Sooooo, as the name suggests, we are massive cunard fans and have only ever gotten as far as looking at other cruiseline's brochures or pricing them up. This time around however, we went for a super-late booking; just 10 days in advance of sailing, and as we couldn't meet the departure dates for cunard, ended up on our first ever Princess cruise on the Ruby Princess.
Well..... Our review goes a little something like this:
Before I start on the specifics of the cruise itself, I want to make it absolutely clear (as we were misled by Princess) that deck 9 on this ship is entirely open. Open to the elements as well as ALL balconies above you. We had initially booked a mini suite on Dolphin deck (9) but once we discovered that the balcony wasn't suitable, we were moved to Emerald deck 8.
Princess tried to tell us that the was an overhang of sorts on deck 9, as you would find on other ships, but this is not the case. It might not offend everyone, but it did us and as such we were (eventually) moved to a more suitable room after much deliberation between our agents and Princess. I might add at this stage that Princess were not very helpful during the booking experience. I'm aware that we were a late booking, but I would have liked to have seen some more support and understanding from them, especially as we had four different reports from the princess staff regarding the deck 9 balconies. Evidently the staff don't all sing from the same hymn sheet.
The meet and greet at Rome was fine, as were the transfers from the airport to civitavecchia. The embarkation was also quite hassle-free and was quicker then we'd expected.
Once we'd boarded and had our complimentary glass of bubbles (compared to our usual two bottles of bubbles from cunard) we'd gone for a wander to see what Ruby had to offer.
The public rooms/spaces on Ruby are well presented, spacious and each served by a bar. The explorers bar on promenade deck 7 seems to be the main area in the evenings for bands/quizzes etc. Club Fusion, also deck 7, for some reason was completely dead the whole cruise. It looks a great area and with the tv screens for sports etc and the dance floor and stage, strikes me as a popular area. However on this particular cruise, the room wasn't used at all. The only people we saw in there the whole time were there for the muster station drill and disembarkation.
The wheelhouse bar (pub) on deck 7 also, was a nice pub, though it didn't have the best atmosphere. There was a band who played in there every night and people would often just go there to dance to their tunes.
As for the external areas, these are also spacious and again, each is served by a bar. The movies under the stars /calypso pool area appeared to be quite popular though to be honest we spent very little time here as we simply found it a constant racket. (The popcorn stand here was a favourite of ours though). The area we used the most was the horizon terrace which is at the rear of the ship and spread over decks 14, 15 and 16. Neptunes pool area was also very popular and as the trident grill is to its rear, is a popular place to grab lunch while sunbathing.
Overall, the ship is well laid out and has plenty of areas for a multitude of uses. One thing that baffled me however is the carpet /AstroTurf on the outdoor decks. If they've weren't sticky they were wet. To my mind, they are mere harbingers of dirt and grime. On the same topic, the god awful blue matting that's on the balconies is a terrible idea. These are also breeding grounds for dirt nevermind being extremely uncomfortable to stand or walk on for any length of time.
The cleanliness of the ship left a bit to be desired. Our cabin attendant did turn up twice a day, that wasn't a problem, he only managed to empty the bins and make the bed though. The dust in the room was disgusting and there was the most awful stench of stale urine from the toilet. None of the surfaces were cleaned properly for us boarding and were not cleaned during our stay. The balcony was dirty as was the furniture, someone else's hair remained stuck to the table for the duration of the cruise and the glass on the balcony was never cleaned. The mirror in our bathroom had only ever had a cleaning smear in the middle of it, the rest of the mirror had never been touched. If they can't clean these areas mentioned then I'm scared to even think of what else was never cleaned.
If you've made it this far, stick around. Promise there's not much more to come.
The food was nothing short of disappointing with the exception of one little bit. We had opted for anytime dining as we don't like to be told when to be hungry. It was apparent that those who'd booked either the early or late slots didn't like being told this either as they more often than not pitched up to the anytime restaurants anyway, making them busier than they needed to be. That aside, we went to da Vinci twice and to Michelangelo twice. For whatever reason, da Vinci was always busier and we felt the food was delivered far too fast. No sooner had we ordered than the first course turned up. There was very little time between courses too, giving the impression that they wanted your table for someone else (which is of course the point I suppose). Michelangelo was a little more subdued and relaxed though.
The food itself was, well, best described as bland, cheap and just not what we have become accustomed to when cruising. This was the case across all restaurants and food bars including the horizon lido. I can't actually give you one instance that we really enjoyed the food that was supplied. Like I said, all of what I've just said is with exception to one place; the crown grill. Such a shame that we had to pay a supplement for this place, but it was well worth it. We went to the crown grill on both formal nights (to get away from the idiots who didn't do formal) and the food was exceptional on both nights. If you get the chance, go. You won't regret it.
Now I beg no forgiveness whatsoever for what I'm about to say. What is the point of going cruising with a cruiseline who runs formal evenings when you make every effort to avoid the whole idea?! If anything drives me nuts, it's the arrogant idiots who think its ok to cut about in their jeans or even the same skanky shorts and t-shirts they've had on all day, during a formal evening. Rraaaggghhhh!
It's honesty amazing what passes for formal on these 'American' ships. A glitzy jumper and sequinned flip flops just don't do it!
There is honestly so much more I could say. The parting shot however is that it is indeed........ Cunard all the way from now on.