The Semi-Retirement Move Back to Florida Plan, Part 1

When Rich started working at home full-time due to Covid, we started thinking about our future and what did we want our retirement to look like. Certainly not Las Vegas. Would we move back to Florida? The last time it was complicated because his company and direct manager didn’t really support remote working and we found ourselves back in Las Vegas at headquarters. But with the change in policy, post Covid, and a new manager, he was given full-time remote status.

Las Vegas real estate has been booming since Covid – Californians are fleeing in droves and snapping up everything they can get and the new home business is booming, resales are in high demand! Florida is even more insane! Bidding on homes “highest and best” offers, lotteries, etc., building delays – some taking more than a year. Most of this, we’d heard was in the booming Tampa Bay.

On our trip here in March, we found a new home builder on the Atlantic side of the state and went under contract before we left Orlando. Completion date was end of June “maybe sooner” he said. We were excited that this part of Florida didn’t seem to be having the issues that Tampa was having.

The value of our Las Vegas house was soaring so this was an excellent time to cash out and so we sold our house to Open Door. None of that horrible showing/selling of the house! Our new builder works with Open Door so we imagined that this time, we could move from house to house without any of that messy “in-between” stuff that we’d suffered before – lol!

When we heard that our closing date would be delayed by 2 weeks, which would make it on my birthday – how cool is that? On one hand we were disappointed – so didn’t want to travel in July or be in Las Vegas in July, for that matter – but that wasn’t too bad. Would we go ahead and leave and stay somewhere for a couple of weeks? That would we could be there for the walk through and closing. Besides, our agent was going to be on vacation then and we wanted to do the walk through ourselves.

We lined up everybody – packers, movers (of course, moving costs have soared due to Covid) – and booked an airbnb near our new home for the 2 weeks before closing. The cats and I stayed in a Residence Inn while Rich was supervising the packing/loading. By Saturday, June 25, our 3 cats and us set off for Florida with a target arrival date of June 30. Before July – yay!

All we had to do was drive across the country with one adventurous cat, one scaredy cat who hides in places that are hard to find, and a new kitten. Once we survived that, it would all be downhill, right?

The Residence Inns along the way:

 

Carnival Radiance Highlights (and Lowlights)

Before we move cross country and our new kitten arrives, we thought we’d jump on the Carnival Radiance out of Long Beach for a 3-night cruise to Ensenada. We’ve had a lot of fun in Ensenada and for the last couple of times, we’ve stayed on the ship. But we were looking forward to getting on another ship, especially now that masks are optional. And this is Carnival’s 50th birthday. This fall will be 40 years since my first cruise (original Mardi Gras).

Top 12 Highlights:

  1. Steel drums by the mid ship pool
  2. Shaq’s Big Chicken (and I’m not a big chicken lover) – so good, we ended up choosing that over Guys Burgers this cruise
  3. Alchemy Bar
  4. Steak house (Best Filet ever for me – best oysters for Rich)
  5. Sushi Bar (best sushi ever)
  6. Main dining room service (best ever) – food and service were soooo good!
  7. Best dining room (loved the decor and the booths)
  8. Best dessert (love Carnival’s Chocolate Melting Cake!)
  9. Suite service in the dining room (they knew we were in a suite and really upped the level of service)
  10. Lunch at Cucina Capitano
  11. Rich liked the dressing area in the suite – I did not – it reminded me too much of the group dressing area on the original Mardi Gras – lol!
  12. Parrots in Ensenada (so disappointed when they weren’t there in Puerto Vallarta on the Panorama)

Top 3 Lowlights:

  1. Lack of evening service
  2. Promenade deck is often closed off to passengers for part or most of the cruise (we did get out there, though, unlike the Panorama)
  3. Cabin steward could have done better. She greeted us as we left the cabin on the first day and we were thinking, oh good, our room will be clean in no time. After we returned from Brunch and other stuff, it was still no clean and this is only one service a day. She made some sort of lame apology. Also, we’d asked for evening ice and she did deliver that the first two days but not on the final night. By early afternoon, service was over for us.

Photo Highlights:

 

Cruise Ship Nightlife

We just got back from a short cruise on the Carnival Radiance. I uploaded a #Shorts video of the Steel Drum live performer on my YouTube channel. It really took me back to the time when it was a common sound on a cruise ship. I’ll be posting some reports here soon.

I don’t know what I love more about cruising: relaxing on deck with a refreshing libation, watching the ocean go by, or the nightlife, cozying up to a lounge for the live music. Maybe it all started when I first heard live music at the Tomorrowland Stage at Disneyland, my first trip to Las Vegas as an adult, or my Disco days.

But I do remember that moment when I was standing near the stage on the sidelines of the cruise ship casino, listening to live music, thinking how much I wanted that to be me on stage. By the next cruise, I was writing music and moving forward as a music producer. On this cruise I was very much aware of how far I’ve come since that cruise.

I’ve now done FAWM (February Album Writing Month) 5 years in a row and 50/90 a couple more. Check out this crazy genius collab with many of my talented FAWM partners – I’m the Bollywood Roller Dancing DJ known as SBS2018. I wrote a bit more about the background of the team effort on my blog or you can click on this link to give it a listen.

Catching up with Florida and Family, Day 6

We packed up and checked out of our hotel and drove back over to our new home. The roof rafters were installed so we actually got to see some progress.This would be the last time we would see our house until it’s completely finished.

Then we headed over to Port Canaveral for lunch at Grills, and saw the MSC Meraviglia in port before returning our rental car and checking into the Airport Hyatt before flying back to Las Vegas the next morning.

It had been a whirlwind of a trip, focusing on buying a new home, catching up with family and WDW, even though we didn’t enter any of the parks. We’re planning to use our purchased tickets to upgrade to a Florida resident Annual Pass.


Catching Up With Florida and Family, Day 5, Part 3: Wilderness Lodge

Well, we couldn’t return to Florida without visiting Wilderness Lodge so we met up with Brother Bob that evening, both arriving at the same time. Our plan was to get some dinner at Geyser Point so we headed out there. We found 3 seats at the bar. I started out with a Diet Coke, but ended up getting a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir (of course) with my Bison Burger. Rich got a turkey sandwich and a beer, I think but I totally forgot to take any other photos – lol!

We walked around the property, visited the gift shop, where I got a t-shirt, and sat down by the fireplace to chat. This was Bob’s last night so I let the brothers visit and I walked around some more to reach my goal of 15,000 steps.

We hugged and said our good-byes, walked out to the car just as the MK fireworks were going off, and we returned to the hotel.

 

Catching Up With Florida and Family, Day 5, Part 2: the GF

It felt so good to do our old familiar favorite walk from the Poly to the GF. We walked around the lobby and sat and talked for a bit and then went into Basin, where we got some interesting shampoo and conditioner, which I haven’t tried yet.

We walked down to Narcoossees to enjoy the view and then Bob said he was thirsty so we managed to get into the pool area, I grabbed a table and Bob and Rich ordered some drinks at the bar. I tried something new and hated it. It was so thick! Rich went back to get me my usual Margarita, which they replaced for free. Gotta love that Disney service.

We hadn’t been to this pool bar before and can’t wait to return.

Catching up with Florida and Family, Day 5. Part 1: Kona Cafe

We started off the day with breakfast at Kona Cafe at the Polynesian (aka the Poly. I hadTonga Toast and it tasted more like it did the first time, 40 years ago than the last time I gad it, which was a good thing. Not too big and rich. Rich had some kind of combo breakfast. While eating, Bob called and we made plans to meet up.

After breakfast (had a super server named Mary), we visited the gift shop and I got a hat and Rich got a turtle. We found Bob and then walked over to the Grand Floridian (photos of the GF in next post).

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Catching Up With Florida and Family, Day 4: Beach Fun

We decided to drive back over to our lot and check out the towns and beaches nearby. Grills at Port Canaveral is one of our favorite restaurants and tiki bars to sip, eat, and watch cruise ships and so we decided to try one of their other locations. The details are all a bit of a blur now. 🙂

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Catching Up With Florida and Family, Day 3

We met up with Brother Bob at Disney Springs the next morning and found Bob at Starbucks. While sitting and chatting and waiting for our Wine Bar George ressie, Rich took care of some business on his phone.

We were excited to return to Wine Bar George – it was the last place we’d been onsite at Disney World right before we left for Vegas 4.5 years ago or so.

Soon we were called and mentioned that we’d been there on opening day so as we passed George, our hostess mentioned that to him.

We asked to sit outside so she got permission and led us out to a table on the balcony.

It was a beautiful day. Rich ordered the Steak with Chimi Churri Sauce, Bob got the Flaming Cheese, and I got the Chicken Salad Sandwich. All the food was quite delicious. Our server offered me a taste of a Chardonnay she chose (sorry, but the name escapes me), and then poured me a glass, the same for Rich, he chose a Cabernet Franc and Bob chose a Coke.

After lunch we walked over to Saratoga Springs, something we’ve been doing since the first time we moved to Florida back in 2003. The pool bar was our destination, as always, and I got a Margarita, Rich got his usual Mai Tai, and Bob may have had a beer.

Rich and Bob caught up on some family stuff, and I walked around the resort, including the gift shop and bought a Beauty and the Beast journal (red, of course).

Then we walked back to Disney Springs and each drove off in our respective cars with plans to rest and check in later.

 

Catching Up With Florida and Family, Day 2, Part 1

Our agent sent us to one property to check out before we met at the main property she thought we’d love. While the location was awesome (walk to the beach), the community was a bit undesirable (halfway between the train tracks and a trailer park).

As hard as it was to decide against the vicinity of the beach, we didn’t think sitting out on our lanai with a view of somebody’s single-wide trailer was what we were looking for. We admit it, we’ve had spectacular views in our previous Florida homes and that was definitely something we were looking for. Especially after living in the desert for so many years.

We met up with our agent, and we loved this new community at first glance so we toured the model and then the salesman took us to a couple of other homes partially built since it was a larger floorplan – our largest yet. Funny, we were so sure we were into downsizing until we actually did it in the last Vegas house. It was way too small, especially now that Rich is working remotely full-time, something we didn’t know was coming when we went under contract for our current Vegas house pre-Covid. The Pandemic changed a lot of things, and some of them quite good.

We decided to go for it so we went back to the office to sign a contract for a house on a golf course view lot – yes! Something we’ve wanted for a long, long time. Single story, community pool, things we’ve never been able to get in Las Vegas.

It’s a bit surreal building another house in Florida when it seems like yesterday when we were building the last one. But as Lord Grantham said on Downton Abbey, “I’ve been through a war and a murder trial” since then. Doesn’t it seem just so…

 

 

Catching Up With Florida and Family, Day 1

We finally used our Southwest flight to Orlando to catch up with Rich’s brother and Central Florida. We’d booked and unbooked this trip numerous times since October, but now was the time to go.

We left Las Vegas at 7 am PST and arrived in Orlando at around 2 pm EST. We picked up our rental car and headed for our Residence Inn hotel at Disney’s Flamingo Crossings. Btw, it was the best Residence Inn we’ve ever stayed in. New, contemporary, corner 1-bedroom with separate stand-up shower, kitchen, living room with sitting area, close to the Disney fun. etc.

After flying all day, we were hungry so we found an “On the Border” nearby to kick off the trip with a couple of Margaritas and some food. Yum! I had Carne Asada tacos and Rich some kind of Barbeque Fajitas.

Rich’s brother texted us to say he’d arrived, having driven down from Tennessee. He was staying nearby with some friends and was going to spend the evening catching up with them. We were tired so we stayed in for the evening, with an early appointment with our real estate agent to tour some new builds the next day.

We’d done our homework and knew the real estate market was, is red hot, but so is the Vegas market. And after the worst of the Pandemic, it was time to return to Florida.