I sailed on the Ruby Feb 26-Mar 4 2012 with my boyfriend. We are 39/40. This is my second Princes cruise (first was the Crown in 2007). I have also sailed Norwegian twice. I will try not bore you with too many details.
Embarkation: Very painless. My BF is platinum so the wait was short and easy. Once on board (around noon, about 30 minutes later) our room was ready and we had lunch in the MDR, which is a very relaxing way to start things off.
Cabin: Our cabin was obstructed eanview E628. A lifeboat partially blocked the view, not bad. The room size was nice, plenty of room to move around and store our stuff. We are not cabin-centric, as we spend very little time there and I'm a heavy packer. Only complaint is the clingy bathroom shower curtain, but it didn't ruin my day. Our room steward did a good job every day, didn't miss a beat. When we arrived to our cabin I immediately got on the DINE line and made reservations at Sabatini's and the Crown Grill, as well as got on the Chef's table list.
Public spaces: This is what I love about Princess. Sophisticated, classic elegance in all the decor. All finishes and designs are beautiful and sparkling. The Ruby is beautiful. I found it very easy to navigate and get around, but we don't really use the elevators much, only to get to the highest decks. The ship seems brand new.
Dining: My favorite part! We did anytime dining, never really waited for a table and didn't share with anyone. We are "foodies" but also enjoy casual fare. Food in the MDR ranges from good to excellent. There were no bad dishes. Fettuccine Alfredo is dangerous! We ended up getting it every night as an appetizer. Formal night lobster/shrimp dish was incredible. Steaks were delicious, pork was tender and flavorful, I could go on and on. Lots to choose from every night and you can order as much or as little as you like. Don't be shy! Sabatini's ($20) and Crown Grill ($25) are both amazing. At the Crown Grill we ate SO much food it was almost ridiculous. Unlike some other cruise lines, Princess will let you have as many dishes as you want (some others charge extra for additional entrees). I ate an entree as an appetizer, followed by a filet mignon, my BF had both a porterhouse and lobster tails. There are many delicious sides and sinful desserts. Osi, our waiter, was so accommodating and friendly. I think if I ordered one of everything, he would have brought it with a smile. Sabatini's is also incredible. I started with a burrata appetizer, I mean, where do you get burrata on the high seas??? That was followed by the lobster three ways, it was heavenly and perfectly cooked. Service here is top notch. The manager Martin is so sweet and accommodating. It's a very elegant space with incredible food. The buffet was very good and we took breakfast here every day as well as lunch many days. Lots to choose from - look around before you commit! You can get very, very fat eating in that buffet. The house made pastries, especially the croissants, are deadly good. It was never too crowded and servers were always on hand to get you what you needed. Some areas near the door to the pool deck can be warm so shop around for a cool seat. Do the pub lunch in the Wheelhouse bar, it's so much fun (and free) and the food is yummy. Go early, it gets very crowded later.
Gym/Spa: Didn't use it so I can't comment. My BF had a facial and enjoyed it very much. Note: tip is not automatically added to the bill. Prices are normal and there are plenty of specials to be had every day, especially port days.
Entertainment: This is the first time we really took advantage of the entertainment on a cruise. Usually we just do our own thing at night and often turn in early. On this cruise we stayed up late every night and saw a show. We saw two comedians and they were absolutely hysterical! We saw one production show in the theater (the dream one) and it was good, singers and dancers do a good job. We saw the juggling team and the illusionist, both shows were fabulous. Note: if you want to get pulled into a show just sit in the front few rows. We did this because they were they easiest seats to get just a few minutes before a show started, and I got involved with 2 shows! It was fun but might embarrass some people so be warned. We saw a Vegas performer Tony Tillman and he was amazing, and we also saw Bert Stratton in Crooners, the piano bar, and got to know him a bit by the end of the cruise. Go see Bert if he's playing. He's crazy and fun. He wants you to participate!
Piazza: This is a great space and somehow never really crowded. The seafood/wine bar Vines is a lovely place for a drink and a seafood snack before dinner or anytime. You can watch what's going on and relax while having a drink. The cafe in the Piazza is also very good, lots of yummy snacks to nibble on any time. In other words, more ways to get fat on the cruise!
Service: All around excellent. Everyone is very professional, friendly, and accommodating. You can make friends with all of the staff you encounter, they love to chat. Princess knows how to do service right.
Bars: We tried all the bars and they were all great. The best kept secret is Adagio on deck 16 next to Sabatini's. If you want a quiet, romantic, relaxing place to have a drink, this is it. Several times we were the only people there! I guess people tend to congregate on the central decks. Adagio is beautiful and sophisticated and they have the best blue cheese stuffed olives on earth! Crooners is where the piano guy Bert performs, it gets very lively at night and can be so much fun. Drinks everywhere were reasonably priced (most cocktails are about $7-$8) and well made. Wine tastings were fun, we did two of them.
Chef's table: If you're interested in it, get on the DINE line as soon as you get on the ship so you can get on the list. We actually got picked (gasp!) BUT there was a noro outbreak on our sailing so they cancelled it. I was pretty heartbroken. Ladies, listen up: if you plan to get into the chef's table you must have closed shoes, they won't let you in with sandals.
Pool area: I only used it once. Not much to say, it's very nice and there are plenty of loungers and places to go if you want to be with or without the crowd. Didn't try the MUTS as we were seeing shows every night.
Princess Cays: Very nice, simple, relaxing. Rent the clamshell for $30, it's so worth it. The BBQ lunch is pretty good, nothing too special but enjoyable. The beach is rocky so if you plan to use it bring water shoes. My BF got a little cut up coming in from swimming. It's a nice island, very pretty and taking the life boats to get there is fun.
St. Maarten: Most beautiful blue water I've ever seen! Lots of ships in port. All the local people were super friendly and helpful. Did the Segway tour, and I highly recommend it. There are many shops and restaurants to explore, it's very charming.
St. Thomas: Did the skyride/mountaintop tour, lots of fun. Driving up and down crazy steep hills was a little scary! Get the banana daiquiri at the mountaintop, they're really good. Then get the bushwacker drink at the top of the skyride! Local people were great.
Grand Turk: It's nice how they built up the area for cruises. Otherwise there would be nothing there. Margaritaville is nice, it has a huge pool and a wave rider thing, and free loungers on the beach. It's very LOUD there though. We did a snorkeling trip on a catamaran, it was absolutely amazing. The boat staff were so cool and friendly. The snorkeling was very good, we went to the Grand Turk wall where the water drops off abruptly to 7000ft. Afterwards you go to a private beach to swim and they bring rum punch to you so you can drink while you swim. Dangerous! But loads of fun.
- There was a noro outbreak on our ship. It did not affect us other than the cancellation of the chef's table and the galley tour. Just keep up your hand hygiene and you should be ok!
- The crowd on our cruise was definitely older. Some people might not like that (I see complaints sometimes in reviews). Personally I don't care at all and I think it makes sense: when you're older, you have figured out what's good in life! And Princess is very, very good.
- If you're a repeat cruiser, do make time to go to the Captain's cocktail party. There are plenty of free drinks (they'll give you as many as you want, trust me) and it's fun to meet Captain Tony, who is very cool.
- Games put on by the cruise staff were very fun. I tried the "yes/no" game and it was hilarious!
- Don't miss the champagne waterfall. It's so awesome!!!!
- Never did we feel crowded anywhere on this ship, even though it was at full occupancy. Princess does an amazing job with crowd control.