We were looking for a deal in the UK school holidays and sure did we find one. We found the cruise on sale at £599 which at £50 pppn summer holidays was unbeatable. We were not sure about the ports being so close to home, but felt assured that we would enjoy the ship and its facilities non the less. We have been on P&O Ventura twice, and my parents who also traveled with us have sailed with Princess and held them in very high esteem since their very first cruise on the Dawn Princess around 15 years ago.
Although the Ruby Princess in almost identical to Ventura in appearance the feel of the ship, and quality of service and food is so much nicer. We were so pleased with the food quality in the main dining rooms it was a revelation compared to P&O fayre. The buffet food quality was superb with beautiful roast dinners my choice.
Each night Fillet Steak medallions were available, almost every night I had the fish dishes which in all cases were excellent. I really enjoyed trying new fish dishes that I had not tried before. Apart from the view we were left a little underwhelmed at Sabatinis due to the stunning service and food quality elsewhere. The lobster dinner night was amazing, I had an extra lobster tail and it was delicious. Other party members had the Beef Wellington which was noted as being the best ever tasted. Who could resist the Baked Alaska?
We traveled independently at the ports, using local taxis either pre-booked or taken from the stand near the ship. In all cases these were far cheaper and more convenient than using the ships transfers which were overpriced. The only time this didn't work out was in La Havre where we had planned on visiting Hornfleur. I had called the night before to book, but was assured their would be plenty of cabs at the port. We were a little late off at 10.30am and the only taxis left were only suitable for four passengers. The only larger one was just loading a party, and was going to Hornfleur we were told it would return for us, however as Google Maps said it was around 45 minutes each way we jumped onto a mini shuttle bus-train like you normally see on seafronts going up and down the promenade, it was 10 euros each return to La Havre. It was a bit slow and a bit bumpy, when were returning later we were pleased to be told our tickets were valid for the regular shuttle too so came back on that. Their were some very heavy rain showers in La Havre, but this allowed us to sample a couple of excellent beach bars. We shared a Pizza in one, then on our way back enjoyed steak burgers in its neighbor as the heavens opened up again.
The weather was generally excellent for the location the rest of the time, it was so nice having full sunny days in Dublin, Greenock and Invergordon for Loch Ness, the locals were keen to point out this was not normally the case! In Invergordon we hired a local car for £70 which was a brand new Peugeot 308SW estate which allowed 5 of us to get to Loch Ness and Aberdeen directly for less than £80 including fuel. This was picked up and dropped off from within the Port entrance so could not have been easier and I would highly recommend. Since the cheapest Princess tour to Loch Ness was $99 each we had greater flexibility and it worked out at only $26 per person based on 5 people.
Liverpool was great too, a really good atmosphere as the somewhat inaccurately named 'Giants' were returning to the city. A large amount of people had come to see them, which meant hop on hop off buses were not running. As the 'Giants' were delayed we got a view of them from the ship as they passed close by prior to leaving the port. Many people had been sat on the deck for hours to get a good view of the 'Giants' passing, which a bit underwhelming. Their was a man with a water jet pack hovering and doing stunts at the side of the ship and I found that to be more interesting.
Prior to travel I had heard mixed reviews about entertainment on the ship, but the Broadway themed show I saw was certainly very good, as was the American Comedian who despite his references to Dollar Stores etc translated very well. Since we seemed to dine around 8pm using Anytime dining due to our very busy port days I preferred making good use of my All Inclusive Drinks package which I found stunning value. It was eerie how everyone soon knew my name, I was often referred to as Mr Sheen as they many were unfamiliar with my name Sean which was quite amusing. I enjoyed trying all the frozen blended Margaritas and loved the 24k. The Stoli Elit Vodka was great, I was surprised it was in an All Inclusive package given its around £45 per bottle in the UK.
Our cabin location was great for instant access to the main dining room, International cafe and Vines. The service at the International Cafe bar and Vines was so impressive, they made the best coffee and cocktails on the ship by far.
Disembarkation was great, we delayed getting off at our specified time of 8am and just walked off at 9.15am after a more leisurely breakfast which caused no problems.
Overall apart from a few hours of seasickness as we traveled to Invergordon around the aptly named Cape Wrath in strong swells it was perhaps the best holiday I have been on. I have traveled so that's some praise given the local nature of the cruise. I would even do the same cruise again next year!