I have been on probably 30 cruises on heaven knows how many lines and this was one of the best ever.
Embarkation-- Got on board the Ruby in Venice. Since we were spending the night in Venice, embarkation was spread out over the whole day and was as painless as it could possibly be. We arrived by water taxi and our bags were off loaded and we were told to just leave them there and we would see them again on board. Nice touch to not have to tote them over to the warehouse, as we had to with Holland America. Breezed through the check in and found our room on Emerald Deck with no problem. It was an obstructed view room, but we could see the water.
Room-- Like I said, we booked a guaranteed obstructed view room and were give E226. Great location toward the front of the ship and I really liked the they arranged the room. In the past I have had inside room and they always had the bed against the outside wall. This room had the bed against a side wall and the desk and TV on either side of the window. While I think the room was the same size as the inside room, it seemed bigger and worked much better. I would suggest you try this category of room. It was very located to the main decks for entertainment. There was no noise from he Princess theater or noise from people on the promenade deck.
Food-- Princess has really improved the dining room and buffet food. Everything I had was well prepared and served hot. The International Cafe has some of the best shrimp salad I have ever had! they have even improved their coffee at the buffet! The Horizon Cafe served a wide variety of food and there was always something good to eat. The pizza and hamburgers are well prepared and they have the best french fries on the high seas! Another note on the Horizon Cafe and Caribe cafe, they were never overly crowded. I am not sure why, but even with 3,000 people on board there was seldom a long wait or big crowd, not matter what the time of day. This is an improvement over some of the recent cruises I have taken on large ships.
Ship layout- Fantastic! I am not sure what they did when they built the Ruby. My understanding was it was the same as the Emerald, which I have sailed on, but somehow they have increased deck space so that there was never a problem finding a deck chair or table to sit at. It was really nice to be able to come on deck at any time and have no problem finding a place in the sun or shade. Lots of pools and hot tubs. I really enjoyed the layout of the ship. It is a big ship and you can get lost, but there are places to do whatever you want. Movies under the Stars is still fun and the weather was perfect for it.
Entertainment- Again, Fantastic. After sailing transatlantic on the Westerdam and having singers that could not sing and dancers that could not dance and terrible music in the lounges and pool area,the Ruby did everything right. The shows were well done. The singers and dancers were first rate. The band Temperature which was by the pool and in the Explores lounge were among the best I have heard. The guest entertainers were all very enjoyable. It was first rate all around.
Ports of Call -- I have visited some of the ports before, but it is a great itinerary if you love history. Athens, Ephesus, Istanbul, Rome, Naples, Florence. How can you have a bad time? We had my 86 year old mother in law with us, so we took a lot of Princess Shore Excursions and they were all well done and enjoyable. They do move you on and off the ship and you are headed around, but you don't have to worry about making your own arrangements or getting back to the ship on time. We did our own thing to get to Capri-- that is not a hard thing to do. I would suggest that you take the cruise from Venice to Barcelona, not the other way around. You have two days at sea to get over jet lag and get ready for a strenuous number of port days. Whereas, if you sail from Barcelona, you hit 4 ports in a row and they are long days and long trips into Rome and Florence. We did the Rome and Florence "on your own" and that worked out very well. They bus you to Rome and give you 5 hours on your own, so you can pick and choose. We did the same thing out of Leverno and did Pisa and Florence. Pisa was a pleasant surprise. We really enjoyed it. All the ports were crowded and I would suggest you cruise in May. We did that several years ago and the places were not as crowded.
Service-- Top notch. Everyone was friendly and did a great job. Our room steward could not have been better and the service in the dining room and on deck was great. In the Horizon they will bring you your drinks and take care of you after you are seated so you don't have to try to juggle a drink and plates of food. One night we went up to get a couple of cookies for the next day and there were none out. A steward asked what we were looking for and we told him and he rushed back to get us some. Nice touch.
Disembarkation- We had Princess transfers to the airport for a 10:30 am flight and they got us off and onto the bus and at the airport by 7:45 am. One nice touch was after the bus got to the airport, they had porters waiting to take your luggage inside. You did not have to drag yous suitcase into the airport across traffic. The little things are what make a cruise a 10 instead of an 8 and Princess was able to do all the little things right this cruise.