We are a couple in our fifties who have cruised with Princess thirteen times. We have never felt the need to switch cruise lines due to our high level of satisfaction overall. On this cruise, we travelled with our adult daughter and her partner. This was his first cruise and he thoroughly enjoyed it! Past itineraries with Princess include Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean as well as a twelve day Mediterranean cruise. We have enjoyed all itineraries.
We always book a Guaranteed Balcony Cabin (best rate available). This time, it was Category BG, and we were automatically upgraded to BC.
We did not stay in a hotel as we had private accommodation. We parked at the pier and the cost was about $15/day.
There was a long line when we arrived at 12:30pm. This line moved very quickly and the staff at the pier were fantastic. They were pleasant, funny and helpful. As platinum members, we were ushered to an express line which had us on board and at our cabins by 1:15pm. The whole process was very smooth and organized. Our luggage was at both cabins within one hour.
Muster Drill: Since the Costa accident, the drill is strictly mandatory. It was necessary for everyone to swipe cruise cards at Muster stations and crew would not commence until everyone was accounted for. That's understandable and all in the interest of everyone's safety. This took longer than usual.
We have sailed on the Golden, Grand, Star and Crown in the past.
The Ruby is a beautiful ship which is about four years old. It was spotlessly clean and had a lovely Atrium with lots of marble, glass and twinkling lights.
This area was quite popular as there was an international cafe and wine/sushi bar. There was often entertainment going on.
Sailaway: In spite of sailing thirteen time, I never get tired of this experience; especially in Fort Lauderdale. There is a group of high-rise condos and houses on the port side of the ship as you leave Port Everglades. The residents are always there with flags, horns, etc. They cheer and wave as you pass by. I have always found this to be the perfect beginning to a cruise. Find a spot on the highest open deck/port side and take your drink and camera and have fun!
Service: Our impression was that the service exceeded our expectations. The crew were particularly attentive and pleasant. Every crew would greet you with a smile as you passed them.
Our Cabin Steward, Denis was the best we've ever had. He happily and efficiently met our requests and needs. He always had a smile and remembered all of our names (even though he was not taking care of our daughter's cabin).
We realized that the crew was under particular stress over the past weeks due to the outbreak of Norovirus. This unfortunately occurred during our cruise as well. The crew maintained their positive attitude and patience in spite of many extra duties asked of them due to Norovirus.
Princess Cays: This was the only tendered port of our itinerary. This went very smoothly and we waited 5-10 minutes. We always enjoy this port as it is the Princess Private island. There is music, a BBQ, bar service and a lovely beach. There are plenty of lounge chairs. We were somewhat disappointed to learn that the right side of the beach was no longer available without a charge. As it turned out, we were happy with the spot we found by the pier.
We snorkeled with our own gear. Nothing too exciting about this, but relaxing. The lunch included several types of sausage, chicken, beef burgers and ribs. There were salads and fresh fruits. It was very tasty and quite satisfying. There were servers circulating to take drink orders on the beach.
Sea Day: Perfect sunny day. As always, it was crowded at both main pools. We had to find chairs after breakfast and take turns staying at our chairs in order to keep them. We found that if people saved chairs with towels for longer than thirty minutes, other passengers would remove the towels and take the chairs. Unfortunately there were many passengers who saved rows of chairs with towels and were gone for very long periods. Deck attendants don't appear to enforce the thirty minute policy. The poolside band was "Accent". They were very talented and had a great repertoire in addition to standard "Caribbean Music". There were pool games, ice carving, drink making contests. It was all fun!
St. Maarten: We were in port from 10am to 6pm. We rented a car from Hertz (right at the pier). We booked before the cruise. The cost including taxes was $100/day. We were glad that we did this as we were able to get away quickly (before tours) and visit Dawn Beach, Orient Beach and Marigot.
The beaches were absolutely gorgeous. Crystal clear water, gorgeous shades of blue and fine white sand. The only unfortunate experience was trying to have lunch at Boo Boo Jams. We waited more than one hour for food to arrive and had to take it to go. The food was terrible and expensive! The restaurant was not even busy! Too bad, because the beach club at the restaurant was beautiful.
St. Thomas: We were in port from 7am to 3:30pm. Incredibly, we booked our very first excursion ever with Princess. This was the Catamaran Sail and Snorkel ($49/person). The "Captain" met us at the pier and walked us to "The Cat" which was practically next to the ship. This was a gleaming 54ft. catamaran and there were only 25 passengers on board with three crew. The trip was three and a half hours long. It was perfect! The crew were attentive, pleasant and professional. They reviewed safety instructions and it was clearly a priority. We snorkeled in a cove with sea turtles. They provided a guided snorkel tour as well as time to go on your own. There was great music on board and crew provided water and rum punch(only after we had finished snorkeling). This policy was in the interest of safety. We can't say enough about Grady, Joe and Mika. We all enjoyed this excursion and would highly recommend it. There was ample time to shop in St. Thomas or right at the pier.
Grand Turk: We were in port from 1pm to 7pm. There were two ships in port, but the Carnival Glory had arrived well before us. This was unfortunate as we were unable to find any chairs by the pool or on the beach. It was extremely crowded. Fortunately, I had researched other options. We went to "Plan B". We took a taxi to Pillory Beach. The cost was $8/person each way. This was a 20 minute ride and the driver provided interesting facts and info about the island and some of the buildings we passed along the way. There was no trouble getting a taxi to or from Pillory Beach. They were plentiful. Rates seemed to be regulated. The beach was beautiful and quiet. We were next to a small resort, "Bohio" which offers snorkeling trips right from their beach.
We were able to get a drink at the beach bar but were shocked at the prices.
"Rum Punch" was $12/each. For us, the atmosphere in this area was perfect. There were some lounge chairs available for rent but we just sat on the beach with our towels. There was also some palm trees for shade. It was possible to order food at the Beach bar, but we ate before we got off the ship.
Princess offered a scuba diving excursion for $99. Our daughter's partner went on the dive and said that it was amazing.
Sea Day: Another perfect day in terms of weather. We relaxed by the main pool, Neptune's reef and enjoyed the music and contests. It was crowded as is to be expected. The Ruby has four swimming pools in total. The aft pool is for adults only. It is far removed from the music and activities but is a good option for those who like a more peaceful atmosphere.
Activities on Board: We used the gym several times and walked on the Promenade deck. We did not use the spa. We are not inclined to get involved in art auctions, bingo, casino or contests.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the Jazz Quartet which played in Adagio Bar and the Wheelhouse bar. The classical quartet was fantastic and played most often in the main Atrium. The comedian, Phil Tag was hilarious. There were very good jugglers and an acrobat who performed in the Atrium. The Princess Patter was delivered to cabins daily and outlined all scheduled activities and daily features.
Dining: We have always chosen the Anytime Dining. There are two dining rooms; Da Vinci and Michelangelo. There is a reservation hot-line which opens daily at 8am. For the first two nights we did not reserve. We waited 5 minutes the first night and 30 minutes the second night. They provide pagers for longer waits and you can walk around the Atrium and enjoy shops/entertainment as you wait or have a drink at one of the nearby bars.
On the third night we found our ideal servers. We approached the Maitre D at the end of the dinner and asked if we could return to the same table each night at the same time. This is what we did. We booked a standing 7:30 reservation and had a wonderful experience. The positive aspect of anytime dining is that you can eat when you want to. The wait is shorter if you are willing to join others at a table. The negative side is that you don't get to know your servers if you have random seating each night. That is why we like to find our favourite servers and stick with them for the remainder of the cruise. It has always worked out so well for us.
The food was great. Dinner was exceptionally good. We found that the service was accurate and efficient without making us feel rushed. Our servers were engaging and accommodating. They added that personal touch which makes the difference. Of course, we maintain that this relationship works both ways. We are always respectful and polite with our servers. There was only one entree the entire week that I did not like. Our server offered to replace it as soon as he sensed that there was a problem. Favourite meals: Shrimp and Lobster, Prime Rib. We took breakfast at Horizon Court (Buffet) Great variety including custom omelets. Busy but lines moved efficiently. Lots of fresh fruit and good variety of breads and pastries. Horizon Court was a favourite for lunch as well because of the huge variety and quick service.
We also ate at the Pizzeria by the pool and Trident Grill. Pizza was very good. Burgers at the Trident were just okay. There is a free ice cream bar and they serve healthy fruit, granola and frozen yogurt each morning from 7-9am. I found out on the last morning that the Trident Grill by the pool served custom omelets in the morning. We ordered room service most mornings and had coffee, pastries, egg sandwiches and juices brought to the room. This service was always accurate and arrived on time. The "Vines" was a favourite place for us to do some wine-tasting and enjoy sushi and tapas. The wine flights were $9. This included unlimited tapas and sushi. Perfect spot for late afternoon. Delicious! We found no need to try other Dining options such as Sabatini's or the Crown Grill.
Our Staterooms: Aloha Deck, Balcony. Covered balcony with table and two chairs. Ample space for us and we loved to have breakfast there as well as evening drinks before dinner. The rooms are compact but well-appointed and organized for storage. We like that the cabins were quiet at night. Beds were comfortable. When choosing location, be sure to consider what is going on above you, such as gym, spa, dining. This can be very noisy early in am.
Norovirus: This virus has plagued several ships this year. Unfortunately, it is still a problem on the Ruby. By day three of the cruise, we found out that there was an outbreak. A number of passengers were quarantined in their cabins. While we were not informed of specific numbers, it seemed that this problem was rampant. There were many conversations among passengers and most had someone in their group who was suffering with symptoms. There were visible signs on the decks that special sanitation processes were going on in cabins as well as in public spaces. We had taken two kinds of disinfectants on board. Some of the activities and performances were cancelled due to the virus and to prevent spread of virus. Clearly the crew were under duress as their duties were increased. Food was served by crew in Horizon Court, but this was managed fairly well and didn't impact flow of passengers significantly. Overall, it appeared that Princess handled this very well and tried not to negatively impact the cruise experience. Hopefully this won't be an ongoing issue.
Disembarkation: This was so well organized. Passengers began disembarking much earlier than usual. By the time we were organized to leave we were able to walk off without any wait whatsoever. This was around 8:15am. We were able to have breakfast on the aft deck of Horizon Court and this was so beautiful and not busy at all. We did have to wait once off the ship. We arrived at a different pier and had to be shuttled to our parking spot. This was a minor inconvenience.
Overall, A wonderful cruise. Everyone in our group enjoyed themselves.
The ship was beautiful. The service was exceptional. The food overall was terrific. We loved the ports but wished that we had more time in each. The weather was the best we'd experienced at this time of year. The value for money was exceptional in our opinion. Would highly recommend the Ruby and Princess in general. We're already talking about our next one!!!