Let me start by saying this was my third cruise, but my first with Princess, so I am far from an expert at cruising. My two previous cruises were with Carnival and while we enjoyed this cruise, there were several things that left a bad taste in my mouth. After reading all the glowing reports of the Ruby's first few cruises, my DH and I were very excited to be going so I am not sure if we expected "more" than what we actually experienced. While I can't put the blame entirely on Princess, I have learned a few things that will make any future cruises with them much better.
Our group consisted of myself and DH along with my mother, aunt, sister and brother in law. Our ages range from 47 up to 67. We all came from different parts of the country for this cruise. My DH and I drove from Memphis while the rest of the group flew in from Texas, Colorado and California. We stayed at the Hampton Inn North on 12th which was wonderful. They offer a park and ride program for those who are cruising. There was some question about the price. I was quoted $20 for the week and when I arrived I was told $30. They did honor the $20 price, so I was happy. At check in, we arranged for their free shuttle to take us to the port at noon and when we returned from the cruise, I called and the shuttle was right there to get us and take us back to our awaiting car. NOTE: I accidently left my tennis shoes at the hotel before the cruise. When we got back I went in to the front desk and they have saved them for me! Not many hotels do that!
Embarkation was a breeze. It took us all of 30 minutes to get thru check in and into our cabin. We met our cabin steward Adelino who was wonderful the entire week! Our cabin, while smaller than the ones on Carnival, was wonderful. The bed was a bit hard, but nothing I couldn't handle. This was our first balcony, so we took advantage of that every chance we could. There is nothing better than sitting out on your balcony with your first cup of coffee in the morning.
Food on the ship was ok. The buffet was satisfactory. Sometimes it was good, sometimes not so good. But the food in the dining room was always wonderful. We had early seating in the Botticelli Dining Room with Ceclia as our server. She was wonderful and always had a smile on her face, even though she seemed to be overworked. I tried the Fettuccini for the first time and ended up ordering it 4 nights out of 7! We never had a problem getting a seat in the Horizon Court or the Café Caribe. If one was full, there were always seats in the other. Room Service was prompt every morning with our coffee and muffins. I was able to go to Tea one afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed that. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants.
Entertainment was good but confusing at times. We saw 2 comedians, a magician, listened to a couple of bands and attended the early performance of Once Upon a Dream. During sea days, we attended Princess Pop Star and signed up to participate in Passenger Feud. We had been looking forward to seeing the Abba show, but that had been replaced with a Broadway tribute show. Also, we had planned on seeing Mama Mia one evening on MUTS, but that got changed to an earlier time and was shown in the theater. We also went to see the Champagne Waterfall which for me was a mistake. I don't handle crowds well at all and I think 90% of the ships passengers as well as employees were there. The band playing in the Atrium that evening was very good, but very rude to the passengers. At one point, the female singer told some of the passengers to hurry up and get their pictures taken and move off of her dance floor because they were ruining her party. She stated that her boss was there and they were making her look bad. DH was able to hold on to me and get me out of there before I had a complete meltdown… lol.
Casino and Bingo were fun! Both my sister and Aunt did well in the casino the first few nights. I did ok, but did especially well on the last night. It seemed the slots were "looser" on the last night.. either that or I just hit them at the right time and won enough that I came out ahead in the end. My mom, aunt and sister played bingo a few times during the cruise, but I only played on the last day (and that was only because my mom bought my tickets with the agreement that whatever I won, I split with her. Well, Friday was my lucky day because I won the BIG JACKPOT (the final blackout game) and won $2750!! That gave both my mom and myself $1375!! Not too shabby!!
In Jamaica, we did the Spirit of Ocho Rios tour through the ship. It was interesting although I would not recommend it to others. Our tour guide ended up taking us to a "shop" where we could get special discounts (and I am sure she got commission on what was sold). We missed Grand Cayman which we all were looking forward to, but ended up finding things to do on the ship, so we weren't too unhappy. My DH said, "Oh well, this just means we will have to take another cruise!" woo hoo! In Cozumel, we all went our separate ways. I went shopping with one of my friends I met here on CC while my mom and aunt did the Tulum tour and my sister and BIL went to the beach. My DH did the helmet dive. He came back and said that there were only 2 problems with his excursion. The first was that the water was a bit cold. The second was that they made him come out of the water. He has done nothing but talk about that tour since he got back, so I guess I will have to do it when I go there next May!!
Our biggest disappointment came on Princess Cays. We booked a Bungalow and I will tell you now, its not worth it. We got our Priority Tender tickets and got over to the island on the second tender. We checked in at the desk and a young lady walked us to our Bungalow. That was all the "service" we got. There was NO food service and we ended up getting our own drinks. My mom said our drink server came by, but we never saw him. I guess he introduced himself to my mom while we were getting our floats, but never came back to introduce himself to us, so we didn't know who he was. There has been a lot of talk on these boards about the level of service. Well I am here to tell you that for us, it was virtually non existent. We did enjoy our day of snorkeling and relaxing in the sun though. But we could have rented a clamshell and been just as happy!
Disembarkation was fast and painless. We met in the Wheelhouse Bar at 9am and were in our car and on the interstate by 10am. My BIL had a bit of a different experience, though. He had purchased a ring my sister really liked in the jewelry store. When he tried to exit the ship, the buzzers went off. First he was told that he had a phone call which scared him since his brother has been sick. Then he was told to wait. Both he and my sister were then taken off the ship to get their luggage and taken to a small room. All they wanted to see was the receipt of the ring he bought her. Poor man was scared to death that something was wrong.
The ships staff was wonderful. Every time we passed a staff member in the hallway or out on deck, they had a smile on their face and always said good morning or good afternoon. The employees at the Pursers Desk were all very helpful and very nice. I did not meet one rude employee.
Passengers on the other hand were a completely different story. Getting into the theater to see a show was horrible. Our group of 4 got pushed around so much we ended up in different rows. DH and I finally made our way out of the throng of people and got down to the 2nd row where there were many seats available. My mom and aunt had both been "forced" into the 5th row. They were able to get out and come join us. DH and I stood and held seats for all of us until they could get to us, which was a matter of a minute or two. A woman in the front row turned to me and very rudely stated that there was no saving of seats, yet she was holding 2 for people who weren't even in the theater yet. So I guess it was ok for her, but not for anyone else. We saw this again during Once Upon a Dream. A large group of Oriental people were holding 6 seats even though there was standing room only. So the rule that no seats be held was not being enforced at all. We also had several problems of shoving and line cutting in the buffet too. It didn't matter that the line starts at one end and you work your way towards the middle, some people just started wherever and you just had to wait.
On sea days, the chair hogs were out in full force around the pools. DH and I headed to the rear pool on the Riviera deck early one afternoon and there was not a seat to be had, but only a few people there. All the seats were saved. We sat and watched for a while and never saw anyone come claim their chairs.
Overall, it was a good cruise. Perfect, no… but we still had a good time. We enjoyed our time on board, enjoyed our balcony and we enjoyed meeting the wonderful friends we had made here on CC.