Monday, October 30, 2017

Chefs Table on Carnival Conquest - 3rd Anniversary Dinner

4 years and 6 cruises ago, I first learned of the Chefs Table on Carnival Cruise Lines. The Chef's Table is limited to only 14 patrons and it books up quickly (which is why I've never been able to experience it - I was always too late). When we booked the Carnival Conquest, I instantly sent an email for reservations, and we got in!!!

Even more exciting, we got a letter on the first day at sea telling us which night we would be experiencing Chef's Table and it was the night of our 3rd Wedding Anniversary. This couldn't have been any better.
We each paid $75 for Chef's Table which includes wine. Being it was our anniversary, we would have easily spent that at dinner if we weren't on a cruise.

Our night started with a glass of champagne and visiting the galley. It was a bit mind blowing seeing how people prep for dinner service in mass quantities. We also learned how to make the famed Chocolate Melting Cake, which I will do a separate blog post on when I stop traveling for work!
Once our tour was over, we headed to a private dining room and was offered red or white wine. We both went with the red.

The Multi-course dinner showcases the talents of the chefs on-board. You won't find these amazing appetizers, entrees and desserts on Carnivals regular dining menus. When have you seen the words olive snow, bone marrow souffle, passion caviar or fried popcorn pudding on a cruise ship menu?

I would do this again in a heartbeat. In fact, I will try to get Chefs Table on every cruise we go on. It was an amazing experience, between the incredible food to the experience of going behind the scenes. To my Tampa friends - think Berns Steakhouse tour at sea!

Without further ado, here's a photo recap of what we were enjoyed. Every dish was delicious.

Chef's Table Reception:

Mango Sphere with Rosemary Biscuit


Salmon Tartar Cornets

Beef Carpaccio on Air Pillow with Chocolate Bacon and Apple Ribbons

Double Cooked Lamb with Tapioca

Chef's Table Menu

Beet Blanket with Spiced Grape Tea
Asparagus, Cauliflower, Honey Carrot Tian, Mache, Lemon Streusel

Crab Stack
Corn Custard, Polenta Cracker, Tangerine, Passion Caviar


Duck Textures
Creamy Quinoa, Parmesan Churros, Olive Snow, Port Wine Jus

Bisque Our Way
Two  Tomatoes, Three Basil, Crisped Brioche, Garlic Chip

Sea Bass
Chorizo Crust, Fried Pop Corn Pudding, Lemon Macaroon, Lobster Foam

Wagyu
Bone Marrow Souffle, Scallion & Garlic Panisse, Gremolata Crisp

Dessert

Pastry Chef
Sea Salt Praline Chocolate, Raspberry Mojito, Key Lime Cake, Apricot Vanilla Gel, Citrus Cream

Special thanks goes out to Carnival for hosting me and my husband on this cruise. I was not compensated to write this post and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Visiting Grand Cayman Stingray City - Carnival Conquest

So I'll start this blog post off by saying I was not expecting to be visiting Grand Cayman again so quickly. The Cayman Islands are my absolute favorite place to visit by cruise ship. After Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, our itinerary while on the Carnival Conquest changed. Instead of going to Dominican Republic, we ended up at Grand Cayman. I instantly booked an excursion to do Stingray City. While I typically would suggest others to book excursions through their cruise ship, we didn't have the option due to being in two new ports. We had to wait until we got on board - and the excursion desk was bananas. You can book a similar Stingray City excursion through Carnival.

We booked a tour that brought us to Stingray City then snorkeling at Coral Gardens and Barrier Reef. The weather was AWFUL. When we got there, the city had already sold out of ponchos as there were 4 ships in port that day. I honestly didn't think we'd be able to do the excursion.....but after a 30 minute boat ride:
You guys!!!! I was freaking OUT. The waves were pushing these giant sting rays all over. They were very friendly but omg. We did our photo shoot, fed them then I quickly went back on the boat waiting for our next stop.
We did purchase the photo packet for $50 which came on a USB card. When else will I be up close and personal with a sting ray of this size! I strongly suggest a visit to Stingray city while in the Caymans.
We were unable to visit Barrier Reef due to the weather which bummed me out but I was happy to at least snorkel in the Caymans. The coral gardens were very pretty and it was nice and relaxing while in the water.
There wasn't much time from the end of our excursion to getting back on the boat. Our visit to Stingray City was an experience we will always remember.

Sadly, it rained pretty much all day while at Grand Cayman and Gabe didn't get to see the beauty of 7 mile beach. Looks like we will be planning another trip back so he can see this beautiful beach (Taken on Carnival Vista, 2017):
Special thanks goes out to Carnival for hosting me and my husband on this cruise. I was not compensated to write this post and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rock Spa Happy Hour at Hard Rock Tampa

Two of my all time favorite activities are Spa Days and Happy Hour. So when Hard Rock Tampa introduced Rock Spa Salon Happy Hour, I had to check it out.

Monday through Thursday from 2pm to 6pm you can receive 20% off select services while enjoying a complimentary drink, your choice of Whiskey & Soda, Vodka & Orange Juice, Sangria, House Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon.
I got a pedicure and had a wide variety of colors to choose from with the option to upgrade with Shelac. along with my wonderful pedicure, I relaxed with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a very relaxing hour spent at Hard Rock Tampa.

The following nail, hair and makeup treatments fall under the Rock Spa Happy Hour Menu:

MANICURE • $55 Each / PEDICURE • $65 Each

On The Rocks
A warm molten scrub down with a velvety massage and finished with hot stones.

Hot Whiskey Scour
A warm, buttery nectar milk before being buffed and scrubbed with a spiked of molten bourbon and finished with an agave nectar massage.

Watermelon Basil Vodkatini
Skin is hydrated in antioxidants with a sparkling citrus cilantro soak. Next, there's a polish to perfection with a fresh watermelon basil vodkatini sugar scrub infused with organic vodka. Finish with a vitamin rich whipped shea butter massage.

HAIR

Cut, Style & Blow-Dry • Starts at $75
All Over Color • Starts at $80
Hi/Lo Lights • Starts at $90

MAKEUP
Basic Application • $65

Note: Prices and services are subject to change without notice. One complimentary beverage per service, not to exceed two beverages. Happy Hour menu items are not to be combined with other promotion or offer.

Be sure to follow Hard Rock Tampa on Social to keep up with their latest promotions.
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Blog

ICYMI There is a big Halloween party in Tampa coming up this Saturday at Hard Rock Tampa! Click here for more details!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Visiting Ocho Rios Jamaica - Carnival Conquest

Our first port while on the Carnival Conquest was scheduled for Ocho Rios Jamaica. Flashing back to January, while on Carnival Vista, I was scheduled to visit Ocho Rios and go horseback riding in the ocean then climb Dunne's River Falls. Well thanks to the weather, I never got to step foot in Jamaica.
When we booked the Carnival Conquest and I saw Ocho Rios was the first stop, I got very excited. Although part of me was apprehensive as I already went through one Jamaica heartbreak. Plus my husband said 110% no to Dunne's River and I had no clue what we were going to do and made the decision the night before.
We booked our excursion while on board and decided upon Mystic Mountain Jamaica Bobsled Experience which included round trip transportation and a ride up (and back down) the mountain on the Sky Explorer lift. Note: As you see b y my husbands ankle above, they sell mosquito anklets for $10. You can get these at the dollar store in the US. Grab some before you go on any cruise, this will save you money!
The Sky Explorer takes you 700 feet above the Jamaican rain forest. It was beautiful, giving us views of Ocho Rios you couldn't get otherwise.
The description stated we could also see nearby Dunn's River Falls from up above but we somehow missed that. We did see some small waterfalls before going up the sky lift though!!
from Kristen Bell Instsagram
Once up the mountain, we stood in a non moving line for quite a bit waiting on the Bobsled. I found out later on that Kristen Bell was there the same riding the Bobsled! She was in Ocho Rios filming the upcoming Netflix Movie, Like Father. I'm assuming that was the reason for the delay because once the line started moving, we quickly got through the wait.
I'm sure everyone knows the story of the famous Jamaica bobsled Olympic team - which inspired the movie Cool Runnings. Well that is pretty much what we experienced. A high-tech sled going down a 1000-meter long track installed into the side of the mountain. And gravity is your driver!
After you go down the mountain, you are brought back up the mountain on an elevated tramway. You go down the mountain over 3,000 feet - pretty cool system they have to bring you back up! You can purchase photos and souvenirs when you get off the bobsled. We decided to purchase a photo and go have lunch.
We had lunch on top of the mountain - a chicken curry wrap, while enjoying stunning views. Although the day was a bit gloomy, we still were blessed with some gorgeous sights.
After lunch, we took a dip in the infinity pool and went down the water slide. All of these amenities were included with the chair lift. Overall, we were both very pleased with our excursion. As I mentioned above, if we were to do it again, no Bobsled. It reminded us too much of Disney's Space Mountain (with an amazing view).
We took the sky lift back down the mountain and it poured on us. We luckily had a carnival towel on hand - those are great ponchos FYI! We didn't get wet at all.
We had two stops to make before heading back to the ship - I wanted a coconut rum drink. This one was not near as good as the ones we got in Belize and it was a waste of $10. Then we went to Margaritaville because it was raining and I wanted a margarita and nachos. Although both the food and drink were good, we spent $60 after tip. We should've just gotten back on the ship and made Nacho's at Blue Iguana Cantina!! Oh well, both stops made for a good photo.
If I find myself in Jamaica again, I would likely do a beach experience. From the views we witnessed, Jamaica is beautiful and there is more to explore.

Special thanks goes out to Carnival for hosting me and my husband on this cruise. I was not compensated to write this post and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Getaway 5K and 10K is Coming to St Pete - Plus a Discount Code #SunFunRun

There's a new family friendly fun in the sun race coming to St Pete next month! The Getaway 5K, 10K, one miler and family Fun run will take place November 5th at Albert Whitted Park.

Following the race will follow the Sun Fun Run theme with a beach-themed post-race celebration. You can expect live music, food, beverages, vendors and a play area for kids. Plus the series is donating to Feeding Tampa Bay to assist in building back the food banks in the areas after the recent  hurricanes.

Discount Code!
You can save 15% off the registration with my Getaway 5K discount code: Blog357! Click here to register for the The Getaway 5K

The Getaway 5K & 10K Medal
You know I am all about the bling. This one is one of the nicest 5K/10K Medals I have seen. It's larger than most Half Marathon medals I own and doubles as a beer opener, which has a magnet on the back!

Getaway 10K Race Perks:
1/4 zip, sweat-wicking pullover jacket, with thumb-holes and an embroidered logo
Getaway 10K Race Medal

Getaway 5K Race Perks:
Race event t-shirt
Getaway 5K Race Medal
Benefiting
When signing up for the Getaway race series, you can make a donation to Feeding Tampa Bay. The Getaway series is matching donations and will assist on restocking the foodbanks across the bay after our recent Hurricanes.

The Courses:
All courses will have the same start and finish line in Albert Whitted Park! The courses run along Tampa Bay with beautiful views of the water with Tampa in the distance.

Getaway 10K Course
The timed 10K run will start and finish at Albert Whitted Park. The route will travel an out-and-back course in beautiful, downtown St. Pete. Participants will run along the water, past the 5K turnaround point, before returning to Albert Whitted Park for the finish line and the post-event party. The 10K will have three water stops on course with water and Gatorade product. All ages welcome!

Getaway 5K Course

The timed 5K run will start and finish at Albert Whitted Park. The route will travel an out-and-back course in beautiful, downtown St. Pete. Participants will run along the water before returning to Albert Whitted Park for the finish line and the post-event party. The 5K will have one water stop along the course. All ages welcome

Family Friendly Fun!
I've been blessed to do many races over the past years including international and the majors. One of my favorite experiences however was a small town 5K which I did with my family. There were about 25 of us, ranging in ages of 2 to 70. Some walked, some ran and some pushed strollers. Overall, it was the best time I've had on any race course in quite sometime. It was all about the experience.

This is a great opportunity to check out a new race series, collect an amazing medal and bring home some gear. Registration prices will go up soon. Remember to use code Blog357 & Click here to register for the The Getaway 5K.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Carnival Steakhouse on Carnival Conquest, Sneak Peek of Carnivals new Steakhouse Menu

Whenever we book a Carnival Cruise, the first thing I do is make reservations at Carnivals Steakhouse for our first night at sea. Having a delicious, memorable experience is the best way to to kick off your vacation.
The Steakhouse on Carnival Conquest is an additional fee of $35 per person. This will get you a starter, salad, main entree and desert. Not a bad deal at all!!

If you're a wine lover like yours truly, I strongly suggest booking your meal on the first night as they offer a free bottle of house wine OR half off any bottle of wine. That's right friends - this lovely bottle of 2012 Silver Oak only set me back $55. Carnival Steakhouse is the proud recipient of the coveted Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine, bestowed upon approximately 2,400 restaurants each year.

STARTERS
For our starters, I ordered the Ahi Tuna Tartare. It was delicious dices of sashimi grade yellow fin tuna belly, full of flavor and I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who loves tuna!
Gabe got the Beef Carpaccio which consisted of thinly sliced raw beef tenderloin and shaved Parmesan cheese. This particular one had unadvertised truffle oil on it - um yes please!!!!! I stole a small bite and it was fantastic.

SALAD/SOUP
Carnival Steakhouse will allow you to substitute a salad for an additional starter and Gabe did just that with the Lobster Bisque with Vintage Cognac. My husband is a lobster bisque connoisseur and said this was top in his book (I agree 100%).
I went with a Classic Caesar Salad which was prepared at table side. It had the perfect amount of flavor and not too much dressing. This was not a soggy salad my friends!

ENTREES
While I was very excited about dining in the Steakhouse, I had one problem....I am not eating steak at the moment. I didn't turn vegetarian or anything like that - but steak and I haven't been the best of friends lately. So instead of ordering my go to at the Steakhouse (surf and turf), I ordered the Australian Double Cut Lamb Chops and for the first time in a while, I was thankful for my steak aversion. This was hands down the best lamb dish I've ever had!!!!!
Gabe ordered the Cowboy Ribeye, a 18oz monster piece of meat. It surprised us a bit when we were told the recommended cooking temp was Medium - this was to do with the amount of marbleization. Gabe was very happy with the outcome of a cooking temperature we would typically never order.

For our deserts, we both ordered the cheesecakes to-go which I may have had for breakfast the following day. Never, I repeat, never skip the dessert. They offer it to go and many of the cruise ships have mini fridges in their rooms.
Overall, this was a fantastic meal. On this sailing, I overheard a people people say they wouldn't pay additional for a meal since the food on the ship is free. However, if you're a fan of going out to dinner, this experience is well worth the minimal cost. We've spent over $200 for a meal that wasn't near this quality and quantity. Plus the dining room is just like a normal restaurant and you have a nice quiet night to yourselves.

Lastly, Carnival is in the process of revamping many of their menus, steakhouse included. I was able to snag pics of the new Steakhouse Menu to be rolled out over the next few months.
I was happy to see they kept the Tuna Tartare. There are quite a few new additions and modifications to the starters - the Beef Carpaccio is being replaced by a Bone Marrow & hand cut Beef Tartare. There are now Oysters (!!!) but most impressive is on the entrees - 10oz A-5 Wagyu!

I WILL be over my steak aversion by the next time I cruise on Carnival. What do you think about the new menu offerings?

Special thanks goes out to Carnival for hosting me and my husband on this cruise. I was not compensated to write this post and all opinions are my own.