I originally booked this cruise back around September knowing I would be unable to make it through a Northeast winter without jetting off to a warmer climate for a week. I booked directly via the cruiseline. I also started looking for airfares which were through the roof expensive being President's week and the week many schools have winter break. I chose this weekend because I would be traveling with a child on such a break.
The fare was due in full on December 1 and at that time, I started hearing that fares may have dropped. To my delight, I found out that the fare for my cabin had dropped about $800. I was even able to get a better deal by booking through one of the discount online cruise sites. Always check before making your final payment if fares have dropped. And don't buy your airfare too soon either. I booked a horrible flight itinerary around October and then later had to pay $150 change fees per ticket to get something more reasonable. In the first round of air itineraries, I was going to FLL via Houston from Laguardia. Shoot me now!! I wound up leaving Newark and going via Cleveland . .far FAR BETTER!!
Hotels for the night before were also expensive . .even the dives, but I wound up using some American Express miles and staying at the Hilton in Fort Lauderdale. I got a quick and free pick up from them on Friday night. The room was very nice and comfortable for three people and they had a shuttle to the cruiseport in the morning that was $9 per person and very easy.
Embarkation on the Ruby Princess could not have been smoother and quicker. The ship is very beautiful and impressive. We had a BD balcony cabin on the Aloha deck. It was a room equipped with a bunk for a third person. .we were two ladies and a 7 year old. I had requested for comfort and style that we have the beds configured as a king instead of two twins. When I checked in,it was as two twins and I assumed it was because the steward saw it was all women in the room, but then found out that for some safety reasons a king bed was not allowed in a room with a bunk. This was my first annoyance as I hate sleeping in a twin bed. I tried to work out some alternate plan whereby we could even put the bunk mattress on the floor and slip it under the big bed during the day,but that would not fit. The steward went ahead and gave us our king bed even though apparently against the rules. I definitely prefer a pull out couch for the third, but these rooms did not have them. The rooms were smaller than the similar category I was used to on Celebrity. The bathrooms was smaller too and so was the teeny tiny shower stall. There was a relatively spacious area to hang clothes which was convenient. The room steward did a very nice job and tried his best to keep us happy. I much appreciated him letting us do the beds the way we wanted.
The food in the Horizon was fair at best and sadly the food in the DaVinci for anytime dining was not much better. I have sailed quite a few times on Celebrity from about 2000-2005 and their food was far better. I felt uninspired most nights to even make my selections where I always felt on Celebrity that I had a hard time picking because so many items sounded delicious. I loved the Anytime dining, however,which was the reason I went ahead with Princess this time over Celebrity. I ate 5 nights in the DaVinci at differing times. One night we arrived around 6:30 PM and were able to get a private table for three. All other nights we arrived around 7-7:30PM and were immediately seated, but needed to share. That was totally fine and we met some nice people. Seemed that those that arrived around that time and wanted private tables had to wait about 20 minutes.
The other two nights, the formal nights, we ate at the specialty restaurants. You only have to dress "Smart Casual" in the specialty dining rooms. Sabatini's was excellent ($20 per person cover). It was the best food we had on the Ruby all week. It was set up as a tasting menu. You only selected your main entree,soup and dessert. You tasted everything else, and it was terrific. We also did the Crowne Grill ($25 per person cover) which was nice enough, but the steaks are definitely not of the quality that you would get in a fine steak house nor grilled to the nice crust of those restaurants, but it was good enough and definitely better than what was in the DaVinci. I got the molten chocolate cake for dessert which was great. Skip paying the extra $9 for the Brazilian lobster tail.
The pizza was excellent!! They had perfectly cooked over medium fried eggs every morning in the Horizon and they properly poached eggs. .not overcooked which I appreciated. The best things I had in the Davinci were the Prime Rib, a seafood antipasto, Veal Chops, Lamb Shank and Rack of Lamb . .all were good, not excellent. My friend ordered the Seabass one night . .not good at all, overcooked and tasteless. and we had Strip Steak the last night . .not good. I wished I had ordered the meatloaf. The Caesar salad is like caesar dressing out of a bottle. The Fettucini Alfredo is offered every night and was good. The desserts were mostly pretty good.
For another good point, Movies Under the Stars is a lot of fun. We saw Mama Mia one night at 7PM. It was like going to a drive in movie, but better. You got your own lounger. They came around with popcorn, candy snacks to buy and blankets. The movie was great. I heard you had to arrive early to get loungers for the more popular showing of the same movie at 10:30PM. What we did was see the movie at 7PM and had reservations at Sabatini's at 9PM . . .perfect. And it's not like you would starve on a cruise ship. They also ran movies on that screen during the day which I did not find nearly as enjoyable. The loungers are much more comfortable in that pool area, but if you were not watching or interested in the movie, it was a cacophonous racket. And depending on where you sat, you could hear the movie AND the music in the adjoining pool area or the cruise director running the pool games in same pool area . .noisy!!!
The ship was too crowded. This made the "at sea" days unpleasant for anyone who loves the water . . .picture loungers and random bodies strewn across the upper decks like at Coney Island on 4th of July. The chair hogging was atrocious. Princess needs to do something. I sat in one section with about 16 loungers from 9AM to 12 Noon, and only two other loungers even had butts in them . . .the rest had towels or books or hats. Their towel policy thoroughly annoyed me. Instead of leaving fresh towels by the pool, your room steward brought them to your room. So if you ran out of dry towels by the pool, you were out of luck unless you went back to your room and paged your steward to bring you more immediately . .good luck with that!!! This towel policy not only left you wrapped in damp towels all day and then turning your balcony into shantytown overnight as you tried to dry your precious towels, but led to even a bigger chair hogging problem when some believed that leaving their towel on the chair was marking their territory. You did not have to "turn your towels in" nor did you have to keep track of your towels on the boat, but getting fresh dry ones only happened in the room, as far as I knew.
The kids program was great. The seven year old with us really enjoyed herself. You can even get babysitting for only $5 an hour from 10PM-1AM. You can't beat that deal with a stick!!
I heard that the Sanctuary was a great deal and made the "at sea" days pleasant. If I ever do a Princess cruise again and they have a Sanctuary, I am DEFINITELY doing it. It seemed if you got in on this, you paid for the mainstream cruise and for a small upcharge got the upscale pampering and privacy of a much pricier line, avoided the tacky "Coney Island" experience.
Disembarkation at the end of the cruise was slow and crowded as was disembarkation at Princess Cays.
Next winter, I think I am doing a land vacation. I really love cruising and being on the water and sitting on my balcony and dreaming, but all the "herding" got to me a little this time. The weather, the beautiful scenery and ship and the beautiful islands all got an A+ for the week, but overall, I have to give the Ruby about a C+ for everything all in.