We sailed Ruby Princess on her Mediterranean itinerary in July 2013, a 12-night voyage from Venice to Rome with stops in Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Italy. Our party consisted of us, two parents in our early forties with our 8 and 10-year old daughters. This was our 21st cruise, 3rd on Princess having previously sailed on Dawn and Grand. These are our thoughts on the line, ship and voyage.
Since our last Princess cruise was in 2001, we had somewhat forgotten the unique differences that Princess offers. For us, the most glaring one, after recent cruises on Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, was the subdued, lower key atmosphere of the line. Princess, like fewer lines these days, actually still seems to pride a more conservative cruise experience and one that doesn't try to make you forget you're on the ocean. This is expressed through the more classical design of the ships and attempt to not cast too much shadow over the fact you are on water with exuberant ship features or obnoxious activity programs. Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoyed Oasis and Allure of the Seas and similarly-intended contemporary vessels but on a port-intensive European outing, the quiet interludes that Princess provided in between stops were quite welcome.
For a 2008 ship which hasn't yet gone through a major refurbishment, it is certainly in more than decent condition. Frankly, having a recent cruise history dominated by new ships, we were worried. However, these were quickly put to rest. The line has done a good job keeping Ruby ship shape. If we noticed significant wear, I would say it was in the mini-golf and perhaps in the gym where treadmill reliability was hit and miss but that's about it. Couldn't name another area where upkeep was deficient.
Ditto for our cabin. Furniture, beds, fixtures and the like were in good condition and our home away from home would have scored almost perfect if it wasn't for cleanliness. Our cabin steward was friendly and quick, never in the way. However, he probably as a result of his efficiency skimped over details too much like putting back in place dirty glasses, serving welcome aboard bubbly in lipstick-adorned flutes or going a tad too easy on refreshing the bathroom floor.
While on the topic of our cabin, we had booked a mini-suite. Before you all ask, no we did not mind the open air balcony. The size was a major plus and the ability to look up was also fun. But above and beyond everything else, we think this cabin layout is the best we've seen on a cruise ship to accommodate a larger party without splurging for a full suite or two cabins. The four of us felt quite comfortable.
Food was more than decent. Buffet pleased us 9 times out of 10 and the dining room 7 out of 10. In the latter, we had Anytime Dining and barely ever waited. We tried both Crown Grill and Sabbatini's. Both were enjoyable experiences though we would not rate them at the same level as what we experience on Celebrity, Royal or, frankly, even Carnival's steakhouse. Nothing here was horrible, quite the contrary. Food quality and service were high caliber, just not as elaborate as similar venues we've tried at sea.
Finally, two points worth noting on the ship. Service is decidedly friendly throughout. We met very crew members not smiling and quick to accommodate requests. And the pools. After sailing on Carnival Magic two years ago with clearly not enough pools (just two small ones) for the thousands on board, Ruby's 5 pools were welcome. And not only are there many, but they are spread out and offering different ambiances so as to disperse the crowds. Smart.
We chose this itinerary over others, including on Celebrity, our favourite line. This Ruby 12-night cruise starts off (or ends) with two days in Venice. Always a good thing. And though we added 3 nights in a hotel before the cruise, one could opt to fly in straight onto the ship knowing there's another day in port in case you get delayed. We opted not to in an effort to board the ship cured of jet lag.
Then, while the ship stops at the fascinating ports of Dubrovnik, Kusadisi and Naples, it gives you a thorough overview of Greece with five port of calls there: Corfu, Olympia, Athens, Mykonos and Santorini.
Our favourites stops were clearly gorgeous Santorini and Naples. In the former, we took a full tour of the island through the ship. Quite good though we opted to walk down to the ship from Thira and that ended up being quite a task with two kids and high-heeled spouse. Recommendation: Take the cable car and plan for a wait. In Naples, where we had been before, we hired See Amalfi Coast for a private tour to Sorrento, Positano and Ravello. Beyond the breathtaking sights in each town, the personalized service of a private tour and flexibility to adjust the itinerary as we go were tough to beat.
Caution: This is a port-intensive itinerary with only two days at sea. Beware if you are looking for lots time at for onboard R&R.
I filmed key public rooms and our mini-suite. Take a look at my video at the link below: