Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Parrothead Looks at 20

I happened to stumble across an interesting article on Facebook that my author friend Eric Douglas shared. It was from Billboard.com and listed their take on Jimmy Buffett's top 20 songs. Like Eric, I agree with most of their picks, but I have my own set of top 20 I'd like to share. You can find Billboard's article here, by the way, in case you want to read the full article. I'll list their picks below, though, just in case you want a quick reference. 


Jimmy Buffett
image from Google search


In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that while I've been a Buffett fan for many years, I can't call myself a true Parrot Head because I've never attended a live concert of his. I'd love to attend one of his concerts, but ticket prices are generally pretty high for his shows, at least in my opinion. One day, though...

Also, since I'm talking about "disclosure," I'll reiterate that I've identified any photos posted on this blog that don't belong to me with "Image from Google search" below the photo. Should any of the few that I obtained this way cause concern for the copyright holder, I'll be happy to either remove the photo or credit the photo. If you are the photographer or copyright holder, please let me know in the comments section below and I'll be happy to make it right with you.

Some of my readers will (hopefully) remember I did something similar a few years ago when I wrote about some songs that always seem to end up on one of my mixed playlists. You can check it out here. Go ahead, give it a read. I'll wait for you.

Pretty eclectic list, huh? What can I say?

So, below is the list, from #1 to #20, that Billboard.com came up with. I've bolded the titles that I agree should be in the top 20, although you'll see that my order is a bit different than theirs. 



Son of a Son of a Sailor
Fins
He Went to Paris
Cheeseburger in Paradise
Margaritaville
A Pirate Looks at Forty
One Particular Harbor
Come Monday
Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
Why Don't We Get Drunk
Nobody from Nowhere
Volcano
It's Midnight and I'm Not Famous Yet
Boat Drinks
Pencil Thin Moustache
Trip Around the Sun
The Great Filling Station Holdup
Oldest Surfer on the Beach
Livingston Saturday Night
Gypsies in the Palace

Before you start shaking your finger at whatever display you are reading this from and exclaiming something like "Hey Patrick, you're an idiot! How could you possibly leave out [insert song title here] from your list?" 

First off, relax! I like all of the songs on that list, but there are few other titles I'd rather have in a 20-song playlist than those if I had to limit it to just 20. And if you noticed, the top 6 on their list are on my list. Coincidence? I think not.

To make this even more interesting, I'll include a few comments on most of these songs on why I have them in my top 20 and will make each song title a hyperlink to a YouTube video of the song. Just click the title, and you'll go right to it.

I'll present my list the same way Billboard.com did, and the way Casey Kasem used to do his Top 40 show, in reverse order. Are y'all ready? Let's go!

I would love to meet the person that Jimmy wrote this song about. I did a little searching on Google and found this blog which provides an entertaining analysis of the song.  I can't vouch for the accuracy, but it makes sense to me. 

Thanks to YouTube, I stumbled across this charming song while browsing for Buffett videos one Sunday morning while enjoying my coffee. The melody evokes memories of lighthearted times, and it's hard not to just sit back, close my eyes and enjoy it. I do remember having so much fun as a child running through big rain puddles in our backyard. Ironically, when I set the order of my top 20, this just happened to fall into the 19th spot. Nothing earth-shattering there, until I started doing some fact checking. According to Wikipedia, this song first appeared on the album Barometer Soup, which was Jimmy's 19th album. Whoa! Again, not too significant unless you just happen to be a Stephen King fan. Yes, I just made a reference inside a reference. Imagine that...



Neighborhood kids in the rain
photo courtesy of LP


18. A Pirate Looks at Forty
I'm constantly amazed at just how visual music can be for me. I've mentioned this in a previous blog about the vivid imagery evoked by music. Can you see the smoke from the cannons and hear them thundering at their prey? I sure can. And who hasn't ever wondered if they were born in the wrong era?

17. Come to the Moon
On the surface, one would think this is a lovely science fiction themed ballad, but carefully listening to the lyrics reveals, at least to me, reveals someone really missing their mate. I wonder if he should start channeling Captain Kirk...



Full moon over Miami




16. Who's the Blonde Stranger?
A song close to home, geographically speaking. This is one of those "fun" songs that explore the relationship of a longtime married couple. The song link, by the way, is to the official music video.

15. Nautical Wheelers
Not too many of Jimmy's songs (that I'm aware of ) are written in 3/4 time. Before you ask, I'm pretty darned sure it's 3/4 time and not 6/8 time, just based on the lyrics. The biggest irony of Nautical Wheelers appearing in my Top 20 is that I'm not into dancing.....at all. It's just not my thing.....at all. My wife totally loves dancing so I will dance with her, on occasion, when she asks. That being said, I bet I'm one of the very few who can claim to have been slam-dancing, in a car, to Mozart. Yep, that's another story for another time. Triple-bonus points if anyone I've told that story to can remember which specific Mozart song I'm referring to.

14. God's Own Drunk
No, really, it's just coincidence that this song appears directly adjacent to the previous title. Seriously, I swear I was totally sober during the slam-dancing incident above. I don't drink and drive.....ever. Have I ever been "bullet-proof" like this song's narrator? Of course. That's why I don't shoot tequila. I tried explaining this to a friend of mine, but....it hung him up.

13. The Great Filling Station Holdup
How many times have we all heard "crime doesn't pay?" This amusing song demonstrates that sentiment quite effectively. The two guys in this song apparently aren't the brightest stars in the galaxy when it comes to theft, but at least they paid their debt to society. And speaking of theft, let's look at the next title in my Top 20.

12. Peanut Butter Conspiracy
How appropriate that my next pick should be this title. Not only are they thematically related, but both appear on the same album. Was he just going through a larceny phase, or what? My biggest question about this song is the choice of items they stole: Peanut butter and sardines? Really? Seriously? Was the peanut butter at least the crunchy variety?



Peanut butter and sardines? No, thanks...
image from Google search


11. Knees of My Heart
For being ultimately a non-event, this song holds a special place in my own heart. When I first decided to propose to my then girlfriend, I picked this song to play in the background. A family friend had a sailboat, and they agreed, happily, to take Cindy and me sailing for the day. I was going to sneak the CD on the boat with us, and at the appropriate time, one of them would play that song for me as I got on my own knee and proposed. Mother Nature had her own plans, though, and the forecast kept delaying our plans to sail. Time was running out, so I had to make alternate plans for the big day which turned out just as well. Come to think of it, I do believe we were in hurricane season at the time. 

Which leads us to the Top 10...

10. Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season
Having lived most of my life on the Texas Gulf coast, I totally relate to this song. From June through November each year, we live in hurricane season, paying close attention to the weather. Want to know what it's like to experience a hurricane? Check out a blog I wrote about Hurricane Celia here. Jimmy paints a vivid picture of an approaching storm, and I've seen squalls in the Gulf approaching Galveston from my work area that would probably fit what he's singing about. 


Not my favorite season
image from NHC website




9. Son of a Son of a Sailor
I'm glad Jimmy seems to appreciate his family as much as I do mine. My paternal grandfather was a railroad man and reminds me of a very gruff version of Wilford Brimley. He died when I was quite young, so I don't remember that much about him (my grandfather, not Wilford). This particular version of "Son" is my favorite and features one of his backup singers, Nadirah Shakoor, prominently. My maternal grandfather, incidentally, did spend time in the Navy, way back when. 

8. The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful
A hard-working guy just needs to relax? Yep, I can relate, although I'm happy that my wife is closer to me than this guy's wife apparently is. You have to admire his style, though. "Well, he's on his third drink before the wheels of the plane leave the ground." I know some cruisers like that. They are pleasantly lubricated before the safety briefing. Party on Garth! Party on, Wayne!

7. Last Mango in Paris
Here we have the second song on my list that has "Paris" in the title. My connection to this song, though, has nothing to do with Paris. Back in the mid-80s, I attended college at Texas A&I in Kingsville. Yes, it goes by a different name now, but I refuse to acknowledge it. I met one of my closest friends there, that is more like family than friend. Around noon one day "J" (he knows who he is) and I decided to treat ourselves to the local Pizza Inn buffet. We were finished with classes for the day so we figured "why not" and hopped in his car. Naturally, college kids and pizza and beer go together, so we filled our plates and ordered a pitcher to share. We philosophized about life, the universe and everything as we ate our lunch and enjoyed our brews. Several helpings, and a couple of pitchers later, we were nicely full and continued to just hang out and talk. 

"We shot the breeze for hours, as the sun fell from the skies..."

And truly it did. Before we realized it, lunchtime had given way to dinner time and it was dark. Being the responsible guys we were, we ate dinner and drank soft drinks so we could drive home safely. We left the dorm just before noon that day and returned close to 8. This is one of my most cherished memories of college, hanging out with a good friend and enjoying each other's company.


J & I in later years



6. Jolly Mon Sing
The cynical part of me tends to agree with the statement "No good deed goes unpunished." Listen to this song and you'll see why I think that still holds true in some cases. Ultimately, Jolly Mon gets his reward and still helps the local islanders. Was justice ever served to the pirates? I hope so!


We've reached number five in our countdown, and I hope you've enjoyed the ride so far. Let's see what made the cut.


5. Havana Daydreamin'
I picked this particular video because it features the subject quite successfully. What struck me, though, when I watched this specific video, was how similar Ernest Hemingway looks to a former boss of mine: CJ Peters. No, CJ has nothing to do with this song, only his similarity to Mr. Hemingway in the video. I'd love to visit Havana one day and experience the warmth and hospitality the Cuban people are known for.


CJ Peters
image from Google search


4. Boat Drinks
Who can resist a cold, creamy, fruity "boat drink?" Coupled with my love of cruising, it's a match made in heaven. Wanna make it even better? How about a boat drink in "St. Somewhere?" Works for me!


I'm enjoying this boat drink!


3. Fins
Many of JB's songs are just plain fun, and Fins is one of them. This is an automatic crank-it-up-and-sing-along-at-the-top-of-my-voice song. 

Fins up!


The photo above was taken at the Margaritaville in Grand Cayman. More on that in just a bit.


Fins to the left, fins to the right!


Yeah, I know, wrong kind of fins. We thought it would be fun to pose like this, so we did it. That's how we roll. This was taken at Mammoth Lake in Clute, Texas, by the way.

Oh, my! How can something as simple as a cheeseburger bring such pleasure? I'll take a good cheeseburger over a mediocre steak any day. Jimmy and I may differ slightly on what we prefer on our burgers, but based on the song we both enjoy them. 


Cheeseburger!



And now, appearing in the number one slot, we have:



Is this a real place or a state of mind? The short answer is yes....to both. When the song was first released, there was no physical place called "Margaritaville." Today, you can find Margaritaville restaurants all over the place. 


Original Margaritaville in Key West, FL



Margaritaville in Grand Cayman



Don't forget Cozumel



Margaritaville is another song that definitely lends itself to a singalong. Just listen in any public place where this is playing and you'll hear many people, myself included, add "Salt, salt, salt!" to the end of the "lookin' for my lost shaker of salt" verse. There are even variations of this, too: "Salt, salt, where's the damned salt?"

I've noticed in the videos of live performances, Jimmy will add "bubble, bubble, bubble" to the end of the "smell those shrimp, they're beginning to boil" verse. Check out this video of a live performance and you'll be able to see examples of both.


I want to give honorable mention to It's Five O'Clock Somewhere. Since Jimmy only appears in this Alan Jackson song, I can't rightly place it on a Jimmy Buffett list. It just wouldn't seem fair to Alan, now, would it? It fits nicely with the rest of my list, and occupies a permanent spot on my "Parrot Head Playlist."

So there we have it, my faithful readers. My own Top 20 Jimmy Buffett songs. What does your Top 20 list look like? I'd love to see it. Do you particularly agree or disagree with any of these selections?

Coming up in future blogs, I'll have another interview with a local chef, as well as start a new series on what I'll call "living history." These will feature a photo tour and some background on military displays such as the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, VA, and our own Seawolf Park in Galveston. 

Do you want to see something specific? Let me know in the comments section below and I'll see what I can come up with.


Until next time.....


carpe cerevisi


Monday, February 12, 2018

Heading Home and Final Thoughts on the Carnival Vista

No breakfast on the balcony this morning. In fact, we had to hustle to get ready to disembark. During yesterday's debarkation presentation we received a time window of 8:30 for leaving the ship. We didn't want to have to hurry, so we set our alarm for 6:45, figuring we'd take our time waking up, getting dressed and heading up to Lido for breakfast. As we dressed, around 7:15, we heard on the ship's PA that our zone was ready for debarkation. 

Whaaaaat??

The CD stressed the importance of debarking when our zone was called, as there was limited space on the baggage conveyor for all the bags. Well, crap! I guess breakfast is out. Cindy and I hurriedly finished getting dressed, zipped up our carryon bags, and bid farewell to our cabin. As is typical of these days, the elevators were packed and would continue to be packed for most of the morning. We took the stairs down to Deck 3 (Lobby) and joined the line to exit.

And just like that, we were off the ship and heading to baggage claim a mere thirty minutes from that first startling announcement. A porter helped us with our bags through customs and we quickly made our way to the pickup point for our van to the Ft. Lauderdale airport (FLL). As predicted, there was a crispness in the air and when the wind blew I could feel a bit of chill. 

Our van took about 45 minutes to get to the airport from the cruise terminal. Our flight wasn't until late afternoon, so we had plenty of time. The day was bright and sunny with blue skies so we just sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the passing scenery.



Inside the FLL terminal


Once we dropped off our checked luggage, we finally had the chance to seek out that most important elixir in life......coffee. My fondness for a good cup of coffee is well known among my friends and family, and you can even read a blog I wrote about it here

Ahhh, much better! Steaming cup of goodness in hand, I logged into the airport's free wi-fi and started getting caught up on e-mail, Facebook and all other manner of social media I had been absent from for the past week. After being unplugged for so long, I was glad to see my long anticipated message from a Nigerian prince offering me millions of dollars was still sitting securely in my spam folder. Maybe this one is legitimate, and I should give the sender my account info. And maybe I'll sprout antlers.

Keith and Barbara drove to the terminal, so they were already on their way home. Brian, Denise and B-Man had a flight almost as late as ours, so all of us hung out in the terminal together, recounting the fun we just had. 



I like these decorations!




Around noon we decided to see what we could find for lunch. Even after such a huge meal last night, all of us were starting to get hungry and thought a nice lunch together would be nice. Maybe something "local," instead of a national chain....

Hey, that's it! We spotted La Familia Tacos & Tequila. Perfect! Well, except for the tequila part. Even better, there was only a moderate sized crowd so we were able to get a table for five with just a very short wait. As I studied the menu, I spotted a familiar friend, Mr. Pork Belly. Oh, yes, pork belly tacos!



Pork belly tacos


Served on flour tortillas, these tender strips of pork belly had a mildly spicy seasoning that was also a bit smoky and just a touch sweet. The pico de gallo and creamy jalapeno dressing finished these tacos nicely. I so have to find a local grocery store that sells pork belly!


A side of rice and beans


My tacos had a side of rice and black beans accompanying it. Cindy's lunch also had rice and beans as a side, so the server brought them out together. I added a little salsa to the rice and beans and mixed everything together for an enjoyable side.

We still had another three hours to go after lunch, so we all just settled into seats that had an outlet nearby and either surfed on our phones or read from our Kindles, or both. This helped the time to pass a little quicker, especially with a good novel I was reading on my Kindle. 

The sun was starting to creep towards the western horizon as our flight was called. Our ride home would be on N8629A, another 800 series aircraft (8H4, to be exact)...yay! 

N8629A
photo by Jeremy D. Dando (used with permission)

As we got settled into our seats and buckled in, we figured we'd soon be on our way. Not so fast, though, as the flight attendants kept calling for specific people to please raise their hands or use the call button. Apparently, there was some confusion with the passenger manifest, and this caused about a half-hour delay. Adding to this, the captain said we'd be fighting a strong headwind the whole way back, and it would be doubtful that we could make up any time. No worries, I still had the next day (Monday) off as well. I do that whenever I can when we travel....take that extra day off. 

Once the passenger manifest was resolved, we pushed back from the gate and taxied out to our departure runway, 28R. The captain was right about fighting a headwind all the way to HOU. While not excessively turbulent, it was a bit choppy off and on throughout the flight. 



Almost home


Our landing was smooth, though, as we landed on RWY 4. As we taxied to the gate, I wondered when and where our next cruise would be. We collected our bags and soon our next door neighbor arrived to take us home. And that, dear readers, is that. Shortly after 9 pm, we walked through the door and were home.



Final Thoughts:

Cabin: This was our first balcony cabin and we loved it! I can see why they are so popular and we will probably book balcony cabins from now on. Because this was a first for us, our cruise experience was much different than what we were accustomed to. We spent very little time on Lido, instead opting to hang out on our balcony. We did enjoy the pools and hot tubs, though.

The air conditioner worked very well in our cabin. In fact, we had to even bump it up a little on the second day as the room was a bit cold. 

Located just forward of midships, on the port side, we were ideally located for good, unobstructed views. We didn't hear any noise from any public spaces, either. When we book the Vista again, we'll try for the same cabin.

As I frequently mentioned throughout this series, I loved the map channel on the cabin TV! I hope Carnival converts all of their ships to this system.

Food: Just about every meal we had was enjoyable. Twice, though, once on this cruise and once on the previous cruise on the Breeze, my flat iron steaks were overdone and tough. This could be coincidence, but I think I'll avoid these in the future. No, this didn't diminish my cruise experience, nor did it "ruin" my dinner. It's just something that needs a little work. 

Both Guy's Burgers and the Blue Iguana Cantina continue to be my "go to" places to eat on Lido. The Pig & Anchor BBQ is good, too, and is another venue I'd be happy to eat lunch at. 

This is the first time in several cruises that we haven't eaten dinner at Cucina del Capitano. The only reason we didn't was to try out JiJi Asian Kitchen. Both are phenomenal dining venues, and we'll seriously consider eating at both on our next cruise. We'll absolutely have dinner at JiJi, though. The next time, however, we'll make reservations as soon as we board the ship to get a good day and time. Both are entirely worth the $15 per person upcharge. 

Public spaces: Overall, the Vista is much like the Dream class ships. One change that stands out is the addition of beer taps at the tables in the Red Frog Pub and a "beer station" on Lido. This is a great idea in my opinion and something I'd like to see on other ships.

Individual table taps in the RFP



Beer station on Lido



How many times have I regretted waiting until the last minute to do something? It never fails, does it? Wait until the last minute and chances are you won't get to do it, won't have time or some other thing will come up. Throughout this whole cruise, both Cindy and I would watch the sky ride cars as people pedaled them around the track. Both of us wanted to do this at some point, but always put it off in favor of something else. "Let's make sure to do the sky ride tomorrow." Yeah, right! Everyone else must've had the same idea, and the line for the sky ride was longer than we cared to wait. Lesson learned.

Another venue we never got around to visiting was the Havana Bar on Deck 5, aft. Some live Cuban music would've been fun to listen to had we just made the time to do it. The same holds true with the Vista's brewery. Interested in a tour? No problem, just sign up for it, but space is limited. And don't wait until the last sea day, in the afternoon, to try to book a tour. Yep, it was full. Imagine that.

With so much to offer, the Carnival Vista will keep you as busy as you want. Or you can be as idle as you want, or anything in between. 

I hope you've enjoyed reading this blog series as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

For your convenience, here are the links to the previous blogs in the series:

My Grand View of the Carnival Vista (first in a series)

Day 1: Embarkation on the Carnival Vista

Day 2: Our First Fun Day at Sea on the Carnival Vista

Day 3: Grand Turk on the Carnival Vista

Day 4: La Romana on the Carnival Vista

Day 5: Curacao on the Carnival Vista

Day 6: Aruba on the Carnival Vista

Day 7: Our Second Fun Day at Sea on the Carnival Vista

Day 8: Our Final Fun Day at Sea on the Carnival Vista

If you enjoyed this series, I also wrote a blog series on our Carnival Breeze cruise in 2016. You can find the first one here.

Coming up in the next few blogs, I'll write about some of the new board games we've played, as well as a few other topics I'm developing. 

Is there anything you'd like to read? Please let me know in the comments section below and I'll see what I can come up with. 


Until next time.....



carpe cerevisi






Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Day 8: Our Final Fun Day at Sea on the Carnival Vista

And so began our last full day on the ship. Didn't we just board, like, yesterday? Well, it sure felt like it. It's like this on every cruise, though, that feeling of time passing by so rapidly that a seven-day cruise seems like only a four-day cruise. It's all good, right? That just means we've been having lots of fun. 

A quick word about this specific blog: it's going to be heavily food-centric compared to the previous blogs in this series. My foodie readers will probably get more out of this one than the others. I hope everyone enjoys it, though.

We were greeted with a mostly cloudy sky as we had breakfast on the balcony. It was noticeably cooler, too. We knew from other passengers that it would be chilly in Miami upon our arrival on Sunday. It is December, after all...



Our morning location


We decided to just roam about the ship, with no particular plan in mind. There were a few activities we planned to do, so with no agenda set, we were out the door and on our way to some fun. The morning show, hosted by CD Matt, would begin shortly, so we thought it would be fun to attend it live. He would be conducting a Q&A session immediately after the morning show, followed by a briefing on disembarkation procedures in Miami the following day. Timing this out meant we'd be finished right around lunch if we stayed for all of it. Done!

All three presentations were fun to watch, and some really good questions were asked during the Q&A session. He didn't have any information on whether or not Carnival would add a Cuban port to any Galveston itineraries, unfortunately. I hope we can get a Cuban port from a Galveston-based cruise. That would be cool!



Lunch!


Guy's Pig & Anchor BBQ was good enough on our first sea day that I decided it would warrant lunch on our last sea day. I had a sampling of the pork, chicken, brisket, and sausage. The beef was a little overcooked....again....but my chicken and pork were just right. The mac & cheese and beans rounded out my lunch. I cut up the sausage and added it to the beans. Perfect! Well, almost perfect. A tortilla to wrap it all up in would've made it "perfect." Just sayin'.....

While I'm glad we had reservations at JiJi Asian Kitchen tonight, I knew it would be similar to the Cucina del Capitano in that we should show up hungry. A nice BBQ lunch is fine if we stopped there. BUT, and there always seems to be a "but," today's activities also include the "Chocolate Extravaganza." Great. Let's just add yet another thing to munch on before dinner. I had a solution, though, an invigorating round of golf......miniature golf. Yeah, that should burn some calories! 

After making some truly spectacular, Masters-worthy putts, at least in my mind, we thought we'd try the new Sky Ride thing the Vista has. We'd been wanting to do this the whole cruise, always thinking "Ah, we'll do it tomorrow." Of course, waiting until the last day wasn't too smart. Apparently, a lot of people had the same idea, and the line to ride this critter was longer than we cared to wait. 



Looks like fun...



...but not enough to wait in this line.



Oh well, we strolled about the Lido, taking in the sights of people wringing every last bit of fun out of the cruise as they could. The sky went from mostly cloudy in the morning to completely overcast. Even as the temperature started dropping and the occasional drizzle dampened everything, there was still a good crowd on Lido.


Lido crowd




Now that we played some mini golf, walked around Lido and did some people watching, partaking of a few chocolate treats was in order. That voice in the back of my head reminding me of dinner was quite rudely silenced by the other voice. "It's just chocolate. Quit being a wimp!" Hey, I'm not a wimp! Chocolate it is. Sometimes you have to silence that inner voice, no matter how well-intentioned, and go with your first instinct. 



Wash your hands


The Vista has a new hand washing system at the beginning of most food areas on Lido. It's really cool, and something I'd love to have in my own house. All one has to do is place their hands in the holes, and these whirling water jets will spray warm water all over your hands. It has a timer, too, so once you place your hands in the washer, you just keep them there until the water stops. Way cool!


I so want one of these!



Our hands were now nice and clean, so what better way to dirty them, and get to use the hand washer again than to handle some chocolate treats. Picky? No worries, there are plenty of choices. Both of us selected a few items (Remember dinner? This is our compromise with the more rational voice.) 


Snack time



I chose a slice of chocolate cheesecake and a pastry swan. This swan had a scoop of chocolate ice cream in the middle, which I augmented with a dollop of caramel sauce. How was it? The pastry was flaky and tender, the ice cream rich and chocolaty, and the cheesecake was silky and decadent. Yes, I wanted another slice, but......dinner. Didn't I tell you earlier just how annoying that little voice can be? Sheesh!

Some may recall that I try to stay as unplugged as possible when cruising. I don't buy an internet package and very rarely watch any network programming on the cabin TV. Notice I didn't say "never." Never use absolutes. It's always a bad idea. I'll tell my friends and family not to expect to hear from me until we get back. Obviously, if there's an emergency, like aliens taking over the world, or a natural disaster, of course I'll be in touch. Otherwise, see y'all in a week.

I broke my own rule of staying unplugged and watched something from the "outside world." With a ThirstyFrog Red in hand, I plopped onto the bed watched the Army-Navy game. My first impression was "Wow, it's snowing like crazy!" My second impression was "Hey, Army's doing really good!" No, I didn't graduate from West Point, having gone the ROTC route, but my loyalties are still with Army. During commercials, I'd step onto the balcony for some fresh air. Earlier in the day, I noticed one cruise ship in the distance, and when I went outside during the game I saw two ships, relatively close to us. 


NCL & Celebrity ships


At this point, we were getting intermittent rain showers, so I didn't go out on the balcony as much as I wanted to. I don't know which specific NCL ship (on the left in the photo) was out there, but I could see that the other ship was the Celebrity Eclipse. With the game going back and forth, it was a tough decision to go ahead and attend the past guest party we had planned to attend. Actually, it's called something else now, but I like that term better. The fact we had unlimited complimentary drinks and hors d'oeuvres certainly aided our decision to go. 

Believe it or not, we only had a couple of drinks and maybe one small hors d'oeuvre each. While hanging out at the party, we talked about what we had and hadn't yet done. Cindy mentioned how we hadn't gotten any wings from the Red Frog Pub yet. Looks like we're gonna make a stop between the party and the cabin. Not that that's a bad thing.....

Party concluded, we ambled over to the Red Frog and grabbed a menu. I found a good seat where I could watch the final few minutes of the Army-Navy game. GAAAAHH! Army was down by 6! Crap! OK, deep breath, relax, and find a table. We studied the menu to find something to accompany the wings.



RFP menu


I picked the wings, and Cindy opted for the West Indian Roti. No, I didn't know what "roti" was either until I read the description. It sounded interesting, but I stayed with the wings. My ThirstyFrog Red arrived before our snacks, and as I took the first sip Army scored a touchdown to go ahead by one. Hoo-wah! Go Army! The snow was still falling and swirling around. All they had to do was hang on and run out the clock. 


ThirstyFrog Red


As Navy started moving down the field, the clock was working against them or working for Army. The clock ticked down to just a few seconds left with Navy at the Army 31. What a barn burner of a game! Three seconds left on the clock and Navy was going to attempt a 48 yard field goal in a swirling wind. The kick was up annnnnnnd........


NO GOOD! Army wins!



I was just catching my breath from such an exciting finish when our food arrived. Now I could call them "celebratory snacks." Even that annoying "goody two shoes" voice knew better than to try ruining the moment.



"Firecracker Jamaican Wings"


These wings had a sticky glaze that sticks to your fingers and coats your lips, making you choose between finger-licking, lip smacking or the more civilized use of a napkin. Personally, I prefer the finger-licking and lip-smacking method. For those that prefer a napkin, though, I'd rate it at least a three, if not four, paper towel dish. While I wouldn't call them overly-spicy, Cindy gave them a 4 on a 1 - 5 scale for heat. I would go 1, 2 tops. The spice combined with a sweetness made the glaze finger-licking good. Just writing this makes me want to book a cruise so I can order several bowls of wings and chow down.




"West Indies Roti"


Based on the menu description, I wasn't expecting these tortilla-type wraps. I figured it would be more of a pastry, like a turnover or something similar. The flavor was good in the bites that I had. The chicken's seasoning didn't overpower the actual meat and when dipped in the sauce the whole flavor profile worked. Of the two, I preferred the wings, but it's hard to compete against a well-prepared wing.

Even after grazing all day, I somehow managed to maintain an appetite. Other than our BBQ lunch, we really did just snack during the day.  If JiJi Asian Kitchen was everything I've heard it to be, we would be in for a treat. Carnival's Brand Ambassador, John Heald, frequently mentions just how much he enjoys eating there. Naturally, I looked at their menu online ahead of time and started thinking about what I'd want to order. Go ahead, and click on that link. I'll wait.

What did you think? Ready to see what some of those items actually looked like? You're in luck! Follow me, and see how our last dinner on the ship turned out. Yes, it was fantastic, as I'm sure the following photos will show. If only "scratch and sniff" was available....

Our happy crew gathered for our final dinner on this cruise. One of the servers offered to take a group photo, so naturally, we accepted this kind offer. I think this is the only time during the whole cruise that all of us were in the same photo.




The gang's all here

The guys, front to back: Keith, Brian, B-Man, me

The ladies, front to back: Barbara, Denise and Cindy


JiJi Asian Kitchen handles a large table of guests much like Cucina del Capitano does. If there's only two, or maybe even four, each person picks their own appetizer, entree and dessert. These are served individually. For the larger groups, at least here, the group picks out 2 - 3 appetizers and 2 - 3 entrees, which are then served family style. Desserts are still served individually.

After a short deliberation, we all agreed on our appetizers and entrees and prepared to be astounded. I'm guessing that if JiJi's food was anything close to Cucina's food, we wouldn't be disappointed.

And we weren't! No real surprise there, as I'm sure the following photos will show. We've always eaten dinner at least once at Cucina del Capitano every time we've cruised on a ship that has one. I guess now we'll add JiJi Asian Kitchen to the list, too. The descriptions of each component come directly from Carnival's menu.



Appetizer: "Slow-Braised Pork Belly"
Caramel chili sauce with black vinegar. Pomelo citrus fruit, Chinese chives with gorgonzola, spice purple onions


One bite, two words: Oh, my!

Oh, my, indeed. This pork belly was fork-tender, juicy and enrobed in a glaze that was at once sweet, spicy and rich. It was so good that I'd be happy having this as an entree, much like the arancini appetizer at Cucina del Capitano I described in this blog from our Carnival Breeze cruise. It was so good it didn't even need a tortilla to complete it. It was so good....well, I think you get the picture. This one appetizer set the bar really high for the rest of the meal. 



Appetizer: "Chicken Spring Rolls"
Lemon marmalade, curry leaves, pink grapefruit, cilantro pearls




Dig in!


How do you like to eat your eggrolls? Are you the "fork and knife" type of eater, or the "grab it and take a bite" type of eater? Generally speaking, I'm the "grab it and take a bite" eater. Obviously, if it's straight out of the fryer, I'll let it cool a little first, but I consider this a finger food. If you prefer a fork and knife, that's totally cool, too. Whatever works to ensure your enjoyment is the "proper" way.

This eggroll had a crispy wrap that crunched like a potato chip when I bit into it. The filling was packed with a savory flavor that reminded me of a chicken stir-fry, and when augmented with any of the three sauces transported me back to a street cafe in Singapore.


Appetizer: "Nanjing-Style Duck"
Nanjing duck dates back over 1400 years. Our version is slow-cooked the flash wok-fried. Tomato, mung bean, mango fritters, shallots, hoisin with lily dust, green chili sauce.





Appteizer: "Jade Shrimp Har Gow"
Sometimes called a shrimp bonnet, these delicate dumplings are served with our signature Ji Ji sauces.
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert



Ji Ji's signature sauces



As you've probably already noticed, these are just the appetizers. We still had entrees and sides coming, not to mention dessert. Of course, I've never been a shellfish fan, so the shrimp dumplings didn't touch my plate. From the comments of those who did have it, the shrimp was flavorful and cooked exactly right.


Main: "Peppered Beef"
Shen Li Ho (Chinese vegetable), bird's nest, Chinese mustard, young garlic, ginger root, scallions.
photo courtesy of Brain M. Weinert


I liked the way this dish was plated! The "bird's nest" was this fried rice-cake like, lacy disc that sat atop the beef like the radome on an AWACS aircraft. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo after we removed the "nest." I took one bite and all thoughts of food porn left as I took several more bites, savoring each one. Very aptly named, this peppered beef was loaded with a black pepper flavor that left no doubt what it was seasoned with. 



Main: "Bo Kho"
Slow-Braised Wagyu Beef Short Rib. Watermelon radish, burdock root, wasabi pearls, crisp potatoes.



A constant I've noticed thus far in our meal has been the elegant plating of each dish. It was almost a shame to disturb such a work of art. That's what photos are for, right? Each bite of short rib was exquisite. Fork tender and loaded with flavor, this entree competed with the pork belly as one of the highlights of my dinner. This Bo Kho was beaucoup yummy!



Main: "Sweet & Sour Fragrant Shrimp"
Crispy shrimp, tomatoes, pineapple, peppers & scallions in plum sweet & sour sauce.
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert


Like the shrimp dumplings, I chose not to have this dish. B-Man remarked that it was flavorful and well prepared, so I'll take his word on it. Thankfully, most of our group went for the other appetizers and left most of the pork belly for me. Between the pork belly and peppered steak, and the sides, I didn't need anything else.


Sides, Noodles & Rice: "Blistered Beans"
with minced pork in extreme XO sauce

The few bites of these nicely al dente beans were good. I don't believe I ever had "XO sauce" before, but it reminded me a little of a fish sauce. There wasn't a strong taste of fish, but almost a suggestion of it. 


Sides, Noodles & Rice: "Chinese Broccoli"
with ginger and garlic glaze


These were good! They looked like huge scallions, but had a much milder flavor. The garlic glaze, combined with the ginger, gave me a great idea the next time I make stir fry at home. This is another side that I had just a few bites of. With so much food on the table, I had to really pick and choose what I wanted. 



Sides, Noodles & Rice: "Hakka style Noodles"
"Hakka," a Chinese community known for its culture of tradition and cuisine, inspired this simple noodle.


Carnival may call this a "simple noodle," but the combination of veggies and spices were anything but simple. A gingery sauce coated the noodles and vegetables, giving the plate that classic spicy-sweet flavor. Add a little meat into this and it would be a nice entree. I had more of this side than any other.



Sides, Noodles & Rice: "Himalayan Basmati Fried Rice"


OK, I'll admit it. I spent more time picking out the bits of mushrooms in the rice than I spent eating it. I don't call myself the "finicky foodie" for nothing. I used to prepare Basmati rice only when cooking Indian food, but have made this my "go to" rice for most dishes now. We had the option to add chicken or shrimp to the rice and opted for chicken. Another tasty side that deserved more than just the few bites I gave it. 

Desserts: "Rose Creme Brulee"
with ginger cream


After all of that food, we still had dessert coming. Each of us had our own, individual dessert. My favorite part of eating creme brulee is making that initial break in the top. I love hearing the "crunch" when I push my spoon through the caramelized sugar. Having had creme brulee in many different flavors, I think this one tops the list. A hint of rose, complemented by the ginger cut through the sweetness of the custard and balanced the richness with a hint of spiciness. 


Desserts: "Caramelized Crepes"
with Calamansi citrus ice cream.

About half of us ordered the creme brulee, and about half ordered the crepes. Those that ordered the crepes seemed to enjoy them and commented that it had a bright citrus flavor.


Desserts: "Fried Wonton"
Wrapped lychee fruit with tapioca pearls & coconut milk
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert


I think B-Man is the only one in our group who ordered this dessert. Of the three, this one was certainly the most interesting looking. I forgot whether or not the fried wonton managed to stay crispy. B-Man, if you read this, please comment below. I'd love to know how it held up.

Like Cucina del Capitano, JiJi Asian Kitchen has a $15 upcharge per person. And like Cucina, I think it is worth every penny. My guess is that just these photos alone would convince anyone contemplating this on their cruise should be sufficient to validate my opinion. I'll happily spend the extra $15 both here and Cucina when we cruise again. I know Cindy agrees with me on this, too.

Don't forget the fortune cookies
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert


That's right.....fortune cookies! By this point, I was stuffed. I'm talking "waddle out the door" stuffed. I had no desire to do anything else but go back to the cabin and finish packing. We had to have all of our luggage, except our carryon bags, outside our cabins by midnight. That was easily enough done, but after a meal like this, I just wanted to walk around a little and enjoy the night. 

We got back to our cabin and started packing. Our dive gear was already packed, so we just had to finish packing our clothes, making sure to leave something to wear home tomorrow. We wouldn't see our suitcases until after we got off the ship and made it to baggage claim the next morning. By now, the ship was pitching and rolling enough to where we could feel it. Not too bad, yet, but we were mindful that the northerly wind causing this was the cold front that had passed through the Miami area already.

Getting closer to Miami

Click on the photo and check out the "apparent wind." Yes, you read that correctly....47 knots! That's about 54 mph. Granted, this is "apparent" wind. We were traveling about 20 mph forward, so we had a headwind of about 34 mph. Combining the two gives us the apparent wind. Apparent or not, that still makes for windy conditions. I carefully opened the door to our balcony just to see what it felt like outside. Yep, cold and windy, enough for me. 

Bags packed and placed outside, completely stuffed from dinner, and having a long day ahead of us tomorrow, we called it a night. 

Coming up, my final blog in this series. I'll describe our trip home and give some final thoughts on our cruise. 

For your convenience, here are links to my previous blogs in this series:











Until next time....


carpe cerevisi