Italia


One of my favorite photos I took on a recent visit to Italy. I got up early one morning to photograph the fisherman of Trani (in Apulia) and spent a few minutes obsessing over this pot of flowers near the port.

I’m be busy editing photos and writing for a while, and will also be launching a new website. Please stay tuned!

For more photos of Italy, go to #JoBitesItaly on instagram, or #MyLastBiteTravels (for all my travel snapshots & videos).

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Everything I ate (and drank) on a Princess Cruise

I don’t know about you, but for years I resisted taking a cruise. One of the reasons is because, as a chronic dieter, I feared I’d gain too much weight. I had visions of me sunning on the pool deck while simultaneously stuffing my face with all-you-can-eat EVERYTHING. Frankly, the thought of multiple, unlimited buffet stations and countless cocktails (while confined on a ship) just freaked me out.

Writing about food and travel is my chosen profession, so I’ll always have to watch my waistline. Before I started eating low carb (at home) and got serious about my fitness tracker, I was gaining about five pounds a year. That all stopped when I started walking 10,000 steps, at minimum, per day and cut carbs from home meals. When I eat OUT, I try to eat low carb (when I can) and it’s a balancing act that, thankfully, stopped the annual weight gain.

In my home kitchen I stock no sugar, sweets, white bread, rice, pasta or potatoes. That old “out of sight and out of mind” mantra definitely works when I cook and eat at home. But out on the open sea, on a large cruise ship, with thousands of strangers and endless food options tempting me? SHEER PANIC.

But here’s the thing. When I went on my first cruise (with Princess Cruises) last year, I ate A LOT and surprise, surprise… I didn’t gain ONE pound. It probably helped that I was traveling with my sister Janet, who is a super fit health nut. Even though I didn’t work out at the gym with her everyday, I still got extra steps in by walking as much as I could while on board. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t suddenly go mad and run with my sister as she took the stairs UP to Aloha deck 12, but I did skip the elevators going DOWN and surpassed my 10,000 steps goal each day.

PHOTOS: Everything I ate and drank on a four night Princess Cruise (and didn’t gain weight)!


Welcome champagne awaited us in our cabin. Plus we brought a bottle of Prosecco. Cheers!


Lunch (buffet) on the deck. LowCARBish. Slaw, prosciutto, meatballs, fried scallops, brisket, beef, sweet & sour pork.


Fried scallops. I thought they were tater tots. These were way better.


Back to the buffet line.


Roasts for miles. Also, low carb happiness.


Wine on the top deck as we left the harbor.


It’s always happy hour on a cruise right?


Tempura Prawn in spicy sweet chili sauce. Happy hour (media meet & greet) at The Crooners Bar.


Chicken Lollipops with sesame. Happy hour (media meet & greet) at The Crooners Bar.


Wild Mushroom Sauté w portobello & shitaki mushrooms, crispy poached egg, oregano smoked scamorza, truffle garlic puree and lemon zest. Dinner at the Salty Dog Gastropub by Chef Ernesto Uchimura.


Charred Asparagus and Toasted Haloumi cheese, greens, vinaigrette. Dinner at the Salty Dog Gastropub by Chef Ernesto Uchimura.


Pale Ale Pork Cheeks, cauliflower polenta, roasted leeks and thyme apple puree. Dinner at the Salty Dog Gastropub by Chef Ernesto Uchimura.


Lobster Mac & Cheese, aged cheddar, gruyere and parmesan, truffled cream, crispy crumble. Dinner at the Salty Dog Gastropub by Chef Ernesto Uchimura.


Lemon Posset with pistachio crunch. Dinner at the Salty Dog Gastropub by Chef Ernesto Uchimura. The Salty Dog Menu. Just one bite. I don’t have a sweet tooth.


Sipping a vodka soda at the Salty Dog. Just times this by two each evening. Dinner at the Salty Dog Gastropub by Chef Ernesto Uchimura.


Unlimited Bacon. My heart was racing… I had to pace myself. On board breakfast buffet.


Breakfast carbs. I went for a slice of whole grain. And more bacon. On board breakfast buffet.


More options. I chose smoked salmon over French toast… and more bacon. On board breakfast buffet.


Late breakfast by the pool. My sister Janet’s breakfast to the left. Juice, muesli, egg white, fruit. Obviously mine is to the right! On board breakfast buffet.


Round one included bacon, sausage, eggs, corned beef hash, smoked salmon and whole wheat toast. On board breakfast buffet.


My adorable sister Janet.


Serve yourself poached pears at the buffet. Fancy (and a nice afternoon snack). On board buffet.


Charcuterie: Jamon Iberico, Salami Finocchiona at SHARE Restaurant by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Chicken Liver Parfait at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Little Gems, Pickled Pearl Onion, Oro Blanco, Nasturtium Pesto at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Shrimp Salad, Lemon Gel, Turnip, Citrus Salt, Brioche at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Butter Poached Lobster, Caramelized Endive, Endive Foam at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Cavatelli, Beets, Castelmagno, Sun Choke, Brussel Sprout at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Potato Gratin, Truffles, Cream at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess). Side dish shared at the table.


Roasted Alaskan King Crab Tagilatelle, Chili, Parsley at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Beef Cheek Pie, Porcini Mushrooms, Buttery Pastry at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Roast Turbot White Fish Gratine, Gruyere Crumb, White Vermouth, Mushroom Duxelles at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Shaft Blue Cheese, Crab Apple Mustard, Chestnut Cracker at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess).


Tarte Au Citron Vert, Raspberry, Granola, Meringue at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess). Just one bite.


Dark Chocolate Cremeux, Toasted Hazelnut Feuilletine, Burnt Vanilla Ice Cream at SHARE by Curtis Stone (on board The Ruby Princess). Again, just one bite. More photos of SHARE Restaurant here.


There’s a Pizza and Ice Cream bar on board!! Lines were long, but I waited (for pizza). Hand-tossed and cooked on deck. It was far from my cabin so extra steps. HA!


Buffet brunch on board. My sister’s salad to the left. My egg and meat fest to the right.

Crown Grill, Ruby Princess (Sep 2016)
Dinner on board at The Crown Grill Restaurant (premium seafood and chop house). Photos were difficult (so dark). Black Tiger Prawn & Papaya Salpicon, with Mustard Seed Aioli. Grill Salad with Mesclun Greens, Roasted Bell Peppers, Hass Avocado and Grape Balsamic Dressing.


Pan-Seared Pacific Scallops with Fennel, Celery and Spring Onion Slaw Golden Delicious Dressing & Moroccan Glaze. Spiny Lobster Cake (ball), Tarragon Foam, Cured Olives, Grilled Asparagus on board at the Crown Grill.


STEAKS! I tried both the filet mignon and New York strip steak. The Crown Grill (on board The Ruby Princess).


Desserts on board at the Crown Grill. This was shared with several people. Lemon Meringue Pudding, Tart with Macadamia Nut Shortbread White Chocolate Tuile, S’mores Stack.


Early morning room service (before excursion) on board.


Room service breakfast sandwich on board. Excursion tender (boat) in background. I skipped the muffins.


First stop on our Cruise Excursion to Santa Barbara was Buttonwood Winery in nearby Solvang.


We started with Buttonwood Sauv Blanc at Buttonwood Winery. Cruise Excursion: Wine Tasting in Solvang.


Goat Cheese at Buttonwood Winery. Cruise Excursion: Wine Tasting in Solvang.


Cucumber, Avocado, Jalapeños, Scallions, Cilantro, Yogurt Chilled Soup at Buttonwood Winery. Cruise Excursion: Wine Tasting in Solvang.


Santa Maria Trip Tip Sandwiches at Buttonwood Winery. Ate the meat, left the bread. Cruise Excursion: Wine Tasting in Solvang.  More photos of Buttonwood winery here.


At Sunstone Winery we started with Chardonnay. Cruise Excursion to Santa Barbara.


Foie Gras Mousse Tarts w Tomato, Strawberry Jam & Pistachio at Sunstone Winery. Cruise Excursion: Wine Tasting in Santa Ynez.


Pork Belly Sliders with cumin & cinnamon with apple, fennel relish and baby arugula at Sunstone Winery. Cruise Excursion: Wine Tasting in Santa Ynez. Pork fest.


Blackened Seared Ahi tuna, Sticky Rice Cake at Sunstone Winery. Cruise Excursion: Wine Tasting in Santa Ynez.


Seafood Spring Rolls at Sunstone Winery. Cruise Excursion: Wine Tasting in Santa Ynez. So much fun! More photos of Sunstone Winery here.


Shrimp Tacos at Tacos Marco Antonio. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour. Indulge time. I ATE all the tortillas and tacos today.


“Ramses Especial” Breaded fish fillet with shrimp and chipotle cream at Tacos Marco Antonio. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour.


Crab tacos at Tacos Marco Antonio. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour.


Agua Fresca (I had the horchata) at Tacos Marco Antonio. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour. More photos of Tacos Marco Antonio here.


Sea Snail Ceviche with slices of sea snail (Ceviche De Caracol Con Lajas De Caracol) at La Guerrerense & Sabina. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour.


Sea Urchin Ceviche with Clam on top (Ceviche De Erizo Con Alma) at La Guerrerense & Sabina. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour.


Cerveza at La Guerrerense & Sabina. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour. More La Guerrerense photos here.


Santo Tomas Wine Tasting. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour.


San Aura Vino Reserva Experimental Rosado, Grenache, Santo Tomas Wine Tasting. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour.


Alisio Reserva Vino Blanco, Chardonnay, Santo Tomas Wine Tasting. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour.


Fiery salsa and chips at Restaurante 645. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour.


Chile Relleno and Tacos at Restaurante 645. Cruise Excursion: Ensenada, Mexico Food Tour. Quite a day in Ensenada!


Still hungry? Me too. Let’s go!

This media trip was paid for by Princess Cruises.
Culinary Cruise, September 26-30, 2016. The ship departed from Los Angeles and made stops in Santa Barbara and Ensenada. Info: Dining on Princess Cruise’s Ruby Princess

Thinking about taking a Princess Cruises cruise? Read about my first day on board.

Guest Blog Post –  Diary of a Princess (Cruise).

Princess Cruises on twitterinstagramfacebook.

Video – The Ruby Princess.

More information on Princess Cruises:

Princess Cruise News (including the debut of Ocean Medallion).

Princess Cruise Teen & Youth Centers

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Diary Of A Princess (Cruise)


A few months ago I was invited on a press trip aboard Princess Cruises. I usually take these sorts of trips alone, but was thrilled when I found out my sister Janet could join me. In case you missed it, you can read my initial blog post here. It includes photos from our first day aboard the ship, with insight for first time cruisers.

The following is a guest blog post by my wonderful sister, Janet Cubak.

ENJOY! Jo

My sister Jo invited me to join her on a culinary cruise with Princess Cruises aboard the “Ruby Princess” last September. It would be my very first cruise… and what an adventure it was!!

A part of me was so excited to share in her “world of food and travel”, but the biggest part was how grateful I felt to spend precious time with her. Growing up with our grandparents being a large part of our lives, along with our great Aunt Ella, Jo and I embraced this trip as “Grandma and Auntie”!! She even brought along 2 huge pairs of oversized, retro sunglasses for us to wear.

There were so many activities on the cruise that Jo and I decided to “divide and conquer”. Jo being the gifted food and travel writer, I on the other hand enjoy any type of physical activity. Personally, I had a fear of gaining weight on the cruise, so I vowed to only use the stairs the entire time.

When we arrived at the Port of Los Angeles and saw the Ruby Princess docked, we both could not get over how magnificent and huge the ship was!! It was beautiful on the outside but would soon discover how gorgeous it is inside!

Never having been on a cruise, we were amazed at how easy and pleasant the check-in and embarking of the ship was. Our luggage was delivered to the door of our beautiful room (with balcony!). It was such a lovely room with fresh flowers and chilled champagne! Within minutes, we met our cabin attendant and then attended a “Mandatory Muster” for emergency purposes. Basically we carried our life jackets to a predetermined location and chatted with other passengers. It went so smoothly and every person was accounted for, impressive!!

“Anchors aweigh” and the party began!! The Ruby Princess was leaving the port and we went to the main deck to watch and partake in the festivities! There was a live band playing all of my favorite “wedding reception” songs: “Happy”, Earth Wind, & Fire’s “September”, “the “Cha-Cha” song and “Disco Inferno” to name a few! The deckhands led the line dances and handed out leis. That was the first of many activities I enjoyed! I honestly danced like “no one was watching”! As the sun began to sink in the Pacific, the ship gently took us around Catalina Island for our first night…I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this!

Jo worked hastily setting up all her social media and Wi-Fi connections while I diligently studied the ship’s activity program and placing stars on everything interesting to me. I planned to visit the gym and take a ballroom dancing class for starters. Every evening, a new activity brochure with articles from the captain was left at our door.

The Salty Dog gastro pub was the first culinary experience on the itinerary. I met new faces and had the opportunity to see Jo interact with various food and travel experts! The lobster mac and cheese was indulgent, over the top and plain delicious. This was just the first day!

I was welcomed the next morning with a gorgeous sunrise as I enjoyed a cup of coffee and did some reading on our balcony. Later on, Jo and I found our way (via the stairs) to our first breakfast buffet. I’d heard about cruise ship buffet from friends, and this did not disappoint! The selection was overwhelming! I enjoyed my “nontraditional”(for me) breakfast plate of smoked salmon, egg whites with mushrooms, fresh slices of melons and Musili cereal. Jo’s plate was much more a reflection of what a great breakfast should be: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and spam! We carried our plates outside and enjoyed our breakfast near the stern of the ship.

Again, I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this! After breakfast, Jo and I made our way to the gym and the Lotus Spa at the bow of the ship. We were each welcomed to a complimentary spa treatment where I chose the “Seaweed Wrap” and Jo chose “Teeth Whitening” treatment that which we scheduled for Thursday. Next we explored the gym and it’s state of the art equipment. Jo had to return to our cabin to work on her social media updates, so I attended a class about “Metabolism” (I learned so much).

I wanted to take the “Cha-Cha” dance class next, but had to literally run to the stern of the ship and down several flights of stairs to make it on time! It was a 45-minute class led by our instructor J.P. who made the experience so much fun! My partner Pam and I learned 3 parts to complete our dance. It was quite a fun workout! On my way back to the cabin, I passed by the upper deck, outdoor movie theater then stopped at the buffet to enjoy a cup of split pea soup and salad, yummy!

I wanted to experience a poolside time with white wine and a good book. The staff on the deck were so attentive, I felt very welcomed even though I was by myself. I wished that I could stay longer but Jo and I had a champagne waterfall on deck 5 and a lovely dinner at Chef Curtis Stone’s “Share” restaurant to get ready for! The six-course meal dining experience was amazing (especially the seafood) as well as meeting more new faces from both the culinary and travel worlds! Yes, we did use the stairs to return to our cabin! This was only day 2 of our trip and we hadn’t even gone to port yet… again, I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this!

Our third day was our first time to visit a portSanta Barbara was our first destination. We boarded a small boat called a “tender” that transfers passengers to the shore and back. As we settled in to the short trip, we were surprised to see “The Love Boat” actress Jill Whelan sitting near us. As a child, she played the captain’s daughter “Vicki Stubing” and is currently the “Celebrations Ambassador” for Princess Cruises.

Our Santa Barbara excursion began with a 50-minute shuttle bus ride inland to “Buttonwood” and “Sunstone” wineries where we spent the day tasting beautiful wines at stunning vineyards! We had a light lunch outdoors next to a pond at Buttonwood winery, so delightful! At Sunstone winery, we toured the estate and had a wonderful spread of appetizers with all the beautiful wine!

We returned to the Ruby Princess where my new friend Mia and I went to the gym for a much needed workout! The rest of the evening was very relaxing with cocktail and a light dinner at the International Café and Vines. Again, I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this!

Day 4, I woke up a bit under the weather. I’d been dealing with asthma issues, mostly by using over-the-counter medications. But that morning my symptoms were much worse so I decided to visit the ship doctor. While waiting for the infirmary to open, I got to catch the most amazing sunrise from our balcony and visit the gym for a light workout. I arrived when the infirmary first opened and was welcomed by a very nice staff. I was seen by the ship’s doctor and given medications, which quickly began to help. This was not on my itinerary but it sure was a very pleasant experience under the circumstances! I was so grateful! I had the chance to bring breakfast to my sister Jo in our cabin as she was working. It was so much fun to load a plate with as many different kinds of bacon, sausages, hash and eggs as I could!

Our port -of -call that day was Ensenada, Mexico! Never have visited here before, I only had heard about notorious party bars like “Papas & Beer” and “Hussongs Cantina”. Our experience was (thankfully ) much more relaxed but still exciting. Our first stop was “Tacos Marco Antonio”. Originally a fisherman, Marco became a chef by canning tuna and creating other dishes. He opened a stand and soon was asked to open a restaurant. It was buzzing with locals standing in line. Always a good sign for any eatery. The shrimp, squid and salmon tacos were all my favorites! Marco himself was on hand to greet us. Such a kind and fun character… he even took pictures with each of us.

Next we stopped at the world-famous seafood street cartLe Guerrerense . The owner Sabina recently opened a restaurant nearby (called Sabina’s), and we were thrilled she was on hand for our lunch. Her seafood tostadas are legendary and Jo noted this was a “bucket list” meal of hers. Of course we loved every bite and had to “have another beer in Mexico” (we’re both Kenny Chesney fans) while we licked our plates clean.

There was a LOT of food on this excursion. All of us on the tour were getting so full but we had another scheduled stop. “Restaurant 645” operated by a very young family. The chef and his brother are only in their 20’s and proudly showcased authentic Mexican cuisine. My favorite was the Chili Relleno.

Our last visit was to the “Santo Winery”…a hidden jewel in Ensenada! I wanted to bring home souvenirs for my family and I was so happy to discover beautiful wines and olive oils for my adult (4) adult children! I knew they would enjoy these more than t-shirts from either of the famous cantinas! On our way back to our ship, we walked through several fish markets.

When we were back on board the Ruby Princess, we headed for the Wheel House aka the Bridge, for a private tour with other travel writers. It was so magnificent and impressive to see all the workings of the “brain” of a massive ship. The crew was so informative and friendly. Again, I couldn’t help but think about how much my family would enjoy this!

Our last evening of the cruise was so memorable! I had scheduled my spa treatment at 4:00. The seaweed wrap was a first for me! Being ½ Okinawan, I love Japanese cuisine! I really thought the seaweed would be in strips like the “Nori” which I am accustomed to eating…much to my surprise; the seaweed was in a form that much resembled guacamole! My esthetician Christina was super sweet and shared a lot about the benefits of detoxification (as well as helping to reduce all the wrinkles around my eyes, yikes!!). The 100-minute experience was amazing!!

From there I had to literally run to the stern of the ship to get ready for our farewell dinner at the Crown Grill and celebrate Jill Whelan’s 50th birthday! Our menu included seared scallops, lobster cake, prawns and saladDecadent desserts included molten Dutch chocolate fudge obsession, lemon meringue pudding torte, seven layer S’mores stack, milk chocolate peanut butter bar, and of course a birthday cake for Jill!

My sister Jo & I not only survived our first cruise together (we are so different in our personalities), but we will thrive because of all the fun memories and experiences this culinary cruise gave us!

“All good things must come to an end”, but wishing it not to, I truly hope to take our family on a Princess cruise next spring!! I know my family would enjoy it!! We have 4 adult children with both common and different interests, and personalities.

A cruise offers so many various activities and cuisines to delight any of their desires; it would be the best family vacation for us! We have RV’d and camped most of their growing up years which we all cherish, however I think a Princess Cruise would be perfect for our grown family to make more memories!

From the bottom of my heart (and tummy), I want to thank my sister Jo for inviting me to join her on this great adventure and also a huge “Thank you” to Princess Cruise, Brea Burkholz, Suzi Li, Jill Whelan, and many others for a most memorable time!!!

P.S. I didn’t gain one pound. Yippee!

Diary of a Princess (Cruise) By Janet Cubak

This culinary media trip was paid for by Princess Cruises.
4 night Culinary Cruise September 26-30 2016
The ship departed from Los Angeles and made stops in Santa Barbara and Ensenada.

More photos from the trip here.

Princess Cruises on twitterinstagramfacebook

Video – The Ruby Princess

Details on upcoming California & Pacific Coast Cruises on Princes Cruises

Thank you Princess Cruises! Jo

Read the first Princess Cruises blog post here. It includes photos from our first day aboard the ship.

Everything I Ate On A Princess Cruise

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The Ruby Princess – Welcome Aboard!


Cruising never really interested me in the past. I’ve always loved traveling, even as a child when I lived in Okinawa (where I was born in 1964). Airplanes, especially jumbo jets, still give me great comfort when I step inside and take my seat.

My sister Janet is a few years older than me, and we often joined our parents for long-haul (1960s era) flights from Okinawa (via Tokyo to Honolulu) to California where our grandparents lived.

Our dad was in the Navy when he met our mother in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. She ran successful nightclubs for most of her life, until she passed away in 2013. After they divorced in the early 70s, Dad moved to Scotland and remarried.

When one of your parents lives (lived) in Okinawa and the other resides in Scotland, traveling is simply a way of life. It’s not about “taking a holiday” or saving up for a vacation.

In my 20s, I was married to an airline pilot, which really fueled my travel bug. Back then (in the mid 80s), major airlines used hand-written tickets for employees. This meant that when the ex was a pilot at United Airlines, I (as his wife) could enter any worldwide destination and just GO there.

During that time, I started working for a wildlife photographer, which was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Those free airline tickets took me around the world, including safaris in Africa and polar bear expeditions in the Arctic.

It was flying, not cruising that moved my world. Taking a cruise just wasn’t a part of the conversation back then. It didn’t help that my ex-husband referred to large cruise ships as, “floating kitty litter boxes”. That stuck for years. Besides his disdain for cruises, he also didn’t eat seafood or cheese. Those were what we called “irreconcilable differences”.

In September, when Princess Cruises invited me on a media cruise, they said I could invite a guest as long as we shared a room. I first asked my husband Peter to join me (we met in ’94), but he was too busy with work, so I invited my sister Janet. We hadn’t really traveled together except to visit our father in Scotland, and more recently, to bury our mother in Okinawa.

We are so different,  my sister and me. For starters, she doesn’t eat meat (just fish), and she LOVES to exercise. Janet will work out for hours a day if she could. Me? I’m the bacon-obsessed overeater and am happy if I get 10,000 steps on my fitbit (step counter) each day. How did we handle a cruise TOGETHER? This being, BOTH our first cruises? Did we make it through without disagreeing? Check back soon for more blog posts, including a guest post by Janet as well.

For now, let’s get on board the gorgeous Ruby Princess. Hopefully, these photos will be helpful to those who are considering their first cruise. Enjoy!


Partial view of the Ruby Princess from the World Cruise parking lot ($17 max per day) in San Pedro, CA. You print and tag your checked bag at home then leave them with a Princess Cruises porter at the curb before parking. They (thankfully) deliver the bags to each room.


Checking in is similar to an airport terminal.


Look for your deck check-in on the screens. You’ll have received the info via email itinerary.


Ruby Princess Cruise Card. It’s your everything on the ship, from cocktails, buffet and the gift shops. The card (size of a standard credit card) is also swiped when you disembark and embark the ship. Security will also take your photo to match up with the card information.


After you’ve checked in you’ll go through metal detectors and security. Note: You can only bring one bottle of wine or champagne per adult. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of booze on the ship (trust me)!


Boarding the Ruby Princess. The ship (launched in 2008) can accommodate 3080 passengers and was refurbished in December 2015. Click on “Ship Facts” for more details here.


My sister and I shared a balcony state room on the Aloha deck. We were surprised at how large it felt for 231 square feet! More about the rooms here.


One of the beds were covered for with a heavy vinyl blanket for unpacking.


The small card on the desk lists the direct paging number for your stateroom steward. Joey was awesome!


Life Jackets easily accessible from the closet. Comfy robes awaiting and room safe nearby.


Those are two full-size suitcases on the shelf. Plenty of room for both of us.


The small bathroom was next to the closet. It had a full shower, sink and toilet.


Looking out to our deck. Our room was Balcony Stateroom A631.


Plenty of room for coffee in the morning and more importantly, wine (and champagne) in the evening.


View into the room (with my sister Janet).


Just breathe.


The Princess Patter guide will be placed near your door every day (note the date below the top image). Do take time to read it thoroughly so you do NOT miss a thing!


The Ruby Princess 
Details on upcoming California & Pacific Coast Cruises on Princes Cruises

This culinary media trip was paid for by Princess Cruises.
This 4 night Culinary Cruise September 26-30, 2016
The ship departed from Los Angeles and made stops in Santa Barbara and Ensenada.
Thank  you Princess Cruises!

Princess Cruises on twitter, instagramfacebook

Video – The Ruby Princess

Everything I Ate On A Princess Cruise

And because I do adore her… an older blog post…. A love letter to my big sister.

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I Survived A Cruise!


Actually, it should read, “I Survived A Cruise With My Sister”! Or perhaps, “My Sister Survived A Cruise With Me”. My big sister Janet (left in pink) and I could NOT be more different, yet we BOTH had a wonderful time aboard the Ruby Princess (Princess Cruises). Photo above taken as we disembarked for a day in Ensenada. You can view some trip photos on instagram and twitter by searching the hashtag #JoJanetCruising (or #MyLastBiteTravels). I’ll be posting a full blog post in the near future. Check back soon!

Russ & Daughters NY


“100 years, 4 generations and 1,800,000 pounds of pickled herring” refers to one of my favorite documentaries, The Sturgeon Queens. The film is about the family behind Russ & Daughters, the beloved New York institution. In the early 1900s, Joel Russ got his start selling schmaltz herring out of a barrel to Eastern European Jews on the Lower East Side.

I don’t want to share too much of the story here, because The Sturgeon Queens really is worth watching. This heartwarming film is directed by Julie Cohen and you can rent or purchase The Sturgeon Queen’s on iTunes here. Watch the trailer below.

Joel Russ’ great grandchildren, Josh Russ Tupper and Niki Russ Lederman (cousins), took over the business in 2009, and in 2014 (the 100th anniversary) they opened Russ & Daughters Cafe.

Russ and Daughter’s Cafe is such an adored spot for locals and visitors alike. Unless you get there before they open, you’ll (most likely) be waiting quite awhile for a table. I went this past June and again this month (photos below) and it’s so very worth it!

If you’re planning on visiting Russ & Daughters (or the shop nearby), and haven’t seen The Sturgeon Queens, do watch the movie before you go. It will absolutely make you appreciate every bite.

Anthony Bourdain said: “Russ & Daughters occupies that rare and tiny place on the mountaintop reserved for those who are not just the oldest and the last—but also the best.”


Getting in line (June 2016). This trip was a “girls trip” with my good friend Jenn. All our NY photos tagged on instagram with #JoJennNY.


On our most recent trip, we got to the cafe an hour before they opened (Sep 2016). Still, we were SECOND in line. This September trip was an early 60th birthday fest for my husband Peter. Jenn joined us for the food-filled celebration. Photos tagged on instagram with #PPP60.


The cafe opened in 2014 but the decor is beautifully retro. The shelves are similar to the originals in the shop (Russ & Daughter’s Appetizers).


On holiday? Taking the day off? Definitely order the cocktails for some epic day drinking. On both my visits I ordered the super, refreshing “Lower East Side” (top right). It’s made with Tanqueray gin, lime, dill and cucumber. Top left is a ginger soda with gin that Jenn ordered (off menu). Hubby Peter ordered the “Breakfast Martini” made with Beefeater gin, jam, lemon juice, egg white, Pernod Absinthe and Angostura Bitters.


Sturgeon eggs & onion w salad, Lox & bagel, Super Heebster (our favorite) with whitefish, salmon, wasabi-infused roe, horseradish dill cream cheese.


Closeup: Super Heebster Bagel with whitefish, salmon, wasabi-infused roe, horseradish dill cream cheese.


Going in.


Walking past the cafe kitchen.


Hubby Peter so happy (Sep 2016)!


Jenn with owner Nikki (from our June 2016 visit).


Don’t forget to grab your Hopjes when you get your bill. Bonus: If Becca is your server… it’s your lucky day!

Russ & Daughters Cafe Website

Russ & Daughters Appetizers (Shop)

Russ & Daughters on Twitter

Sturgeon Queen’s Documentary Trailer

The Sturgeon Queen’s Documentary Website

The Sturgeon Queen’s on iTunes

All my Russ & Daughters Photos

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Chef Ilan Hall

Peter and I had such a great time in New York last week, and I’ll be posting lots of photos on the blog soon. Our social media hashtag for the trip was #PPP60 and you can check out some photos on my instagram here.

“PPP” is sort of a nickname I have for Peter. Basically, it’s short for “Peter Peter Peter”, so triple P plus 60 for his yearlong (60th) birthday celebration (#PPP60)!

Before we left for New York, I posted a photo of us on our last visit (together) in 2005. I wasn’t sure, but thought the chef in the background was Top Chef (season two winnerIlan Hall. It turns out, it WAS Ilan Hall and he commented on the instagram here.

We ran into Ilan at an event in Brooklyn, and our friend Jenn had the good sense to recreate our original photo — sort of. Eight years later, we’re all a bit wider NOW, but it was so great seeing Ilan again! Follow Ilan on twitter here, and check back soon for more New York fun!

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Roxy Hotel (NY 2016 Part 1)


We didn’t plan on loving the Roxy Hotel when we stayed there in June. My good friend, L.A. Times Deputy Food Editor, Jenn Harris and I were headed to New York for a weekend of feasting with Kate Krader (then restaurant editor of Food and Wine). Kate is now the food editor at Bloomberg News.

After booking flights from Los Angeles and making restaurant reservations (priorities ONE and TWO when I travel), I figured I’d just quickly find us a hotel room online. The problem was that most rooms were sold out, due to the weekend’s NYC Pride celebrations. Thankfully, Kate reached out to a few hotels and helped find a room at the Roxy Hotel in Tribeca.

The point of this girls’ weekend, was to meet up with Kate and EAT. Not to shop, go sightseeing or see a hit Broadway show. As food-obsessed writers, Jenn and I made no time in our schedule to be tourists, except maybe touring classic New York eateries like Russ & Daughters and Katz Deli. With only three full days and nights—it had to be all about the food. Except for sleeping and changing clothes, there was certainly no time for lounging around a hotel.

That’s the thing I love about travel — the unanticipated moments that elevate a trip. The Roxy Hotel turned out to be so quirky and charming that we WANTED to hang out there. The former Tribeca Grand (revamped earlier this year and renamed The Roxy) almost felt like a visit to a retro, back lot movie set.

There’s a beautiful lounge, a funky jazz club (photos below) and a 10,000-square-foot central atrium that showcases live music each evening. Almost every hotel room door (there are 8 stories, 201 rooms) opens to a view of the atrium.

During our stay, Jenn and I would stumble in from late night dinner/drinks, bobbing our heads to the live music as we made our way to our floor, then pause for a few minutes to enjoy the show.

I’ve stayed in many New York hotels that were just fine, but none that made me feel such a part of the neighborhood. And isn’t that what we want when we travel — to feel like a local?

If I’m planning an extended trip or traveling with more than one person, I rent from Airbnb, as it’s usually cheaper then getting two hotel rooms. But for a quick weekend in the city, my first choice will definitely be The Roxy.

The Roxy Hotel is located at 2 Avenue of the Americas in Tribeca between Walker and White Streets, steps from SoHo, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and Little Italy. Subway stops are nearby and Uber pickups (and drops) were convenient for us. The staff (from doormen to house keeping) were so very friendly and helpful.

And all that sightseeing we didn’t plan on doing? Well, our room (#315 for the record) just happened to have a gorgeous view of the Freedom Tower.

I cannot wait until our 2017 girls’ weekend! Cheers!


The Roxy Hotel Lounge (Photo courtesy of The Roxy).


Looking down into the atrium from our hotel room (Photo by Jo Stougaard).


The Django Club (Photo courtesy of The Roxy).


Our hotel room was similar to this one (Photo courtesy of The Roxy). Check current room rates here. My friend Jenn hit the gym every morning (I did not)! I did, however, grab a coffee every morning near the lobby. Note: there’s also a 99-seat cinema (open to guests and the public).


I loved the neighborhood vibe  (Photo courtesy of The Roxy).


View from our hotel room at the Roxy (Photo by Jo Stougaard).

Roxy Hotel Tribeca
Website
2 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10013
(212) 519-6600
Map

@TheRoxyHotelNYC twitter

Roxy on Facebook

Check back soon for more NYC 2016, including Le Bernardin,DizengoffMission Chinese, Russ & Daughters Cafe, Emmy Squared, Cosme and MORE.

Photo at top courtesy of the Roxy Hotel.

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Ox & Finch (Glasgow, Scotland)

What a fool. It turns out that I’m a great, big FOOL. Or at least fool for a day (today, April 1st) thanks to the Ox and Finch restaurant in Glasgow, Scotland.

Ox & Finch, Glasgow SCOTLANDLate last night (Los Angeles time), the award-winning restaurant totally APRIL-FOOLED me via their twitter feed. I could blame it on the fact that I read the tweet in bed, while drifting off to sleep, or note that my guard was down because it was STILL March 31st here in L.A. (April 1st Scotland time). But the fact is, I fell for the gag and even reposted the details on twitter and Facebook!

The April Fools Day tweet read, “Ox and Finch – Sub Zero. An Antarctic Pop-Up Appearance in July 2016! Click for more info…”

So, I clicked and continued reading on their Facebook page, which stated: “With Danish restaurant, NOMA and acclaimed chef, Heston Blumenthal having already staged pop-ups in Australia, we are delighted to announce challenging plans to raise the bar by hosting a month-long, pop-up restaurant during July 2016 in the British Antarctic Territory, titled: Ox and Finch – Sub Zero.” The post even included an artist rendering of the popup in Antarctica! Check it out here.

What a sucker! And just when I was about to post photos of a lovely meal I had there last September with my father and stepmum. They both loved Ox and Finch as well, and I was so disappointed I didn’t get back for another meal when I visited last month.

Kudos to you Ox and Finch — you fooled me enough to dream about saving up for a trip to Antarctica. Luckily I won’t have to go THAT far, and hopefully I’ll see you on my next visit home to Scotland.


Ox and Finch is located in the fashionable Glasgow neighborhood of Finnieston. Chef/Owner, Jonathan MacDonald opened to rave reviews back in 2014, earning a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand (award for good food at affordable prices). Read more about Chef MacDonald here.


I had been following the restaurant on twitter for a year before trying it out. Last September, on a visit home to Scotland, I secured a reservation (they book up quickly) and treated my parents to a night out. As you’ll see by the photos below, we may have ordered the entire menu! Photo above: Panko Pork with Tamarind and Palm Sugar.


Smoked Mackerel Pâté, Radicchio, Fennel and Pink Grapefruit.


Wild Mushrooms, Duck Egg with LARDO, Croutons, Parsley (Note the glorious LARDO on the right side of the egg).


Rabbit, Ham Hock, Foie Gras and Pistachio Terrine with Gingerbread and Pear.


Buffalo Mozzarella, Fig, Mint, Prosciutto and 8year-aged Balsamic.


Scrabster Hake, Brown Shrimps, Samphire, Lardo, Brown Butter.


Spiced Scallops, Chana Dal, Pickled Cucumber and Yoghurt.


Squid, Prawns, Chorizo, Morcilla with Smoked Paprika on Sourdough.


Beetroot, Green Beans, Toasted Seeds and Barrel-Aged Feta.


Italian Sausage, Potato Gnocchi, Squash, Rosemary and Chili.


Braised Pork Cheeks, Smoked Polenta, Capers and Pine Nuts.


Confit Lamb Shoulder, Rose Harissa, Shredded Salad, Baba Ganoush. No room for dessert!


Interior dining and bar (top photo).

Dining date: 9/15/15

Ox & Finch
Address: 920 Sauchiehall Street
Glasgow, SCOTLAND
Tel 0141 339 8627
Website

Follow @OxAndFinch on twitter

Ox & Finch Facebook

More photos from September 2015 visit to Scotland

I still suck at selfies, but love this photo with my dad

About GlasgowScotland

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