Second time cruiser. My first cruise was 8 months ago on RCL in the Easter Caribbean. We are late 20s newlyweds who took this cruise with good friends (they are new to cruising).
First of all, let me say this ship really is beautiful. The decorations are nice and the Piazza is very pretty. The onboarding process was downright impressive. We were through the front door, security, and check in within 15 minutes. It was a far cry from the long wait we had with RCL.
Our room was a bit of a let down, although this is partly our fault. We booked a balcony guarantee room. Initially I didn't expect much because of the guarantee. We wanted to get away from the cold and we wanted a balcony - done deal. We got our assignment well in advance of the cruise. I read on the boards here before about the tiered balconies and was pleased to see we were on the top level of balconies. Hooray for privacy! Unfortunately, when we got on the ship we realized we were right below the pool. At 6:30 every morning we awoke to the sound of lounge chairs slamming around. During the afternoon and late evening we heard MUTS when our balcony door was open. Then we heard the chairs being put away at night. To top it off, our friends were on the Caribe desk - and we realized we lost the balcony lotto. The balconies on the top decks are private - but smaller!! Our friends had the same category stateroom, but had a balcony 2x the size of ours. Also, the pool deck hung over our balcony, so we never really felt out in the open like you do on the balconies on the lower levels. Unless you really care about people above you being able to see you - book a balcony on one of the lower levels. The privacy wasn't worth it.
Speaking of MUTS, this is one of Ruby's most redeeming qualities. How wonderful it was to be out in the open on a comfy chair. We enjoyed the popcorn, milk, and cookies. We were a little annoyed when about 15 minutes before the movie ended, it looked as though a tour bus pulled up and dropped off a load of loud drunken buffet dwellers. We were still enjoying the 7 o'clock movie and people were swarming around marking their chairs for the next screening. It was as if we weren't there at all! I saw several people around us just get up and leave well before the movie was over due to all the noise.
The food was exactly as I have read on all the other Ruby reviews - a real snooze fest. The buffet wasn't bad and it wasn't good. The selections for anytime dining were either boring or odd. Most nights I had a hard time finding either an appetizer or entree that looked appealing. We ate at the Grill on the first formal night. We are huge foodies - we love to go out to eat and we're not afraid to spend a lot of money on a great meal. That being said, the Grill was just OK to us. We overheard a man behind us tell the waiter he had just consumed the best steak in his life. We joked that he may frequent Applebees and Outback, because the food was similar. If you do go to the Grill, get the chocolate lava cake dessert. It was absolutely delicious and made up for my average dinner. Sabitini's was upsetting to say the least. Our waiter was a real know-it-all. He showed us a menu with an antipasta selection, salad selection, pasta, and entree. Then the waiter told us we could only pick an entree and the rest would be served to us family style. Other than the pasta course, the food was not good at all. I have never been to a place that soaks their crab cakes in lemon juice for 3 days before serving...they were absolutely horrible. I wanted our $40 back. It wasn't worth the money.
Now the children...they were everywhere. I'm not sure if this particular cruise is appealing to parents with small children but they were absolutely everywhere. And unlike RCL, the two large pools are open to everyone. On RCL, one large pool was adults only and was a little slice of heaven. The only place on Ruby to get away from kids is the terrace pool on the back of the boat - which is beautiful and a fabulous view - but the area is VERY small. There aren't many chairs out there. I had to get up at 6:30 AM on our 2nd at sea day to get a chair out there. Once in a while an adult would bring their child out to the terrace pool and the staff wouldn't tell them to leave! The other all adult pool is part of the spa - and is $20 a person for the day. Paying to use a pool is absolutely ridiculous. I rarely saw children with the staff or participating in children's programs. On our other cruise, most children were gone all day. Because of this (I'm assuming here) I think Princess may not have the best children's programs like other lines do.
The staff in the anytime dining rooms were always great. Full of personality, quick, and very accommodating. The bartenders and pool servers often were less than impressive. We went to the nightclub on the first night and the bartender was completely rude to us when we ordered waters. After we finished our water, he picked up the glasses and walked away as if to say "get away from my bar so I can make money." I noticed that anyone with a refillable soda cup would have to wait longer at the bar for service. I guess if the staff isn't getting a tip, they don't want to waste their time on you!
Overall, it was nice to get away. The ports are beautiful - we had gorgeous weather every single day. I expected more out of this cruise for two reasons: 1) the ship is the newest in Princess' fleet 2) I was always under the impression that Princess was one of the luxury cruise lines (within certain patron age limits, of course).
I was ready to write Princess off completely until we met another couple the last night who have cruised over 30 times (they were under 35 years old!). They told us that they always cruise with Princess and were extremely let down by this cruise. They had been on a Hawaiian cruise just two weeks before and had a wonderful time. They had the same complaints as us - the food and the children. On their several other cruises they never experienced such disappointing food with Princess. They also said they never had to deal with children everywhere - in the pools, taking up lounge chairs, running around the decks, and splashing around in the hot tubs. I will give Princess another try but definitely in another location. If and when we return to the Caribbean, I think the best experience is with RCL.