Just returned from a great week on Ruby Princess. Husband and I were part of a group of 13 that was onboard for a family wedding that was going to take place while in port in St. Thomas. We arrived in FLL the day before and stayed at the Embassy Suites as part of a princess hotel and transfer package. The transfer from the airport to the hotel was very smooth and we only had to wait about 10 minutes before the bus picked us up. We arrived at the hotel around 12:30 but were not able to check in until 4pm so we checked our luggage and had lunch at the hotel's restaurant. We walked over to Publix to get a few things and then hung out in the lobby until we could check in. The room was very nice and very clean and we thought the pool area was very nice although we did not have a chance to use it.
Our group had made a reservation at Big City Tavern on Las Olas for dinner (bride and groom picked this). Probably one of the loudest and noisiest restaurants I have been to in a while. My husband and I enjoyed the atmosphere and our food was very good but for a group our size it was not a great pick. Since we all flew in from all over this was our first time getting to see everyone and we were unable to carry on any type of conversation because you just couldn't hear anything.
After dinner we walked up and down Las Olas and then headed back to the hotel. It was hard to sleep, we were too excited to get to the ship!!!
After some debate we decided to forgo the princess transfers to the ship and arranged our own shuttle service. We were afraid we would get stuck waiting around and wanted to get to the ship around 11:30 so we were able to get a shuttle service to take all 13 of us at one time for only $5 per person. This worked out really well, although when we arrived they were not yet checking anyone in. We were able to go up the preferred check in lounge area and sit (we are platinum members), everyone else said they had to stand in lines downstairs. The preferred area was definitely a nice perk. At about 12:00 they started checking us in and we were on the ship within 10 minutes. Headed to our room to put our things down and then up to the buffet for lunch. I am guessing they checked the preferred passengers in first because the buffet was empty, usually it's always been a zoo by the time we get there. We had a really nice leisurely lunch and waited for the rest of our group to pop up.
Muster drill was painless; I noticed this was our first sailing where they were actually scanning your cruise cards as you entered your muster station. After the drill we headed up to the deck for sail away and the start of our wonderful cruise.
We had actually done this same cruise last February and while we enjoyed it we would not have chosen it again if it were not for the family wedding. I didn't really love the itinerary since we have been to these ports so many times but we still managed to have a great time.
Princess Cays- A great beach day, we rented a clamshell and laid around most of the day. We also tried out the water bikes which was a lot of fun. The beach BBQ lunch was a lot better than the last time we were there, many more options like fish, ribs and chicken besides the basic burgers and hot dogs. We really enjoyed our day here although it sprinkled a little on and off in the earlier part of the day.
Sea Days: Mostly laid around the pool in the mornings and then went to the dining room for lunch which was a first for us. We tried to do the pub lunch both days but the lines were so long and we didn't want to have to wait more than 30 minutes to get in there, maybe next time. Enjoyed the art auctions, bingo and the many movies that played on MUTS. We both purchased a pass for the Thermal Suite for the week but ended up not using it every day the way we have on other cruises. They price also increased from $150 per couple to $200. Probably won't do this again for the price. Was finally picked to the Ultimate Ship Tour but due to the Noro outbreak on our ship (more about that later) they had to cancel it, I was bummed.
St. Thomas: Wedding Day, we were all transported to Megan's Bay for the ceremony which was beautiful. This is actually where my husband and I were married 2 years ago. After we were done there we walked around town and shopped for a bit and then headed back to the ship.
St. Martin: I had arranged for the group to take Bernard's Tour but ended up not feeling very well that morning so I missed it. The group said they had a great day and would highly recommend the tour. I was so disappointed I didn't get to go but after I started feeling better I took the water taxi to town and walked around for a bit and then stopped on the beach and enjoyed a delicious mango daiquiri.
Grand Turk: Last year we really did not enjoy Grand Turk so we knew we wanted to arrange an excursion. We did the Catamaran snorkel and beach through princess and had a great time. The crew was so much fun. The snorkeling was great, so much to see and so many fish, it was awesome. After the snorkel we spent a little time at a private beach before heading back. We got to see the sun set as we sailed back which made for a great end to a great day.
Noro Virus: This was the first time we have been on sailing that experienced an outbreak. The captain notified us the morning we were in St. Thomas (Thursday) and from that point forward the protocol had been put into place. I really commend the crew for how hard they worked to keep all of us from getting sick. Yes, the lines in the buffet were really long and it was a little inconvenient at times but much better than getting sick. I couldn't believe all of the complaints we heard the rest of the week. You could tell there were probably many crew members that were ill, as it seemed they were understaffed at times in different areas of the ship. We decided to avoid the buffet from then on and enjoyed the rest of our meals in the dining room which was great.
Specialty Restaurants: We always dine at Crown grill and Sabatinis when we can. This time around we did Crown grill twice and had an amazing meal both nights. Our filet was cooked to perfection and the lobster was so sweet, I'm drooling just thinking about it. This was the first time we have been to Sabatinis since they changed the menu and while we loved the old format the new menu did not disappoint. I enjoyed the lobster 3 ways along with a variety of wonderful appetizers and desserts. The penne pasta with short ribs was delicious!
Entertainment: We don't usually go to any shows at night, we tend to stick with MUTS most nights. Some of the movies they played included, 3 Musketeers, In Time, Moneyball, Real Steel and Ides of March. We don't do the casino but some of our group had great luck at slots and blackjack. We usually see the comedians but they were the same ones from last year doing the same show.
Disembarkation: Very smooth, we usually do the early walk off but this time around we had more luggage than usual and decided to wait. We were off the ship and in a taxi by 8:30.
We stayed an extra night in FLL and this time we booked a night at the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas. I chose the hotel solely for the location, we love Las Olas and this particular weekend was the Las Olas Art Festival so it was perfect. We were able to check in at 9am (wow!) and then headed outside to explore the art. Later that afternoon we all decided to take the Carrie B boat tour through the inter-coastal and canals, we thought this was really nice except it was a little chilly and we had to sit inside. That evening we went to Rocco's Taco's with a group of 7. We were seated right away and all immediately ordered margaritas and chips/salsa. This was a very expensive and disappointing meal. The atmosphere was great but all the food was so bland and blah. Even the drinks had no real taste to them. I would pass on this place the next time since there are so many other options up and down the street.
Riverside Hotel: We upgraded our room to a "Tommy Bahama" room, these are rooms that have been updated with tommy bahama furniture and it was basically a normal looking hotel room. You could also pay a little more and stay in the newer tower but we decided to save the money. The room was clean, a little older but nice and you can't beat the location of the hotel. A couple other members of our group decided to get the basic room and OMG it was awful! They smelled so musty, the hallway in this part of the hotel was like you were walking in the "bad neighborhood" compared to the other halls. The rooms had this old canopy bed with dark floral curtains around it and a mirrored ceiling. It was definitely "original". The rooms were so dingy and dark, I would personally have not stayed there but they said it was fine for one night although someone said they would not be able to sleep with the light off because the room looks like it would be haunted.
So all in all it was a great week and a great cruise. We purchased our FCC's and are now ready to plan the next one.