Ruby Princess Maiden Voyage -Review
Itinerary: Ft Lauderdale Cozumel Grand Cayman Ocho Rios Princess Cays
Jack and I just returned from the first passenger voyage of the Ruby Princess. This was our 11th cruise. We've sailed Cunard, Royal Caribbean and Princess.
We had 3,044 passengers and 1,235 crew on board for this sailing (this was per the Bridge Status Board).
Our itinerary was reversed due to Hurricane Paloma, which resulted in a little less time in Cozumel, but a little more time in Grand Cayman, so for us it was a wash. The weather was actually pretty good for the whole cruise, considering we were chasing a hurricane J
Below are some of our observations:
Ship: Hands down the most beautiful Princess ship we've sailed. While similar in design to the other grand class ships, her finishes are just a bit more refined. They've also improved some of the passenger flow, which is important as this generation of the grand class does hold approx 500 more pax than the older ones. We never really felt that the ship crowded, so whatever the designers have done, it seems to have worked. Not everything is smooth in the passenger flow area - the walkway in the Calypso Pool area (where MUTS is) is hampered by some support beams that stick out at an angle and cause some flow issue. We also found that you can only get to Deck 16 and higher (from the outside decks) from the starboard side of the ship at night - the access is closed from the port side at night. These aren't complaints - just observations.
The Piazza is stunning. We like how they moved Crooners to the port side of the ship and expanded it as well. Alexa and James took great care of us there. The shops were all very well laid out and had a lot of merchandise in stock. We were impressed with how much Inaugural merchandise they had on hand too, in all sizes. They also had a 15" highly detailed model of the Ruby going for $275 - we had to treat ourselves to this one. It is on a nice wood base with an Inaugural 2008 plaque and ship stats, covered with an acrylic case. Very nice.
Sabatinnis and the Adagio bar are beautiful spaces, with great views off the back of the ship. EJ and Jose (Kung Fu Panda) were our servers in Adagio and were an absolute joy! The Crown Grill is also very nice, with lots of dark woods.
Gatsby's Casino is a definite upgrade from the older grand class casinos. The cigar bar was located within and was a nice space.
We were told that they've added 80 seats to the Princess Theatre as well, but in appearance, it is similar to the others we've seen.
Movies Under the Stars: They played several movies here - Mama Mia, The Dark Knight, Swing Vote, Wall E, Iron Man and a lot of football (including Monday Night Football). They also used MUTS for Wii Fit competitions.
They did midnight showing of Rocky Horror, which was fun.
MUTS was really unobtrusive. We hadn't sailed on a MUTS equipped ship so didn't know if the volume would be too much. We were surprised how low the volume is.
Bridge Tour: Our friends had gotten us the Deluxe Honeymoon Package for this cruise which was great. Champagne waiting in the room, Red Roses, Robes, a champagne breakfast, chocolate covered strawberries and a spa treatment too. As nice as all of this was, the highlight was the Bridge Tour we received on the last sea day. We were met by Security at about 1:50 and escorted to the Bridge. Alex, one of the bridge officers gave us the tour and explained how all of the equipment worked. This was just amazing. We got to spend a little over an hour there and will never forget it.
Food: We had traditional dining, second seating in the Botticelli Dining Room, Table 2. Our servers were Jose and Francisco. Service was very good. Princess has made some additions to their menu. We tried the Texas Chili, Chicken Cutlets, and the Meatloaf among others. We found these additions to be quite nice. We didn't have any food in the Dining Room that we did not like. It was all very flavorful.
The Pub Lunch in the Wheelhouse Bar (offered on sea days) was a huge hit. We especially liked the Cottage Pie and the Fish and Chips. The Bangers and Mash needed a bit of help (the bangers were more like breakfast sausages - but the mash was good). We didn't try the Ploughman's Lunch. I had Guinness with my lunches, Jack had Bass.
The hot dogs and hamburgers were good. We weren't quite as happy with the pizza (we have like the pizza on other grand classes). We didn't try any of the ice cream on this trip - guess we need to rebook and try it
The waffle bar (which is located in the Pizza and Ice Cream area for breakfast) was very good too.
Cookies and Milk served Poolside each day at about 3:30 - loved it!!!
Overall, we would rate the food from very good to excellent, especially compared with past Princess voyages and other lines we've sailed.
Ports: We liked most of the ports on this itinerary.
Cozumel: We did the Twister Boat and Paradise Beach Break offered via Princess. What a blast. A new friend we met on Cruise Critic (Hi Chris!) joined us and we had a great time.
Grand Cayman: After some tendering delays due to winds that increased the sea swells (no fault of Princess), we grabbed a ride to the Turtle Farm. The turtles there were so cute (and big). We even got to hold a young turtle - which was surprisingly heavy.
Jamaica: We chose to treat this day as a ship day and enjoyed hanging by the pool. BTW - great poolside service.
Princess Cays: We rented a bungalow here. We rec'd Priority Tender Tickets and you could choose an upgraded menu and wine packages if you wanted (we didn't). We got a ride to our bungalow (Yellowender, #6) from the tender pier. The bungalow had air conditioning and a ceiling fan, outdoor shower and foot wash. There was a table set for six in side, along with a bucket of ice and pitcher of water. There were six beach towels inside and six more on the the dedicated loungers outside. There was also bug spray inside if we wanted it. We had two waiters, Emil and Joey who provided bar service and brought a ton of food from the buffet, family style. If you book a bungalow, please remember to bring some cash for tips. These waiters work hard. Loved it and would do it again. There are a couple of souvenir shops that take the seapass card and a couple that take cash.
Cruise Critic: We had a HUGE Cruise Critic roll-call on this trip. It was a blast meeting all of you. The CC meet & mingle was held in Skywalkers on the first sea day and as a highlight, Captain Yeomans showed up and spoke with us as a group and individually. He was very gracious and friendly. We also saw the Captain all around the ship with his lovely wife.
Misc: Uniforms: Princess has upgraded their uniforms for bar staff and room stewards. There seems to be a Cunard influence on the uniforms. They are much nicer now, both in our opinion and the opinion of the workers who wear them.
All of the furnishings throughout the ship have been upgraded as well, which contributes to a feel of elegance.
Patters: We don't care for the new Patter format and commented on such on the survey.
Pool Depth Markers: These aren't correct on the Neptune Pool. They say 3'9 to 5'2. It's more like 5'2 to 7'. This needs to be corrected. Princess still needs to put the "Adult Only" signage at the Terrace Pool too.
Inaugural Gift: We all received (one per cabin) Kosta Boda Atoll Bowl in ruby red with "Ruby Princess Inaugural 2008" in white lettering. Very nice.
Embarkation and Disembarkation: These were the smoothest we've ever had on any cruise. When we embarked, we got to the port at around 11 and were on board by 11:45. Disembarkation is "Silent". We went to Club Fusion, which was being used for Platinum and Elite. At our assigned time, we just walked off the ship. They directed us to our bags and were through Customs and Immigration in no time at all. From walking off the ship to getting through security at the airport was 55 minutes. Not bad at all considering there were five or six ships in port.
Overall, we had a great time on this cruise. There were some glitches due to it being a maiden voyage and the fact that many of the crew were learning to work together. But, that being said, we actually anticipated that there would be many more problems on this cruise and were pleasantly surprised how well things did go. And as each day went by, things went more smoothly. We look forward to doing a longer cruise on Ruby in the future.