An Evening at Wilderness Lodge

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Terralina Crafted Italian, Disney Springs

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

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

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

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

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

Menu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day Four, Wrap-Up

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

I didn’t sleep much at all – either the big dinner or the chocolate cake at tea – but I was definitely ready to get off the ship. I couldn’t get to Port Canaveral soon enough. Maybe I was cruised out or maybe it was the oddness of the cruise or just too many short Carnival cruises. We do feel like we’re slumming it a bit when we’re sailing on Carnival – lol!

There are also highlights that are some of the best at sea, namely, the Alchemy Bar, the Steakhouse, and like we did on my birthday cruise, the Chef’s Table. You don’t even know you’re on Carnival then – no wonder they are our highlights. We’re already missing those – especially the Alchemy Bar. And the excellent service we had on our last cruise when we sailed in a suite. So even Carnival can come through for up-charge items and bookings.

But Carnival is always there to give us a quick fun affordable cruise fix when other ships aren’t available or too long or too expensive to do often. So I can’t say we’ll never cruise them again. But we’re both definitely missing a longer cruise on Princess and our mini-suite. 🙂

Our “Faster to the Fun” group met in the “any time” dining room where they offered tea, coffee, and pastries. We arrived at about 6:30 and were off the ship by about 6:45? Rich probably remembers better than I do.

The garage was right there, so easy to pick up our car, and drive the hour home, the fastest/closest cruise port we’ve ever traveled to.

Chocolate cake (amazing!) and Fruit Tart at Afternoon Tea

The Birthday Boy

Good-night!

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas: Day Three, Part Three: Dinner

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

Just before our 7:00 PM reservation time, we made our way around the pool area on deck 10 and found the entrance to the Diamonds Steakhouse. The room is quite lovely, divided into two areas overlooking the forward sides of the ship.

After a brief wait, we were seated at a four-top table. We sat next to each other on the bench seat looking out over the starboard side of the ship.

The service was excellent with several servers working to make our experience special. This meal was my birthday dinner, and we wanted it to be memorable. It was that and so much more.

Our menu:

DRINKS

Classic Martini (Kathy & Rich)

BREAD SERVICE

Roll (Kathy)

Parmesan Crisp & Bread Stick (Rich)

AMUSE-BOUCHE

PARMESAN CHEESE QUENELLE (Kathy & Rich)

APPETIZERS

RISOTTO (Kathy)

Crab, Mushrooms, Brown Butter

SMOKE AND ICE FRESH OYSTERS (Rich)

Apple Mignonette

SALAD

CLASSIC CAESAR SALAD (Kathy & Rich)

Hearts of Romaine Lettuce, Anchovies, Traditionally Prepared

ENTREES

BROILED FILET MIGNON (9 oz.) (Kathy)

Red Wine Sauce

Black Lava Salt

Side: Sautéed Medley of Fresh Mushrooms

SPICE-RUBBED PRIME RIBEYE STEAK (18 oz.) (Rich)

Red Wine Sauce

Red Hawaiian Sea Salt

Side: Yukon Gold Mash with Wasabe Horseradish<

DESSERT

ART AT YOUR TABLE (Kathy & Rich)

Abstract in Presentation, Focused in Flavor

We started by ordering our classic martinis. They were prepared perfectly and were fabulous.

The amuse-bouche was a very creamy parmesan quenelle that was a pleasant start to the meal. Kathy spread the cheese on the fresh roll from the bread service. Quite lovely.

The appetizers were amazing. Kathy’s risotto was like an entree in itself, rich and delicious. I had the oysters that were served in a glass cloche that was lifted to release the smoke trapped inside and reveal the three oysters on the half shell. And it wasn’t just the show that was fabulous — the oysters were fresh and smoky with a splash of sweetness from the apple mignonette.

The Caesar salad was tasty, especially the anchovies that we love. We didn’t eat all of our salads because we knew we had much more to come.

When we ordered our steaks (both medium-rare), we were given the choice of salt for the steaks to be cooked with. Kathy chose the black lava, and I chose the Hawaiian. Since Kathy had a starch with her risotto, she ordered mushrooms as a side to her steak. I ordered the mashed potatoes and had them serve the wasabi on the side.

About halfway through our meal, we were treated to a glorious view of the sunset that made the atmosphere and the experience even sweeter.

The steaks arrived, and they were cooked to perfection. We both ordered the red wine sauce that was served on the side. Kathy’s filet was so tender, it could be pulled apart with a fork. These were excellent steaks, perfectly seasoned and delicious. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish them, but we enjoyed every bite.<

For dessert, we tried the newly-available Art at Your Table. We had seen several other tables order this, so we were excited to try it. The ingredients were brought out, and then the pastry chef came out with a large palette where he created the art of the dessert, painting the palette with a variety of flavors and textures, culminating with a white chocolate ball he cracked open to reveal a tiramisu cake that he topped with two flavors of ice cream.

Then he took out his chocolate sauce bottle and wrote Happy Birthday on the palette for me. Very special.

This dessert is hard to explain, but it was fun and delicious. As we were finishing our dessert, we were presented with two glasses of champagne and a candle for my birthday. Kathy and the server sang to me. I loved it.

This was an incredible experience. The food, service, and atmosphere were impeccable. It was a birthday experience I will never forget.

Gin Martini

Dinner Roll

Parmesan Crisp

Oysters

Crab Risotto

Ribeye

Mashed Potatoes

Filet  Mignon

Pastry Artist

 

Birthday Dessert Art

Champagne Finale

 

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day Two, Part Two

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

We made our way back to the Alchemy Bar for sailaway drinks. Tatiana appeared and took our drink order: French Kiss for me this time and Rich’s usual Perfect Storm and brought us some snacks.Have we mentioned how much we love the Alchemy Bar? It’s a relatively new bar fleetwide that was part of Carnival 2.0 a few years back. It’s so different than the rest of the Carnival experience – super fabulous and classy. We hung out with people from Tampa and other like-minded people. Super fun!

(Note: the French Kiss made an appearance in my novel, Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon – a favorite drink from Top of the Mark in San Francisco).

We were seated next to a photographer so we decided to try getting photos done there. Then we spotted another theme so we posed there and then Rich noticed the photos at the piano and suggested we stop there. We ended up purchasing photos from the last 2 stops – they turned out really nice.

We continued on to the “Anytime” dining room and were seated right away. This was also done really well on the Liberty – better than any ship on any cruise line – no wait at all.

The menu was just okay – Carnival food is hit and miss. I had a Shrimp Cocktail for a starter. It was fresh. And the I had Prime Rib, which was quite tasty but the menu had listed horseradish but they brought around this gravy. It came with a small, shriveled baked potato, which I skipped.

Rich had the Stuffed Mushrooms as a starter and then the Teriyaki Salmon with rice cake. He really enjoyed it. We both had Vanilla Creme Brulee for dessert – at least a few bites.

The Lemoncello man came by so Rich had one of those and the guy in the pink sport coat sitting next to us toasted him with his Tequila shot. So wished I’d gotten a photo of him. He was so entertaining. That’s one thing that’s true about Carnival. Later you look back and think “Wow! What an interesting cruise!” lol!

After dinner we strolled the deck noticing the fascinating clouds at sea.

The French KissThe Perfect Storm

Rich at the Alchemy Bar

Kathy at the Alchemy Bar

Mushroom Appetizer (Rich)

Shrimp Cocktail (Kathy)

Teriyaki Salmon (Rich)

Prime Rib

Creme Brulee (R&K)

Lemoncello at Dinner

Interesting lighting on deck/clouds at sea

 

 

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.

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

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 got up early, Rich brought us some coffees and pastries while I showered, and we made our way to the Theatre to wait for disembarkation. We were off the ship by about 7:15 a.m. We saw our friend April and her friend again and we chatted once again. She wished me “Happy Birthday” again – really fun girls!

We had so many ideas about what we might do this day since we were flying back to Florida until the next day. One popular idea was to go to Disneyland if we got off the ship early. Well, we were off early but we were exhausted so we drove to Newport Beach.

It was only 8:30 am but already all parked up. So we drove to Huntington Beach and had breakfast at Norm’s – where our favorite pancakes in the world awaited and the friendliest, hometown experience.

Then we went to Mass at one of our regular SoCal churches. We were blessed to have been part of a baptism. So far, we were really feeling at home again.

We also drove around some of our favorite neighborhoods and when our hotel wasn’t ready early like we’d requested, we drove to Corona del Mar, hoping to enjoy the beach there. Nope – parking full. We ended up taking the ferry to Balboa Island, although there was quite a line of cars ahead of us.

This was a favorite childhood hangout for my family, including my mother who used to hang out there as a teen. My novel, Letters on Balboa Island, was inspired by all that.

Exhausted from getting up early and driving around, we decided to park at our hotel and wait in the lobby for our room. They’d offered a pool view room but we waited for our water view room.

We ended up ordering room service – burgers and wine – and relaxed and sipped and watched the sun set over Balboa Bay where I used to go with my family to watch 4th of July fireworks!