The Princess Theater features 800 plush seats with small, wooden tables tucked in between chairs for those with drinks in hand. On select nights, passengers can enjoy "Magic To Do," a Broadway-style production show developed by Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz. The show pays homage to famous magicians through the use of some of Schwartz's most famous songs, such as "Magic to Do" from Pippin and "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. It also includes a song created exclusively for Princess, called "A Little Magic."
We loved the singers and dancers in "Magic to Do," as well as the visual effects, but didn't feel the story -- composed of a series of short acts -- flowed well. We weren't alone, as we learned after chatting with some fellow passengers, but others really liked it.
The Princess Theater is also home to two other Broadway-style production shows, "Once Upon a Dream" and "Colors of the World," as well as the "Voice of the Ocean," a spinoff of NBC's "The Voice." The show -- which is held on the last night of every cruise -- features passengers who were handpicked from karaoke auditions earlier in the week, to compete for "The Voice of the Ocean" title. A panel of three judges (ship crew, usually the hotel general manager or captain) determines the winner. (They even have spinning "I Want You" chairs just like the TV show!) Be prepared for a full-house. On our sailing, it was standing room only. Late-arriving passengers were encouraged to watch the show from flat-screen TVs at Club Fusion. We'd recommend getting to the theater at least 30 minutes before the show starts.
Princess' daily planner, the Princess Patter, overflows with fun activities for every taste. Typical options might include a golf-putting competition, special interest meet-ups (such as knitting), themed trivia, scavenger hunts, dance classes and pool volleyball.
A Princess staple, the three-deck Piazza is the ship's main hub, where you'll find live music, dancing, bars, restaurants and shops. Music is often influenced by the areas the ship sails through; a mariachi band performed a few times throughout our Mexican Riviera cruise, for instance.
During football season, the ship hosts "Game of the Week" tailgate parties (complete with beer buckets, team-inspired drink specials and game day snacks like burgers and hot dogs) and broadcasts games on the outdoor movie screen.
Evening entertainment is also varied, though we found that nightlife tended to die down around 11 p.m. (night owls, take note). Before everyone hits the sack, however, the Piazza, bars and lounges are full of life.
Even the sun decks draw crowds -- thanks to Movies Under the Stars, a Princess favorite during which passengers snuggle up on poolside loungers, munch on popcorn and cookies with milk (all complimentary), and watch a flick (typically newer, family-friendly options like the non-animated Cinderella and the Avengers) on the outdoor movie screen located directly above the Calypso Pool on Deck 15. Crew members hand out cozy fleece blankets on chilly nights.
Gamblers who want to try their luck can head to Gatsby's Casino on Deck 6. Games include craps, roulette, blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Let it Ride and Three-Card Poker, as well as a variety of slot machines (sometimes open 24 hours if the ship is at sea). In order to play, passengers can tap into their onboard accounts, apply for credit prior to sailing or cash checks, withdraw cash from an ATM or get credit card advances.
Princess also offers stargazing on select nights (weather permitting) through its partnership with the Discovery Channel. During an interactive guided sky tour, a stargazing specialist (a trained Princess crew member) will help passengers identify iconic constellations and share a bit of folklore about them.
Ruby Princess Bars and Lounges
Princess Ruby passengers like to sip, socialize and soak up the scene and there are plenty of onboard spots from which they can do so. In particular, Ruby Princess specializes in wine, whiskey and craft beer -- thanks to a dedicated wine bar, extensive whiskey menu and the line's own craft beer, Seawitch, an exclusive IPA from Strike Brewing Co. near San Francisco.
Vines (Deck 5): Ruby Princess' wine bar is one of the best at sea. Located in the Piazza, the rustic, Italian-style venue allows you to enjoy all the action from the sidelines. Wine lovers can order single glasses or custom-made flights -- such as the "Trio of White Grapes" and "Norman Love Confections," paired with Norman Love chocolates. Sommelier-hosted tastings also are available for $15. Sushi and tapas are complimentary with any wine purchase. Vines is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): The Wheelhouse Bar is the place to go for craft beer and whiskey. It serves a variety of brews, including Princess' very own Seawitch IPA, as well as an extensive whiskey selection. Whiskey and bourbon lovers can enjoy top-notch sips from around the globe, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and Japan. The venue boasts a nautical theme with a modern pub feel. There's also a small stage, which hosts live bands on select nights.
Explorer's Lounge (Deck 7): Seating around 250, the Explorer's Lounge is home to a number of daytime and nighttime activities, such as comedy shows, trivia and art auctions. The space features armchairs, tables and loveseats positioned to face the stage, which typically hosts a band at night.
Crooner's Bar (Deck 7): This classy piano bar located at the top of the Piazza features a music-inspired Art Deco theme and clear view of all the action below, if you sit along the railing. Cocktail connoisseurs flock here for its "Tee Many Martoonies" menu (the chocolate martini is a favorite) and Norman Love concoctions available nowhere else on board, like the Dirty Piglet (Maker's Mark bourbon and a touch of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate dipped bacon) and Mayan Margarita (Don Julio Reposado tequila, agave nectar, sweet chocolate, chili pepper and tangy citrus).
Club Fusion (Deck 7): This versatile venue offers exercise and dance classes (like Zumba and line dancing) by day, and karaoke and live bands by night. You'll also find streams of live shows from the theater on ample flat-screen TVs throughout the venue.
Adagio (Deck 16): Across from Share, Adagio is far from the crowds and has a sophisticated, "clubhouse bar" feel. It comprises a small bar with high-backed stools and a number of cozier seating arrangements (chairs and love seats surrounding cocktail tables). Passengers can enjoy cognac, scotch, wine and liqueurs while listening to the nightly sounds of a pianist or jazz ensemble.
Skywalkers (Deck 18): Skywalkers, the ship's nightclub, is where passengers typically end the night. It features a small, disco ball-lit dance floor on one side, a bar on the other and ample seating that stretches the length of the club. Some nights were more energetic than others when passengers lingered until about 2 a.m. versus midnight most nights, though it was never fully packed. The DJ kicks off the night with '70s and '80s pop music, and shuffles in more modern hits as the crowd picks up.
Speakeasy (Deck 5): The ship's dedicated cigar bar (and the only place to smoke one onboard) is nestled next to Gatsby's Casino. Decor includes cobalt-blue carpeting and lovely stained-glass wall accents against wood paneling.
Calypso Bar (Deck 15): Tucked under the giant movie screen and right beside the Calypso pool, this is the go-to bar for outer-deck loungers. Be warned: It can get pretty crowded, especially during pool games. If you're looking for a quieter place to enjoy a cocktail and soak up the outdoor scenery, head to the Outrigger Bar.
Outrigger Bar (Deck 15): The Outrigger Bar offers some of the best views onboard. Located at the back of the ship, it overlooks the Terrace Pool and has a clear view of the ship's wake trailing behind. Passengers typically don't discover this oasis until at least halfway through the cruise, so take advantage early on. Still, you shouldn't have a problem finding an empty bar stool or seat -- plus, loungers are within easy reach.
Mermaid's Tail (Deck 15): The Mermaid's Tail is a small pool bar, adjacent to the Trident Grill. It's a nice spot to grab a quick drink during your "lunch break."
Tradewinds Bar (Deck 16): This relaxed outdoor pub caters to sun deck loungers who want easy access to frozen drinks.
Ruby Princess Outside Recreation
Ruby Princess has four pools and two family-friendly splash areas; hot tubs are plentiful.
The Calypso Reef and Pool is the most popular place to take a dip. It sits midship on Deck 15, below the Movies Under the Stars screen and adjacent to the Calypso Bar. Because of its location, the space is almost always packed -- especially during pool games or when the outdoor screen plays movies (or football, if there's a game). Its two hot tubs also are popular during the day, and at night during Movies Under the Stars. With such a busy atmosphere, Calypso Pool is not for those who want to nap or read a book.
Nearby is the Neptune Reef and Pool. Also complemented by two hot tubs, the pool is popular among families since it doesn't get as crazy as the Calypso Pool, and there's more lounge space. It is overlooked by a small stage, where live bands sometimes perform on sea days. Staffers also host occasional pool games, such as a synchronized swimming contest. The Mermaids Tail, a small bar and Trident Grill, which serves up burgers, hot dogs and more to go, are a few steps away.
Our favorite pool is the Terrace Pool, located on Deck 14 aft. Smaller than the Calypso and Neptune pools, the Terrace Pool is positioned at the very back of the ship and offers breathtaking wake views. There are no hot tubs and the pool never felt crowded on our sailing.
Another tranquil option is the Lotus Spa pool. Found on Deck 15, the adults-only pool is easily accessed from the ship's spa and fitness area, as well as via The Sanctuary. It's flanked by a Buddha statue, surrounded by padded loungers and has two hot tubs, almost always in use -- possibly because spa-goers head there to soothe their muscles after massages.
Family options can be found on Deck 17. They include a kiddie splash area complete with toy bikes little ones can ride in the pool, a family pool that looks more like a hot tub and the Chill Out hot tub for teens only. (All kids in the designated pools must be potty trained.) Unisex bathrooms for easy changing are nearby.
Recreation is not one of Ruby Princess' strengths. What recreation the ship does have can be found on Deck 19: Princess Links, an underwhelming, nine-hole golf putting course; two small greens for putting practice; croquet; a small, netted sports court for tennis, volleyball, badminton and half-court basketball; and a jogging track, which requires 16 laps to run a mile.
A Ping-Pong table on Deck 16 can be accessed via a portside staircase. Hold onto the railing tight on windy days.
Like pools, Princess does sun decks well. Deck 16 has the most open lounging space, but other sun decks include those surrounding the Neptune and Calypso pools (Deck 15), the Horizon Terrace and just below the Terrace pool (Deck 14 aft). There's also a small sun deck on the same deck, forward.
For a little more privacy, sunbathers should consider the adults-only, extra cost Sanctuary. Located on Deck 17, the exclusive, Astroturf-floored space comprises padded loungers and chairs and a few shaded canopies reserved for massage treatments. Some chairs are located along glass windows, facing out to sea, while others are in little side nooks. For the utmost peace and quiet, we recommend snagging a spot close to the windows or shaded tents. Each lounger comes with a plush towel and adjacent cocktail table on which to place fresh drinks and snacks.
Access to The Sanctuary costs $20 for a half day and $40 for a full day. Cruise-length passes are priced at $30 per day. Food delivery incurs a $3 fee; menu options range from cantaloupe with cottage cheese and lettuce-wrapped spring rolls to burgers and hot dogs. Smoothies also are available. Servers walk around offering infused water (lemon or cucumber) and small desserts and cookies -- all at no extra charge.
Ruby Princess Services
The ship's 25-computer Internet Cafe is located on Deck 5, though we hardly saw anyone using it on our sailing. Passengers wishing to stay connected can purchase Internet plans for the Internet Cafe or their smartphone, laptop or tablet. WiFi costs $73 for 60 minutes, $103 for 240 minutes, $163 for 460 minutes, $203 for 680 minutes and $253 for 1,100 minutes, plus a $3.95 activation fee. You'll receive bonus minutes if you purchase a plan on embarkation day. Princess also offers convenient, last-day Internet access: 15 minutes for $9, for passengers wishing to access departure flight information.
Tech-savvy passengers should check out Princess@SEA, the line's free app, which can be accessed in airplane mode. Through the app, passengers can browse restaurant menus and daily activities, as well as access their onboard accounts and sign on to the Internet, if they purchased a plan. The best part: Passengers onboard can communicate with each other via the app's free messaging system.
Both guest services and the shore excursion deck are located on Deck 6. At the shore excursions desk, crew members provide information about tours and other activities ashore. (Princess adds more tours if demand is high enough. Don't be afraid to ask if there's any way you can get on a sold-out excursion.)
On Deck 7, passengers can escape to the library, which not only offers a nice selection of books, but also board games, brainteasers and more. The venue isn't far from the photo gallery, where passengers go to look for photos the ship's photographers took of them on embarkation day, formal night and throughout the cruise. Prices start at $10 for a 5x7" and $22 for an 8x10" print. Ruby Princess also offers a Platinum Photography Studio (Deck 19), which shoots professional black and white photos.
Ruby Princess has four boutiques: Calypso Cove (toiletries, liquor, tobacco and souvenirs) and Meridian Bay (clothing and accessories) on Deck 6, and Essence (high-end perfumes, colognes and toiletries) and Facets (jewelry and watches) on Deck 7.
The art gallery, where you'll find nearly 1,300 works of art, is also located on Deck 5. Passengers can purchase art at any time during the cruise, or bid for their favorites at an art auction.
Lovers tying the knot or renewing vows can do so at the Hearts and Minds Wedding Chapel, located on Deck 16. The venue also hosts religious services, led by passengers.
A self-service launderette is located on every deck that has cabins. Inside you'll find washers, dryers, irons and ironing boards. Swipe your key card to purchase detergent and tokens (expect to pay about $6 to $9 per cycle, including the detergent). Professional and dry cleaning services also are available for an additional fee.