I booked this cruise as a surprise for my husband's 41st birthday/a late honeymoon (we were married in July 2011). I am turning 31 next month. This was our very first cruise. Neither of us ever thought we'd enjoy cruising, mainly due to three things: 1) the stigma of cruises being for old boring people, 2) fears about feeling too confined and 3) fears of getting sick with the Norovirus. I got on the ship with very low expectations, mainly due to the negative review on this website. I'm happy to report that Princess has us totally hooked on cruising. The only complaints we have about the cruise isn't the cruise line's fault; our complaint is about passengers with poor manners! I picked Princess cruises because of 1)it's reputation for excellent service and the Ruby's interiors of classic elegance.
We arrive in Ft. Lauderdale around 12:30am due to a 2 hour flight delay. As a result, we slept in and didn't make it to the port until almost 1:30pm. We were shocked at how long the line was, but we were pleasantly surprised at how fast it moved. It took about 15 minutes to get into our stateroom. We carried/rolled our bags instead of handing them over to the porters.
Oh.My.Word. The Ruby is a beautiful ship. As I said, one of the reason I booked a cruise on the Ruby is because of its decor. I felt like I was on the Queen Mary or Titanic. Ships with flashy interiors and gaudy colors do not evoke a feeling of romance for me, which is what I wanted.
We were in an interior cabin on the Aloha deck, mid-ship. We were happy with the room. The shower is tiny but sufficient... made leg saving awkward! If you are a side sleeper used to a soft super/pillow-top mattress, as I am, you will find the bed a bit hard. My husband, who had back surgery in 2008 and still take medication & goes to physical therapy, thought the bed was fine (at first). We did have a foam topper on the bed. My husband slipped off a shuttle taxi stair in St. Maarten and the last stair hit right above his incision area. He could barely make it back to the room; when our cabin steward saw how badly my husband was struggling he added two more foam toppers to the bed when we left for dinner (without us asking for it). It made a huge difference! We didn't spend much time in our stateroom because being in there made us sleepy! The gentle rocking of the ship lulled us to sleep within seconds of getting into bed. I miss it!
Our steward, Rodelio, was amazing. He went above and beyond the service we had expected to receive. No matter how many times we returned to the cabin to shower & change, or take a nap post-excursion, we always returned to a refreshed room. I'm still trying to readjust to having to make our bed and clean our bathrooms again! He was very friendly and genuinely concerned about my husband's fall. Couldn't ask for a better room steward. We tipped him $20 per day.
I've read a lot of negative reviews about the food on Princess cruises, and I can't help but wonder why. We are self-professed Seattle foodies and thought the meals were quite good. The presentation was definitely top notch and the food was always hot. We thought the food in the Crown Grill was comparable to what was served in the main dining rooms. We received two credits to Sabatini's for my husband's birthday and were blown away by the food and service, so much so that we tipped our waiter the money we didn't have to pay to eat there. It just didn't seem right to have such a wonderful dining experience for free. The food by the pool area, especially the French fries and burgers, were delicious. The only things we didn't care for were the pizza and soft serve ice cream; the pizzas all came with a margarita-style sauce, which was quite bland. The soft serve tastes strange, like it's made from powdered milk or something. However, the milk shakes are made with REAL ice cream (I watched them scoop it from an ice cream tub). Strawberry shakes and pina coladas were all I wanted to drink onboard, and that says a lot because I usually only drink water. Another minor complaint: my lamb chop was a bit overcooked one evening (main dining room); however, the dish included two other meat items so I didn't leave hungry. All in all, the food was way better than we expected. The service at all dining establishments was spectacular.
My husband got the soda sticker and a coffee card, and I got the UKP (Ultimate Kids Package) sticker. My hubby drinks lots of soda and I love milkshakes, so we got good use of the stickers. I only bought one bottle of water from the fridge in our room and then kept it refilled it with tap water (which was just as good). We thought the stickers were well worth the money.
Kim worked wonders with the hot stone massage! I felt so relaxed afterwards. At the end of the massage she went over the products that she used, as expected, but didn't do a "hard sell" or make me feel like I had to buy anything. My husband and I booked another couples massage but it was scheduled for the day that he fell. He didn't want anyone but a doctor to touch his back so we cancelled.
We didn't spend much time in around the main pool areas as it was a little too loud for our liking. It appeared that chairs closest to the pools were always taken; however, there were always chairs on the upper decks around the MUTS screen and back in the sunning area in front of the Sanctuary.
We rented a double chaise for the entire week. It was worth every penny. My husband and I agree that an interior cabin + a reserved seat in the Sanctuary is a better deal than booking a balcony room. There were a couple of occasions were people using the adults only pool would get loud, but they were promptly handled. One afternoon there was a man who obviously had too much to drink as he was VERY loud. It didn't last more than 2 minutes and the pool area quickly went back to being a quiet oasis.
I didn't pick Princess for the entertainment. As such, I can't really comment about it. The selection of M.U.T.S. showings was excellent and varied (recent releases, kids movies, concerts and sports events). The dance lessons looked like a ton of fun and the Ultimate Deck Party was a blast! We caught, in passing, bits of a comedian's shadow puppet act that was just terrible. The people at our dinner table agreed. The contests by the main pool always looked fun, but as stated before we spent most of our ship time relaxing in the Sanctuary. I've heard from other passengers our age that the production shows weren't very good and seemed to be geared towards the older crowd. If you frequent Broadway plays/musicals at home then the shows will *probably* be too cheesy for your liking. Still, there was something to do for everyone and there was so much variety in the patters that we usually gave up and just took it easy instead. We spoke with people from the 20s up to a lady who was celebrating her 86th birthday, and every one of them were having a good time.
A catamaran with three French nationals sent out a distress signal late one night, and we were the closet ship to them. They had been adrift without steering for over a day. The captain turned the boat off course to save the people. I didn't know what was happening as I was in bed. I felt the ship turn sharply, causing all the hangers in the closet to clank against each other. I thought we hit something (like the Concordia disaster). Then a message on the PA sounded, and I thought he said "we're sending a mayday" instead of "we received a mayday." After the captain finished his message I was a little more at ease, but then started to worry about a potential pirate attack! In the end all was well, and the rescue went off without a hitch. The French nationals disembarked at the next port (St. Maarten) and our captain was a hero.
Whenever I go on vacation there's always fellow Americans that make me embarrassed to be an American traveler. We watched in horror as passengers were rude to staff for no reason other than they wanted to feel/act superior. Like the couple across the hall from us who felt it was necessary to yell in the halls late at night about how drunk they were. Then there were the folks who'd cut and shove their way through lines, only to shrug when informed that "the line starts back there." On the last day of the cruise there was a huge line of people wanting to use the Sanctuary. As my husband and I made our way to our chair a woman approached us and screamed "I was here first and THIS is the chair that I want." She couldn't seem to register the fact that we had already paid for it. The gentleman in charge of the Sanctuary gently guided her away and tried to show her other chairs that were available. She was NOT pleased and left in a huff. He came back to apologize on her behalf, which was very kind of him, but he shouldn't have to apologize for a passenger's lack of propriety. It's amazing to watch people in their 40s, 50s, 60s throw childish tantrums. I'm sorry but being able to afford a vacation does NOT give people the right to treat others like dirt, I don't care what kind of cabin you paid for (side note: a young couple from Italy booked the biggest cabin on the ship, and they were extremely pleasant to EVERYONE they encountered and even greeted us in the hallways and in the Crown Grill. We were kind of shocked that the couple didn't act snobby like the passengers who were trying to fake it. It's one thing to expect superb service and get your money's worth, and it is quite another to expect people to take verbal abuse just because you were able to save enough for a cruise and feel entitled to everything. That said, most of the people on the cruise had good manners and were easy to talk to. There are sour apples in every bunch, and we didn't let the lack of civility that some people had ruin our vacation.
Smokers vs. non-smokers
My husband smokes and I don't, so I have the advantage of seeing how people treat smokers and knowing how to avoid smoky areas. If you take into account how huge the Princess Ruby is, there aren't many smoking areas on the ship, so it boggles my mind when non-smokers walk through smoking sections and 1) fake a cough or 2) take the passive-aggressive approach of making comments under their breath. Seriously people, grow up. Most smokers have no problem putting out a cigarette if asked politely. An "excuse me sir/ms, your smoke is really getting to me... would you mind putting it out please? Thanks so much" goes a lot farther than being childish about it. There aren't ANY areas on the ship (Ruby) where walking through a smoking section is the only way to get to another location. Also, I've also read a lot of complaints about smoking in the casino, yet during our trip the casino hardly ever had people in it during non-smoking nights despite the non-smoking night being well advertised in the daily patters. Oh well. It was nice being able to play my $10 on slots without having to inhale a cloud of smoke, but it would have been nicer if there were more people in there to talk to (and I probably would have gambled another $10 if I had company.
We really enjoyed our Eastern Caribbean Cruise with Princess and are recommending the cruise line to all our friends and family. We placed a deposit for another cruise and can't wait to sail again. If you are laid back and want relaxation and a bit of fun then Princess is a good choice. I think the negative reviews are from people who didn't do their research. Each cruise line caters to a specific type of traveler. If you want to be blown away by production shows I probably wouldn't book princess. If you don't like paying for coffee/soda/etc then maybe an all-inclusive cruise line would be a better fit. In my opinion, Princess offers the best value. Of course, I have nothing to compare this cruise to, but until we try another line we're giving Princess a 5-star rating.