Jan. 23-27, 2014 by Mary & Vincent Finelli
Five years ago we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on the beautiful Ruby Princess. We remembered well the wonderful time we had then and we decided to book a cruise for our 45th anniversary on this ship. However, this was a four day cruise, not a seven day like the other one. We would have booked a back-to-back cruise, but a wheelchair accessible cabin similar to the one we had on the first leg was not available at booking time. We had a short cruise, but still a memorable one, thanks to several old friends we found aboard.
This ship still departs from Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, where we often find slow moving lines at the security gates. This time was one of the slowest moving traffic, at least for our lane, it took about 30 minutes to clear the gates. Once through the security gates, we dropped the luggage curbside at the pier and proceeded to priority check-in which went smoothly and fast with assistance to our cabin in less than 10 minutes. The only problem entering the ship was the unnecessarily steep gangway, where both Mary’s motorized wheelchair and Vincent’s scooter got stuck and we needed help from the crew.
Ruby Princess is little more than five years old, since her inaugural cruise was on November 8, 2008. Our first cruise on her was in January 23, 2009, during her inaugural season in the Caribbean. She still looks immaculate as she did on our first cruise. The last time she was inspected by the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program she scored 100 points. Evidently, Commodore Giuseppe Romano runs a tight ship as did Captain Tony Draper, who commanded her in 2009. Other information on the Ruby has been reported extensively in our review published on this web site in Jan./Feb. 2009, so we refer the reader for the deck-by-deck description to the earlier review.
Our cabin, Riviera deck #14302 is a wheelchair accessible cabin, similar to the one we had five years ago, on the Baja deck #11301. For the description of the cabin we refer the reader to the earlier review. Our steward Calixto was very efficient and prompt in assisting us in every thing, even to opening our cabin door whenever he saw us approaching. However, we had asked him for a chaise lounge on the balcony, but he was told by his boss, the Head Housekeeper, that there was none available. This was our first time on a Princess ship that Vincent could not enjoy the many hours lounging on the spacious balcony. Maybe, during the next cruise on a Princess ship we’ll find a more understanding Head Housekeeper, who will satisfy a passenger with limited mobility like Vincent, thus letting him spend comfortable time on the balcony.
SERVICE & FOOD
For us the aspects that have a major attraction to the Princess Cruises are the excellent service and high quality cuisine, especially for the Italian dishes, which we select every time we come aboard. On this cruise we found our old friends, Maitre d’ Nicola Furlan and the Head Waiter Franceso Memeo. We were originally assigned for the evening dinner to the Botticelli Restaurant which is located all the way aft on deck 6. Knowing the ship’s deck plan, we preferred a centrally located restaurant, either the Michelangelo or the Da Vinci, deck 5 or 6, respectively. No problem! In the afternoon we met our friend Maitre d’ Nicola who assigned us an easily accessible table (for us on wheelchair and scooter) in the Michelangelo. He also told us that our friend Francesco was in charge in the Michelangelo. Thank you, Nicola and Francesco for the VIP treatment you gave us. Needless to say, the service at that table was excellent, thanks to the waiters Charlie and Victoria.
Most of the Executive Chefs on Princess ships are Italians and that explains the quasi gourmet quality of all the Italian dishes, which the Italian born Vincent appreciated, since they are prepared with original ingredients made in Italy and not imitations (e.g., if the recipe requires Parmigiano or Grana they use the Parmigiano Reggiano or the Grana Padano but not the generic parmisan or some other substitutes which will never match the taste of the genuine product). We remember that the Executive Chef on the first cruise on the Ruby was Manlio Cuzzolin and on this cruise we met Executive Chef Paolo Merio: Both great chefs, who keep up the high quality standard of Princess.
We usually order our breakfast from the room service menu: Juices, such as orange, grapefruit, apple and prune; coffee, hot chocolate, tea and milk; fruit like half grapefruit or melon; pastries including croissants and Danish; marvelous strawberry, orange and apricot marmalade; and finally an English muffin sandwich with egg, Canadian ham and cheese. Vincent even got his lactose-free milk.
As Elite members of the Princess Captain Circle we were served in our cabin every afternoon at 3:45pm a formal English High Tea: The butler sets the table with a linen cloth and serves it. Mary felt like a queen! Mary’s favorite tea was the Earl Gray Black with Bergamot. Excellent!
At sea days lunch was served in the Da Vinci dining room or as a buffet at the Horizon Court, Pizzeria, Trident Grill and Cafe’ Caribe. We always prefer to eat in the dining room, where we have enjoyed some delicious dishes such as the English mixed grill with diverse cuts of meat including lamb, pork and veal, and fritto misto (fried calamari, shrimp, cod, etc.). In addition, there were soups and salads and delicious pasta dishes.
We had dinner at the Michelangelo Restaurant every night at 6:00. The menus were long and varied with several always available dishes such as the shrimp cocktail and our favorite “Fettuccine Alfredo” served in a roasted Parmigiano bowl, simply exquisite! Other favorite dishes to us were the following ones. Appetizers: Spring Rolls, Beef Carpaccio, Prosciutto di Parma and Melone, etc.; Pasta dishes: Four cheeses rigatoni, potato gnocchi, Farfalle a la Rustica, Bucatini all’ Amatriciana, etc...; Main Courses: Gamberi alla Fra Diavolo and Prime rib roast cooked to perfection; Desserts: Delicious gelati and sorbet, cream puffs, creme brulee and tiramisu. On our anniversary dinner, Head Waiter Tiziano and the waiters Charlie and Victoria brought us a small but very delicious chocolate cake that Mary referred to a “death by chocolate”.
Various performances, events and activities went on throughout the day at different venues from the Piazza to the Princess Theater, the Explorer Lounge and the Lido Deck, where were shown several times a day Movies Under the Stars and other activities. Vincent enjoyed the Piano Melodies performed in the Piazza throughout the cruise by Jan Gulbicki. Among the shows offered in the theater we saw “Magical Showtime” performed by the illusionist Landon Swank.
There is plenty to do for every passenger, just read the Princess Platter and choose among the many events at different venues.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL Sail Away 5:00 p.m.
Day 2. At Sea
Day 3. Cozumel, Mexico Arrival 8:00 a.m. Depart 6:00 p.m.
Day 4. At Sea
Day 5. Ft. Lauderdale, FL Debarkation 8:00 a.m.
We had a nice breakfast in the Botticelli dining room and by 8:00 a.m. we were back in our cabin waiting for assistance. In addition to the wheelchair and scooter we have a walker which we use in the cabin. We went to the Casino, deck 6 where all passengers in need of wheelchair assistance wait until their numbers/colors are called. At around 8:30 our number was called and we proceeded with the assistant to the gangway. Here we had the same problem as when we embarked, both Vincent’s scooter and Mary’s wheelchair got stuck on the unnecessarily steep gangway. This time was worse, since the right pedal of Mary’s wheelchair touched the side of the gangway and broke off. She had to go all the way through customs with one pedal only. At least we were at the end of our cruise, so it was not too bad.
This was our 19th cruise on Princess ships, although a short one, it has been a very pleasurable one. We enjoyed our “Dolce far niente” (Sweet do nothing), since our time on the ship now is mainly spent in relaxation. Rarely, do we go down in the ports of call since we prefer to enjoy the ship by visiting the various areas, especially on port days, when most of the passengers go out. The Ruby is wheelchair friendly, with smooth thresholds and lots of automatic door openers throughout the ship, thus we were able to easily access every areas, from the Promenade to the Lido, from the Piazza to the theater, etc.... However, the most difficult aspect was to opening our cabin door, since it does not have an automatic opener and we are both operating our vehicles. Many times we were lucky to have our steward in the corridor who ran to help us, other times some passengers helped by holding the door open. The other problem is the gangway, which we have described above in this review. However, we believe the gangway can be easily modified by eliminating the sharp angles and flattening the walking plane. We have cited this problem before, but without any response.
Next cruise will be on the Norwegian Epic, Feb. 9; after that we have booked one on the MSC Divina. March 15th, with our grandchildren Nicolas and Marcello. Happy Cruising!