Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • One the aspects I love about cruising is that I don’t have to cook for days! On the Carnival Breeze, there’s a wide array of dining options to fit every craving and taste. Here’s the complete list of where to nosh while cruising on the Carnival Breeze cruise ship. These venues are in addition to reserved dining in the two main dining rooms on board and the no-added charge 24 hour room service.

    Shrimp cocktail served daily in main dining rooms on Carnival Breeze cruise

    Bonsai Sushi – This is Carnival’s first full-service sushi restaurant offering a variety of sushi, sashimi, and rolls along with bento boxes and even their own version of a sushi boat. Carnival makes the sushi experience accessible for those who haven’t had the chance to try it while at home, giving guests a ways to broaden their culinary experience. Check out our review of Bonsai Sushi on the Carnival Breeze.

    Shrimp tempura roll at Bonsai Sushi on Carnival Breeze cruise

    Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ – Currently only offered on sea days, guests on the Carnival Breeze can enjoy authentic down-home BBQ. While everything on the menu is pretty darn tasty, the pulled pork sandwich has to be my favorite.

    Buffet at Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ on Carnival Breeze cruise

    Guy’s Burger Joint -This has to be one of the most popular dining venues that Carnival has introduced during their FunShip 2.0 initiative. I know it’s one of my favorites and its the first meal I had when stepping onto the Carnival Breeze for a quality control check. Yeah. It’s still as good as I remember from the Carnival Liberty. When Guy’s Burger Joint was first introduced, the daily number of burgers served was 400. Now on the Carnival Breeze, 1200-1500 burgers are served each day.

    BlueIguana Cantina – Most cruisers don’t realize they can get breakfast from this Lido Deck venue located near the Beach Pool. The freshly made tortillas can be prepared however you want, be it a burrito or a soft taco. I not only enjoyed a breakfast burrito one morning, but on another afternoon I sampled the fish tacos and chicken tacos. This venue is convenient and I love the salsa bar.

    Punchliner Comedy Brunch presented by George Lopez – On sea days, the Punchliner Comedy Brunch is a nice and luxurious alternative to the Marketplace Buffet breakfast. The menu is extensive and offers either a breakfast or lunch menu, depending upon your cravings at the time. There is also a Bloody Mary bar if you’d like an eye-opener to enjoy during the brief comic relief offered by the comics booked on the Carnival Breeze. I was pleasantly surprised to see cheesy grits on the breakfast menu — and the dish was delicious!

    Eggs Benedict at Punchliner Comedy Brunch by George Lopez on Carnival Breeze cruise

    Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse – Carnival ships always have a nice steakhouse and the Carnival Breeze is no exception. The steaks are always consistent from ship to ship in the entire fleet and offers a romantic setting for a quiet high-end meal while on the ship. Fahrenheit 555 is a California inspired steak restaurant offering an extensive and top-notch wine list. There is a premium of $35 per person but does include a four course meal.

    Crab cake appetizer at Fahrenheit 555 steak house on Carnival Breeze cruise

    Cucina del Capitano – First introduced on the Carnival Magic, Cucina del Capitano brings an old Italian homestyle kitchen on board certain Carnival ships in the fleet. It pays homage to the heritage of Carnival’s captains, serving Italian cuisine and special dishes made from many of the captains’ family recipes. A fun aspect of this dining venue is the singing waiters and the Chianti cart. This is a premium restaurant with a $12 charge and the Chianti is $5 per glass ordered from the cart. It’s a very good value for family-style dining and the portions are enormous. Check out our review of Cucina del Capitano.

    Lido Marketplace -This is a casual, pool-side eatery and has international offerings from paninis to Indian Tandoori. If you are craving pizza, it can be found here. A Mongolian wok station is always ready to cook your choice of ingredients and almost everything else can be found at this buffet.

    Pizza from Lido Marketplace Pizza Pirate on the Carnival Breeze cruise (Beer tube from RedFrog Rum Bar)

    “The Comfort Kitchen” – This is a new venue located in the Lido Marketplace offering American-style “comfort food”.

    Ocean Plaza – This indoor/outdoor cafe serves cappucinoa, lattes and espressos, along with pastries and other sweets (for a charge). During morning hours, a light continental breakfast is offered (at no extra charge) at The Taste Bar, which is adjacent to the Ocean Plaza. In the evenings, cocktail service is available.

    RedFrog Pub – When one is at the RedFrog Pub, sometimes the munchies sneak up on you. For a very minimal charge, Caribbean-inspired fare can be found in this themed pub. It’s always a fun atmosphere with live music going on at various times. It has a British-West-Indies-meets-Key-West feel to it and is always a great place to chill.

    Serenity – This adult only retreat area used to only serve drinks at the bar, but on the Carnival Breeze salads, sandwiches, wraps and other light fare can be found for those relaxing in this area connected to Cloud 9 Spa.

    The Taste Bar – A new aspect of the FunShip 2.0 enhancements introduced on the Carnival Breeze is this complementary appetizer program located in the Ocean Plaza. Each evening, bite sized offerings inspired by different dining venues are available to guests during cocktail hour. There are also signature cocktail specials tied to the theme of the evening.

    Sea Dogs – Coming in November on the Carnival Breeze, guests can enjoy American hot dogs served from a hot dog-shaped cart located in the SportSquare outdoor recreation area. I’m confident this will be a hit with kids and adults alike.

    For more information on the Carnival Breeze or to book your next cruise, visit Carnival.com or contact your favorite travel agent.

    Carnival Cruise Lines hosted international media, including this outlet, on a media junket for editorial research.

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  • La Hacienda de San Angel, EPCOT’s newest table service restaurant, is now in soft opening at Walt Disney World.

    I was invited to the grand opening celebration last week, where I got to sample the food at Hacienda de San Angel and take a look at the new Mexican restaurant’s decor.

    But I was especially excited to try out the restaurant’s margaritas. CajunMama has written before about the many places to find alcohol at Walt Disney World, and this new restaurant is a great addition to that list.

    Hacienda de San Angel has a “tequila ambassador” on staff to tell you about q7 premium tequilas available. There’s also a tequila flight to try if you’re interested in sampling.

    The premium, handcrafted margaritas come in six flavors at La Hacienda de San Angel:

    The classic margarita was probably the best version of a margarita I have ever had. It’s made with El Mayor premium silver tequila, with orange, lime and agave flavors.

    I also tried the Mango Blueberry Basil margarita, which is mixed with the same tequila, as well as coconut rum and orange juice. This one was very tasty, but there is a lot going on here. The basil flavor got lost in all the fruit.

    The Rosita margarita was my favorite. It is made with rose syrup, orange liqueur and fresh lime. There were fresh rose petals in the drink – so festive!

    I did not taste the remaining three margaritas, but they sound just as interesting:

    • Lime raspberry, with those flavors as well as agave nectar and orange liqueur.
    • Orange mango fire, with ginger and Tabasco.
    • Coffee, with Kahlua, Mezcal and ice cream.

    If tequila isn’t your thing, there’s a nice wine list at La Hacienda de San Angel, too, with all the wines coming from South America.

    La Hacienda de San Angel is taking reservations starting Oct. 15. The new Mexican restaurant overlooks the World Showcase lagoon, making it a great place to watch the Illuminations fireworks show each evening at EPCOT.

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  • We met a lot of great people on our visit to Gulf Shores, Alabama, a couple of weeks ago for the Mamas 4 Mamas Tweetup. But none of them touched my heart quite as much as Al Sawyer.

    Al owns King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant, a vacation mainstay in Gulf Shores that has been dishing up all manner of Gulf seafood for 18 years.

    He grew up right there on the coast, catching seafood and then learning how to prepare it from the women in his family.

    “I love the variety that seafood can offer,” Al told us. “You can prepare it in so many ways.”

    And at King Neptune’s they prepare it to great renown. Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay has brought the Food Network cameras for a visit, and Coastal Living magazine recently named King Neptune’s one of the “Best Seafood Dives” in the country.

    Everything at Al’s place is made from scratch, right down to the salad dressings, and tartar and cocktail sauces.

    The food definitely got the Traveling Mamas’ stamp of approval.

    King Neptune’s is a tiny place that used to have big crowds. But it’s kind of empty now, as are the streets, beaches and hotel rooms in Gulf Shores.

    They’ve been that way since the oil spill.

    On our 3-day trip, we did not see or smell any oil during our stay at Turquoise Place in Orange Beach. There were no warnings to stay out of the water, and the folks who were there were enjoying the beach. There was the telltale line of oil-absorbing boom in Perdido Pass, and we did see some oil cleanup activity on the beach late one night – machines were sifting the sand to remove oil.

    When we asked, we were told there had been a report of oil and though no significant oil was seen, the beach cleanup was being done on a precautionary basis.

    Al agrees that the clean-up efforts in the area have been great.

    But King Neptune’s business is down 40 percent this summer, during the crucial months of the year when the restaurant typically brings in 75 percent of its annual income.

    “BP has stepped up to the plate,” Al says. “They’re trying to compensate us, but we’re still short money we would have made.”

    And he needs the traveling public to return to make up for that.

    “We need you to come back down and see us,” Al asks us to tell our readers.

    But he’s confident that his restaurant, and his hometown’s tourism business will weather this storm.

    “The people down here are resilient. We will bounce back.”

    We would love for you to visit Gulf Shores, Alabama, too! That’s why we’re giving away three trips this month. Check out how you can blog and win a trip to the beach!

    This post is part of the #Mamas4Mamas event sponsored by Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism.

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  • All my life, I have driven on I-75 to and from Florida once, twice or a dozen times a year. And for those of you who have done it, you know that means you see a lot — a lot — of Georgia interstate.

    You also see a lot of fast-food joints and chain restaurants. But if you can wait to eat until you’re around Atlanta, there are a couple of gems just off the highway that are great for families. Here are my favorite spots for a meal along I-75 near Atlanta:

    The Varsity (I-75 Exit 249D)

    The Varsity has been serving up chili cheese dogs, onion rings and fried pies for 80+ years in Atlanta. The food is good, but this place is really about the experience. It’s packed at nearly any time of the day, and you’d better have your order ready when you get to the counter, because the cashier will bark “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” until you spit it out.

    Kids can pick up a free paper Varsity bell-hop hat. And be sure to get them a Frosted Orange – which tastes like a creamsicle in a cup. Just being in the hustle and bustle of the Varsity is exciting, and there’s plenty to read about the history of the place, too.

    One note of caution, though: If you’re road tripping during college football season, you may want to check to see if Georgia Tech is playing at home that day before planning a stop at The Varsity. On a normal day, the restaurant serves two miles of hot dogs and 2,500 pounds of potatoes. On a Georgia Tech game day, those numbers double.

    Marietta Diner (I-75 Exit 263)

    The Marietta Diner‘s menu could be the biggest challenge you face all day. There are literally hundreds of items to choose from. Just about anything you can think of – from pastas to pies to pork chops – is on it. In fact, on a recent visit I asked about an item and stumped the waiter – he couldn’t find it when flipping through the multi-page menu for himself.

    Most of the meals include a salad AND a soup. I recommend the Greek salad made with a ton of fresh ingredients and a huge chunk of feta, and the chicken matzo ball soup. In fact, I’m full after eating those two things and the free spanakopita that is served with the bread on the table.

    But then the entrees come, and they are amazingly huge, too. We’re talking two 1 1/2-inch thick pork chops on a 16-inch platter of rice and teriyaki vegetables. For one person. It’s the kind of thing I could serve my whole family and still have leftovers. So plan for that by sharing, or if you’re going to have a microwave where you’re headed, take it with you. Trust me, no one is walking out of this place without a to-go box.

    Not surprisingly, there’s plenty to choose from on the kids menu, and kids will get a kick out of eating in a classic chrome diner. They’ll also need some time to ogle at the dessert case, which is filled with cakes that stand more than a foot tall.

    (You’ll be too full for dessert at the end of your meal, but do yourself a favor and take a piece of cake to go to share at the hotel later.)

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  • My whole family loved Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.” I could go on and on about the stunning visuals and how thankful I am that Disney has returned to hand-drawn animation. I could tell you the reasons I was impressed with the story and its handling of different ethnicities and cultures, which you would then debate with me.

    But I won’t. Because this isn’t a movie review blog.

    There is one thing, though, that I keep coming back to when I think about “The Princess and the Frog.” More so than even Disney’s “Ratatouille,” this is a food movie. Tiana waits tables, cooks and serves beignets, and dreams of opening a New Orleans restaurant. And while she’s learning to cook in her family kitchen, her father tells her that “Good food brings people together.”

    Michael King of Monell's in Nashville, Tenn.

    It’s the same message that I heard from a remarkable restaurateur during a recent trip to Nashville, Tenn. Michael King may speak with a Boston accent, but his family-style restaurant — Monell’s — is all Southern.

    Monell’s diners plow through seven and a half tons of skillet fried chicken every month, thighs and drumsticks served up alongside mashed potatoes, collard greens and corn pudding. They wash it down with gallons of sweet tea and finish it off with creamy-sweet banana pudding. All of it served up family style. Because good food brings people together.

    “The only rule we have here is pass to the left,” King tells the customers he directs to long dining tables, filling every seat.

    “You sit with people you otherwise wouldn’t,” King says. Eating together “allows people to see each other as people.”

    King didn’t grow up dreaming of his own restaurant, like Princess Tiana. The Massachusetts native came to Nashville to work as a performer at the Opryland U.S.A. theme park. But as the park headed toward its closure in the 1990s, King bought an 1880s Victorian home in the historic Germantown section of Nashville and used his credit cards to open Monell’s on Thanksgiving Day in 1995.

    He says he didn’t find this business; the business found him. “Sometimes things are much bigger than us,” King told me. “We just have to be willing to participate.”

    If you visit Nashville, visit Monell’s. But be prepared to wait – the 72 seats in this restaurant are first-come, first-served. And that goes for everyone. “I made Oprah wait 45 minutes,” King says.

    There will always be at least three meats, three salads and four vegetables on the table, along with a drink and dessert for one price, currently $12-$16, depending on the day and time. There’s a discount for kids 4-10, and children under 3 eat for free.

    It’s a casual place, and the constant conversation among strangers and friends can make Monell’s a little noisy. But isn’t that what a family meal is all about?

    And don’t be surprised to find the Italian-looking, Yankee-talking Michael King right there in the middle of it all, shaking a hand, patting a back and offering up his form of Southern hospitality.

    “I don’t want to be remembered by plaques,” King says. “I want to be remembered by the people I touch.”

    Monell's on Urbanspoon

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