I will bullet point the important factors here, but first let me tell you who we are so you have a point of reference. Highly educated, upper middle class married couple in our late 30's. Well traveled but only our 4th cruise; high expectations but overall very easy going and not pretentious. In other words, we don't sweat the small stuff and we make the best of things that go wrong. We're pretty easy to please in general. We traveled with another couple who were cruising for the first time.
*Embarkation: Crowded of course but well managed. The line moved steadily considering 3200 people were boarding. Our room was ready as soon as we got on which was nice. Having to lug your bags around for the first hour or 2 that you're on board is a real drag.
*The ship: Stunning. I felt like I was in an elaborate Vegas hotel. The Piazza reminded me of the Venetian or Bellagio. Great layout. The ship was very clean and beautiful. We spent both sea days at The Sanctuary which was a lovely and worthwhile retreat from the crowds on sea days. Very seaworthy and pretty stable despite some rough waters.
*Room: Interior state room smack dab in the center of ship. Great location for stability. I felt very little movement in our room even when the seas were angry and other parts of the ship had considerably more "motion." Our room steward James was outstanding. Unfortunately, whoever did our turn-down service at night (it wasn't James) was obviously a heavy smoker and our room would reek of cigarette smoke for at least 2 hours after it was turned down every night which was a real bummer. I suppose we could have requested someone else, but that seemed like a lot of trouble. Room was a decent size for a standard interior and the bed was initially very hard but extremely comfortable after the egg crate mattress we requested was put on.
*Food: Outstanding. Everything, everywhere was delicious. The buffet, the dining room, the international cafe, the pizza, the waffle station, the Trident Grill...everything. We have only had better food on Celebrity, but Princess came VERY close. We had planned to eat at Sabatini's, but everything was so good, we decided there was no need. Plus we really enjoyed our waiter, Ariel in the Dining room. Our expectations were exceeded in this department.
*Entertainment: Solid. The house band Volume was great. We sought them out multiple times and they played all over the place throughout the day and night. The singers and dancers in the theater were also very good. The first show was boring in my opinion; catered to a very old crowd. The other shows they did were great! Once Upon a Dream had an Alice in Wonderland feel to it and Broadway Ballroom had great music and fantastic dancing. The comedians were OK; they had a comedian/magician, Christopher James who was fantastic! Great pool side entertainment and fun variety acts in the piazza including a man who could balance just about anything on his head or nose. It was unbelievable!
*Service: Absolutely wonderful. Smiles and helpfulness from everyone all the time. Anyone who walks away saying anything less is just grumpy and impossible to please.
*Ports: Lovely. Even though the weather didn't cooperate completely, these are great ports for a relaxing, beautiful, beachy vacation. We have been on other vacations that were much busier and while we love sightseeing, learning about history, outdoor sports, and the like, we wanted nothing but relaxation on this trip and these ports delivered just that.
*Debarkation: Quick and painless. We did express debarkation because we like to take our own bags and get off the ship first.
CAVEAT: There is a SERIOUS lack of hand sanitizer on this ship. It is no wonder that the Ruby has been riddled with Norovirus so often in the past. Every other cruise we have ever taken (even cheapo Carnival) has hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE; the lounges, the theater, and of course everywhere you eat. The Ruby ONLY had hand sanitizer at the buffet, the pizza place, and the trident grill. NO sanitizer at other eateries like the International Cafe, Vines, or even the dining rooms. It truly blew my mind. After knowing the history of Norovirus on this ship I came to the conclusion that Princess knows it is a problem, but has decided it is cheaper to let the outbreaks continue than to cover the ship in hand sanitizer. Shame on you Princess. There was no outbreak on our voyage, but I felt extremely lucky that no one in our group of 4 got sick. I also carried hand sanitizer around with me and I felt it was really a burden I shouldn't have to bear on vacation. It was a big disappointment to see how irresponsible Princess was in this regard.
*Summary: In general, I feel every other cruise line I have been on was "the best" at something, but seriously lacked in other areas. Princess, however, was strong all around, making it my new favorite (despite the serious hand sanitizer problem). I appreciated the mix of ages and felt the line did a good job catering to the needs and desires of adults ranging from late 20's to the elderly. Not very many children on this line and no crazy "young adults"(18-25 year olds getting drunk and being obnoxious). The clientele was perfect. Well behaved adults looking to have a lot of fun. You can be as active or as relaxed as you want on this ship. There is a perfect balance. I will be writing to Princess to share my displeasure about the lack of sanitizer and the need to catch up with the rest of the cruise industry in this regard. Hopefully they will remedy the problem before my next cruise; I will definitely be back.