My partner and I were so impressed with our two previous Ruby Princess cruises we looked forward to sailing on her again. This time, we were off on our Spring Break cruise on March 11, 2012. This was my 22nd cruise and my Partner's 23rd.
Embarkation was fast and easy. The Princess Representatives were courteous and efficient and we were onboard within 20 minutes. The ship was beautifully decorated, just as we left it last year.
We went to our cabin on the Lido deck, the same one we had the past two times, which was a spacious inside handicapped cabin with a large bathroom. We met our new steward, Adolfo. He was wonderful throughout the entire cruise and took care of all of our requests.
Our next stop was Crown Grill to make reservations for our personal least favorite night in the MDR (Caribbean Night) which, by the way, was switched from Wednesday to Monday. We had late seating in the Botticelli Dining Room (traditional dining). After lunch, we went back to our cabin and our luggage had already been delivered, so we unpacked and were set for the cruise. After Muster Drill, we met our fellow Cruise Critic members at the Tradewinds Bar for a Sail Away Party.
We were fortunate to have a nice table for 8 (Table 14) in a good location with Arsenio as our Waiter and Srdjan as our Assistant Waiter. They did an excellent job and were happy to bring you whatever you wanted. The food in the dining room was very good to excellent. They had Prime Rib, Medallions of Beef, Lobster Tails, Lamb Chop (mixed grill), as well as fish and chicken dishes etc. Don't miss out on the Goat Cheese Souffle, Fettuccini Alfredo or the Pasta with Fresh Clams. Also, the Head Waiter Marino was fabulous. He assisted all of the Waiters and Assistants and took care of any request we had. He trained under Generoso Mazzone the former Maitre'D and was outstanding.
My only complaint with the table was that we sat alone the entire trip at the table for 8. This has occurred on Princess before and they should work to consolidate tables.
If you are going to make a reservation for Crown Grill or Sabatini's the specialty restaurants, do it as soon as you get onboard. We dined in Crown Grill this time. The food was excellent, and the service was very good as they were not overly crowded.
In this venue ($25 cover charge), you can select whatever you like. We shared several appetizers, but the Spicy Shrimp with the Thai Chili Sauce was outstanding. My partner and I both had the Filet Mignon and added a Lobster Tail and did have most of the side dishes, which were properly portioned for two. We both had a Molten Chocolate dessert and coffee. The meal was excellent.
The buffet was generally good to very good. The buffet area at the back of the ship had a different "theme" each day, i.e. Asian, Mexican and Italian. We never went away hungry; pizza and burgers at the outside grills were very good. Soft ice cream is available near the pizza area in the afternoon at no charge.
The production shows were very good. One show called "Once Upon a Dream" was truly awesome. With a large and talented cast of 17, this show was the most creative undertaking, using moving projections throughout the entire show, paired with a wonderful selection of musical numbers. "Broadway Ballroom" was beautifully performed by the singers, dancers and orchestra. The costumes were magnificent and the choreography was done by those on "Dancing With The Stars."
Many activities took place in the Piazza --The Champagne Fountain, The Captain's Welcome Party, various entertainers throughout the day, etc. Cruise Director Samantha was very charming, visible and very busy. She was always somewhere doing another activity. The Officers were also visible and mingling with guests, unlike other ships. We were glad to see Captain Tony Yeomans back, as he is extremely personable and funny.
There were several other venues for entertainment-- the Crooners Bar was a wonderful Martini Bar in a great location. Unfortunately on this trip, Crooners did not have the right personalities in that bar and we had drinks incorrectly made as well as for others. We hope to see better, more experienced bartenders back in this location, as was the case on past cruises.
The Skywalkers Disco was active every night though the music tended to be for the crowd that does not buy drinks. Princess has a policy that you can be 18 years of age to enter Skywalkers, but you cannot drink alcohol unless you are 21. In my opinion, this is sending the wrong signal to the kids and they need a different venue for that 18 to 20 age group. They dominated the music and dance floor (which turned off people in the 30-55 age demographic), but were not able to purchase liquor to support Skywalkers. Many people who would buy a drink walked out. Princess should address this issue.
At Skywalkers, our favorite Waiters were Ion and Cynthia. They did a wonderful job. They were warm and personable; all were sad to say goodbye on our last night. Other lounges had piano players and smaller ensembles, which was nice.
Casino staff were also welcoming. Black Jack tables were busy and amounts to play were generally $5 - $10 per hand. They also had Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, Dice, etc. My partner didn't win on slots, but had fun losing. I enjoyed the tables, but didn't win either.
Princess Cay - Always a pleasant day at the beach with a barbecue.
St. Maarten - Best place for shopping (price and selection) in the Caribbean. We visited all of our favorite jewelers and picked up our regular liquor supply and had a great time, as we know several of the vendors. We even played a little in the Casino on shore and won.
St. Thomas - Our favorite shore excursion is to St. John for snorkeling at Trunk Bay. It was a scenic boat ride over and the water is the clearest in the Caribbean. We've tried all the other snorkeling excursions, but none compare with Trunk Bay.
Grand Turk - We really love Margaritaville. It's big, there's always entertainment and contests going on. Best of all it's free, unless you choose to buy a very large Margarita in a day-glow plastic glass. Unfortunately, I was feeling a bit under the weather that day and we decided to stay on-board and enjoyed a nice quiet day on the ship.
The service overall was very good to excellent. There were some wonderful standouts on the ship, as noted above, and they were rewarded accordingly, beyond the daily automatic tips.
Overall it was a wonderful trip and we highly recommend the Ruby Princess. The layout of the ship is very good (much better than Golden/Grand). Though 600 children were aboard, they were hardly noticeable and well behaved.
The Captain and his staff were personable and visible the entire cruise.
We were disappointed that more Cruise Critic members did not show up for the Sail Away party as in the past. It was very nice meeting all of the people that did turn out.
Debarkation was smooth and we were off the ship quickly and on to our 40 minute trip home. We look forward to a return to the Ruby in the future.