Here is our review of the Ruby Princess Eastern Caribbean January 22-29, 2012. By way of background, we are 43yo and 54yo and this was our 12th cruise in the last 10 years on Princess. I am the one who reads all the reviews and posts here on cc so I am going to try to hit all the relevant points that seems to come up often.
We flew in to FLL the day before as always in case of weather. This was the first time we actually were slightly concerned as we were flying from Hartford, CT and we got a snowstorm Friday night into Saturday. Flight left on time and we stayed the night pre-cruise at the Hyatt Pier 66 (Hotwire -- see threads in Departure Ports). Quick note on Pier 66, nice property, convenient to both the airport and the cruise port. The bar/restaurant at the end of the Pier, Pelican's Landing was very good and very reasonable.
Embarkation: We left the hotel at around 10:30, hopped a cab to the cruise port, stood in line for security about 10-15 minutes and we were through and directed to the Platinum Lounge while we waited to board. Boarding began around 11:40am and we were on the ship and in our cabin by 11:55am. D604. If we have a choice, we eat every meal in the dining rooms. I paid for the service, I am going to enjoy it. Therefore, no longer hidden is the fact that one of the dining rooms is open for lunch on embarkation day. In this case it was Davinci on deck 6. (Princess also lists this fact on their website now). It was a wonderful way to start the cruise, great lunch, try the salmon if you like fish, perfect. The ship is in great condition as it was just refreshed in dry dock. We had no issue with finding anything as we have been on the sister ship, Crown, multiple times.
Dining Rooms/Food: Although very subjective, I want to comment as there are a number of posts and reviews recently of the Ruby wherein there is a lot of negative comments on the food. First, let me say the service was impeccable. There was not one person who we encountered during a meal in the dining rooms that did not go above and beyond for us. Even though we have anytime dining, we tend to find a waiter team we like and make a standing reservation with them. We did that this time with great success, Jerry in Michelangelo, table 311. If you want to switch something up, just ask. For example, I made my own surf and turf one night as I wanted the seared scallops with a lamb chop on the side (it was another entrÃ©e) or another night there was an entrÃ©e of mussels, upon request they made it into an appetizer portion for me. And if you do not know, all the pastas can come as a course size, small portion, just ask. We have had a cruise were every meal and dish was just off slightly. That could not be said here. Dishes were flavorful, the right temperature, and well executed. Two things to warn about: the lamb chops are very thin (no longer rack of lamb) and were slightly overcooked and the NY strip on the last night, although cooked well, was simply not a good piece of meat. Otherwise, enjoy. PS: there is no dining room lunch when in port at St. Thomas and St. Maarten. There is the pub lunch in the wheelhouse on both sea days. If you like fish and chips, it is very good and free.
A comment on anytime dining. We enjoy this feature. In fact it was the reason we originally chose Princess over others lines (this was before everyone had a version of it). But something has gone wrong. One of the anytime dining rooms is used for an early traditional seating and does not begin to sit anytime diners until 7:30pm. This creates havoc. There were lines every night, beepers with waits of 25-45 minutes and a lot of peeved passengers. This was a first. Princess needs to rethink this as it was a disaster. It did not impact us really because we tend to eat later and had a standing reservation for 7:15pm. But I will tell you from overhearing the comments of some of the passengers, I expect their next cruise will not be on Princess.
Ports: We enjoy Princess Cays as a beach day and that is exactly what we did. St. Maarten is as beautiful as ever, but with 5 ships in port that day, we stuck to the town, shopped, had some beers on the water and returned to the ship. St. Thomas, been there too many times, walked around, had lunch and returned. Grand Turk is another great beach day.
Randoms: The composite of the passengers trended towards a much older crowd (typical of mid-January). Such a composition made the bars, lounges, etc rather deserted most evenings. The other possible reason could be the shear lack of entertainment throughout the ship. The bars and lounges had almost nothing in them by way of bands, music, singers etc. If they did, it lasted 15 minutes and then nothing for an hour or so. This went for Adagio, Wheelhouse, Explorers etc. Outside of the productions shows there was one night of a card illusionist and there were two comics. Both of whom played two nights in row two shows a night. Really? Neither was any good. That was it. Shameful. I have not experienced such a lack of entertainment on a Princess ship before. The entertainment is not why we cruise, we can make our own fun, but it really does enhance the evening with some nice music at least in the bars. However, on the other side of the fence, the crew was outstanding. I did not encounter one person who did not have a smile or a warm hello throughout the cruise.
My only real complaint has to do with the ships photography department. Although touched on here and there on Cruise Critic, this voyage causes me to speak out. First, as we all know the prices of the photos taken by the ships photographers are ridiculously expensive. Second, in this day and age it is shameful that Princess is still printing every photo instead of moving to a digital system like so many other cruise lines. Third, now the photographers are everywhere, getting off in port, four nights in the dining rooms, formal nights, casual nights etc etc. Worse, on this ship, if you declined your photo being taken, they became downright surly to you. We specifically decline our picture being taken for no other reason than we will not pay that kind of money for a photo and why waste the resources then. Right? But please don't give be attitude because we decline the photo op. Lower your prices and stop printing photos in 6x8 size (don't you realize there are no run of the mill frames for that size?) and we will reconsider.
Enough venting. Trust me it did not ruin our cruise. We had a great relaxing time with wonderful weather, great food and terrific service. Not sure about you, but I cannot ask for more. Time to start planning the next one.
Interesting aside: the evening that of the day in Princess Cays was a normal night, as it was the first full day of the cruise, people were getting into its rhythms and putting thoughts of the ill-fated and very sad Concordia aside. Imagine the jarring of the PA system at almost midnight blaring in your room. Scared most of us to jump out of bed. Low and behold the ship was answering a mayday from a catamaran that lost its steering and was adrift in the middle of the night and in the middle of the sea. A rescue boat was quickly dispatched from the Ruby after we came to a complete stop. After a few tries the 3 people aboard the catamaran were able to get on the rescue boat and come aboard as our guests for the two days we sailed to St. Maarten. Although jarring to be woken that way, it was a well worth it moment to see the humanity that these lines share along with the responsibility that comes with being on the sea. Good for Princess. As well, the whole thing happened right off our balcony and it was really cool to watch the rescue operation. Don't see that everyday.