We arrived in FLL around 11:45am, got our luggage in the normal amount of time, and somehow due to some confusion in the taxi line caught a quick cab ($20 including tip) with very little wait. We shared a cab with a very nice couple from Vancouver. We spent some time with this couple during the cruise and at Princess Cays...this new friendship enhanced our cruise for sure.
Anyway, once we arrived at the cruise terminal, we boarded within 15 minutes and were onboard before 1pm. Our stateroom was Plaza 309, which is a little forward of the Piazza. A quick walk through the art gallery, and there was our stateroom. Plaza 309 is actually a great location....very close to the forward elevator....it was very easy to get to the casino or theater, just 10 steps out the door and up. Also, when boarding from ports, when entering through the front gangway we were a quick shot up to the room. This stateroom was very quiet despite being directly below the casino, though apparently it was above where they handle baggage on the last evening, and we heard some noise that night.
After dropping off our carry on-s, we went up to Lido deck for lunch, planning to hit the buffet. We took the forward elevator up, and at once saw the Neptune's reef pool area, which is where we would end up lounging. Two steps toward the back where the buffets are and we realized there was a hamburger and hot dog place right on the pool deck!! We skipped the first day chaos of the buffet and had a burger and a dog, and a couple drinks. We were off to a great start.
As for the ship, how beautiful. Its newness was apparent, the carpets had very little wear, and all the surfaces looked clean and new. We loved the tiered layout on the upper decks, albeit it requires one to go up and down steps more often. The extra step climbing was well worth it; because once you got up high you could see 3 or 4 decks below you. The effect was stunning. As mentioned in other reviews, sometimes you had to use deck 7 to traverse from front to back of the ship, as other decks were cut off by the galley. No big deal really once you learned what to do, it gives one the opportunity to walk the outside promenade deck, which is a cool thing to do. The pool areas were beautiful, we never had very much trouble sitting by the pool, though on the sea days we made a special point to grab chairs early.
We had Personal Choice dining, which was PERFECT for us. The two of us were by ourselves, so we didn't have to spend crazy amounts of time dolling ourselves up to compete in beauty contests with table mates. We got to dinner between opening at 5:30 some nights to as late as almost 7 one night I think. Only one night when we dined with our friends from the taxi did we have to wait a few minutes for a table. When it was the two of us, they seated us in the corner a couple times, which I didn't like too much, but the service and the food were terrific. Once we were done one course, they quickly brought us the next course. The food including the soups came out very hot, which delighted us. The waiters didn't mind bringing us free iced tea, which surprised me. We were out of the dining room in an hour or less most nights, which gave us the chance to catch the early shows and get to bed at a decent time. The entire dining experience was top notch, we both loved it.
We were also pleased with the alternative dining choices. We lunched or snacked at the International Cafe (an advantage of a stateroom on Plaza deck) which served pastries, simple sandwich type things and some more fancy things later in the afternoon, along with fancy coffee drinks at a price. We also took frequent advantage of the pizza bar (New York style, or as close as one can find over open water), both buffets, and more burgers and dogs by the pool. As much as we ever enjoyed dining on our previous cruises (all on RCCL), we enjoyed dining on the Ruby more, lock, stock, and barrel.
The evening entertainment was great. The singers and dancers as well as the orchestra were awesome, and the shows in my opinion were more professional and less cheesy than the shows I remember from RCCL. The hard rock band was great, we saw them at the sail away party and at the Explorers Lounge. The other bands and entertainers were fine to good. The one comedian we managed to see was hysterical. We missed the other two, because we got to the venues less than a half hour before show time. If you don't show up at least a half hour early, the search for two seats together is futile. So show up early. One entertainment venue that we loved on the Ruby was Movies Under the Stars. The loungers were set up with nice covers...crew members brought out blankets to warm us on the cool nights...and during the movies served popcorn and sometimes warm cookies and milk. After the movies, we would sometimes indulge in a sinful late night snack at the Cafe Caribe, the buffet at the rear of the ship, which was open 24 hours.
The ship sailed very smoothly except the final day at sea, and especially the final sailing out of Princess Cays. Our poor friend Ben had a very difficult time fighting sea sickness during our final dinner. He was a trooper though, with the help of some Dramamine and Bonine. I had no real problems this cruise with the ships motion. My lady had the patch, and only when she let too much time go by before reapplying did she have a little problem.
As for the ports of call: Ocho Rios was the most picturesque port. While there we took a snorkeling excursion...there weren't many fish but the catamaran took us over to the bottom of Dunn's River Falls and we saw some of the beauty of Jamaica. Afterward we walked the quarter mile or so to the shopping area and had no problems whatsoever. At least for us, Jamaica didn't live up to its bad reputation.
In Grand Cayman, we took a cheap bus down 7 mile beach to Cemetery Beach. The beach and snorkeling were perfect. Then we bussed back to Georgetown and did some shopping. The tendering in both directions was quick. There was an incredibly long line for the tendering back to the Carnival ships, but no line at all for the tender to the Ruby.
In Cozumel we took an excursion to Passion Island. It was a very nice beach with a lot of amenities. The ride there was a bit of a pain, as you had to be driven over some unpaved road. It was a good day though, as we missed out on the rain that fell in town. I might add the pier area in Cozumel is one of the most lovely I've seen or shopped at. My lady is a good barterer.
At Princess Cays, we spent the day with our new friends. The boys snorkeled, the girls beached in the sun. We were lucky to be able to find 4 loungers for free. Princess charges money for lots of things on their island, but we managed to eat, snorkel, and lounge free of charge. We bought some t-shirts there for very cheap. The tendering both ways was fairly quick, though not as quick as Grand Cayman.
Sadly, the next day we disembarked. The process was easy, though it was held up a little. We were off the ship and in a cab to the airport in roughly 25 minutes once our group was called.
Overall, we enjoyed our first Princess cruise immensely. I think we've found ourselves a cruise line we can be loyal to. This was our greatest cruise, until the next one.