My mom and I took my 6 year old daughter on our first girls' vacation. We were originally booked on the Carnival Valor for our trip but last year when we were in Grand Turk with my husband we were docked next to the Ruby and my daughter fell in love with the ship. She talked about it all the time and offered to save up her allowance money for the trip so how could we say no?
We flew in the day of the trip, which made me nervous but we had something going on the day before and couldn't leave until the day of. Fortunately our flights were right on time. We purchased the Princess transfers. I don't think we would use them again, at least not in FLL. We hadn't done our research and didn't realize the cruise terminal was so close to the airport. We saw numerous taxis going past while we stood out in the heat waiting to board our bus. It took about an hour from the time we got off the plane until we reached the cruise terminal.
Embarkation was surprisingly smooth and painless. When we arrived at the cruise terminal around 12:30 the line extended outside the door and all the way to the end of the building. We thought we were going to be standing out there for an hour but the line went quickly. We were inside the terminal within about 10 minutes. Security was quick. There were several lines open to check in and we were on our way very quickly. We were on the ship in no time.
We went straight to our cabin. We had a balcony cabin on the Baja deck. The cabin was a little smaller than a comparable one on Carnival but we made do. There wasn't an actual closet with a closing door but there was plenty of room to hang clothes for 3 people. There was also a small cabinet with shelves to put t-shirts, etc... The bathroom was standard size with a shelf below the sink to store our cosmetic cases. Since we had three people in the cabin, we had a triple cabin with a bed that came down from the ceiling. When the bed was down, we had to move the ladder in order to walk past the bed. It made getting up in the middle of the night a challenge since the person sleeping in the top bunk needed the ladder to come down. We also had to be careful with the bed itself. My daughter was playing on the bed and sat up quickly and hit her head pretty hard on the fold-down bed. Our cabin steward was fine. He was efficient and polite. Our tablemates had a young son and their cabin steward made towel animals for him and kept him entertained so we were slightly disappointed that our cabin steward didn't do anything cute for our daughter but she was having too much fun to notice.
We enjoyed dinner in the Botticelli Dining Room. Our waiters, Boris and Serg, were wonderful. They got to know everyone's preferences by the second day and had all of our favorites waiting for us every night. They were so nice and so friendly. We found the food to be quite good too. My daughter fell in love with the fettucine alfredo in the parmesan basket and ordered that every night. That was my favorite too. We even tried escargot one night and she loved it. The desserts were good each night. I don't think I tried anything that I didn't enjoy. We got the ultimate soda and more card and it was the best purchase we made the whole trip. Our daughter got a lot of use out of that card. She drank a lot of smoothies and it was so convenient to just show them her card. We never got any attitude from the bartenders when we went to get her a smoothie at any of the bars, which has happened before on a different line. We went to the buffet once for dinner and it was good but I think the dining room is better. We only ever at the buffet for breakfast and that was good. They had all of the standard favorites and each day they had a specialty from a different country. There was also a waffle station at the stand where they later serve pizza (which is also delicious) and they make small, cute waffles. On our sea day we tried the pub lunch at the Wheelhouse Pub. It was quite good. We all had the fish and chips.
We didn't go to all of the shows but most of the ones we did see were excellent. One night they had a duo called Push who were amazing. They did contortions and what I can only describe as feats of strength. One night we went to see an illusionist, David Cats (I think) and he was so good. My daughter loved him and still talks about him. We went to one musical show that was very good. I can't remember what it was called but it was entertaining. Toward the end of the cruise we saw a show called Once Upon a Dream and we didn't enjoy it as much. It was kind of strange and parts of it were a little creepy. It was about a girl's psychedelic dream.
We spent a lot of time in the Piazza. There was almost always something going on. We particularly enjoyed the champagne tower on the first formal night. It was a beautiful area and fun to see the different events going on. The International CafÃ© was also right there, which we enjoyed. We didn't try any of the sandwiches but we did try some pastries, which were delicious. The gelato was delicious. They charged $1.50 for it but you get 3 large scoops so it was well worth it.
My daughter's favorite part of the ship was Neptune's Pool. We spent a lot of time there on sea days and days when we were back on the ship early. I found it a little strange that the shallow end in both of the main pools was over 5 feet. I would have thought that the shallow end would be around 3 feet, especially since there were a lot of children. The hot tubs were pretty nice. There was one on either side of the pool and one was very hot and the other was warm but not scalding hot. A lot of children used the hot tubs but they were all very well behaved.
My daughter enjoyed the kid's camp. Her age group was called Princess Pelicans. She normally has a lot of separation anxiety and doesn't do the kid's camp thing but she skipped off to play and asked me what I was doing there when I went back to pick her up at the designated time. The first and last nights of the cruise they did face painting and they did a beautiful job. The first night she was a butterfly and the last night she was a lovely swan. Whenever she went to the kids' camps she always came back with a cool craft. She had a great time there and made some new friends.
Princess Cays - we loved this port. We didn't do any excursions but it was a nice relaxing day. We rented an oceanviewing seaboard, which I would not recommend. It was hard to balance on it and there really wasn't anything to see in the water. The water was nice and warm and beautiful. We spent a good portion of the day at Pelican's Perch. They had a covered play area that looked like a pirate ship and a nice small pool. My daughter had a blast there and made friends with a little girl from Australia. I'm still kicking myself for not getting her family's contact information so my daughter could keep in touch her. She still talks about her every day.
St. Maarten - this turned out to be our least favorite port. I had never been there before and was very excited to see it. We took a non-Princess excursion that I had heard a lot of great things and it was just okay. We didn't spend long enough at any one place to really get a lot out of it. We stopped at an iguana farm, which I could have lived without. We went to Maho Beach but we had to leave right before the Air France plane landed. We saw it touch down from our bus. We had a very brief stop in Marigot where we could either grab a quick bite or shop at the market. We were supposed to have 2 hours at Orient Beach but we only had 1 hour. I was also a little disappointed that the island wasn't green and lush like most of the other islands we've been to.
St. Thomas - we took the Princess sponsored Magens Bay and Blackbeard's Castle excursion. This was my favorite port and Magens Bay is my new favorite beach. We were lucky that there were only 2 ships in port that day. I imagine it would get crazy if there were several ships in port. The beach was beautiful and the water was gorgeous. I could have spent the whole day there. Blackbeard's Castle was fun but we didn't have long enough there. We didn't want to take the very last ferry back to the ship so we only spent about an hour at Blackbeard's. The views were beautiful and we enjoyed swimming in one of the pools. We also got a couple of fun pirate pictures. We were kind of sad to leave St. Thomas.
Grand Turk - we took another Princess excursion. It was an hour and a half bus ride around the island with stops at the Salt Quay and lighthouse. I hate to say it but it was a boring tour. We were very ready for it to end. The driver kept saying "over there you'll see..." but he didn't say which direction and we spent the whole time looking around trying to find what he was talking about. The roads were terrible and we were really bouncing around. I feel bad for not liking the excursion because I do like to see as much of the different islands as I can and learn about them but I felt like the tour could have been better. Once the tour was over, we spent the rest of the time at the pool at Margaritaville. I love the pool and my daughter had a fantastic time there. We ordered some margaritas and a couple of appetizers. The margaritas were very good.
Overall, we had a wonderful time on the Ruby Princess and would definitely sail her again. There were a few things that were a bit surprising/disappointing. On all of our previous cruises, there have been waiters walking around the Lido deck with trays of drinks in souvenir glasses. There was none of that on the Ruby. We couldn't find a souvenir glass anywhere and the waiters took our drink orders but didn't have any specific recommendations.
The vast majority of staff members were wonderful but there were a couple of people who were extremely rude. One of the security officers shouted at me twice as we were disembarking the ship in different ports. After he scanned our cards, I needed both hands to get everything put away again so I let go of my daughter's hand for about 2 seconds (and we weren't even close to the gangway yet) and he kept screaming at me. I told him to stop yelling at me. There was no call for being rude. I was obviously going to hold my daughter's hand down the gangway. On our last morning we had an issue with our bill when something that should have gone on my mom's account had been put on mine and when we went to guest services they were very dismissive and just shrugged and said that there was nothing they could do. I was surprised at that attitude.
I was pleasantly surprised at the prices in the gift shop. The t-shirts were only $12.99 and they went on sale for $6.99 on the second or third day of the cruise. My mom and I each got a really nice jacket for only $30. I expected it to be at least $60.
A few things can be improved but I would go back on the Ruby in a heartbeat.
We took the island tour that included the Salt Quay and lighthouse. The stops were interesting as we were driving around the island the guide would say things like "over there you'll see..." but would never tell us where to look so we kept looking around and missing everything. The roads were also extremely bumpy and we spent the whole ride bouncing around.
Tendering went very quickly and smoothly. The area was small but very pretty. There seemed to be plenty of chairs. We enjoyed the water and my daughter loved Pelican's Perch. They had a nice covered play area and a small pool. The buffet was good. There were burgers, hot dogs and some very good fish. They also had very good fresh fruit.
This was the island I was most excited about and it turned out to be my biggest disappointment. The scenery wasn't lush and green like the other islands. We took an excursion through a private company and it was just okay. We didn't spend long enough at any stop to really enjoy it. We felt rushed the whole time. We went to Maho Beach and had to leave right before the Air France plane landed. That was a huge disappointment since that was my main reason for booking that particular tour. We went to Serafina's in Marigot and didn't enjoy it as much as we expected to. It doesn't help that we had a short stop there and had to rush. We only had an hour at Orient Beach. The waves were kind of strong so my daughter just played in the sand making sandcastles.
We took the Magens Bay and Blackbeard's Castle excursion. We loved, loved, loved Magens Bay. It's my new favorite beach. It was absolutely beautiful and the water was perfect. We were lucky that only two ships were in port. I imagine that it can get packed when there are several ships in port but it was perfect the day we were there. We didn't want to leave. Blackbeard's Castle was fun but we didn't have long enough there. We walked through each place pretty quickly and we spent about 15 minutes in the pool. I would love to go back and spend a few hours there. There was one very strange thing there. Everything seems to be from around the 1800's and then suddenly you enter a dark room with a big dinosaur roaring. My daughter was terrified and started screaming and crying. It was very out of place. My mom and I enjoyed a couple of Bushwacker's at the bar at the bottom of the hill. Other than the dinosaur, we enjoyed Blackbeard's Castle and would go back.