Beautiful ship with a port intensive 12 days - only one day at sea. The itinerary however was difficult to accomplish- too much each day we found out due to the weather constraints of heat and then more heat. Even with starting out each day early, the hot weather usually slowed us down a bit in our perhaps overly ambitious desire to see as much as possible. Our eight year old did her best the last 2 days of the cruise in Capri/ Naples and then Rome because the cooler air prevailed. Our total experience was weighed against however 2 other recent cruises in the past 16 months- one in the Caribbean, the other Alaska- both on the NCL Jewel and NCL Pearl respectively. I will use bullet type points as my best method of summary.
Venice Hotel: Flew Delta, DFW to Atlanta to Venice; Antony Hotel (Airport): 3 or 4 star - worked great for us due to flight/ jet lag - helpful staff-
Embarkation: taxi next day to port- Princess was like precision clockwork.
Cabin: very nice size interior- rarely in room except to sleep.
Activities: Well equipped ship - daughter enjoyed swimming, miniature golf every sail away, bingo with me (Dad), ping pong, (when Princess rarely had the tables set up for use).
Service: the usual quirks of great and not so great- but so was NCL. Juan our Cabin Steward was superb. The Captain decided to wake the entire (every cabin intercom) vessel at 3am around the 3rd night at sea with a 45 second non emergency search for an employee. Princess at the gangplank gave me incorrect info in Athens on which pier terminal would be open after our DIY trip. Seemed the gate was locked at 1pm costing us a 13 Euro taxi go around and a family squabble. Many crew members had no idea where a lot of features were on the ship like the ping pong, etc. I had a similar experience on other ships, but this seemed worse. How can you work on a boat and not know where the features are that passengers want? Entertainment: Weak compared to NCL. It had an understandable European bent to it. Movies under the stars was nice sometimes- other times annoying the areas around it. Classical Gypsy style group playing on Promenade lobby was excellent however.
Dining: Very good and sometimes great. Dining rooms were nice in ambiance, but I give Norwegian Cruise Lines the nod here with a superior buffet for breakfast especially and better overall food, in particular meats, salads and fruits. Specialty restaurants were limited. We ate ashore some also. Daughter missed hand dip NCL ice cream vs. bland soft serve.
Children clubs: it appears Princess does not attract many children - they had programs but it always appeared empty. The teen center had a few every time we went by there. We always went ashore as a family.
Disembarkation at 7:30 was flawless, Romepickup.com limo took us to our Hotel 'Sant Anna in Vatican Roma area on time. Rome was cool and inviting.
Summary: This was a port intensive trip (we did a lot on our own as we had studied quite a bit months before the trip and visited each port) which I will review OUR experiences separate, so the ship was somewhat secondary. It was very hot 10 of the 12 days but the itinerary Princess set up was why we chose the Ruby. All said and done, it is hard to believe that cruisers in the know choose them over the newer NCL ships where service, food and entertainment were a tad better in my opinion. The Ruby Princess is overall a good experience.
Naples is huge but we found the hydrofoil docks by asking questions and then finding the right ship shuttle to the right pier. Capri was a bit rain drizzling sometimes, but at last cool! The funicular took us right up to town and then a little walk around the beauty and a breathtaking short bus ride to Marina Piccola was outstanding. Great pizza place in town for lunch (pizza was great in Rome and Venice too) and back to the hydrofoil- for what turned out to be a gut wrenching, barf bag for some ride back to Naples. We heard later that the ship was delayed awhile because some later Capri hydrofoil passengers were tardy due to the elements and the rough sea.
Rented a car in advance that had mechanical noise 30 miles from port that worried us the remainder of the afternoon enough to cut our trip short an hour or 2. The beaches on the North were murky and disappointing, but the beaches and scenery in and near Paleokastritsa were very nice as we got there early before the buses and crowds. Corfu was hot that day but the green scenery made us feel a little cooler.
Rented another car (this one had problems not going into reverse gear) and drove to Olympia. Years of experience driving all over USA and other countries were of no use with a poor map and directions from the rental company and believing Board Members that it was easy to find your way. Missed the turn 6 kilos up the highway (on the way back found out it was obscured by construction crews) ended up temporarily lost in polluted Pyrgos and finally to Olympia. We enjoyed the ancient site, including a personal 200 meter foot race on the hallowed track, until heat drove us to the museum which was very nice. We waited in Olympia until we found a Princess bus (otherwise I would have guessed wrong on the turns back to the ship) on the way back to the ship. 100 kilometers an hour and we were back in Katakolon which was a nice little port town with plenty of shops and sea side restaurants.
Took the Princess excursion which was excellent with big, new, beautiful AC bus and easy to understand local guide with microphone and headsets to see Ephesus ruins and house of Virgin Mary's. Landscape and scenery was great- the oppressive heat at the Ephesus site was not. Even half enjoyed the carpet demo in town afterward. Definitely recommend the Princess one based on price and clarity. I saw many small groups of higher priced guides for hire where the passengers were straining to hear and understand- so I disagree with the Critic Board members who tout some of these other private excursions here. I rate the general Princess shore excursions a 4 (as I think most are overpriced like other ships) instead of this one a 5+.
Did our own walking tour of Old Town and enjoyed the Street of Knights and the Palace of the Grand Masters along with taking in the local flavor. We had plans to go to the famous town beach just 1 kilo north of town but the heat had gotten to us just as it did in Athens after the Acropolis, Mykonos and even Santorini (where our rental car, which I encourage one to do, had zero gasoline in it and when we finally found a station near Oia- it was closed! we found out what time it opened by asking a shop in Oia and stayed there until then) We went to the southern beaches in Santorini which my daughter and I enjoyed but we again had trouble with the road signs around the island as we noticed other tourist drivers seemed to keep driving in circles sometimes like us even with maps.
Very nice experience as we did it ourselves viewing the huge Diocletian Palace; it was interesting- went to local Bacvice Beach for a noon swim and we inadvertently got in an area where some serious Saturday Croatian men were having a water ball tournament and we were severely reprimanded. Chalk one up for a need to know more about Croatia customs. Highlight of day was the fear of capsizing on the tender back to the ship mid afternoon. The several tenders including ours started floating adrift and lining up 500 yards out and then started rolling enough to elicit screams and terror from most as we were not told what was going on while we reached for our life vests. It all ended good, we did notice the Ruby repositioned itself 30 minutes later to cut down on the current/ tide problems.