Wednesday, December 31, 2014

First New Years not in T.O.

Thinking back, this is the first new years eve since I've moved from HK that I did not spend in Toronto/Horseshoe.  Wow!

But given all the travelling this year, felt that a nice 'home' New Year's would be proper.  To start the day, we went to Taylor Shellfish... saved $9 because of happy hour :).  Then we returned home to get ready for New Years.

We met up with lil genius and his gf at their friend's surprise party, where the guy proposed to the girl!  Turns out they were actually trying to surprise each other secretly (her planning a surprise bday party with all his friends coming, he with trying to propose to her on New Year's Eve), and so completely was not expecting each other's surprise.  Cute!

Counted down, saw a bunch of fireworks coming out from Space Needle.  Pretttty...

Happy new year everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Last Benihana

We tried to call earlier today, but we weren't able to make reservations.  Good thing lil friend called and found out that we can try walking in - though it would mean that we would need to wait an hour+ to be seated.

Usually we would give up, but then the Benihana combo was happy hour, then migrate over.  So an hour+ wait wasn't too bad.  It just meant we would sit at the bar for 30 minutes more (aka. drink another bottle of sake :P before going)

So we took the bus to go to Benihana, sat for a little bit at the bar, and executed the last Benihana perfectly!  We even had enough food to doggy bag for lunch!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Regal Princess Cruise - Day 7: Sea Day - Last Day of the Cruise

Pretty uneventful.  I will miss the cruise.

Some final thoughts:
I have to say, I think this whole notion of 'standard' gratuity actually makes the servers and waiters more lazy and yield poorer service.  It was much better when they worked for their tips.  With the exception of 3 sittings, all the service was pretty poor.  One lunch the waiter managed to get half of my orders wrong.  Another instance I had asked a server for a coke, he went ok, and continued to fix up tables that no one was sitting on.  Eventually he didn't even bring me a coke and I had to reorder it.

I should mention that on the lobster night, we actually tipped cash to two of the waiters that was serving us - cuz they were just awesome at what they were doing.  And after the tipping, man - the service became even better.  If only I knew that earlier, I would have totally tipped every meal!!!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Regal Princess Cruise - Day 6: Sea Day - Lobster Day for Dinner

In the afternoon, I went to play some 4 on 4 soccer on the top deck.  Turns out most of the people there didn't really play soccer too much so I was easily one of the better players on the pitch.. Hahahaha.  It was pretty fun and turned out it requires a lot of core stability that I didn't notice while I was playing.

The main event tonight was dinner.  Tonight we had two dinner sittings.  One at 6:00pm, then another at 9:00pm :). 

As you might have guessed, tonight was the anticipated lobster and escargot night that I have been waiting for this whole cruise!

Result: I only had one type of appetizer and main course.  To be exact 26 escargots (so 4 dishes + 1/3 of lil friends'), and 11 lobsters.  Yummmmy.

While it sounds crazy to have 11 lobsters, the lobster tails themselves were not the gigantic ones, but instead, took about three bites to finish.  This was by far my favorite meal aboard the cruise :).

Lil friend had a salad for our second sitting, and it turned out there was a bug in it.  The head waiter came by to apologize, and took down our stateroom number, but it doesn't look like anything was done.  It was nice that they apologized, but what is the point of taking down the stateroom number if they are basically doing nothing?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Regal Princess Cruise - Day 5: St. Maarten

Another beach day.  Not as nice as yesterdays, but was a quieter beach.

Had a guavaberry colada, which was pretty yummy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Regal Princess Cruise - Day 4: St. Thomas Day and Coki Beach

No scuba excursion offered by the ship as it was all booked up.  The part I was most peeved about was that I had to go to the excursion desk to ask whether it was on or not in person the day before, when I submitted the form 2 days before.  No confirmation or message that it was actually not booked.  To add salt to the wound, when I asked I was actually talked over and yelled at by the staff.  Combined with the incident where lil friend was yelled at by the Assistant Manager of the Spa for dropping her key into the laundry basket along with the robe, and the seemingly forgetful staff who made me order two cokes to get one because they seem to always forget the first time, we decided to dock their 'standard' gratuity, and instead, give gratuity on a performance based system.

Anyhow, having arrived at St. Thomas, we still went to Coki Beach, as we heard that was a beach that we could do snorkeling.  Arriving there it was pretty busy (lots of people), but the beach was still pretty beautiful.  White sand, turquoise and blue water.  It was stunning.  As we walked down the beach, we spotted a shop that was doing scuba, and we were able to get in on it.  The dive itself wasn't super great, but did see an irubaja!.. Mmm…. To the excursion services staff who told me I would not find any local scuba shop to take us, if I can somehow state that you should not get any part of my 'standard' gratuity, I would.

A thought:
To this day, the dives and snorkeling I've been on in terms of clarity and beauty still doesn't compare to the very first dive and snorkeling I did back in the West Caribbean.  I am starting to wonder whether that was just my imagination given it was my first ever dive.  At this point, I should have been to numerous dive sites with a lot more sea life, but other than the sea turtle dive in Hawaii (which we weren't looking for coral reefs), I don't remember a better and cooler dive.

In terms of snorkeling, I still remember that first cruise where one of those days I went snorkeling and I was swimming with fishes and felt them prick me.  Ahhh the memories.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Regal Princess Cruise - Day 3: At sea day

Worked out.  Rode the bike for 30min.  4.5 miles.  There was this computer game thing that was pretty fun - kept me pretty motivated to actually bike across the finish line.  

For dinner, we had crab shack - paid $25 a head, got some Alaskan king crab.. Pounds of it.. Mmm...Definitely worth the $25 a head to eat here!

I should also mention that I had two dinners... heh heh heh

Monday, December 22, 2014

Regal Princess Cruise - Day 2: Princess Cays Day

Woke up, ate, then spa'ed.  Then went to the shore.
Beach day.  Funnnnn and relaxing.

Pretty cool that they owned their own island

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Regal Princess Cruise - Day 1: All aboard!

Had tons of deserts.  Got into the spa enclave - only limited space available.

Watched a show in the evening, and on the first day, I have managed to lose my key card!  Luckily it was very quickly replaced.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pre Cruising - Day 2: T -1 day before Regal Princess Cruise

Went to Bimini's for dinner tonight.  Wasn't spectacular (nor good) at all.  Some negatives:
- Cup wasn't washed on the outside
- oysters weren't fresh at all
- food wasn't that great

So for safety, went to the place we went to last night. Mmmm...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Pre Cruising - Day 1: Harry Potter Land

Lil friend's most anticipated part of the trip.  We woke up at 6.30am (after sleeping at 2am) to grab breakfast and be ready for early admission since we started at the cabana resort by the Universal Studio.  Greatest decision ever!

First ride was Escape from Gringotts.  The inside was really cool in that they had robot goblins moving behind the counter and all.  The outside the dragon actually breathed fire every so often.  The rode itself was pretty interesting.  We waited about 30 min to get on the ride (this was with early admission...but turns out the wait wasn't too much longer throughout the day since it was a school day still.. In fact, most rides only had 5 min to 20min wait times)

After this ride, we went to the Oliwander store, saw a lil girl get their wand picked for them, and we also got the interactive wand.  Great idea for Universal Studio.. At $50 a wand!  So smart whoever thought of that.  They must make a killing.  It was fun thought walking around various locations at Diagon valley and Hogsmeade and waving this wand to see 'magic' happen.

Then we took the train to Hogsmeade since there is really only one ride in the new park.  The train station was pretty cool. 9 3/4 terminal from Diagon alley - that actually made the ' you run past the wall thing'.  Also, during the train ride, the window was basically a movie of sorts, making it feel like you are really in harry potter land.

Went on the Dragon Challenge next.  No line at all!  So we got a chance to go on both dragons.  The red one (Chinese fireball) is definitely the more intense of the two.  Then some butterbeer, and then we went to the Forbidden Journey ride.  This ride definitely made me feel woozy with all the 3D video.

With that, we then did some lower thrill rides.. Like the carousel 😊.

Had a quick lunch and nap, then headed for more rides!  With Harry Potter rides completed, we would go on the Hulk, the Rock It, Shrek 4D, and MIB.  We also rested in the AMEX lounge (since we purchased our ticks with an AMEX credit card - who are official sponsors of Universal Studio.. Meaning discounts at some places and use of this lounge which had chips and water). MIB was pretty neat in that the ride had a laser gun for you to shoot at bad aliens - and points get tracked as you hit them.

All in all, Harry potter land was pretty fun and relaxing. 
One thing I do have to admit is the I am getting old..., felt dizzy and nauseous for those first few rides.  Lol.  To think I used to do super crazy roller coasters!

Ate at bubba gump, and get a souvenir cup.  Then drove back.  Drove 20min, then decided to take a nap in the car.  One hour later we wake up and continue driving.  Get back to original hotel by 1pm... With free parking! Woot!

Super tired.  Soldier Mson out

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pre Cruising - Day 0: Landed!

Fort Lauderdale traffic is horrid.  Half an hour to travel 5 miles.  But finally I get to the rental car place.  

Sixt rental car.. Apparently the 4th biggest rental car company in Europe.  Their storefront was not dinky (originally given they were offering cars for a third of the price, thought they were a small local company).. In fact, it was huge and styling.  Also came out with a mini cooper.  So definitely nice experience.  Friendly staff, 5 stars!

After rendezvousing with lil friend, we went for a quick bite at G&B oyster bar.  Pretty fresh oysters and their raw clams were amazing.  Slightly pricey, but yummy.

Then we headed north to Orlando to prepare for some harry potter action tomolo!

Pre Cruising - Day 0: Fail A-ABC taxi

Cab never comes.  I had to call them and they said 15 minutes.  But really it would have been half an hour.  -10 for ABC taxi.  Yelp reviews are not accurate - I will go fix that.  They say they will reimburse my cab fare.  We will see if they do it.

Ended up finding an Uber 2 minutes away at recommendation of Lil Friend.

Got to airport.. Looks hectic.. But magically, I was able to checkin luggage, get through security and at the gate in 15 minutes.

At terminal now.  What a way to start vacation!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Benihana Bon Voyage

Fun times.  Got in before happy hour ended so we did it right!
Sad news though.  They will no longer do the deal starting 2015 😢.

Bon voyage French Ph.D. friend!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sick :(

Sick for the past week… no fun at all…