You know how it is: you go on a really good vacation & afterward everything comes to a pleasantly dazed halt. And even though I've come back to a lot of office complexity and the school semester starting, I still feel that refreshingly meditative halt having taken place.
OVERALL VALUE & CABIN
Even after all these journeys, this was perhaps the best cruise yet. There is news of the new upcoming ship, the Royal Princess everywhere you turn. OK, so maybe the Captain's Circle party now being basically a Royal Princess press video "op" is maybe a little over-the-top, but everyone is all abuzz about it. While the price of a few things has inched up (Chef's Table is now $95), on balance I still think Princess gives the best value for the travel dollar, for the time being. Of paramount importance to the quality of the cruise, in my immaculately appointed port-side balcony cabin, I enjoyed the excellent service of one of those older, very traditional cabin stewards who made my study-life at sea heaven for 8 days.
The novo-virus level must have been pleasantly low, because the salt & peppers still on the table & we spooned out our own dishes in the Horizon Court with utensils smartly rotated every 25 minutes. And although there is still the odd outlandishly un-compliant passenger, a great many more people seemed to be more respectful about Purell-ing than in years past. And small waste cans have been installed, perhaps throughout the entire Princess fleet, at every public bathroom exit right by the door handle, so you can open the door with a paper towel & toss it.
DINING ROOM FOOD & SERIVCE
Glad to report that the fish entrees served in the Dining Room were particularly good every night, even maybe this year the meat dishes less so. Sometimes this has been an iffy enterprise with delicate types of fish, but every night's selection managed to taste wonderful.
Using a professional travel agent is so helpful, and we certainly appreciated the gift of Champagne for the table from her and we enjoyed it all decked out in evening clothes on "lobster night." It was most gracefully handled by our quite splendid waiter this year, Sergei from the Ukraine, and the flow of dining service in the Ruby Botticelli Dining Room early seating in general ran distinctly smoother than last year.
Now as well I realize, by comparison to my lovely table & passenger-guests this year, how miserable I was jammed in last year at a table for eight shoved into an outside corner sized for a table of four or six, with four of us always having to pass all our own dishes like a sleazy boarding house because no waiter could squeeze behind. In retrospect, I should have moved; it made me think the whole dining room was stuffy & crowded--and it wasn't at all. If a seat assignment or a dish served makes you uncomfortable, report it immediately; it's your holiday.
Again, Princess's Eastern Caribbean itinerary is so pleasurably simple and relaxing, with its two sea days, and also 2 chances to swim in the ocean with the Princess Cays day and also the day docked at the Grand Turk beach venue, where you could actually walk right off the ship in a swimming outfit and directly onto a beach and Margarita-ville without needing to set up an excursion. And although I realize we are not actually buying the sunsets from the cruise line, truly, this year's sunset sail-away turning the corner at Fort Lauderdale, and again the elegant sunrise & twilight navigations in the channel just beyond the Crown Bay Marina in St. Thomas into the channel were simply spectacular. Indeed, we relaxed and escaped, just as Princess advertises.
At the Princess Cays, they do seem to have endeavored to remove nearly all the free beach loungers from the cabana area to the right of the tender boats; so, that you would need to rent a 2-lounger cabana in order to sit there. We'll see if this becomes more and more required; for this one year I walked pretty far along the beach and then pulled a lounger out of a cabana and dragged it back closer to the others, but this may not work next year.
The good news is that there seems to be a component of "The Sanctuary" now offered on the Cays. This consists of several of the farthest little colorfully painted beach houses on the left, new ones which are slightly larger & come with some expected amenities, like table service available. They even convey the passengers along to those premium beach-houses in an open-air van.
The Ruby does still "list" moderately starboard, leaning persistently several degrees to the right occasionally for several minutes and this is most obvious up on the Lido in the Horizon Court where you can easily compare it to the horizon out at sea. I asked an officer about it at the Navigation lecture, and although he made short shrift of my question, he also made an observation at another moment which I think points to an answer: He joked about how, ever since he began serving aboard the Ruby working there, it has been the habit sometimes to open one stabilizer on her quite often, rather than one set of stabilizers, and it would seem logical that the stabilizing pull from the one would tend to tip the boat slightly.
Goodness gracious, even toiling away at the office again, it's certainly comforting to know when I'm cruising next.