This is not a comprehensive review but rather focuses on things that stood out the most during our 10 night sailing on the Ruby Princess (Departure date 1/19/10.)
Stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on St. Route 7 the night before the cruise. Having a grocery store and McDonald's across the street was very convenient. Free in room Internet and free breakfast along with a free shuttle from airport and to cruise doc were amazing.
I didn't want to join the mass crush to get on the ship first thing, so we followed the advice from the Princess site and showed up at 2pm. There were no lines anywhere and we were on the ship in record time. The Pepsi in carry-on bag and Diet coke in the checked bag raised no flags.
We stayed in the Isla Margarita Suite, which is Aloha deck, A750. Two twin beds and a sofa bed. I like having room to spread out while I asleep so I opted to grab the sofa bed and let my roommate have the real bed. DVD player, mini fridge, two TVs, a wet bar, a vanity, a walk in closet, etc. Jacuzzi tub and shower in a room separate from the sink/toilet was really great. There's a curtain you can draw to divide the "living room" from the "bedroom" which was nice and separate thermostats for each! The balcony was very large, with two teak loungers and a teak table with four chairs. While our balcony was near the central vent, we never had issues with smell or noise from it and no soot even though this is an aft suite. The overhang from the aft pool on the Rivera deck did mean we didn't get a lot of direct sun on our balcony but privacy was pretty good and noise from the pool was minimal.
Our room steward was polite and quickly picked up on our need to have lots of ice available at all times. The free minibar set up was a nice perk for staying in a suite, as was the free wifi (which I used a LOT.)
By and large I would say our opinion of food on this cruise was average to good. We definitely had nights (yes plural NIGHTS) where nothing really appealed so we ordered from the "every night menu" (ie things like shrimp cocktail, Cesar salad, salmon fillet, etc). We tried the Crown Grill one night and it was a solid good experience though not mind boggling. I was puzzled that all 3 times I tried Lamb on this cruise, it was incredibly mild to the point of almost tasting like beef. This might be preferred for some people but it definitely wasn't my thing.
We purchased a coffee card (actually had a coupon to buy one get one free so we got two.) Drank plenty of hot lattes, iced lattes and blended lattes! The perk of free unlimited brewed coffee with a valid coffee card was much appreciated. The International Cafe's goodies were tempting treats in the afternoons. Buffets were for the most part skipped though I tried a hamburger from Trident Grill once and Pizza from the pizza parlor on deck and found both to be decent.
Ports tend to turn into a blur for us, especially when we don't book or participate in shore excursions. Only remarkable thing for me was seeing St. Thomas with only one cruise ship in port! While I'm used to cruise lines having water available for when you return to the ship, having chilled wash cloths waiting as well was AMAZING. The day spent in Aruba was particularly hot and having that frosty cloth to wipe my face with as I got ready to re-embark almost made me pass out in happiness!
Our dining room wait staff were okay but didn't reach the usual level of expertise I see on cruises. We dined traditional, at late seating. We'd asked for a table of 8, got a table of four (first time that's ever happened!) The people we were seated with were nice so we didn't raise a fuss. The lack of a wine steward/bar man threw me off; our assistant waiter was not very useful in this role. A common wine I ordered a bottle of the first night was out of stock....? Despite it being a 10 night cruise and being very consistent about the request, my table mates didn't routinely get the coffee they wanted (one wanted decaf the other regular.) Each night they'd have to ask for it at the start of the meal and then remind the guys "I want regular" and "make mine decaf please." Not a huge deal but after countless cruises where the staff picked up on it after a night or two, it was kinda annoying. Our waiter also seemed to give the impression he was only half paying attention to us at times, and would miss details to our order or deliver items to the wrong person. However, he did come through on a special request of fresh raspberries for dessert for my table mate which made up for a wealth of errors!
We aren't the type to go to on board shows so I can't provide any input on the Ruby's shows. The band they had performing on the pool deck was pretty abysmal. As has been said before, it would be GREAT to actually have a Caribbean band to listen to on a Caribbean cruise. Thank god for iPods. I did very much enjoy the musicians in the main atrium, especially the violinist.
Staff in the public areas seemed to be pretty good: casino personnel and those at the purser's desk appeared fairly competent. I was not impressed with the woman staffing the Captain's Circle desk. We had been told in the daily patter that if our cruise card color didn't reflect our proper status (i.e. gold or platinum or elite), to please drop by the desk and it would be addressed. Apparently the woman they had staffing the desk hadn't heard the announcement.... "If your card is blue, you are not a member of CC," she said. "Really? because we happen to have our CC numbers right here" I replied. Turns out, she was wrong. Her attitude was so off putting, I actually walked away from the desk before I said something rude. However, my roommate is a bit more even tempered than me and got the issue fixed.
The last day of a cruise is always a bummer. One of us lost our cruise cards after the last dinner and had to hustle down to replace it. Then we stayed up too late and got woken too early as the ship pulled into port. We got our Folio of ship charges and found we'd been charged for 3 people attending the Chef's table instead of two, which meant facing the line at the purser's desk yet again.
Disembarkation proved on the surface to be a confusing endeavor. Because of our location on the Aloha deck, we were given Yellow 7 tags and told to wait in Club Fusion. However, since we had stayed in a suite, we also had the option of waiting in the Michelangelo (as do Platinum and Elite members of the Captain's Circle). Further complicating things was my roommate was using EZCheck and was told to go to the Crown grill! We ended up getting confused on the best place to go and had to bug the purser's desk who essentially said any of the 3 options was fine. My roommate decided to play it safe and go the the assigned Crown Grill. I hit the club fusion first and it was packed to the gills and standing room only. However there was plenty of room in Michelangelo so I sat there reading until they cleared my tag group to leave.
Contrary to some other reports of insufficient cabs in Fort Laud, we had plenty and I was sitting in one 5 minutes after clearing customs. I took it to the La Quinta Inn and Suites on Commercial to kill the many hours until my 730pm flight. While its by no means luxe, it has free wifi, good AC and a working TV with PPV movies. There's even a pool.
All and all I would say the Ruby is a very nice ship and I found a 10 night cruise to be such a great duration; the 7 night ones always feel a bit short! I do think there's definite room for improvement both in the menus and the performance by some of the crew. I'm not trying to be harsh but am comparing them to performances on other cruise lines like Celebrity, NCL, RCI....and also compared to the staff on the Grand Princess. This cruise didn't really inspire any level of loyalty in me for Princess. I saw a myriad of minor issues that seemed like inattention to detail: my name was misspelled multiple times on assorted cruise related documents, my gender was mistaken to be male since I had registered as Dr. instead of Miss or Mrs. or Ms., we were given only one photo from the Chef's table dinner even though I attended with a friend rather than a spouse. Little dumb things that don't make or break a cruise but just make you shake your head in a bit of annoyance.
Thanks to everyone on the CC forums for the info on the aft cabins, the Chef's Table, and the Ultimate Ship tour. Those were the definite highlights of our cruise.