Just like last year, we invited friends from church to spend New Year’s eve at our house. However, unlike last year, the weather was cool and wet so we weren’t able to play sports (like flag football) outside.
By far the favorite game of the evening was one called Fruit Bowl. Everyone chooses a fruit name (banana, strawberry, etc.). Everyone sits in a circle except for one person who stands in the center. One person in the circle is chosen to start the game by calling someone else’s fruit name. The person in the middle tries to tag the person who is called before that person calls out someone else’s fruit name. If a person gets tagged before they call out another fruit name, that person becomes the one in the center. Many people literally played this game for hours (at least six or seven hours).
Two Japanese exchange students (who are visiting the United States with a group from their high school for nine days) spent the evening with us.
Everyone had a good time. Some people just sat or stood around and talked. A few watched the movie, National Treasure. Some played other games.
Most people stayed past midnight to ring in the new year and watch the local fireworks show going on all around our house. Here’s a group photo. Tim (the photographer) had ten seconds to get into the picture. Because he was still moving slightly, he’s a bit blurry.
Just as Grandma Stogdill gets ready to leave, we finally got some nice weather…sunny with a high around 70 degrees! We decided to go to Fashion Island, a mall in ritzy Newport Beach. Everyone was able to go except for Joanna who had to work.
We had lunch in the food court. Later Jason and Lizzie bought Starbucks drinks. The mall has a koi pond with quite a few large and colorful fish.
A few posed as mannequins.
The Starbucks was busy.
That evening, Grandma treated us to dinner at Souplantation. Thanks, Grandma! Yummy!
A favorite activity whenever Grandma visits is playing Skip Bo, a card game.
Today some of us went to the Irvine Spectrum (a large, outdoor shopping mall). Lizzie bought some boots and Josiah got a Starbucks drink at Barnes and Noble. Other than that, we got some exercise by walking around.
We celebrated Josiah’s birthday. His big present was getting a Lego version of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. Jeri created a number of clues that led to his present.
On some Sundays, Tim will make waffles for the family. However when making waffles today, Tim made the mistake of using baking soda instead of baking powder (not the first time that he’s made this mistake). So he had to throw out the first batch. After he whipped up another batch of batter, we soon had some jalapeño and cheese waffles plus one chocolate batch (complete with chocolate chips). Yum!
We had church this morning and came home for lunch. Because Jeri and Nicole were still helping Eileen with her Christmas meal (provided by the senior center), we had to eat lunch (burgers and fries) without them. (Eileen is a 95-year-old blind lady who requires help on a daily basis.) Finally Jeri and Nicole make it home around 4 PM. By the time that they have finished eating and we have finished taking pictures (a painful ritual for everyone), it was 5:30 PM.
Here are Sarah and Joanna in front of the tree.
They were joined by Lizzie and Jason.
Here’s our Christmas family photo.
A bunch of smiling faces.
The lighting was terrible in this and many other photos.
Here we are joined by our guest for a week, Grandma Stogdill.
Once again we were in bed until 8:00 AM or so. By the time we had each taken a shower and gotten ready, the time was after 9:00 AM.
We eat at the buffet…trying not to eat too much so we can eat lunch before 2:00 PM for the first time on our cruise. After breakfast, we spend some time looking at the photos that Carnival had taken of us.
Here we are in the Dynasty Lounge.
At 11:00 AM was the disembarkation session to learn what we have to do tomorrow when we get off of the ship. This was followed by the Military Appreciation Gathering to honor those service members. It was quite moving especially at the end when an elderly black man who served in Vietnam shared about losing his buddies in the war and then the disrespect when coming home. He shared about his family’s heritage of serving in the military and his great love of America.
Here’s a group photo that Alex, our cruise director, posted on Facebook. The black veteran is about a third of the way in on the right side of the picture wearing a white cap and a black and white striped shirt. Tim is just behind him with his hand raised. Jeri is on Tim’s left.
After the gathering, we finalized our photo purchases. Because Jeri did celebrate her birthday on the ship, Carnival gave her one small photo for free.
Next up was little walk around the ship in preparation for lunch. We skipped the hot foods and just enjoyed a green salad plus a number of their tasty cold salads. Tim really enjoyed their pesto pasta salad.
Today was when Carnival has their Chocolate Extravaganza! Plenty of chocolate desserts especially cakes. Yum!
Here’s Tim standing next to the desserts.
We couldn’t resist taking another silly picture after lunch.
At 2:30 PM, we joined in the Q & A session with Alex and two other crew members. We enjoyed hearing their stories…like working every day for the duration of your contract (two to 10 months), then getting a few months off. Alex, our cruise director, likes to go backpacking in various countries during his breaks. He shared about being in Japan in a hot tub springs spa (no clothes allowed in the water) with a man who was fighter pilot for Japan at Pearl Harbor.
Afterwards we sat down to read and write (this journal). We walked around and then rested in our room for 20 minutes or so.
Here we are up high on the ship.
At 5:00 PM was the Holiday Show which featured Christmas music with live singers and dancers but with (high quality) recorded music. Kids from the cruise joined on stage for the final few numbers.
Before the show, a young boy (maybe eight years old) with a green shirt wandered on stage. After someone finally noticed him, one of the child staff got him off of the stage. At the end of the children’s pieces, the boy started bowing multiple times. Alex, the cruise director who was narrating the show, came back on and said, “Hey kid in the green shirt, take another bow.” The boy did and everyone had a nice laugh.
Here’s a picture. The boy with the green shirt has his back to the camera.
After the show, we went to the Atrium for a Christmas sing-along and an ugly Christmas sweater contest. Next up was supper.
Supper from start to finish was well over an hour. We noted how much we enjoyed sitting and relaxing without having to worry about tomorrow and all of its cares.
Appetizers were Four Season Salad for Jeri and Lychee Bisque for Tim. We each got the root vegetable pie as our main dish…it tasted better than its name sounds. For sides, Jeri got creamed spinach and garlic fries. Tim also got the creamed spinach plus Singapore rice noodles.
Here’s Jeri’s salad.
Some of the dining room staff sang a special version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” with the words changed to the passengers leaving the cruise ship shortly.
Our server was Isabelo from the Philippines. He checked up on us often and brought us more fries when asked.
For dessert, Jeri got the cheesecake with tropical fruit. Tim got the Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake…so rich, chocolatey and delicious! The cheesecake was excellent! Tim even enjoyed sampling it and he’s not normally a cheesecake fan.
After dinner, we went back to our room and packed our bags while watching the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Around 10:00 PM, we sat our bags out and went for a walk. We peeked in and caught part of the music production. Then about 10:45 PM, we headed to Xanadu Lounge for the final two comedy shows: Jerome was at 11:00 PM; Jaylyn was at 11:45 PM. These two shows were “adult” rated and featured material more appropriate for married couples. Once again we enjoyed having many good laughs!
Here we are on the main shopping drag, Avenida Adolfo López Mateos.
Here’s one memorable story from our day in Ensenada. First of all most of the shops are small with lots of items packed onto display racks. There were a few “real” jewelry stores…ones that only sold jewelry and that actually looked like a jewelry store with display cabinets and bright “diamond” lights shining on the rings, necklaces, and earrings.
Like many places, this jewelry store had someone out front who was smiling and calling to us (and others) as we walked by, “Mis amigos, come in and see our great deals!” Because shopping was our game, we took the bait.
The sales guy took us inside and began showing us some different stones. Some were pretty cool and would change colors under different lights. To get an idea of pricing (we figured that it would be high), we asked about a certain ring. He had to get his calculator (to convert pesos to dollars, I presume). It came out to over $400! Whoa! That’s way too much! Not our exact words but something to that effect.
After more looking, he showed us a ring that Jeri kind of liked. We asked the price. He gets his calculator, does a little math, and tells us “$290.” “That’s too much,” we tell him. “We’re not looking to spend that much.” He asks, “How much can you are you looking to pay?” Even though he asked us this question several times, we never give him an answer. So he comes down to $200.
We’re still talking about it. Although Jeri likes the ring, we tell him “No” again. His next price is $150. At this point, he tells Tim, “Stop being so Mexican on me.” (He’s referring to him playing hard ball on the price.) Next he comes down to $140. We give him our final “No” and start walking out. He calls out, “$120.” Tim answers “No” as we continue walking. He follows us out the store and calls to us on the sidewalk saying that his best price is “$100.” “Sorry but no” was our answer.
An hour or so later, we happen to be walking by the same store again and the same sales guy is out front. “Ninety dollars!” he calls out. “Sorry but no” as we continue walking.
We relaxed in the morning. Our only plans for our day in Ensenada were to get off the ship and shop. Offshore excursions like we did last year are definitely fun but relaxing is rewarding too.
Unlike at Catalina Island, our ship actually docked so we could simply get our cruise card scanned and walk off of the ship. Carnival (just like Princess and I’m sure other cruise lines) was always taking our pictures for free. You only pay if you decide to purchase them. As we disembarked at Ensenada, we were greeted by parrots and photographers. These pictures were fun so we actually purchased them.
The weather was nice…sunny with an afternoon high near 70. Here’s a selfie after we disembarked.
The first thing that we noticed was this HUGE Mexican flag.
Here’s a picture of a portion of a fish market. The entire market was quite large. The prices were pesos per kilogram. If my math is correct, 100 pesos per kg (as seen in the picture) would be about $2 a pound. The conversion rate that day was around 21 pesos per dollar.
We didn’t really know where we were going but a local guy directed us to the main tourist shopping street. So we wandered in and out of various shops. Inexpensive, pretty, Mexican-made jewelry was everywhere. So we had fun picking out gifts for Jeri and our girls. There were dozens and dozens of shops and restaurants all packed in several blocks. Besides jewelry, these shops sold clothing, hats, toys, leather goods, wind chimes, wood carvings, hammocks, stone art, and much more. A lot of interesting stuff!
We saw a number of guys making and selling wrist bands with your name on them. They can make the bands very quickly.
We bought a pair of earrings from this guy…he was really nice.
After a few hours of shopping, we walked back to the ship for lunch. After eating, we returned to finish our shopping. (Today was an ideal day for Jeri: sleep in, eat, shop, eat, shop, eat again.)
Here’s Jeri next to a clothing vendor. Note the NFL gear on the left. Lots of places sold stuff with NFL branding…I doubt that it was “official.” Note the “John Deere” tractor shirts on the right…it is “Juan’s Deere” and it’s a donkey. LOL!
Here’s picture of our ship at port in Ensenada.
You can really see how big the flag is from this picture taken on the top deck of the ship.
At 5:00 PM back on the ship, we caught the Magic Mystery Show. The magician was a mentalist. He “guessed” the number on a die for two ladies. Then he “guessed” one of the ladies phone numbers. Next he had five random people draw five random, simple pictures. He couldn’t see who drew what. Starting with one picture, he would ask each person, “Did you draw this picture?” He told them in advance that whether or not they drew the picture, they were to answer him with “No.” He successfully identified the artist for each of the pictures. Finally he did some escape tricks–first from some chains and finally from a straight-jacket.
Supper was a relaxing hour. For appetizers, we each got two vegetable spring rolls…hot and fried to perfection. (Sorry Hong Kong Express. Although yours are bigger, they aren’t as good.) We also shared a cold mango soup.
For entrees, Jeri got the vegetable lasagna; Tim got the Indian dish which was similar but slightly different from the Indian dish that Jeri got on the first night of our cruise.
For dessert, Jeri had blueberry pie a la mode along with a cup of decaf coffee. Tim had the S’mores Parfait.
We always enjoy sitting down for dinner, ordering from a menu, and enjoying the meal…all at a very leisurely pace. As we continued relaxing after we were done eating, Jeri realized that it was 7:20 PM. The comedy show starts in just 10 minutes! So we delay heading to our room to brush our teeth and went straight to the Xanadu Lounge for the show.
Jaylyn Bishop was SO funny! She shared funny stories related to shopping in Ensenada (which we could totally relate to). She shared stories about being in the movie “San Andreas” with the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) and getting star struck and forgetting her lines. She also did a great impression of President Obama. Her final segment on eating on a cruise ship and then having to use the bathroom was hilarious…we were laughing so hard that our stomachs were hurting! What fun!
Jerome did a second comedy show (also PG-rated) at 9:15 PM. We thought that he was funnier this time than when we heard him the previous night. He had a segment on how different races and religions would stop Dracula or Godzilla. He finished with a very nice Michael Jackson impression…complete with the hat, hair, white “glove” (actually a white sock), and moon walk.
We woke to the smell of fuel or paint in our room. Maybe it was from the tender boats which were getting ready to shuttle people from our ship to Catalina Island. The tendering area wasn’t too far from our room. Jeri had a slight headache and took some Tylenol.
A little after 9:00 AM, we head up to the buffet for breakfast. Jeri only ate a little fruit. Tim had potatoes, French Toast, muffins and oatmeal. After breakfast, we went back to our room and got ready to go ashore. We waited in line to get on a tender boat.
Once on shore, we walked around the town of Avalon and walked to the Catalina Casino. This building isn’t a gambling casino but rather a theater and ballroom. We bought tickets for guided tour. Since we had an hour till the tour, we walked back to the shopping area.
After a little shopping, we headed back for our tour. Frank of Avalon gave us a tour. We enjoyed seeing the theater, projector room, ballroom, dressing rooms, and more. Frank has lived in Avalon since the late 50’s and had plenty of stories to share. We learned that William Wrigley, Jr. (of the Wrigley Gum fame) bought the island and led its development. He spared no expense when building the Casino. He used gold and silver leaf, imported woods, and more.
The theater is on the lower level. Although talking movies were just coming out, Wrigley didn’t think that they would succeed. So the theater has a pipe organ located in the front. Standing on the left is Frank, our tour guide. They still show movies in the theater; Dr. Strange is currently playing once a night.
Apparently the acoustics of the theater are renowned. New York City’s Radio City Music Hall (which we saw from the outside in June) visited this theater to learn from its design. The domed ceiling enables a person speaking in a normal voice to be heard even in the farthest seats.
Because we purchased the longer “Behind the Scenes” tour, we got to see additional areas such as the projector room. On our way to the projector room, we looked out a window into the theater.
The early projectors (prior to the late 1960’s) used carbon arc lights as the light source. The light source looked very similar to welding rods–each rod could burn for up to an hour. A machine would feed the rod at the right speed so that an arc would result.
Here’s Jeri taking a picture in the projector room.
If you look closely at the signatures on the wall, you can find “Stan Lee.” It is near the center of the main signature area on the right.
We were able to walk on stage of the theater.
After seeing and learning about the theater, we went up the ramps to see the ballroom.
This ballroom was once the scene for many of the dances featuring famous big bands like Benny Goodman. Many from Hollywood would take a boat to the island from a night of dancing and entertainment. Back then, the dance floor could hold 3000 dancers.
Here is a picture of the lounge where dance-weary ladies could relax and freshen up.
A balcony outside of the ballroom.
The weather was cool with temperatures in the 50s. It was foggy and, at times, misty. After the tour, we headed back to the shops.
We wandered into a number of shops and saw a bunch of fun stuff especially jewelry. Jeri found a pretty necklace and earring set. I “bought” it for her for her birthday. Now it’s around 3:00 PM (last boat leaves at 4:00 PM), so we head back to the tender boat and get back on the ship. Back in our room, Jeri takes a short nap while Tim showers.
Every day our room steward makes a different towel animal. Today it was an elephant.
We get dressed up for our one elegant dinner of the cruise. We head out. Carnival had a dozen or so places to get your pictures taken. We stopped at two spots for photos. Jeri looked extra pretty!
Next was supper. For appetizers, Jeri got chilled strawberry bisque and asparagus cream soup. We thought that we tasted a meat-based broth in the soup. Our waiter confirmed that it wasn’t vegetarian. Tim got the stuffed mushrooms which had a spinach and Romano cheese filling.
We each got the Zucchini and Eggplant Parmesan…lots of thin layers of zucchini, a fried slice of eggplant, and a rich sauce. Doesn’t sound like much but it was fabulous.
Under the parsley, you can see small pieces of tofu on top of the fried slice of eggplant.
Here is an inside look at all of its yummy!
For dessert, Tim got the hazelnut chocolate cake. Jeri got the Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake.
At 7:30 PM, we caught Jerome (a standup comedian) for the first PG show. After the 30-minute show, we hung around for the 9:00 PM show with Jaylyn Bishop. We enjoyed the second show more as she used the cruise experience as the basis for a lot of her material. We really enjoyed these comedy shows.