Pinellas County and it retained the tropical beachy feel. We embraced it. For that true Christmas feeling, we visited Disney World. But for Thanksgiving, we dined at a waterfront restaurant, eating fresh seafood, and had a blast, celebrating so untraditionally.

So when we moved back to Central Florida the last time, we were living in a pool home about halfway between Disney and the beach (Atlantic Ocean side). We arrived in November, 2011 and so for our first Christmas, we decorated tropical style.

Here are a few pics of that time (including some of WDW).

waterwhitetreetreepool2012ornamentmickeyWLinsideFtWildernessRichRichAKL

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Diary of Those Tampa Bay Days: Part 1, “The Job”

Feelings for Tampa Bay have been growing stronger every day – at least in the morning. As I said before, by the end of the day, I’m exhausted and can’t imagine disrupting our lives here, especially because we fought so hard to get back to the house we still owned in Las Vegas. But it was all about our house and we really do want to sell it and move on – but where to move on to?

Lately, I’ve had the desire to blog the journey but I already did that. One part of that was an overview of the Tampa Bay years – check out the first Tampa Bay post here, as part of “The Journey.” I love that we’ve shared this journey together but, truly, the best part was the Orlando to Tampa Bay leg. So I thought I’d revisit that time and add some of the details.

When I think of Florida now, I think of Tampa Bay. After all, it’s on the West Coast – the West Coast of Florida. My head feels right being there. The sets on the Gulf in the west – the way it’s supposed to. 🙂

But Orlando – it’s “Inlando” – closer to the East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean. That just doesn’t feel right for a California girl.

When we landed in Orlando in September 2003 without a job, I was so disappointed the job opportunity was in Tampa. I couldn’t wrap my head around Tampa. What did I know about it? I’d visited Tampa as part of my first trip to Florida, my first cruise, my first trip to WDW in 1982, for the opening of Epcot. That’s all I knew, although Rich seemed quite knowledgeable about the whole Tampa Bay area. He seemed to be leaning toward Tampa – not Orlando.

Before Rich accepted the job, a recruiter called him for an interview with an Orlando company. Rich turned it down – he wanted the job in Tampa and he had an offer in hand. It was too risky to wait to see what would happen in Orlando. Rich and I are soulmates, and there are only 2 times I’ve been disappointed with a decision Rich has made. This was one of them. Who knew it would turn out to be one of my biggest blessings?

This morning I was recalling the day Rich and I drove to Tampa from Orlando for the interview. The job was with a software company located on Busch Blvd. in Tampa. It was a low-rise building, our preference from our favorite companies we’d worked for in Silicon Valley. It usually offers a more relaxed work atmosphere.

We parked the SportTrak under the trees and I hung out while Rich went inside to interview. I remember driving down Busch looking for lunch and I ended up at Burger King. I had lunch and then drove back and waited. Somewhere along the way, somebody’s car was broken into and the cops were there. Hmmm…. was kind of a sign was that? lol!

I can still feel the excitement of that day and the trees and the overall super-excited feeling. It really felt like home and I was surprised because I’d thought that only Orlando could be home with its California Disney connection.

Rich came out of the interview feeling very positive about it. Later, he had to return to meet the team but then the offer came in and he accepted. They even paid to relocate us from Orlando. We’d only been in Orlando for 7 weeks but we knew it might be temporary and didn’t completely unpack in case we had to move to a different part of Florida for a job.

Somewhere along the way, I was also called for a job in Tampa. I interviewed in Clearwater while Rich hung around but I didn’t get the job. Instead, I began writing my second and third novels.

Rich found an excellent mover and we finished packing up the things we’d unpacked. We’d bought a new loveseat in Orlando to replace a couple of chairs we’d brought all the way from Oregon. With the truck loaded, we turned in the apartment keys and the cats and began the drive to Tampa. We thought we’d stop for lunch along the way. Unfortunately, Buddy, well, how can I say this? Well, he couldn’t hold it and there was no way to clean him up until we arrived. So we weren’t about to stop for lunch.

Poor Rich – he had to clean up Buddy as soon as we got the keys to the Palm Harbor apartment in Tampa Bay. We were able to transfer our rental contract because they were with the same company. I don’t remember now if I ran off to get us some lunch or if we waited until the movers had unloaded the truck.

In that same post, we talk about the apartment with a photo of it. It really was a nice little townhouse. We kept saying, “Wow! We would have been thrilled if we could have lived in something like this in the SF Bay Area.” What I liked about it was the downstairs den where I set up my computer and wrote my second novel, “Lies! Camera! Action!” I’m thinking I should get it out again and rewrite it/edit it and prepare it for publication.

Agents loved the opening chapter and my most recent song was “Everybody Lies.” I’m starting to see a pattern with writing a song that matches a novel I’ve written. For example, my third novel was “Real Women Wear Red” and one of my first songs was “Candy Apple Red (Shoes).”

It’s so fun for us to recall those exciting days of Tampa Bay now. Moving to a new state without a job is something I wouldn’t do now. As you get older, it’s harder to compete for those same jobs. But back then, we were young enough to pull it off. We also realize our days of pulling it off even with a job are growing shorter so if we’re going to make a move, we need to make it soon.

Summer of 2015: End of Summer Cruise on the Love Boat

We kicked this summer off with our 7-night cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Carnival Miracle, the only ship that sailed to the Mexican Riviera in May. So today Rich booked us an end of summer cruise with a 4-nighter on the Ruby Princess. As much fun as we had on our Carnival cruise, it wasn’t exactly the best fit for us – we’re more Princess than Carnival. And this is a rare opportunity to cruise on the Ruby before she sets sail for Hawaii.

That leaves the possibility of a 7-night on the Crown Princess in the spring or a spring WDW trip or skip a spring trip altogether for a 20th anniversary trip to Hawaii – all possibilities for 2016.

In the meantime, we’re looking forward to wrapping up the summer of 2015 with this cruise.

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Summer of 2015: Birthdays, Beaches, and a Blast to the Past

beachkathyhatsmWe just returned from celebrating my birthday in SoCal, hanging out at the beach, Disneyland Resort, my old neighborhood, and catching up with family. We posted a few “live” pics, and we hope to start the trip report soon.

We had a blast, but it reminded me of how much I miss living near the beach. After splashing around in the water, I totally did not want to leave the beach and told Rich, “We have to move closer to the beach!”

Reading some older posts, I ran across this one and because Florida is always on our mind somewhere, I thought it would be fun to post an excerpt from that post and to think about what we wrote here almost 3 years ago right before we left Florida the second time around.

August, 2012

This morning was another one of those glorious Florida mornings and as I walked the neighborhood full of those Florida homes I love so much, I realized I may cry when the long hauler pulls up. The only other time I’ve done that was when we left Oregon in the first place. I was sitting out on our back deck when I saw the truck and I was surprised by the tears that flowed. I didn’t want to give up our first house where we’d started our new little kitty family. (Sad to return without the Budster!)

This time I have to give up Florida. And while it’s been difficult living here this time around, I do love it. As I strolled the neighborhood, I also realized that Florida represents my chance to relive my SoCal childhood as an adult. Disney, beaches, and affordable single-family, single-story homes with pools. That’s the way it was back in the ’60s when we lived in Orange County, California. Everybody I know who grew up there bemoans the fact that it’s no longer like that. And we all try to find our new SoCal. Florida was my new SoCal. Unfortunately, my childhood friends, schools, and family were missing from the Florida scene.

I will definitely miss opportunities to drop in on Disney, swim in the warm ocean, and meet up with new Disney friends when they’re in town. This was a brutal decision to make and many times, I didn’t think we’d make this choice. I thought maybe this time Florida would win.

Summer of 2015: Disneyland and Me

My birthday is just a few days from Disneyland’s birthday, although we weren’t born the same  year. But, actually, what I didn’t realize is that Disneyland and I were both in the creation process at about the same time. I think, perhaps, God created Disneyland just for me. 🙂

My discovery came from reading this article in the latest AllEars newsletter, The Birth of a Dream: Disneyland 1953 (by Jim Korkis, Disney Historian). Notice the two dates (1952 and 1953) in this excerpt:

Disneyland Resort 60th Anniversary

Although this column is usually devoted to the history and stories-behind-the-stories of Walt Disney World, there would not be a Walt Disney World without the original park that is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month: Disneyland.

In honor of that celebration, here is a look at how Walt originally envisioned the world’s first theme park in 1953 when he was struggling to find investors to make his dream of a different kind of amusement venue a reality.

Walt hired a half-dozen people in 1952 and set them up in a building on the back lot of Disney Studios in Burbank, California. This was the core group that became what we know today as Walt Disney Imagineering.

While Disneyland was being built, my mother and I used to peek through the narrow opening to see what we could see. And when Disneyland opened in July 1955, my family and I went as soon as my step dad returned from Korea.

Disneyland Then and Now

disneyland_then_now_150Sherry, Mother, and me on Main Street (left) and Me (right) in same spot on Main Street

We settled in Orange County, just 8 miles from Disneyland, and I remember summer nights playing baseball on our cul-de-sac until the Disneyland fireworks went off at 9:00 at night, Disneyland visits with family, friends, and relatives, taking my Pluto pencil to school, Catholic relatives going to church the next morning increasing my curiosity, field trips to the beach, the missions, parks, museums, family visits to Griffith Park where Walt took his girls, and seeing the man himself stroll the grounds at Disneyland.

You see, Disneyland and I go way back.

So happy birthday, Disneyland! Thanks for a memorable childhood!

Summer of 2015: Desert Mornings and Desert Nights

I don’t know which is better – relaxing out on a chaise in the morning or after soaking in the hot tub at night. The mornings are magical, but I swear, I could sleep out there all night long.

It all started as a kid, road trips through the southwest, stopping for the night in a motel, swimming in the pool – glorious at night.

HiltonPoolIn the ’80s when I started taking trips to Las Vegas as an adult, I often stayed at what was then known as the Las Vegas Hilton. We were often there for trade shows and I would relax out by the pool. I’d flip up my umbrella for a cocktail and pretend I was on a cruise ship. For lunch, I’d have a hamburger at the poolside grill, race up to my room to watch my soaps, and then back down for some tanning and relaxation out by the pool. This is the pool where they filmed Elvis and Me, which I was able to watch from my room.

In the ’80s, I also traveled to Reno and Tahoe from my condo in San Bruno. In fact, the ’80s were a great time to travel. Unlike some parts of the country, I was well-employed, had generous vacation, and travel prices were low. And the types of trips I took back then were mostly for adults. Cruises were not the family vacation they are now. I traveled when kids were in school and you rarely saw kids on a ship. Even Walt Disney World, during the school year, consisted mostly of retirees.

In fact, my whole adult life was very adult-oriented. Most of my friends in the Bay Area did not have kids. And life was so hectic for those who did, well, I just couldn’t imagine that for me. Places we traveled, ate, drank, did not have kids there. I remember this one couple at a Japanese restaurant in Reno saying, “This is why we don’t have kids – so we can do things like this.”

Now life is all about kids, kids, kids. I like kids just fine. Some I really adore – especially at Disney! Some I’d like to have for my own. I’ll be the first to stick up for kids. The problem for me is that there seems to be very few adult-only places anymore. There used to be a bigger separation. But it’s like there’s this new focus on having kids and life is all about kids as if we’re back in the ’50s and ’60s in a bad housewife reality show.

And for those without kids, well, it becomes rather tedious. Like reading the cruise boards and everybody’s talking about kid activities. Or women competitors on a cooking show playing up the mom role and talking about cooking for their kids. What happened to cooking for her husband or for her family? Why is it all about mom and kids? This is an example of something good and natural becoming unbalanced.

What’s nice about living in Las Vegas is that you can do so many things without kids. When we want to see kids, we go to Disney and like I said, I adore them there – I’m tempted to borrow one just for that – lol! I used to take my niece to Disney and that was a heck of a lot of fun. But it would be nice if the internet wasn’t so focused on kids and moms, kids and moms. I think it’s more about the internet than the reality of moms and kids. After all, my life is changed now and Rich and I are the proud parents of 3 furry kids.

But with the way the internet sometimes distorts reality, well, no wonder I sometimes want to disconnect and relax out by the “pool,” as if I’m somewhere in the ’80s and ’90s. My backyard oasis is calling me now…

The Journey: The Road to Armageddon

To explain a little bit more about the importance of Oregon and becoming JWs, several years before we set out for Oregon, my grandmother pulled up in front of our home in Orange County and announced, “I know when Armageddon is coming!” even though the scripture says “nobody knows the day or the hour.” Nobody knew but she knew. Well, she heard it at an international assembly of JWs at their annual convention.

Later, representatives from the JW Governing Body at headquarters in New York would say after 1975 had come and gone and still no Armageddon, “Some of the brothers and sisters jumped to that conclusion.” Yes, to deny their culpability – they blamed the “brothers and sisters.” But for some reason, the “brothers and sisters” marched forward under the assumption that Armageddon in 1975 was a done deal and made life decisions accordingly.

My grandmother lived about half an hour away and she would often drop by unannounced. One Flag Day, she surprised my mother and scolded her for having a flag displayed in the front of the house – one of the neighbors had given it to us. My mother tried to escape her mother’s religion – she was even tempted to have a Christmas tree one year, but never went quite that far.

No Christmas tree or visible decorations, but she would buy and make Christmas gifts for us and we’d celebrate Christmas. This wouldn’t actually be on Christmas Day but on a day or two before to be able to deny guilt at actually celebrating Christmas should her mother drop by. My mother would wrap presents elaborately and display them in creative ways.

One year they put us in my brother’s red wagon that he’d gotten for Christmas and wheeled us out to the backyard to see my gift – a tether ball! Woo hoo! I’d become the queen of tether ball and one of my favorite things at WDW is to hit the tether ball at the boat dock at Ft. Wilderness. Two years ago we did this on Christmas Day.

Back then we’d watch Christmas programs on TV and sang Christmas carols in our home and I sang in the school choir. We had special party snacks, too. I appreciate having these memories. And when Christmas break was over, I rejoiced in being able to return to school and join in with the other kids and talk about “what I got for Christmas.”

I also remember the Johnsons across the street and their silver Christmas tree with Christmas cards strung on the wall and all of the presents underneath the tree. We’d have neighborhood Christmas parties – the kids would have their own party – we’d play Beatles records, eat popcorn, and drink kool-aid while the adults drank Screwdrivers and talked religion. The Johnsons were Lutheran and the Sylvias were Catholic, and in those moments, my mother claimed to be a Jehovah’s Witness.

When my SDad’s Catholic sister and family would come down for a visit to Disneyland, they’d ask the Sylvias where their Catholic Church was. This made an impression on me early on – how devoted my aunt was and that she went to church with the Sylvias when they were on vacation. Later, this aunt would delight in my conversion. She’d married into an Italian Catholic vineyard/winery family in the Central Valley and had embraced that life as her own.

Not long after the Armageddon announcement, my mother and SDad went on a scouting trip to Oregon. They took my younger sister with them and my brother and I stayed with my grandmother. I think my SDad might have reveled in the idea of moving away from his mother-in-law, you know the “crazy woman with the Watchtower on her head,” but when they got to Portland during work traffic he said, “It’s as bad as the traffic in Orange County–we may as well stay there.”

Plan #1 to move to Oregon failed, but they sold the house and we moved to an apartment in nearby Santa Ana just in case they should have the sudden urge to move to Oregon. In Santa Ana, I met friends I still have today and who attended our wedding. See, things work out in interesting ways.

When Plan #2 to move to Oregon also failed, we moved into another new home back in my previous school district and I rejoined my childhood classmates now in high school. And when Los Amigos was built, some of us were moved to that high school, and that’s how I was on the track to being the first graduating class.

The way to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness is that you study with another JW, attend meetings, and eventually you make that commitment by baptism. This is a special JW baptism and when I converted to mainstream Christianity, I had to get rebaptized into the Trinity to make a valid baptism.

We’d been studying with different JWs off and on for years. This was my mother’s way of soothing her mother without actually committing to it. But one day the couple studying with us as a family called and said they weren’t going to study with us anymore because we weren’t making progress. Apparently going to the Sunday talk at a circuit assembly once or twice a year wasn’t a big enough commitment.

The JWs had this new program that if you didn’t make any progress within six months, they would drop you. Aha! My mother’s plan that had been working for years had now been foiled. It was either put up or shut up. She reacted badly to the news that they were being dropped – as if they’d just received the pronouncement that they were doomed to die at Armageddon.

Actually, this was my mother’s opportunity to convince my SDad that somehow we needed to get away from that evil, materialistic Southern California. I think she said something like, “If we stay here in SoCal, K will get pregnant and M will be on drugs.” That was all he needed to hear Plan #3 was implemented and off we went to Oregon and the road to becoming JWs.

For more adventures, see “Novels” and “Short Stories.”

The Journey: The Prequel

Reflecting back on my life’s journey, from Southern California to Oregon to Northern California to Oregon to Ohio to Florida to Oregon to Las Vegas to Florida to Oregon to California… well, the common thread in all of this is Oregon. It was that first leg, San Francisco to Oregon, that began the journey of truth. But truly the journey began before then. To understand the journey, it’s important to reflect back on that very first move to Oregon when I was sixteen.

I’d just spent a fabulous year in high school. It was a brand new high school and the sophomores would be the first graduating class and, therefore, have opportunities other people didn’t have. My class would always be the upperclassmen.

I was the first editor-in-chief of the yearbook. I named the yearbook The Reflector. I acquired many skills I would use later in my publishing career. I also learned business skills when soliciting advertising for the yearbook. I learned leadership and teamwork skills as I bore most of the work but worked together with the few supporters I had.

I was placed in advanced classes in English and History and bonded with those classmates who would later advance to UCI, a school known back then for admitting the brightest students. I auditioned for a solo part in the spring program Oliver, and got it. I auditioned for the concert choir and the girl’s choir for the next year and was accepted. Yes, I had many opportunities at a younger age than most. I had so much to look forward to and my future started then. Boyfriends, college, marriage, and future kids.

Then my family moved to Oregon. But it wasn’t just a move from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest that changed my life forever. The weather and culture was a big enough shock. But we also became active in my grandmother’s religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses. That changed everything!

No more singing in choirs – not allowed to sing Christmas songs. There would be no more Christmas. No more birthdays. No Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day. No more college plans. No dating–only in the context of a future marriage to another Jehovah’s Witness. Btw, women far outnumber men in the JWs so good luck with that – lol! Oh, and no saying “good luck” or “bless you” or “darn” – etc.

To jump ahead, when I left the JWs, I had much to catch up on – that first birthday, that first Christmas, college courses, etc. All of that was so triumphant but I’ll get to more of that later.

But back then, when my SoCal friends called me on my sixteenth birthday right after we arrived in Oregon and as much as I loved hearing from them, I cried afterwards. I was so depressed that I was in Oregon for such a milestone. That led to a recurring battle with depression, especially in dark climates and maybe why I love Las Vegas.

In the next few posts, I’m going to share what it was like to be a Jehovah’s Witness back then especially in rainy Oregon. Looking back, that move changed my life forever in a depressing way. But it also gave me the self-discipline to pursue a spiritual path. It was the seed planted that led me to my soul mate, my relationship with God, and the journey we would take together.

“All things work together for good” – Romans 8:28.

Next: Orange County to Oregon.

Paradise: Day Two Part Two

We must have had a very long nap because neither of us remember what we did after – except go to dinner. What to do post-nap and pre-dinner has always puzzled us on a cruise, but I think we’ve gotten very good at taking long naps so it didn’t seem to be as big of a problem – lol!

Oh, it was formal night so we did get a bit dressed up – it is Carnival, though, so Rich wore a tie and dress shirt – no jacket – and I wore a pair of nice pants with a flashy red jacket I’d picked up for the cruise.

We made our way down to the Elation dining room where the anytime dining is located on the port side of the ship, while the middle of the dining room and starboard side is still traditional dining. We were greeted warmly and a hostess led us to a table. What makes anytime dining work better on Carnival than on any other ship we’ve tried is that the tables can easily be made up into different sizes but they’re all located near one another so the waiter can take your order and a couple of surrounding tables at the same time. In the past, we’ve felt ignored at our table for two while the waiter busied himself with the larger tables. Here, that didn’t happen. Well done!

We were greeted by our servers as Rich and Christine – lol! Somehow, that’s how he heard my name and he called me that for the rest of the cruise. I gladly answered to Christine – it was kinda fun. Rich ordered the tasty Bass, with a nice, crispy skin, unusual for a cruise. I had the surf and turf – the lobster was very good. We each had a glass of Pouilly Fuisse. And when the lights went low and the waiters began singing Amore, we were impressed. We were dreading a big clapping, singing, loud waiter atmosphere that we imagined would be Carnival. For dessert, we had some yummy butter pecan ice cream.

We stopped off at the Rotterdam Bar right above the Destiny dining room and outside the Comedy Club. We found a private spot on a small couch where Rich had a cigar and MacCallan Scotch and I had a Ketel One vodka martini. The waiter was awesome, and he would remember our drinks the next night. It never really feels like a cruise until you’ve found that one, special bar, and we’d found ours. We were sorry we’d missed one night of it already since we only had 3 nights.

A group of guys were playing some kind of drinking game where they’d drink a shot, stand up and say something like “We’re all the same” and then sit down again. We saw them the next night, too, and had no idea what kind of game they were playing, but they were having fun and weren’t obnoxious at all. One table seemed popular with the crew, stopping in for a cigarette break and it was the best people-watching fun.

Rich had taken off his tie by then, but when we walked by the photographers, we decided we’d pose, since we were all dressed up. Rich put his tie back on, and the photographer was just amazing – he knew exactly how to pose us. Neither of us are good at this naturally, and it takes some expertise to get a good picture out of us. They turned out so well, we bought a couple of them the next day, although it was a bit challenging to decide which ones to get since one of us would be happy with the way we looked but the other one wouldn’t be – lol!

When we arrived in our cabin, we got into our jammies, and so impressed with the cheesecake from the room service from the night before, we indulged in a slice before bed. We got hooked on this kind of bedtime treat when we were staying at the Disneyland Hotel with the E-Ticket Club. 🙂

Next: Day Three