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:

 

Lunar New Year Festival @ Disneyland, Day 2, Part 2

One thing I forgot to mention about Day 1 was that after leaving Disneyland Park, we stopped in at World of Disney and I got a really cute Minnie Mouse Sweatshirt and Rich got Orange Bird – go figure – lol!

We didn’t want to be stuck in our room, so we decided to push ourselves and walk back to the Grand Californian, Hearthstone Lounge for a glass of wine and the thing we were going to get at Craftsman Bar & Grill – the Charcuterie Pizza, which is our favorite pizza anywhere, perhaps.

Upon entering the GC, we noticed the piano was located in a different place. And then, much to our surprise, a 4-piece Jazz Band started playing/singing. I uploaded the 2 videos and posted the links in this blog post.

We got our usual server, Nanette, as wonderful as ever. Hearthstone Lounge is truly one of our favorite hangouts. We were also able to hear the Jazz band from our seat in Hearthstone Lounge.

Afterwards, we walked back through Downtown Disney and stopped to listen to an awesome band at the Downtown Disney Live Stage. I posted that video in this post.

Eventually, we made it to our room, but the music did not stop there. We could hear them playing from bed.

I’ll write more about the room in our final post tomorrow.

 

Sweetheart Nite at the Grand Californian #Disneyland #Shorts #Jazz

We found ourselves at Disneyland for the kickoff of the February Sweetheart Nites with Jazz at the Grand Californian. We were also there for Lunar New Year. I’ll post the reports sometime soon.

In the meantime, here are a couple of videos (#Shorts) we captured and uploaded on YouTube. Funny how Part 2 has 68 views but Part 1 has none. Go figure how YouTube works – lol!

I’ll hand it to Disney for this one – FABULOUS!

 

First Trip to #Disneyland with #MagicKey, Day 2, Part 2

Our solution to getting into Disneyland without parking in the parking garage or Uber or shuttle was to eat dinner at Napa Rose and then with 5 hours of validated parking, we could eat dinner and then walk to the park from there. Our ambition was only to ride Haunted Mansion with the overlay, so that should give us plenty of time.

The day before while Rich stood in line for our ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli, I checked the dining App and found a reservation for Napa Rose, just in case. Indeed, we were glad I had done so. Again, this time, we ordered off the menu.

APPETIZER

Rich & Kathy
Sautéed Diver Scallop
with Chanterelle Mushrooms, tender Green Beans and Corn Nage

ENTREE

Kathy
Sautéed Heirloom Pork Medallion
with Braised Red Cabbage and Apple Pepita Relish

Rich
Lemon-roasted Chicken Galantine
with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Red Flame Grapes and Fava Beans

WINE

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir

After dinner, we made our way to Disneyland park, admiring the pumpkins on Main Street, and then heading straight for the Haunted Mansion. The wait time said an hour, but it only took about 30 minutes.

Our doom buggy stopped during the ballroom scene, which was perfect so we could see more of that scene than we usually can as we zip by it.

After Haunted Mansion, we rode the train (our first time after the reconfiguring of the track for Galaxy’s Edge), to Main Street, where we got off just in time for the projection show on Main Street. I have no idea the name of it because we just don’t pay attention to those things. But it was a really fun way to end the night.

We then walked back to the Grand Californian to fetch our car from valet. It all really worked out perfectly.

We then drove home the next morning.

25th Wedding Anniversary at the Grand Californian, Day 2, Part 2 (#Napa Rose #Disneyland Resort)

After lunch, we went back to the room to rest and maybe the pool before returning to Disneyland for the evening. But that’s when extreme pain in my shins began, cramping my legs. Rich went down to the Craftsman Counter Service and brought back 2 large bottles of PowerAde while I was busy downing all the water I could.

We napped but realize that there was no way I could walk back to Disneyland. So we quickly checked dining reservations and found an opening at Napa Rose. We’d had such an amazing “Vintner’s Table” experience there in June that we couldn’t imagine topping, so we hadn’t planned on Napa Rose for the anniversary. But under the circumstances, it was the best way to celebrate the evening.

We started off, as we often do, at Hearthstone Lounge to have a little sip while waiting for our reservation at Napa Rose.

Rich ordered the Conundrum White and I ordered the La Marca Prosecco (both quite fitting for a celebration).

Then we headed over to Napa Rose a bit early to see if we could be seated. Unfortunately that meant we got our least favorite server. She pooh-poohed our anniversary and then proceeded to talk about herself. From now on, we would make sure we never got her again.

This time we just ordered off the menu. That night they were offered the Chicken Galatine with a slightly different preparation, so Kathy ordered that.

Appetizers:

Rich: Salad with Anchovies
Kathy: Scallop and Shrimp

Entrees:

Rich: Oak-roasted Swordfish in a Light Mussel Broth
Kathy: Chicken Galantine

It was all very good, but we weren’t really that hungry so we skipped dessert. On our way back to our room, we stopped in at the gift shop and got some cookies for the room for relaxation and time together.

It was a pretty low-key evening, but we were happy with it. It seems to be our wedding/anniversary tradition that something physical must ail me – my back went out on our Maui honeymoon, and I broke my toe on our 20th anniversary cruise to Mexico. And then we both arrived home with pneumonia. So shin splints seem rather minor in comparison.

We checked out the next morning after somewhat repeating breakfast from the previous day (this time we each got a chocolate croissant), and said good-bye to Disneyland, the Grand Californian, and my beloved Orange County, and drove back to Las Vegas.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Don’t go commando in the Disney parks. Must take it slowly.
  2. Good to have Magic Key – even if we never get our “money’s worth.” We’re much better at dropping in on the parks either morning or evening – not both.

Previously… Napa Rose Finally Reopens (Review)

By Rich

We had been away from Napa Rose for too long. When the doors were finally open again in early June, we made reservations and found our way back to one of our favorite restaurants.

We arrived with the glasses of wine we had been sipping in the Hearthstone Lounge, Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Malbec. We were seated without delay in a beautiful, private section of the dining room overlooking the outdoor fire pit. This room is usually reserved for private parties. We were the only ones there.

Our server, Brett, was fantastic. We had never been served by him before, but he and Michael are our two favorites now.

Since we had such a private dining area, we felt it was only appropriate that we dine with The Vintner’s Table, a four-course meal that changes every week, expertly designed by the incredible Andrew Sutton.

Brett explained the menu choices and agreed to bring our new wine order with our second course.

The only odd thing about Napa Rose now is that they do not offer bread service of any kind, free or paid. Seems like an odd way to save money and effort, and it detracts from the overall experience, but not a big deal. In fact, in subsequent visits, I don’t think we missed it.

FIRST
Beef Carpaccio
Artichoke, Pecorino Cheese and Truffle Aioli

SECOND
“Pot Pie”
Rocky Chicken Fricassee and Summer Vegetables

THIRD
Beef Pot Roast
Slowly Braised Beef and Zinfandel Blackberry Essence

DESSERTS
Sea Salt Affogato
Salted Caramel Semifreddo and Dark Chocolate Espresso Sauce

Baked Artisan Cheese
Fennel-Red Pepper Marmalade

WINE
Tinto de Toro, Numanthia, Termes
Toro DO, Spain

As always, the food was delightful. The beef carpaccio melted in our mouths. The “pot pie” was a lighter take on the classic, with plenty of deep flavors. The beef pot roast was a bit heavy following everything else, but just as rich and savory as you would expect. When it came to dessert, we couldn’t decide, so we had both. The cheese was a nice balance to the sweet, but the affogato was definitely the star. You can’t do wrong with salted caramel and dark chocolate especially in the hands of the Napa Rose artisans.

Brett was perfect throughout, helping us when we needed him, chatting a little for some nice interaction, and leaving us to eat our delicious meal when appropriate.

It was so comforting to be back at Napa Rose. It was like coming home to eat here again with the fabulous food of Andrew Sutton, the private, comfortable atmosphere, and the top-notch service.

It was our first time back in a long time, but it wasn’t the last time we ate there. More Napa Rose stories to come as we relive the culinary joy of Napa Rose through photos (starting with Kathy’s pre-dinner selfie, pre-dinner wine at Hearthstone Lounge, the beautiful lobby, and finally, the Vintner’s Table dinner).

Duke’s Huntington Beach Review

By Rich

It was wonderful to be back at Duke’s Huntington Beach. We’ve eaten here many times, but this was the first time we’d been here for dinner. And, therefore, the first time we’d heard live music there. At least, that we can remember.

We valeted the car and arrived on time for our 6:15 PM reservation. We were immediately seated at a table for two not far from the windows and the beautiful view of Huntington Beach.

MENU

DRINKS

Rich & Kathy:
DUKE’S MAI TAI
signature cocktail made with aloha, fresh hawaiian juices with two types of rum

APPETIZERS

Kathy:
CAESAR
romaine, parmesan, lemon-anchovy dressing, garlic focaccia crumble

Rich:
WEDGE
iceberg, blue cheese, balsamic tomatoes, duroc bacon, candied walnuts

ENTREES

Kathy:
CRISPY COCONUT SHRIMP
lilikoi chili water, pickled cucumbers

Rich:
SAUTÉED MACNUT & HERB CRUSTED HALIBUT
parmesan & panko dusted, lemon caper butter, seasonal vegetables, herbed jasmine farro rice

Duke’s may be known for its wonderful location on Huntington Beach at the Pier, but the food is outstanding too — and the food this night was especially terrific.

Wedge salad is my favorite, and with the tomatoes, bacon, and walnuts, it was incredible. The flavors all worked together so marvelously. Kathy enjoyed one of her favorites, a Caesar, especially with the lemon-anchovy flavors to enhance it.

Now, about the halibut. Wow! I’ve never had a more delicious halibut dish, and very few better fish dishes anywhere. The cheese, panko, nut, and lemon flavors made for a luscious, heart-warming entree that made me savor every bite. It was so good, I had to choose against the incredible-sounding halibut dish the next night at Napa Rose.

Kathy’s coconut shrimp is always one of her favorites, and this did not disappoint — juicy, crispy shrimp! It was listed as an appetizer, but it served very well as an entree.

With no room for dessert, we left the restaurant completely satisfied and strolled the length of Huntington Beach Pier, stopping along the way in a shop to buy a rash guard for Kathy and a light, pullover sweatshirt for me. We needed them because it was a little windy and chilly on the Pier, but the walk was lovely at dusk with the waves crashing below us.

Another magnificent visit to Duke’s and Huntington Beach.