Live Ruby New Year Cruise
We departed LAX at 10 pm the night before our cruise in the midst of security issues and weather issues and experienced none of them at all! Our Virgin flight was smooth and easy and I was able to catch some zzzs in spite of being a little squished. Got to FLL at 6am, hung out at the port and walked around a little then finally got on the ship at about 11:30am, they were having problems getting people off the ship; it must have been a darn good cruise for them!
This is my first elite cruise but I have not noticed any difference, nothing new in the room, no bathrobes, no bar set-up, no upgraded amenities, and no name tag on my room! I keep asking nicely for my name on the door because of CC people and hopefully it will happen today. The Elite embarkation room at the port did not have any coffee and tea, no water, and no munchies. I was surprised and suppose this might be an economy cut. I was in D734 and I always got excellent wifi reception on my netbook,
We found a dining room open for lunch on the ship, otherwise we always eat at the "trough" which sets the pig out tone and this was much more restrained and refined. Love that this was available by noon on embarkation day! We had a great first night dinner at a funky table in the corner of the MDR which was very hot, but wonderful dinner mates made it good. Food very good so for! One of our guests looked just like Susan Boyle, but I did not have the nerve to ask, and then they never showed up again at the table! It really looked like her.
We are in traditional early seating and our first formal dinner in the MDR is OK, we are stuck at a half empty table for 8 and it's hard to have conversation. Truthfully I am spoiled by my past experiences on this ship, and this cruise seems disorganized and the MDR is in disarray with many half empty tables and a long, long line to the Maitre d. We really like our table mates, they are a precious couple in their 80s/90s and just the kind of people I love meeting and sharing traveling stories with during dinner! I want to fill our table but don't seem to be able to affect anything. Whoever did the seating really messed things us, families broken into different tables for no reasons and they want to be with their loved ones. The Maitre d was very nice when I finally asked him if we could switch tables but the new table was just as empty as the first table and we missed the older couple who were now on their own at a table for 8 so we switched back! I was embarrassed but the Maitre D Jose did not mind me switching and he was very sweet about it! I can see how difficult it is to balance these things when people don't show up but don't bother to tell anybody they are not coming to the MDR, I know when I first started cruising I would switch from the MDR to anytime and back until I learned that this is not cool.
I had a Bacon Blue Cheese burger that was incredible, the burgers continue to be wonderful. Last year I had my first Princess Burger, I had not eaten ground meat for 13 years but after the first one, I had to eat one every night! They are still great.
The entertainment on the ship was nice and sometimes fun, but not great. There was a really bad comedian who started the show throwing toilet paper and it basically degraded from there and was not funny (in the John Belishi Animal House way) and kind of offensive. I missed the Hypnotist but heard she was a riot and hope to see her on my next Ruby cruise.
We saw Broadway Ballroom again (3rd time on this ship) and it was OK, and even a little funny because the dancers were falling and very off, I think maybe a mix of ship movement and early New Years partying might be the cause. Anyway, its tough comparing because I saw the premier of this show last spring and it was much better then. This was true for all the shows, I never did see the best one, "Once upon a Dream" because they showed it only one night at the regular times, and once at 5PM which conflicted with trivia ?!
We made it to New Years, but only on our lovely balcony where we tried to see the New Years Blue Moon, a rarity indeed! I am sorry I cannot give first hand info on the parties but I hear they are very fun. There was a party on the top deck, as well as a balloon drop in the atrium, with lots of partying and reveling.
Trivia and Wheelchairs and the Medical Center (aka having an accident while funning around)
I had an accident while playing trivia! We were in a run off to determine the winners of the game with a tie breaker question and as I was rushing to give our team's answer I tore my medial (inner) calf muscle! We won! I was in a wheelchair for the rest of the cruise and had to miss snorkeling in Bonaire but the staff was taking such good care of me that I enjoyed doing nothing and staying on the ship. Thanks again Andreia (a waitress in the International Cafe) for pushing me all over this ship!
I adored the medical staff a lot, Dr. Frederick was incredible and I looked forward to seeing him every two days. The entire staff was so pleasant I have to say they took incredible care of me and I appreciated that so much. They equipped me well for the rest of my cruise and gave me and wheelchair and cane that I used on and off the ship constantly (and often as a weapon, lol) and I don't know how I could have salvaged my cruise as well as I did with out them. Giant Thanks to them!
Lots of rude and ill mannered folks around who don't give a hoot about disabled and handicapped people and this pissed me off but also opened my eyes. It is truly a different world from a wheelchair and I will never be the same from this experience. In fact my therapist would be proud of me because I found the gift of this experience almost immediately. I had never realized how vulnerable and scary it is to be in a wheelchair, especially on a ship, and I am grateful for the opportunity to gain compassion with this experience towards those who cannot get out of their wheelchairs as I will soon. This is the best kind of traveling experience for me because I have grown and learned. Nice.
Our friends loved having a shady spot at the Sanctuary, A 10 day pass costs $150 pp for the package, however they only sell a few and if you want this you should get to the ship early, race to sanctuary and hope there are still some passes available. I hear it's easier to get shade than sun. They had incredible service from their waiter there and even got "Tea" (meaning the fancy food service) in the afternoon. After never trying this service, I might have to next time I am on a holiday sailing!
I ordered formal tea service in my room once, it was amazing. They brought trays and trays of sandwiches, scones, sweets, and teas and it was completely wonderful. I had invited friends up to my balcony for this and Princess brought tea service for 5 which amounted to a lot of food. Excellent experience, we will do this again. We also ordered CanapEs for formal night, another opportunity to invite friends to enjoy this. I made a special order asking for no seafood and they easily accommodated this although they do ask for 24 hour notice for special orders like this.
Disembarkation in a wheelchair
We disembarked with ease, me in a wheelchair and still carrying off my own luggage! I thought this would be impossible considering I am still in a wheelchair and really cannot carry off my own luggage yet Princess made this happen and it was a breeze. We were asked to be in the Casino 10 minutes before our "walk off time" and once there an army of wonderful people carried my luggage, pushed me, and made my disembarkation on this journey the smoothest and easiest ever. They even broke the rules and pushed my luggage almost all the way to the taxi stand! A port employee came running after us, telling the boys that they were not supposed to carry my luggage past a certain point, I did not want to get them in trouble but they insisted it was no big deal and pushed my luggage anyway. I cannot say enough about this kind of stellar service from the employees, really a great bunch on this ship. I was once again so sad to leave and even more so because of the kindness of this staff.
Woke up at Princess Cays, the day was warm and cloudy and perfect weather for grave hunting and info gathering on the Island! We were planning on searching for the mysterious graves and whatever else unfolds, maybe a climb down to a basement if I could find the location! I heard from friends that on the last cruise there was a 2 hour tender wait; hopefully my elite benefit will help here! I get a large pot of hot water and use my coffee press, and the new Cubita coffee that I am addicted to, and I make the best coffee which we enjoy from out aft balcony. Our balcony is huge, almost as large as our room and we love it.
My room name tag is on this morning, which makes me happy since it's the first time I see it in black! We go directly to the tender and jump into the line going on the tender and I am very impressed with this great benefit. PC is beautiful, it is quite scenic and there are lots of opportunities to spend money, eat, drink, and oh yes water sports galore. Of course all we want to do is go grave hunting! We head south, cross the bridge and after talking to several locals, we make our way to the graves. Nobody I talk to knows about them, I am asking everybody, I even bump into the Assistant Maitre d who is surprised to learn about the graves but has not seem them. We follow the directions given on cruise critic and find them easily. We place a shell on each grave, and after a moment of reflection, we depart.
I make a mistake by wearing new tennis shoes and by the time we get to the graves I have an ugly blister and we need to turn back! Will I ever learn to not wear new shoes on cruises? Having to wear a large bandage on my heel doesn't really say "formal" and that is what I must wear for the night's festivities, it's New Years Eve. These bandages stay on my heels for the entire cruise. We catch an early trivia game, which is really fun; we meet some nice folks and have some laughs. I am convinced that "Frottage" is grave tending, but of course it is not! Frottage is the act of rubbing brass! I could think of a lot more creative ways to use that word, such as "quit giving me frottage!"
We took a Princess Tour of St. Thomas, kind of a best of thing where we visited the Island via open air bus, spent a few hours at Megen's Bay which I found disappointing especially compared to a place like Kapulua Bay in Maui. Megen's bay was nice, but crowded and commercialized and not even any good snorkeling. Not a "be-back" for me. We also visited Blackbeards Castle where we climbed down to the town, lots of shopping, via several historical houses and museums and stores. Next time, I'd skip the tour and walk up the 99 steps to Blackbeards and then walk down again on my own. We also visited the old Synagogue which is an easy walk up a small hill right in town, although it was closed and we could not get in.
St Thomas reminds me of an Alaskan Port in that there are so many Jewelry shops it is kind of gross! The vendors are hawking their wares at their storefronts while the taxi cab drivers are simultaneously trying to lure you back to the ship (or anywhere else for that matter as long as it is in their cabs) and the total cacophony of it is tacky and funny. But only for a short period of time, I cannot stand to see such disarray in the midst of such natural beauty! Yuck
We had an incredible tour guide named Levi Bumpling in Dominica. This man and his tour guides were so careful and safe and I cannot recommend his company enough. We visited Titou gorge and swam up to the falls, Levi made sure each of us were able to get to the falls by throwing a rope and pulling those who could not swim against the strong currents caused by the waterfalls. This was such an incredible experience, and only the beginning. Our van was stocked with water, local beer, and banana sodas. Next we went to Trafalgar falls where we hiked down to the thermal pools and sat in them for 15 minutes. Levi knew where to walk, where to sit, which rocks were slippery and the best and safest routes to these pools and I felt safe and sure footed the whole time. Levi was always ahead of us and ready to help us cross rocks and pools. He is an incredible guide. Next we went to Champagne beach and snorkeled, this again was quite incredible. At all times we felt safe, our driver Cecil was conscientious and never scared us on the roads, he had a plethora of history to share with us and showed us plants and all sorts of things. It was a great day!
We took a Princess excursion (rare for us) River Tubing in Grenada and the ride up to the starting place was long but beautiful, it took about 50 minutes. After a brief lecture about safety, we were put in individual tubes and outfitted with helmets and life vests and off we went. The river is very low and there were lots of rocks and I was a little nervous about jamming into them but there were guides strategically located along the tube route to help us past high or jagged rocks. One thing I hated was the incessant splashing of our faces by the guides--I wear contact lenses and had sunscreen and the minute they started splashing the sunscreen was dripping into my eyes causing stinging, and I could not see. I started asking each guide as I passed them to please not splash me, one did anyway and thats when I told him splash me and no tip! Then they stopped! After that I began to enjoy the ride down the river, although it was very short and basically lasted about a half hour. At one point they removed me from the group; they proceeded to give them a massive splash!!!! I was so grateful that they removed me that I gave them a large tip.
Nonetheless, I would not recommend this excursion unless the river is higher, and since they got minimal rain last rainy season do be careful if you do this soon. It was fun and I was concerned about my safety because I am a klutz and accidents happen to me! LOL
The locals are very kind and sweet here, I noticed that they are not obnoxious sellers and nobody bugged us when we walked around looking at trinkets and spices. The spice necklaces are wonderful; I got 4 for $10 if anybody is looking for those that would be the best price I found. Do buy at least one; it makes the cabin smell heavenly! Get a plastic bag so you can bring it home and that helps retain the moisture.
I had to visit Bonaire in my wheelchair. The streets were easy to navigate in the wheelchair although the occasional rude shopper was not as easy for me, I always seem to find teachable moments and then I teach! My weapon, I mean cane, helped me with these occasional rude people a lot! Thanks to the awesome Doctor Frederick on the ship who made sure I was equipped.
We spent a full day in Aruba, where we usually have a half day, this time we were able to see and do so much more. We hired Bully, an incredible "giant of a guide" and he was top notch from the start to finish during the full day tour. He let us set the pace, and always made great suggestions, making sure each of us got what we needed! His large ice chest was filled with waters, cokes, beer, and wine! At several points he checked to make sure there was always enough of whatever drinks we were drinking and this impressed me so much. He also stopped to buy some local candy and let us all try it. This man is a sweetheart, smart, informative, and really with-it! Bully was able to accommodate me in my wheelchair easily and he recommended places where I could experience the wonders of Aruba, such as the caves. I felt completely safe and secure!
Our first stop was the Jewish Temple, a place where I have been before and I got to light two memorial candles for my parents, a very tender and sweet moment. There was a very grumpy Rabbi there and I got him to let us in and begrudgingly he even opened the store so I could buy something or sentimental value. His grumpy attitude did not even faze us, if anything it added to the mystique of the whole experience.
Next we drove south to the San Nicolas area where we visited Baby Beach which was (in the words of Justin our teenage friend) "gorgeous" and he was describing the water! It was astounding, calm, relatively small amount of people, and just about perfect for beaching, swimming, and snorkeling. We saw Golden Eagles, beautiful Orange and Yellow birds, and lots of Iguana's in blues, greens, and browns. At the Seroe Lighthouse we took beautiful pictures and caught glimpses of the rough sea and volcanic cliffs of the North coast of Aruba.
Next we entered Arikok National Park, a beautiful and wild land filled with Cacti, and lots of Donkeys! We visited the Natural bridges, it was so crowded and filled with tourists flicking their ciggies into the ocean and we wanted to get the heck out of there fast. Next we came to the caves which were awesome, easy to enter and at least one accessible to me hobbling with a cane. These caves were filled with ancient cave drawings and many of them already scribbled on by people who didn't seem to care about them. That is why the caves became closed at night and protected by National Park service employees. They were just magnificent and a must see.
Next we visited the Ayo Rock formations, although this time I could not climb them but the rest of our crew loved it. Onto the Goldmine/ruin, we visited the old "fake" fort and got some great pics through the various windows. There was so much garbage in the ruin that I hobbled around and picked up the trash and hopefully people who saw me doing this will remember to carry their garbage out! Geesh!
Making our way north up the island, we visited the Alto Vista Chapel, learned of the traditions surrounded by this first Catholic church in Aruba, and even followed their 14 staged of the Cross! Kind of cool for this Jewish girl!
We also visited the California Lighthouse but it was a zoo of people so Bully took us to a place where we could get pictures but be away from the crowds. These types of things of the best reason to hire a great guide like Bully because he know us, knows what the island is like when there are 4 cruise ships in port (yikes) and knows how to get around the masses! Excellent!
Next we made our way through the "Beverly Hills" of Aruba where all the high rise resorts are. Bully took is to several upscale resorts where we were able to scout them out and gather info on them. We also got to stop for a quick swim, impeded by a mass of water sport enthusiast with no sense of children in the water; we left this area pretty quickly. Watch yourselves and you families on these beaches especially when there are so many cruise ships in port!
Last stop was the supermarket where I bought my favorite Cumin cheese and a little Dutch candy. We made it back to the ship with several minutes to spare, and Bully was able to drive me almost to the ship so I did not have to hassle beating off people with my cane! Read Less