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.

Lunar New Year Festival @ Disneyland, Day 3

We had a fun trip and did everything we’d set out to do. But as for the Disneyland Hotel, well…

The fast check-in, welcome message on the TV, Keurig coffee maker, and refrigerator were nice touches. But we can no longer recommend staying at the Disneyland Hotel. After this stay, we have put it in the “Paradise Pier” category, as in “Never Again” – lol! There are very few services, if any, which is especially horrendous for the amount of money you pay to stay here.

Besides lack of services, there were weird noises at night and weird lights shining through the palm trees, moving around, shining in our room like some sort of drone. It was creepy. We got very little sleep that last night.

I woke up at around 2 am and was awake for several hours. Hungry, I opened up the Mickey caramel corn and snacked – lol! Finally, I got back to sleep. There were 2 slices of pizza in the fridge left over from Hearthstone Lounge, so we ate that for breakfast to go with our in-room coffee. Then we hit the road.

Oh, and one of the overhead room lights stopped working and even the “Wish Upon a Star” headboard lights that they were so proud of back when they first installed it, stopped working. There was really a lack of care for this property, not only compared to the Grand Californian but the Disneyland Hotel we once knew.

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.

 

Lunar New Year Festival @ Disneyland, Day 2, Part 1

There really were no attractive dining options for breakfast at the Disneyland Hotel, so we decided to head into DCA and grab something there. On the way, we passed the Uva Bar at Downtown Disney and noticed people were enjoying breakfast there (I no longer see breakfast listed on the Disneyland App). So we hopped in.

We were seated and offered menus and the “Mimosa Flight” immediately caught our attention so we ordered that. Then Rich ordered the Breakfast Sandwich and I got the Chilaquiles.

Our Mimosa flight arrived quickly and we began sipping on that. Both of us liked the Peach Mimosa best. Rich then liked the Cranberry, Pineapple, and the Orange (not so much) in that order. After the Peach, I liked the Orange, and the Pineapple and Cranberry were tied for least favorite.

We were really enjoyed the atmosphere and so glad we’d made the choice to stop in for breakfast. Eventually, Rich got his Breakfast Sandwich while I waited and waited and waited. The Mimosas were going to my head and I desperately needed something to eat, which I may have managed to say more than once…

Our server apologized and said he’d check on it and when he came back, he mumbled something and said my meal would be comped. Rich was starting to vocalize about how he didn’t want to eat by himself so then the manager stopped by to explain that the runner had given my food to another table and it would be here shortly. When the food arrived, our server said the entire meal, including Mimosas, was comped, so we ended up with a tasty breakfast and drinks for free – plus a tip, of course, because it wasn’t our server’s fault. Overall, with that outcome, I would have to say it was a wonderful experience

We then headed for the front DCA entrance (remembering when you could enter through the GC no matter which Disneyland Resort hotel you were staying at), and we took our first walkthrough of Avengers Campus. We stopped in a gift shop for some Spidey merch, but Rich didn’t see anything he wanted.

We then walked around, taking a gander at the food booths, but we knew as soon as we had room in our stomachs, we would get the “Spicy Noodles” that CheezyPop deemed too spicy to eat (even though he claims to enjoy some spice). Of course, I took that as a challenge, because I was pretty sure I, a native SoCal girl could manage all the spice you could throw at me compared to this native New Yorker – lol.

For some reason, we found room for our favorite “Ocean Beach” (Sea Salt Caramel with Fudge) Ice Cream Sundae at Ghirardelli so we went over there and shared one of those. So delicious, as always!

Then we were ready for the Noodle challenge. Rich was interested in the Butter and Garlic Noodle dish so we got in line and got one of each and then found the usual trash can table to stand by. Btw, the line was not long at all, compared to what the Vloggers show you on opening day, of course.

Yes, it was spicy but nothing I couldn’t handle. I loved it!!! Rich enjoyed his noodles, too, and we exchanged bites. He also found the spicy noodles not too spicy to enjoy the dish, although he prefers a little less spice.

By this time we were quite stuffed, so we walked around a bit more, heading back toward Rushin’ River Outfitters for a quick look around, and then through the Grand Californian and out to Downtown Disney for the walk back to the Disneyland Hotel for our afternoon nap. By this time, my calves were really sore and we weren’t sure if we could make it back to the Craftsman Bar & Grill for our dinner reservation so we called and they let us cancel it.

We would have to play the evening by ear.

 

Lunar New Year Festival @ Disneyland, Day 1

We arrived at the Disneyland Hotel on Monday, January 31, 2022. We did a mobile check-in, and our room was ready immediately. We’ll talk about the hotel later.

We unpacked, rested a bit, and then made our way to Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen for our 4 pm reservation. We were interested in the “Burning Hearts,” a special MagicKey Valentine’s Cocktail (spicy) and a bowl of Gumbo as seen on Magic Journeys YouTube Channel.

We were seated outside near a heat lamp. Our server was pretty awesome and it felt like the good ole days at Disneyland Resort. We also ordered some Calamari.

Everything was tasty, but there was probably way too much Calamari for the two of us. We left most of it.

Afterwards we entered DCA because that was where our first reservation was for. The after work crowd seemed to be filling up the park fast for the Lunar New Year Festival, so we turned around and went to Disneyland Park. It was so beautiful all lit up at night. This was the first we’d been there at night since the re-opening.


We headed for the Wishing Well – we hadn’t seen it at night for years. And then made our way to Galaxy’s Edge. We hadn’t seen it at night either – lol! This was pretty much the goal. We did get in line for Pirates (of course), and that was as fun as ever. I think that’s pretty much what we did, but it was quite satisfying. The main focus on this trip was the food booths at the Lunar New Year Festival, which we would get back to the next day.

 

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!

 

Our First MagicKey/Grand Californian Trip for 2022

We’re excited to have booked another trip to the Grand Californian – the first GC/MagicKey trip since Disneyland reopened in 2021

When we were there in August for our 25th wedding anniversary, the MagicKey wasn’t a thing yet so we were using day tickets. But it’s super special to stay onsite at the GC with a MagicKey and have that access to DCA. We can’t wait to do it again!

In case you missed it, here are links to our 25th Wedding Anniversary trip at the GC.

25th Anniversary at the GC, Day 1

25th Anniversary at the GC, Day 2, Part 1

25th Anniversary at the GC, Day 2, Part 1: Craftsman Grill

25th Anniversary at the GC, Day 2, Part 2: Napa Rose

25th Anniversary at the GC: Photos

25th Anniversary at the GC: Oga’s Cantina (YouTube)

 

Looking Back on 2021, Looking Forward to 2022

With Covid continually in the news, cruise ships being denied port access, and tightening of protocols, it’s easy to forget how much better this time this year is compared to this time last year.

This time last year, we’d been able to do another Knott’s Berry Farm food tasting event – this time it was “Knott’s Merry Farm” with a Christmas theme, but Disneyland was still closed with no opening in sight.

Looking back on 2021, we can see the progress we’ve made. We went to the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival in March, Disneyland finally opened with a “Touch of Disney” (we were there in April), and Disneyland finally opened the end of April (to California resident only at first.

We were able to finally dine at Napa Rose in June without masks even, stayed at the Grand Californian with masks for our 25th wedding anniversary in August with 2 days in the parks, and by the end of September, we had our very own Magic Key, wining and dining at the Magic Key Terrace for Magic Keyholders only. How we bristled back when it was open only for “Legacy Passholders,” which we were not because we’d just moved back from Florida and hadn’t gotten around to “turn in” our WDW AP or a DL AP.

By this time we’d eaten at Napa Rose 3 times since it opened. We also had tickets to WDW we’d hoped to use in October, but that trip was postponed until spring. In the meantime, we finally got back on a cruise (the inaugural year of the Carnival Panorama) and were allowed entry to all 3 Mexico ports. However, we did cancel an upcoming cruise. And Princess was not gracious at all about it as they withheld our $500 deposit, even during these times. No special allowances for special circumstances.

The theme for 2021 has been “mask on, mask off” or as they described it at the Piano Bar on Carnival, “Sip and Cover.” Oh boy!

But, overall, we can say we had a pretty awesome 2021, as it comes to an end. We got to do a lot of our favorite things!

As for 2022, we are invested in a few Disney trips. Now we wait to see how it all unfolds. I would say we are cautiously optimistic. Covid taught us that anything can happen, whether you want it to or not. It also taught us to be a bit more self-sufficient in our lives, at least as much as we can. Enjoy our home. Enjoy our backyard. Enjoy each other. And try to be flexible with plans.

Wishing you the best in 2022! May it surprise us all (in a good way)!

Disneyland Reservations Kills Spontaneity

So I peek into the Disneyland App and noticed there’s a 1-day reservation available at Disneyland next week. The whole month had been sold out, so I jumped on it. Then I checked with Rich and he has an all-day meeting that day. Just in case he can get out of it, I also checked the weather for the 2 mountain passes between Las Vegas and Anaheim  and it looks good (unless you count the possible snow on the non-travel day). All that’s remaining, just in case we can go, is to contact our pet sitter and make a hotel reservation…

But… it looks like he’s needed in that meeting. So we can’t go. And this is what is so wrong with this reservation system. It’s impossible to be spontaneous, especially if you require an overnight with transportation, accommodations, weather, job considerations, and pet or child sitting services.

It would have been so fun to go during the Christmas season. Bummer!

Top 10 Things We Liked/Didn’t Like About the New Carnival Panorama

I say new because the Panorama was christened in Long Beach in December 2019 and only cruised with passengers for 3 months until the whole cruising industry shut down. She began cruising again in August of 2021 and we set sail on her in November, still in her inaugural year.

We were excited to try a new Carnival ship with serene, more elegant decor after mostly experiencing the tacky Joe Farcus ships. Our favorite Carnival ship class is the Spirit Class (a fan favorite), so we were hoping the Panorama would just be a bigger version of that. Here’s what we liked/didn’t like after sailing the Panorama.

What We Liked

  1. Embarkation – was pretty speedy (but not as fast as “Faster to the Fun” [FTTF], which is how we embarked pre-Covid.) It took us app. 40 minutes from car to cabin, which isn’t bad at all).
  2. Tides Bar – this is the aft pool bar that makes a stunning impression as soon as you get off the elevators on deck 10. Views of the aft pool and the wake of the ship.
  3. Ocean Plaza Bar – awesome rock band when we were there, great seating both inside and outside.
  4. Our cabin location in the aft – up 3 to the Marketplace (buffet – love the salad bar) and Tides Bar, aft pool and down 2 to the Ocean Plaza Bar, restaurants, bars, entertainment, etc.
  5. Guy’s Burgers – still awesome and the fries haven’t changed (unlike rumors we’ve heard about the Mardi Gras).
  6. Muster drill – I think this is true on every ship on every cruise line now. A huge improvement over the old way. Still, hundreds of people has to be nagged at to check in before we could sail away.
  7. The elevators – there’s been a lot of talk about how terrible they are because nobody knows to enter the number of passengers when you punch in your desk. Truth is, the number of passenger doesn’t matter at all, and once you punch in your deck, you know exactly which elevator is coming for you.
  8. The main dining room – quite lovely and one night we had incredible service, complete with staff entertainment. That’s what Carnival is all about and what we love about them.
  9. Carnival App – handy to check in to the dining room, see menus (like the dining room menu), but would be nice to be able to pick up the old “Fun Times” to see activities at a glance. More cost-saving measures resulting in not having enough servers, stewards, etc. Not fun!
  10. Disembarkation – incredible! The best ever! We were called first and all we did at Customs was have our passport scanned as we walked through.

What We Didn’t Like

  1. Ship Layout – just didn’t have a nice flow like the Spirit Class.
  2. Service – one really prominent reason we’ve sailed Carnival is that their service has been pretty awesome. Maybe it’s just the Covid restart, but we think some things are just how Carnival is doing business now. Cabin steward comes only once a day so that ice you requested has melted by evening when you really need it. No wine sommeliers or any kind of bar service in the dining room other than what you request from your waiter. Seaday brunch (a longtime favorite of ours) has changed the menu and removed my favorite cappuccino muffin and the service is hurried, unfriendly, and full of mistakes. The “fun” is gone so it’s impossible to “Choose Fun.”
  3. Midship pool – only one tiny pool with lounge chairs taking up where the second pool used to be, making the pool area quite removed from the bar area.
  4. Pig & Anchor – absolutely horrible. Simply couldn’t eat the food. And some items listed on the menu were not available, such as cole slaw, collard greens, and some beer selections.
  5. Alchemy Bar – location felt like a hallway so we didn’t ever stop in for a drink and it’s one of our favorite bars on other Carnival ships.
  6. Cabin – seemed narrow. People have complained about the cabin size on the new Mardi Gras but we think it’s the same size as the Panorama (which is smaller than older ships), just the bed is in the middle of the cabin, making the room seem smaller. We think we might prefer the cabin layout of the Mardi Gras. Bathroom is smaller in both classes of ship.
  7. Main showroom – the chairs down in front of the stage make it look like a conference room, not a showroom.
  8. Promenade deck – closed off. One of our favorite places to get some fresh air is the promenade deck. And being able to walk it is a great way to get some exercise, talk, and think. These are rare today so we study the deck plans carefully. So to have it blocked off was totally unacceptable.
  9. The two small atriums – neither had an inviting vibe and the shops were tiny with very little merchandise.
  10. Passengers – how you connect with other passengers can be hit/miss (we met some lovely people on our PV excursion, for example). We’ve even had a lot of fun with the drunks we’ve run into – lol! – but we didn’t seem to connect with as many as usual (could it be these Covid times?)