My Partner and I were so impressed with our Ruby Princess cruise over last Christmas, we couldn't wait to sail on her again. This time, we were off on our Spring Break cruise. This was my 21st cruise and my Partner's 20th.
Embarkation was fast and easy. The Princess Representatives were courteous and efficient and we were on board the ship within 20 minutes. As we entered, we noted how the entire ship is beautifully decorated, just as we left it three months before (minus the Christmas decorations).
We went to our cabin on the Lido deck, the same one we had at Christmas, which was a spacious inside handicapped cabin with a large bathroom. We met our new Steward, Arturo. He was wonderful throughout the entire cruise and took care of all of our requests.
Our next stop was at Sabitini's to make reservations for our personal least favorite night in the MDR (Caribbean Night). We booked too late to get late seating in the Botticelli Dining Room (traditional dining),so we were wait-listed. Our next stop was to see the Head Maitre d', Generoso Mazzone. He was happy to assist us and make arrangements for late seating. We also stopped by to see some of our favorite waiters and bartenders along the way. After lunch, we went back to our cabin and our luggage had already been delivered, so we unpacked and were set for the cruise. After Muster Drill we met our fellow Cruise Critic members at the Tradewinds Bar for a Sail Away Party.
We were fortunate to have a cohesive, congenial table of 7 (Table 131) in a good location with Szolt as our Waiter and Arnel as our Assistant Waiter. They did an excellent job and were happy to bring you whatever you wanted. The food in the dining room was very good to excellent. They had Prime Rib, Medallions of Beef, Lobster Tails, Rack of lamb, as well as fish and chicken dishes etc... Don't miss out on the Goat Cheese Soufflé, Fettuccini Alfredo or the Pasta with the Fresh Clams.
If you are going to make a reservation for Crown Grill or Sabatini's (the specialty restaurants) - do it as soon as you get on-board. We dined in Sabitini's this time. The food was excellent, however, the service was very slow and uneven due to understaffing. We let the Head Maitre d' Mazzone know about this the next time we saw him and he thanked us for letting him know. We also made it clear we did not blame the wait staff, as they were doing the best they could, but with larger parties to attend to, waiters and their assistants were running from one end of the restaurant to the other and the Maitre D' and his Assistant were clearing tables.
In this venue, you choose your main dish and you receive a sampling of all of the appetizers. The calamari was excellent, as were the other appetizers. I had the Chilean Sea Bass which was excellent and my Partner had the Shrimp Scampi with an additional lobster tail on top. He thoroughly enjoyed it. We both had the cappuccino moose and coffee for dessert.
The buffet was generally good to very good. The buffet area at the back of the ship had a different "theme" each day, i.e. Asian, Mexican, Italian. We never went away hungry; pizza and burgers at the outside grills were very good. Soft and hard ice cream is available near the pizza area in the afternoon at no charge.
On the Christmas cruise, we only saw one or two shows because many of them were scheduled as pre-dinner shows and we do not like to rush before dinner. Following that cruise, we gave negative feedback on this issue because so many shows were pre-dinner. Apparently, someone at Princess read our review and comment cards because most of the shows, this time, were after dinner. The theater was full each night for the after dinner show format. The production shows were the best we've ever seen on a ship. One show called "Once Upon a Dream" was truly awesome. With a large and talented cast of 17, this show was the most creative undertaking, using moving projections throughout the entire show, paired with a wonderful selection of musical numbers. Michael (singer), as the Guardian Angel, was a standout. "Broadway Ballroom" was beautifully performed by the singers, dancers and orchestra. The costumes were magnificent and the choreography was done by those on "Dancing With The Stars."
Many activities took place in the Piazza --The Champagne Fountain, The Captain's Welcome Party, various entertainers throughout the day, etc. Cruise Director Lisa Ball was very charming, visible and very busy. She was always somewhere doing another activity. The Officers were also visible and mingling with guests, unlike other ships.
There were several other venues for entertainment-- the Crooners Bar was a wonderful Martini Bar in a great location. Jeri and Camilo were the fantastic bartenders at the Martini bar. Camilo is now on leave between contracts. We hope he comes back. In the meantime, you are in good hands with Jeri.
The Skywalkers lounge was active every night and Steve did a great job managing it. At the Casino Bar, Joel did a great job. One of our favorite waiters was Sheshu. Jo Jo, another favorite, is now at the Calypso Bar by the pool. Other lounges had piano players and smaller ensembles, which was nice.
Casino staff was very personable. Black Jack tables were busy and amounts to play were generally $5 - $10 per hand. They also had Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, Dice, etc. My partner didn't win, but had fun losing - I enjoyed the slots, but didn't win either.
Princess Cay - Always a pleasant day at the beach with a barbecue.
St. Maarten - Best place for shopping (price and selection) in the Caribbean. We visited all of our favorite jewelers and picked up our regular liquor supply and had a great time, as we know several of the vendors. We even played a little in the Casino on shore and won.
St. Thomas - Our favorite shore excursion is to St. John for snorkeling at Trunk Bay. It was a scenic boat ride over and the water is the clearest in the Caribbean. We've tried all the other snorkeling excursions, but none compare with Trunk Bay.
Grand Turk - We really love Margaritaville. It's big, there's always entertainment and contests going on. Best of all it's free, unless you buy a very large Margarita in a day-glow plastic glass. We bought two. The cost-- $38.60 for both; tax included. Regular drinks are about $10. Oh well. We had fun and the drinks lasted all afternoon. Now, we have two souvenirs.
The service overall was very good to excellent. There were some wonderful standouts on the ship, as noted above, and they were rewarded accordingly, beyond the daily automatic tips.
Overall it was a wonderful trip and we highly recommend the Ruby Princess. The layout of the ship is very good (much better than Golden/Grand). Though 700 children were aboard, they were hardly noticeable and well behaved.
The Captain and his staff were personable and visible the entire cruise.
We were disappointed that more Cruise Critic members did not show up for the Sail Away party. We did have a fairly good turnout for the Slot Pull. We had fun even though we didn't parlay our money. Let's see now, whose mother chose the losing slot machine and still won the T-shirt provided by Princess?
Debarkation was smooth and we were off the ship quickly and on to our 40 minute trip home. We look forward to a return to the Ruby in the future.