The shore excursions were great. If you book through the cruise line, you are over paying a huge amount. There are alternative choices at every port at much lower prices. A good small example is Rome. We chose the on our own for us and the Elite for our friends. We paid $89 for the bus trip that was ok but the Princess guide lost two people just because she didn't pay attention. These people ended up taking a cab back to ship at $350 cost. At the docks, a train ticket to same drop off was less than 10 Euros. Bus fares were equally as low. The same tours for "Elite" type guided tours were also equally as low. I would suggest that you look on line and book elsewhere rather than through Princess. Also, there really are alternatives to Princess at every port so don't worry about being shut out if you don't book anything.
Dining was disappointing. We had "Anytime Dining". This means you can reserve dining before 6:30 or after 9:30. If you wait between 6:30 and 9:30, it can be a long one. We waited over an hour on many occasions. It is not anytime dining. It is wait to dine until there is room for you. The food was fair at best. The buffet varied from good to horrible. We gave up waiting for anytime dining some nights and went to the buffet. Service varied from terrible to excellent. The staff complained they did not have enough people working the dining rooms. Forget about bringing your own bottle of wine. They charge $15 to open it. If you have two bottles it is $30. They clearly want to squeeze every dollar out of passengers. We had four or six in our party for dining so maybe two people would get seated sooner.
Itinerary was great. We loved every port except Monaco. We did Monaco and Cannes and it was very boring. I would stay on ship on that day. Nice area but not worth the money to get off the ship for us. All others were really great. Don't miss this great itinerary that made this cruise such a great experience.
Ship was nice. Even though it was a full ship, they did a great job of making things seem uncrowded. They only exception is the buffet at breakfast and dinner. There was no place to sit on many occasions so we took our food back to our cabin. Our cabin attendent Grenny was fantastic. The room was with balcony but on the 14th floor, the balcony was tiny. Ours friends were on the 10th floor and that had a much bigger balcony. We were on port side of ship and it was nice. There are more views from starboard side if you can book it. Also, lounge chairs around pool were very difficult to find because people camp out early in morning and reserve them. We are lucky that we booked balcony cabins. Watch out for smokers near your cabin. We had smoke coming into our cabin from neighbors. We wish there was something Princess could do to avoid this unpleasant experience.
Dining service was very spotty from poor to excellent. We had some dinners with no attention and others with perfect attention. On one evening, we sat with empty plates on table for 45 minutes with no one coming to the table. We asked for manager and he couldn't have been nicer. He told us he was under staffed and apoligized. He personally removed our plates and took care of us. He even sought us out the next evening and made sure we had good service. So like I said, excellent to poor service. Overall, the staff went out of their way to be friendly.
Service charges (tipping). This is difficult to figure out. Princess charges $10.50 or more per day per person. Our ship was full and Princess claims the Ruby holds 3,599 passengers. Not counting the manditory 15% service charge they add to anything you purchase, they collect a minimum of $453,474.00 for tips. They claim 1200 normal crew compliment. This comes to $378.00+ per crew member for tips, again not including the 15% they add to every purchase you make during the cruise. I asked a cabin attendent what his portion of that tip money was and he told me $2.44 per day per person and he had 30 cabins with 2 to 5 people in them. Bottom line is that I was confused about tipping. If I bought a drink for $7.00 at a bar and they add in 15% for a service charge, it seemed cheap not to add a tip because on the reciept there is a line for a tip. I ended up just tipping if I thought the service was extra good. My cabin attendent was deffinetly one of these.
Be ready for Princess to be marketing everything. I felt gouged on many occasions about the way they were always selling something and charging for everything. You even have to pay to get off the ship in Venice at $15.00 per passenger and the tickets show up in your cabin and the fee is added to your account. Another $53,985+ for Princess unless you stay on ship while in Venice.
We chose Princess because we thought the service and quality would be at a higher level. It was not any better than Royal Carribean but cost more. We would try a different line next time.
Overall, we had a great time and would do this again. No regrets. We just wanted to share these things so your expectations aren't too high. Our biggest low was the quality of the food and "Anytime Dining". Our biggest high was the itinerary and the ship itself.