Opus Restaurant in Salem MA doesn't take reservations for parties under 6. With that in mind the 5 of us arrived and put our name in with the hostess. We were told it would be about a 45 minute wait and we could see if there were seats at the bar or go downstairs to the 2nd bar area.
We opted for seats downstairs and were able to watch a band setting up for tonight's show. We ordered a few cocktails and beers and chatted away. After a while we decided to order some appetizers and it's a good thing we did our wait ended up being about an hour and 20 minutes. We ordered the shishito peppers, Berkshire pork dumplings, semolina dusted calamari, and the Korean chili grilled octopus. All of these dishes went fast! We thoroughly enjoyed all of these dishes even the extra hot shishito peppers.
Once our table was ready we headed back up to the main dining area. Unfortunately, the 5 of us were put at what was essentially a table for 4. Another round of cocktails were ordered and we also decided to try a few more appetizers. Our 2nd round were the deviled eggs, steak tartare (special), and Gonfietti (sage dough, Coppa, and ricotta). I wasn't thrilled with the steak tartare. The flavor was fine but the cuts on the steak were too large and very unappealing.
For entrees we ordered the short rib udon, Opus chicken and waffles, spicy tuna roll, pork belly tacos, and another special of the evening. The short rib udon was just average, the chicken and waffles were delicious, the spicy tuna roll was average, the pork belly tacos were stale tasting, and the special was good.
I definitely wouldn't return to the restaurant with a larger group but I would return for good music, good drinks, and excellent small plates.
Our cousin from Ohio was visiting Boston for Lamb Jam and had a few days for sightseeing. On a very cold and windy day we visited Castle Island. Castle Island is a short drive from Boston and offers a fort, walking paths, a take away restaurant, and plenty of parking. The area is very relaxing with places to enjoy a picnic, a run, a walk, watch planes landing at Logan Airport, and so much more. The island is also pet friendly and Fred has joined us on previous visits and loves people watching here.
The lines for lunch at Sullivan's (restaurant on the island) were pretty long and we were craving something different. We drove a few miles away to Brookline and decided to enjoy lunch at Gen Sou En Tea House.
Inside Gen Sou En Tea House we found a free table and snagged it. After looking over the menu we went up to the counter to order. We ordered a variety of drinks like iced Matcha latte, tradition Matcha, water, and a cappuccino. For meals we ordered the shrimp tempura Bento, vegetable tempura Bento, and two Karaage (fried chicken) Bentos. Each Bento box also came with Miso soup, rice, tofu, and vegetables.
My matcha tea was in a traditional bowl and wasn't overpowering. The Karaage Chicken was delicious! The Chicken was savory and crispy, the rice was a touch sticky, the Miso soup was perfectly simple, and the vegetables were unique. During our visit we ran into two issues. The first was the lack of staff. There weren't enough staff members to serve drinks and meals and it seemed as though things were getting confused. The second issue was the vegetable tempura. This might have been a personal preference but the vegetables weren't as tender as we would have liked.
After our meal we were pretty full so we didn't try any of the pastries offered but we all agreed we would love to come back and try them. I recommend lunch and dinner at Gen Sou En Tea House for a unique environment and satisfying meals!
1.5 hours west of Boston you will enter Springfield MA. Our destination for the day was the Springfield Museums and specifically the Amazing World of Dr Seuss. We pre-purchased tickets online but found that the museums weren't incredibly busy during our visit.
Our first stop was the sculpture garden in the middle of the museums. Today there also happened to be a chalk art festival on the grounds. There were several very impressive pieces being created by local artists. We played and took photos with all of the incredible sculptures and enjoyed the beautiful weather.
The 5 of us went into the Amazing World of Dr Seuss at our scheduled time and handed our passes to the employee. The basement level is an arts and crafts room for kids and those that are kids at heart. Today visitors had the option to make a paper sock.
On the main level it's a Dr Seuss play-land! We sat on, with, and in some of the sculptures! We also read and watched all of the interactive elements. On the top floor picture taking is limited but the pieces of Dr Seuss history are awesome. We looked at personal belongings, sculptures, sketches, and letters to his nephew.
We highly recommend a visit to the Amazing World of Dr Seuss as well as wandering around the Springfield Museums.
We were going to Columbus OH with Fred and my parents for a cousins wedding. Unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of time to visit because we had already planned out our days off for other trips.
On Saturday morning we woke up and were at my parents house by 5 a.m. We loaded our stuff into their SUV and settled Fred for the road trip. I am definitely an over-packer and here's where I get it from. For 3 days away we brought 1 small suitcase, my purse, and a tote bag for Fred's stuff. My parents brought a suitcase, hanging bag, hanging clothes, a carry on, a tote bag, a cooler, and a bag full of snacks.
With the car loaded we left their house. We hit our first snag right away. My dad's tire was very low so we circled back to a gas station and filled it up properly. Back on the road we headed out west. We made plenty of stops along the way for gas, food, and walks for Fred and finally arrived in Columbus around 7 p.m.
We pulled up to the Valet of the Hilton Columbus Downtown. The staff helped us with all of our luggage and the car itself. At the check in desk the friendly staff provided us with our key cards, door hanger saying there was a dog in the room, and helped us bring our luggage up.
We reserved a 1 bedroom suite for us and my parents. There was a small entryway with a bathroom off to the left. The living room offered a flat screen tv, wet bar, pull out sofa, and chairs. The bedroom offered a king size bed, sofa, desk, and bathroom.
My parents decided to stay in with Fred and order room service. Greg and I decided to go a block up and get dinner at Bareburger. We checked in without a reservation and had about a 5-10 minute wait. We ordered cocktails and a couple of glasses of water. Greg ordered the Matador (a southwest type burger with pico, guacamole and more) and I customized a burger on a gluten/dairy free bun and dairy free cheese. The service started out great, our meals came out in a reasonable time, and another server asked if we would like refills on our drinks. After we finished our meal it did take a pretty long time for our waiter to come over and ask if we were done and then bring us our check. I understand that the restaurant was very full but it doesn't take long to bring a check and turn over a table for those waiting.
The next morning we woke up and my parents decided to go down to the restaurant for breakfast while we ordered in with Fred. Greg and I ordered the pineapple upside down pancakes and the Nutella stuff french toast. Greg's french toast was delicious but my pancakes ended up having a strange taste. I wonder if the pineapples weren't ripe and therefore left an aftertaste. After breakfast we realized we forgot to pack toothpaste. Greg went down to the front desk where the staff had packages of toothpaste for just such an occasion.
The 4 of us got ready for the wedding and that's when we also realized we forgot shampoo, conditioner, and face wash. We were lucky yet again that the hotel provides toiletries. Our next small disaster was that my mother realized she left the wedding card at home. Greg, myself and Fred walked 15 minutes down the street to CVS and then had a short wait for them to open. There were a couple of really fun pieces of art, architecture and history along the way. Back at the hotel we finished getting ready and made our way to the wedding venue.
The wedding was wonderful! It was a great mix of touching sentiments, laughter, good food, drinks, and family time. We had to leave the wedding a little early because Fred had been left alone and it was time to make him dinner. At the hotel Greg went to our room to take Fred for a walk and I headed to the bar area to order a burger for him. Once again the staff were so helpful and very friendly. I purchased a medium rare burger for Fred and received it quickly.
Greg, myself and my dad went upstairs to the concierge lounge for cocktail hour. We enjoyed a couple of drinks, coconut lobster rolls, and vegetable spring rolls. The food was delicious and the drinks were reasonable. The woman who was working in the lounge was so cheerful and helpful it was a pleasure speaking with her. Later in the evening we came back for some waters and chocolate chip cookies.
With everyone tired and our early departure time we decided to stay in and order room service. Our burgers, sandwiches, and nicoise salad were cooked well, seasoned perfectly, and delivered in a quick time. The Hilton Columbus Downtown is one of the best Hilton's we have stayed at (we're Diamond members who usually book with only Hilton). The staff, rooms, food, and location are well worth the visit!
In the morning we left Columbus and started heading home. The drive home was again filled with laughter, small hiccups, and me dropping my phone into the toilet. Yup! I did that! I suppose there is a first for everything. A phone case thrown out, soap, antibacterial wipes, and a phone standing upright helped bring my phone back from the dead.
We made it back to my parents house where we unloaded the car, loaded our stuff into our car, and went home to get ready for work the next morning.
On Thursday morning we woke up and made our usual breakfast reservation at Coastal Kitchen. Note: the breakfast menu at Coastal Kitchen did not change during our cruise. If you would like some variety go to the main restaurants or the buffet.
After breakfast we all went outside to enjoy some fresh air. We walked around for a little while but it was incredibly windy. It was windy enough to take my friends baseball cap off of her head and send it flying underneath a full row of chairs. Luckily a glass partition caught the hat and we returned it to her. Inside we watched the bumper cars for a little bit before exploring the spa, gym, and solarium.
The kids were getting a little restless so we went to the suite lounge and let them play while we enjoyed some coffee/tea. In the afternoon we enjoyed some cocktails and just relaxed.
That evening we dined at Coastal Kitchen again. Note always listen to the servers suggestions. Our server was wonderful and would tell us his favorite dishes each evening. On this evening he steered us to a couple of specific dishes and my friend didn't listen. Needless to say she did not enjoy her dinner and jokingly admitted she was wrong and should have listened to him.
After dinner the kids were ready for bed and Greg and I headed back to the pub. We sat at a table, ordered a couple of Bourbons, and enjoyed the acoustic music!
On Friday morning we dined at Coastal Kitchen. The weather outside was beautiful this morning so we headed outside and enjoyed the fresh air, the music, and the scene. The drink service outside wasn't the best though. The bar area near the pool was inconsistent, the servers circling the area ignored a lot of people, but the water/soda cart was very friendly.
Inside we finally had a chance for the kids to sit in the wicker furniture outside of Vintages. I knew they would love the teardrop chair but it was always occupied. I finally was able to snag some adorable pictures of them in it. Next up was bubble time. Sometimes it really is all about the small things. The tone/lights of the elevators, bubbles, and snacks can make people very very happy.
For lunch we tried Izumi. The staff either weren't prepared, weren't very good, or didn't like that we had kids with us. We got a very jumbled welcome and were seated in a tough area. We ordered cocktails and beers to start and munched on the complimentary salted Edamame. We ordered chicken kara-age, poke, sushi, and chicken skewers for the kids. The cocktails were a little on the weak side but the food was delicious!
We went back to our rooms to start packing and then to get ready for dinner. We finished packing and I Greg was just stepping out of the shower when we heard Oscar Oscar Oscar over the speaker system. I figured this couldn't be anything good but never heard it so I Googled it. In case you don't know Oscar Oscar Oscar means man overboard. Our ship was now stopping, then turning, then circling. We also saw that the Norwegian Gem was heading back to our position (they were a short ways ahead of us). The Captain made an announcement that someone had jumped overboard and they would like everyone to stay off of the main decks so staff could prepare for a rescue.
Over the next couple of hours we saw staff prepared to rescue, we circled the area, the Gem searched, there were multiples planes searching, and the Captain kept everyone informed. The person who jumped was a young male with family on board. Our thoughts, prayers, and hearts were with the person and their family. A few hours later and the Captain announced that we would continue on our way to New Jersey and the Coast Guard would continue the search. I was very impressed with the entire staff's professionalism, effort, and empathy.
I'll add my two cents like everyone else. We all need to be more aware, be more empathetic, and talk more about mental illness. It breaks my heart thinking that anyone feels they have no way out and/or there's no one there for them.
We called down to customer service to see if dinner would still be happening and were told that everything would be business as usual. I completely understand the staff keeping things business as usual to help keep everyone calm and safe. It did feel strange though to be in this happy environment and continue on enjoying a vacation when such a tragedy was happening around us.
After dinner we needed to get some cash so we went to the cashier in the casino (much faster than customer service lines). We decided to bring a couple of cocktails back up to our rooms. We cheered to health, happiness, family, and friends. This experience will always be with us, we'll always be there for each other, we'll remember to live life fully, and be thankful for all that we have.
Saturday morning we were up very early to be off of the ship first thing. We grabbed our bags, met up with our friends and made our way down to the Chops Grille restaurant which would be the Suite departure lounge.
Inside the restaurant we had coffee, juice, and danishes. We were right next to the rear elevators and so naturally my friends son wanted to explore. While I was playing elevator search we witnessed an older child getting sick right in front of the restaurant entrance. I felt horrible for him and the parents. Right after that Ricardo was ready to walk us off of the ship. We were escorted through security, into the port, and over to where the suite luggage. The staff called over a porter to help us since we had so many items. The porter brought us to a different line than the main line for customs. We were off the ship, through customs, and waiting for our car all within 20 minutes.
The six of us said our goodbyes and drove back home separately. Greg and I made our way to my parents house where Fred was waiting for us. Once we were home we separated again. Greg headed to get a haircut, I went grocery shopping, and we reconvened to start the laundry and get ready for the new week.
Today was hot, humid, and very sunny! We hopped into a shared taxi to the Atlantis Resort across the bridge on Paradise Island. We were dropped off in front of the beach towers to check in for our pre-purchased day passes. I have never been in a line where the people who pre-purchased had to wait longer than those who didn't. We literally sat in a line that did not move for 15 minutes. We finally asked the gentleman who was directing the lines if he could look into this because it was getting ridiculous. The very sweet staff member walked a small group of us into the resort to another desk (he did warn us that the line there could be long too). We wandered through the shops, through the casino, and into the main check in area of the resort. The day pass desk had only 1 person ahead of us! We were thrilled with no line, shade, and air conditioning. We tipped the gentleman for helping us out!
Once we had our passes we decided to start our day in the Dig. I'm not an advocate of Zoos, Aquariums, Swimming with Dolphins etc. However I am not going to force my beliefs on my friends nor their children and when you are looking for something safe and somewhat educational for young kids I get the attraction of the Dig.
When then went in search of another hat for one of the kids. We found a fabulous one at Disney Springs but the didn't have the right size we needed for the 2nd boy.
We made our way over to the ocean but we stopped and had a quick lunch of burgers, hot dogs, french fries, and Painkillers (alcoholic beverages for the adults). If you've never had a Painkiller and love tropical drinks you must try one! We first discovered them at Pusser's on Tortola. They are a combination of rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, orange juice, and nutmeg. They're addictive, delicious, and dangerous.
Unfortunately, the red flag was up for the ocean today. This indicated that the surf was rough, there was a strong undertow, or both. We walked along the sand, dipped our feet in the water, and relaxed in a lounger. Without being able to spend a lot of time in the ocean we decided to make our way back to the ship. We enjoyed a fabulous conversation with our taxi driver. During our quick drive she told us what we should see and do on our next visit and a couple other great tips.
After security we were on the ship and headed to the pool deck. We brought the boys to the kids pool which was a little too deep for them. The actual toddler pool was pathetic. It was a small circular area with a small fountain and that was it. No colors, no sprayers, no toys, nothing but a small fountain and maybe an inch of water before it drained.
Greg and I headed up to the Suite sun deck and found a nice shaded area to relax in. The rest of our group met us up there eventually and we enjoyed the warm area, the shade, some drinks, and the views!
For dinner we went back to the Coastal Kitchen. Our routine was most of us enter the restaurant, park the strollers, set up the Ipad, settle one kid into his highchair, and say hi to all of the staff. The other person would take our elevator loving little boy to the elevators. We would ooohhh and ahhhh, point at the lights, and look outside on the deck before making our way into the restaurant.
The menu tonight was very good and I enjoyed the Octopus starter but my Duck entree was on the salty side. Between the salt in the food, the humidity, and change in temperatures my feet were incredibly swollen. After dinner a nice walk around the interior of the ship helped alleviate some of the swelling.
Next up is our 2nd day at sea.
Surrounded by clear blue green water we woke up and found ourselves at CocoCay in the Bahamas. After our usual breakfast in Coastal Kitchen we made our way downstairs and showed our suite passes to board a ferry. Royal Caribbean is working on a dock at CocoCay but until it's finished they ferry you from the ship to shore. I can't say for sure but I've read online that the dock should be completed before December 2018.
After a short ride we checked into the excursions desk and they told us that the golf cart to the Cabanas was just behind the building. Unfortunately, the golf carts were a bit disorganized and we ended up having a few minutes wait. We drove 5 minutes away and arrived at the Cabana area. Ricardo along with another staff member we waiting to check us in. We were assigned Cabana 9 which was in the first row of Cabanas and we had a beautiful ocean view. Unfortunately, when we walked up to our Cabana it was filled with someone's belongings. Both staff members and ourselves asked who's items they were. 20 minutes later (after frustration and some laughs) someone finally came and collected their belongings once they saw the staff were removing them (the person happened to be someone that I asked if it was their belongings and they lied to my face). I don't fault the staff at all and were happy with the way they handled things.
Finally we could put our own stuff down, ask for fresh waters, and were able to relax. The cabanas are pricey but after a day at CocoCay we all agreed they were well worth it. The cabanas offer shade, a couch, waters, a table, loungers, sun loungers, floating mats, a separate BBQ and bar area. We thoroughly enjoyed playing in the water and sitting in the sand while watching the kids. When it was time for lunch we enjoyed crudite, fruit, salmon, steak, burgers, and more. The cabanas were especially great when the kids needed a nap. We would switch out when some of us needed shade and some of us were ready for more fun in the sun. My friend and I did take a ride over to the shopping area and were glad to go back to the calm environment of the Cabana.
We enjoyed ourselves so much that even though we constantly applied suntan lotion we ended up getting a little burnt (it was a sunny, hot, and cloudless day). Once we realized we were slowly burning ourselves we hopped onto a ferry back to the ship. Back on board we opted for some showers and fresh clothes before going for a walk and a drink.
Yesterday we made reservations for the 6 of us at Wonderland. I'm not sure if the hostess wasn't attentive, the server wasn't attentive, or the fact we were with kids threw everyone off but the start of our dinner was a little awkward. One of the boys settled in as usual and watched his movie during dinner while the other realized he was very close to his favorite area....the elevators. We ended up taking turns watching him and going back and forth between the restaurant and the elevators until he finally gave up and walked back to dinner all on his own (with Greg following behind him lol).
Once we were seated we were presented with a frame, water, and brush each. Once you paint the frame your menu appears. We sat for a few minutes before our server came over and explained the meal and took our drink order. It was very nice that he offered to get the twins anything they wanted from any restaurant. Our impressions of the restaurant and the food were whimsical but a little on the darker side. If the uniforms, lighting, and some of the food design were a little less intense the atmosphere would have been better.
I should note that I knew going in that I was going to eat dairy so I made sure to bring lots of Lactaid pills.
We received the Buffalo chicken eggs, shrimp kataifi, tomato water, gnocchi, crispy crab cones, baby vegetables in the garden, oceanic citrus, Halibut cooked in clear paper, Branzino in crispy bread, terrior beef, Berkshire pork belly, and the slow roasted chicken. A few of the dishes weren't to my liking. For instance the gnocchi had an off putting flavor, the oceanic citrus was difficult to enjoy, and the chicken entree lacked imagination. My favorite dishes were the shrimp kataifi (flavorful and crispy), the tomato water (unbelievably flavorful for size and clarity), and the Branzino was perfectly cooked. For dessert we were confused by the key lime pops, enamored with the chocolate caramel orb, and the "apple" dessert. We all agree that the chocolate and caramel dessert was the best even though it was very rich and a large portion. I would try this restaurant again in hopes of a better experience.
Up next is our day at Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.
Sorry for the lack of pictures today but most of them include the kids and I don't want to share them without permission from the parents.
In the morning we enjoyed breakfast in Coastal Kitchen (this becomes our routine) and then enjoyed some time outside on the deck. We pulled into Port Canaveral around noon time and met Ricardo (the concierge) inside of the Wonderland restaurant for our priority disembarking.
We had great timing and a bus was outside waiting to take us to the car rental agency. Our driver did warn us that the agency closes early and therefore if we dropped the car off in the early to late evening we would have to take a cab back to the ship. We picked up our minivan (which pained all of us), picked out car seats and wiped them down as best as possible, then headed to Disney Springs. We were meeting up with friends who live in the area so we were looking forward to a fun afternoon! We decided to valet the car upon arriving. It's just easiest option with all the adults, kids, and stuff we needed. Our first stop was to Blaze pizza. Blaze pizza is allergen friendly, kid friendly, offers fresh ingredients, and tasty. Onto dessert! We walked over to Sprinkles and went inside for some A.C. instead of using the cupcake ATM. I ordered my usual vegan red velvet and it was delicious!
Our friends arrived and we met them in front of Raglan Road. We decided to visit the Disney Stores first and search for some toys for the boys. I ended up buying a plush Pua from Moana as well as a Stitch bubble blower. The kids then discovered the water spouting area and played in the cool water for a while. Greg ended up having to go and buy some towels since we didn't think this one through real well.
Time for the adults to play a bit and that meant heading to the Margarita dock. Unfortunately, the Margaritas weren't as good as I remembered (too tart and bitter). I actually had a sore throat from the drink.
For dinner we went to Frontera by Rick Bayless. We were seated at a long table and started out with chips and salsa. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable about allergies, and didn't rush us. My carne asada tacos were very good and everyone else at the table enjoyed their dishes.
After our meal we said our goodbyes in hopes of seeing each other again soon. A few minutes later and our car was being pulled around to us.
Sunday morning started with a very early wake up call. The twins love movies like Madagascar so we all booked the character breakfast at 8 am. Once everyone was ready we made our way downstairs to one of the main dining rooms where we walked into a mess of irritated families. One way to irritate parents and frustrate kids is to cancel a character breakfast without any notification. We heard thanks to other guests that the breakfast was cancelled and although they couldn't get a definite reason why it sounded like the breakfast would now be the next day.
Instead of fighting the masses heading into the main dining room we walked back upstairs to the Coastal Kitchen, put a movie on the Ipad and enjoyed a quiet breakfast. After not receiving notification of the cancelled breakfast and seeing that the kids weren't thrilled the previous night when a character walked by we decided to go to the concierge to cancel tomorrows breakfast. Upstairs in the concierge lounge we found out from Ricardo that the breakfast was cancelled due to the rough seas. The staff felt that the kids might not be able to enjoy their time with the motion. It would have been nice to get a call, note, or something before everyone made their way to the restaurant. We easily cancelled the reservation for the next morning and decided to wander around the ship.
I believe it was around 11:30 am when we made our way into the Suite Guests Reception. Ricardo welcomed us into Vintages and the spread was beautiful. We briefly spoke with the Captain, the Cruise Director, the Photographer, and a few others while sipping some Champagne and dining on snacks. It was a lovely event and shouldn't be missed.
In the afternoon it was time for one of the kids to take a nap and so we took our friends other son so the parents could nap a bit too. We walked outside on the decks, enjoyed the breeze, and went back to our room for some cartoons.
While we didn't participate in too many things on board it was really wonderful to just unwind. This evening was the 1st formal night. We all dressed up a bit but throughout the week we weren't able to actually make time for a nice picture of all of us. We dined at Coastal Kitchen again and the restaurant was superb. We definitely over did it tonight but each of us ended up ordering two starters as well as an entree. I ended up needing some Lactaid pills for my Entree. The staff originally brought me a plate of plain fish and plain rice instead of the crab crusted fish over coconut rice. I asked if I could have the normal dish (even though it contained dairy) and they happily complied.
Stay tuned for our 3rd day of the cruise with time spent at Disney Springs.