This is our 11th cruise, the third one with Princess. We travelled with two other couples, (one in their 50's, the other in our same age range 41-52). Ruby Princess is the best Princess ship we have sailed on, beautifully decorated, with a more classical look than Sapphire, and with many improvements on the Grand class.
We flew from Toronto to Ft Lauderdale two days ahead of the sailing, rented a car and enjoyed shopping at Sawgrass Mills Mall and spent a day at Key Largo. We stayed at University Inn, which was of great value; it's about 12 miles north of the terminal.
Embarkation on Feb 21, 2009 was smooth and very efficient. We were there before noon. They lined us up according to the decks and it took no time at all, after staying briefly in the waiting area. Of course, it depends on whether you arrived with other passengers from buses and bigger groups at the same time, for that would slow you down. We were in our cabin by 12:30 pm. Our luggage arrived after we had lunch on the Lido deck (after 2 pm). We had enough time to unpack and tour around, well before the Emergency Drill. There was ample room for storing our bags and clothing in the closet area; there were more than enough hangers for the two of us. Service was as good as we have experienced in previous journeys. The only thing is the cabin stewards did not fold the traditional "towel animals" this time.
Having read other reviews that criticized the food on the ship, we were pleasantly surprised by its quality and selections. (Perhaps Princess has responded to those criticisms). It far exceeds our expectation and the dining experience of previous cruises, including RCCL & Celebrity, which was excellent. We were not fans of Anytime Time Dining, but we are very happy with our experience this week. We went to the Da Vinci most of the evenings. Even though we had different servers every meal, they were fantastic, made us feel welcomed and valued every time. We did not miss having the same servers every dinner. Even the staffs at the Horizon buffet were great; of course, some were better than others... We found the food at Horizon/Caribe Cafe also as good as it can be, not disappointing at all. Another couple tried the Crown Drill and they really liked it, and told us it is worth every dollar they spent. We had just one bad experience with a Sea Bass dish one night, it was very fishy - but other than that, all the seafood and beef dishes were excellent! The overall selections were more than adequate.
We tried the Fish & Chips/English Pub Lunch at the Wheelhouse Bar on the second At Sea Day, it was fantastic as reviewed. There were no line-ups at about 1:30 pm that day. It was free - I mean no extra charge.
The two new theatre production shows (Broadway Ballroom & Once Upon A Dream) were both excellent, definitely worth getting there early to get good seats. They ran them two evenings in a row, so everyone on the ship gets a chance to watch it. The stage is beautiful and it truly seems to spark. Even the "Welcome Show" on the first night was very well done. The performers and the Cruise Director, Lisa Ball certainly set the right tone for the rest of the week. The highlight of the week was the guest performer from Las Vegas, Tony Tillman, a high energy song & dance act that worked the crowd to a frenzy! We also enjoyed the different musicians and performers who worked the Piazza, which made the mid-ship "gathering place" very pleasant. While "Movies under the Star" was a nice experience, the movies offered were rather limited.
We seldom went near the Lotus Spa in our previous sailings. But this time, I really enjoyed the Thermal Suite through the whole week, and had a Seaweed /Hot stone massage on the first At Sea Day. It is a most relaxing experience; highly recommended, if you don't mind paying for it.
We had gone through the western itinerary before, so the ports were nothing special for us. Still, it was nice to snorkel at Cozumel again, and fun to climb Dunn's River Falls in the pouring rain. We went ashore on our own, without taking any of the excursions offered by the ship. (Note: the ship did change time on the night before going to Cozumel, so ship time and local time is the same there for that day).
Overall, the sailing was very smooth the whole week; my wife did not feel too sea-sick, except on two occasions. Of course, she enjoyed all the shopping. She did take the Photoshop computer @ sea course, and Steve the instructor was great!
The only downside was disembarkation on Feb 28. Something went wrong and things were delayed for at least 20-30 minutes according to schedule. When we went to the baggage claim area and through to the US customs & immigration, we were stuck with another 500 passengers with no clear lines guiding us. While the ship was able to handle the 3000+ passengers rather efficiently throughout the week, they really dropped the ball this time. It was totally chaotic. They simply let too many people down from the ship at the same time, perhaps to make up for lost time. We were stuck in this crowd for over half an hour. Thankfully, most of the passengers were courteous and patient under the circumstances. We tried not to let this last bit of disappointment ruin a wonderful week of cruise experience for us. Now that we are back in the cold white north, it's time to dream of another vacation, and work off the few extra pounds... which was proof that the food was indeed good!