Roman Ending

Why do I feel like this title has a sexual undertone?

Two nuns were riding their bicycles through the back streets and alleys of Rome.

One turns to the other and says, “I’ve never come this way before”.

the other nun says, “It’s the cobblestones”.

It’s a Roman ending.

The alarm went off on our last day in Rome. We still had things to see, places to eat at and hands to shake. We strolled to the hotel breakfast which was quite good. Plenty of options and good coffee.

Originally we planned on packing some rapid Covid tests but totally forgot. We had a connecting flight in Canada which is still quite strict on their policies. We thought better safe than sorry, so after breakfast we took an Uber to a testing site. And, it was closed…so we hopped back in the Uber and went ahead with our day, silently hoping we wouldn’t need the tests.

The Vatican.

We arrived at Vatican city pretty early, but there were already loads of people lined up to go inside, hard pass.

We continued our self tour and walked towards the Tiber river, heading towards Piazza Navona.

We took a break at Piazza Navona for an adult beverage and a bathroom break.

This is when we were sure that the only people who order Aperol Spritz’ are Americans, because it’s not a good drink and the Italian’s know this.

I had a place in mind for lunch near the Pantheon but it wasn’t opening for awhile and the crowds were already crazy. So we chose another restaurant and that is the one thing I hate about myself. I need to stick to my instinct, sigh. We weren’t disappointed with where we ended up, but I know the wait would have been worth it.

Can’t stop, won’t stop the pizza!

We wandered the streets heading back to our hotel.

Taking a little siesta before heading back out.

Italy was playing in England and I thought what fun it would to be watch an Italian match in Italy. So we found a pub that was televising all of the matches and hung around that area until kick off. We had a snack and did a little window shopping.

A recommended wine bar wasn’t too far away, so we popped in for a glass. Their wine list was obnoxious, The Cheesecake Factory should be jealous.

Finally we ended up at the pub with some drinks and a very uneventful fútbol match, we finished our drinks and left at half time.

Stopping off for one more sweet before bed. We had a ride scheduled to take us to the airport in the morning. We have a 5th grade promotion to catch, or so we thought….

Friday in Rome, We’re in Love!

No alarm Friday. Our hotel had breakfast available but we decided to sleep in and then go. Making our way through the streets of Rome heading to the Colosseum. It took us about an hour to tootle the 1.7 miles.

We were hungry and for whatever reason, all I wanted was pizza. We stopped and did just that.

Cheese pull number two wasn’t as grand, but the pizza’s were really good.

We strolled by the Victor Emmanuel monument.

Our end game was Campo de Fiori and it did not disappoint.

We chose a place to sit for cold cocktails and some people watching all while mentally making a shopping list.

We grabbed some fun pasta for the girls, meloncello, and the BEST apricots I have ever had.

Then we strolled through the Piazza Navona and the Pantheon to plan Saturday’s lunch.

Before we new it, it was time to head back to our room and get ready for dinner.

Our room. We stayed at the Hotel Mozart but our room wasn’t in the hotel, it was around the corner, in another building. I filmed the experience, you are welcome.

It was perfect.

Dinner….. we planned this dinner weeks before our trip.

Hotel Eden’s rooftop restaurant is where Michelin-star Chef Fabio Ciervo works his magic. I’ll be transparent and admit that the dinner started off with some anxiety. I left my phone in the Uber that dropped us off and even though the driver said he would bring it back in an hour, I had a hard time relaxing because, what the f*ck? I don’t even know why I had my phone in my hand or why it didn’t exit the car with me. I blame my cold for brain fog because that’s all I have for an excuse.

Dinner.

The menu featured a handful of tasting menu choices. We decided on three courses and dessert.

Which ended up being a very good decision because the chef added some amazing bites to our meal.

I have to say that I have never experienced this type of service before, it’s something that I could easily become accustomed to.

Amuse Bouche.

We started off with a goat cheese mousse cannoli with tomato dust. A tomato anchovy tartlet. Grape riesling foie gras and a wheat grass spritz.

Truly incredible and we haven’t even started.

Bread with three flavors of compound butter. My memory fails me but I know there was parsley butter, anchovy butter and one other flavor. The one thing I noticed this time in Europe was that the butter has been unsalted. That never was the case before. I may need to consult a chef about this.

Next up, White asparagus, Amalfi lemon and Mazara red shrimp.

Buffalo mozzarella, scallops and dried tomatoes. The first picture is with the tomato lattice on and then with it off.

First course.

Gran Riserva risotto with Franciacorta wine, oyster and rocket.

Let me pause here and talk about this dish.

Veal broth ravioli and horseradish my way.

Never have I ever experienced anything like this before. I can’t even begin to describe it but it was incredible. The ravioli was perfectly simple and the broth, the broth was so complex and in that one bite it was magic. One of the best things I have ever eaten.

Second course.

Eel with mixed herbs and Pigeon breast with raspberry and foie gras.
I did not love the pigeon, probably wont do that again. The eel was good.

Palate cleanser of mango and coconut dried ice cream.

Deconstructed Tiramisu and a view.

We thought this was the end but it wasn’t.

A box of chocolates and these amazing sweets.

We were absolutely blown away by this experience.

Thank you Rome.

Completely stuffed we walked it off, pausing at the top of the Spanish steps. We thought about a wine bar but we were done, so we went back to the room.

Buona notte

Roma

We had the entire previous morning to reschedule our breakfast for later on our last day in Greece. More like move it to the PM (if we were smart), but it didn’t even cross our minds. So after only a few hours of sleep, we were woken by a knock the door along with a chipper “good morrrrning!” Then we stumbled outside to another amazing breakfast on the patio. It’s hard to describe this hotel because it’s unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. But it’s very quiet and you rarely see anyone other than the porters carrying luggage up and down loads of stairs. So when Shawna was all “come here, hiiiiiii” in her cute voice, I was like what is happening? But then, she arrived.

I nicknamed her Evil Eyes only because that is what she had, but she was super sweet, a nursing mama in search for food. She liked, eggs and bacon, disliked, Greek yogurt.

Our transfer to the airport didn’t arrive until 1:15 so we wandered back into the village grabbing souvenirs and a last lunch.

We had no problems getting to the airport, getting on the airplane, getting to Rome and then getting to our hotel. We booked a stay at the Hotel Mozart. It checked the boxes of walking distance to certain landmarks, had a lift, breakfast included and a cafe next door.

We were right around the corner from the Spanish Steps. Once we checked in, that is where we headed.

We ate dinner not far from Piazza de Spagna.

Wine, pizza and pasta.

Cheese pull number one! Dinner was delicious.

We decided to head over to the Trevi fountain because, why not? And it’s more majestic at night, well I think so.

We headed back towards our hotel when we ran into Giolitto. I mean by the amount of people in line, we couldn’t pass it up.

I ordered way more than I could handle. Dark chocolate, coffee and pistachio…in a cone, sigh….

She ordered almost the same but in a cup.

Verdict; the dark chocolate was too much (who am I?) the pistachio was amazing, the coffee was good.

Why the line of people? No idea, but I also don’t understand ordering an Aperol Spritz on purpose, so maybe I am getting old and it’s lost on me.

Full and tired, we headed back to our room.

Oh, I can’t wait to show you the walk to our room!! And pictures of the Colosseum and our spectacular dinner at a multi Michelin star restaurant, swooon!!

Greek Wedding

My coughing has been making my nights really sucky.

So when we woke up to our breakfast being delivered, I made it outside with barely open eyes.

But if there is anywhere to just sit and soak it up, this is the place.

We had no agenda for the day except making our way to my brothers hotel for his wedding. So we ate, napped and read until it was time to get ready. A very nice lazy start to a fantastic day.

All of us that were in Santorini for the wedding arrived on Monday, Casey and Aileen were also supposed to arrive on Monday however their travel plans came to a halt in Munich. Their flight was delayed and then canceled, forcing them to stay the night in Germany. After a lot of shuffling and money, they were able to catch a morning flight on Tuesday getting them into Santorini by the afternoon. They made it, however their luggage did not. Can you imagine? A day before your wedding and you have nothing.There was no ETA on when they would get their luggage either, but luckily they were able to go shopping and expense what they bought. Santorini isn’t a terrible place to shop, they had a lot of options. A day later Casey had new wedding attire and they had bought beachwear, luckily Aileen’s dress was brought there by a friend who’s luggage did make it.

We walked with our wedding shit, in the sun, up hill to their hotel but not after getting lost…of course. We really have become accustomed to getting a ride when we want it, and I will not take it for granted again. Sweaty and sunburned we climbed up and down more stairs until we were in their hotel room and laying on the air conditioner.

Then we popped some Champagne and toasted to the soon to be husband.

When summoned, we made our way to the ceremony.

Have you seen a more dramatic back drop for a wedding? I haven’t.

Casey looked mighty fine for shopping that morning for an outfit, his friends did good. And Aileen was a stunning bride. It was a beautiful wedding.

While the bride and groom went off for photos we made our way down to the bar for some adult bevarages.

Then they did the cake cutting before the sun set.

Followed by the most incredible wedding dinner. I can see how the rich and famous get used to this type of lifestyle, it’s not too bad.

We were served a seven course meal over 3 maybe 3.5 hours. Every bite of food was phenomenal. I terribly regret not taking pictures but I wanted to be in the moment.

Once we finished the dessert course we all got in a transfer back to the Oia village to the Hassapiko bar.

We hung out and danced until the early morning.

It was a night to remember.

Next up, Rome.

Destination Santorini, hopefully

Setting: Santorini, Greece

Reason: Wedding

Our alarm went off at absurdly 3:10 a.m.

I know what you are thinking, I thought the same thing… it’s for a vacation, that’s exciting right? Well, we all had a bad cold leading up to this, and sleeping wasn’t what I was getting much of at the time, so ya, 3 in the morning hurt. But, we got to the airport, on the first flight without any hiccups or coughing fits, thankfully. I literally had to have a cough drop in my mouth at all times.

We left San Diego early and got to NYC on time as the picture suggests. The layover in NYC was simple and then we were on our second leg to Athens. This leg was a good 9 hours and I started out by playing a game.

But after this rude comment, I switched to my book. (which is Book Lovers and as good as I imagined it would be.)

Finally we made it to Athens.

(If you don’t see this video because I am in a different country and my computer doesn’t comprehend.)

Once we reached Athens, we hit the ground running, until we weren’t. The Santorini airport was unlike anything else I have experienced. We should have had over 2 hours to play around at the airport, however that didn’t happen. Long story short, an hour was spent getting our luggage checked, and then we had to wait for a bus, yes a shuttle bus to take us out to our plane. The bus was a few hour late meanwhile we were only in the air for 26 minutes. However, we made it and was pleasantly surprised that our luggage made it as well.

The four of us took a transfer from the airport to Oia, pronounced Eeee-Uh. Our hotel was located at the beginning of the Oia(n)? village. This is the area you see in all of the movies. White buildings that look like sugar cubes perched on the rugged cliffs over looking the Aegean sea. There are blue domed churches dotted along the way, the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful.

There are cats and dogs happily sun bathing all over the village.

Once we got settled into our amazing room at Thirea Suites and Studios, and took a much needed shower, we met up with my parents for dinner.

Amazing right? Everything about this hotel is wonderful, except these.

Doesn’t look too terrible but I assure you this isn’t all of them. We counted and there are 139 steps. Let me tell you, after a week of coughing and the Mediterranean sun, 139 steps is no small feat. But it’s worth it when you reach the top.

We planned on walking through the village and down the 300 steps to Ammoudi bay however I didn’t have it in me. Not enough sleep and still fighting my cold, I wasn’t confident I would make it back up. So we stopped into a little restaurant that served traditional Greek dishes and had a nice dinner.

I ordered the Mussels Saganaki and a dry white wine (I can’t remember the varietal) and it was all really good. After dinner we popped into a little market by our hotel for some wine, water and snacks because no one wants to be left without options on vacation.

We poured a glass of wine and soaked in our jacuzzi, winding down from a couple of long travel days.

The one thing we didn’t prepare for was how difficult it is to find rides on the island. So if you come here, come prepared. There are very few taxis and even less Uber’s and transfers need to be reserved ahead of time or you’re left waiting.

I had made reservations at a winery a few weeks before we arrived. We forget to arrange our ride the day we got in so after climbing all of the stairs and coughing for a good 10 minutes in the sun, we finally managed to get a ride, although we ended up being an hour late to our reservations, but we made it.

We had four wines paired with two courses. The food was really good, the wine was just ok.

From the winery which was located in the middle of the island, we wanted to catch a ride on the bus down to Perrisa beach which is on the bottom of the island. We had to hike a ways back up the road to get to the bus stop. The bus is really convenient and a cheaper option to get around but it takes time to get from one side of the island to the other. We hopped off the bus in the town of Perrisa and walked seaside until we picked a beach bar to pop a squat. I don’t know why all the countries have amazing beach bars and we live in California and we have nothing like this.

The beaches were lined with shops and bars and they all offered chairs and umbrellas, all of them.

We changed into our suits, ordered a drink and soaked up the Mediterranean sun, literally, for hours.

The beaches are all black sand (rock beaches) thanks to the volcanic lava and ash. Hot as hell is what is was, like it literally did just came out of a volcano.

The water was chilly but it felt good. It was crystal clear and so refreshing to float in. I wish I could walk right into it right now.

We called our transfer for a pricey ride back to our hotel because we didn’t want an hour long bus ride.

The rest of the crew were all going to do a wine tour/dinner that evening, we were the only two losers that didn’t go. We had already done the wine thing and wanted to have a nice quiet dinner, but I did feel slightly guilty for not going. But they all had a good time, the didn’t miss us, I’m sure.

We tootled through the village, stopping for a couple of adult beverages and people/sight watching.

First up, two espresso martinis with a sea view.

We found a pharmacy and got some more cold meds because my cold is hanging on for dear life. Then we ran into this cute place with an amazing drink menu.

We found a bench and just soaked up the fact that we were in Greece.

Back to dinner, you guys, this meal was incredible.

We started off with grilled octopus with fava bean puree.

Ridiculous.

Then we both ordered risotto.

Me, pistachio risotto with sea bass. Her, wild mushroom with smoked bacon risotto with truffle oil.

Again, so so good.

For dessert, creme brûlée.

Completely satisfied, we walked back up more f*cking stairs.

And made our way back to our room, where we once again soaked in the jacuzzi until sleep beckoned us.

Tomorrow I hear there is a wedding. Although, it didn’t start of very pleasant for the happy couple. More on that next time.

καληνυχτα (good night)

Puerto Vallarta, This is the End

We woke up in Puerto Vallarta, and after some coffee we hit the ground running. Familiar enough with the city, we hopped in a cab and headed to Playa Los Muertos. The plan was to walk along the beach until we found a place to lay out, swim without dying, and have some adult beverages.

We didn’t have a hard time.

It wasn’t the prettiest beach, and to safely swim we had to walk south a bit, otherwise the undertow would’ve taken us to the Bermuda Triangle. Nonetheless, it was exactly what we were looking for.

We had fish taco’s and coconut shrimp, both were delish.

Oh, can we talk about the beach vendors for a second? If you’ve been down to the Mexican Riviera beach towns then you’re familiar that the beaches have vendors that sell everything from sunglasses and jewelry to basically junk. However, this time we were offered cocaine, you guys is this a new thing? It wasn’t just at this beach either, it also happened a couple of times in Cabo. So anyways, if you’re looking, I know a guy.

After a couple of hours of floating in the ocean and soaking up the Mexican sun, we gathered our stuff (no, not cocaine, I bought sunnies) and walked up the beach to the Malecón. I really, really, really wanted to get another passion fruit margarita at the Devil’s Bar. I guess the secret got out because every seat was taken and it was only a Thursday, ugh. Having seen all the shops and bars already, we dragged our feet back to the ship.

Look who greeted us.

For dinner we went to Tamarind, Asian cuisine. The shrimp dumplings were incredible. We also shared a pork belly char siu, along with crispy duck and panang curry. The waitress talked us into a ginger wasabi martini that didn’t taste at all like wasabi but Shawna enjoyed it.

That night we requested a couple of songs from Colin and Clara, the pianists. They were so great, they both sang our requests, songs they have never performed before.

After the piano bar, I’m pretty sure we danced for 2 straight hours. Sweaty and barefoot is how the night ended.

You know it’s a good night when the shoes come off.

Friday and Saturday we were at sea, and it seems like they went by in a flash.

Friday we were still far enough south that the weather was quite warm, meaning a pool day. Hopping from hot tub to pool is how the afternoon went, stopping for pizza and a ping pong break. While sitting in the pool we met this couple from Arizona. Interesting folks, a little TMI but friendly. Sitting on the steps of the pool, we talked to them for a good 45 minutes. As we talked the wife steadily became more and more intoxicated. Gradually getting more inebriated with each minute that passed, but she wasn’t intaking anything. Anyhow, that was a topic of conversation for the rest of the day.

It was our second gala night but before we hit the dining room for dinner, we popped by the pool bar for a martini happy hour.

It wasn’t a ‘choose your own martini’ type of situation, we got a trio of martini’s, that we shared and they tasted like, well, exactly as they look…fruity.

Sure enough, the Arizona couple from the pool was there. He was eager to talk and she was still upright. However, rumor has it, she passed out later at the dinner table.

Our dinner wasn’t terribly exciting, I think this was the one evening that I was actually disappointed in everything that I ordered. Luckily, we had stashed Parisian sandwiches in our fridge for late night dining.

We met two brothers early on the trip who were traveling together, and they were from La Mesa (East San Diego). Turned out that they grew up just a street away from where Shawna did, small world. Nice men, we called them our guard dog pit bulls. However, one of them fell asleep on the job.

This wasn’t like a nod of the head. You guys, he was OUT. Nowhere-ville, it was amazing…and then a little scary, but he was fine, just completely knocked the f*ck out. He slept through the bands set, he slept through cowbell, he slept through more cowbell and he slept through slaps on the cheek.

That’s the doing of tequila shots, or so they said.

SO GOOD!

We dusted off our Macarena dance moves on the dance floor ending another great day.

Is there anything sadder than waking up on the last day of a vacation? No, the answer is no.

We reached Saturday, the last day of our cruise. Somewhere near Baja California, because when we stepped outside, ready to soak up the sun, we were slapped with November San Diego weather. Meaning it was not quite warm enough to get wet.

So we played some ping pong and wandered along the outside of the ship.

I wanted to play the music trivia at the pool later in the afternoon, so we went to the Lido Market for lunch. It was delicious, I piled my plate with poke sushi rolls and crispy pork belly. Oh, so so good. After we ate, we went back to the room to change into warmer clothes and then headed to sit out for a bit at the stern of the ship.

Somehow we ended up scoring poolside lounge chairs right before trivia started. The sun came out, of course, and then it was time for a quick wardrobe change back into swimwear.

I love trivia, and I felt confident with music trivia. But you would think that I have learned my lesson by now. These ships are full of people that have lived decades longer than me. The first five questions were about classical music so there went that win. Then it was songs from the 1950’s, so unfair. I guess I don’t need to tell you that we didn’t win.

Even though it wasn’t hot outside, we knew we had gotten some sun. We took the next hour to pack our luggage, leaving out only what we needed to disembark. Then we made our way to the casino. That was a bust for me, although Shawna won some money on a slot machine. We ran into our besties, Cliff and Gail and we sat at the casino bar for a drink. Why does time fly when you’re having fun? Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner. That was the one thing that I got tired of doing, getting ready. Having to do it every night is just so much to ask of me.

After a dinner of braised lamb, pasta and pavlova, we went straight to the rock room, no time to spare.

Clara was performing in the theater, before she hit the ivory keys.

Once the music was over, we all stayed in the Billboard Onboard lounge and hung out with the crew. Talking and laughing.

Laughing and talking, we stayed up past last call, which means quite late, or quite early.

Since we had packed earlier in the day, once we got to back our room, all we needed to do was set the alarm and hit the sack. Welp, the alarm didn’t go off, so we woke to the sound of the hall intercom calling disembarkation numbers. That put a pep in our step, and in minutes we were dressed and heading down to the gangway. The only good thing about running behind was that our car was already at the port waiting for us, so we were home in no time.

That’s it, that is the end of our fantastic trip. It reminded me of why I have always loved cruising and we are looking forward to another one soon, someplace new and warm.

Cabo no Wabo

We anchored in Cabo San Lucas just before 11:00am on Tuesday.

Desperate for lunch on the beach, we made our way downstairs to get the tender tickets. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this cruise ship had a lot of older folks, so getting into that Tender from the Ship, was bit of a slow process. Luckily, we sat next to the best group of Texans (you won’t hear me say that very often). They told us that a friend of their’s, who is a singer, was singing at Karlito’s Cantina on the marina, and we had to stop by to see her.

We told them that we had a date with Playa El Médano for lunch, but we would absolutely stop by later.

We strolled through the marina, stopping to browse and for photo ops along the way.

Once we hit the beach, we walked in the water until we spotted a spot that we could sit, eat, drink and swim. The weather was perfect and the water was pretty warm, warm enough to swim in.

We stopped at Omega’s where we soaked it all in for a couple of hours. This is also where I had the most delicious shrimp tacos with a fresh habanero salsa. I’ve thought about those tacos every day since.

Fully satisfied, we made our way back to the marina to see what was happening at Karlito’s. Our tender Texan friends, Pattie and her husband John, were already there, “but the fun don’t start til I walk in“. Kesha, get it?

Everybody there was so nice, the lady singing (I am horrible at names, luckily Shawna has an elephant’s memory, is that even a real fact, like how do we know that?)

Anyhow, Leslie Blasing used to be a back up singer for Reba, she lives in South Padre Island but just happened to be in Cabo visiting friends. She was singing on this sunny Tuesday at Karlito’s as a favor, ya, she is that nice of a person.

We decided to eat dinner in the dining room on the ship, so we said our goodbyes, and tootled back to the tender.

I’m guessing you know what we did after dinner, but you are going to have to hear it again.

As our group of friends grew larger with each trip to the bar, we all took turns saving seats in our favorite corner booth. That way we were always together listening to the music.


I can’t forget to mention that the Holland America bartenders make a first-class espresso martini! Pretty sure that’s one of our martini’s being shaken in the background of the video, ha.

When the clock strikes (who knows, I never knew what time it was) I should say, when the pianos stopped, the dancing began.


And when the lights went out, it was time for bed.

Just to wake up and do it all over again.

But this time, we woke up in Mazatlán.

Once we stepped off the ship we hopped in a cab with another couple and headed, well we didn’t know where we were headed. We asked to be taken to where the action was at.

We landed at Joe’s Oyster Bar.

Not bad, not bad at all. After wetting our palate, we strolled along some shops and…shit, I just remembered that I bought vanilla there, I wonder where that is, hm.

It was time for lunch and as we do, we asked a local where we should go. The next thing we knew we were dropped off between two beach restaurants. We rock paper scissored to see which one we would eat at, and it was a good choice.

I mean come on, grilled pulpo on the beach…. with a margarita, can it get any better? (insert Chandler Bings voice)

After lunch we wandered along the streets but nothing was really calling out to us. Mazatlán is pretty in some sorts and not so pretty in others, just like anywhere, but there wasn’t anything that we really had to do there. So we made our way back to the ship and hit the pool, well I’m pretty sure that’s what we did, I mean it’s been a week you guys.

Fun fact, Mazatlán’s malecón is the largest in the world. I don’t remember how long it is, but I am sure Google does, or Alexa, I’ll ask…Nope, she doesn’t know either. Oh well, here is a glimpse of the longest malecón in the world.

Once we were sun soaked, it was that time again.

That’s Johnny Tocco on the guitar, isn’t he good?

You know how the first part of a vacay moves at a perfect pace, and then all of the sudden BAAAAM, it’s over? Ya, well that started in Puerto Vallarta….stay tuned.

Let’s Cruise

If you like to cruise, let me tell you, now is the time to do it. We had the best time EVER. First of all, Costco had a mind blowing deal, not only that but the ship was only at half capacity and vaccinated cruisers only! There was also an incentive drink package that is included with your total price up front, meaning you won’t have that huge bill statement slid under your door on the last night of the trip.

So, obviously we booked through Costco. Holland America had a 7 night Mexican Riviera cruise leaving San Diego. Added bonus, no airports and no wasted travel time. After packing and repacking, making sure we had everything we needed from bathing suits to Gala attire and about 1,450 other things we maybe didn’t need and a few we wished we had, we hit the road. An entire 15 minutes later ,we were dropped off at the cruise ship terminal. Having already downloaded the ships app, we just waited for our time to be called and we were making our way up the gangway. Couldn’t have been easier.

Once we boarded this beauty, we headed to our room to drop off our carry-ons. It was a nice surprise to see our luggage already in our room. So we dropped our carry on crap and went straight to the pool deck. They had music going, small bites were being passed around along with their drink of the day. However we opted for wine instead, hey, what can I say? Before we knew it, we were making our way out of port and heading towards an amazing week.

We wandered around the ship trying to get acclimated but there were just soooo many places to see. So we stopped at the end of the ships lounge, and plopped down on a couch to check out the evenings itinerary.

Where should we eat? What should we do? There were just so many options. We decided to skip the main dining room and eat at the Market Cafe, which used to be called the buffet but now they have separate stations. You can order whatever is displayed on the menu and they make and/or serve it to you. {both ends of the cafe had hand washing stations and hand sanitizer, also masks were required in all public areas}. There were so many options that it was overwhelming. They had an Asian station, sandwich, salad, pasta, carving and dessert station. You guys, the bread, can we talk about how good the bread was? And the sandwiches were like the ones you get in Paris, fresh thin baguette with a protein, maybe some butter or brie…those became a daily or nightly and sometimes an early morning ritual.

We did not want to miss the band playing in the Rolling Stone Rock Room, so we went up for a wardrobe change and then hit the music walk. The music walk was half of one of the ships deck and it had all the different lounge/bar areas just for the entertainment.

We sat down and loved every minute that the band gave us. They alternated with the dueling pianists whom were playing just across the way in the Billboard Onboard room, they were also amazing and we instantly wanted to be best friends with all of them. We went back and forth and back and forth until all of their sets were over. Then we headed to the B.B King’s Blues club just next door, and danced and danced and danced. This in turn, would end up being our routine every night of the week.

Rolling Stone Rock Band Night 1

The next day was our day at sea. We leisurely woke up and had coffee sent up to the room. Our plans included sunning at the main pool, grabbing burgers for lunch, playing trivia and we were signed up for a wine making class in the late afternoon. There just isn’t enough time in the day. Trivia was a sad tale, we met a really nice couple who we teamed up with but we were no help. The wine making course was a good time. We started with five wines all from Washington state, all the same year and there were 3 different varietals of red. Two Cab Sauvignons, two Merlots and a Cab Franc. We went through each one, learning about where and how the vines grew and at the end, we made our own blend. Once we were done and happy with our newly made wine, Ramon, our sommelier bottled it and sent it to our room.

Monday was our Gala dinner night. I’m not sure how we don’t have any food pictures, who are we? I had the absolute best mushroom risotto and the chocolate soufflé, let’s not forget the bread and butter. The service was spectacular and the food was pretty darn good, we also had a really good chardonnay from Napa that accompanied us back to the room. Then we changed into more bar worthy attire.

This was the night we met two other couples who became people we will never forget. Each of them were older than us and they lived on opposite sides of the U.S. but we ended up sitting with them every night, laughing, drinking and sharing stories. We will most definitely see them again.

We ended the night once again on the dance floor, closing the place down.

*Side note about packing. Packing for a cruise is easier said than done. You need a couple of fancy outfits if you plan on eating in the dining room. You need a sweater to go with said fancy outfit because it can get cold inside certain areas. You need semi fancy outfits for other nights in the dining room. You need shorts and bathing suits for the day, or the Market Cafe and swimsuit covers if you plan to swim and wander around. Let’s not mention the shoes, accessories and all the other things we put on our bodies everyday. I think we did a good job packing however, we ended up changing a few nights out of our fancy clothes and into dancing clothes. I wished I had packed more jeans and tanks. I would also suggest packing a water bottle like the Yeti or whatever you use at home. Cold water is hard to come by in your stateroom, we would fill ours up at the cafe before we went out for the evening so when we got back we had water for the night. I also suggest a mini speaker if you like to get ready to music, electrolytes if you like to drink and a nightlight for the bathroom if you get an interior room. That was a lifesaver, I must have saved at least 50 bruises from happening on a middle of the night bathroom walk.

Next up… Cabo.

Beach House

Way back when I when I was in high school, my brother was in elementary and we lived in Nor Cal, my family spent a week at a beach house in south OC. We loved it. Then we moved there and we still loved it, but nothing is the same as living on the actual beach. The waves crash and you can feel the spray on your legs while you’re sitting on the porch.

My brother decided to recreate that beach house moment from our childhood and rented a house on the same beach, but this house was much fancier.

We couldn’t stay too long because the kids where in camp and school was starting, but it was a great way to end the summer. We played, bathed, swam, sunned, met a curious sea lion and in the end, no one wanted to leave.

The morning that we left the girls went down to the COLD water in their pjs, same thing I would do if I lived on the beach.

Puerto Vallarta: Secrets vs. Grand Fiesta

Once we decided that we would just go back to Puerto Vallarta instead of somewhere farther, I hit the ground running on our options. There was a checklist with our wants…All-inclusive, adults only, swim up bar with a swimmable beach. I went on all the travel sites comparing the only two resorts that checked off our lists and those two were Secrets Vallarta Bay and Grand Fiesta Americana. Since we had already been to Secrets, I really wanted to see a pros-cons list comparing the two, but never found one. So I am going to make one for future me and for anyone who wants a rundown on the differences between the two. Price wise they can be close to the same and other times it seems that Secrets is much pricier. I will say that both places had very low prices at one point but I hesitated to book, sigh…I wanted to wait until I knew that we were going to be vaccinated in time. Once I booked, the prices did climb a bit, what can you do? Better healthy than quarantined.

Secrets Vallarta Bay

PROS ( I have to preface this, we went during Covid and they weren’t at full capacity, things may not be the same anymore)

  • Free Covid testing upon departure. If you test positive they will PAY for you to quarantine and provide you with all your food and non-alcoholic beverages (you have to buy your own booze).
  • Close to town, walkable even.
  • Staff throughout the entire resort was exceptional. Bartenders especially!
  • No wristbands and no class/booking distinctions.
  • No problem getting chairs by the pool, again maybe because it wasn’t full capacity.
  • Drinks were good and what you wanted, no potential of being watered down.
  • Grounds were kept immaculate.
  • Plenty of pool games without silly “must-do’s” to win.
  • Clientele was more our age, maybe a little older and there was just a classy vibe, even when things were getting a bit crazy.
  • Had a more elegant and romantic vibe.
  • Horse back riding and tours available on the beach.
  • Beautiful rooms with large tubs and an ever bigger shower.

CONS

  • Beach not swimmable, rocky and strong undertow. The no swimming flag stayed up all week.
  • No nightly dancing or DJ/music by the pool (again maybe just because of Covid)
  • The resort grounds were split in half, one side was adults only and the other was for families aka kids. However the restaurants are spread out among the entire place. So some restaurants you might want to eat at will have children. On the plus side, the kids couldn’t come to the adults only side.
  • The food was just average.
  • Casino was closed (probably Covid)
  • Had a handful of suggestions of swinging and/or obnoxious advances.
  • A lot of vendors on the beach.

Grand Fiesta Americana

PROS

  • Views from anywhere were amazing.
  • Pool DJ daily.
  • Plenty of different restaurants and bars, no kids at all.
  • Food was pretty good.
  • Man made enclave in the ocean/bay. Perfect for floating and swimming. Free kayaks available.
  • Dance club/bar with DJ every night.
  • Free Covid Testing upon departure.

CONS

  • Rooms weren’t great. No bathtubs and the shower got the bathroom floor wet.
  • Outside room hallways weren’t cleaned very well, smelled like rotten food sometimes.
  • Color coded wrist bands were given out at check-in. We were told it was just to identify who bought what package through what company, ie. Costco, Expedia etc. But I don’t believe that was the truth. I think it has to do with how much you paid, or something along those lines.
  • Staff was good, but not exceptional and the service was not consistent.
  • Mojito and Martini bars weren’t open every night AND the bartender didn’t even know how to make a true mojito, so there’s that.
  • Pool chairs were taken super early in the morning. The sun didn’t hit the entire pool until 11:00am.
  • Alcohol seemed watered down and sometimes we didn’t get what we ordered.
  • More of a younger crowd that came with more of a “no f*cks given” vibe.
  • Farther from town, about 15 minutes in cab.
  • Drugs were offered, ha, maybe not a negative for some.
  • Pool games came with consequences ie. lap dances etc. No thank you.
  • Didn’t offer free quarantine if tested positive for Covid.

Now that I wrote it all out, it seems like there is a clear winner. We agreed that if we were to go back, we would go to Secrets. Secrets was just a bit more upscale, had a tad less of a party vibe, We brought up the Target vs. Walmart comparison while we were there, Secrets was Target and Grand Fiesta was Walmart.In the end, Secrets ended up having more of what we want in an all-inclusive resort.

Now the hard question…”are all-inclusive resorts worth it?” Who knows? I am an all-inclusive resort novice. I have been on my share of cruises and I have heard other peoples stories about how great these resorts are but I ask myself, is there something better for the same price?

The problem, if there was one, is that we live in an area that is home of the California burrito and the fish taco. We have Michelin star restaurants, craft cocktail bars, breweries and some amazing wine. So, when we go to these resorts are we actually downgrading from our norm? The answer is yes, sounds snobby perhaps but I don’t mean it to be. It’s just a realization that we have it good in San Diego and if we want the warm ocean water, amazing views AND great food and drink, it doesn’t come in an affordable all-inclusive package. But I am also not on board with paying a ridiculous amount of money for multiple meals daily and adult beverages hour by hour, day by day. So we get what we get.

I think if you are a simple person, and don’t spend much thought on food and are fine with domestic beers, then this is probably an amazing vacation. Me, I am a food snob and self appointed wine drinker, so I will go on these trips and appreciate the simple things on the vacation, sun, love and free flowing wine.

With that, a friend of ours that we actually met at Secrets PV, is a travel agent. He highly recommended the Hyatt Ziva in Puerto Vallarta if you aren’t as picky as we are.

In the end, no matter where you go and stay, it will be amazing.

Secrets Vallarta Bay

Grand Fiesta Americana