Small Leaks Sink A Big Ship: Ruby Princess Cruise Review by celem

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Small Leaks Sink A Big Ship

Sail Date: October 2011
Destination: Transatlantic
Embarkation: Venice
My wife and I are just just back from a Ruby Princess Transatlantic cruise Venice, Italy to Fort Lauderdale, Florida - October 19 to November 6, 2011. Our primary motivation for taking this particular cruise was its origination from Venice, Italy and to the transatlantic crossing, both of which were new experiences for us. This was also our first cruise with Princess cruise lines, our most recent prior cruise being last year on a Celebrity Constellation Panama Canal full transit cruise.

Venice was as wonderful and beautiful as we anticipated, and certainly the highlight of the trip. We did a pre-cruise stay for a couple of days in a B&B, the 3749 Ponte Chiodo, which was fortunate as the ship's overnight at Venice was accompanied by terrible weather.

The six sea days of the transatlantic crossing were enjoyable. We had less free time than we thought that we would have. Given dining, entertainment, gym exercise, lectures, etc., we had far less time for reading than we More anticipated - Boredom was not a problem.

Princess' port stops in the Mediterranean were too hurried. For example, Lisbon was only a 5- hour stop. Princess' target demographic may like as many ports as possible, even if the stay is brief, but my wife and I would prefer fewer ports for longer durations, preferably always an overnight stay. We loved Lisbon and would have really liked an overnight stay. Also, Barcelona deserves an overnight stay, preferably more.

We found the food comparable to that of other mass market cruise lines - similar to good quality hotel catered food, such as for a wedding. However, in our experience, Princess' anytime dining didn't run as smoothly as our experience on other cruise lines - long lines were commonly encountered.

The entertainment was generally mediocre, but I have read that this is often the case with a relocation cruise. This criticism is caveatted by the fact that my wife and I are not fans of the broadway-style musicals that are so common with all cruise companies. Nonetheless, the alternative entertainment of comedians, magician and juggler were definitely mediocre. We know that better entertainment exists on the seas because we experienced it with, surprisingly, NCL. I should mention that the lecture series was excellent.

In summary, the cruise was good but not great. There was no cruise killer problem but rather an accumulation of irritants that got in our way of total enjoyment. On a scale of 1-to-10, we rate the overall cruise experience a 6.

Now, given our recent cruise on Celebrity's Constellation, we naturally compared our experience there with what we experienced aboard the ruby Princess experience.

Ruby Princess versus Celebrity Constellation Observations:

Given that we did a Panama Canal full transit cruise on the Celebrity Constellation one year earlier in a comparably priced cabin (Celebrity Concierge Class vs Princess Mini-Suite), a comparison is appropriate. The ships are similar in size (within 20%) but Princess squeezes in 22% more passengers per ton of ship tonnage (tonnage/passenger_capacity). This means that, on Princess, more people compete for similar sized common spaces:

Anytime Dining - In our experience Princess' anytime dining was poorly run with long lines and waits to even get a beeper so that you can wait more - we regretted switching form early seating to anytime dining. Our only salvation was to establish reservations for 6pm for every remaining night through tips to the head waiter - effectively recreating traditional-like dining.

Food - The general quality of the food in the main dining room was, on average, comparable to Celebrity if maybe a notch lower. The buffet may be a notch better than Celebrity.

Coffee - Celebrity has brewed coffee everywhere. Princess has terrible coffee, made from a concentrate, everywhere except at the extra charge restaurants, and even in the main dining room on formal night. Freshly brewed, real coffee is only possible if you purchase coffee cards for $31. The problem is that the ONLY place that the 3,000 passangers can easily get the brewed coffee is at the one small coffee bar on deck five and it frequently has slow lines. Room service has the same from-concentrate coffee. All dining venues can fetch real coffee (when shown your coffee card) but wherever they go to get it adds an unnecessary delay - the delay at the Horizons buffet is fifteen minutes from some waiters but most simply say that brewed coffee is unavailable. In my opinion, brewed coffee should be available everywhere and the deck five coffee bar should be limited to extra-cost specialty coffees, such as Cappuccino, lattes and espresso

Cabins: Celebrity Concierge Class balcony cabin versus Princess mini-suite: These were comparably priced cabins. The Princess mini-suite is larger than the Celebrity Concierge Class balcony cabin and is a very nice cabin and the Ruby is six years newer than the Constellation. However, Celebrity's amenities are superior. Celebrity - welcome bottle of champagne; Princess - welcome glass of champagne. Celebrity - plush, full-length bathrobes in the cabin upon arrival; Princess - no robes unless requested and they are thin waffle weave, short length with 3/4 length sleeves. Celebrity - nice fruit basket in room upon arrival, automatically refreshed every day; Princess - no fruit basket until requested and then a skimpy affair and never refreshed unless requested each time. Celebrity - afternoon canapés every afternoon; Princess - nothing. Celebrity - several Concierge Cabin class events on a 2-week cruise, such as a party/gathering , special galley and bridge tours, etc.; Princess - nothing. Celebrity - special Concierge Class embarkation and debarkation (the debarkation was VERY useful); Princess - nothing. Less

Published 11/15/11
Helpful? Thank celem

Cabin review: D408

Ruby Princess cabin D408 - great cabin in a good, mid-ship, stable location, close to an elevator. The bathroom has a real tub. The large sofa was a real asset. Balcony not fully usable because it has no roof. Rain and overhead sun are a problem. Being on the port side is advantageous for a fall transatlantic because it receives more sunlight, making the balcony warmer in the fall chill.

Port and Shore Excursions

The ship docked far from town and Princess did not provide a free shuttle, charging $12, per person, round-trip. We walked to our prime destination, the La Boqueria market, and walked and examined most every inch of this most fabulous market in the world. We grabbed a "to go" packet of little chorizo sausages and bread sticks, munching as we window shopped. We ate a brunch at a counter near the rear of the market because we saw that you could order griddled squid tentacles, prepared as you watch. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!! We walked Rick Steves' walking tour in Barri Gotic. It was quite hard to follow - poorly written with poor maps. Nonethless, we found most, but not all of his sights. Then we ate our big meal for the day between 2:15 and 3:30 at Rick Steves' favorite restaurant in Barcelona, La Crema Canela, in a courtyard off of Ferran, near La Rambla. It was a three course meal including a glass of wine, bottled water and bread, all for 9.95 euros - a bargain in expensive Barcelona, and tasty, too.
Read 1749 Barcelona Reviews

Awoke to a chilly rain over Cannes, which was to be a free day, walking to the market,snaking and window shopping. Despite a steady, heavy rain, we went to town, first via the rocky tender in the 30 knot wind and rain, followed by a soggy walk to the market in the horizontal rain - yuck! The market was not large but had the flowers that my wife wanted for the cabin, and some fruit for the room. The rain became so severe that I purchased a six euro umbrella from an African hawker (he wanted 15 euro). We walked a bit; shopped a bit and then were ready for lunch. A nice vendor in the market recommended Restaurant Astoux & Brun, at the corner of Rue Felix Faure & Rue Louis Blanc, as the best place for mussels - he was correct. We ate a great, if not inexpensive lunch (61 euros).
Read 366 Cannes Reviews

This is Livorno, NOT Florence because CruiseCritic doesn't offer Livorno as a choice. We too a ship's excursion to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is quite far from Livorno - 1.5 hours each way - really much too far for an excursion. There were five buses - over 200 people and far too many were impaired or addled. Only twenty minutes out of Livorno we stopped at a rest stop for a bathroom break (why I don't know as we were only 20 minutes from the ship). Once all were back on the bus, people kept changing seats while the guide was counting heads. The guide re-took her seat, and announced our departure. The bus drove through the parking lot and out onto the freeway. When the bus was well down the acceleration lane sone man towards the rear of the bus shouts "my wife, wife - you left her." The guide walked back along the acceleration lane, back to the rest stop and then returned with the wife. Cinque Terre was pretty, colorful Italian buildings hand from cliffs over the pounding sea, but the crowds getting on and off of the ship between towns was terrible and a dangerous standing room only between the last two towns. The boat was so overloaded that a crewman ran to the rerar and had everyone at the stern move forward so that the boat could get on plane. In a small size group Cinque Terre would be a 10. With the ship's hoard the excursion was a 2.

Some Brits at breakfast said that of all European ports, Lisbon's docking fees were the highest and that he suspected that that was why our visit was so brief - to save Princess money - maybe, who knows? What a shame because this was our favorite port. We docked at Santa Apolonia Passenger Terminal, across from the military museum and train terminal, near the foot of the Alfama. Many went on ship's excursions, most who did not waited for crowded Hop-On/Hop-off buses on the street between the ship and the train terminal. A ride was 15eu pp. We crossed the street to the train terminal and caught a taxi to Sao Jorge Casteleo, at the top of the Alfama. We toured the old castle and then wandered downward using Rick Steves' walking tour as a guide. The tiled architecture on the winding streets were beautiful. We stopped at Rick's recommended A Tasquinha restaurant in the tiny square Largo do Contador. We ate grilled sardines, beer and espresso. The waitress demonstrated how to eat the sardines and advised what parts of the un-gutted fish not to eat. She recommended that we visit the huge church on Ruo do Limoero. We wandered further and came across a nice wine and port shop where we made some purchases, such as a bottle of port as a gift for a friend. Finally, we wandered back to the ship.
Read 638 Lisbon Reviews

Naples, itself, is a big dirty, dubious city. My high rating was for the ship's excursion to Pompeii and Vesuvius Hike. It was a wonderful experience. Only twenty people out of the ship's 3,000 passengers chose this excursion, so our group was small enough to really enjoy the experience. The hike was great fun!
Read 1171 Naples Reviews

This is Civitavecchia, NOT Rome, but CruiseCritic doesn't offer that choice. The cruise lines also insist on calling Civitavecchia the "Rome" port, when Rome is two hours away. Since we have been to Rome before, and since it was a Sunday and the prime religious sites in Rome were closed, we opted to stay in Civitavecchia, which is a charming seaside Italian town. We joined the Italian families and couples that were taking Sunday strolls, enjoying the sunny weather, eating gelato and generally relaxing themselves. We also shopped a bit but, more importantly, we enjoyed a fabulous seafood meal at a small family run seafood restaurant, Gambero Rosso, serving only fresh caught fish that they let us pre-select from a tray brought to the table by the chef.

We stayed in a B&B prior to the cruise and enjoyed good weather to explore on our own. The ship's overnight was plagued by horrible rainy weather which made the pre-stay all the more valuable. Venice is wonderful so, by all means, book lodging for a pre-stay.
Read 1148 Venice Reviews

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