12-night cruise on the Ruby Princess, September 1st, 2009, from Barcelona to Venice. Ship is only 8 months old and the cruise overall went very well. Would recommend a future cruise with Princess. Utilized private tours in four ports/cities and were very please with them. Utilized two Princess ship tours and were lukewarm about them.
This cruise visited Barcelona, Monaco, Florence/Piza, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, and Venice.
We got on about two hours before sailing - out of choice. Majority of folks had already gotten aboard and we had little delay. Both Princess and the folks at the Barcelona dock did a great job.
We stayed an extra day in Venice and had a leisurely disembarkation there. Others had early flights and were leaving the ship as early as 3am.
Overall Ship Observations
The Ruby Princess is only 8 months old and looked very clean as would be expected. Everything worked well and there were no surprises. Given that the ship holds over 3,000 passengers (plus crew) the layout was such that it didn't seem that crowded when you were strolling around. Exceptions would included the Princess Theater shows and the availability of seats for the MUTS (Movies Under the Stars).
We were in an outside statroom (P204). Located just across the hall from the self-serve laundry (which turned out to be a big benefit). Room was very clean, everything worked. Size of room was pretty much standard.
There was a very large open closet to hang your clothes and plenty of hangars. If you opt to have the bed arranged as a Queen, this room only had one night table - one one side of the bed. There was no sofa in our room - just a single chair.
The safe allows you to set your own password through the numerical keypad - a big improvement over the safes that you swipe with a credit card (and possibly damaging the electronic strip on your card).
TV received about four ship-related channels; CNN International; BBC World News; several movie channels; couple of kids channels; some others - some foreign language.
No towel animals on this ship (don't think Princess does them).
Overall Ship Plusses
Don't laugh, but the laundry rooms on each floor really were great. We only took enough clothes for about half the trip and washed as needed. Carried our own combo washer/dryer sheets and quarters for the machines. $1.50 per washer/dryer. Being right across the hall we could check on machine availability. The only wait for washer/dryers was on the two at sea days. There is also a iron. We happended to check one of the laundry rooms on a higher deck - much larger - probably eight washer/dryers; four irons; etc.
The outside Deck 7 was quiet and very pleasant to watch arrivals/departures. It was always interesting to look out from that deck as the ship was getting ready to depart and watch for the late folks running to catch the ship.
There are some great views from the stern on different deck levels. Up on deck 18 was a club with a spectacular view looking aft. The primary (Lido) deck has the obligatory pools; hot tubs; bars; MUTS; and entrance into the buffets. Dec 16 has the spa/gym and a private area for chilling out that costs something like $50 a half day and $100 a full day.
Overall Ship Negatives
There really are a lot more positives to the ship, it's just that some of the negatives stand out.
Disappointed in the self-service stations in the buffets. The Ruby gave you a choice of water, ice tea, coffee and sometimes lemonade. On prior cruises we had more juice options that were always available; along with self-service ice cream machines. On the Ruby, the ice cream had to be purchased except during certain hours - which we just couldn't remember.
The pizza station on deck 15 was supposed to be open 24-hours. Yet we went by around 10pm and were told it was closing and that you also could not order any pizza from room-service. It's the little things that are disappointing.
Ruby has signs that say they will remove towells from empty deck loungers after being vacant for 15 minutes. Didn't see that happen. Usually not a big deal.
The shows in the Princess Theater included two production numbers; two magicians; juggler; singer; etc. All were okay - nothing great. The first comedian we thought was the funniest but he was only given a limited time to perform. Although the theater is large (maybe 600-700 seats??) the place could fill up 30 minutes prior to show time.
We had "anytime" dining (6pm to 10pm). You could call and make a reservation - but only during the hours when you were usually off the ship at a port. You had the option to be seated with others at a table or wait for a table for two. That wait was usually around 30 minutes.
I really am not not sure why, but the food just didn't taste all that good. Maybe a bit bland? Prior cruises on Carnival Valor and RCL Empress of the Seas had better food. The lobster was offered on the second "at sea" night. Formal nights were on the two "at sea" nights.
Neat things we learned
Even though the stareroom breakfast room service says they do not deliver prior to 7am - that's not true. You can just write in a earlier time (we used both 6am and 6:30am). That really helped when we had to get off the ship early for the 10 different ports on the cruise.
We had absolutely no trouble bringing on alcohol at embarkation or at each port. You are allowed one bottle wine/champagne per person. You could definitely bring more. We brought on Roki from Turkey (45% alcohol - powerful stuff); etc.
You can go to any bar and ask for two empty glasses (wine) to take back to your room. You can take your glass of wine (or whatever) when you go to dinner. No problem. Leave a note for your room attendant and he will always make sure you have new wine glasses each day.
You can have a fresh bowl of fruit brought to your room each day - they give you a card to fill out in your room.
The water shuttle tickets that are left in your room (for Venice) turned out to be worth their $15 cost. You can ride back and forth from the ship to St. Mark's square as often as you want. We shopped during the day; back to ship for dinner; back to Venice for late nite drinks;etc.
The putt-putt golf is free and wasn't very busy.
The couple's massage we had is a toss-up. Pretty expensive. Keep track of the time or you may not get your full 50 minutes of massaging.
As on other ships, gym showers are bigger than your room. The sauna and steam rooms are free.
If you like walking/jogging around the outside of deck 7, you half to climb up/down two flights of stairs near the front of the ship.
The British lunch-time food (fish & chips; bangers; shepherd's pie) in the lounge is fantastic. But they only serve it from 11:30 to 2:30.
The international cafe has sandwiches and desserts (most of which are free). We would grab a couple of sandwiches to take with us into town.
If you eat breakfast at the buffet, you have to ask for orange juice - the self-service stations don't have it.
Although there are about 20 computer stations in the internet area, they were usually being used except late at night. Usually the connection speed was very slow and the basic rate was 75 cents per minute. You can print to a printer. When you are finished make certain you have logged out or someone can come behind you and see you current session usuage info; name; etc.
Smoking - pretty much limited to outside of deck 7 and on the upper, open-air decks. I think there is one small lounge for smoking but did not see it. We never smelled any smoke walking down cabin passageways.
Tipping - we stuck with the ship's option of taking out an automatic amount for each person/each day. But we also left an extra tip for our room steward. We gave him part of the tip after the first couple of days. It might have helped with getting better service - who knows.
Anytime dining - This cruise visited ten different ports and only had two sea days. For us it was a no-brainer to eat when we wanted to.
I know there are more things to pass on - but since we just got back yesterday our brains are whacked.
Our ports (briefly stated)
Barcelona - we flew in two days early and had a great time seeing the many sites. The subway and the HOHO (Hop On, Hop Off) busses got you pretty much everywhere. Don't miss the Gaudi structures; Miro and Picasso Museums; Las Ramblas. Most museums closed on Mondays.
Monaco - Princess said we would tender here, but we actually docked. I think it depends on if you are the first cruise ship for the day. We had to run like hell but we got to the changing of the guard. Also viewed the burial locations for Prince Rainer/Priness Grace. This is one of the locations (our opinion) you could skip if you wanted a bit more time on the ship).
Florence - We were very, very happy to use the RomeInLimo private tour. Group of eight for a 550 Euro tour. We were able to visit both Florence and Pisa. Most of the ship tours only went to one or another locations. Don't miss David in Florence.
Rome - Also used RomInLimo. These private tours user smaller vehicles; get you closer; get your tickets in advance; have less tourists; take you to nicer lunch restaurants. When the cost is split eight ways you are paying very close to the same as the ship tour. Usually far superior to the ship tours. Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica - don't miss. They did check for no exposed knees/shouldars at St. Peter's.
Naples - Probably best to pay for a tour guide at Pompeii. The Amalfi coast is great. Our RomInLimo tour got us to a fantastic restaurant overlooking the bay.
Mykonos - We walked to a local bus and went to a nearby beach. The busses go in two directions - both have beaches. Water too cold for most. Plenty of restaurants right on the beach. This is another possible location to skip if you prefer to relax on the ship.
Istanbul - Took the ship tour because the Topaki Palace is closed on Tuesdays but Princess has an arrangement for them to let you in if you take the ship's tour. It rained and the crowds were pretty bad. We were told there were over 300 tour buses (the big ones) in town that day - we believed it. Have to remove shoes and have proper clothing to enter Blue Mosque. Lunch at Topaki Palace was pretty good. The vendors really do get in your face. The "rug demonstration" is a blatant attempt to sell you their rugs. The Grand Bazaar was both gigantic and interesting to walk through - supposed to be over 2,000 shops (many of which sell the same items).
Ephesus - This was a very pleasant surprise. We used EKOL tours or our private tour. Our tour guide was Ski. Ask for her - highly, highly recommended. She was informative, fun to be with and went way out of her way to help us find things. The ruins at Ephesus (we thought) were more impressive than Pompeii. The Virgin Mary's house was also on the tour and enjoyable to view.
Athens - You can indeed take the metro in and get around to the major attractions. Do not miss the Architecture Museum!!! It is huge and has a fantastic number of statues; etc. The Acropolis is under rennovation but still worth climbing to the top. Very nice views from the top.
Venice- The ship got into Venice around 1pm and we stayed there until disembarkation the next morning. Great places to view are the Doge's Palace; St. Mark's Basilica (which rivals St. Peter's in Rome); and the four museums located in the nearby Correr building. They do check for proper clothing at the Basilica. It was also fun to walk through the narrow streets (and the many, many people) to view the shops. If you choose to take a private gondola it will cost you around 100 Euros. If you decide to use one of the private water taxis it will cost you between 70 and 100 Euros. Try to use the local commuter bus service - which costs about 10 to 15 Euro.