Flew from Texas on Saturday, 1-28-12, and stayed at the Cypress Creek Hampton. This hotel is an older facility, but very comfortable and the least expensive Hilton location in the area--and only 11 miles due north of the airport. Had dinner on Saturday on the beach front of Ft. Lauderdale at the H2O restaurant, which proved to have excellent food at reasonable prices. The restaurant is only approximately 5 miles from our hotel, and we enjoyed the drive past luxury yachts and the "Olas" section of town--with many shops and clubs.
On Sunday morning, drove our rental car back to Alamo and caught their free shuttle to the pier. Arrived at 12:20 pm and was on the Ruby by 1:10 pm. Went with the crowds to the Horizon Buffet, and then enjoyed the "good bye" sailing party on the deck with our friends. Our group consisted of my wife, three female friends and one of their 14 year old children. Our minisuite had been upgraded from "AE" to "AC"--meaning it's location was now mid ship instead of far forward. The rest of our party had interior rooms, mid ship, on our same Dolphin deck. Everyone was satisfied with the rooms, and we were very pleased with the services provided by our cabin steward, Luca (from Romania) during the entire cruise.
On Monday morning we arrived at Princess Cay--the private beach in the Bahamas--and spent a relaxing day there. The Tuesday "at sea" day proved a bit rough due to high winds, but we survived with no great difficulties. This was our third cruise, and both myself and my wife have good "sea legs", we do recommend a prescription sea-sick patch as a precaution. On Wednesday we visited St. Martin Island--took the bus tour to the French side--but ditched the tour there and took a taxi to the Princess Resort we had just past--just over on the Dutch side of the island. This is a very picturesque place for a light lunch, and we enjoyed their very modern and large casino afterwards. Took taxi back to the ship---the cost of these taxis is very modest--$5 to $10 person (ask first what it will cost). Allow plenty of time to get back to the ship (streets are congested), and the ship was actually delayed waiting 30 minutes for a family with 4 little children to return.
Next port was St. Thomas; loved the island! Took BlackBeard Castle Bus Tour and had lunch in town. Good shopping on Main Street.
Grand Turk, next day, was a disappointment except for those folks who were enjoying an exceptionally beautiful beach for snorkeling. Forget the tours, take a taxi for half the price and ride downtown and back without stopping to see some historic homes and buildings.
We had the traditional dinning, good to very good food overall with adequate service. Had a great meal the last night at the Crown--well worth the extra price.
The entire group enjoyed the Fifties Night, and the Country and Western Night at the Explorer lounge. The younger members also raved about the comedians and the trivia contests with crew members. The two jazz performances were excellent. Our teenager was treated very well at the "teen only" section of the boat, and also enjoyed playing miniature golf at the top aft of the vessel.
The casino was very well run, and we were very pleased with the professionalism of Stan and Stu--the casino supervisors. More slots would be appreciated, and the odds are not great, but I sat next to a gentlemen who won $2000. on a $1.50 "Quick Hits" machine--so it is possible!
The norovirus hit on the 2nd night of the cruise, and the crew was very diligent in cleaning and other preventive tasks. None of our group succumbed, but we were all very very careful with hand washing and not touching our faces. The major downside was more limited buffet service, and seeing the strain of additional duties on crew members. Since the Crown Princess, which left the same pier and the day before, and the Ruby both suffered the outbreaks, I believe the virus came from the terminal staff or the buses.
Exiting the Ruby on Sunday morning was very fast and efficient--we had purchased the $19. bus transfers and we were at the airport in less than 40 minutes total from the time we left our cabins. Ft. Lauderdale airport is not very pleasant, and the DHS staff, frankly, seem to be profiling Hispanics for extra pat-downs (disappointing).
To summarize--great cruise, we will definitely use Princess again.