Ruby Princess Eastern Carribean Nov 25-Dec 02, 2012
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Ports of call- Ft. Lauderdale, Princess Cay, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Grand Turk and Ft. Lauderdale. First off we live in Florida so we are partial to any cruise line that travels roundtrip from Florida. The ship was not fully booked which was nice. We were the only cruise ship in two of the three "real island" ports so the ports were not crowded and the stores were anxious to make a sale.
Food- The buffet lines were great each time we went. The Crown Grill was amazing, well worth the $25 per person charge. We have been to Sabatini's on our other two cruises so we did not go this time. We went to the main dining room one time because I heard they had CrÃ¨me' Brulee and was disappointed. The CrÃ¨me Brulee was fantastic but the rest of the meal was a dud. The shrimp cocktail was better at the buffet, the Ceasar salad was wilted, the main course of surf & turf only had two Filet choices medium rare and well done. We were worried that medium rare would be raw and chose the More
medium well which was way overdone. The most frustrating part was we went to dinner at 5:45pm so we would be sure not to miss the 7:15 magic show and at 6:45 we had not even been given the dessert menu yet. I had to hustle the wait staff along a bit so we could get to the show in time. Another couple in my area, got up and left after waiting 15 minutes after finishing their main course and still did not have a dessert menu. It seemed the staff was confused about something each time the trays of food came from the kitchen.
Entertainment: Outstanding, we really liked the "Movies Under The Stars" and the in-cabin movies were all current. I got to see the new Total Recall and the Dark Knight Rises which were not out yet at Blockbuster. The big shows in the princess theater and the explorers lounge were top notch and we did not have any disappointments. Our favorites were Illusionist David Catts, Comedian Miguel Washington and the Once Upon A Dream Production.
Hygiene- After departing St. Maarten (11-28-12) the Commodore (yes the commodore was piloting our ship) came on the loudspeaker and said that they have had a concerning number of people present themselves at the medical department with gastro-intestinal issues and the ship was going into an advanced sanitary mode. For the remainder of the cruise we had to be served all of our food and were not allowed to handle any tongs or spoons to serve ourselves. The staff would not let us sit at any tables in the buffet area until they got a chance to disinfect them from the previous diner. This extra work on the part of the staff seemed to halt the problem as I did not see nor hear of anyone else getting sick.
Staff- The staff was excellent. I lost my video camera one day on the ship and a cleaning person found it and turned it into the passenger services desk. There was no extreme pressure to buy things and everyone was tripping over themselves in eagerness to get you anything you desired except for one bar-steward named Allen from India who I unfortunately seemed to get whenever I was seated for a show. Allen always seemed mad that I only ordered a ginger ale. I had purchased the drink card on the first day of the cruise so it was included. I would think that he would have been happy that he did not have to go print out a receipt for me to sign, but maybe they get a commission.
This is my third cruise on Princess (Alaska & Panama Canal previously). Each time I have cruised on Princess has been better than the previous. I will be trying Norwegian for the first time in 2013, but that is only because they go to different islands. Hopefully Princess will be bringing their Western Caribbean itinerary back to Florida from Texas soon. Less
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Cabin review: BDb437 Balcony
We usually book mini-suites, but booked a balcony room this time to save money. I found the room to be perfect. It had a flat screen tv, mini-fridge, hair dryer, plenty of closet space, night stand with drawers for storage, desk with drawers for storage, an in room-safe, and storage under the beds which we did not use. The balcony had two chairs and a small table. The beds were comfy. I found the location to be convenient. Our cabin was about four cabins from the main elevators in the middle of the ship so it was a quick trip to everything from our room and not too noisy. We were in bed every night by 10 pm and never woke up to noisy people in the hallway.
Port and Shore Excursions
Nothing to really see in Grand Turk! The cruise ship drops you off at their dock which has all the usual jewelry stores etcetera and a Margaritaville. I will say that the Duty Free store had excellent prices on liquor. I got two bottles of "Flor De Cana" 18 year old rum for $36 per bottle. The same bottle costs me $53 in Florida.
I also took a taxi into the "town" (maybe three streets in size)and found some 15 year old "Trouvadore" rum ($38) which is only made on Grand Turk (limited production of 2,000 bottles) and not available for sale in the duty free shop or anywhere outside of Grand Turk.
***Special note is the Grand Turk 8 year old rum "Bamberra Reserve" was selling for $33 in the duty free shop and it was $22 in the local liquor store. It seems they jack up the price of the local rum at the duty free store.
11-28-2012. Arrived in Phillipsburg, St. Maarten on the Ruby Princess in search of Premium Rum. My pre-cruise research on Trip Advisor & Cruise Critic revealed older postings that stated that St. Maarten was to be the place for the highest selection of rum at the cheapest prices. Alas this is no longer the case. After renting a car and travelling the entire island I only had two bottles of Rum to show for my effort.
First, my prior cruise research stated that local grocery stores; Afoos and Sang's in Phillipsburg were the best and cheapest places to buy rum. I found that both places had a selection of lower quality rum (Bacardi, Cruzan etc.) at prices that were higher than I pay at home in Florida.
At "Phillipsburg Liquors/ITLL" I found a bottle of18 year old Ron Botran Solera 1893 for $42 USD. They had other premium rums like Zacapa XO for reasonable prices. I also bought Chambord $25 and Amaretto Di Sarono for $20 and a Liter of Hendricks Gin for $40.
In Marigot, St.Maarten, I went to "La Casa Del Habano" for Cuban cigars and was presently surprised that they had a bottle of 15 year old Ron Varadero Supremo rum $95 and "Cubita" cafe en grano whole coffee bean (1,000 gram bag $25) in addition to the cigars I was seeking. The store is owned by Carole who is very pleasant and eager to help with selecting the perfect gifts. This is the only authorized Cuban product outlet on St. Maarten and my research showed that the miscellaneous cigar stores around the cruise ship port sometimes sell fake Cuban cigars to tourists. It is a bit of a trek to get to the store from Phillipsburg, but it is a nice way to see the island. I would recommend emailing Carole to see if she has what you want and how much it costs before you go. email@example.com
My pre-cruise research on Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic showed that there have been problems with some of the big name rental car companies and the old; "that scratch wasn't there when you picked up the car" scam. Another contributor on these sites recommended a company that rents cars at the airport. That person was unable to rent a car to me at the cruise port but provided me a contact at Rodael Car Rental. I got a 2012 Toyota Corolla for $40 per day, plus $15 government fee, plus $8 sales tax. I added the full collision for $31 and a GPS for $5. This was much cheaper than the big name rental cars companies and there were no problems with any scams to extort more money out of me at the end of the day. In fact, when I returned the car and told them that my rum search only yielded one bottle of the rums I was looking for, the clerk said jump in the car and took me to Phillipsburg Liquors where I found a second bottle of rum that I had been looking for, along with some other premium liquor. www.rodealcarrental.com
11-29-2012. Arrived in St. Thomas on the Ruby Princess in search of Premium Rum. My pre-cruise research on Trip Advisor & Cruise Critic revealed older postings that stated that St.Maarten, not St. Thomas was the place for the highest selection of rum at the cheapest prices. Thankfully this is no longer the case, since I had a disappointing search on St. Maarten.
The first place I went to was Dynasty Liquors in the Havensight Mall, they also have a store in Charlotte Amelie (I ended up going to both). They both had better prices on premium rum than I can get in Florida, but I already have all of their brands. What I did get was 1 liter bottles of various Stolichnaya Vodkas for $11.50 each, the cherry version of Grand Marnier 700 ml for $25, a cool 750ml bottle of Japanese rice vodka called Kissui for $32, a 1 liter bottle of Chili Pepper infused Tequila called Bear Hug for $20, a 1 liter bottle of Stolichnaya Elite for $48 and a 750 ml bottle of Frangelico for $17.
Back on the rum search I found a bottle of "Brugal 1888" for $50 at a little store called Caribana. I have had other Brugal rum but this "1888" series is a hard rum to find outside the Dominican Republic. I also found it at a liquor store at the cruise ship port (Supreme Liquors) for $40 which was a big surprise! If I like it I will get it at that store next time.
I never in a million years intended to look at or buy any jewelry. However we stumbled into Artistic Jewelers with the offer of free earrings (should have known better) to Princess cruisers and got an amazing deal on a blue sapphire and diamond ring in white gold. They had to enlarge the ring by two sizes and did not charge extra for the work or the gold. They also made us the best black cherry rum and cokes while we waited for the ring to be sized and buffed (it only took 1 hour). We stopped at a few other jewelry stores on the way back to the ship and during small talk told them we just bought a ring and asked how much they would have sold it to us for. I expected all of them to quote me ridiculously low prices "to prove that I should have bought from them" and each of them came up with prices that were higher than we paid. If you decide to stop in the store, I would recommend talking to our saleswoman Helen or the owner Max. We will definitely stop in to see them the next time we are in St. Thomas. www.artisticcvi.com