My wife and I are just just back from a Ruby Princess Transatlantic cruise Venice, Italy to Fort Lauderdale, Florida - October 19 to November 6, 2011. Our primary motivation for taking this particular cruise was its origination from Venice, Italy and to the transatlantic crossing, both of which were new experiences for us. This was also our first cruise with Princess cruise lines, our most recent prior cruise being last year on a Celebrity Constellation Panama Canal full transit cruise.
Venice was as wonderful and beautiful as we anticipated, and certainly the highlight of the trip. We did a pre-cruise stay for a couple of days in a B&B, the 3749 Ponte Chiodo, which was fortunate as the ship's overnight at Venice was accompanied by terrible weather.
The six sea days of the transatlantic crossing were enjoyable. We had less free time than we thought that we would have. Given dining, entertainment, gym exercise, lectures, etc., we had far less time for reading than we anticipated - Boredom was not a problem.
Princess' port stops in the Mediterranean were too hurried. For example, Lisbon was only a 5- hour stop. Princess' target demographic may like as many ports as possible, even if the stay is brief, but my wife and I would prefer fewer ports for longer durations, preferably always an overnight stay. We loved Lisbon and would have really liked an overnight stay. Also, Barcelona deserves an overnight stay, preferably more.
We found the food comparable to that of other mass market cruise lines - similar to good quality hotel catered food, such as for a wedding. However, in our experience, Princess' anytime dining didn't run as smoothly as our experience on other cruise lines - long lines were commonly encountered.
The entertainment was generally mediocre, but I have read that this is often the case with a relocation cruise. This criticism is caveatted by the fact that my wife and I are not fans of the broadway-style musicals that are so common with all cruise companies. Nonetheless, the alternative entertainment of comedians, magician and juggler were definitely mediocre. We know that better entertainment exists on the seas because we experienced it with, surprisingly, NCL. I should mention that the lecture series was excellent.
In summary, the cruise was good but not great. There was no cruise killer problem but rather an accumulation of irritants that got in our way of total enjoyment. On a scale of 1-to-10, we rate the overall cruise experience a 6.
Now, given our recent cruise on Celebrity's Constellation, we naturally compared our experience there with what we experienced aboard the ruby Princess experience.
Ruby Princess versus Celebrity Constellation Observations:
Given that we did a Panama Canal full transit cruise on the Celebrity Constellation one year earlier in a comparably priced cabin (Celebrity Concierge Class vs Princess Mini-Suite), a comparison is appropriate. The ships are similar in size (within 20%) but Princess squeezes in 22% more passengers per ton of ship tonnage (tonnage/passenger_capacity). This means that, on Princess, more people compete for similar sized common spaces:
Anytime Dining - In our experience Princess' anytime dining was poorly run with long lines and waits to even get a beeper so that you can wait more - we regretted switching form early seating to anytime dining. Our only salvation was to establish reservations for 6pm for every remaining night through tips to the head waiter - effectively recreating traditional-like dining.
Food - The general quality of the food in the main dining room was, on average, comparable to Celebrity if maybe a notch lower. The buffet may be a notch better than Celebrity.
Coffee - Celebrity has brewed coffee everywhere. Princess has terrible coffee, made from a concentrate, everywhere except at the extra charge restaurants, and even in the main dining room on formal night. Freshly brewed, real coffee is only possible if you purchase coffee cards for $31. The problem is that the ONLY place that the 3,000 passangers can easily get the brewed coffee is at the one small coffee bar on deck five and it frequently has slow lines. Room service has the same from-concentrate coffee. All dining venues can fetch real coffee (when shown your coffee card) but wherever they go to get it adds an unnecessary delay - the delay at the Horizons buffet is fifteen minutes from some waiters but most simply say that brewed coffee is unavailable. In my opinion, brewed coffee should be available everywhere and the deck five coffee bar should be limited to extra-cost specialty coffees, such as Cappuccino, lattes and espresso
Cabins: Celebrity Concierge Class balcony cabin versus Princess mini-suite: These were comparably priced cabins. The Princess mini-suite is larger than the Celebrity Concierge Class balcony cabin and is a very nice cabin and the Ruby is six years newer than the Constellation. However, Celebrity's amenities are superior. Celebrity - welcome bottle of champagne; Princess - welcome glass of champagne. Celebrity - plush, full-length bathrobes in the cabin upon arrival; Princess - no robes unless requested and they are thin waffle weave, short length with 3/4 length sleeves. Celebrity - nice fruit basket in room upon arrival, automatically refreshed every day; Princess - no fruit basket until requested and then a skimpy affair and never refreshed unless requested each time. Celebrity - afternoon canapÃ©s every afternoon; Princess - nothing. Celebrity - several Concierge Cabin class events on a 2-week cruise, such as a party/gathering , special galley and bridge tours, etc.; Princess - nothing. Celebrity - special Concierge Class embarkation and debarkation (the debarkation was VERY useful); Princess - nothing.