Birthday Trip: Carnival Miracle & Sonoma

I realized as I was going over the blog updating pictures and adding some pictures about my sister’s whirlwind visit to the island that I had never shared my birthday trip with you. When I came back from the trip my focus was completely on finishing my memoir. I wanted it done, finished.

My birthday trip was special to me and I think too while I was on it, I was just focused on having fun and enjoying myself.

Maybe too, my birthday is coming around again and as I decide how I am going to celebrate this year, I am thinking about last year. Last year was extra important and special as it was a milestone birthday.

So I will share with you some of the highlights now.


Birthday Trip

Carnival Miracle, Sonoma & Wine Tasting

February – traveling in winter can be a challenge but then what is a Sister’s Travel Adventure without air travel challenges and misadventures!

I am sitting at Wilmington airport waiting for my flight. Susan is sitting on a plane on the runway in Boston waiting to be de-iced.

There is a therapy dog visiting with waiting passengers. This is the first time I have seen this. His job is to help calm any anxious passengers. I am not sure about that but many people are glad to give him attention and talk to his trainer.

My flight is slightly delayed but in the air and on the way to meet Susan in Charlotte airport. We are staying the night in Charlotte and then continuing our travels west tomorrow. Meeting up in the Charlotte airport is easy. I like the setup of Charlotte. It is one of the easiest airports to get around in.

Back in Charlotte to resume our journey to California. For some reason the way our flights were booked we can only check in for our flight to Houston. In Houston we will have to recheck in for our flight to California. After a very bumpy flight we arrive in Houston, collect our luggage, and recheck in for our flight to LA.

Flights to LA are being cancelled and delayed. We are having lunch and talking to Monica in California. California is have the worst rainstorm of the century! Really! It is pouring and flooding everywhere. Monica’s boyfriend was in LA and couldn’t fly back to Sonoma so he rented a car to drive home. Everything from the airport to the roads are closed. And here we sit….

Our flight is not cancelled, but delayed, even after boarding we are sitting delayed on the plane were we sit for over an hour before the flight crew is given permission to take off. Apparently they are shifting flights to land in between thunderstorms. At least we are one of the flights being scheduled rather than being cancelled.

While we are sitting in our plane waiting to take off. Hannah, Susan’s daughter has been delayed several times in Boston. She is meeting us in LA to go on the cruise with us. At this point will we all make our scheduled shuttle to Long Beach! At least we do have until tomorrow to make the ship! This is why we always fly in the day before the cruise.

Susan and I arrive two hours late but in time for our shuttle to LA. Hannah, however, finally in the air will not arrive for another 2 hours! Susan and I take the shuttle to our hotel in Long Beach arriving about 11 pm. We are exhausted and tired but Susan is concerned about Hannah. We have left her to find her own way to the hotel in Long Beach either by taxi or uber.

It is tomorrow when Hannah arrives safely at the hotel by taxi. Exhausted we all fall to sleep.

A rainy foggy day in Southern California. I thought it didn’t rain in Southern California! Arriving on board the Carnival Miracle – we are hoping for a miracle of better weather! In our stateroom is a letter from the captain about possible bad weather and rough seas on our journey.

The Carnival Miracle is a Spirit class ship which is a favorite of ours. The newer ships are larger and may have more venues and choices but lack the character and charm of a Spirit class ship. Having had our first experiences on the Mardi Gras and the Carnival we are nostalgic for the old time charm. The Spirit class ships retain that old world style while having some of the upgrades of the newer venues. The best combination if you ask me.

Our days at sea are just as predicted, rocky and windy.

The ship is full of families. Hadn’t thought about this being school vacation week, but that is why Hannah was able to join us as she works in the school system. Thank god for the Serenity Deck! Not that it is warm enough yet to enjoy it but as we get into Carbo and Puerto Vallarta it should be warm enough to enjoy the decks.

I have discovered an enchanting little hallway, The Gatsby Hallway. It is hidden away in the forward section of the ship. A great little place to sit, enjoy the view, the quiet and write. Occasionally a group of teenagers pass through. I realize that the secret passage to their separate area is hidden in this hallway. Still it doesn’t disturb the tranquil setting.

The piano bar and the Red Frog pub are still my favorite places to spend the evenings listening to music and dancing! Formal night and Sea Day Brunch still delight!

Having Hannah with us has added another dimension to this trip. A young person’s energy. And the mother/daughter dynamics. I have finally enjoyed the late night deck parties as I meet Hannah there and we sing and dance and join in the activities. Usually I skip the deck party staying in either the Red Frog or the piano bar until late in the evening.

I have never been to the west coast of Mexico before. Carbo San Lucas is hopping with tourists. We head to the beach – of course by way of boat taxi! Full of sun we head to Carbo Wabbo for lunch. This was on Hannah’s list of places to go. At port we while away some time at Fat Tuesdays.

      

We didn’t make any day plans in Puerto Vallarta only an evening shore excursion. Last minute in the morning Hannah goes down to the shore excursion office and purchases tickets for us to go on a beach trip.

While we are sitting enjoy the beach, I hear a voice from a women sitting near us that I thought I recognized. And once I spoke to her we both knew instantly that we had met before. We had met on the Vista – Our Epic cruise – sitting in the main lounge waiting for a show to begin.

Our excursion in the evening is the highlight of the cruise. We take a party boat across the harbor to a secluded private island. An hour long trip filled with music and drinks. As we approached the island everyone is in awe and excited. Mermaids, wild animals, and natives greet us upon arrival.

We are ushered to tables along the shoreline where we are served dinner and wine. Then we enjoy time to explore our jungle surroundings. Finally we are escorted into an outdoor theater where we experience a dramatic, remarkable, performance on the local history.

                                 

Everyone is in high spirits as we return across the harbor to the ship. It was definitely a magical mystical evening.

Sea days bring us to the final leg of the cruise. After having done a 23 day cruise just 5 months ago this feels incredible short.

Sea days are days you can fill with leisure or activity. Susan still doesn’t enjoy sea days at all. I have brought one of my manuscripts to edit and so I spend the first afternoon doing that in between Sea day brunch and dinner, then a show and music in the pub. On the last sea day, I begin the day going to the morning show, venture to a meet and greet with the cruise staff and entertainment staff. I love this kind of events.

Susan has hired a tour driver for our return trip to LA. We are picked up at the port, driven to LA for a whirlwind tour before being dropped at LAX.

Our tour of LA included Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Hollywood and the Farmers Market. The highlight was Dolby Theatre even though we didn’t actually get to tour the theatre itself. We arrived in LA the day of the Oscars! The Red Carpet was in place and the staging areas were being prepared. The area actually was shut off to tourists. Yet our tour guide was able to get us all the way to the front of the theatre right to the Red Carpet.

                       

At LAX we said good-bye to Hannah as she returned to Boston. Susan and I headed to San Francisco and then onto Sonoma to visit with my daughters, Sam and Monica. Here we would celebrate my Birthday in style Wine Tasting!

Our first look at Sonoma was brunch at a nearby golf course. We were introduced to Sam and Monica’s boyfriends. From brunch we went to our first winery, where we were given the royal treatment by a friend of Sam and her boyfriend Cody.

It was a beautiful spring day. And I fell in love with wine tasting in Sonoma and we had just begun!

I love the ocean and the beach but there is something magical about these valleys and hills of wine country. I could spend many days and months enjoying the flavors it offers. Yet I am not sure I could actually live here.

We visited seven wineries, spent a day hanging out in Sonoma Plaza, and went wedding dress shopping for Sam, a day in Muir Woods and a day in San Francisco.

                          

Susan, Sam and Monica planned wonderful surprises and fun for my Birthday. Traveling with people I love and visiting with my daughters made this birthday very special.

I have to go back to Sonoma and do some more wine tasting and winery tours!