With Hurricane Sandy nearby and the previous trip experiencing Norovirus, I was very anxious about how this cruise was going to be. We were not allowed to board the ship until almost 4pm due to an extra-intensive cleaning taking place, and we were penned up in the Convention Center across the street from the terminal. We were provided water, lemonade, coffee and tea and a $20 credit to cover lunch we had to purchase at the convention center. It was a madhouse in there, with a boat show taking place, but I can't fault Princess for that, and I was pleased with the steps they took to sanitize the ship.
Finally we were able to board and we found our mini-suite was a wonderful size, and our luggage was waiting for us. Our room steward, Frankie, was the friendliest person we encountered on the ship all week. He was fantastic! I've read several reviews by people who complain about the beds on the ship and was prepared to ask for an egg crate topper, but it wasn't needed. The bed was super- comfortable, as were the pillows. The sofa in the mini suite was also comfortable, and 2 tv screens was a nice touch. We loved our room! My husband kept wanting to come back in there to nap.
Due to the hurricane we were not able to stop at Princess Cays, and the captain sailed us south and close to Cuba and Puerto Rico for two days at sea so that we wouldn't feel the effects of Sandy. Our travel agent surprised us with an Ultimate Balcony Breakfast, which we giddily enjoyed the first morning. Decadent!
Wednesday we arrived at St Martin/Maarten. No matter what language you use, it translates to 'island of incredible humidity'. Good day, it was hot. We took the excursion to the butterfly farm and toured the island, got back to the ship and jumped in the pool to try to cool off. Unfortunately the pools had warmed up because of the baking sun so it felt like a hot bath. The soda package really came in handy that day; we must have refilled our tumblers about 6 times.
St Thomas was gorgeous, as was Grand Turk. Touring and seeing the Ruby Princess in the dock was also a beautiful sight. I cannot say enough positive things about the interior decor and layout. Even though the cruise was sold out, it never felt like people were on top of each other. There were always available chairs in the Horizon Court, at MUTS, Explorers Lounge, etc. I was impressed by the buffet food (they did indian, asian and vegetarian foods well) and had wonderful meals in the MDRs also. Foods were flavorful and of a fantastic variety. I will really miss all the fruit! For our anniversary dinner in Michelangelo, our waiter brought out a small square cake with the Princess logo stamped on the chocolate border and a candle on top, and sang 'Happy anniversary to you'. He continued with a 2nd verse "Hope you get some tonight, hope you get some tonight. Hope you get some nice presents, hope you get some tonight.' :)
Overall this trip exceeded my expectations, and I am already looking into another Princess Cruise. The few things I did not care for: the relentless push to buy things on the ship and in each port. Unfriendly and overworked staff. Auto-tipping $12/day per person. Gratuities automatically added to each drink purchased. How about paying the staff a decent wage since they have to work 14 hours a day? But the gorgeous ship, variety of relaxing activities, and special little touches more than made up for the negatives.