We are 75 and this was our 10th cruise, though the first on Princess. The Ruby Princess is a big, beautiful ship with a friendly, efficient crew. The passengers were diverse (about 1200 Americans, 800 Canadians, the rest from around the world) and somewhat more upscale than we have encountered on other cruise lines. As an example, there were more tuxedos at formal dinners and nary a sign of shorts, jeans or a baseball cap in the dining room at any time. There were very few children and the adults ranged from older than Carnival to younger than Holland America.
Embarkation: We arrived at the pier by car at 12:30 to find that The Ruby Princess was docked at pier 29, making it necessary to drop off luggage, find a parking garage at pier 19 and be shuttled back to the ship. Though confusing, looking back it went as well as could be expected. Back at pier 29 the process went smoothly and we were in our cabin at 1:30
The stateroom was nicely furnished with a comfortable bed, but probably the smallest bathroom we have had on any cruise. We had a balcony room and were located on the Riviera deck port side forward and found the area very quiet. A tip, if you don't care for the smell of smoke, book a room on the starboard side.
We are fans of traditional early dining and our waiters were great. We have tried anytime dining and you miss getting to know your wait staff and the little perks of familiarity. We found the food in the dining room exceeded our expectations. The appetizers were very good and the dishes were well prepared with a good selection. We did not partake of the extra fee dining in Sabatini's or Crown Grill. We had breakfast in the dining room on the first morning at sea and found the service to be slow and somewhat indifferent and the menu pared to include eggs benedict only on certain mornings. We had breakfast on most mornings in The Horizon on Lido deck and was not the greatest. The buffet lines do not flow and passengers wereas confused on the 10th morning as they were on the first. Also, eggs were already cooked and placed on plates on a warming tray, one to a plate. They were usually undercooked and cold. The highlight at breakfast were the Belgian waffles, served at the pizza station near the pool. Lunch buffet went about the same, with confusing buffet lines and mediocre food. However, the pizza was best we have had on the high seas.
The entertainment was nowhere as good as previous cruises. The dancers were good, but the vocalists were definitely second rate. The showroom seats about 800 persons with unobstructed view, however there are 3,500 passengers on board. Even with 2 shows a night and the show repeated on successive nights, it was necessary to arrive at least 45 minutes in advance to get a seat. The group Nexus in the Wheelhouse Bar was enjoyable, though the other groups, playing in various lounges and at the pool, were fair at best.
Ports of Call:
Princess Cays-- provides the opportunity to spend a day on the beach with a barbecue.
St. Thomas--probably our favorite island, has great duty free shops for buying watches and stocking up on booze.
St. Kitts-- was okay and their specialty seemed to be knockoff watches and handbags.
Barbados-- a very friendly island. Since we had done a tour of the Atlantic side some years ago, we chose a tour of the Sandy Lane area on the Caribbean side and it was great.
St. Lucia--a beautiful island where we took a 4 hour tour to the Pitons and the volcano, passing several small fishing villages and a banana plantation on the way.
Antigua-- this island has changed dramatically since we were here about 10 years ago when we felt intimidated by the natives. The people are friendly and the those selling tours at the pier are more professional and evidently under government control.
We booked our sightseeing tours at the pier through private contractors and it worked just fine at about half the cost of those sponsored by the cruise line.
Debarkation went as smoothly as could be expected. Our deck was scheduled for 9:15 departure and we were only 30 minutes off schedule. We were again shuttled to the parking garage, but were on the road to Hilton Head by 10:30. Because of the shuttling on arrival and departure , we will use the Park n Fly lot the next time we depart from Ft. Lauderdale.
All in all we had a good cruise on calm seas with near perfect weather. The pluses more than offset the minuses, so Princess will definitely deserve consideration when we start planning our next trip.