We just returned from a wonderful Eastern Caribbean sailing of the Ruby Princess. It was our 41st cruise overall and our 11th on Princess - 2nd on the Ruby. We are a retired couple who have been cruising since 1987 and we live now in Palm City Florida -- about 75 miles north of Port Everglades. When we started cruising we lived in Chicago, in 1994 we moved to Naples FL until 2004, back to Chicago in 2004 until 2009 and then back to Florida -- Palm City.
We booked this cruise about 5 weeks out. We tend to cruise somewhat last minute. Booked this cruise directly with Princess responding to an offer that they sent us by e-mail. We booked an inside guarantee and ended up on Aloha Deck in stateroom A216-forward-port side. The location was quiet and convenient to the forward stairs and elevators. Our steward was Lowrance and he was very attentive to our needs. We found the beds set up as we like them and asked for a pillow top for the mattresses (they were very firm) and robes.
We boarded around noon, dropped our carry ons in the cabin and headed to the DaVinci dining room for lunch. It is a treat to have lunch on embarkation day in the dining room. If you arrive before 1:30pm it is open for lunch. Most enjoyable and gave us a great sample of the good food and service to come.
We reacquainted ourselves with the Ruby -- we had sailed on her in December of 2010. She is the newest Grand class ship and is in excellent condition. The Commodore is Guiseppe Romano and we had sailed with him previously as well. Everyone on staff and in the crew that we met was friendly, gracious and made us feel right at home. We sat on the Deck 7 for sail away on the port side. A great place to be when leaving Port Everglades. There are nice padded deck chairs on both sides of the ship that are comfortable. We sat out there a number of times during the cruise to read and people watch.
The Piazza is one of our favorite spots. We immediately bought a coffee card and I had brought one that wasn't finished from our cruise on the Grand Princess in December of 2011. We enjoyed numerous lattes, both hot and frozen, and other coffee drinks along with the brewed coffee during this cruise and didn't quite use the card up-so have 3 punches coming on our next Princess cruise.
The itinerary was Sunday-board, Monday-Princess Cays, Tuesday-at sea, Wednesday-St. Maarten, Thursday-St. Thomas, Friday-Grand Turk, and Saturday-at sea. We have been to all of these ports many times and were really cruising for the ship. We didn't get off the ship at all during this cruise due to some physical limitations that we have recently developed regarding walking long distances. So, I can't really speak to how the ports were this time around. I can tell you that in St. Maarten there were 6 ships and approximately 18,000 passengers who got off those ships -- way too many in my opinion. A real crush
of people on a small island. We docked around 10am and left around 6:30 pm so everyone on the Ruby had ample opportunity to sample this island. It is our favorite in the Eastern Caribbean-has so much to offer. We docked in St. Thomas at Crown Bay-we were the only ship there but there were at least 4 others at Havensight. In Grand Turk there was one other ship. And of course at Princess Cays, we were the only one. While everyone else was off the ship in these ports, we were enjoying the ship. Something new for us -- the dining room does not serve lunch on port days -- only on sea days.
We enjoy eating in the dining room -- and ate all our other meals there. We chose the DaVinci dining room on Deck 6 and ate breakfast and dinner every day there and also lunch the days we were at sea. The other port days we had lunch once in the Horizon Court, once in the International Cafe and once from the Trident Grill. No matter where we ate, the food was, in our opinion, excellent. We shared a table at breakfast and lunch and met some great people. We had dinner at a table for two for dinner and had Anytime Dining which we prefer. We usually ate between 7 and 8pm and never had to wait more than 5-10 minutes for a table if at all. The service was always very good -- an excellent staff there.
The Cruise Director was Sam Hawker-Thomas -- she did a great job getting people involved in activities. There was plenty to do if you were so inclined. Our goal was relaxation so we sought out quiet places to read and people watch for most of the cruise. We used the gym and found it well equipped. Since we live by the beach and have our own pool, those things aren't important to us but I love the fact that the Grand class ships have two adult pools and two family areas -- never had a problem finding a quiet place to sit or people watch.
We enjoyed the entertainment in the Piazza, but we didn't see any shows or performers on board. They played a lot of concerts on MUTS during the day beginning at about 3pm -- I wish they wouldn't do that -- it really disturbs a nice quiet place to relax later in the afternoon.
As we are Platinum members of the Captains Circle, we did enjoy the Skywalkers lounge and their before dinner appetizers. There is an appetizer and drink of the day and the drinks were $3.99-least expensive on the ship. The Captains Circle cocktail party for Platinum and Elite members was well attended and they gave previews of the new Royal Princess launching this summer. It looked like the Future Cruise Director was getting a lot of advance bookings-her office was always busy.
The week went by quickly and before we knew it it was time to debark. Since we drove down to the port, we were able to get off the ship around 8am -- we were home by 10am. We parked at the Park-N-Fly lot adjacent to the port -- an easy shuttle ride both in and out. Very convenient and cost effective. Would recommend it to anyone driving to the port.
It was, in some ways, a cruise of firsts for us -- first time never getting off the ship, first time not seeing any shows, first time not even taking any pictures, and first time we never turned the TV in our cabin on at all. We found that it was very relaxing just disconnecting from the world for a week. We knew that when we returned home, we were moving within 12 days -- so had packed a lot prior to the cruise. We just enjoyed being on the ship, being waited on and being at sea.
Now my editorial comment -- strictly my opinion - It is interesting to see how much cruising has changed since 1987. Of course, the ships are much larger, that goes without saying. We saw many people who were for whatever reason, unable to disconnect from their electronic devices. We also saw many people who don't truly understand what "Smart Casual" means regarding what to wear to dinner or what a coverup means when wearing bathing suits going to and from the pool or to shore. Just an observation.
If you have any questions about the Ruby or Princess or cruising in general don't hesitate to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love being at sea and have sailed not only on Princess, but on Celebrity, NCL, RCCL, Carnival, MSC, Costa, HAL, Premier, and Commodore.
Happy Sailing to you!
Melinda and Bob Kazmer