Ruby Princess Debuts|
The last brand new Princess Cruises ship scheduled for the Princess Cruises fleet will be introduced to the public Thursday night, November 6. Princess currently has no more ships on order, so this will be the newest Princess ship until at least 2012, as far as we know. Ruby Princess is a sister ship to Crown and Emerald Princess, which debuted two years ago. She is not an identical twin sister, however. There are a few subtle differences.
Ruby Princess will be christened in Fort Lauderdale Thursday, November 6.
At approximately 113,000 tons, Ruby is a mega-ship, bigger than as any Carnival ship afloat. Still, we consider Princess to be a premium cruise line, a cut above Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL which are considered "mainstream" cruise lines, also called "contemporary" in the industry. Why? Because Ruby has two small dining rooms onboard, one of them offering anytime dining with open, "Personal Choice" dining. You dine when and with whom you please, at a table for two or a table for ten, your choice.
Ruby Princess also has two alternative dining restaurants, the Italian "Sabatini's" and the steakhouse grill "Crown Grill." It also has the optional Sabatini's breakfast for suite passengers featuring an exclusive morning meal served in the Italian restaurant as well as the Wheelhouse Bar Pub Lunch featuring traditional British favorites like bangers & mash, fish and chips, cottage pie and a selection of beer. This is served from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on sea days at no additional charge.
Ruby Princess will be christened by Trista and Ryan Sutter, who were featured on the popular televison show "The Bachelorette." I will be at the ceremony taking video and pictures, and will be sending pictures and other updates back to CruiseMates right after the ceremony and during the follow-up two-day orientation cruise.
Ruby Princess will spend its maiden season sailing seven-night Western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale to Jamaica's Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and the Princess private island.
Next, on November 18, I will be attending the inaugural ceremony for the new Celebrity Solstice, also in Fort Lauderdale. Now, while Ruby Princess is just an iteration of an existing cruise ship design which many of us are already familiar with, Celebrity Solstice is an brand new class of ship about to be introduced to the cruising public for the very first time.
I put both Princess and Celebrity, along with Holland America, into the "premium" category of cruise lines. These lines are considered a cut above the "contemporary" mainstream lines mentioned above. However, an interesting side note is that many cruise experts who work as travel agents do not put Princess into this category.
I am not saying these people are wrong, but I want to point out that the main reason is because many Princess ships are much bigger than the current fleet of Holland America and Celebrity ships. As I said, Ruby Princes is 113,000-ton of displacement. Of the seventeen Princess cruise ships in service, six of them are of this post 110,000-tons mega-ship size. The rest of the Princess fleet is under 100,00 tons, and many of them are the same size as the average Holland America ship, about 80,000-tons.
Now, I need you to understand that in most cases smaller ships are considered better. Why? Larger ships not only have more passengers, they generally cater to more younger passengers so there is more noise and distractions onboard. Also, fewer passengers means more personalized service, shorter lines and hotter food, etc. Still, the truth is that size is not the only factor that defines whether a ship is "contemporary mainstream," or "premium" or even "luxury." It can be but one factor.
And here ios the exception that may or may not prove the rule; while many experts will argue that Celebrity is a premium cruise line while Princess is not, the fact is that the new Celebrity Solstice coming in two weeks weighs in at an even bigger 122,000-tons of displacement, larer than Ruby Princess, but it carries only 2850 passengers. The argument then becomes not sheer size alone, but passenger/space ratio, or the amount of ship area you have per passenger onboard.
No doubt, Celebrity and Holland America ships generally offer more ship per passenger than Princess, but I still believe Princess provides a premium product. The average Princess ship is generally much smaller than these mega-ships, and these larger ships tend to offer all of the amenities of the smaller ships, including excellent wine service in the dining rooms, a higher quality menu in the dining rooms and a plethora of onboard enrichment programs such as cooking classes.
Still, I cannot mislead you. I expect to find a lovely ship when I visit Ruby Princess tonight, but I am really looking forward to an especially nice ship when I first view Celebrity Solstice. Queen Mary 2 is the ship that changed my view on whether ship size reflects its quality. Queen Mary 2 is over 148,000-tons and carries 2620 passengers. That is a lot of ship per guest, and the space is used to give the ship a feeling a grandeur - NOT to pack in a lot of extra useless knick knacks that don't add that much to the experience.
Premium is a perception. Princess is a great cruise line, with the kind of consistency that defines a great hotel chain. Still, many people will still argue that Celebrity is a cut above.
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