The 20th Anniversary Celebration Continues on the Fun Ship: Day 1

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera
What: Carnival Miracle
When: August 13-20, 2016
Why: The 20th Wedding Anniversary Celebration Continues

We started celebrating our 20th anniversary, which officially occurs in August, with the Valentine’s weekend kickoff trip, and the Mexican Riviera cruise on the Love Boat (Crown Princess) in April. We were undecided about what to do on the actual anniversary. We thought about celebrating somewhere locally in Las Vegas but really wanted to leave the desert for a week in August just to get away.

Naturally, we thought about Timber Cove Inn in Sonoma and made reservations. At one time, we’d made ressies at the Grand Californian. In the end, we wanted to go someplace where we could totally relax and be pampered for a week so we chose to cruise. And, in summer, out of L.A., this means Carnival. We’d had a good time on the Miracle in 2015 so we decided to book it for anniversary week. Our Princess cruise was the more romantic, formal celebration and our Carnival cruise was the fun, casual celebration.

We drove in Friday from Las Vegas, leaving home around 2:45 pm with a stop for a couple of Del Meat burritos at Del Taco in Barstow. We hoped to arrive at our destination by 7 pm, but there were three separate accidents along the route, so we didn’t arrive at our Residence Inn Fountain Valley-Huntington Beach until 8 pm.

We were exhausted but our king studio was lovely and comfortable. As Elite members, we were upgraded to a corner room with a fireplace. We’d like to return during fireplace weather. We sipped a glass of wine and snacked on some popcorn supplied by RI.

We slept in, Rich got our breakfast from the lobby, and we got on the road to Long Beach around 10:15 am. Another accident slowed us down on 405, but we arrived at the Port of Long Beach a little after 11 am. We parked in the top level of the parking garage and took this photo of the ship.

IMG_7249We checked in through the Faster to the Fun line and were soon waiting to board around 11:30 am.

Unfortunately, Carnival had a technical glitch, and we did not board until 1:30 pm. The waiting time was not totally wasted as we met and chatted with an Oregon honeymoon couple, first-timers who asked us for lots of advice. That made the time more pleasant.

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Once onboard, we dropped off our bags in the cabin, and headed up one deck to the lido buffet. We stopped at Chopsticks where we had rice noodles, rice, and chili spice beef. Rich also had a slice of cheese pizza. We had iced tea and dessert – fruit and cookies and lemon meringue pie.

We returned to our cabin for a rest until the muster drill at 4:30 pm in the hot sun on the promenade deck.
After the drill, we were back in our cabin for a big snooze. We were so tired, we ordered room service dinner: roast turkey sandwich, BLT, and Caesar salads.

After dinner around 9 pm, we headed out to Sam’s Piano Bar where Josh entertained us on the piano for 2 hours while we enjoyed our Martinis (Vodka for Kathy, Gin for Rich). We took some video and will upload it later.

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We stumped him with our Meatloaf request but he said he’d work on learning it. We checked in later in the week but never really made it back there to see if he’d mastered Meatloaf – lol!

We were back in the cabin around 11:30 pm and asleep by midnight.

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Friday, Getaway Day

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 1: Disneyland

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 2: DCA

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 3: Dinner at Carthay Circle

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 4: DCA, Soarin’ & Sunday: Beach Breakfast

 

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 4: DCA, Soarin’ & Sunday: Beach Breakfast

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Anaheim
What: Kathy’s Birthday Trip
When: July 8-10, 2016
Why: Kathy’s Birthday

After that marvelous dinner, our first order of business was to ride some rides! Woo hoo! So we headed for the new “Soarin’ Around the World,” figuring if we only did that one, so be it. The wait time said 70 minutes but we got in line anyway. It ended up being only about 40 minutes, which was awesome.

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We chatted with the couple next to us in line and then we were seated with them on the ride vehicle.

We hadn’t expected to like it – after all, we loved Soarin’ Over California and while we were interested in maybe a Soarin’ Over Florida or a Soarin’ Over America, we weren’t that impressed with POV videos on YouTube.

The experience was so much better. We loved it!! We were seated close to the far end and it’s true about distortion in that location. But overall, it was great! And we all clapped at the same ending as “Soarin’ Over California.”

After Soarin’, we peeked into our favorite gift shop, Rushin River Outfitters to see if they had any more of those fluffy tigers. They didn’t.

And the we stopped in and rode Mermaid, which is so fun!

Then we headed for Luigis Rolickin Roadsters, the replacement for the Luigis tires ride we’d never been on. But this ride was fabulous and a great addition to Cars Land.

One of the CMs wished me “Happy Birthday” in Italian and so I said, “Grazie,” of course. 🙂

I was craving an ice cream so Rich suggested the Cozy Cone in Cars Land. It was dark by now and the setting was awesome! We love this place – really takes me back to my childhood.

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We took our cones to watch the Racers zip by – FPs were gone by this time so we had to give it a pass this trip, but it’s almost just as much fun sitting there and watching.

And then we headed back down Cars Land and caught some of the Disneyland fireworks over the Cozy Cone.

We’ve been wondering if we should get another Disneyland AP this fall and, perhaps, DCA alone would be worth the cost. Love this place!!

By this time we were ready to head back to the resort so, of course, we manage to time it with everybody leaving Disneyland after the fireworks. Oh no! And that meant, standing room only for the shuttle going back to our resort. But the ride was short, but longer than usual because the driver managed to hit every light. 🙂

We were exhausted when we climbed into bed but so happy that we managed to ride so many rides and have so many wonderful experiences in Disneyland Park and DCA. It had been a full but fruitful day. And the dinner was truly memorable. The only day was memorable.

The next morning we checked out, retrieved our car, and drove to Norm’s for breakfast in Huntington Beach. Then we drove south on PCH, took a drive around Newport Beach hoping for a parking place so we could take a quick walk on the beach. But the parking lot was already full at 10 a.m. so we hit the road and drove home.

What a short but fabulous weekend birthday getaway!

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 3: DCA, Dinner at Carthay Circle

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Anaheim
What: Kathy’s Birthday Trip
When: July 8-10, 2016
Why: Kathy’s Birthday

Rich wrote this post highlighting our dining experience at Carthay Circle.

Dinner and Drink Selections

DRINKS

Kathy & Rich:
Carthay Diamond Martini (60th Anniversary Cocktail)
Classically prepared with Hendrick’s Gin (Rich) or Double Cross Vodka (Kathy), Lillet Blanc Dry Vermouth, and Gourmet Truffle Olives served with an Ice Sphere

APPETIZER (Shared)

Carthay Signature Fried Biscuits
Stuffed with White Cheddar, Bacon, and Jalapeño with Apricot Honey Butter

ENTREES

Kathy: Carthay Shellfish Cioppino
Royal Shrimp, Black Mussels, Manila Clams, Snow Crab Claws, Ramen Noodles, Lemon Grass, Pineapple

Rich: Grilled White Sea Bass (Sustainable Fish of the Day)
Avocado Relish, Tree Ripe Peach-Almond Gazpacho

DESSERT (Shared)

Meyer Lemon “Cracked” Meringue Tart
Fresh California Strawberries and a Birthday Candle

Details

When the parade ended, we followed the end of the parade, and then entered Carthay Circle restaurant. After a brief wait in line, we approached the desk to check in for our 6:10 pm dinner reservation.

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The hostess was friendly, and she asked us if we were celebrating a special occasion. We said yes, it’s Kathy’s birthday, remarking that the hostess’ name was also Kathy.

She invited us to sit in the lounge and wait to be escorted to our table. Soon, she returned with a personalized Happy Birthday pin for Kathy. Very nice.

After a brief wait, a host arrived and asked if we had dined at Carthay Circle before. We told him we had (Valentine’s Day 2015). He then escorted us up the stairs to our half-booth table just across from the table we had last visit. Our server Ernie quickly arrived to wish Kathy a Happy Birthday, take our drink and appetizer order, and tell us about the fish of the day.

We both ordered Martinis – Gin for Rich and Vodka for Kathy. The martinis were fantastic, perfectly made and delicious. And what can we say about the “biscuits!” They are not really biscuits in the traditional sense. They are hard to describe, but they are fried balls of goodness with an incredible cheese, bacon, and jalapeño filling. Rich ate them with apricot butter while Kathy ate them straight.

IMG_7122Kathy’s Vodka Martini/Birthday Pin

IMG_7093Rich’s Gin Martini

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Basket of Carthay Circle Biscuits

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Inside the Biscuits

We took Ernie’s suggestion for the light fish dishes, and we’re glad we did. Kathy’s cioppino was definitely light but full of flavor with a wonderful variety of seafood and yummy noodles and broth. Rich’s dish was so flavorful, he savored every bite. The combination of peach and almond in the gazpacho (more of a coulis) was delightful.

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Kathy’s Cioppino

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Rich’s Sea Bass

After perusing the dessert menu, we decided to share the lemon tart. Ernie delivered the dessert plate with a lit birthday candle adorning it, once again wishing Kathy a Happy Birthday. The perfect ending to a perfect meal.

IMG_7099Meyer Lemon Tart with Birthday Candle

Service throughout the meal was superb. Ernie was friendly, knowledgeable, efficient, and attentive. He was assisted by the equally adept Ryan (who we had seen on a YouTube video as a tour guide for 15-minute The Story of Carthay Circle Restaurant tour that occurs every day at 10:30 a.m.).

You can watch it here via Tim Tracker’s YouTube Channel:

Everyone we came in contact with wished Kathy a Happy Birthday, a nice touch for our sumptuous celebration.

Carthay Circle is one of our favorite restaurants on Disney property, in fact, it’s one of our favorite restaurants anywhere. We love the food created by the brilliant Andrew Sutton, the mostly unsung and under-rated chef of Napa Rose and Carthay Circle. We met Andrew at the 2010 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, and he’s as humble and gracious as he is talented. If Disney offers the cooking experience with Andrew Sutton at next year’s Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, Rich would love to participate.

Napa Rose creates a lovely dining experience, but for atmosphere, Carthay Circle wins out. The beautiful recreation of the Carthay Circle Theatre–where Walt introduced the film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”–is stunning. And the service is much more Disney-like–friendly and fun.

This was a totally delightful experience, an ideal way to celebrate Kathy’s birthday with a terrific, memorable meal in stunning surroundings with top-notch service.

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 2: DCA

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Anaheim
What: Kathy’s Birthday Trip
When: July 8-10, 2016
Why: Kathy’s Birthday

We headed out to the shuttle stop and I realized I’d forgotten my wrist wrap and it was a bit hot out – it seemed too early to return to the park. So we returned to our room to relax for a bit and considered doing the DD valet park thing again, even though they’ve tripled the rates. In the end, we decided to stick with the shuttle.

The bag check wasn’t as annoying this time – everybody was sent on to the metal detector, which worked better we thought. Less confusion. The crowds were low, of course, so maybe the morning’s are just too busy for that. We entered DCA and I started recording the walk to Carthay Circle.

We continued on to Golden Vine Winery where we were planning on grabbing a glass of wine before our dinner reservation. Oh boy, do we love this part of the park! It reminds us so much of our San Francisco days with trips to Napa/Sonoma and even Livermore just a couple of years ago when we were living there again. We love wineries!

The seating at Golden Vine was full and the parade was about to begin. So we got our wine and stood in front of the Trattoria restaurant and enjoyed a fabulous elevated view of the parade.

Our wines were:

Kathy: Casa Vinicola Zonin Proseco (Italy)
Rich: Albert Bichot Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis (France)

The “Play” parade was so much fun. This is just a small part of the beginning:

By the time the parade finished, it was time to make our over to Carthay Circle for our dinner. Naturally, the crowds were all headed our way. Great timing, huh? lol!

Next: Birthday dinner at Carthay Circle – can it get even better than Valentine’s Dinner, 2015?

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Saturday, Part 1: Disneyland

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Anaheim
What: Kathy’s Birthday Trip
When: July 8-10, 2016
Why: Kathy’s Birthday

We woke up to overcast skies, which surprised me because I’d only seen sunny skies on Periscope the day before. But the clouds were expected to burn off soon.

We hopped aboard the Hilton shuttle at about 8:40 and arrived about 10 minutes later. After going through the bag check line, we were a bit confused about where the entrance was but then Security pulled us back and made us go through the metal detector. Of course, that annoyed me because I didn’t even have a bag – just my cell phone. As the Trackers mentioned on their Disneyland vlog, it is so annoying that Disneyland does not have a bag free line the way WDW does.

I get it that security is heightened but it was all rather confusing. Eventually, we made our way to the ticket booth and the Disney magic began with the friendly CM at the ticket window who chatted with us about me growing up nearby. We still weren’t sure if we wanted a 1-day single park or a 1-day park hopper. But faced with only getting to do 1 park, we got the 1-day park hopper.

I took a video with my iPhone and Rich started up the GoPro in front of the 60th Anniversary sign in front of the Disneyland park entrance.

Then we entered on our favorite left side and stopped to record Pluto hanging out with some of the guests. The skies were still a bit overcast.

Then we walked down Main Street and Rich captured it on the GoPro.

We’d just learned that Rancho del Zocalo now serves breakfast so we headed over there. You can order from the American breakfast menu or the Mexican breakfast menu and we chose the Mexican breakfast. Rich got the breakfast burrito and I got the tamales. It was huge but it would also serve as lunch.

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Breakfast Burrito

IMG_7080Tamale Breakfast

Enjoying our breakfast in our favorite spot next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, we were inspired to jump in line and see how we fared. Actually, every ride we rode was a walk-on. We couldn’t believe it – on a Saturday in July? But we must have hit a slow weekend in-between two very busy weekends (4th of July and Disneyland’s birthday).

We were happy to note that BTMR now has the cushioned seats like at WDW, along with the new effects that WDW is now just getting.

The sun was also out by now and we had a blast, jumping on Pirates of the Caribbean next, Haunted Mansion, and Pooh. We stopped it at the bakery by Pooh and got a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie and a Snickerdoodle and then browsed in some shops in Frontierland. We then headed for Toon Town (we’d heard a rumor it was going away but discovered later that was no longer true). We were just about to get in line for It’s A Small World but it was shutting down so we kept walking.

We stopped in at a Five and Dime in Toon Town to pick up some sunscreen we’d forgotten in our car, which was hanging out in valet parking back at the resort. We sat down for some relaxation and to enjoy the atmosphere.

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We continued to capture Toon Town with the GoPro and then walked back through Fantasyland. Ah, this is where the crowds were. Peter Pan had a 45-minute wait and we decided to skip it.

It was getting close to noon now and we were ready to catch the shuttle back to the resort for a bit of rest and a nap in preparation for our dinner at Carthay Circle at 6:10 p.m.

We might have spent some time in the pool but I forgot my swimsuit – oh no! We took a nap and relaxed instead. After our nap, we ate our cookies and washed them down with a diet coke to wake us up a bit and to tide us over for dinner. This was, basically, lunch.

Summer of 2016: Disneyland Birthday Trip: Friday, Getaway Day

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Anaheim
What: Kathy’s Birthday Trip
When: July 8-10, 2016
Why: Kathy’s Birthday

This was a last-minute trip short trip because along about Wednesday or Thursday, we decided it was time to get away from Las Vegas and because it was also close to Kathy’s birthday. Why not plan a trip to take care of both?

Rich was able to snag a 2-night ressie at the Anaheim Hilton for just $122 per night. Well, that was too good to pass up. And then Kathy said, “Oh, I suppose Carthay Circle is already booked up.” Rich called and we had several choices for dinner and we chose 6:10 p.m.

We were undecided whether to get a 1-day 1 park ticket or a 1-day park hopper. We figured we’d decide once we got there. But having made dinner ressies at Carthay Circle, which is located inside Disney’s California Adventure (DCA), we had definitely chosen DCA. If we also wanted to see Disneyland Park, we’d have to get a hopper.

We feared the crowd on a Saturday in mid-July and were concerned that a park hopper would require we split our time too much and we wouldn’t get much done in either park.

Friday was a work day for Rich but he worked at home in the afternoon and we were all packed and ready to go by 4 p.m. This really helped because he works in North Las Vegas and we live in the Southern end – closer to California, which is quite convenient.

Traffic in the summer was a bit heavier than usual, but we still made it to Anaheim in 4 hours. We left the car with valet, Rich checked in while Kathy sat with the luggage in the lobby. We were soon relaxing in our standard view room on the 11th floor. Amazingly, we had a view of DCA and could even see Disneyland fireworks if we craned our neck a certain way – lol!

We sipped on some wine and watched the fireworks and activity in the park and then turned in. We were tired from the work day, the drive, and tomorrow would be a long day.