We drove to Port Everglades to find the Ruby Princess in the normal Princess terminal. We found Crown Princess on the far side of the port directly across from the new Oasis of the Seas (I'm just not sure if I want to sail on something that big). Checking in was fine, although, I think Princess needs to further separate their Platinum and Elite members from the Gold members as we all were put in the same line and it took a little longer than usual. No big deal, though. We took the obligatory boarding photo and we were on the ship.
Oh, the Crown Princess is beautiful. While the design of the Piazza (atrium area) is similar to the Grand Class ships, the decor is quite different. Deep, rich colors, lots of iron work, and changes in the flooring make it a lovely place to congregate. On the bottom deck of the Piazza (deck 5) is the International Cafe. We had lunch there several times during the week. Small paninis and several salad choices as well as lots of dessert choices made the International Cafe a favorite stop for me and my husband. The portions were just right and we never ate too much like we would have it we had gone to the buffet. Another highlight of the Piazza is Vines wine bar. They have sushi and tapas that can be paired with Wine Flights. It, too, has lovely decor. While my husband took advantage of every chocolate delight he could find at the International Cafe, I would have a light snack and wine tasting at Vines. Throughout each day there is entertainment in the Piazza right in front of these two spots. It was one of my favorite places to be throughout the week.
We had a balcony cabin on Riviera. If you want balcony privacy, you have to book on Lido, Riviera or Aloha. Below these three decks the cabins get a little bigger and the balconies start sticking out further and further. From the decks above, you can see onto the balconies below. There was ample storage space in our cabin and the suitcases slide easily under the beds. It was perfect for our needs.
We went ashore long enough to have lunch. I found a place called Rackums on the internet and we decided to go there. It is a short walk from the tender-dock. Rackums is right on the water and overlooks the anchored cruise ships. The website doesn't do this place justice. It's decor is very chic with sofas, chairs, and beautiful wicker tables all along the waterfront but shaded under elegant tents. Palms, laterns, and lights line the tents and I imagine this place is beautiful at night. Also, for you snorkelers and divers, there is a dive ladder at the restaurant so you can swim out to the shipwreck that is just a few yards out. The food was good (the HOTTEST jerk chicken I've ever had) and the bar had great drinks.
We took a cab to Mezcalito's on the far side of the island. We stayed there for a couple of hours having drinks and eating the best guacamole I've ever had. The beach at Mezcalito's is beautiful and secluded. It's a bit rocky and there is a strong risk of riptides, but, the undeveloped nature of the area makes it worth the trip. There is no taxi stand on that side of the island, so you either need to make arrangements with your driver to come back, pay him by the hour to wait, or, as we did, have someone call a cab for you.
Then, we went to No Name Bar at the Hotel Barracuda. This place is great. It's near the northern cruise pier (just a couple of doors down from Margaritaville). The owner is a former Cruise Director and the motto for the place is "By Crew, For Crew" so don't be surprised if you see your dining room server having drinks at the swim-up bar. There are steps that lead directly into the ocean and you can swim and snorkel all day. The food was great. My husband had one of the best burgers we've ever tasted and I had some wonderful tacos. The setting is beautiful and it is a party atmosphere. I highly recommend stopping by No Name Bar at the Barracuda Hotel.