Ruby Princess Debuts

The newest jewel, Ruby Princess, receives a ceremonial welcome worthy of her name in Fort Lauderdale.

The theme for the inaugural of Ruby Princess on November 6, 2008, was "Ruby Red Tie." It was most fitting for a ship naming ceremony that featured a live wedding ceremony. Even better, serving as Godmother and Godfather for the ship naming itself was the couple who gave America one of the most romantic events on television in the last five years; Trista and Ryan Sutter from the show "The Bachelorette."

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Trista presides over the naming ceremony   Ryan, Trista, Gavin, Alan Buckelew, Micky Arison   The live wedding ceremony during the inaugural

The ceremony took place in the pool deck area onboard the ship. All of the crew in uniform was assembled in an eye-pleasing color coordinated array of witnesses to the live wedding arranged by Princess for a lucky couple who won by contest. Standing in to give away the bride was Merrill Stubing himself, better known as Gavin MacLeod in real life.

Video of Ruby Princess Champagne Breaking   Highly recommended video! This video shows the moment when Tristan and Ryan give the ship's blessing and let the champagne bottle drop. Pink champagne, naturally!

First the bride and groom exchanged vows, and then Ryan and Trista gave the ship its blessing, "We name this ship Ruby Princess, God bless her and all that sail upon her." At that point a bottle of champagne fell with an audible shatter on the deck below the podium in full view of the assembled admirers.

The ship's horn blew and ruby red confetti and streamers appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Everyone drank a toast of pink champagne.

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Trista, Ryan and the Arisons   Ryan and Trista   The Wedding Couple cuts the Cake
Ruby Princess

Princess Cruises Lines exudes confidence in everything that it does. And why shouldn't it? They are consistently one of the most well received cruise lines in the world. It is the consistency with which Princess operates that makes them special, a cut above the rest. When you go on a Princess cruise you are assured that you will have great service, outstanding cuisine and onboard activities to match.

What makes Princess so good?

Princess Cruise Line started out as the first West Coast passenger ship cruise line, sailing seven-day round-trip voyages from San Pedro to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Today they have sixteen ships sailing throughout the world. In fact, if there is any region where Princess is not overly saturated it is the Caribbean. No, you are much more likely to find a Princess cruise sailing from Tahiti, Hong Kong or Alaska than you are to find them sailing a seven-day cruise from Miami.

After the inaugural ceremony we had a chance to speak with company President Alan Buckelew. Naturally many of the questions had to do with the economy and whether Princess was seeing a noticeable effect on its bookings.

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The Library   The Piazza   The Sanctuary

"Not really," Mr Buckelew said, "primarily because we are known as a cruise line that offers once in a lifetime voyages. We sail to exotic markets and our cruises average 10 1/2 nights. Therefore, our guests do not make their decisions lightly. If they have already committed to a cruise with us they tend to stick with it."

Indeed, I understand what he is saying. The Princess cruises I have taken have all been ten to twelve days and generally cover great distances. My first was from Istanbul to Barcelona. My second one was from Miami to Acapulco, through the Panama Canal, and my last one covered much of the Aegean Sea beginning in Rome and ending in Venice.

Another question about Princess had to do with the categorization of the cruise line as a "premium" line. For clarification, there are different strata of cruise lines that many cruise agents and cruise aficionados use where they put Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean in the most common category; called "contemporary," and then the next level higher is called "premium." In the premium category are Celebrity and Holland America. Princess has also qualified as premium in the past, but these days some agents and cruisers have decided she belongs in the contemporary category.

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Botticcelli dining room   Explorers Lounge   Lotus Spa

Why the controversy? Prior to 1998 Princess had been building smaller, more intimate vessels of 77,000-tons for 1950 passengers. Many of these ships are still in service on more adventurous cruises to exotic destinations between 12 to 30 or more days. These ships are elegant and tastefully appointed, and the staff ratio of almost one crewmember to every two passengers is enough to give a level of service on par with the best cruise ships in service.

But the company also got a taste for larger ships and in 1998 introduced a 109,000-ton ship for 2600 passengers, and 1100 crewmembers. With the larger ships came a deeper commitment to the family market, and to young adults who wanted shorter cruises on flashier vessels. With this transition, some of the more ardent small ship cruisers left for Holland America and Celebrity, even though Princess kept its standards up and continued to fill its ships with some new passengers.

Ruby Princess is the ninth Princess ship greater than 110,000-tons, and the third one to squeeze over 3000 passengers into that space. And so, the question was asked, "Can Princess still justify the moniker of premium cruise line?"

"Absolutely," replied Buckelew, "because we cater to more exotic and adventurous itineraries and our customer profile has not changed dramatically in the last ten years."

Indeed, Ruby Princess is a lovely ship in many ways. She is tasteful and feels cozy but not crowded. She is not given over to tremendous dining rooms that span three decks, all of her dining rooms are but one deck tall. Her diners are split up into two different dining rooms and dining times are pre-set in one room and open seating in the other. There is a great deal of flexibility on Princess ships including the first and still one of the only true 24-hour lido cafes at sea - a concept they innovated back in the 1990s.

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Crown Grill   Davinci Dining Room   Sabatinis Dining Room

Suffice it to say that if you love Emerald or Crown Princess, as we did, you will also love Ruby Princess. Although all three are nearly identical in terms of superstructure design, in terms of interior d�cor this is my favorite. I found the green on Emerald to be a bit clammy. Ruby has delicious pastel pink and rich burgundy to accent the brass and glass. She is a class act.

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