Ruby Princess: Eastern Caribbean. March 11 to 18, 2012
We are a mid 50s couple from British Columbia. Although we have travelled independently quite extensively, this was only our 2nd cruise. We were on the Emerald Princess Baltic Cruise last summer. We chose this itinerary for several reasons:
1. The price & availability for a spring break departure.
2. The cruise left on Sunday, which gave us Saturday to travel.
3. There were 4 ports and only 2 sea days.
4. I really wanted a warm spring break vacation!
We had not travelled to the Caribbean before so everything was new and exciting.
The cruise was very enjoyable for us and totally met our expectations.
We stayed 1 night pre-cruise at the Cambria Suites in Fort Lauderdale and took their shuttle to Port Everglades. We arrived @ 12 noon and were all settled into our stateroom by 1:15. Everything was very efficient. We had lunch and by the time we went back to our stateroom our luggage had arrived. Our room and room steward were both great.
Food: We were very satisfied with the food and service. We ate breakfast in Horizon Court or at the International Cafe. We intended to eat breakfast in the Dining Room on both sea days, but we overslept both mornings! Ah well, next time. I found my coffee card useful to get a good cup of coffee every morning. I do not like the coffee in the Horizon Court? Last cruise we got around this by ordering room service, but this was a lazier cruise so we didn't bother with that. We like the fresh fruit, cheeses, and egg selections in the Horizon Court and enjoyed the pastries and yogurt parfait in the IC.
We had salads and sandwiches for lunch at the same locations, but also enjoyed the 2 Pub lunches in the Wheelhouse Bar (great fish and chips with a Boddington's Pub Ale and lovely jazz both days). With only 7 days we missed the onboard BBQ and pizza this time, but the BBQ lunch at Princess Cays was fun.
We had dinner in the dining room every night and enjoyed the menu selections and people we met. We booked anytime dining and had a table for 2 on 3 nights, and shared a table on 4 nights. We met lovely, interesting people and enjoyed every meal. I thought the food was well prepared and there was a great selection of meats, fish, and vegetarian choices. The prime rib, lobster and prawns and mussels & frites were particularly memorable. If there was a bit of a wait, they provided a "buzzer" to let you know your table is ready, although we never waited more than 15 minutes. We were comfortable in a cocktail dress (me) & slacks, jacket and tie (him) for formal nights. Most people wore the same. Nobody was under dressed, but the gowns and tuxedoes were not evident either.
Entertainment: We went to all the musicals and they were fun. Dreams reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, the other musicals were typical Cruise ship quality and quite enjoyable. The magician/illusionist, David Cats, was great fun. As it was Spring Break, there were lots of kids at the early show, but he was pretty good and we enjoyed it, We loved the comedian Phil Tagg, he was hilarious. Bert Stratton, the pianist was a little strange, but entertaining all the same. We watched 2 shows at MUTS, The Artist and My Week with Marilyn. Both shows were great as well as the venue. I don't like to sit at the MUTS pool during the day, but it's fun to watch a movie there at night with the warm Caribbean air. There were other good movies, Moneyball, The Help, Warhorse, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but sadly we were quite tired those nights and didn't stay up to see them. We attended the Art Talk and 1 auction. I would never buy art onboard a ship myself, but I enjoyed 1 auction and really liked the art talk. Our favourite bars were The Wheelhouse and Adagio. They are usually not too crowded and have a nice jazz combo, although the jazz band on the final night in Adagio seemed a little tired. Oh well, sometimes that happens. We stayed for 1 set and called it a night.
We did not go into the Casino or participate in any games, etc. as that's not really our thing.
I did enter a draw for the Lotus Spa and was phoned that I received a $50 voucher towards a $79 treatment, but it was the last day and I didn't really feel like it that day so declined.
Ports and Excursions: Because we got such a good deal on the flights and cruise, we decided to do what we really wanted in each port. We loved our excursions and activities. I was glad I booked them early as so many excursions were full on this cruise.
St. Maarten. We booked the America's Cup Yacht Race. This was fantastic and although it was a little expensive, it was the highlight of the trip for my husband. We had enough time to walk around Phillipsburg for an hour and a half in the morning, The America's Cup was the whole afternoon. They give you an introduction and background information which was humorous and informative. Everyone gets a job and instructions/practice time. Then the 3 yachts have the race which was very exciting. We were lucky as the weather was perfect!
Grand Turk. We booked the cycling/Governor's Beach Tour. I am so glad we did this, as our cycling group was small, great people, and we had a lovely afternoon. The guides were terrific giving us all kinds of information about Grand Turk. It was a hot day, but actually quite cool on the bikes (much cooler than at the Cruise Centre). We saw the town, a couple of beaches, the salt pans, the salt museum and several landmarks. We really appreciated what the people had gone through after the devastation from Hurricane Ike. The Salt Museum is very interesting also. Governor's Beach was beautiful, it's a public beach with free loungers. I liked it unpretentious feel. The snorkeling was actually quite good and the swimming was fresh and lovely. A free shuttle bus took us back to the Cruise Centre. The CC was packed with teens, families and kids so I was really glad we got away from that for the day. It was loud and busy there.
St. Thomas. I had the most trouble choosing an excursion for this port. We are not really shoppers. St. John was recommended by our friends, so we went on the cruise/snorkel excursion to Trunk Bay. St. John is absolutely gorgeous, Grand Trunk is a beautiful beach. The ferry is actually quite a long ride and a little crowded. You can't really walk around on the ferry, however the scenery is lovely and the narration was informative, but I wish the boat was a little larger so we could have been more mobile. I also wish we had had a longer visit at Trunk Bay, but it was lovely all the same and we had a great day.
Princess Cays. We got an early tender and had a long and happy day on PC. The beach is quite beautiful, the water warm, and the snorkeling better than I expected. We loved our beach day, just reading, swimming, snorkeling and enjoyed the BBQ lunch. The cooked food is pretty basic, but there is a good selection of fresh fruits and salads.
Weather/Ship. We were incredibly lucky in that the weather was perfect for the whole cruise; 24 to 26 C with sunny skies and warm water. Some people thought the water cool, but I loved it. Of course there were more families and younger people as it was spring break, but they all seemed to find fun things to do and we were quite happy. We used the Terrace Pool and one of the other ones to swim, but if we wanted to sit and read we usually went to the Promenade Deck as it's quieter. We walked the Promenade each day for 2 miles so didn't bother with the fitness area or Zumba Classes.
Crew/health. It was a healthy cruise, the crew ensured everyone used the hand disinfectant which was good. All crew members we met were friendly and helpful.
Disembarking: We chose to walk off. We were given a disembark time of 7:20 AM. We were off right on time and although there were a lot of passengers taking this option, it was still quite quick. We were in a cab by 8 AM. It only cost $15.00 so a good savings over the Princess Shuttle. We had lots of time to print our boarding pass at the airport and departed at 12 noon, right on time.
One thing I would do differently is: I would only bring my mask and snorkel, but not fins as they were not necessary for the kind of snorkeling we did. I would bring fewer shoes so that we could get by with 1 checked bag and 1 carry on bag. In fact, I think we might be able to both just use a carry on size bag. That would have saved us a little on the flights.
All in all, it was a great holiday.