I took the Ruby Princess to the Western Caribbean on January 31st and what a wonderful week I had. With one of us flying in from Boston and the other from Indiana we went down a day early just to give us plenty of time to get to Florida if there was any snow in either city. Luckily all went well and we were both there on time. We spent the night at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood which I have stayed at several times before and really enjoy. There we met a couple from Cruise Critic for lunch which we had arranged ahead of time and we hit it off so well that we ended up spending the day together and having dinner there as well. Actually we spent the majority of our week aboard together and I already miss them.
Saturday we got to the ship at 11:40am and being platinum with Princess we were able to board right away. There weren't any lines at all seeing how they were in between calling numbers for the next group. But to anyone else who is taking this cruise; before we told the people outside in the line that we were platinum we were given number 24 as a group number for boarding the ship. After we had checked in and gotten our cruise cards/keys we heard them call out group #2 - so we would have had a VERY long wait. If you are not big on lines or sitting around then you would probably be better off to show up later in the afternoon.
I had previously sailed on the Crown Princess and the Ruby is laid out exactly the same so from the minute I was onboard I knew where everything was. We went right away to sign up for the Ultimate Ship's Tour and were the first two on the list. But we were told that it was now being done by a lottery system and we would find out later in the week if we were picked. Luckily for us we did get chosen - I believe we got our letter telling us that we had been and when it was on Tuesday. For those of you who are sun-worshippers this tour is done only on days at sea and it's in the middle of the day so it would cut into your tanning time. For our cruise the weather wasn't the best so it turned out just fine that we had the tour from 2:00 - 5:00 that day.
I don't want to skip around too much but the tour was FANTASTIC!!! It was better than I thought it would be and you really do get to see all different places on the ship as well as meet some great people. It seemed to me that in each department/area we went to we were met by the 'head' of that department which I thought showed excellent planning. From the chief doctor in the hospital area to the staff captain when we went up to the funnels, etc. it was very well organized and arranged. Each department has a little 'gift' for you except the hospital - what are they going to give us; band-aids? We didn't have to worry about carrying our presents around as they were all delivered to our cabin that night and the next day. The majority of them were pictures in the various areas but we did get the nice fluffy robes and a chefs jacket. Please beware that if your suitcase is filled when you get to the Ruby and you are going to take this tour you will need more room going home. That robe takes up a lot of space!
Everyone else seems to have commented on how wonderful and beautiful the Ruby is so I won't go into the decor except to say that I agree. Being a new ship everything still sparkles. And she is very typical of many Princess ships with the Wheelhouse, etc. I was a little disappointed in the shops - not that I am a big shopper but I didn't think the selection they were offering on the Ruby was on par with that on other ships. Still, not a big deal at all.
The food on the Ruby was exactly what I have come to expect from Princess. I didn't really note much of a difference or change in the menus from my last Princess cruise a year ago other than the addition of the 'home style' entrees each night. (Or whatever they called them.) They now have an entree each evening in the dining room which is considered more of a comfort food like meatloaf, pot roast, etc. I didn't try any of them; nor did anyone at our table, but it's nice to see them trying to add things and accommodate more tastes. Their fettuccini alfredo is still wonderful and you can order it either as an appetizer or an entree.
In the Caribe Cafe I was disappointed to not see a sign anywhere telling us what the theme there would be each night. On the Crown there was a large sign posted as well as having it in the Patter each day but on the Ruby if you wanted to know you either had to just go up there and look when it opened or try and find somebody during the day who could tell you. We ate at the Crown Grill twice and enjoyed both meals. We did not go to Sabatini's as it does not appeal to me being a picky eater. I also didn't try the pub lunch in the Wheelhouse but the other three did and they all enjoyed it.
In Jamaica we signed up through Princess for the Mystic Mountain bobsledding and zip-lining tour. I was shocked when we got to the mountain and looked at their price list to learn that it was actually cheaper to take the ships tour then to go on your own let alone the fact that the ships tour also included transportation both ways. The four of us all had a wonderful time there and would happily go back! The bobsledding was a lot of fun and we enjoyed it so much we bought 'additional' rides. You can either have your own bobsled or you can have two of them joined together but keep in mind that the person in the sled in front has all the control while the one in back is simply 'along for the ride.' Then we went over to do the zip-lining and we were fortunate enough that there were only the four of us at that time so we got kind of a private 'zip-line' group with just us and the two guides. There are 5 zip-lines in total and a 'surprise' along the way. All of Mystic Mountain was just perfect and everyone we met was very friendly and willing to do just about anything they could to make their guests happy. I also enjoyed not having anyone trying to sell me anything, offer to braid my hair, etc. There is a pool and waterslide at the top of the mountain that we were welcome to use however by the time we got through with the other things the clouds had rolled in so we headed back toward the ship for some quick shopping then meeting other friends at Margaritaville.
The other stops were exactly what I have come to expect from them; this was my 11th or 12th time cruising the Western Caribbean itinerary so I have pretty much done those things that interest me on each island. (Mystic Mountain is new so I had to try that.) The weather for the week was pretty cool and cloudy so when we got to Princess Cays we chose to simply stay on the ship: sitting on the beach getting cold was not my idea of fun. No complaints though - the cruise ship can not control the weather and we still had a wonderful week.
We were on the ship for the Superbowl which was shown both on MUTS and in Club Fusion. As I said we had cool weather that week so we opted to see the game from Club Fusion. Princess did not do one of those 'pick a square' things which other lines will do for the Superbowl but they did set out a little buffet with football snacks, etc. They offered pizza, popcorn and chips with salsa. Every-so-often they would also have people come into the room bringing trays of pigs in a blanket around to the tables as well. I did go up and check at MUTS at one point and they were offering the same food up there. As it happened the Superbowl hit on formal night so there was quite a variety of outfits on board that evening. We skipped dinner in the dining room to watch the game so you could enjoy the snacks they had put out or head up to the buffet, grill or pizza place and bring food back to eat.
I did not care for the layout of the Patter at all!! I, along with many others I spoke with, found it terribly difficult to follow and tell what was going on each evening. It's the 'usual' style for daily activities but after about 6:00pm it just stops and you have to look at the different ad-like things on the opposite page to see what's going on each night. It's easy to miss something and they are not in any sort of order so you have to figure what you want to see, when your dinner is, what conflicts with what or is being done twice that evening, etc. to try and 'make a plan' for the night. I much prefer to have a list with times, etc. that is easy to read and follow! And I wish they would also print a smaller insert-like version as both Carnival and Royal Caribbean do which is convenient to bring along with you everywhere so you can keep track of everything, the times, and locations.
Like I said this was a great cruise and we really enjoyed our week on the Ruby. The little things I have mentioned not liking, etc. are all minor and certainly did not ruin or mar the vacation at all!! We had a wonderful group for our Cruise Critic get-together in Adagio on our first day at sea and it was great to keep running into them all as the week progressed to see what everyone was up to, had done that day, etc. The only real negative was that it was over so quickly - then again, aren't they all?