Ruby Princess achieves something most 3,000-plus-passenger ships can't: A feeling you've just come home. (Think a high school reunion, only with people you just met.) It's easy to strike up a conversation with someone and feel like you've known them forever. Passengers aren't just friendly; they're down to earth, curious, outgoing and share a love for cruising traditions.
Those traditions are what keep so many past Princess passengers coming back. They don't care that the ship has no rock climbing wall or water slide. Instead, they love that free dining venues outnumber for-fee restaurants. They look forward to the balloon drop on the last formal night of the cruise (Princess passengers still take formal night seriously, by the way) and the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party and Champagne Waterfall, where the maitre d' helps passengers pour bubbly over a tower of glasses. Perhaps most popular of all is Princess' signature Movies Under the Stars, where passengers snuggle up on the top deck with fleece blankets and popcorn.
After a late 2015 refurb, Ruby Princess gives passengers even more to love with new dining and entertainment options. The hands-down winners of the new offerings are the Salty Dog Gastropub, a dinner-only menu created by celebrity chef Ernesto Uchimura, available at the Wheelhouse Bar; the new "industrial chic" specialty restaurant Share, created in partnership with celebrity chef Curtis Stone; and yet more Norman Love "Chocolate Journeys," which include chocolate-flavored cocktails, breakfast treats and even a tasty spa treatment.
The line's new entertainment forays were a bit more hit and miss. The partnership with NBC's "The Voice"? Total hit. The new musical created in partnership with Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz? The jury's still out on that.
Our biggest hat-tip, though, goes out to the ship's 1,200 crew members, who are not only friendly and attentive, but also have a great sense of humor and upbeat spirit. Fun tidbit: Ruby Princess is dedicated to keeping its crew happy and motivated. One way the ship's hotel manager accomplishes this is by taking his crew biking in port about once every two weeks. The team bonding enables an open platform for discussions on ways to improve crew and passenger life onboard.
The majority of Ruby Princess cruisers are North American couples between 40 and 70. Many are past Princess passengers who appreciate the ship's "classic Princess" feel. Kids make up only a small portion of the demographic -- usually less than 10 percent. You'll see more young adults, families and multigenerational groups on holiday sailings, warmer weather itineraries and more nationality diversity on longer bucket-list cruises to exotic destinations.
On seven-night itineraries, Ruby Princess hosts two formal nights. Most women do without the glitz and glamour of formal evening gowns, instead opting for tasteful cocktail dresses or dress pants and blouses. Men mostly don ties and jackets, but some go all-out with tuxedos, which can be rented onboard. Daytime wear varies, depending on whether you spend most of your time inside or out. Shorts, T-shirts and loungewear are suitable for gallivanting around the pool and recreational decks. Those who spend most of their time inside dress more resort-casual (khakis and polo shirts for men, and leggings and billowy tunics for women).
Gratuities, which are automatically charged to onboard accounts, are $12.95 per person (including children), per day; passengers staying in minisuites and suites will pay $13.95 per person, per day. A 15 percent gratuity is added to beverage purchases onboard. Spa and casino staff members do not share in the gratuity charges -- if you use these services, tips are advised.