This was a great cruise for the most part but we experienced one hiccup that was surprising -- I'll explain later.
To give you a gauge as to our preferences, we are a couple in our mid 50's -- very active and on this cruise we were with a group of six other couples - although we operate independently a lot of the time including at dinner. Six ate at Traditional and eight of us at Anytime.
Embarkation was a breeze -- arrived at around 11 and were on board by 12.
For those of you who are wondering about the new alcohol policy -- we never had a problem on March 9th or March 17th on the Ruby -- it may have changed now. We brought on five bottles of wine and a case of beer - no questions asked. The others couples did the same. It was in our carryon and we consumed it in our rooms during our social afternoon get togethers. We didn't bother but a few of the couples brought a six pack of beer, bottle of wine or a bottle of liquor on at Curacao and we picked up a bottle of wine in Aruba (La Bodega -- great wine store, just go to the left as you leave the port -- and about two blocks turn up the street -- Gutenberg -- away from the water and go one block -- it is on your left) -- no issue when we brought it on board.
The entire ship's staff was very friendly with the exception of the Matre D' and his immediate supervisory staff. This was the hiccup. We went to see him in the dining room to see if we could reserve a table together on the formal evenings. Upon arrival we were provided a number to keep things moving in order. We could see couple after couple leaving his table frustrated and dissatisfied. One couple who were in front of us and we had spoken with while we waited, came back and told us "good luck" as they were not accommodated in any way. We found that very strange in that their "outrageous" request was - it was their 40th Anniversary and they asked if they could reserve a table for two that evening. They were bluntly told that they would have to take their chances the evening of their anniversary!!! When it was our turn -- Dante told us that if we wanted to eat together we would all have to switch to Traditional Dining. We declined and took our chances on the evenings we wanted to be together. We ended up getting a table for eight at the door when we wanted one and different combinations the other evenings. Later we spoke with a couple of waiters and one Head Waiter who did say that there were issues up the chain and that all requests were being denied. In comparison - I am writing this review while sitting on the Ruby Princess and here the Matre D' (Nicola Furlan) couldn't have made it any easier to request a table for six on the evenings we wanted to eat together. It was pretty obvious that the changeover from Joachim to Mario as Matre D' was not going well as they contradicted each other each evening while we waited for a table.
The waiters themselves were all very attentive and friendly. We had four different sets over the span of the cruise and while we certainly had favorites -- each one did their job efficiently and fulfilled any request we had.
The main dining rooms had some of the best food we have had in the past number of years. Everything was full of flavour and served piping hot. Although I am not a fan of pizza, everyone else raved about the pizza -- all saying it was the best they have had on any Princess ship. The only part that was not as good as other ships was the Trident Grill. While the food was still good, in my opinion they overcooked everything making the food dry, especially the chicken burgers. I think that others found it the same as this was the first time ever that you could just walk up and order -- there never was a lineup.
Horizon Court food was very good when we tried it -- usually just for breakfast.
The Ship Itself
The ship is well maintained and the crew is continually sanding, varnishing, painting or repairing anything that requires maintenance.
Two couples had Mini-Suites on Dolphin, one a balcony on Lido and the rest balconies on Baja. We were in most and all were in good shape. We had one of the mini-suites and it is great to have the extra room, especially when 14 people get together. They still have the blue matting on the balconies which we prefer. The balcony furniture has been changed to the new stuff -- two reclining chairs and footstools -- we preferred the older furniture.
Inside the couch was new and the mattresses had the big mattress pads that are now common -- firm but still comfortable.
Our room steward was fabulous -- in fact the best or at least in the top three we have ever had (James).
Common areas of the Ship
Again well maintained and functional. We appreciate the folio machines beside the front desk -- great way to see your charges without having to stand in line.
The International Cafe is the abbreviated one but still serves everything other than the gelato.
The open decks had lots of chairs -- we never had a problem finding chairs when we went up -- usually around noon after going to the gym. The pool with MUTS has the padded loungers but the other pool still has the uncomfortable one piece chairs that only lay down so far -- very uncomfortable if you want to lie on your stomach.
Bar staff -- some of the best we have had on the ships -- friendly and they listened to what you wanted. There is no longer a happy hour except for the specialty drink in the Platinum/Elite lounge. Instead they have gone to the punch card that goes into a draw for paying your bar bill. Not much of a perk for anyone............
Sanja and Milos in Churchill's were extremely friendly and they ensure that your experience is very personal.
We didn't go to any production shows as we usually went dancing as a group. We did see the comedienne who was pretty good, and the illusionist. The illusionist's tricks were maybe not that intricate, but he and his assistants were flawless in their delivery.
The bands other than the house orchestra were AWFUL........ Off key to the point where it became a running joke between our group. On the other hand the DJ in Skywalkers not only had a crowd each night, he made sure that the music had everyone up dancing.
MUTS was a bust -- they would play the first run movies in the Princess Theatre but not on MUTS??? Not sure why this has been changed.
This is probably the best set up of any of the Princess Ships. Machines are grouped, there is lots of free weights, 24 treadmills, I believe 8 elliptical machines, and about the same number of bikes. They also have a large group of bikes for a spin class.
This is one of the Elite perks but can also be utilized for a fee. When you look at dry-cleaning services at home -- the ship pretty much charges the same. Good deal if you need something cleaned. Originally we were hesitant to use this perk as we were not sure how much care they would take with our clothes. That concern was put to rest very quickly. Our clothes came back on hangers and in tip top shape. If you want to do your own, there are self-serve laundry rooms on a lot of the floors if you need them.
Overall Cruise Impression
This was our first 7 day cruise in a while and although it was Spring Break and there were a ton of kids on board -- it really didn't seem to change that much. Some common areas may have had more people and the pools seemed to be overflowing, but for the most part everyone was very well behaved and considerate of everyone else.