Ruby Princess Jan 8-15, 2012: Ruby Princess Cruise Review by earlmarie

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Ruby Princess Jan 8-15, 2012

Sail Date: January 2012
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Ruby Princess, 8-15 Jan 2012, from Port Everglades, Eastern Caribbean (Princess Cay, St Maarten, St Thomas, & Grand Turk)

At the conclusion of every cruise, I've always said I would submit a review -but never did until now. I thoroughly enjoy reading the reviews and tips everyone provides and I hope you can learn a little something from my review. Before we cruise, I read every board on cruisecritic to learn all I can about the ship, the ports, etc. There are many references in this review to the boards on cruisecritic! Thanks cruisecritic members!

Background -- We are a married couple, late-50's -- cruising to de-stress and relax with no schedule. This is our 2nd cruise on Princess. We were on the Island Princess 2 years ago (Panama Canal). We've also cruised on Carnival.

To Ft Lauderdale: I purchased SW tickets online several months ago for $650 roundtrip for 2. Both to/from were nonstop flights (2:00 ea way). We arrived in Ft Lauderdale 1 day More prior to the cruise. There were plenty of empty seats on the flight from RDU to FLL. I did purchase the "early bird" ($10 pp ea way) just in case. Security was a breeze at RDU. I had read on the TSA website to declare meds (in a separate bag) upon entry into the security lane. The TSA laughed and waved me through, never even looking at the bag. We only had 1 Ziploc between us with some hand lotion, toothpaste, Chap Stick, etc (that took some major planning on my part and faith that our bags would arrive in FLL with no problems). We had 4 bags to check plus our carryon. One checked bag contained enough shampoo, hair spray, and other toiletries to last at least a week and by carefully planning, we were able to leave the other 3 bags in the trunk and only take 1 bag to the hotel. At the end of the cruise, the leftover toiletries were left in the cabin in a neat little box for the room steward or the trash, whichever he preferred.

Speaking of those little cardboard boxes, I packed several. I unfolded them and put them in the suitcase flat. When we got on the ship, it was easy to refold the boxes and use them as storage underneath the sink, which kept things much neater and easier to find. In one box, I had makeup, lotion, hair brushes, etc.; in another box, hubby's shaving stuff; in another box, OTC medicines, nail clippers, etc. I did take a small shower organizer (mesh) with 6 small pockets - this hung easily over the shower head and kept shampoo, soaps, etc neat and off of the shower floor. We didn't experience the "shower curtain sticking" problem I'd read about. The water temp was easily controlled (from normal to scalding, whichever you prefer). There are 3 shelves beside the sink for small items (contact case, toothbrushes, etc).

Arrived at FLL at 10am, got the bags, and I waited outside while hubby went back inside to the car rental center to pick up the rental car (Dollar). He picked me up in about: 15 min at the baggage claim area. Months ago, I began researching prices from Dollar (and continued checking prices up to the day before we left). On the day before we left, I checked yet again, and there was the 'special' I'd been searching for on a weekly basis. Originally, our reservation was for a full-size car for $92 (24 hr, plus 2 extra hours); a mid-size car was about the same price. Checking the "city specials" I'd gotten that down to about $65, but then the day before we left, the rate was even better. On the Dollar website, after you make your initial reservation, you can revise/modify it as many times as necessary, keeping the original confirmation number. So, the day before we left, I changed from a full-size car to a "mid-size" size (Dodge Avenger) and got the reservation for about $45 -- this included all taxes/fees. We felt this was better for us than paying taxis and gave us the freedom to come/go as we pleased. Was I surprised when hubby drove up in a brand new 2012 Nissan Altima! A very nice car indeed and brand, spanking new - the owner's manual was still in the plastic. We threw the bags in and off we went. We pulled over at the first opportunity and got the GPS from the carryon bag. We drove around for a while -- it was too early to check in at the hotel. After about an hour, we decided to make our way to the hotel (Sleep Inn, Dania Beach, FL). I'd reserved it using choice hotel points so there was no cost. We pulled in and the place was packed! Wall-to-wall people in the lobby, spilling out into the breakfast room, on the sidewalk outside, etc. They were all waiting for the free shuttle to go to the port (Sat, 7 Jan). Our room was not ready, so we left again, and went to get some lunch. We drove down to Dania Beach and found a great little burger shack, Dania Beach Bar & Grill. The parking meter for street parking wasn't working -- you have to pay at the big parking meter, get a sticker, and apply it to the windshield. We asked the owner at the Dania Beach Bar & Grill about it - she said they will definitely ticket you (no matter the meter isn't working), and suggested we move the car around the back behind her car and park there. How very nice of her! So hubby moved the car and we sat down for a burger. The place is very laid back and the owner and patrons are very friendly. About: 15 min later, we saw a 'maintenance' person working on the parking meter -- not sure if it was ever repaired though. You have to walk across the street for access to the beach. After we ate, we crossed the street and went down to the beach and walked a bit. By now, it's 2pm, so we drove back to the hotel. Our room was ready -- 2-bed suite with sofa. The room was very clean. It was a large room with 2 comfy beds, air-conditioning worked great, and the bathroom was clean. The room has a mini frig and a microwave, coffee maker, shampoo, soap, the usual items. The room does not have wife -- you have to plug in for high-speed internet (at the desk by the beds), not at the 2 person table near the sofa. Worked great. There is a Walgreens next door and a shopping center directly across the street (including a grocery store). Later that night, we decided to try Grandpa's Bakery & Restaurant, after reading a couple of local reviews. Food was good --just too much on the plate. Meatloaf was good -- I ate maybe a 1/3 of it -- it was huge. Hubby had hamburger steak which he was said was delicious. Sticky buns and rolls are served as soon as you are seated. The wait staff is very friendly and the atmosphere is very family friendly. After dinner, we made a Kmart stop for beer, water, and soft drinks to take on the cruise. Bought a duffel bag for $20 to pack it in and check at the terminal. That worked like a charm. After a restful night's sleep, we checked out at checkout time (noon), which coincided with our "time schedule". We've cruised out of Ft Lauderdale before and rented a car (Dollar) -- we knew to arrive at the Dollar drop-off after 12pm to avoid most of the mad rush. We checked out at noon, stopped for gas, and drove to the Dollar/Thrifty drop-off at 2400 Miami Rd, Ft Lauderdale. By the time we got there, it was 12:30. There were 2 cars blocking the entrance/exit, but the guy outside quickly made them move along so we could enter the lot. There were maybe 5-6 cars trying to get checked in. It went very smoothly --much different than when we arrived about 11am the last time. This time, we unloaded the bags from the car and the gentleman was right to check out the car. After getting the "all clear" from him, we went inside for the paperwork, which took maybe 5 min. The total cost for 24 hr plus 2 extra hours, unlimited mileage was $45.89 - this included all taxes and fees. Then we lined up along the front with our bags and maybe 15 other people (and their bags) to wait for the next shuttle. I'd read the news that morning - this weekend (13-16 Jan) was the busiest port weekend ever in the history of Port Everglades! There were 8 ships leaving that afternoon I believe. After reading that, it made sense as to why all the restaurants, airport, hotels, etc were so crowded. After a leisurely :20-30 wait for the shuttle, we were in the van heading to the terminal. The bags were checked quickly and we walked to the terminal. I made a few phone calls and then went inside the terminal. It was probably 1:30-2:00 and I was really surprised there were lines! It wasn't a long wait -- maybe :10 at the most. The health card was completed, passports and credit card registered, and cruise cards were issued. We're on the way up the escalator to the ship after stopping for the pre-boarding photo!

Sun, 8 Jan 2012 - The ship: Right away, I'm impressed. On other cruises, as you enter the atrium, they are hawking soda cards, spa services, etc. This was a much more dignified 'entrance'. We saw the soda table but there was no 'in your face' with it. We were greeted with a "welcome back" too. We made our way to elevators to our cabin.

The passengers included those of all ages -- we saw babies, teenagers, young adults -- all the way to those 70 or 80. We didn't notice as many scooters on this cruise as we did on the Panama Canal cruise.

The cabin: I chose a BA, Caribe deck, cabin 628. The balcony (half covered, half uncovered) was exactly what we wanted, so we declined the upgrade offer from the very beginning. We were happy with the location of 628 -- it is listed as 'mid-ship' but its more aft than mid, but that's ok too. I did panic a bit though when we got to the cabin and realized the luggage handling is right at our door. This was never a problem though -- not even on the night before disembarkation. We heard luggage being thrown around and the general noise of tons of luggage being moved, but we just left the room and went to dinner and the casino. We came back about 10pm and it was silent -- there were a few bags still in the hallway. We never heard any noise nor were we disturbed.

Ramon, the cabin steward -- What a nice guy! We tipped him about $20 right away and several other times during the cruise. We always had ice, extra pillows, extra towels, fresh robes, mountains of the lotus spa shampoo, conditioner, etc. and if we were in the room when he came through, always a "what else can I get you" attitude. He cleaned the room twice a day -- he was fast too and it was never a bother.

Military Discount - I completed the military discount form and scanned and emailed a copy of the DD214 to accompany it. The $100 onboard credit showed up on the "account" online and on the morning we disembarked, it was the first item listed on the final bill (a credit of $100).

Lifeboat drill, Sun 8 Jan 2012: Our muster station was the Crown Grill on Deck 7 (midship) scheduled for 3:15. At 3pm, we went to the room to get the lifejackets and to avoid the stairs. We were too late! The elevators were shut off before 3:15, so we walked down the stairs along with everyone else to Deck 7. The instruction portion took approx :15, then everyone got to try on their life jacket.

Prior to the cruise, I also purchased an internet package of 150 min (includes a bonus of 40 min) for a total of 190 min for $75 - the card was in the mailbox by the cabin door when we arrived. I also purchased several beer & soda packages - those were in the "mailbox" as well. We called room service when we wanted to use the packages and they were delivered right away. For the internet, I stopped by the internet cafe on the 2nd day. The manager logged me in, gave me the instruction sheet, and I logged in my laptop in the cabin later that evening - couldn't have been easier! Everything you'd heard about the internet service being slow is true. But typing email offline, then logging on, and copying/pasting them to the email is the way to go. On the final bill, there was also a charge of $78.95 ($75 for internet, plus the $3.95 connect fee) for the 190 min internet package and below that a credit of $75 (which was the prepaid portion)

Da Vinci Dining Room: We chose anytime dining. We ate in the dining room one night -- the first night. We didn't get there until 8:30, so there was no wait; the dining room was practically empty. Shrimp cocktails started the meal. The cold pina colada soup, served in a glass, was delicious and tasted exactly like a pina colada. Hubby had the prime rib, which was very tender. I had pasta, which was also very good. As you may guess, we sample each other's plate too (love that 'bite of this, bite of that' style dinner). For dessert, a slice of carrot cake and some fruit. Service was excellent -- it was almost like we had that area of the dining room to ourselves. Somewhere on a board, someone had posted all the menus. I think it was for a 10-day cruise though because I never saw a "French night" on the daily menu outside the dining room, which was the one I was looking and waiting for. We checked the dinner menu daily and never saw French Night. This was the only night we chose the dining room. We preferred the Caribe Cafe or Horizon Court, or pizza or a burger for lunch & dinner. Since I'd packed the "formal" clothes for the 2 formal nights, I was a little bummed afterwards that we had decided not to attend. In hindsight, I wish I'd attended at least one of the formal nights - but we'll save that for our next cruise!

Horizon Court & Caribe Cafe -- We aren't terribly fussy eaters, and we found both of these venues to be quite good. The variety is outstanding. We prefer to eat "appetizer" style -- a bite of this, a bite of that, so this worked out great for us. Nothing in particular stands out in my mind that blew us away, but most everything we ate was good. On the 2nd or 3rd night, there was "whiskey shrimp" in the Caribe Cafe -- we had plenty of those -- they were delicious. Some of the entrees (pork loin, sliced beef, etc) were a little tough or tasteless, but it was easy enough to find another entree to our liking. Service (for tea, water, etc) was a hit & a miss at times. The Caribe Cafe is open when the Horizon Court is closed and vice versus. Sometimes, we served ourselves tea or water or coffee, if the servers were busy. One day, we were having a coffee in the Horizon Court and noticed the "purell police" person advised 2 guests they could not bring towels. They were carrying 2 beach towels (evidently headed to the pool after lunch). Instead of taking them back to the cabins, they asked if they could put them in the floor! She took them and perched them in the door. There was a notice in the patter -- no beach attire in the Horizon Court or Caribe Cafe. We saw many with cover-ups instead of street clothes -- they weren't turned away.

International Cafe, Deck 5, midship -- the shrimp salad lives up to the raves from this board. The specialty coffees ($$) were delicious. We didn't buy a coffee card -- just ordered a coffee whenever we wanted. The regular size (latte, iced or hot) was $2.75 + 15% gratuity ($3.16 ea). The large size was about a $1 or so more. I ordered the vanilla bean latte -- hot and cold -- several times during the cruise. I think I became addicted to lattes on this cruise! Several times after dinner, we stopped there and ordered just a regular cup of coffee (as opposed to the coffee in the Horizon Court/Caribe Cafe). There is a difference in the taste! And the regular brewed coffee at the International Cafe was delicious ($1.25 for a regular size). A cup of coffee and a pastry for dessert was the perfect end to the day. Speaking of coffee, the syrup coffee in the Horizon Court/Caribe Cafe is drinkable. Normally, I drink coffee black. Have to admit, I had to add cream and sweet & lo. Hubby still drank his black. Oh, just a note -- on the last night of the cruise, we went to the International Cafe about 11pm after taking a break from the casino. No chicken salad, no shrimp salad. They had cold sandwiches and pastries that night. This is the place for the Italian ice cream too. I didn't try that and I don't remember if they had it that last night or not.

Breakfast Room Service- orange, tomato, prune, apple juice
hot milk, coffee, hot tea, cold milk, decaf, herbal tea, skim milk, cream
bottled water 0.5 liter $2.00 1.5 liter $3.50 *I wrote in "pitcher of ice water" and that was delivered every morning, along with our coffee
Fresh fruits - half grapefruit, sliced orange, bananas, melon in season
yogurt - plain or fruit
cold cereals - raisin bran, frosted flakes, shredded wheat, special k, corn flakes, all bran, mueslix
danish pastry, bread roll, croissants
egg, bacon & cheese breakfast muffin (think McMuffin)
preserves - butter, honey, apricot jam, strawberry jam, orange marmalade
Service time (in :30 min increments) 6:30-7, 7-7:30, and up to 10-10:30
Most mornings, we chose 7-7:30 and it was always there by 7am

Other items on the room service menu - club, turkey, roast beef, ham, tuna sandwiches - served with chips or fries
soup of the day & crackers
chef salad, garden salad

Trident Grill (hot dogs, hamburgers, fries) -- Deck 15 by the Neptune Pool. We ate here for lunch one day -- it wasn't crowded (think it was a port day). Food is cooked to order and fresh. We did see long lines at other times though.

Champagne Breakfast: We didn't use this on this cruise, but we have on past cruises. A great luxury and self-indulgence! It was wonderful!

Pizza/ice cream, Deck 15 by the Neptune pool: Pizza: The margarita pizza is the best! Thin crust and piping hot! Hubby loves pepperoni pizza. He said it was delicious. The ice cream appeared mushy most of the time. It appeared to melt very fast and could be quite messy (even on cool nights on the deck).

Sodas & beer & drinks: Drinks & Beer Bud Lite $5.25 + gratuity .79 = $6.04
can diet sprite $1.95 + .29 gratuity = $2.24
margarita (3-6pm daily) $3.99 + .60 gratuity = $4.59 (all other times, these drinks are $7.50 + gratuity)
The drink of the day - these are not in the $3.99 category - one of my favorites was the 3-berry daiquiri $7.50 + gratuity = $8.63;

From 3-6pm daily, there is a list of drinks at every bar for $3.99 -- other times $6.99. It includes blue margaritas, pina colada, long island iced tea, and a couple of others that I can't remember. I tried very hard to drink as many as possible from 3-6pm, but sometimes, had to spill over the 6pm deadline ?. They feature a drink of the day. They are not $3.99 though at any time. I tried the 3-berry daiquiri -- strawberry was one of the berries; I ordered 2 more, trying to determine the names of the other 2 berries, but that didn't happen ??and after 3, it didn't matter.

Afternoon Tea -- this is a daily event from 3:30-4:30 in the Da Vinci Dining Room. I finally talked hubby into it ? You're seated with 6-10 other passengers and served hot tea, along with little sandwiches, cookies, etc. We were seated with several other couples and we all laughed and had a great time -- this was their first "tea" as well.
My hubby isn't your typical "tea" kinda guy but he endured it. You don't have to sit through the entire hour.

Laundromat: We used this once during the week. $2.00 in quarters to wash, $2.00 in quarters to dry. They have change machines if you don't have enough quarters. Detergent, fabric softener vending machine too (I used a purex laundry sheet that I brought along with me). There were 4 sets of washers/dryers, plus 4 iron boards. I used the Laundromat on the Caribe deck (forward) to avoid having to lug laundry up and down the elevators.

Smoking: Deck 15 (starboard side) by the Neptune pool. There is a bar there, along with the Trident Grill; the pizza/ice cream is only a few yards away. There are maybe 10 or 12 tables with ashtrays. When you are sitting here, you can not see MUTS though, which was a real drag. We didn't look too hard, but I think that's the only smoking area on the ship (other than the casino) and/or your cabin/balcony. We met so many nice people in this area (and other areas as well). We didn't hear any complaints from the nonsmokers who happened to pass by or through this small area. I was waiting for that though -- I was ready with my "please give us our little 10-table area and you can have the other 99% of the ship". Thank you.

The casino: The casino was hopping, except for the 2 non-smoking nights (no smoking after 6pm - I think this was on the 2 formal nights (Tues & Thur). It looked rather dead those nights. We spent quite a few nights (and days) in the casino. The wait staff is great in the casino. In the casino one night, I decided to try the key lime pie martini. I don't recommend this -- the cream was a little nauseating even after only a sip or two. The waiter was so funny -- he made a comment after he saw the expression on my face after one sip -- and said "hmmmmm, tastes like chicken, huh?" I'll stick with blue margaritas!

The shows: Unfortunately, we didn't attend any of the shows. As I stated earlier, we were here to relax, not be on a schedule, and just relax. We did that and it was wonderful. Oh, we thought about going to a show, but at the last minute, decided either to sit on the balcony and enjoy the cool night breeze or just sit in a lounge chair by the MUTS. The movies included "The Help", "Bridesmaids", "Evening in Paris".

Aft Deck Pool/Bar area: This was a nice area to sit and relax as well. The aft pool (deck 15) was never crowded. We walked up one flight of stairs (behind the Italian specialty restaurant) to the bar and sat there overlooking the pool and the view from the back of the ship. This is the smoking area on Deck 16, right above the aft pool. There is a hot tub on Deck 17 (aft) which we used several times. Seemed to us this hot tub was less crowded than the ones by the Neptune pool.

Spa & Sanctuary. Didn't use either on this cruise. On previous cruises, I used the spa almost on a daily basis (massages, facials, pedicures, etc). I did tell my husband I didn't think they were 'advertising' as much on this cruise as on other cruises. We saw several spa reps at the elevators several times, but they weren't pushy. I didn't think they offered as many "specials" this cruise as I'd seen on previous cruises. There was the 20-20-20 special on Grand Turk Day I believe and on the next sea day for $119. There was a dental whitening special one day (about $100 I believe). I didn't see a special for pedicures/manicures. The "top to toe" special was on Wed (St Maarten). $139 (regularly $239) buys you a full body massage, foot & head massage, spa facial -- total 75 min for $139

Wheelhouse Bar, Deck 7 Fwd -- The Irish fish & chips luncheon was held here on the 1st sea day (Tues, 910 Jan) -- 11:30- 2:00. We were seated right away. The Fish & Chips was very fresh and tasty. A bottle of ale will run about $8 or $9. That night, the Caribe Cafe featured -- guess what -- fish & chips!

Mon, 9 Jan 2012 - Princess Cay: Tendered to the island which took maybe 10 min. The ship docked at 10am. The announcements were made recommending passengers wait: 30 min before coming down to get tender tickets due to anticipated crowds. About an hour later, they announced there was no wait, therefore, tickets weren't required. We went down to Deck 4, with maybe 25 people waiting for a tender. We didn't wait long -- 10 min maybe before everyone got on the catamaran for the: 10 ride to the beach. It's a beautiful area. Beach chairs were plentiful and easy to get 2 together. The loungers are quite plentiful and sufficient. We didn't rent any snorkel gear (we had our own) or floats. The water was very cold. We got our feet wet at the edge and then laid in the sun for a while. The BBQ was nice. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, ribs, baked bean, fruit, cookies, etc. They have a booth of merchandise for sale -- beachwear and such. Soon thereafter, we started walking back to the catamaran loading area. The line was very very long to get back, but it moved fairly quickly. We spent the time in the line laughing and talking with all the others in line, which made it seem to go faster.

Tues, 10 Jan 2012 -- sea day

Wed, 11 Jan 2012 - St Maarten: Arrived on time (10am). We waited until 11am to go to Deck 4 to go to the port. We took a van to Marigot, along with 10 others, @ $7 ea, to Marigot. The ride was approx 20-30 min. They have a huge flea market right beside the taxi stand. Loads of beads, bags, scarves, etc - the usual tourist trinkets. Prices are typical -- totes about $10, t-shirts, the usual stuff. We passed the Harley shop on the way up the hill to Marigot and decided we'd take a taxi back down the hill and have him stop at the Harley shop. We had lunch at one of the small cafes - conch stew, fries, carib beer (local), bottled water for about $20. The conch stew was different, but good. The sidewalks are in need of repair. We saw several wheelchairs trying to navigate the uneven pavement. After we finished lunch, we were crossing the street to the return to the taxi stand. A taxi driver approached us asking us where we wanted to go. We told him we wanted to go to Philipsburg, but stop at the Harley shop on the way. No problem - $18. He drove us to the Harley shop, waited while we went inside (maybe :10 min), then took us to Philipsburg. Our plan was to take the water taxi - he parked and walked with us to the water taxi area - he was very nice and wanted to make sure we were in the right place.

We were going to take the water taxi, but at the last minute decided to walk along the boardwalk. We stopped for a drink, after buying a nice quilted tote bag (I'd looked at the same bag in Marigot but they wanted $18). I got mine (the exact same one) here for $12 -- good deal! After we had a drink, we were well in sight of the ship and decided to walk instead of taking the water taxi. I'd read on this board, even though you can see the ship, its still a long walk along a narrow sidewalk. We figured we were at the end of the boardwalk anyway, so how far could it be? Well, it's a long way! But it wasn't so awfully bad. I think if I had to do it over, I'd have taken the water taxi though -- not only to avoid that walk, but to experience a water taxi. We made it to the port and walked around, bought a couple of cartons of Marlboros for $18 ea, and got back to the ship. There was an announcement that there were a couple of people still outside and they would wait. If I remember correctly, we heard that announcement at every single port! In St Thomas I believe, the last 2 to board showed up well after our scheduled departure (the ship waited).

St Thomas (Thur, Jan 12, 2012): What a lovely place! The water is beautiful -- turquoise waters! The port area is very clean (as was all the ports). We took a safari (open air) taxi to downtown Amalie (about $5 ea). The open air safari bus/train like vehicle was nice -- the breeze felt wonderful. If you're looking for jewelry, this is the place. We found the Harley shop (another special request) and made our purchase. Then we decided to get a cab and go to the Havensight Mall. I'm sorry but I was not impressed -- mall to me means 'shopping' -- this was a huge area full of jewelry stores. We walked across the street to AH Cohen. This was the best place for touristy stuff by far. Keychains, magnets $1 ea (most other places $2.99 ea). T-shirts galore for $6; totes $5. The usual tourist junk stuff -- and I loaded up :-) We were thinking of doing the Paradise Point tram, but decided against it at the last minute. A driver asked if we were ready to go back to the ship -- she promptly appeared with a safari taxi, and along with 2-3 other couples, we rode back to the ship. There was a little store at the port where you can pick up miscellaneous items -- suntan lotion, sodas, chips, batteries, etc.

Grand Turk (Fri, 13 Jan, 11am-7pm): I'd read on this board about Nathan and the golfcart rental. I emailed him a few weeks before the cruise, sent him the credit card number, and for $80 we had a golfcart for the day. I waited at the taxi stand while hubby walked thru the parking lot, out the gate, to find Nathan and the golf cart. Five minutes later, a van pulled up with a driver and my hubby to pick me up. We drove thru the parking lot to an area on the side of the road (literally), where a very nice lady showed us the golfcart and how to start and stop. We were reminded to bring it back with ½ tank of gas (it had ½ of a tank when we picked it up). As we pulled away, we were reminded "drive on the left". Traffic is not an issue. We drove on the main roads, the side roads, dirt roads, uphill, downhill, down little paths to the beach. We stopped and took pictures. We drove to the lighthouse (the most northern part of the island. The beaches in this area aren't that wonderful to look at, but the beach where we docked is very nice. There was some new construction going on -- mostly beach houses. They were quaint -- not the mansions y9ou see on other islands. We noticed most of the houses were on the side of a cliff -- beach access was nonexistent. The entire island is only 7 miles long and about a mile wide. We'd read some good reviews for a place called Jack's Shack so we decided to stop there -- it's within eyesight of Margarita at the dock. We ordered one of the "special" drinks -- they all have 'beachy' names and it was very good. We had some conch fritters -- delicious! This was a more laid back area than Margaritaville and right on the beach. This was probably our most fun day at the ports -- the golf cart was well worth the price to come and go as we liked. Jack's Place is a nice stop as well. We loved it and would definitely rent a golf cart again when we return! As we were walking across the bridge back to the ship, the sunset was beautiful. Grand Turk has one of the fanciest duty-free shops I've ever seen. Everything you could want from Guess handbags to Oakley sunglasses -- plenty of alcohol too. Oh, speaking of that -- when we returned to the ship, the crew was requesting everyone with alcohol to stop at the desk to drop off their boxes (which would be delivered to their rooms Sat morning). I noticed many ignoring the requests and continued to the elevator. The crew didn't stop them. Oh, if you're buying cigarettes at the Grand Turk Terminal, you won't be able to buy a lighter or matches -- they don't have/sell them. There was a couple at the checkout who bought several cartons and evidently, they didn't have a lighter or matches. The clerk told them they do not sell them. The customer was a bit upset!

Sea Day, Sat, 14 Jan 2012: Ugh -- repacking day! The worst part of the cruise for sure! Luggage tags were at the door that morning. Ours was Green -- to meet at the Da Vinci dining room at 9:30. There was a notice you could change this though. Changes could be made from 9am-noon today. Since our return flight wasn't until 1pm the next day, and I was having a vanilla bean latte attack, I decided to check it out. There were 2 people in line! I told her I'd prefer a later time and in the casino -- no problem. She gave me orange 11, where everyone was to meet in the casino at 9:45. Back to the room to sit on the balcony and drink my latte. I'd packed most everything the night before (I hate spending the last night packing). All the toiletries needed for Sunday morning were to be trashed (the expensive hair spray killed me to leave, but I didn't want to face the wrath of the TSA, nor did I want to be repacking bags on the airport sidewalk). My plan worked out beautifully -- shampoo, shave cream, bath soap, mousse, hairspray, toothpaste, etc went to the cardboard box (for trash) Sunday morning after we were done. I stopped by the internet cafe and printed the boarding passes, although it wasn't necessary - I was curious to see the boarding position (A26 and A27). Oh, before I forget -- if you are a big coffee drinker, on Sat morning, keep your coffee carafe (hide it). Sunday morning, we took the carafe to the Horizon Court, filled it, and parked out on Deck 15 by the pool to wait to leave. There were quite a few people doing the same thing -- although I noticed none thought to keep their room service carafe! The Horizon Court closes at 9am. Having our own personal carafe of coffee was great from the day before! Just remember to refill it a few minutes before 9am on Sunday morning as the coffee (and everything else) is turned off by 9am! We didn't go the Dining Room to wait to leave -- we hung out by the pool, drinking coffee, and talking to the other passengers. Everyone was comparing weather forecasts for their hometowns! How depressing! It was unthinkable - the snow, the ice, the cold weather we would all be enduring in a just a few short hours -- as we sat there leisurely drinking coffee in our shorts and flipflops!

Sat night -- we set our luggage about 8pm and then went to a late dinner (to avoid the noise of the luggage toss outside our door). Then we hit the casino -- that place was hopping! I think that was the busiest nights on the ship. We had a blast! A late night for sure and an even earlier morning tomorrow!

Sunday morning, we were out of the cabin by about 8am. We made our way to the Horizon Court for breakfast and more coffee. The rest is too depressing as we have to leave this ship. Making our way to the elevator about 9:55, we trudge down to the terminal to the taxi area. The luggage handler met us as we stepped off the escalator and we never had to touch a single bag! We got to the taxi line -- maybe a 10 min wait and we were on our way to the Ft Lauderdale airport. We got to the airport by 10:30 and proceeded to wait. The sun was shining -- it was a balmy 75 degrees, so we stood outside. We meet another group who'd just cruised with Norwegian. We checked out bags curbside about 11am, and enjoyed the sunshine another 30 min or so before we went inside. We'd been scoping the security line (it was a long line, winding around several times). When we decided to downstairs, the line was really short. Medicine bag was not a problem at this point either -- nobody wanted to look inside the bag. Remove your belt, empty your pockets, remove your shoes, and get that laptop out of the bag. The terminal was a zoo! Wall to wall people! We made our way to the gate and there is no place to sit. We perched against a wall to wait. We bought a sandwich at Dunkin Donuts to share, a bottle of ginger ale, and a bag of chips for $16 -- what a bargain! The flight home was packed as well. But it was a short 2-hour flight. Back to reality -- what a letdown. Can't wait to go again! Less

Published 01/22/12

Cabin review: BAC628 Balcony

Ruby Princess C628, category BA, balcony: This cabin is shown as "mid ship" - I think it's more aft than mid though. The aft elevators are only about 10 doors away. If you want to the midship elevators, it's a bit of a walk. The laundromat is forward (near the #300 cabins). The cabin is on the small side, but nice. The balcony is to die for! Approx 6' wide and 9' deep - maybe 4' of the balcony covered and the other 5' uncovered. Four large chairs, a table, and still plenty of room. When you look down, you are looking directly onto the balcony of the room below. When you're standing by the rail, those above are looking right down at you. The balcony is half covered, half uncovered - the best of both worlds. It does provide some privacy. Always remember to completely close the balcony door before you open the stateroom door - quite a bit of suction! Draperies are thick and plush. For those mornings you want to sleep in, you can make the room completely dark, any time of the day by pulling those drapes. The cabin has a mini-fridge but don't expect arctic temps - it barely keeps drinks/water cool. You'll need ice delivered several times a day to keep drinks cold. Don't store your ice bucket on the cabinet that holds the frig. The cabinet top gets warm and melts all the ice. There is a side table that will hold the ice bucket and it doesn't melt quite as fast. Two end tables with plenty of storage. The beds are comfortable - not too hard, not too soft. There is a 2-shelf cabinet in the vanity as well. The closet area is more than sufficient to hang up all your clothes (there are plenty of wooden hangers), store the luggage, shoes, etc. There is a cabinet by the closet that contains the safe, and 4 or 5 large bins for storage. There is a long shelf underneath the sink that holds everything. I took several 8x8" cardboard boxes to store toiletries. The hair dryer is your normal, everyday hairdryer (located at the desk - away from the bathroom). I do admit the room was quite warm, even with the A/C turned down to the coolest temp. But it wasn't unbearable, but a cooler temp would have been nice. We spent more time on the balcony than inside the cabin. C628 is directly across from the luggage elevator. When I realized this, I was concerned, but it wasn't an issue at all. Maybe 2 hours of banging luggage around and then it was over. The bedding is very comfortable - soft, high quality sheets. There were 2 outlets - we used a power strip, and then plugged a 9' extension cord to power strip. We had "power" at each end table for charging phones, cameras, curling iron, etc. This was more than sufficient. We didn't experience the 'sticky shower curtain' but I can see where that might be a problem for some. The showers are small and water does seep out onto the floor, even when you're trying to be very careful. Shaving your legs is a adventure. Pack Nair! There's plenty of storage in the bathroom too. There's a long low shelf underneath the sink and 3-4 shelves beside the sink. The countertop is fairly spacious, but I stored our toiletries in small cardboard boxes underneath the sink. I could take my "box" to the vanity to get ready. The boxes kept everything in one place, easy to find, and neat and orderly. There is a clothes line in the shower and 2 large hooks on the inside door to hang wet towels, robes, etc.

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