3 Generations + 7 Nights + 4 Ports = Lots of fun: Ruby Princess Cruise Review by Garn

Ruby Princess 5
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3 Generations + 7 Nights + 4 Ports = Lots of fun

Sail Date: March 2009
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Embarkation was quick and painless... no waiting at all (we arrived around 12:45). The first-day buffet was insane, but expected. The Ruby is a gorgeous ship, inside and out. It is a little hard to get around the rear of the ship, but otherwise it's very well-designed and nicely laid out.

We had balconies forward on the Aloha deck (three in a row, with an inside for the kids across from our cabin). The cabin was smallish, but it worked pretty well. There was plenty of closet space, although it would have been nice to have a little more shelving. The fruit baskets delivered to the cabin was a nice touch. Our cabin steward, Romlan, was wonderful, and made some great towel animals for my daughter, which delighted her. It was nice to be able to open the dividers between our balconies, so that we could move between our cabins without going through the halls. I don't know if it was the acoustics of the ship, or just the passengers, but we could hear other people's More conversations on the balconies, often being woken up by loud talkers.

The food in the dining room was delicious, and it was always difficult to make a selection, with so many great choices. I thought they did a nice job of balancing the more exotic choices with "safer" ones. For us, one of the joys of cruising is being able to try something that you might not like without any risk, so we really appreciated the number of unique dishes available. They also did a good job of letting us mix-and-match from the kids and adult menus- so that my daughter could order fruit salad and king crab. The waiters were good with the kids, and stuck a nice balance between warm and professional.

On formal nights, I saw fairly few tuxes, (10-20% max), some men in dress shirts and tie with no jackets, or jackets with no tie (another 10-20%), but no one dressed down from that.

The buffets were good for buffets, but did not compare with the dining room quality. And I don't understand why Princess serves lousy coffee in the buffet when the rest of their product is so good. The lemonade was terrific, but only offered in the buffet (why not in the dining room?), and you needed to ask a waiter for it, and it seemed a big hassle for him to get it.

Based on recommendations I'd read here, my father-in-law and I signed up for the Chef's table. I'm usually fairly cheap, but that was a very well-spent $75. Amazing food, amazing experience.

The shows were excellent. The first, "Broadway Ballroom" (or something like that) was a show-tune review with excellent singing and dancing. The other "Once Upon a Dream" had the ghost of a plot, but was mostly another song-and-dance vehicle, with some great special effects. Both shows were great for kids as well as adults. I was disappointed that there were only two different "big" shows, and that to get a good seat you needed to be in the theater at least 35 minutes early.

The kids club had all sorts of great equipment- air hockey, foosball, Playstations, but it seemed to me that generally it was the toys that the kids were interacting with, not the staff. The counselors didn't really engage the kids, they supervised. I also think that the 8-12 age range is too broad- there's not much that the kids at the extremes have in common. Also, the programs shut down from 12-2 and 5-7, which are not the most convenient times. I'd also have hoped that they would have had something more family appropriate on MUTS during the hours that the Kids Club was closed on Sea Days- but "Eagle Eye" really doesn't fit that bill.

Speaking of MUTS, it is a great concept, and a lot of fun. What I don't understand is why they don't have something running all day. A movie would end at 1:30, and the next wouldn't start until 3:00. I understand that not everyone wants to see something, but if you're sitting in front of the MUTS screen, chances are good that you do. Even filler such as music videos or cartoon would be nice.

And while I'm up on deck, let me add my voice to the chorus of those frustrated with chair hogs. I really think Princess needs to be more proactive in dealing with them. My family found the only open chairs (not enough), and then were offered a couple more by a family that left after having been there an hour or so. An hour later, some guy came up, irate, saying that those were HIS chairs, and he'd just gone to lunch (although a group on the other side confirmed he'd been gone at least 2 hours. Who needs conflict like this on vacation?

The service overall was very good. It was much better than on Norwegian, where even the passenger services people didn't seem to know anything. But it still wasn't quite in the same league as Disney, where every cabin steward seemed to know everything about the ship.

Our arrival in Port Everglades was delayed over an hour due to problems stowing the lifeboat. I understand that things like this happen, but Princess did a terrible job managing it- the only announcement was around 5:30pm, with the Captain announcing that it "would affect our arrival"- but they never said by how much, or when we should report to our debarkation places, etc. When I called passenger services and ask what time I should show up in the dining room for my 7:10 walkoff, I was told "You should be there at 7:10, but it will be late, so you don't need to be there at 7:10". "So, what time should I be there?" "Um.... 7:30?" It didn't exactly fill me with confidence. It surprised me that there were not "standard delayed arrival procedures" that could be followed to keep things running smoothly and keep the passengers informed. Less

Published 04/05/09
Helpful? Thank Garn

Cabin review: BDA235 Balcony

Nice cabin, large closet, could use more shelf space. Occasional cigarette smoke on the balcony, and could hear conversations of those on nearby balconies too easily.

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Port and Shore Excursions

Our family split up in the morning. My father and I went downtown to "Josefina's Kitchen" for cooking lessons. This isn't like the big tour group "cooking classes" where the point is to down as many free drinks as you can with 50 other people while making pico or guacamole. No, this is a private lesson, just the two of us, in the kitchen of an excellent cook. She first took us to the local market. It's amazing- it's only 4 blocks from the main street, but we didn't see a single tourist. She took us to the produce seller, and showed us how to pick out the best fruits and vegetables- mangos, avocados, cactus leaves, tomatoes, etc. The next stop was the fish monger, where she pointed to a beautiful grouper, that the seller then proceeded to fillet and skin. After that, it was the masa stall, for the corn meal to make tortillas. We then walked back to her house, and began cooking. We made red and green salsa, guacamole, a Mayan salsa with dried pumpkin seeds, grouper ceviche (served with a Dos Equis, of course), homemade tortillas, quesadillas, refried beans, more grouper with a Mayan sauce, fruit tea, and margaritas. All of it was delicious, although I might have left something out. A delightful woman, who was an excellent teacher (my father's a professor, and commented on her teaching skills). After that, we took a taxi to Mr. Sanchos to join the rest of my family. We had gone there last year and loved it. It was still nice this year, but the water was much rougher, and the tide was coming in, so it was murky, and we were unable to snorkel. The food is good, the kids are welcome, and it's not full of people getting blitzed out of their minds. Nice beach, nice pool. And it's hard not to enjoy sitting under the palapas sipping a drink.
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We did the Stingray and Snorkel tour with Moby Dick. There were 5 ships in port that day, so the tour was at the full 50-person capacity, not the quiet tour that it sounds like many people here have had. The snorkeling wasn’t very good- not a whole lot to see, and chaotic getting that many people geared up for only a 30 minute snorkel. The stingrays, though, were awesome. I don’t think I realized how big they were, or how many there would be. The Moby Dick crew was informative and helpful, and there was plenty of squid to use to feed the rays. This was a great experience, but I don’t see any need to go to Grand Cayman again.

This was our favorite port. We book through Marva Shaw, and had her son Javia as a guide. What an amazing experience this was- it really ranks as one of the best days of my life. First, we climbed Dunn's River Falls (well, my wife, my kids and I did, and my in-laws tag-teamed so that between them, they got all the way up). Terrifying at points, but what a feeling of accomplishment! I have no idea what people were talking about with the pushy shop people- we didn't see it at all.

My daughter really wanted to get her hair braided, so Javia took us to someone he knew. She did a wonderful job, sitting on a beach, looking over the water, while the rest of us walked over to the "hidden waterfall".

After that Javia took us through Ocho Rios and up to Fern Gully. He was a wealth of knowledge. After driving through the Gully for a while, he pulled over and said he was going to take us to "Carl the Rastafarian Spice Man", who had a roadside shack. I've got to say, I was a bit uneasy at first, but Carl then proceeded to show us a number of native plants, such as aloe and cinnamon and explain their medicinal uses. He also gave us a number of local foods to try- the best grapefruit I ever had, coconut, almonds, ginger, and sugarcane. My daughter would have become addicted to sugarcane if we'd stayed much longer (but my son's braces kept him from really experiencing it, poor guy). We then turned around and Javia took us to "The Ruins" for lunch. It was a buffet with an open bar, with a nice variety of Jamaica and Chinese entrees. We sat in front of a waterfall while I talked with Javia about Jamaica- fascinating stuff.

I'd read a lot of the warnings on Cruise Critic about Jamaica, but those people must have gone to a different island than we did. I never felt the least bit unsafe. I think having a trustworthy guide makes all the difference. It's really a shame that people avoid this port, which I found to be the most "real" of all of the places we went.

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Member Since 2007
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