We sailed on the Ruby in October, 2009 and liked the ship and our stateroom so well we booked the same stateroom this time. The night before we embarked, we stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Cruiseport hotel. This hotel will shuttle you free from the airport to the hotel and then free from the hotel to the ship. Good hotel rooms but this year we had to pay for breakfast. It was a nice breakfast buffet and we think it was about $11 per person. So, the savings on taxi fares were spent on breakfast.
Embarkation was absolutely easy! We arrived at the cruiseport at about 10:30AM and were seated inside with a number 1 in our hands! There are restrooms inside and chairs were comfortable. At exactly 11:30AM, we boarded the ship and went directly to our stateroom. We have found we love this stateroom which is on the absolute back of the ship, looking out at the wake. It is covered, 1/3 larger than other balconies, private, and you never have cigarette smoke to smell because of how the wind is while sailing! The stateroom itself is very standard and the storage is very plentiful. Bathroom was not a problem. It's a small shower, but the water was always hot! Our stateroom steward, Cristian, was by far and away the happiest Princess employee we have ever encountered on any cruise. We wanted to adopt him! We went upstairs to the Horizon Buffet for lunch and found it to be very good.
We did the Scavenger Hunt prior to the Sail away. It is a great way to find out where all the good places on the ship are and then there's a fun party and drawing for prizes at the Sail away time.
We opted for the early seating traditional dining this time and enjoyed a table for 6 in the Botticelli Dining Room. We loved our table mates and our Waiter and Junior Waiter, Sapon and Hartoto. We always had adequate menu choices for dinner and the hot food was hot, and the cold food cold. We were especially impressed with the care the staff took in accommodating one of our table mate's needs for a Vegetarian Diet. The Maitre'D and our Waiters continually checked with this person to be sure he had good choices to his liking. Portion sizes were just right for us, and we know that if you want more food, all you have to do is ask.
Our first port was Princess Cays. Tendering seemed easier than last year and certainly went faster. It wasn't as hot as last year so we actually enjoyed being there this time. No need to rent a cabana. There are many, many lounge chairs in shady areas on the beach. We did not try any of the excursions or beach toys but it appeared people seemed happy with their choices all day. The BBQ lunch was very good and there were many choices. The one negative was the island drink we purchased. Neither of ours seemed to have much if any alcohol in them as promised. We did hear this complaint from others as well.
St. Maarten was our second stop. Our excursion was the sailing on the America's Cup sailboats for a 12 meter race aboard either the Stars and Stripes or Canada 2. We loved doing this! There were crew jobs for those who wanted to be active and also some for those who just wanted to enjoy (we even had an "iceberg watcher" position!). Unfortunately, we did not have enough time in port to do much else on the island as we would have liked. One of our pet peeves about the excursions we sign up for onboard ship is that so many times, time is wasted waiting on the pier for late comers. There just don't seem to be any consequences for those who make the rest of us wait for them and hence, lose time enjoying the excursion and extra time on an island. Princess, are you listening????
St. Thomas is, of course, a shopping extravaganza. However, this time we chose to take a water taxi to the island of St. John to go to the Trunk Bay beach. This beach is absolutely pristine and wonderful. It is part of the Virgin Islands National Park and so is well kept pristine. We loved the snorkeling and even the fun (crazy driver) ride from the taxi port to the beach. Water taxi took us past Madonna's St. Thomas home, and other famous landmarks which were announced. Nice 45 minute ride. Again, this tour took so long (5 hours) that we didn't have time to do much else on St. Thomas. We didn't care here, but if you do need to shop as well as go to St. John...not possible.
Our last port was Grand Turk. We did not expect to like this place because we had been told, and had read, that "there's nothing to do here." WRONG. The beach is directly beside where the ship docks so there is no need to get transportation to a beach. It is a very nice beach with many, many chairs (free) under the shade of many palms. Nice restrooms. Great shops right here too. And the crown jewel of this port is Margaritaville! There's a nice pool for those who don't want the ocean water, a swim up bar, a wave rider, and the best drinks we had during our entire cruise. We absolutely loved this port. It was just fine to have a day where we didn't have to go far to relax.
We didn't find the Casino as fun this year as we did last. The smoke in here (there were 2 non-smoking nights however) was oppressive. The $5 Blackjack table now uses 8 decks which is not to the player's favor and they shuffle about halfway through the decks. There were other games but we didn't try them. Slot machines were just fair. A few were what I would call loose, but the majority were not and there were very few of the newer slots you might see in a regular casino.
We did not go to the theater or any of the bars for the entertainment this year. The boutiques had a good selection of duty free items and the sales were fun. Don't ever pass up a sale in one of the dining rooms. They occasionally have a real good deal buried somewhere in a pile! We found the prices at the Lotus Spa for massages to be almost double what they were last year so we did not book a massage. We love the fact that anyone can use the Sanctuary Pool. That's pretty much of a secret onboard but it is true. Try the current machine. Great exercise trying to swim against the current! Very quiet place and you're not on display for too many other cruisers.
Disembarkation was fantastic. Easy and very efficient. All in all, this was another excellent cruise!