Our expectation for this cruise was for some quiet downtime combined with the high level of service we have experienced on our three previous Princess cruises. While many parts of the cruise met these expectations, the food and some service areas appear to have gone downhill. We are in our early 60s, generally prefer to do our own thing and are not particularly fussy. Both my wife and I have some dietary considerations, especially for my wife and her low-salt diet which resulted in a number of issues.
We flew to Fort Lauderdale a day before sailing and stayed at the Cambria Suites (highly recommended). As we both love Cuban food, we took a short walk to the Las Vegas 8 restaurant and had a great dinner during the evening prior to our cruise. The Cambria Suites provides free shuttle service to the port and we arrived about 11:00 AM. The line for the embarkation process was slightly longer than normal due to the earlier time the ship left port (4:00 PM), but the entire More
process was easy and we were able to board and be in our cabin (C428) by noon.
With the Ruby being a newer ship, both the cabin and the public spaces showed very little wear-and-tear. We had a balcony cabin with the expected amount of space and layout. (For those using a CPAP, I would suggest bringing an extension cord as the outlet is far from the bed.) There are only two outlets in the cabin, so charging two iPads, a camera, and two cell phones was more of a matter of scheduling than anything else. Our cabin steward was efficient and he provided an eggshell foam mattress top when we requested.
My wife and I used the Fitness Center which has varied and high quality equipment. One warning though, I'm 6-3 and banged my head on the ceiling while using the ellipticals.
Dining; here is where the review becomes difficult. We used the "anytime dining" option and had noted that my wife needed a low-salt diet. At dinner on our first night, we went to the Da Vinci Dining Room and explained our needs. We were hoping for a table-for-2 just to make things simple, but there was a long wait. We were escorted to a table-for-8 and then no one provided any service for 20 minutes. Eventually, more diners arrived and we again explained our needs to the service staff. The beginning courses were "OK" but when it came time for my wife's low-salt entree, the chicken was totally inedible as it was dry like cardboard with a similar taste; all this combined with incredibly slow service. At this point, we resolved that the dining room was not an option. For the remainder of the cruise, we used the buffet with me acting as my wife's official taster. It's amazing how much food is over-salted such as the mashed potatoes were so over-salted that I could not eat them. Positively surprising, the hamburgers at the grill were done perfectly. Another problem was the relative lack of sugar-free deserts -- maybe one at lunch and one-two at dinner. (We previously cruised on the Celebrity Equinox and there were always at least five sugar-free deserts.) Toward the end of the cruise, we got into more of a rhythm of what we could and could not eat, but the first couple of days were extremely frustrating.
Another frustrating item was my wife's soda drink card, purchased when we boarded. Service was occasionally slow and sometimes non-existent. My wife went to a Bingo and placed a drink for a diet soda. Other patrons were served their alcoholic drinks but my wife never got her diet soda after 50 minutes. A similar situation occurred in the casino.
Bartending -- two words: "Find Eddie!" His usual haunt is the Calypso bar under the MUTS, but he hangs out at the Outrigger on Deck 15 watching the sunset and looking for the "green flash." Eddie is from Argentina and is an old-fashioned bartender in that he tells great stories and makes great drinks. I had a wonderful week throwing out all sorts of challenges to him and he came up with the most interesting and outrageous concoctions. I also never liked Margaritas till I had one that Eddie made. One of our daily highlights was finding Eddie.
As for entertainment aboard ship, we usually don't do the shows, more hoping to find a little jazz or piano bar. The week we were aboard was the "Princess Entertainer of the Year" contest which we did not do. The Adagio bar has some nice piped-in Jazz during the day when otherwise not in use. We did the usual trivia (always fun) and casino (usually lost, but that's expected).
There is not a whole lot of detail to say about the port destinations. We had been to St. Thomas many times before and spent most of the time watching other people shop. The Princess private island in the Bahamas was very nice -- plenty of beach space and a good luncheon BBQ. Grand Turk, because of two ships being in port, was wall-to-wall bodies at the beach. We walked around, but that was about it. St.Maarten/Martin is not the most picturesque island, but we had one of the three best tour guides (Joseph) we ever had on all of our cruises when we went on the "round the island tour." He was very informative, always funny, and a safe driver. Marigot was pleasant on the French side as was the stop at the Butterfly Farm.
Disembarkation was generally smooth except was one thing. Our lounge in which we waited was two decks above our disembarkation deck and no one was allowed to use the elevators. Trying to wrestle three pieces of luggage down two sets of stairs resulted in a sprained wrist.
In summary, the cruise was OK but definitely a notch below our previous Princess cruises. We are planning a Mediterranean cruise later this year and Princess has the itinerary we want, but it is still under consideration. Less