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July 2012 Splendor Review w/Pics


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2012 Carnival Splendor Review


First, a little about us – my name is Chris, my wife and I have 3 kids: 10yo boy (my bud), 8yo girl (princess) and 3yo boy (little man). For this cruise we were celebrating my sister-in-law’s big birthday (I’ll neglect to say which one) so her and her husband were with us, as were their small group (2 other couples). My wife’s parents were supposed to go on the cruise, but my mother-in-law suffered an injury the week prior to the cruise so they were unable to come. We have 3 kids and one of them was going to be staying in my in-laws room so my wife had to transfer to their room (Empress suite) and I stayed in our original room with the other 2 kids (Empress balcony).


…our family…



Another thing to note was that our kids did not know about this cruise until about 30 minutes prior to arriving at the port. Yes, we were able to keep it a secret for an entire year with very few slip-ups…however none of them were able to figure it out beforehand. Our kids had been on one cruise before and had really been bugging us for another one – but had thought we were “NEVER going to get to go on another cruise EVER again…” (insert appropriate kiddo drama here).


Also, My hobby is photography. I am not a professional, but I read and practice a lot. Hopefully you will enjoy the fruits of my labor. For this entire cruise, I took over 2,100 pictures and 200 videos.


This is the gear I used:

Nikon D7000 DSLR with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8, Tamron 18-270 f/3.5-6.3, Nikon 10.5mm f/1.4 fisheye* and a CarrySpeed CS-Pro.

Nikon SB-600 Flash

Olympus Stylus Tough TG810 and 1080SW waterproof cameras

New iPad (1080p video)

Dell mini-10 w/Seagate 1TB external drive (for backing up videos and pictures)

Memorex AirStash with 32Gb card (for transerring videos from iPad to SD card because I hate iTunes)

*I rented this lens from borrowlenses.com because it lists $700 and I wanted to test it a little first. Absolutely loved the lens (you will see pictures here) and the company was great to deal with. I spent about $100 for the 10-days I had it including shipping and insurance.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Getting to LAX, Long Beach


We live in KS, so we were flying from Kansas City to LAX the day before the cruise. We found a direct flight on Southwest. My wife’s sister and husband also flew out with us.

We got up at about 5am and drove to the airport in KC. Flight was at 10am. Pretty uneventful except for our 4yo – he was so excited about flying! As we were taxiing on the runway, he was telling everyone on the plane to “hang on everyone, here we go!”. He got some chuckles and applause – it was pretty cute. The kids enjoyed flying over the Grand Canyon, and we landed at LAX at about noon Pacific time.


…Getting to the airport in KC…



…Little guy excited to fly!



We had arranged for Prime Time Shuttle to take us from LAX to our hotel – the Long Beach Hilton. When we arrived at the Hilton, we asked for our rooms but only one was available. We were able to take our luggage to that room and since it was approaching 3pm (Our time, not Pacific time), we were pretty hungry. We decided to head over to the Long Beach Pierpoint Landing for lunch and strolling around.


…at LAX going to pick up our luggage



…if you’re in LA, you have to look like a movie star…



…Lobby of the Hilton Long Beach…



It’s a relatively short walk from the hotel (about ½ mile) and the kids had been cooped up most of the day, so it was nice to stretch our legs. In addition, we left 105 degree weather in KS so the 72 degrees in LA was a welcome change.


…Walking to the pier…


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Saturday, July 28, 2012 (cont.)


We decided to have lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp as our kids very much like the Forrest Gump movie and this is the first one we’ve ever been to. Lunch was in my opinion pretty expensive for what you get, but the food was good and waiters were great. It was a little loud, but the kids enjoyed it.


…everyone sitting around the table at Bubba Gump Shrimp…



…my wife enjoying her “Corona Rita”. (Surprisingly good!)



After lunch, we walked along the pier to the lighthouse then back around the pier shops. We stopped for ice cream and drinks in various places and just killed time for the rest of the day. When we tired, we grabbed some pizza to go at Boston’s (awesome pizza by the way) and headed back to the hotel.


…posing for a few shots on the pier across from the cruise terminal…



…little guy acting cool on the pier…



…HDR picture of the Queen Mary across the bay…



After dinner, we headed to bed. We still had not told the kids yet about the cruise…the big day is tomorrow!


...picture of the room at the Long Beach Hilton…


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Sunday, July 29, 2012



The next morning, we were up at 4am (Pacific time) because our bodies were still on KS time.


…view from the room at 4am…



The restaurant in the hotel didn’t open until 7 so we walked around for several hours until they opened. We had breakfast, but OUCH! Way too expensive for what you get. We spent $84 for 4 adults and 3 kids not including tip. My wife and I only got continental as it was only $12 as opposed to the hot breakfast which was over $20. Yeah…$12 for a croissant and OJ. The food was good, but the prices were much higher than we are used to.

After breakfast, we headed down to the lobby so we could use the free Wi-Fi and “face-time” my wife’s parents. Since they were not able to come, they still wanted to be a part of surprising the kids with the cruise. Someone in my SIL’s small group had made T-Shirts for the group with the names of everyone and a picture of a cruise ship with the Splendor’s name on it. We were going to give it to the kids to see if they could figure it out.

I was trying to be not-so obvious with my camera as I videoed the kids being told about the cruise. We were convinced my bud had figured it out ahead of time. Boy were we wrong! Princess actually figured it out first but I don’t think it really sunk in with any of them until we saw the trademark Carnival Whale Tail as we neared the pier. Bless his heart – the driver of the (free) shuttle from the Hilton knew what we were doing and he all but came to a complete stop on the bridge prior to entering the port so we could get pictures of the kids seeing the ship for the first time. Awesome guy, he got a little extra something’ for that.


…awesome driver stopped on the bridge to the port so we could see the funnel for the first time…



…here we are…



We arrived at the pier at about 9am, there were porters there to take our luggage right away. We walked from the drop-off location over to the check-in area (which is outside) and were 2nd in line. They weren’t ready for us, but after about 30 minutes, they started checking us in. We got zone 1 for both of our groups. There was a little bit of a hiccup because of my wife changing rooms at the last day before we left, but it ended up working out OK.


…will we be the first in line?



…checking in (they look happy, don’t they?)…


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Sunday, July 29, 2012 (cont.)

The rest of our group (2 other couples) had flown in that morning so they arrive shortly thereafter. Since it was so early, I took the boys to the QM and we just walked around the outside for a couple hours and took pictures and enjoyed the anticipation of getting on the ship.


…rear end of the Splendor sitting next to the QM…



…my bud goofing around the shops outside…



…I gave little guy one of our SHOCKPROOF and WATERPROOF cameras all week…got some interesting shots! (…and he loved it!)



…more goofing around…



By 11:30ish we saw the place was filling up and we saw some wedding parties heading into the terminal. Since my wife was VIP (suite), they told us our entire family could board VIP to keep us together, even though 3 of us weren’t in a suite. We gave our “Zone1” card to the other 2 couples who were in our group that arrived later. Bonus! (So I thought).


…we got Zone 1!


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Sunday, July 29, 2012 (cont.)

They finally started letting us in and we were the second ones in the terminal. We got the obligatory pictures taken and went up to have our S&S cards “buzzed” in. I was bringing up the rear of the family so I was last. Everyone else got thru and were standing on the breezeway waiting for me and my card set off alarms that sounded like I had just robbed a bank. Out of nowhere, security came over and told me there was a problem and that I had to follow them to a more secure area. They could not tell me more, but that the rest of the family should go on ahead without me because it would be a while. That’s all they would say. My wife was in a panic – asking me “what’s wrong? What should we do?” and I just told her to go on up to Lido and get the kids lunch.


I was a little worried, but not really. I’m not a smuggler of anything, and as far as I know, I had not done anything wrong. I thought *maybe* a pocket knife was in my luggage by accident (from a prior trip maybe?)…but really had no idea what was up. When I got to the “secure area”, they told me there were some dark items in my luggage that looked suspicious on the X-Ray scanner. They needed me to open the luggage (we had TSA locks on it).


Luckily I had the key on me. Luckily that particular piece of luggage had my name and not my wife’s name on it (because I’m the one that carry’s the keys). If they had pulled her, no way would she have been able to open the luggage for them to check it. Would have been nice to know at least we would need the keys before we separated.

I waited…and waited…and waited. About 15 minutes and hundreds of people were now on board. Finally they brought up my luggage and I unlocked it. They found 2 rolls of quarters that my wife had thrown in at the last minute for the kids to play in the arcade. That was it. So much for VIP embarkation.


I got back upstairs after wading through the photographer and security line again and my wife and our whole group was waiting on the gangway wide-eyed wondering if they were ever going to see me again. I explained to them what it was, and we all had a nervous laugh about it. Sheesh.

We promptly went to Lido and up to Rotisserie where we ate without too much crowding.


…looking out the window from Rotisserie…



…little man checking out the forbidden fruit (adult’s only area)…



…little man telling his sister this unbelievable story about there being FREE ice cream!



…me and little man checking out the secret deck on 7…



…front view from the secret deck on 7…


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Sunday, July 29, 2012 (cont.)

By about 1pm we checked out our rooms and they were ready. My bud likes to play around with my camera so he got some shots of the room with the new rental lens.


…interesting shot of the suite while Mom and I were checking out the Menu in the MDR…



…another angle…



…and another…



…looking down the hallway toward the front of the ship (like our door sign?)…



Soon it was time for Muster. Mom and little man had muster station E and the other kids and I had G so we were split up. My brother-in-law put little man up on his shoulders so he could see over the crowd. Poor little guy fell completely asleep on his shoulders and my wife said everyone was telling everyone in the are to be quiet because the little guy was sleeping, etc. I saw it but when I tried to take a picture the Muster Guard said no cameras or cell phones allowed on Muster deck. Hmm….

Soon we were underway. We decided to head to the secret deck for sail away. It was a pretty cool place to be, however the kids had a tough time seeing over the steel wall railing on the front.


…sailing away…



…blue whale we saw when we got underway…



Interesting to note that on several occasions we saw whales and dolphins on this trip. My bud even saw a jumping Manta Ray in Cabo. I have video of the dolphins – they were very dark colored. On the last sea day right before the “Groove for St. Jude”, we saw approx. 30-40 dolphins in 2 pods together right off the port side of the ship. I grabbed my zoom lens, popped up to take a picture, and CRUD! Battery was charging in the room. *sigh*.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012 (cont.)

Soon we were ready for dinner in the MDR. We had early dining time (6pm).

We met our waiters Learoy, Made and Mellardo. All of them are wonderful men who took very good care of our kids. Also, Desi the Matre’d fell in love with little man. She came over and sat with him almost every night and danced with him, etc. We took some pictures and sent to her after the trip.


…sushi before dinner…



…little man had the hot dog…



…princess had the sweet & sour shrimp…



…I had the braised beef…



…my bud just before the first bite of his all-time favorite dessert…



…I like mine runny with 2 ice creams…


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Sunday, July 29, 2012 (cont.)

No day would be complete without the towel animal pictures…


…I’ve never been able to figure out what this thing is, but the kids liked it…



…and little man from his room with mom…



…and finally the sunset from the back of the Splendor…


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Monday, July 30, 2010

Day at Sea


We got up early as usual and it was too early for breakfast on Lido. We had ordered room service the night before so little man and I had breakfast out on the suite balcony.


…little man enjoying his lucky charms & OJ, me my lox/bagel and coffee…



…after a while the older kids got up and we could see them looking out the balcony…



Decided to grab some breakfast on Lido after it opened up, so we all went out for “2nd breakfast”.


…breakfast options on the buffet…



For some reason, almost every day they had baked beans on the hot breakfast buffet line. Who eats those for breakfast? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never heard of that before. Anyway, continuing on…


…a little breakfast food picture…



The kids were itching to get in the water, but it was an overcast chilly morning. The slide was still closed. Decided to try out the hot tubs for a while until the other stuff opened up.


…little man in the hot tub on deck 10 above Lido…


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Monday, July 30, 2010 (cont.)

As the morning drew on the sun came out and it got warmer. The kids enjoyed the slide and pool. I swam with them a bit while my wife lay in the sun watching from a distance. I almost missed our M&G in the sports bar – so I went down there and talked for a while and then went around the ship taking some pictures.



I’ll suspend the wordier review portion here for pictures of the ship areas. They are in no particular order.


…Promenade (Deck 5) just aft of the casino looking aft…



Martini Bar (Promenade aft): The service wasn’t that great here so we quit going. The large pillars made it difficult to talk if your group was more than 2-3 people. On the Liberty (Funship 2.0), it’s called the “Alchemy Bar” - it’s more wide open, and the drinks are pretty inventive. I can’t wait for that upgrade to the Splendor.


…martini bar…



Sushi Bar (California Roll): Important to note that it was closed on the first formal night – and didn’t serve sushi on 2 other nights. This created a HUGE demand where the lines started 30 minutes before it opened. The lines were 40-50 people deep from each side of the bar. The sushi was really good, but the long lines and the fact that it was only open a limited number of nights was frustrating.


…the sushi bar…



…from promenade looking down to the atrium area…



…atrium stairway…



…the atrium…


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Monday, July 30, 2010 (cont.)

Continuing my walk around the ship taking some pictures. I sure do love that rental lens…


…deck 3 outside under the life boats…



…another view of the lobby atrium area…



…nice view looking out the front…



…Guest Services…



…Spectacular Lounge…



…the Atrium from above…


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Monday, July 30, 2010 (cont.)


…Lido deck from below the big screen…



…Lido deck from above the big screen…



…Lido deck looking forward…



…water slide and hot tub looking forward (Deck 11)…



…water park (behind the Lido roof, ahead of the funnel)…



…everyone eating ice cream looking at the forbidden fruit…


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Monday, July 30, 2010 (cont.)


…me and the guys doing our dance in the “Battle of the Sexes” game. We got a medal…




…Piano Bar (Promenade aft behind the Martini Bar)…



…entrance to the Golden Pearl…



…water slide…



…picture of our standard balcony room…




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Monday, July 30, 2010 (cont.)


…ok, is this weird? Picture of the suite bathroom…



…this is the little dressing area/closet entrance to the bathroom in the suite (probably shouldn’t have used the fisheye here)…




…suite balcony…



…typical Splendor décor. Personally, I don’t like it but I’ve heard from many that do…



…Promenade between the Candy shop and the Sports Bar…



…Standard cold cereal & milk selection…


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Monday, July 30, 2010 (cont.)

We took little man to Camp Carnival for a couple hours while the older kids swam all afternoon and wore themselves out. Of course it was “cruise elegant” night so everyone was back in our cabins early to get ready for dinner.


Every night of the cruise, we let the kids all get their own virgin version of any of the drinks they wanted. It was fun for them.


...my wife and princess with their drinks before dinner…



…princess checking out the Fun Times…



…my wife and I with a quick shot before dinner (hopefully I’m not hurting anyone’s sensibilities by not wearing a jacket)…



…my wife and little man…



…Princess and I a dinner…



…and no elegant night would be complete without the obligatory shot of the lobster…



Interesting Note: My wife and I did the Chef’s Table (coming up soon) – and one thing I asked Chef Sanjay was how many lobsters were consumed during this night. He wouldn’t give me a straight answer on the total numbers, but he did tell me it was a higher than usual number. In fact, he said there was a group of “young men” who were having a contest on who could eat the most lobsters. The winner ate 34. He said the main problem was that the servers and housekeeping were really worried and scrambling to get them out of there because of the next dinner seating. He also said he would be calling corporate to order additional lobster “stock” as he had fallen well below his “par” amount that they keep on board for overages like this.

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Monday, July 30, 2010 (cont.)

Continuing with the Cruise Elegant pictures…


…I had surf & turf…both prime rib and lobster…



Right before dessert was served, little man said he was going to throw up. Quickly I put a napkin over his face with my hands cupped in front of him. Like I was going to do any good like that, right? Anyway, I picked him up and rushed as fast as I could thru the dining room with one arm around his waist and the other hand with a napkin around his face to the bathroom on deck 5 right outside the Golden Pearl. Right as we hit the door, he went. All over himself and the floor of the bathroom.


There’s no paper towels in any of the public bathrooms on board. What to do? I just scraped him off as best I could with my fingers. By this time my wife was outside the door to the men’s room and we decided that she would take him upstairs to bed. She didn’t get to eat her dessert…so I asked Learoy for a “to-go” one that I was able to take her.


…my wife got this caramel apple thing for dessert. It was awesome, but she didn’t get to eat it…



After dinner, I took the older kids to the family friendly comedy show and it was very funny. A blond-carrot top looking guy – the kids really enjoyed it.


…towel animal for the evening…


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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cabo San Lucas, Day 1


Little man was feeling much better so we were up and ready for breakfast early. We had early breakfast of Lucky charms and Lox/Bagel, then when the older kids were awake, we had 2nd breakfast up on Lido.


…feeling much better now…



We could see land out the Lido restaurant windows so we knew we were getting close. We decided to head up to see the views entering Cabo.


…Entering Cabo…



...careful going outside…that first step’s a doozy…



…The Arch from the Pacific side…



…crazy big waves…



…there were already several tour boats out on the water before we arrived…


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Tuesday, July 31, 2012 (cont.)


…Marina in Cabo…



…Arch from the Sea of Cortez side…



…Southernmost point on the Baja Peninsula…



We didn’t have anything planned for the day except walking around and maybe finding a beach so we didn’t get in line for Tender tickets. However, one of the other couples in our party had gone down and stood in line and got #4 tender tickets and gave us 5 of them. Pretty cool! We walked down to the Spectacular Theater and there was a line of people heading down. We got in the back of the line and followed down below and got on the Tender.


…Little Man riding on the tender into Cabo…



…Princess on the tender…



…my Bud on the tender…


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Tuesday, July 31, 2012 (cont.)


Welcome to Cabo!



Other than the sign, the first thing that greets you when you get to Cabo is the street vendors. Mostly, they consist of 3 groups:


The first group is “middlemen” who want to sell you water-taxi transportation for other people (of which they get a cut of the ride, tour, whatever). The water taxi trips can be a tour taking you to the Los Arcos (the arch), Lover’s Beach, Medano Beach, etc. They also advertise parasailing, jet-skis, kayaking, etc. They all are selling for the same limited number of vendors.


The second group is people that are selling trinkets and other misc. wares.


The third group is shop owners from shops, tours or restaurants that want you to buy something in their store.


…a group of middle-men and women selling tours from other companies…



I will say here that I understand people having to make a living, and this being one of the only ships that stop in Cabo, it’s an important way for them to get income. I have to make a living, too. However, I don’t harass people to make my living. The level of obstruction and harassment is enough that I would prefer not to go to Cabo again. Yes, they have beautiful places to visit and a nice area, but from there were swarms of little kids asking for “tip, please…sir? Just a little?”. There were I would guess around 100 adults asking me where I’m going and what I’m doing as we walked around the marina.

The worst, however was when we went to Medano beach. We negotiated for a water taxi for $3 per person for round trip there and back when we were done. As soon as we got off the boat (it was difficult for a couple people to get on and off the boat from the beach, FYI) there were vendors (again, middle-men) selling us umbrella and chair rentals. We rented an umbrella. The problem is that we literally could not see our kids playing in the water because of the vendors trying to sell us stuff. They had large folding placards with their wares on them holding them in front of you. When you try to move to see the kids, they move with you making it all but impossible to watch out for your family. It’s that bad. Again, I understand having to make a living – but there becomes a point where you really can’t safely enjoy your vacation because of the constant hounding...and it’s sad because other than that, I liked Cabo.


…Princess looking at jewelry in an open-air store on the street…



…my wife did get a ring she liked…


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Tuesday, July 31, 2012 (cont.)


…we got some t-shirts here…



Cabo Wabo was nice because it was dark and air conditioned and we were pretty hot from walking around and shopping in the open-air markets. The prices were fairly reasonable (drinks were 2-for-1 in a coupon the ship gives you as you debark)…but the food was kind of “meh”. I ordered buffalo wings and they literally tasted like fried chicken drenched in ketchup. My wife had the nachos and they were bland. Little man had the chicken fingers and we all love them. The service was pretty slow but they were busy. They also had some live music which consisted of some locals playing some 80’s hair band music. The band was pretty loud and hard to talk over, but that’s to be expected and it looked like many people were enjoying themselves.


…went to Cabo Wabo…







…Our family at Cabo Wabo…



On our way back to the marina to find a water taxi to Medano beach, there is some old rusty chain link fence with holes in it where some people sell stuff out of the back of their cars through the holes. There was a guy holding a bright green iguana. Now, Princess has a big empathetic heart and is an animal lover of all kinds, no matter what. Based on our earlier experiences in the day with street vendors (they target the kids a lot of the time), I had told all the kids not to talk to or look directly at any of the vendors. Bless her heart, she didn’t, but this little iguana got her attention and she started walking right toward him before she remembered. I went to grab her hand and this guy said “oh, it’s OK sir, she can see him, you take a picture, no charge”. I thought this was a pretty nice gesture so I told her it was OK. We took the picture and then he said – “sir, you owe me a tip now.” I said – you said it was free…then he started pleading with me for a tip so I gave him a dollar. Then he started pleading for more and more about how poor he is, etc. so I gave him one more and we just ignored his pleas for additional compensation as we continued down the boardwalk. Sheesh.


…iguana guy…



Anyway, we went to Medano beach, all 9 of us in a water taxi. One of the gals with us is pregnant so taking extra care it took a couple of us big guys to assist her in and out of the boat from the beach. Just something to be aware of if you’re not really athletic.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012 (cont.)


My wife and I and one other couple from our party had signed up for the Chef’s Table and this was the night. Our regular dinner time was scheduled for 6:00 and the Chef’s Table participants were to meet in the Lobby Bar at 6:30 to begin. My Sister-in-Law took the kiddos for the evening, which was very nice of her.


This was the second time we did the Chef’s Table, but this time I brought my camera (they specifically say not to take pictures in the galley and I misunderstood next time and didn’t bring it at all).


We started this night in the Galley prep area where they explained to us how they order food and the different lines where food is prepped and created. We enjoyed a couple of appetizers in the galley (no pictures, sorry) but they consisted of a Parmesan stuffed Olive, Chorizo Stuffed Date, and some Prosciutto and Sun Dried tomato fritters. They also served us Champagne as they walked us through the different areas in the galley. Since it was during the early seating dinner, we got to see quite a bit of the action as it was going on. They then took us to the pastry area where they proceeded to go into detail about how Melting Chocolate Cake is made. (my favorite!)


After that, the head chef Sanjay took us to a private room forward of the Black Pearl where we introduced ourselves and the other chefs. (the light was pretty dim in the room and I didn’t want to lug my flash all night so some of the pictures might not be that great. Sorry.)


…Chef Sanjay…



I don’t know who the other chefs where, but I did get their pictures…










…our Wine hostess for the evening (I knew what she did!)…


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