Tuesday, October 7, 2014

10.3.14 A weekend cruise to the Bahamas

Today's post is from Glenn 

Returned today from the three night and was so impressed with this ship. Had a great cruise. The crew was so friendly and the cruise director staff so much fun. Overall I give the cruise an A. 
Some individual impressions:

Cabin - We had 3508 Oceanview (Forward Starboard). Very spacious and was impressed with all the storage space. The only negative and I imagine it is the same in all cabins is the extremely tight space in the shower. One false step, and you are taking a header towards the sink!! I am 6' 4" and had a very challenging time. Our cabin steward Mark was so attentive.

Dining - Mixed reviews depending on the venue. Most surprised by the Park Cafe. It was a great place for embarkation lunch (no crowds) and I loved the selection of salads, sandwiches and carved meat (although they never seemed to have the "famed" roast beef when I stopped by). Even great little breakfast sandwiches. It was located in the Solarium - a great covered pool. 

Main Dining Room was excellent. 

First time on any ship for My Time Dining and was a little nervous on how it would work. Was surprised you could make reservations ahead of time for the whole cruise. So we had "unassigned late seating" at 7:30 each night - and one night moved it up to 6:30 based on that day;s events we wanted to attend. Had the best assistant waiters and bar waiters on any cruise. Food in MDR was overall very good. Usually the waiter's recommendations panned out except for the bay scallops which were tasteless morsels of rubber doused in butter. But had an amazing beef tenderloin dish the second night. The finest beef dish I have had on a cruise.

I'll be as kind as I can on the Windjammer buffet and the Coco Cay BBQ lunch. 

They are truly uninspired. For as much work and planning seems to go into the MDR and Park Cafe (and I assume Chops), the buffet lacks much creativity except for the small hidden station of Indian which more often than not was not replenished. Food quality wasn't terrible in Windjammer - but I could have closed my eyes and guessed what dishes were waiting for me: Lasagna, stroganoff, nachos. The food at Coco Cay was worse. Luke-warm ribs, chicken and burgers. Very little flavor. I wish they would have offered some sort of spicy BBQ sauce for those that like some flavor. Didn't ruin my day of course. 

Live Music - Lots of opportunities to see bands and performers. The NEXUS band was my favorite. They were usually in the Centrum most evenings. 

The lead singer has an amazing voice. We stayed one evening for the piano entertainer (Beau??) in Schooner Bar. He was talented but instead of singing real words to any songs he made them up. There also was a band that mainly played in Boleros which was excellent. The last night they were playing all sorts of different traditional dance songs (like Waltz and Tango) for this group that were very accomplished dancers. As an aside, this cruise I saw the most amazing dancing from passengers. Really inspiring me to take some classes. 

Other Entertainment - Marc Walker is an exceptional cruise director. Funny and informational at the appropriate times. His staff always looked like they were having fun. I don't know his name but the Entertainment Manager led a very infectious deck party which is now the most impressive deck party I have seen on a ship (Norwegian Star has led that category). The trivia contests were very challenging!!

Embarkation - Very smooth. Waited in a line for about 15 minutes before getting to the counter. One tip. If they suggest you go to the non-Crown and Anchor dedicated lines, they may be right. We went to the Platinum line and then saw people who were behind us in security boarding the ship. It seems this sailing has lots of repeat cruisers which made those lines loner. But I also heard the CD say there were over 1000 first-time cruisers. In any regard, the premium lines aren't always shorter.

Debarkation. Woke up at 7:15 to our arrival. Quickly packed our things, and we were out in the parking lot by 8:20 (skipped breakfast).

Overall, a wonderful cruise. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Quick note from Angie: They also had one of my favorite activities - a silent dance party. In the night club - every one got head phones to wear and you could tune in to one of the two stations that the DJ was planning. It is so fun to see people rocking out ... to no music. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

9.26.14 A weekend saved

Friday morning we boarded our 630 am flight to Chicago excited for our friends' wedding. Halfway to Chicago - the pilot came on and said we were turning around because there had been a fire in the radar facility that serves the Chicago airports. I started crying and scrambling to find us other flights. 

 We got on standby lists for the Indy and Milwaukee flights, but a gate agent gave one of our seats to a person lower on the list so we couldn't go. I sobbed in the airport. We headed home to regroup and try to get our hotel deposit back.
Glenn figured it out then pushed me to find a resort we could go to for the weekend since we were already packed. I found the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa but was in no mood to figure it all out. I just wanted to be sad. Glenn took over, got us reservations and loaded up the car.
We checked in. It was nicer than I expected. We headed down to the Spa hoping the 25 minute massage included in our packages would pull me out of my funk. It did. It was really relaxing.  The indoor whirlpools and pool were so nice. We had a great dinner at the restaurant and called it an early night.
Saturday we spend most of the day by the pool under an umbrella enjoying the sunshine,  the cocktail of the day and the good burgers from the poolside grill. When the weather started to turn we headed down to the spa to enjoy the steam room, plunge pool, and more time in the indoor pool and whirlpool. 
Dinner again was really good. Then we headed to the lobby bar to see our old friend Bob the bartender before another early night.
Sunday we enjoyed our breakfast buffet and then headed home for a day on the couch watching football and catching up on DVR. It turns out while we may have been able to make it to Chicago via Milwaukee - every flight returning to Tampa from Chicago on Sunday day was cabcelled so things worked out for the best.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

9.19.14 M's Bachelorette

This weekend, I headed to Chicago to pick up M for her bachelorette party. We joined up with her future sisters-in-law and boarded the train for Milwaukee. I was so impressed how easy and quick the ride was. 

The first stop was the hotel to pick up the rest of the fun seekers. Then we headed to Lakefront Brewery. We had a fun private tour and had a great time sampling their beers. 

Before dinner, we headed to the Irish Pub next door. 

Off to dinner at Milliouke. The food and the service were great! 

Then we went to the Safe House for some drinks and dancing. 

Sunday meant brunch at Cafe Benelux. Amazing Bloody Marys and amazing food! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September 6th - September 8th - A Wedding and More Chicago Adventures

I have been very lucky in my life to have made some incredible lifelong friends. Friends from my Valpo days and friends from my days in Chicago are truly the greatest group of people I know and I am blessed to have them in my life. It's even more exciting that four of them are getting married this year. Jon's wedding was in August and Erin's was this weekend. This time I was a bridesmaid!!

It also turned out that my cousins were in Chicago for the weekend. After going to Erin's for a great open house: 

We headed to Frasca for a great dinner! 

My cousin really knows how to ride a unicorn! 

I always knew I belonged in the circus! 

Sunday was a gorgeous day for a wedding. The ceremony was incredible, touching, and person. The setting was the courtyard at the City Winery. It was a lovely day and it was so great to spend time with our people! 

Glenn and I managed to sneak in a trip to the Girl and The Goat. The food was incredible!! 

On Monday, we took some time to explore my old neighborhood. We had breakfast at Nookies, explored the Chicago History Museum and then headed back down to the West Loop for a fantastic lunch at Au Cheval. Then we had a quick drink at Pearl on the River before heading back to the airport. Overall, a wonderful weekend! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

August 29th - Labor Day Weekend in Minneapolis

It's State Fair time!! For Labor Day this year we headed up to Minneapolis to visit our dear friends and check out the MN State Fair. Seeing the butter room was at the top of my list! We had an incredible time at the state fair. Armed with a spreadsheet highlight the "must eats", we ate our way from end to the other. We also were part of a record breaking attendance day!! 
We started the day with mini donuts. They were hot, crispy and just the right amount of sweet! 

Our lovely hosts eating the worst item of the day: Pizza tator tots 

I got my personality analyzed. It was spot on! 

Andrew Zimmer was correct about the Gizmo - it's any amazing sandwich featuring ground beef and Italian beef and cheese. 

We tried the S'mores Beer. Basically a sweet porter with a graham cracker crust and marshmallow garnish. 

We loved the craft beer pavilion. You could choose from one of 6 flights. 


You just can't beat Midwestern corn on the cob dumped in a bucket of butter. 

This sandwich was amazing!!! 

Just a little crowded. 

We were so impressed with the vendors. Even though the fair was very crowded, they moved people through that line so quickly!

We rounded out the weekend with some time on the boat, time at the beach and a great game of Monopoly! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 23rd - Creative Loafing Beer Fest

This weekend was the Creative Loafing Beer Fest at the Museum of Science in Tampa. 

We both love the new Smoke trend in beers.  This beer fest is a favorite for us since it features an entire room of local craft breweries! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 16th - 17th Universal Studios

We finally headed over to Universal Studios to check out the new Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.  I have to say - I was very impressed. I really appreciate Universal Studios' ability to create incredible lands that really embrace a theme. The detail is really incredible. 

We also had a lot of fun heading to our favorite areas of the Park. Glenn tried out the Dudley DoRight Falls. 

This trip we stayed at Loews Portofino. We loved it!! It is the cutest resort. 

We love being on property plus when you stay you get the Fast Pass that gets you to the head of the line. We took advantage of being close to hang out at the Piano Bar at Pat O'Briens. 

Sunday - we had a wonderful day at the pool. The service, food and drinks were fantastic!!