We just got back from Ruby Princess's ten day Los Angeles to Los Angeles cruise of the "Mexican Riviera." For locals in Southern California, this itinerary is hard to beat for a quick, inexpensive, relaxing getaway vacation. Stops are: 2-days in Cabo San Lucas; a day each in La Paz, Loreto, and Puerto Vallarta. Add in two at-sea days to get there, an at-sea day to get to P.V., and two more at-sea days to get back, and you have a nice, slightly longer than normal Mexican getaway.
It's one of the best values around, and it offers rain-weary Californians a chance to enjoy some sunshine and interesting scenery without having to spend extra money for destination hotels or cross country airfare. Missing also is the hassle of dealing with rude TSA agents, surly airline employees, or any of the other annoyances that seem to be inexorably connected with the joy of air travel.
This cruise was a last-minute decision, so we had only a limited selection of staterooms available. No suites, mini-suites, or balcony rooms were left; and we were lucky to get the last ocean-view room on the ship. It was far astern on Deck 8;; not a bad location at it turned out. The nearby aft elevator took us up to the Lido deck and dropped us off right in front of the Horizon Cafe buffet. .
Being a low-cost offering, our cabin was small and had only one small chair, located in front of a tiny desk. There was no couch, no coffee table, and no comfortable guest chair. But the room was clean and had been recently refurbished.
The former corner-shelf TV set had been replaced by a large wall-mounted flat panel display. Princess now offers a wide variety of free on-demand movies, documentaries, and network series shows. Also available at no cost was an impressive selection of live news and television programming. Hats off to Princess for the extensive video entertainment available even in the less expensive cabins!
And wonder of wonders, the in-room wireless internet service worked well and was fast responding. After years of having to block our cabin door open in order for our computer to get enough wireless signal to log in, the new wireless signal is strong and super easy to use. It's taken 20 years, but Princess has finally joined the 21st century.
Food on board was simply amazing! Beef is always the Achilles heel of cruise line chow, but Princess seems to have found a reliable source of high quality steaks, chops, and prime rib. It was the best I've ever had on a ship, with the possible exception of the specialty restaurants. The fish offerings were very good also, except for the Red Snapper offering one night that was horribly overcooked and very dry. We should have sent it back or asked for something else.
Music--about average, not as good as Cunard or Holland America. Sadly, princess has gone to recorded music for many of their theater shows, and this cruise did not offer the usual string quartet. That's a shame, as there was absolutely no classical or serious music available for people who enjoy music that challenges their brains rather than their feet.
There are no real "enrichment activities" on Princess, unless you consider destination lectures that pitch the company's overpriced tours, to be somehow "enriching." Cunard offers truly enriching lectures by recognized authorities and published authors and speakers. Princess really doesn't understand the concept.
Production numbers in the theater are energetic and fun, but the scheduled times of the second show is very poor. Cunard and Holland America offer early dining at 5:30 and late dining at 8:15 PM. Both of those times work well for the early show at 7:30 and the late show at 10 PM. Both early and late diners can enjoy a leisurely meal with plenty of time to savor the food and converse with other dinner guests--and perhaps even share an after dinner drink--and still have plenty of time for a relaxed walk to the theater for their show.
Princess timing doesn't allow that--first seating is at 5 PM (Botticelli Dining Room) or 5:15 PM (Da Vinci Dining Room). Either dining room allows early diners a full two hours to enjoy their meal and still have 15 minutes to walk to the theater for the early show at 7:30 PM. That part works.
But second seating dinner starts at 7:30 PM, which leaves only an hour for a rushed dinner, followed by a quick run to attend the second show at 8:30 PM. The second show should start at 9:30 or 10 PM, not at 7:30. Princess should know better.
Service on Ruby is, like all Princess ships, very good. Cabin attendants are superb, and the waiters are in general very well trained, although they don't seem to know that a really polite waiter should walk around behind the diner to fill a water glass rather than just sticking his arm in front of the diner's face. One waiter was so obnoxious about doing that, and he did it so often, that I told him if he did it again I'd bite his arm. He must have believed me; he stopped doing it.
Shore excursions were generally overpriced. Most of the ship's offerings were available on the shore at prices ranging from one-half to one-third of the ship's price. We've done this exact same cruise three times now, and we usually arrange for our own tours ashore or just go back to our favorite shops and restaurants.
Value for the money is always a delicate balance. Some cruise lines add up what they feel most customers would like, and add it to the cost of the cruise. The price is high that way, but it will include drinks, wine, exotic coffees, and shore tours. Customers seem to like that approach.
Princess apparently prefers the "price it low and up-sell" philosophy, which holds that the price of a cruise should be as low as possible in order to attract customers, who are then up-sold at every opportunity. Drinks become very expensive extras, specialty restaurants are a $20 to $40 add, wines are hideously overpriced, photographs are an absurd $25 each, and rich-tasting coffee brings a premium price.
I personally detest being nickle and dimed to death, but that's the Princess way. Drinks are a big revenue booster. With few exceptions the liquor tastes watered down, and to get a reasonably-sized pour you're encouraged by the beverage waiter to order a "double." For that you'll be charged $15 to $18 or more, depending on which brand name you order As a final gouge, bottled liquor in the ship's duty free shop is actually more expensive per ounce than at our local Sam's Club or Costco warehouse store, and the ship won't let you take what you buy to your room until the last night of the cruise, thereby wringing every possible booze-buying dollar out of their customers. After a few days of this kind of treatment, passengers start feeling more like marks than valued guests.
Remember too, the price you pay for the cruise will be bumped by $13.50 to $15 per person per day, for a "gratuity" for the waiters and the cabin steward. That $27 to $30 per day really represents crew wages that the cruise line should pay to their employees, but don't. If it's truly a "gratuity" then it should be optional, not an automatic charge.
Embarcation/Debarcation--Finally, after only 175 years of doing the get-on/get-off procedure fairly badly, cruise lines are at last figuring out how to get 2,000 to 3,000 people on and off the ship in reasonably short order. Princess is one of the best in that regard--from the time we arrived at the port until we were in our cabin, the boarding process took about 35 minutes and the departure about 45 minutes from ship to curb.
But we considerably streamlined the departure process by humping our own suitcases down the gangway and into customs, thus saving the time spend pawing over hundreds of nearly identical looking bags on the warehouse floor. Plus when you handle your own luggage, you can just walk off when you're ready--there's no need to wait for your color tags to be called.
Customs was a breeze; aside from standing in line for twenty minutes, the time actually spent in front of the officer was perhaps 20 seconds. If you more or less look like your passport photo, you're good to go. They've really simplified the process and it's no longer necessary to complete reams of paper forms that just get thrown away anyhow.
All things considered, it's a nice cruise, a good itinerary, with excellent food and great service, interesting entertainment, and reasonably good value for the modest price. That's why we've done this particular cruise three times!
Very compact cabin, only one small chair and a student-sized desk. No couch, no coffee table. Shower only. Cabin was clean, recently refurbished, very large wall mounted flat screen TV with excellent selection of on-demand (free) movies, streaming live TV and news, documentaries and features. Downside: no access to your on-board spending account.
We live an hour from the port. We didn't take any tour or excursion.
We have been to Cabo many, many times and done several tours. We didn't do any this time because we're very familiar with the town and already taken several tours.
We took the free bus into town and walked around the town, eventually having food and a beverage at one of the local sidewalk cafes. We are familiar with the town and enjoy it.
This is another port we've visited several times. We have our favorite shops and one or two restaurants we particularly enjoy--Oscar's, for example. We also enjoy the little beer bar next door to the ship berth in the harbor. We usually try to wind up at the bar for chips and beer before we go on board.