Port Canaveral: Cruising from Central Florida

Looking back at our most recent time living in Central Florida, we feel immense gratitude for yet another Florida adventure, this time living closer to the beach than Disney World, enjoying beach bars and hanging out at Port Canaveral.

We even celebrated Rich’s birthday cruising to the Bahamas on the Carnival Liberty. So I put together a little video celebrating that time.

Port Canaveral is expanding so whether you’re a local, cruising solely, or combining your cruise with a trip to Disney World, I hope you enjoy it. If so, please like and subscribe to this blog and on youtube.

Thank you!

#Mexico #cruising #Princess #Carnival #Liberty #Bahamas #cruising #Carnival #Cruises #CentralFlorida #DisneyWorld #Florida #fiction

 

 

Father’s Day Brunch at Wine Bar George

From our Inbox:

WineBarGeorge

DadStack

Seven Layers of Awesome

Behold…The Dad Stack. Join us on Father’s Day for seven layers of French Toast, French Fries, Bacon, Sausage Gravy, Chicken Sausage, Skirt Steak and Sunny Side Up Eggs. See you June 16 for brunch?

Ah, Wine Bar George – no, we won’t be there for Father’s Day (although, we have other fun plans), but oh how we miss you! Just this time last year we were enjoying the “Rosé Tasting with Master Sommellier” event with you, George. So much fun – we hung out with you often. We were your first customers on your first full opening day. And you were the last place we went before our move back West. Thanks for the memories!

Our compensation is making reservations for special dining events for Rich’s birthday this summer at Disneyland! Woo hoo!

 

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round 4

The F&W Festival gets more and more crowded each week, and Saturday, wouldn’t you know it, seemed to be the hottest, most humid day yet. It may have been the last hot and humid day of 2018, because it’s been cooler ever since. Anyway, all I know is that I dripped sweat like I was in Thailand so many years ago. It makes it all so very tiring, and we didn’t have a lot of energy for this one.

But our list of things to do on this trip wasn’t that ambitious – mostly to revisit Taste Track and get another one of those tasty Chocolate Raspberry Croissant Donuts, the Skirt Steak with Chimichurri, and, perhaps, the Short Rib Tostada at Mexico or the Black Pepper Garlic Shrimp Noodles in China. We did all of the above (except for the noodles) and more.

We also tried the Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes when we got the Skirt Steak. I actually preferred the Corned Beef over the Skirt Steak, although the smoke on the steak stood out nicely.

So, back to the beginning.  We debated about whether to choose the Festival Center or Taste Track for our first stop but we were so hungry, Taste Track won. But we had to wait about 7 minutes for the booth to open, but it was worth the wait.

Then, we were off to the Festival Center for our free on 4th visit Passholder Mickey cutting boards (so cute!) and a couple of Mimosas to wash down breakfast. Rich got the Blood Orange I got the Tropical – mine was a bit too sweet and his was a bit too tart so we mixed them to get it just right. Hard to tell which is which from the photos.

We stumbled around and found the Flavors from Fire both and got the Skirt Steak with Chimichurri and Polenta and the Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes (amazing cheese sauce) and a wine pairing (Michael David Winery: 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel, Lodi).

My apologies for the not so great photos – the sun was so bright it really was hard to see what I was snapping.

We thought we might want a refreshing Baileys Guiness Milkshake in Ireland but partway there, we decided to turn around and head for Mexico for the Short Rib Tostada and a couple of Margaritas – so hot and sweaty out!

Halfway through the margaritas, we decided to head over to Hawaii for some dessert. Rich got in line and I snagged a table.

The Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Macadamia Nuts was awesome!

We’d also heard great things about the Maple Walnut Cheesecake at the Cheese Studio so we made a final stop on our way out. It was quite tasty, too, but better suited for Thanksgiving – it had a real taste of Fall but too heavy for such a hot, humid day.

My favorite was the Passion Fruit Cheesecake in Hawaii, although the Maple Walnut may have been Rich’s favorite. Both delicious and a great way to end the 2018 Food & Wine Festival for us.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round Three (Brother Bob)

Yesterday we made our third trip to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival – this time with brother Bob. Little did we know that it also happened to be Columbus Day and the park was packed, especially for a weekday. Ugh!

Still, we had a blast sharing some of our favorite booths with family – the last time was back in 2010.

We started off with the Festival Center, tracking down the Chocolate display, including scenes from Coco, made entirely with chocolate. It was quite impressive!

Then we moved on to France for our favorite beignet with Hazelnut Creme with a glass of champagne – fabulous way to start the day.

Of course, we had to introduce Bob to the Ireland booth, then we chose the paella from Spain, Belgium, and Bob chose some items at India and Africa. We then finished up with my favorite Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles in China – amazing! Rich got a Kung Fu Punch, and while refreshing, was too sweet for me.

On our last stop for the day, we entered the Mexico Pavilion for some much-needed air-conditioning and to see the Dia de Los Muertos exhibit from Cocol One of the exhibits showed time passing, lighting up the scene and then returning to darkness, revealing the dead family members reunited with their family. Really cool!

It was hot and crowded by then and Bob had some plans of his own to do some park hopping before returning to Epcot for some evening noshing, so we called it a day and let Bob continue on his way.

We’ve had such fun playing tourist with family but now it’s time to get back to work. Let’s see what I’m inspired to work on most – my music or my writing.

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.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round Two (For Dad)

I received a copy of my father’s death certificate this week and the reality hit me hard. So Rich took yesterday (Friday) off and we went to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had no intention of returning a week later so we made it six days later – lol!

It must have been the hottest day of the year, but pixie dust sprinkled on our tram experience both arriving and departing, which cut down on our miles walked (only 3 this time), but, still the heat really wore me out, not to mention give me a lovely glisten. Ha! In honor of my dad, I wore my Dodger Blue hat. He and his father used to go see the Dodgers play and Dodger Stadium was where I saw my first professional baseball game (Dodgers vs Giants – Dodgers won). He once told me, “The Dodgers will break your heart.” 🙂

Here’s my selfie wearing my Dodgers hat while snagging a table while Rich was picking up some food at one of the food booths. We had a great system going and I was so thankful he was up to doing all of that because I just wasn’t. You can catch a glimpse of Rich in some of the photos getting our snacks. Like a “Hidden Mickey.” 🙂

People often say I look like my mother but mostly because they don’t know my father and we do have a similar shape of the face. But the rest (coloring, nose, eyes, hair, etc.) is all dad and his side of the family. My ear for music and taste for food and wine adventures, I also get from my father. So, here’s to you, dad!

We started off with Taste Track this time. I’d had my eye on the Cinnamon Sugar Donut and Rich got the Chocolate Hazelnut with Raspberry – both were delicious!!

Then we swung by the food booths that are on the East side of Future World and while we spotted many items we’d like to try when it’s not so hot (that area is so exposed and still, being out in the open without the lagoon to provide a breeze), we did get the Scallops and paired it with Petite Sirah at the Wine & Dine, I think. Really clever dish and quite tasty. I could definitely go back for more of that.

Btw, many booths were open at this time, which was about 10:30. So then we headed back to Ireland but on the way stopped at New Zealand to get one of our favorites from last year: Mussels paired with Pinot Noir. Just as good as last year!

Soon we were back in Ireland and I have to say, we arrived at all of these booths earlier than I’d expected and were getting full eating our lunch calories for breakfast – lol! We skipped the chocolate cake in Ireland this time but did get the Guinness/Bailey’s shake with chocolate shavings this time and the Irish Sausage with Colcannon again. Yum!! But I do think we’ve had our fill, well, at least until Brother Bob comes down.

So what’s next? Several booths we decided to save for Brother Bob’s trip – we were getting quite full at this point – but we wanted to get back to Mexico to try the Short Rib Tostada. Last week we’d been too full by the time we got to Mexico.

We were also quite hot and thirsty and exhausted. We sat down in the shade a couple of times just to keep from collapsing. By the time we got to the Cantina, I found a table, Rich got us a couple of regular Margaritas from the Cantina – we’d tried the specialty F&W Margaritas last week and once was enough. He then ran over to the Mexico booth and brought back a Tostada, which was so delicious, he ran back for a second one. Yum, yum, yum!! Certainly makes a California girl proud!

At the booth last week, they’d balked a bit about serving him two margaritas, but he convinced them one was for me sitting down. At the Cantina, they had no qualms about serving him two.

We had a great time, the crowds were low on a Friday but it was just so darn hot!! At least the tram system was working efficiently and they even used the shady area for the pick-up. I’d complained about having to wait in the sun a few months back and it was the same last week so maybe they use the covered area on week days but not on week-ends due to needing more space for security? That’s our guess.

At this rate, we’ll be back four times to get the cutting board, although it’s rather small. Somebody on Instagram said they thought it wasn’t as small as they’d heard but I think some of us saw the Food & Wine cutting board you can buy, which is a really nice size that it makes the “free” (on the 4th visit) one for AP holders seem small. More of a cheese board size, if you know what I mean.

Saying Farewell to July from Port Canaveral

July was a tough month, as it always is. Usually, it’s about the weather but not for the weather this year. I’d much rather spend July in Florida than Las Vegas. Much easier to handle.

Still, I didn’t escape a tough July. In the midst of celebrating my birthday back in California, we lost our precious Skipper and then two weeks later, my father.

It was a tough weekend trying to cope. But we did take a little trip to Port Canaveral to check out the route to our upcoming cruise. Any excuse will do – lol.

This time we tried brunch at Fish Lips. Rich had the chicken and grits and I had the shrimp and grits and he had a Blue Triangle and I had a Jalapeno Margarita.

Chicken and Grits (bottom) and Shrimp and Grits with Margarita (top)

Bermuda Triangle

After brunch, we walked outside to take some photos of the Carnival Liberty (our next cruise) and then were drawn into walking down to Grills, where we usually dine when we’re in Port Canaveral, to see the ginormous Oasis of the Seas (RCI). Well, that was an amazing sight and we were enticed to sit down at the Tiki Bar area and order a couple of drinks and desert. What a blast!

We were anxious to get home and find out more about this ship, thinking it would be awesome to sail again from Port Canaveral. But when we watched a Youtube video, we realized (once again) these ships are so not for us. We don’t want so much inside activity – outside Promenade decks seem to be disappearing in favor of more revenue producing venues. Even Princess has cut back on the outside Promenade Deck and aft pool, which were our two favorite things about Princess.

Being at sea is the whole point of the cruise for us and we want to be aware of that as much as we can.

Carnival Liberty

Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas from Grills

Rum Runner (Rich), Margarita (Kathy), and Key Lime Pie (shared)

Prepping for Disneyland at Disney World at the Dolphin, Day Two (Final)

We were unsure where to have breakfast this morning, but, in the end, we chose France for our favorite beignets and champagne. We’d told ourselves we should boat in but our room was located near a walkway leading to the Yacht Club, so we walked over to International Gateway. We saw where the gondolas will go and couldn’t help but add to the cries of those of us who love the International Gateway and know it will change forever once the hordes arrive from other hotels.

We arrived at rope drop and were admitted onto the walkway leading to France. We each got a beignet, shared a coffee and a champagne, but because I woke up in need of some protein, we shared a quiche. Awesome way to begin the day! We just might have to make a special trip just for breakfast sometime soon. 🙂

Filled with energy, we decided to walk over to Mouse Gear to pick up the Donald Annual Passholder magnets, which are just like the Mickey ones but with Donald in a different color and just as huge – lol! Rich also got a cool shirt – we had found a Mickey journal I’d spied at the Contemporary on Easter so we got that for me the night before at the Screen Door.

We enjoyed the beautiful morning, the breakfast, and just being out and about, snapping some pics. We walked back to the boat dock. Of course, a boat had just left and we were wondering if we should just walk back but decided to wait for the boat. We ended up getting off at the Yacht Club and walking back because it was probably about the same distance to our room as the boat dock would be.

We packed, checked out, and drove home, wishing we weren’t so far from Disney. But the distance does justify an overnight, which is so awesome and we were really happy with the Dolphin.

 

Prepping for Disneyland at Disney World at the Dolphin, Day One Part Three

This was our first stay at the Dolphin and it was very nice. Because Starwood has merged with Marriott, we were upgraded to a Park view King room, instead of the basic view. We were able to watch fireworks from Illuminations from our room.

The bed was super comfortable, there was a nice couch, and the shower was a nice standup shower, rare on Disney property, unless it’s a DVC room.

After a nap from our busy morning, we headed out to the Boardwalk for something to eat. We ended up at Big River Grille, one of our favorite hangouts when we lived just two miles from WDW in Windermere.

We shared a Blackened Mahi Mahi Sandwich (they nicely cut it and served it on two plates for us), and we each had a beer. We enjoyed people-watching, then headed for our usual walk around the Boardwalk, stopping at the Screen Door where we picked up a bottle of wine and some Mickey chocolate caramels.

We enjoyed peeking in at the Flying Fish, reading the menu and noticing it didn’t seem quite as pricey as when it first opened. Perhaps this will be Rich’s birthday dinner?

Our next stop was Apple Hills Creamery – I thought I was too full but Rich asked if I would help him out with a dish of Butter Pecan Brittle and it was so amazing, I definitely ate half of it. 🙂

We made our walk around the Boardwalk, remembering so many times we did that when living nearby. In fact, we did it so often, it’s really taken ten years for me to really enjoy it again. 🙂

It started to sprinkle but we made it back to the room without getting too wet, enjoying the company of a family playing “Red Light Green Light” with the kids.

Today’s steps came to nine miles altogether and we were soooo tired. Thankfully, the miles were broken up so we didn’t get too sore.

We opened the wine, poured into the nice wine glasses provided, ate a few caramels, and then watched the fireworks from Illuminations before dozing off.

 

 

 

 

Prepping for Disneyland at Disney World at the Dolphin, Day One Part Two

Lunch at Skipper Canteen

We were ready to eat, but it was about half an hour before our Skipper Canteen reservation. We decided to check-in at the restaurant anyway, and we were seated in about 10 minutes. We had a cozy table for two in the main room, the Crew Mess Hall.

The theming of this restaurant is fantastic. It starts with the perfectly-themed outside covered reception/waiting area and extends through the whole restaurant, although we were glad we were seated in the Crew Mess Hall since the other two rooms were small and not as well themed. But, in the middle of a busy, crowded park, it really feels like you’ve been transported to the jungle. Absolutely wonderful!

Note from Kathy: And, for the first time, we ordered an alcoholic libation in the Magic Kingdom! This is what Blue Bayou at Disneyland needs – if you’re going to pay those prices, you should be able to have a glass of wine or beverage of your choice with it.

Our Menu

Drinks

Kathy: King Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (King Estate Winery, Eugene, Oregon)<

Rich: Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale – Draft (Concrete Beach Brewery, Miami, Florida)

African-inspired deep amber ale, brewed with a special blend of spices.

Appetizer (Shared)

Jungle Green Salad

Iceberg Wedge with Shishito Peppers, Radish, Hearts of Palm, Cucumbers, and Pistachios, Aji Pepper-Yogurt Dressing

Entrees

Kathy:

Perkins Thai Noodles

Chicken, Tofu, Seasonal Vegetables, and Rice Noodles, Tossed in a Spicy Soy-Chili Garlic Sauce

Rich:

Hardy Har Char Siu Pork

Char Siu Marinated Pork With Seasonal Vegetables and Jasmine Rice

Dessert (Shared)

Kungaloosh!

African-inspired chocolate cake with caramelized bananas served with cashew-caramel ice cream topped with coffee dust.

Let me say, as perfect as the themed atmosphere was, the food and drink were even better. Every bite was exquisite.

I had to have a Kungaloosh beer (on tap). It was a medium-bodied beer, expertly spiced, well balanced and refreshing — especially since we just escaped from the heat and humidity.

For an appetizer, we shared the Jungle Salad. I love iceberg wedge salads, and this was one of the best. The lettuce was fresh and crisp, and the other ingredients played ideally with it. This salad was so good, we created our version of it at home.

The entrees were just as good. Kathy’s Thai Noodles were flavorful and abundant. My pork was tender, somewhat sweet and sour, and a perfect match to the jasmine rice.

As we got the check, Kathy mentioned that she was craving chocolate to counteract the spicy noodles she had. We asked our server if there was a chocolate dessert we could have. Of course, there was — the Kungaloosh! This was a rich, sumptuous indulgence, and the perfect ending to our incredible meal.

As you may be able to tell, we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Skipper Canteen. Its theming, food, drink, and service are fabulous. It’s the perfect respite in the middle of the Magic Kingdom, taking you to whole new, delicious world.

Skipper Canteen Ceiling and Wall Decor

The Kungaloosh tasted as good as it looks

Rich enjoying his Kungaloosh Beer

Kathy’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Wedge Salad

Rich’s Entree (Pork and Rice)

Kathy’s Entree (Pad Thai)

Kungaloosh Dessert – yum!

After lunch, we were ready to leave the MK and check into the Dolphin for a much-needed rest before heading out for the evening. We definitely needed a break from the heat, humidity, and six miles we walked – always more challenging when it’s hot. This time we took the monorail and enjoyed sitting next to a cute family from Illinois. The little girl was the one to speak up to tell me I could sit next to her. :)<

Prepping for Disneyland at Disney World at the Dolphin, Day One Part One

So we chose to do an overnight at the Dolphin as our pet sitter test trip before going on a cross-country Disneyland and cruise trip. As it turns out, we were testing a lot more than the pet sitter – we were doing a whole test run for the bigger trip. Btw, the pet sitter is totally awesome!

We left home at 7 a.m. Friday morning to get to the Magic Kingdom by rope drop at 9 a.m. We got into some traffic on I-4 due to an accident (what else is new) but we detoured at Altamonte Springs and made it pretty much on time. We parked at the TTC, took the tram to the ferry and ferried over. We had two fastpasses: one for Pirates (eager to see the new “Redhead” scene especially as Fresh Baked had a detailed comparison to the before and after at Disneyland) and for Haunted Mansion. We also had lunch ressies at Skipper’s Canteen.

A beautiful morning at the Magic Kingdom

Before our first FP window, we rode the People Mover and then Carousel of Progress, two rides no longer at Disneyland, obviously. Rich hadn’t been to the MK since we lived here last time about six years ago. I’d popped in last summer to ride Mine Train, which I was not a fan of. In the meantime, we’d been to Disneyland numerous times of late so the layout seemed all wrong to us – lol!

We stopped to get breakfast: Mickey Bar for Rich and Mickey Ice Cream Sandwich for me – nothing better than that – lol!

Rich and his Mickey Bar

Then it was time for our FP window for Pirates. On our way, we passed  the Skipper Canteen, which I call the Skipper’s Canteen, maybe because our oldest cat is named Skipper. I’d taken this photo when I saw it for the first time last summer, but this was Rich’s first view of it. We were both looking forward to lunch.

Skipper Canteen

We were a bit disappointed that really the only change for Pirates at WDW was the redhead scene – we were all geared up to notice the differences like at Disneyland but, of course, the ride is so different here at WDW and so less than. You get used to it but when you’re used to Disneyland, it seems like more of a non-ride.

A bit blurry so here’s a shot from the internet (we forgot the camera at home. Tip #1: pack camera for next trip)

We also stopped in to watch Country Bears, which is no longer at Disneyland

Country Bears, no longer at Disneyland

Second FastPass window for Haunted Mansion was open

I used to be more excited by this version with the stairs but after the Disneyland HM recently and with the holiday overlay, I noticed it was no longer a favorite.

We wandered through Fantasyland and noticed It’s a Small World had a very long line and Peter Pan was 70 minutes. Not surprised by thought we’d take a look anyway. We made our way through the Castle and was rewarded with the Fairy Godmother.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and friends

Then we headed for Skipper’s Canteen, although we were about half an hour early. We took a chance that they could seat us early, which they did. Rich will write about our yummy lunch next.