We have been long time cruisers with Princess and other Cruise lines. Our trip on the Ruby Princess just last week was where we found the little things that we had experienced with Princess in the past were now missing or were seen as extras.
Embarkation was controlled chaos, as the PA system was garbled and the noise level so high so the staff had to resort to yelling out instructions as they moved groups from one location to another until boarding was allowed. Advice to all do not arrive before 12:30 p.m. at the earliest or be prepared to wait. Hang at the airport instead.
Once on board gone are the days of a waiter offering you a free little glass of sparkling wine or juice. Instead your options were to go to the Horizon court buffet, or engage on a Sail away Treasure hunt requiring you go to the Boutiques, Casino, Spa, and get a card stamped for entry into a raffle at Sail Away. A nice way of getting passengers to learn the layout of the ship, but increased the number of people trying to use the elevators at one time, as passengers with carry-on luggage were still coming on and trying to get to their rooms.
Princess offers its returning passengers who have reached Platinum and Elite level status some extra perks. One being the Sky-Walker nightclub is reserved each night from 5 to 7 p.m. exclusively for those level passengers where they can enjoy Special cocktails at a reduced price and specially prepared Hors D'oeuvres. We are and have been Platinum level for some time now. So how unfortunate for us that our Cabin Steward did not give us the invitation for Platnium and elite level passengers with the listing of each days speciality cocktail until our next to last night.
Our Cabin was fine and perfect for the two of us. We found that there was ample storage space and while small, the shower was refreshing. Our Cabin steward while extremely polite and friendly, did seem to lag behind on service. We had to request ice for our room on Sail away, (he apologized and said he usually does the ice for the rooms at night when we are at dinner). A request for bottled water, was filled, filled some (4) days after we had made the request. And yes we did fill out the request slip and he did take it). Luckily bottled water can also be purchased on shore days at the gangway area.
Because of the recent issues with Norovirus outbreaks, our original schedule was replaced, the stop at Turks and Caicos was dropped and we went to Nassau instead. This change in the schedule also caused some shore tours that we had made to be cancelled since we would not be at St. Thomas on the date originally planned. The pools, movie theater, and activities on board were all excellent and we found that we enjoyed just staying on board. We appreciate Princess working to keep its passengers from getting sick, so it was somewhat distrubing when up in the horizon Court Buffet for breakfast, the Waiter working in the coffee / Ice tea dispenser area was cough so much he sounded liike a 4 pack a day smoker / ex-coal miner. I passed on getting any coffee that day.
My wife and i have always requested a table for two for dining even when there was no Anytime dining. so we loved it when Princess started Anytime dining. Some of our nicest meals were on the Emerald Princess in the Anytime dining room. This time on the Ruby, while the Maitre de was always rushing to seat people, it was always made very obvious that tables for two were the most requested, and usually required getting on the list and a pager. Again this was fine since it allowed us an opportunity to listen to the Atrium entertainment or enjoy a drink in the Atrium. Because we were doing anytime dining we experienced sitting at tables in a number of different sections of the dining room. The level of service from the waiter and assistant waiter varied greatly as did the table locations. We ranged from receiving Excellent service ( Harold our waiter at table 294 in the Michelangelo dining room is world class excellent), to what can be be described as perhaps first timers new to the position, with a communication issue between them. The Waiter and the Assistant Waiter apparently did not speak the same language and English was not either one of their primary languages. The result was mixed up dishes going to the wrong person, (no I'm the fish she had the soup), and sometimes even to the wrong table. Replacement of silverware between courses, one person serving the food and one replacing the used silverware, resulted in soup was served with a salad fork. Most upsetting was the Waiter starting to pour wine from a bottle just ordered into the wrong glass, and then having the Waiter attempt to pour it into the correct glass, and instead managed to spill most of it on his hand and the floor. While not being the most expensive bottle of wine, losing most of a glass to the floor was a little disturbing since all we got was a rapid sorry. By contrast, one night we were moved upstairs to the DaVinci dining room since there were no tables available in Anytime dining room for some time. The Da Vinci is set up for first seating and then would switch to Anytime dining later in the night. This time they had an open table and we were seated at a table for two. The Waiter and Assistant waiter were world class, and from what we could observe this seemed to be the norm, and what we had come to expect from Princess based on our past cruises. It leads me to ask the question does Princess keep the more experienced staff for the scheduled seating diners, and Anytime dining gets the staff needing more training? Advice, go to the DaVinci dining room after 7:30 p.m. if you want Anytime dining. Better service
We also enjoyed two meals at the Crown grill. This is a Specialty Restaurant and you pay a cover charge to eat here. So it was surprising to have two different experiences over the course of the two different nights. The first night there appeared to some issues with the reservation book and the Maitre De was working with a young lady to try to oblige the folks in front of us. who thought they had a reservation but were not in the book. After several minutes he looked up and realized we were not with the previous group asked us if we had a Reservation which we did He then signaled us to enter and literally rushed us past the display of meats and cuts which they show off as you enter, and pointed to a table as you are here and then rushed off. The table was nicely located and the Waiter was very pleasant. He kept offering us Lobster tail with our order even if we did not order it, but we declined. Perhaps this was a mistake, since his service seemed after that to change. The menu lists and touts their variety of different salts, ( black salt, pink salt from the Himalayas, each with varying tastes). While the waiter never offered them these salts to us, he did make it point to go and offer the display to the tables behind ours, and to one side. We ordered a bottle of wine and after the initial pour, he did not return to re-fill our glasses. No big deal,I am perfectly capable of pouring my own wine and would not mention it now except when we returned several night later, we got the same table, the same waiter, and now we had the salt explained to us, the wine was wrapped with a white napkin to collect any drips, and it was poured by the waiter with great flourish until the bottle was done. Two different night and two different levels of service same staff same table.