This is my review for the Ruby Princess vacation out of Fort Lauderdale on November 29, 2008 for a 7 night Western Caribbean cruise. I was in a party of four, sharing two staterooms; however, treated this vacation as a "single" experience, as I did not share much time with my counterparts. This was my second cruise. My first was in 2007 on Carnival Triumph. I am a 28 year old male.
PREVIEW We flew into Fort Lauderdale on November 28, the day before our departure. We flew out of Newark on Jetblue and had a wonderful flight on the way down, with awesome friendly people. Jetblue certainly does have wonderful coach seats! Once arriving in Fort Lauderdale, we called the hotel shuttle which picked us up from the airport and took us to the Springhill Suites my Marriott in Dania Beach. This hotel is approximately 10 minutes from the airport and approximately 7 minutes from the cruise port. We had used Marriott Rewards points for this stay. The hotel appears to be up kept fairly well and does seem to be clean and well maintained. Our room had two queen beds and then a separate room with a small living room area and desk area. They did have an outdoor pool and free internet access in the business center. In the morning, they did have a breakfast buffet with a few hot items and plentiful basic continental items. The location of the hotel is right across from a shopping center with a ton of chain stores such as Kmart, Ross, Old Navy, Home Depot, and more. There is only one restaurant (other than fast food) within short walking distance that we were made aware of. It is a local chain Cuban restaurant. We did dine there on Friday night and thought it was excellent for the price. It is in a safe area.
EMBARKATION We left the Marriott at about 12:10pm. The hotel does have a shuttle service to the port that is complimentary; however, we had booked a private shuttle for four at $30.00, because we wanted to leave the hotel at 11:00am. However, our confirmed shuttle never showed. It may have had something to do with a taxi strike that was occurring in Fort Lauderdale that morning. However, we did obtain a operating taxi a few minutes after 12 noon. We arrived by 12:30. Princess in Fort Lauderdale had the most convenient embarkation process that I have ever experienced. Initially, we had queued up in a seemingly never ending line; however, we were in the front within 5 minutes and after we passed through security, it only got easier. They had check-in tables organized by deck. We walked right up and were checked in within 2 ½ minutes. Throughout the cruise, I talked to people who arrived at 11:00am, 12noon, and 3pm. No one stated that they ever waited more than 10 minutes. We walked upstairs, directly onto the gangway, and we were in our room at 12:50pm and eating at the buffet by 1:15pm.
OVERALL CONDITION OF THE SHIP Amazing.....Beautiful.....Outstanding. This is the fourth sailing of the Ruby Princess. Now, last year we sailed on the Carnival Triumph. That ship was 8 years old at that time; however, that even looked wonderful. Ok, so look at this way. The Carnival Triumph is 8 years old. The Carnival Triumph serves 3,000 guests per week, with only a 3 hour turnaround time per cruise. Is this ship in wonderful condition? YES! Therefore, as you can imagine everything was in very new condition. Throughout the cruise, people were always around cleaning the common areas, as we have experienced on cruises in the past. The difference between the Ruby Princess and the Carnival Triumph is clearly the atmosphere and the furnishings. There were no bright neon lights. Everything was tastefully decorated in a contemporary classic scheme, with dark colors and woods in most lounges and common areas. Everything was clean, polished, in good condition. In fact, if there was only one thing I noticed all week, it was a broken glass door at the forward entrance to the Lido Deck behind the burger place, which was probably broken by some drunken guy late at night. That is it. Trash was always picked up, room service trays were always collected from the hallway, everything was being polished and cleaned all the time, common areas were beautiful, and they drained the pools and hot tubs every night. There were constantly people cleaning, polishing, and making sure that it was up to our standards.
BARS/ LOUNGES/ SODA CARD There were too many of them. If you can't find one, that is your problem. I counted at least 14 throughout the ship. We did not purchase the soda cards this time around, as I believe the only diet choice they had was Diet Coke. However, iced tea was always available. Lemonade was available in the dining room and buffet upon request. I did bring along a 24 pack of bottled water. The porter did give me a little bit of a hard time at check-in, and eventually agreed to deliver it. There was a "drink fun card" (I forget the exact name), but that was only available for children.
SERVICE The service was phenomenal. These employees are on this ship for six to twelve months at a time, without much of a break from guests like us, except when they are in there staterooms. Be nice to them and you will receive nothing but fantastic service. I can almost assure you that if you are kind to the employees, you will almost always receive phenomenal service. These people are not here to wait on you hand and foot. These people will treat you wonderful, if you provide the respect. Our stateroom steward, Joel, was awesome. He introduced his self at the beginning of the cruise, and then from that point on always came in once in the morning and once in the evening, while we were out. He always provided a friendly greeting in the hallway. We did not modify the standard $70 per person tip allotment for the week. We paid that and also in addition tipped the maitre'd, and also gave extra tip monies to our favorite bartenders, head waiter, and waiter in the dining room, along with our stateroom steward.
STATEROOM We had room C230 on the Caribe Deck (10). We were on the forward side of the ship on the port side with a balcony. The balcony was heavenly and I would not have went any other way. The Caribe deck has the largest balconies on the ship, with the exception of some of the suites. All decks above have smaller or normal ship balconies, as you would see on other ships. The Caribe deck, has the largest balconies where the first half is covered by the balconies above and the second half is exposed. It has two lounging chairs, two regular chairs, and a table with plenty of room to spare. The deck below (Dolphin) has a slightly smaller balcony than the Caribe; however, it is completely exposed. I personally would not like that; however, I talked to many people who did not mind it. The Dolphin deck is entirely a deck of minisuites.
Otherwise, out stateroom was standard ship size. I did like the separate "hallway" area to the closet, storage, and bathroom area. I found the beds to be wonderfully comfortable. The bathroom is standard "smallish" size; however, is functional for one. There is a small 19" flat LCD in the bedroom (complete with an all LOVE BOAT channel). The shower has very high pressure and very hot water. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and body wash is provided in bottles. Plenty of storage space on the counter and in one vanity. Overall, the room gets a 9 out of 10 for comfort, space, and cleanliness. The room gets a 8/10 for dEcor; however, that really shouldn't matter. There is a safe in the room, bathrobes upon request, a refrigerator, and plenty of room for luggage under the beds.
PRINCESS THEATRE/ENTERTAINMENT The Princess Theatre often got crowded; however, usually not overcrowded except for the opening show on the first night. Ruby Princess has come up with a great idea. For example, let us say that they have a production show in the Princess Theatre at 8pm and 10:30pm and a comedian in Club Fusion at 8pm and 10:30pm on the same night. They will repeat that entertainment for two nights in a row. That way you can see both shows, one on each night, and the entertainment is less crowded. Most shows will repeat once. Some will not.
During my stay, I saw a show called Broadway Ballroom, which celebrated broadway tunes from past and present. They also had a show called Once Upon a Dream. In addition, there were some comedy acts from HBO entertainer Philadelphia. They were also some magicians and jugglers. My favorite show was the International Crew Show. This was the opportunity for different crew members of the ship to engage in song, dance, theatre acts, and much more. The stateroom steward supervisor, who was so funny, sang "Sex Bomb". LOL! The Princess Theatre was not only the place for entertainment. You have Club Fusion, Skywalkers Nightclub, Wheelhouse Lounge, Explorers Lounge, and so much more.
ACTIVITIES If you do not want to relax and cannot find anything to do, then you did not read your daily Princess Patters. There is always something going on - from deck parties on the Lido deck, to trivia, name that tune contests, Pictionary, pool games, and so many other things. Read your patters and attend events. The activities staff which consists of eight people onboard the Ruby Princess, are all awesome. A few highlights throughout the week include the opening sailaway party with awesome prizes, marriage game show, Princess Pop Star (scaled back version of American Idol), karaoke, and so much more. They also had a cooking show on our second at sea day. It was wonderful. The maitre 'd hotel and the executive chef did a cooking show in the theatre, which was more of a comedy act almost. It was followed by a walkthrough of the main galley kitchen, which was just amazing to see.
DINING We had signed up for Anytime Dining. We were hesitant at first, because we enjoyed regular dining so much last year. It was great getting to know the same waiter and head waiter. It was also great getting to know a group of people and then getting to know them better and better throughout the week. Well, what started off as Anytime Dining almost became regular dining. There are two anytime dining rooms. They are the Michelangelo and the Davinci. They are open for dinner between 5:30 and 10:00pm. You can come anytime. Dress code is the same as the regular dining rooms. The menu is the same as the regular dining rooms. It just gives you some more freedom as far as time. You may have to wait during certain rush periods for up to 10-15 minutes. Trust me, if you hear from someone that was waiting for longer than that, they probably are not telling the truth and were dissatisfied with there entire cruise experience. Anyway, we met some great Cruise Critic people the first at sea day. We decided to meet for dinner the first night. We went in and were seated promptly (8 of us) at about 7:00pm. We had the most fantastic waiter. He went by Jose. However, his full name was Urbano Jose Fernanges Jas Neves. He was simply the best. He treated us like royalty the entire time. He was efficient, courteous, funny, particular, and just all around wonderful. We had such a good experience that first night, that we talked to the maitre 'd and after sliding him a small tip, he had that same table ready for us with the same waiter at the same time, every single night of our visit. It was fabulous. The food in the dining room was superb.
In addition, I was also impressed by the food in the buffet. I had lunch at the buffet on most days. That was my one complaint on Carnival last year, the buffet food. Not this time, the buffet food was fabulous. The organization of the buffet leaves something to be desired, especially when crowded; however, still manageable.
For breakfast, we had a continental through room service most days. If you just place the card on your door the night before you can have your choice of cereals, fruits, danishes, and more delivered to your room and/or balcony in the morning. Just tip the room service server.
In addition, we spent one dinner at one of the specialty restaurants. We ate at Sabitini's. You should make reservations for this restaurant. It is located on the Sky Deck. Sabitini's is a three hour dining experience. (Well....who am I kidding - our regular dining room experience was 2+ hours every night..hehehe) Sabitini's was awesome. It can best be described as an Italian and Seafood (maybe?). It is a 15-25 course meal, depending on how you count it. You will leave full; however, maybe not quite as full as you do from the dining room. All courses come to you in really small portions, and then you have your primary entrEe and primary dessert. All courses are fully explained and described to you. The service, of course, was fantastic.
Other food options include the Pizzeria, which I didn't find to be overly exciting. The burger and hot dog grill seemed to be above average. The ice cream bar is an extra charge. I think my secret favorite was the International Cafe. This is located on Deck 5. The International Cafe is part free and part pay per item. There are many free items including sandwiches, appetizers, cookies, desserts, and much more. There are also pay appetizers, gelato, and other items. All food from the International Cafe was very wonderful. Other options that I did not try include the Crown Grill, and Vines Wine and Seafood Bar. Oh...I almost forgot. I did try the Pub Lunch twice in the Wheelhouse Bar. It was also quite good. I had the fish and chips and the bangers and mash
PIAZZA AREA The Piazza is an area that encompasses midship Decks 5,6, & 7. The Piazza is a beautiful common area where you can sit, relax, and enjoy some frequent entertainment. A few times a day they might have some dancers, comedic acts, musical guests, and then typically some longer sets with someone on the piano or violin. It is a well designed area that is open with a beautiful almost "Carnival-like" dome. Near the Piazza is the International Cafe, Vines Wine and Seafood, Art Gallery, Purser's Desk, Tour Desk, Shops, and the Internet Cafe and Future Cruise Consultant.
I did use the Internet Cafe to talk to my significant other back at home. Internet at sea is not the fastest and most dependable internet available; however, it will do. They do have packages that range from $.45 - $.65 per minute or you can pay by the minute for $.75 per minute. If you read your patters, they usually have happy hour once or twice per week where it is 50%. They also tend to have a special on the last full day.
SPA/FITNESS CENTER The Spa on Deck 16 is awesome. Although I did not actually have any spa appointments this time, which is a shame, because I love my massages - I did use the fitness area. It is a beautiful fitness area with all the equipment you will need. The changing rooms are great, complete with sauna and steam room. They also have the forward pool and hot tub right outside the spa, which is typically less crowded. The spa is directly below the sanctuary. They do have classes in the fitness center, some of which are free and others which incur only a nominal fee.
LIDO and OUTDOOR DECKS The Lido Deck is wonderful as it always is. The Ruby has four pools. One aft, two mid, and one forward. There are hot tubs available at all pools. All pools are open slightly varied hours, so check with a staff member or your patter for the exact times. There are PLENTY OF LOUNGE CHAIRS on the Lido, Star, Sun, and Sky Decks. Yes, there are chair hogs just like any other ship; however, that is not a problem for me. If you don't need to be directly beside the pool, you will find plenty of lounge chairs. If you need to be right by the pool, then maybe you should consider a secluded resort, rather than a cruise vacation. Seriously.
OCHO RIOS The ship pulled into Ocho Rios just before 8am. Don't believe the people who tell you that Ocho Rios is a unsafe city. Yes, the residents can be pushy towards tourists. That is the nature and culture of there country towards us. That doesn't mean you shouldn't get off the ship. Seriously, things can happen no matter where you set foot on this earth. It can happen as walk outside my front door in the City of Philadelphia or as I walk out into a corn field where I grew up in Lancaster County, PA. Things can happen anywhere, so don't be afraid to get off the ship at Ocho Rios. We had prebooked a tour through a person well known on Cruise Critic, Peat Taylor. Peat Taylor picked us up and immediately took us to Dunns River Falls. Dunns River is a fantastic experience. They will assign you to a tour guide, who will lead you up the falls. It is about a 45 minute adventure. And it can be challenging in places. This is not for those who have no strength. The rocks can be slippery, the water can be harsh in places, and falls can happen. Take the hand of the person in front of you, and HAVE FUN. It is beautiful and you will feel refreshed and accomplished when you reach the top. After Dunns River, Peat gave us a tour of the area including a pottery workshop and the rainforest area. We then went tubing. This was also wonderful. One more word of advice about pushy shop keepers. Don't run away when these people try to get you to buy something. If you are truly interested, stop and look. They will be grateful for this. If you are not interested, a friendly no thank you will suffice. These people are not animals. They are human beings and should be treated as such. If you are offered marijuana, just say no.
GRAND CAYMAN Unfortunately, we did not get to stop at Grand Cayman on this trip. Upon our arrival, it was raining and the waters were really rough. They were too rough to tender to shore. Should Grand Cayman ever build a pier, we probably could have stopped on a day such as today. However, no big deal. We had an extra day at sea!
COZUMEL A beautiful day in a beautiful part of Mexico. Wow! Cozumel is fantastic. There are several piers in Cozumel. We participated in the Dolphin Encounter in Chakanaab Park. Taxis are readily available at the piers. They are friendly drivers who have pre-set rates, that you will see posted before you hire the cab. We took a $10 ride to Chakanaab and had a wonderful time. I never did a dolphin encounter before. The dolphin encounter at Chakanaab includes park admission. It was approximately a 25 minute in water dolphin experience. We got to hold the dolphin, kiss the dolphin, be pushed by the dolphin, and ride the dolphin. It was a cool experience. After that, you can spend as long as you want in the park. There is a freshwater pool, a large beach, some gardens, ruins, and a tour you can take. I later found the main downtown shopping area, which has a huge variety of shops and stores. Depending on what pier you dock at, you may be very close to this area or you may be a $7.00 taxi ride away.
PRINCESS CAYS We had a sunny day on the first half of our day at Princess Cays. You tender to the beach. I personally feel it is a beautifully planned area. There are thousands of lounge chairs, plenty of beach space, water rentals, snorkel rentals (snorkeling is great), and a buffet lunch of the standard hot dog, hamburgers, chicken, salad, fruit, and dessert. There are also some games courtesy of the activities staff. We generally did not stroll outside of the resort area; however, you can choose to go to the mainland if you choose. I am not so sure there is really much outside of the resort area; however, you can try if you would like.
OVERALL, this vacation gets a 9 1/2 out of 10, with the only area of improvement is well - nothing! We had some weather and sunshine issues, which is under no control of Princess. . Other than that. WOW! Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have - As I am sure I forget some things. Try the Ruby Princess. I am sure you will be impressed.
My final thought is as follows: I was a bit hesitant to try Princess, as I thought I would run into an all older crowd. That is very far from the truth. I would say it was almost a 50/50 split as far as half younger and half older. There were activities for everyone and things early in the day and very late at night. This can also be a very romantic ship. I found many, many areas where you could have a very private, secluded, and romantic moment. Read Less