Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Harry F Smith Eastern Mediterranean June 9, 2009
About the Reviewer I am a 49 Y/O married man with 2 kids ages 11 and 12. This was our 5th cruise and 2nd with Princess. I am a Naval Officer. I selected this cruise due to the itinerary and the brand new ship, Ruby Princess.
Embarkation/Disembarkation Embarkation was flawless and fast. We arrived at the Port of Venice at 1130. From entrance to the terminal to boarding the ship, total time elapsed was 30 minutes. Disembarkation did not fare as well. Specifically, we opted for the "self disembarkation" status since we had our own arrangements to get to our hotel in Rome. We were off the ship by 0730 only to discover our luggage had been placed in an outdoor tent way too small for all the luggage in pouring rain. Upon entering the chaos in the tent, we found our luggage sitting in 4 inches of water! To add insult, everyone and their luggage was so jammed packed under the tent, I had to carry each back at waist level tippy toeing around passengers to get out.With all our clothes wet, it meant wearing the same clothes for another 2 days.
Service As in the past with Sea Princess, room and restaurant service was top notch. Our steward and waiter would do anything to ensure our satisfaction. One note of difference, the servers in the buffet area were exceptional. From the moment you sat down till the moment you left, someone was always ensuring your coffee was hot and your juice glasses filled. If however, you tried to get a drink using your free refill card in any show lounge, FORGET IT, servers avoided us like the plague.
Ruby Princess gets failing grades with the pursers' desk, the two Brazilian individuals in particular were no less than awful, acting annoyed if your needs were not simple and quick. In addition, another area terribly concerning was the level of response to a legitimate health concern within the room. Immediately upon initial arrival in our stateroom (235 Aloha Deck) we noticed an overpowering smell of volatile organic compounds (VOC's) like varnish or paint thinner. My wife was experiencing an immediate reaction of headache, nausea and dizziness. Princess staff acted as if there was no smell. It was not until I identified myself as someone with a Masters in Occupational Health that they began taking action. It took 4 hours to get a response to our concern whereby we were offered a temporary alternate cabin for the night. Needless to say, our port day in Venice was ruined.
Itinerary This particular cruise was very port intensive, calling on 10 ports in 12 days including Venice where we were docked a day and a half before leaving. Each stop was very beautiful. What was very disappointing was how early we were required to pull out each afternoon (4:30-5:30). Trips between ports of call taking 3-4 hours by regional ferries (such as Athens to Mykonos) required we take 12-14 hours, crawling at 10 knots. We can only assume Princess wanted us on board to spend money or they were too cheap to burn fuel at a higher rate. With excursions getting back at 3:30 or 4:30, it left little or no time to legitimately explore on your own.
Also of note, when 3080 passengers plus some crew descend upon quaint ports such as Mykonos or Santorini, you will find yourself dodging massive crowds and tour groups of 30 to 40 people, not exactly relaxing.
Food Food was hit or miss, overall I would rate it 3.5 out of five. In general, we found the food in the buffet area for dinner to be bland and lacking. I offer some details of foods not to be missed and foods better left alone.
Foods Not to be Missed: Pizza (YUM!) Fettuccini Alfredo in main dinning room (best I have ever had anywhere) Chocolate cake in main piazza pastry shop Pork Belly in main dining room NY cheese cake
Foods Better Left Alone: Steaks (any and all) in main dining area, they were bland and tough mousse -- they tasted like eating grease chocolate cakes in buffet area (bland)
Onboard Experience Overall Princess gets high marks for keeping 3000 passengers apart using clever tactics such as two show rooms offering the same shows twice in a row so passengers can view both shows over two separate nights. One feature that really, really jumped out at us was how Princess constantly marketed to us. The "Welcome Aboard Show" featured 45 minutes of Princess hocking their wares, showing all the places you could spend additional $$ such as the optional dining rooms, very disappointing. If you are planning a cruise on Ruby, skip the opening show unless you like to be shaken down to spend money. On the first formal night there were no less than six photography stations set up, two blocking main passageways. I made no apologies for waling right through a photo shoot taking place directly in the path of passengers along the main Promenade deck. Spirits, beer and wine are reasonably priced from $3.50 to $7.00.
Concluding Remarks Overall, the trip was nice, but I would caution expecting rest and relaxation. With more time in each port and less being marketing to, the experience might have been more enjoyable and relaxing.
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Ken T. Eastern Mediterranean May 28, 2009
We were on back-to-back cruises aboard the Ruby Princess from 28 May to 9 June and 9 June to 21 June 2009. We are Elite Captain's Club members so we are familiar with a lot of their ships and the services provided. Our overall impression of both cruises was that they were excellent, but there were some limitations regarding the ship and the services.
Cabins Our most serious complaint concerns the outside cabins. We have purchased inside, outside, balcony and suite cabins on various Princess ships and have always been satisfied with what we received -- up until these cruises. On these two cruises, we reserved outside cabins without balconies and expected to receive a cabin with a configuration like that shown on the Princess web site. NOT SO -- BE WARNED. The outside cabins are nothing like the one shown on the web site. That representation is much like all the cabins we have had on other Princess ships and it is what we expected on these cruises, but Princess has made some radical changes to their outside cabins andthe result is nothing less than horrible.
We were given a cabin that had a queen bed pushed into a corner of the room with the head of the bed under the window. On the left side of the bed was a single nightstand with two attached lamps. Obviously, the nightstand was supposed to be used between two single beds. When the two beds were pushed together to form a queen, the nightstand provided light and storage for only one person. The other person could not read in bed and was forced to climb over the top of the bed to enter and exit.
There was one small table and one chair in the room and the table was blocking the door to the refrigerator. The only drawers in the room were those very small ones in the nightstand. All the other storage was in the form of shelves under the vanity or in the closet area. The bathroom storage was almost non-existent with two small, exposed shelves in one corner.
The inside cabins on the Ruby Princess are better than the outside cabins. We looked at several of them on the first day of the second cruise when all the doors were left open to greet the new guests boarding for that cruise. We also showed our cabin steward a copy of the configuration shown on the web site and asked him if any of the outside cabins looked like it. He said he had never seen an outside cabin on the Ruby Princess like the one represented.
We, of course, made our way to the Purser's desk immediately upon seeing the cabin and made known our displeasure. We were at first told that they might not be able to do anything about the situation as the ship was full and no other cabins were available. As it turned out, the head of Passenger Services did eventually come up with an upgraded cabin that had the configuration that we wanted. It was a balcony cabin. However, it was necessary for us to spend a couple of uncomfortable days in the first cabin before the other one opened up. On the second cruise, we had to go back to the first cabin for one day before another balcony cabin became available for us. It took some shuffling and a lot of wasted time, but we were finally satisfied with the result. The head of Passenger Services was very cooperative and did everything she could to satisfy our needs. She is to be commended for her efforts.
The one redeeming factor regarding the cabins was the closet space. It was excellent in all the cabin categories. The cabins also had nice vanities, but they lacked drawer space.
Food We took anytime dining on both cruises and ate almost all of our meals in the restaurant that provided that option. That included breakfast, lunch and dinner. We felt that the food on both cruises was excellent, even a cut above some of the other Princess ships we have been on. Strangely, it seemed like the food in the restaurant was better prepared and tastier on the first cruise and the deserts were better on the second cruise. We noticed a lot of crew people leaving the ship at various ports and surmise that we may have lost or gained some cooks and pastry chefs along the way.
We liked the fact that the dining rooms were opened every day for all meals. Some ships don't open their dining rooms for meals other than dinner on port days and everyone is forced to use the lido restaurant. We prefer to take as many meals as possible in the more formal restaurants. On those few occasions when we did use the lido restaurants, we found the selection and quality to be good.
Service The room stewards all did good jobs. Those servicing the balcony cabins seemed to be a bit more experienced. Whatever is lacking in the room service seems to be the fault of the people working at the Princess on-land offices. We are asked for our onboard preference at the My Princess web site regarding robes, beverages, fruit, etc. Apparently, this information was not transmitted to the room stewards as nothing in the room matched what we had ordered. It was necessary to contact Room Service to correct this situation. It is not a huge issue, but we wonder why Princess asks for our preferences if they don't intend to follow though and satisfy our requests.
The dining room service was excellent on the first cruise, but extremely slow on a few nights of the second cruise. There did not seem to be any noticeable reason for the slowness on the second cruise. Everyone was commenting about it but nobody knew what was going on. On two occasions, we spent nearly 3 hours having a normal dinner. Most of that time was spent waiting to order or for the next course to be brought. The waiters seemed to be having a good time and were under no noticeable stress. We were told that both cruises were full, but there seemed to be a lot more people on the second cruise. I am not sure how that could happen unless there were multiple cabins with more than 2 people to a cabin. We missed two shows because we were unable to get out of the restaurant in time.
Shows We are not big on production shows and only saw one. It was well done. We prefer the comedians, magicians, jugglers, etc. Unfortunately, Princess seems to be cutting back on some of the shows and replacing them with games provided by the cruise staff. In the past most of the Princess ships had two venues for shows; the Princess Theatre where the production shows are shown and a smaller venue like the Explorer's Lounge where comedy and magic acts were performed. They would usually have the same show repeated for two nights so everyone had an opportunity to see both shows on one or the other night. Each show was usually performed at least twice each night. On these cruises, there were times when only one show was presented in the Princess Theatre and the acts in the alternative venue were replaced with game shows or art auctions. We did not understand why this was done as all the entertainers were onboard and could have performed.
Tours We took Princess tours in 13 ports. They all had very knowledgeable guides that spoke excellent English although some had heavier accents than others. The buses provided were all in excellent condition and most of the drivers did a good job. Some were a little aggressive and scared the devil out of pedestrians as well as passengers that were watching the pedestrians jump out of the way of the oncoming bus. Drivers in this part of Europe have a lot of faith in other drivers. Pedestrians need to beware. One guide told us there are two kinds of pedestrians in Italy, the daring and the dead.
Be forewarned that there is a LOT of walking on most of the tours provided on these cruises and a lot of it is up some very steep hills and/or over uneven ground. Several people on each cruise required medical treatment as the result of falls taken while on various tours. Some of them were fortunate that the injuries were not more severe. Pickpockets were also very active and few days passed without someone mentioning that they had lost property while on a tour. These crooks are very professional and you don't even notice them being part of your group until it is too late.
Docks and Shuttles Many cruisers would like to go into the nearest town at some ports rather than take a Princess tour. Shuttles are often provided. Some charge a minimal fee and some are free. It is often very difficult to find this information before you arrive at a port. The information below pertains to our cruises only. It can vary by company and on each cruise with the same company. This information is taken from the Princess Patter. We took Princess tours in most of the ports and only took a shuttle on a couple of occasions.
Monte Carlo: We were under the impression that we would tender into Monte Carlo, but we docked. There was no shuttles provided, but it was not far to walk to town. The Princess Patter stated that walking around the harbor to the Casino would take about 30/40 minutes.
Livorno: Shuttles were provided by a private operator. Cost to the Livorno train station was 12 Euro ($15.00) per person for cruisers wanting to take a train to Pisa or Florence.
Civitavecchia: A complimentary shuttle was provided from the ship to the Port Gates in Civitavecchia. From there it was about a 10-minute walk to the railway station. Information was also provided about the cost of trains to Rome, but there is too much of it to include here.
Naples: On our first cruise, a complimentary shuttle was provided from the ship at Pier 21 to the Stazione Marittima (Maritime Station) where public ferries to Capri and Sorrento depart. On our second visit to Naples, no shuttle was provided, but it was only a short walk to the ferry depot. We took the ferry to Capri and back and it was an easy day once we found out where and how to purchase tickets and where to get on the boat. The Princess tour office onboard has a printed sheet available that provided the names of the boat companies servicing Sorrento and Capri. It also provides the cost of tickets, but the information was outdated and the cost was higher than stated. Just use this information as a general guide. The Princess Patter stated, "Please be advised that return tickets from Capri on the independent hydrofoil can only be purchased whilst in Capri on a first come first served basis -- please be careful when returning as hydrofoils do get very busy in late afternoon." The boat going to Capri was full. We returned on a boat in the early afternoon and it was less than half full. Later boats may have had more passengers.
Mykonos: On the first cruise, we anchored off shore and a shuttle boat was provided at no cost. On the second cruise, the boat docked at Tourlos Pier about 1.2 miles from town. A private shuttle was provided and the cost was Euro 7.00 per person round trip. Princess advised against walking into town, because there is no sidewalk.
Istanbul: Salipazari Cruise Port is located approximately 2.5 miles from the main tourist attractions. There was an independent shuttle bus service from the pier to a drop off point in the Grand Bazaar area. A guide was aboard the bus. She walked us into town and showed us where we would meet to return to the bus. The cost was US $12.00 per person for a round trip ticket. Tickets were purchased at the Shuttle Desk inside the terminal.
Kusadasi: The ship docked a short walk from the center of town. Kusadasi has the second largest bazaar in Turkey after Istanbul. It is a very clean and interesting area to shop and bargains are available. Bargaining is encouraged. Taxis to Ephesus are about $60.00 to $70.00 each way.
Athens: The ship docked at Kanelos Pier (Piraeus). A complimentary shuttle service was available between the ship and the Main Cruise Ship terminal. At the main Terminal taxi service was available.
Venice: Princess has a water shuttle available that goes from the cruise ship pier to St. Marks Square. The cost is $15.00 per person and it can be used all day and the next morning. The vendor provides maps of Venice. Be sure you get one. You can take a local waterbus down the Grand Canal to Piazzale Roma where it is about a 20 minute walk back to the pier. Be sure to get directions from a knowledgeable local about the route back to the ship. It can be confusing. Taxis are also available at the Piazzale that will take you back to the ship for a fee.
Dubrovnik: The ship docks about 3 miles from downtown. A local shuttle bus ran between the ship and Pile Square. Cost was 5.00 Euros each way.
Corfu: A shuttle bus was provided from the ship to the terminal building. Outside the terminal building, there was a local bus at the other end of the parking lot that took us into downtown Corfu for one Euro twenty. The bus was a little hard to find because it was always parked behind another bus. Ask the lady handing out information brochures just inside the terminal building. She walked us out to the parking lot and showed us where to find the bus. Princess did not provide information about this local bus. I learned about it from the lady mentioned above.
Katakolon: The ship docked about 700 yards from the fishing village of Katakolon. The village had a couple of blocks of tourist stores. One storeowner said that she closed up as soon as the ship left. The stores were all very nice and had good merchandise.
Rhodes: The ship docks at Rhodes Commercial Harbor about 300 yards from the Old Town Entrance (it is a flat walk to town). This is another fun place to walk around and check the shops.
Santorini: Independent passengers will be tendered to the port of Skala where there is a cable car that goes up the mountain to Thira. The cable car is 4 euros per person each way. You can also walk up or down the donkey path if you don't mind dodging what the donkeys leave behind. Expect lines and crowds at the cable car. Thira is another fun place to take a walk and window shop.
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Mary & Vincent Finelli Western Caribbean January 24, 2009
We booked our 40th (ruby) Wedding Anniversary cruise on the Ruby Princess -- very fitting. The Ruby is a most elegant ship; while berthed in Port Everglades, she is unmistakable with the distinctive logo of a Princess with flowing hair. She is the newest of the fleet and a credit to Fincantieri, her constructors. Captain Tony Draper (Scotland and Cornwall) is a very personable and erudite gentleman -- We look forward to sailing with him again in the near future.
Embarkation The Ft. Lauderdale Port is a highly secure one, so on the way to the pier allow time for up to 30 minutes for security checks. We arrived at 12:45pm and had wheelchair assistance; we were through check-in, which is done by separate counters for each deck. This system makes the lines shorter and faster. We were on board by 1:15 and in our cabin. After checking on our dinner arrangements with our old friend Maitre D' Generoso Mazzone, we reserved a table for two at 6:00pm each evening. We were off to the buffet, Princess pizza servedout on the Horizon Terrace. Excellent! Then we went back to our cabin to rest until the boat drill, which was well organized and orderly. Our station was the Wheelhouse, where we were comfortably seated. Princess does not make passengers line up in the sun facing the elements on the Promenade deck as other lines do, rather it assigns public areas inside the ship for muster stations.
Ship The Ruby Princess (Hull # 6150) was built in Fincantieri, Cantieri Navali, Monfalcone, Italy, like her sisters the Emerald and the Crown Princesses. Her inaugural cruise was on November 8, 2008, thus making her only three months old. She is 948.0 ft long, 118.1 ft wide (165.7 ft including stabilizer wings), with a draft of only 27.88 ft. The Ruby Princess is 113,561 tons and her height is 219.8 ft, with a total of 18 decks and a passenger capacity of 3,150 (3,175 this cruise), with a crew of 1,200 from 54 countries around the globe.
Decks 1, 2, 3, & 4 are for crew only -- except for the Medical Center on the latter.
Decks 5, 6, & 7 are all public areas. Deck 5 aft has the Michelangelo Dining Room, with the wood panel walls and sconces for lighting; in the ceiling there are miniature lights that twinkle on and off like stars. The room is elegant in a subdued manner. The walls have murals of Italian pastoral scenes. Next, midship is the impressive Piazza, an atrium three decks tall, with a waterfall and a huge Tiffany light covering almost the entire ceiling. The floor is a mosaic of arcs and circles. This is a popular gathering place with a Cafe` serving specialty coffees and delicate pastries including marzipan "Pasta Reale" (miniature fruits), etc. There is also a wine, cheese and sushi bar which encourages sampling of many savory delights. Forward on Deck 5 are a Laundromat and cabins.
Deck 6, all the way aft is the Botticelli Dining Room and toward midship is the Da Vinci Dining Room. Here, midship are located the Reception desk and the shops, then the Gatsby Casino and the Speakeasy Cigar Lounge (this tiny area keeps the Casino smoke free). Forward is the Princess Theater with a red Austrian tucked curtain and red and gold embossed seats. There is a clear, unobstructed view of the stage from every seat. Bravo! The Walnut wood walls add to the understated elegance of the theater.
Deck 7 aft has the Club Fusion, the Photo Gallery, the Explorers Lounge (nightly live shows and music) and the upscale restaurant Crown Grill. Midship there are the Wheelhouse Bar and a well stocked Library with convenient hours. Forward is the Princess Theater balcony with a reserved area in the rear for wheelchairs.
Deck 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, & 14 are all passenger cabins.
Deck 15 has the Horizon Terrace, the Cafe`Caribe and the Horizon Court Buffet. Next, midship is the Calypso Reef and Pool, Pizza and Ice Cream Bar, Neptune Reef and Pool, Mermaid's Tail and Trident Grill. Forward there are other passenger cabins, Thermal Suites and the Lotus Spa.
Deck 16, all the way aft is the upscale Sabatini's Restaurant which is bigger and more impressive than the Sabatini's found on other classes of Princess ships. Here, midship is "Movies Under the Stars" giant screen, and forward are the Lotus Spa, Fitness Center and Aerobics, and the Wedding Chapel (8 weddings this week). During dinner in Sabatini's, we spoke with one of the brides, who was having the reception dinner there, and she expressed high praise for the Princess royal treatment.
Deck 17 has aft the Chill Out, the Fun Zone, Off Limits and the Video Arcade for the young ones, midship the Sun Terrace, and forward the posh Sanctuary, an exclusive relaxing oasis, a "Pocket of Tranquillity," with a nominal charge of $10.00 for a half day or $20.00 for a full day pass.
Deck 18 aft has Skywalkers Nightclub.
Deck 19 aft has Cyber golf.
The ship overall is stylish and elegant with lovely murals like the "Reef Scene" on Deck 16 by Morandi Studios, Sassuolo, Italy (a white on white tile design with accents of the palest pastels, all portraying a dream of an underwater scene). Also in the stairwell in this same area is a painting of two Kimonos in red and black on a gold background. There are many lovely decorations on board to enjoy, interspersed with fresh floral bouquets and live orchid plants.
Service and Food Passenger Services Director Dirk Brand has everything under control. The ship is immaculate (CDC Sanitary Inspection score is a perfect 100) and the service is snappy. The passengers are most acutely interested in the food, of course. Here Princess excels, the Executive Chef Manlio Cuzzolin (Mortegliano, Italy) is excellent. Princess accents Italian food with pasta courses served daily. There is an abundance of fresh fruits and cheeses that add variety and elegance to the menus. Plating was exquisite and the Always Available list featured the following: Shrimp Cocktail, Salmon Fillet, Fettuccine Alfredo, Steak, etc.
Appetizers included Spring Rolls, Fried Calamari, Fresh Fruit plates; Soups included both hearty like minestrone and cream of asparagus and delicate broths, as well as cold ones. Salads were dressed lightly or at the table. There were at least two pasta courses (i.e., Puttanesca, Four cheese rigatoni). Vincent liked the spaghetti alle vongole, especially. Entrees were varied and included meat (beef fillet and prime rib, lamb and veal), fish (lobster tail, crab legs, shrimp, cod, etc.), fowl (chicken, Cornish hen, duck, etc.) and vegetarian (stir fried oriental vegetables, egg plant Parmigiana, etc.).
Dining service onboard is under Maitre D' Generoso Mazzone who epitomizes elegance and style. Service in the Michelangelo was terrific. There are several options with anytime dining selections available. Specific restaurants were for personal choice times and others for fixed times. Our waiters every evening were Sopha and his assistant Panche under the direction of Head Waiter Rui -- impeccable. There is also "An Evening At The Chef's Table" which includes a galley tour followed by a multi-course tasting menu with Exec. Chef Manlio, all for the culinary connoisseur ($75).
We were also very happy to encounter Asst. Maitre D' Pasquale Marino once again. We have cruised with him several times and are always so surprised that he remembers us by name -- he's very personable. All of the crew made us feel very welcome. Approximately one third of the passengers were repeat cruisers on Princess. That is a great testimonial to the fact that Princess is doing an excellent job.
Cabin Baja B301 (deck 11) is a wheelchair accessible cabin with balcony decorated in blues and aquas with beige cabinetry trimmed in pecan wood. When entering on the left there is a huge bathroom with many safety rails and a 4'X4' shower with a folding seat. There is a large sink and two small shelves for toiletries. Next, there is a king size bed flanked by two low bureaus with reading lamps. The far wall is all glass with a sliding door to the balcony on which are two chairs and a small table.
When entering on the right there is a huge full length mirror, a triple armoire with two sections for hanging clothes and one section with shelves and a personal safe. Next, there is a long table with a TV console, refrigerator and a cupboard. A desk chair, two beige leather barrel chairs, and a coffee table complete the furnishings. On the walls are two large paintings of the Lake Region of Italy. Our Cabin Steward was Wirot who was helpful and efficient all through the cruise. Just terrific!
Entertainment The "Best Smile At Sea" goes to Cruise Director Lisa Ball -- energetic and friendly, she keeps everyone onboard hopping. We cruise to relax and rest, and there are plenty of nice quiet places to sit and enjoy the sea: The promenade has deck chairs conducive to reading and the library is well stocked! There are several areas with pianists or small combos. Princess Patter reports daily the many events at different venues from the Piazza to the Theater, from the Club Fusion to the Explorer Lounge. In the Piazza there are always demonstrations (cooking, flower arrangement, etc.), music and dancing (music each evening with a violinist, piano and bass, and we especially enjoyed the violinist and Magdalena the pianist). Princess Theater had two excellent production shows: "The Great White Way" pairing musical song hits with dance numbers, and "Once Upon A Dream." Every cruise Maitre D' Generoso does a Champagne Waterfall, tall and terrific, and a cooking demonstration in the Theater with Chef Manlio, very entertaining! The Chinese New Years Eve was celebrated on Jan. 25th; this is the year of the Ox.
In the Explorer's Lounge were comedians, and a lively music group. There are Bingo and Slots Tournaments, Basketball, Shuffleboard, and Table tennis, etc. There is something for everyone.
Ports of Call 1-24-09: Fort Lauderdale, FL -- Sail Away -- 5:00pm 1-25-09: At Sea 1-26-09: Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- Arrive 8:00am -- Depart 4:00pm 1-27-09: Grand Cayman -- Arrive 7:00am -- Depart 4:30pm 1-28-09: Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrive 7:15am -- Depart 5:30pm 1-29-09: At Sea 1-30-09: Princess Cays -- Arrive 8:30am -- Depart 3:30pm 1-31-09: Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- Arrive 7:00am -- Debarkation
Debarkation Princess handles debarkation very nicely. We had wheelchair assistance from our cabin, down to the Gatsby Casino where first come, first served ruled. After about a twenty minute wait we were assisted off and were through passport check, customs and outside by 9:00am, and were at home by 10:00am.
Conclusion This was our eleventh cruise on Princess ships, thus with four more cruises we'll graduate from Platinum to Elite members in the Captain's Circle program which will mean more benefits and perks for us: Preferred Service Package (shoe polishing and complimentary laundry/dry cleaning service), Complimentary Mini Bar Set Up, Upgraded Bathroom Amenities, Complimentary Wine Tasting, 10% Boutique Discount, and other VIP treatment including a special cocktail party with the Captain. These are in part the incentives that make Princess one of our favorite cruise lines. Happy Cruising!
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Jody Brown Western Caribbean December 6, 2008
Ruby Princess Cruise Review 12/6-12/13, 2008.
Pre-Cruise >We drove from Columbia, SC (9.5 hours there, 9 hours back) and stayed at Embassy Suites on 17th St. When we left Columbia at 6:00 am it was 50 degrees, when we arrived in Ft Lauderdale at 3:30 pm it was a sunny 75 degrees!
I have stayed at ES before several years ago and it has been renovated very nicely since then. We chose this hotel because of its excellent location (near the port) and we could leave our car there for the week ($10 a day) in a secure area (TIP -- we are starting to find that most hotels in Ft Lauderdale will not allow you to leave your car there for an extended period of time, so please call ahead).
ES still offers many items that only a full service hotel can offer. An example is having a bellhop take the luggage to the room when you arrive and check out. I also like the feeling of being in a suite (divided living room and bedroom). Rooms here havealways been clean, with a very comfortable bed, a small fridge, comfy couch (that opens up into a bed if needed), and a decent sized widescreen LCD television in each of the rooms. The atrium is noisy, however when you close the bedroom door, it obstructs most of the clatter.
The hotel is also next to a nice shopping center which has a Publix grocery store (where we picked up a few last minute items for the cruise) and a few restaurants. We had dinner at Angelo's (dined there before) and it's been remodeled since June of '07. The food was tolerable; however I think we'll look elsewhere next time we're here. Embassy Suites still offers a pretty good breakfast and for the early risers like me, they have drinkable coffee available around 5:30 am in the buffet area. Bonus for us is at sun rise going up to the top floor and looking at the port and seeing the Ruby Princess for the first time in person.
Unless we found a great rate at a similar class of hotel in the area, we would stay here again with no hesitation.
Embarkation A+ -- This was the best ever embarkation I've ever experienced. We left Embassy Suites at 10:50 am (on a reserved mini-bus), arrived at the port at 11:05 am. After dropping off our luggage with the ship porters, walked over to the security/screening line and we were sitting down at 11:15 am (I am a Princess Platinum member and have priority status) in the port passenger waiting area. At 11:30 am they opened up the partition, we were the first ones in the 'Dolphin' line, received our cruise card and then up the escalator to the ship holding area. We waited there for a couple of minutes and the ship photographer said we could get our 'Welcome Aboard' photo taken now instead of waiting. At 11:40 am we walked on the gangway (one of my favorite moments!) to the ship, had our security photo taken for our cruise card and we were in our cabin at 11:50 am. Total time from hotel to our cabin was an incredibly quick and smooth one hour.
Cabin/Room Steward A+ -- We stayed in cabin D730, a mini-suite near the aft of the ship on port side. Suzi and I have stayed in cabin number D730 on every Princess cruise. We enjoy the quiet location and the cabin has plenty of space with very little foot traffic in the hall. Robes and my tux were already in the room when we arrived.
Fridge stayed nice and cold all week. We brought along a gallon of Arizona Southern Sweet Tea and it fit in the fridge just right!
Room temperature was a nice 72 degrees and the only time we had to touch the thermostat was after we had the sliding glass doors open in the morning to get some fresh air in the cabin.
We noticed three items different than the same cabin on the Caribbean Princess -- both TV's are now 26" widescreen LCD's; the individual lights by the bed do not have dimmer switches on them anymore; and we had a TV guide for the first time. To the best of my knowledge, everything else was the same.
Saturday Port/Sailaway I tried calling 'Dine' to make dinner reservations for Sabatini's, which didn't work. Then tried calling the 'dinner reservation' number and you are placed on hold until it disconnects after 45 seconds. We decided it was time for lunch, so we went upstairs and ate by the pool. Next we did a little ship exploring and around 1:00 pm we went up to Sabatini's (according to the Princess Patter they would have someone there from 1 to 4 to take reservations). No one from Sabatini's was there, so we stood around and finally someone (who did not work in the restaurant) asked if they could help. We explained what we wanted and he went over to the phone and dialed in a number and handed me the phone. The lady took our dinner reservation request and said we would receive a confirmation card (which did arrive on the day we requested).
Jojo (our room steward) came by to introduce himself after we returned to our cabin (hoping to see our luggage, which had not arrived yet, however several cabins by us had theirs waiting for them). He came back about thirty minutes later with our welcome aboard glass of champagne for each of us. We spent most of the afternoon watching the 'Love Boat' on TV as we waited for our luggage. Around 3:00 pm Jojo was in the hallway (he was already calling us by our first names) and asked if he could help us with anything and I told him no, I was just looking for our luggage. A few minutes later he knocks on the door and walks in with a bottle of champagne and apologizes for the wait. We went to muster drill at 4:00 pm (nice having this indoors!) and when we returned, our luggage was just arriving. We unpacked and since it was getting close to changing clothes for dinner, we skipped the usual activities on the pool deck and decided to go out on the balcony for sail away.
Another great moment for me is to watch the other ships leave and then look at the condos and small boats pass by as we sail out of the port to begin our week at sea on a cruise vacation.
Sunday -- Sea Day Weather -- partly cloudy 75 degrees. We are both early risers and after trying a cup of coffee (yuck!) from the buffet, we were both thankful the atrium coffee bar serves something drinkable around 6:15 am. Room service breakfast arrives 15 minutes early today (7:15 am) and then we spend rest of the morning exploring the ship again. Then we sit out on the promenade deck watching our ship glide through the ocean to give Jojo a chance to clean. Suzi and I have lunch together in our cabin as it has become a tradition for us to order room service (usually club sandwiches and a salad) on sea days and enjoy it by ourselves in the comfort of our room.
Most of my afternoon is spent in the casino and I won the blackjack tournament ($500) before heading back to the cabin for dinner.
Formal Dinner was ok and most men wore suits. First time in a long time I saw very few tuxes on a Princess ship on formal dress night.
Monday -- Ocho Rios, Jamaica Weather -- sunny 84 degrees. Not really much to report here that has not been said a million times before and nothing has really changed over the years. Within a couple of seconds after leaving the port area we were asked several times from several people if we wanted to 'party', have our hair braided, need a taxi, going to the falls, need a 'guide', need an island tour, etc. We try our best to avoid these people and simply say no, however some of them still follow you and repeatedly ask what we are doing or where we are going.
We spent a couple of hours walking and shopping at the Taj Mahal shopping center, Harbour Shops and Island Village, bought several items (including three pounds of Blue Mountain coffee at $16 a lb.) and then to Margaritaville for a cold drink and appetizers (too early for lunch). We had a brief ten or fifteen second 'sprinkle' which ruined our morning. For those who have not been here, it's a great place to kick back and relax, nice music and on the beach. Plus it's a great location for ship photos.
Tuesday -- Georgetown, Grand Cayman Weather -- sunny 80 degrees. Suzi and I were married here, so this place always brings back the best of memories for both of us. We had an excellent morning walking around and doing some shopping. I spent a few minutes at La Casa Del Habano looking at the cigars and purchased some excellent Cubita whole bean coffee. We had lunch at Margaritaville (had a table on the balcony that overlooks the main street) and did some shopping in their store.
Not sure why, but the streets did not seem as crowded as they have in the past. I think it has something to do with all of the businesses being open now since the last time we were here when they were still in hurricane recovery mode.
Of all of the islands I've been to in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman is the one place I feel the safest at. The island is always clean and no one gestures you into their store.
We had dinner at Sabatini's and to be honest, I was not that really impressed. The service was excellent, however the concept of bringing out a dozen or so 'samples' before the main entrée doesn't really work for me. Most of the food was not eaten and I hate to see it go to waste. The restaurant does have a beautiful location overlooking the aft of the ship; however the place was close to empty. We were the first couple to arrive at 6:00 pm and when we left at 8:30 pm, I would estimate less than a dozen people arrived for dinner.
Wednesday -- Cozumel, Mexico Weather -- sunny 82 degrees. Another great day here walking around and shopping. We always take a taxi from the port to the forum shops and start our little walking journey there. The shops are lined up against the beautiful water front which has some outstanding photo opportunities. Many stores still have the usual 'hawkers' trying to get you inside to shop, however I will say the people who work there are generally very helpful and cheerful. While shopping, I found a Christmas present for Suzi at DI that she has been wanting for a while. When we were done shopping, we took a horse/carriage ride to -- you guessed it -- Margaritaville for lunch and drinks. The fish here is always excellent!
This is one port where you really have to pay attention to the prices while you shop. Suzi and I both saw the same exact item in one place for $18 being sold a block away for $10.
Thursday -- Sea Day Weather -- mostly cloudy 77 degrees. I spent most of the day in the casino and walking around the ship. Suzi continued her usual sea day tradition of reading and relaxing in the stateroom. Since I was inside all day, I wasn't aware until someone in the casino (who had been trying to get some sun by the pool) said that it was overcast with some intermittent rain.
Formal Dinner was excellent and we went to a show afterwards. I did get several compliments for wearing a tux so maybe I'll wear one again next year.
Before turning in for the night, I went to the Purser's office to break some large bills to smaller ones for our tip money. From past experience, I know the last full day of a cruise that this place will have a long line almost all day. Besides the tip money employees receive from the 'Princess auto-tip', we also give a few people additional money for the great service they provide us throughout the week.
Friday -- Princess Cay Weather -- partly cloudy 75 degrees. It was mostly cloudy and some very light rain in the area; however the ship arrived on time as we hear the anchor drop. Then I see a tender boat head out as we discussed when we were going to go downstairs and get off of the ship. Before we can come to a set time, the captain announces that because of inclement weather (choppy seas), our stop at Princess Cays had been cancelled (FYI -- port tax was refunded and put on account). The captain said he was waiting for the tender to arrive back from island and then we would cruise to port Everglades for our scheduled arrival on Saturday morning. This worked out pretty good for me as the casino opened early and I won some money! Since we were now ahead of schedule, the ship slowed down and made a leisurely journey through the many islands in the Bahamas back to the port.
Dinner was excellent and it was nice Monica had some time to talk with us for a while. It was hard to say goodbye to her and Jimmy after having a great week with them. After dinner we went back to the cabin to pack (not one of our favorite things to do!) and then watch a movie.
Saturday -- Debarkation A. This is always a hard day for me as I hate to leave a ship and end our vacation. We had coffee from the atrium coffee bar (need to have exact amount in cash as your cruise card no longer works) and wait in our cabin before heading down to Club Fusion (another Princess Platinum perk) at our assigned time so Jojo can clean our cabin for the next lucky folks who are staying here.
We are supposed to get off around 7:30 am; however they are behind schedule unloading the luggage in the port area. Around 8:15 am our luggage tag color is called and it takes less than ten minutes to get off of the ship, claim our luggage, go through customs and grab a taxi back to Embassy Suites. Princess handles the debarkation process so well. It is always smooth and quick and only a few rule breaking stragglers blocking the exit route.
Ship A+. What can I say; the Ruby Princess is a brand new ship (we were on its fifth cruise) and is very similar to the Caribbean Princess (that we've been on twice) and just as easy to navigate. The ship layout was excellent (no art auction in the isles!), very few announcements, colors were tasteful and Princess also had Christmas decorations in the Atrium and dining room.
It should be noted we do not eat at buffets, but overheard several people say the lay out is still a PITA.
My favorite change to the Ruby Princess compared to the Caribbean Princess is the casino & cigar smoking lounge. The casino feels much better organized and easy to walk around. The cigar smoking lounge is much smaller than the one on the Caribbean Princess and it only has one television. However I really like its new location in the corner of the casino and it is open all day (compared to the Caribbean Princess where it was only open in the evenings).
FYI -- the casino was packed almost every evening and it was hard to find a seat at a blackjack table after 8:00 pm. I saw a woman win $7,100 playing slots late Friday afternoon. I think everyone on the ship 'heard' about it!
Food Service A. Food C+. Food and service are both subjective and I will say upfront I am a very picky eater; however the new 'Chuck Wagon' approach in the dining room (chili, meatloaf, fajitas, etc) had me scratching my head wondering if I was on a Princess cruise or at a truck stop restaurant.
While the food was average at best (meals -- 2 excellent, 1 very good, 1 average, 2 below average/poor), the service was excellent (dinner waiter team was Monica & Jimmy). We ate in the dining room for six nights and at Sabatini's one night. I can honestly say that this is the worst dining room food I've had since my first Princess cruise in 1994. The food on our two RCI Mariner cruises was even significantly better than this cruise. Did this ruin our cruise, no; however it will make us look at other cruise lines where we think the food is better and has similar service.
The only other incident to report was we had asked to sit at a large table (traditional dining, 6:00 pm) when we booked the cruise over a year ago. On the first night we were escorted to a table for four. Another couple did show up, however they told us they were not happy with the table location and were going to change tables. They stopped by the following evening after we already had been seated and asked if we wanted to sit with them at another table. We saw it was a table for four and it was with a different wait-staff team. We declined as we were very happy with our service and to be honest would feel bad that they would loose our tip money.
Entertainment B. CD was ok, honestly nothing noteworthy about him or the staff. We attended two shows (actually tried to attend another one, but found out if you did not show up 30 minutes in advance you had little chance of getting a seat) and both shows were very good. The daily activities show that is on the Princess channel every morning advertised as a 'Live' show was actually taped the day before.
Casino layout was excellent and most of the staff was pretty cheerful.
We also missed a couple of the usual activities we like to attend as they didn't start until 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm and that was too late for us.
Miscellaneous LCD Television was excellent and the satellite service was great the entire week. Think we lost the signal for a few hours on two days. Several really good movies and programs to watch in the mornings and before going to bed. ESPN actually was the US satellite feed instead of the Spanish feed we've had the last few cruises.
Coffee -- once again, this is just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. The buffet coffee is still disgusting, room service coffee was not bad, and dining room service (after dinner) was pretty good. The coffee bar coffee ($1) was pretty good, latte's ($2) were very good (best I could find on the ship that I could drink everyday) and so was the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee ($2). Note: The coffee bar is not supposed to open until 6:30 am, however the same guy was there everyday and served me around 6:15 am without me even asking (IOW, he asked me what I would like, I didn't ask him first). The bakery next door still has great chocolate frosted donuts and excellent sugar donuts.
We did notice the average age was significantly older then our previous cruise last December. We saw a handful of children throughout the week and maybe a dozen teenagers. I would estimate approximately one third of the passengers were retired. These are not bad things, just comments of what I noticed.
We did not like the new Princess Patter look and layout as too many items are left off compared to the previous Princess Patter.
Captain was Tony Yeoman's. Never saw him or his staff, however enjoyed his noon update from the bridge.
We had two big groups on this cruise. A large group from the Mirage (saw them every day in the casino), and Vacations to Go (travel agency) had a singles group (although I never saw any of them after the first day).
When shopping, do yourself a favor and check the ship prices on items you are looking for. We both saw several items that used to be less expensive on the islands and now the ship prices are actually cheaper.
Conclusion We had a very nice relaxing cruise, great weather on a new ship with the best service from almost all of the staff. I can say without a doubt our room steward and our dining room staff would both rate in my top three for service out of sixteen cruises.
This was my tenth Princess cruise and last one for a while.
We're looking forward to our next cruise (10/09) on HAL Westerdam.
If you have any questions, comments or looking for help that I may provide, please contact me (Jody Brown) at firstname.lastname@example.org.