We sailed on the Ruby Princess Trans-Atlantic Venice to Ft. Lauderdale 10/07/09. This was our third year doing the Princess Trans-Atlantic on this route, the first two years on the Emerald Princess.
We spent three nights pre-cruise in a junior suite at the Al Ponte Antico Hotel in Venice. While it is very expensive, I can say that when we return to Venice we will stay in the same place and room. The hotel is just down from the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal and the terrace where one can eat breakfast or have drinks in the evening has a million dollar view. Matteo and his staff greet you like members of the family and cater to your every whim. Breakfasts are exquisite. As an aside, one of our bags didn't arrive when we did and Matteo made sure that his staff kept checking on it. The suitcase was delivered to our room the second night.
We had a number of excellent meals I thought were worth mentioning. We had dinner one night at the Osteria Santa Marina and another at the Alla Borsa. We had eaten at both before and enjoyed them just as much as on previous visits. We also ate at the Osteria Barababao which was very enjoyable. The first two were more expensive than the latter.
We are a little different from some cruisers in that we don't go to the casino or to any shows . We were in A753 (a category OS) aft starboard-side. We had cruised in the same cabin two years ago on the Emerald and loved it and this year was no different. The cabin is large with a dining area, large sitting room area and bedroom with the usual bathroom for suites on Princess. The balcony is very large with room for a table with four chairs and two lounge chairs with a table in between. We had a sailaway party with approx. 16 people and had plenty of room for everyone. Our cabin steward Angelo was outstanding.
We had breakfast every morning we could in Sabatinis. The service, menu, and ambiance are wonderful. Marius and his staff were more than excellent. We began every morning with a Mimosa and proceeded to the delectable items on the menu. The Eggs Benedict were better than anything I had eaten in a dining room before. The waffles were outstanding served with whipped cream and essentially we found we could get whatever our fancy was for breakfast.
We ate a few lunches in the Cafe Caribe and Horizon Court. We found the food there to be good for a buffet where many people are being fed. Not Princess' fault but we always found that we ate too much because there were too many choices.
We only ate dinner in the dining room four nights; the remainder of the 18 nights we ate in either Sabatinis or the Crown Grill. I don't remember the names of the two anytime dining rooms, but we ate one night in the one on deck 5 and I was unhappy enough that I wrote a letter to the Maitre D'. The waiter and his assistant told us repeatedly to keep the cork for our bottle of wine so we could keep it for another night. We did not go to the dining room at closing time and there were people coming in after us so I thought we were being unduly rushed - not a fine dining experience. The other nights we ate in the deck 6 dining room with Godwin as the Maitre D'. He is a wonderful asset to Princess. He remembered our name from two years ago and made sure that we had a very nice table with great service.
The food in the dining room was good, in fact, better than I thought it was on previous cruises. We did find that we like the ambiance in the two alternative restaurants better. We do not get the "Sabatinis Experience" when we eat there, but rather order what we want to eat. After the first time the staff understood that was how we liked it and we had no problems. We also found that the menu can be flexible. We found the service to be absolutely wonderful in both venues.
Thanks to the efforts of one of our fellow passengers Gail we were able to do the Chefs Table one night. We had done it two years ago and it was once again a wonderful evening. I am so impressed with the galley operation and cleanliness! The appetizers in the galley and the food served at our table were outstanding.. For those who have not tried this, I recommend it. The visit behind the scenes is in itself worth the cost.
Our favorite lounge is Adagio and that's where we went every evening before dinner. The pianist was outstanding and the little plates with olives and cheese breadsticks were wonderful. The place was never crowded and was a perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely cocktail before dinner.
The only shipboard activities we participated in were Trivia games. There are plenty of opportunities for that. One of the sea days I think there were 5 separate trivia events. We did only one per day. The internet service was good. We were all the way aft and had good wi-fi reception in our cabin and even sometimes on the veranda.
We spent a couple of afternoons at the Sanctuary. I think it's the best spot to spend an afternoon on a sea day. The lounge chairs are wonderful and the lunch menu is delicious. I had my hair done a couple of times and the service was good. Nobody tried to sell me anything. My husband had a pedicure and likewise no attempts were made to sell him anything.
We took two Princess tours. We did the Elite tour of the Amalfi Coast which we had done before. We actually had the same guide as last year. He was wonderful and the tour was great. We love the Amalfi Coast and we love Le Sirenuse Hotel where we had lunch. We had 14 people traveling with us and essentially could do what we liked. We took the Princess tour to Cinque Terre and also enjoyed that. We had a little rain and the winds were such that we couldn't travel by boat between some of the villages, but we still had a good time.
For the other ports we had private tours. In Civitavecchia due to a miscommunication we wound up tourless. We were extremely fortunate to find Stefano, a driver/guide at the entrance to the port. For a very reasonable price we had an absolutely fantastic tour for just the two of us to Rome. Stefano is a Roman who whisked us in and out of traffic, managed to find parking places close to everything we wanted to see and took us to an absolutely wonderful restaurant for lunch. While it was a tourist restaurant up front we sat in a back room and had a marvelous lunch without ever seeing a menu.
In Barcelona we went on a private tour arranged by one of our shipmates with Pepito Tours. We visited Girona and S'Agaro. Jose was our guide and the tour was excellent. Girona is a splendid medieval city which I think most people don't get to see while on a cruise and S'Agaro was a beautiful seaside resort on the Costa Brava where we saw beautiful vistas and had a wonderful lunch.
In Lisbon we had a private tour through Alliance4Drive with Karla as our driver/guide. She did an outstanding job guiding us through the Tile Museum, the Alfama District and Castle of St. George, the main square and the Belem District. Lisbon is such a beautiful city! We stopped at the cafe that serves the signature Pasteis de Belem. Next year Princess has eliminated this city as a stop and I think that's a shame because it is such a wonderful place. This year we only had a half day as opposed to the full day the two prior years.
In Punta Delgada we had one of our most interesting experiences. We had arranged for a cab to drive us around the island. John was waiting for us when we disembarked and we proceeded on our tour. We had been to Sao Miguel before but hadn't seen much. Our tour took us all around the island to see it's geological splendors, its tea plantation and its magnificent trees and flowers. We had perhaps the most interesting lunch we've ever eaten. Near the town of Furnas there are hot springs where people cook in holes around the hot springs. Our lunch at a local restaurant was cooked in one of the holes in a large pot. It was a delicious stew of various meats and vegetables.
The temperatures throughout our voyage were in the low 70s. The seas were quite calm including the 6 days of the trans-atlantic crossing. Only one night did we do some rocking and rolling but it was in the middle of the bight. We missed the port of Mrseille due to high winds caused by the Mistrals off the Alps. Despite the fact that the winds approached 70 mph and the seas were around 40 ft., we were running with the seas and experienced no rolling and the skies were a brilliant blue.
We had a splendid time on this cruise. We liked the 18 day itinerary and despite the fact that it is very port intensive in the beginning , the days crossing the Atlantic do give you an opportunity to rest and relax. I do have to say that by day five in the crossing we were beginning to feel ready to be home. I think Princess does a wonderful job especially considering that they are catering to over 3000 people.