Pre Cruise: We booked our traditional Hyatt Pier 66 tower room looking over the port. When we arrived at 2pm it wasn't ready so we wandered around the property. 3pm came around and we went and checked and it still wasn't ready so we sat in the lobby to do some people watching. By 4pm it still wasn't ready. However, the gentleman we were dealing with at the front desk was extremely sweet and, without us even complaining, had a waitress from the bar come over and buy us 2 free drinks for the inconvenience. Mad props!! 5pm and our room was finally ready. We spent a leisurely afternoon and night on our balcony watching the ships come in and out and enjoying a bottle of wine...Anxiously awaiting for the next day.
Embarkation: So quick. We arrived at the port a little before 11 (We used Park n' Fly again and have nothing but positive things to say) and I think we were on board by 11:30am. This was our first cruise being platinum so we got to use a separate sitting area which helped expedite things.
People: We met so many wonderful individuals from our roll call on this ship. We had a meet and greet at 3pm at Crooners that we attended along with about 40+ other people. It was nice to see a friendly face around the ship and on shore for 10 days. What we noticed was that the median age on this ship was probably 70. Now there's nothing wrong with being old (We'll all be there someday....hopefully) but this cruise seemed older than our past cruises (even the Panama Canal). And because of that average age, the scheduling of events and, apparently, the shows reflected that.
Cabin: We booked our very first aft cabin, B756, next to the "dreaded vent." We have nothing but awesome things to say. First, you can't even hear the vent while in port. It sounds like a small fan at best. I don't understand why someone commented on the vent being noisy because we didn't notice that at all. The smell, however, was....umm, different. It was a combination of seafood, curry and disinfectant. But we got used to it after the 1st night. Also, to prevent some of the odor, we just stuffed some towels between the openings which did the trick. Our cabin steward was the best we've had. The stateroom was always nice and clean (he even organized our shoes) but we rarely saw him. Not intrusive at all. Our neighbors, however, were loud and obnoxious. They never learned the word quite. They slammed and banged everything possible and were almost always shouting on their balcony (One of the conversations we got to overhear was the gentleman's latest Colonoscopy results. Yummy).
Public rooms: The Ruby is a beautiful ship. Everything was clean and well cared for. The International Cafe was wonderful (The shrimp salad is as good as you read on these boards!!). Vines is probably the venue we used most on the ship. The sushi was fresh and delish and the tapas was great. But the best part is the service we received from the wine sommelier's, Florian and Hervey. Both of them really made our trip special and not enough fabulous things can be said about them. We exchanged emails at the end of the cruise in the hopes of specifically cruising with them in the future. We also ran into most of our friends from the roll call while we were there and some of them thought we never left. One downfall was that anytime they had performances in the atrium, the sound was far too loud so you couldn't hear yourself think, let alone speak to the purser's desk about a problem or order a glass of wine from Vines without shouting.
Entertainment: The singing and dancing throughout the cruise ranged from good to great. We made friends with one of the singers, Tim, early on so it was nice to run into him around the ship and around port. The shows that we saw were also good. The problem was the quantity. There were only 3 production shows on a 10 night cruise. Seriously Princess??? And of the 3, 2 were geared to a much older crowd (Classic hits from past generations?? The most recent year they played a song from was in the 1960's). We found this to be a big let down since we enjoyed so many other great shows on the previous cruises. With that said, "Once Upon A Dream" was probably the best show we've seen at sea. It also featured the best and more modern music (80's and 90's stuff).......maybe that's why some of the old people were walking out in the middle of the performance. The cruise director was Lisa. She was sweet but very tiring towards the end of the cruise. She always seemed like she was trying a bit too hard without much result. And the scheduling of shows was ridiculous. On our last cruise, the schedule of shows was pretty much set give or take an hour. On this cruise there would be a show at 5pm the 1st night and then at 8pm or 10:30 pm the second night. And then there would be a show at 8pm the next night and then 7:30pm the night after. Please just stick to a schedule throughout the cruise to make it easier for the passengers to plan their evening!
Fitness: Brad used the gym almost every day of the cruise and he loved it. He said all the equipment was brand new and that this gym was his favorite of all the previous ships. The Spa staff we found to be useless/borderline rude. Brad left a water bottle in the gym by mistake. We then went back to the Spa desk to ask if there was a lost and found. And we stood there while not one, not two, not three but four spa employees walked by us without asking if we were being helped or even saying hello. Rude!!!!!
Excursions: The Itinerary on this cruise was awesome and one the main reasons why we chose this sailing.
In Princess Cays we got off the ship early and rented floats and just chillaxed all day.
We had all intentions of doing a beach in St. Thomas but after reading that there were a total of 4 ships in port we just had a leisurely day of shopping. We also found this great little cafe' in downtown where we had great mojitos and margaritas before heading back to the ship.
In Dominica we did a mini tour of the city and then did a hike in the rainforest to the Emerald Falls. This tour was AWESOME. In addition to having a great tour guide we met 2 other hysterical couples during the excursion that made it that more fun. While doing the hike through the rainforest, Brad asked the guide where the escalator was...She didn't find this funny at all but I was in tears laughing!!!
In Grenada we did another mini tour and then we got dropped off at a private beach resort on Grand Anse Beach. This was probably our favorite stop and the beach was something out of a magazine.
In Bonaire we just got off the ship and walked around a little bit and did some shopping at the open air market by the port.
In Aruba we did another mini island tour and then enjoyed a few hours at Moomba beach. While it was pretty, it was a bit over crowded with all the people there. Afterwards, we did a bit of shopping at the always enjoyable Renaissance Mall.
Dining: Ok, we all know food is subjective so here is our take. We found the buffet to be outstanding! Such a great variety and a thousand times better than the last cruise. And for lack of a better word, the dining room food basically sucked. We found the menu to be BORING and the majority of the food to be BLAND. We overheard others throughout the entire cruise talking about the same complaints we had. We also mentioned it to our friends at Vines and they said they heard many passengers saying the same thing to them. What a shame! The icing on the cake came on the last night when we were served French Fries with our steak in the dining room. After spending almost $4,000 on a vacation, I would expect something more than that! It was so ridiculous that it became comical. Our first night on the ship we ate at Sabatinis as a free gift from Amex. While it was good, nothing was outstanding. Brad made a good point in saying, "Why pay extra to eat here when you can get similar food free of charge in the dining room?" We never made it to the Crown Grill but will probably try it on our next cruise. We got mixed reviews so we'll be interested to see what it's like.
Service: Also subjective. We received some of the best service and some of the worst service on this cruise.
First the great... Carla and Johan at the International Cafe. Our cabin steward. Our friends Florian and Hervey at Vines.
The good...Our waiter Somsak and Asst. waiter Dima in the Da Vinci dining room and our waiters in Sabatinis. Additionally our friend whom we met on the Caribbean Princess(forget his name) and his hostess (who also worked at the International Cafe) who worked the door at the Da Vinici dining room.
The bad...The service we received the 1st formal night in the Michaelangelo dining room was the worst we experienced on any cruise. We were seated at a table with no bread, no water glasses and no wine glasses. After about 5 minutes we finally got some bread from the Asst. waiter and without even introducing himself and/or asking how we were he tried to up-sell us on bar drinks. Fine, we ordered a bottle of Pellegrino and some wine (like we do every night in the dining room). He takes our order and disappears. About another 5 minutes later the waiter comes over (still no drinks of any kind on the table) and says, "Whataya want?" My response, "Ummm, excuse me? We want our water and our wine." So the wine finally comes... And then the waiter proceeds to prop the wine up on his knee about 6 feet away from the table to open it all while having an argument with his Asst. waiter. OMG. How rude!!! Was he busy? Sure. But the most disappointing part about this is that some guy in a white jacket (whom I presume to be someone in charge of service) walked by our waitstaff and asked if they needed help and their response was a resounding, "No!" Needless to say we switched dining rooms after this and managed to find a pretty good pair of waiters in Da Vinci.
Additionally, we saw the Captain mulling around this ship talking to guests more than we saw the Maitre 'D. Where was he? He certainly wasn't in the two Anytime dining rooms doing any sort of quality control because if he was there wouldn't be as many complaints as we heard. And the times we did see him, he was in the atrium more concerned about posing for pictures than the actual dining room service.
We told our friend in the Da Vinci dining room about the service and he gave us a comment card to fill out and drop at the passenger services desk. We did just that expecting to get some sort of response from someone in charge of complaints/suggestions but we received NOTHING. What a shame. We never asked for anything for free but an acknowledgment of our letter from someone on the ship would have gone a long way. A generic letter from Princess HQ's won't do.
The bottom line: A great cruise. It's just unfortunate that the things we've enjoyed so much about Princess (Dining and Service) have fallen by the wayside...