235 Princess Ruby Princess Romantic Cruise Reviews

First time cruising, had no idea which line, what to do, how much money should I bring, all the stupid questions running through my mind. Decided on the Ruby Princess for no real good reason, I think because it was the newest ship, ... Read More
First time cruising, had no idea which line, what to do, how much money should I bring, all the stupid questions running through my mind. Decided on the Ruby Princess for no real good reason, I think because it was the newest ship, whatever that had to do with it!!! Landed in Miami on Jan 17th, met the Princess Rep, Eileen, told her we had to get luggage, retrieved luggage, turned around , Eileen is no where to be found, had a rep paged, nothing. Finally a competitor rep, Norwegian, helped us out. We though such a wonderful way to start our first cruise. Driver of bus to ship said there was a accident on Rte 95, so it will take was longer to get there as he is taking side roads, Scenic South Miami!!!! After a little over an hour, there it was in all it's shining glory. Found our state room on the Baja Deck, introduced to our cabin person, Dragos from Yugoslava. He could not do enough for us. He had 19 rooms, but it seemed like he was our personal guy. We ate at the Buffet all the time, did not experience the dining room, although I heard it was OK. At the breakfast buffet, stay away from the scrambled eggs, OMG I am pretty sure they are powdered. Every pasta dish they had was cooked perfect, al dente. Prime Rib and such meat was over cooked a bit, but still tasty. With all I ate, I was surprised I had gained only 4 pounds. As for the islands we visited, (we, meaning me and my ex-wife, that's right, ex), Jamaica was horrible. Did the Sting-ray thingy and got to hold the slippery sucker for 90 seconds. I took a picture and got scolded for it. Then we went to Dunns Falls which was very cool. But after, you get attacked by natives. I gave the guide a tip of $10 and he actually said it was not enough!!!! Was approached by this guy who told me to inspect his hands, like I had no idea what hands were, and tried to sell me knick-knacks for $45. I offered $5 and his 'relatives' heard me. All hell broke loose. They were yelling at me. He came down to $35, then $25, then $12, then after I heard for the umpteenth time that "I no respect him, mon", he came down to $8. Finally he came down to $5, and I was so irritated, I told him no sale, that "He did not respect me, mon" Did not even bother going to town, went right back to the ship for a few frozen pina colodas. Grand Caymen was great, road horses on the beach, walked the streets, met great people on the back streets. Visited a few shops. Cozumel was also a great experience. Hired a taxi on-line. (cozumeltaxi@hotmail.com). Lazaro was our guide. Absolutely wonderful. Took us out of the tourist areas, showed us his neighborhood, then went to the other side of the island where therre is no electricity, plumbing. Just a couple of restaurants on the shore with great frozen pina coladas. It cost us $120 for the four hours, which was well worth it. The last island was in the Bahamas, Princess Cays. Now this place is exactly where I want to spend a week. Secluded, nice beaches, little barbeque going and of course, frozen pina coladas. I would love the ship to lower anchor and have the tenders bring me back and forth. If it is your first time cruising, just think of the feeling of having nothing on your mind, Can't do it, huh!!! Well, go on a cruise. Getting off the ship in Fort Launderdale was effortless, mark your suitcases well, buy polka dot ones or tie a brightly colored bungy cord around them, because there must of been a sale on black and blue luggage. Bussed back to airport, and hung around for a few hours, finally read a newspaper. Break is over, now I have to get back to shoveling, as mother nature is dumping 6 inches in my driveway. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was our first time cruising with Princess! The ship is simply stunning and is laid out very well. We had a balcony stateroom on the Lido deck that was simply marvelous. The closet configuration is fabulous! It's almost set up ... Read More
This was our first time cruising with Princess! The ship is simply stunning and is laid out very well. We had a balcony stateroom on the Lido deck that was simply marvelous. The closet configuration is fabulous! It's almost set up like a walk in closet. There is plenty of space for clothes and suitcases. The bathroom is supplied with shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion for the spa. Also, you can request robes from your room stewart; they are plush! The tv's are equipped with quite a few good channels...news...sports..and several current movie channels for kids, adults, etc. The common areas of the ship were absolutely stunning! The decor is very grand; nothing is gaudy or taken over the top. We were very pleased with the dining room food selections. The buffet is good but very typical. There is plenty of seating with great views! The wait staff is extremely efficient even during the dining peak hours. I highly recommend eating at Sabatini's. Yes, there is a cover charge but it is well worth it! You will be fed more food then you can possibly eat, and it is all scrumptious! The wait staff is extremely friendly but also gives you privacy. I have a garlic allergy and the chef actually prepared from scratch the main courses I wanted garlic-free. I was extremely impressed! The pool area is fabulous! The lounge chairs are extremely "cushiony", the movies under the stars are fantastic- they play even during the day. I would recommend checking out the spa. While prices are steep, you can get discounts while the ship is in port. I highly recommend the bamboo massage; they roll pieces of bamboo on your muscles and it works out all sorts of knots! It's a unique and memorable experience. My husband and I are gym rats and were quite pleased with the fitness selection and classes. The yoga class was quite simple...nothing advanced. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My husband and I were enjoying our second cruise, a babymoon actually on the Ruby Princess. It was by far the most beautifully decorated ship I have been on and this compares to Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Carnival ships. We had ... Read More
My husband and I were enjoying our second cruise, a babymoon actually on the Ruby Princess. It was by far the most beautifully decorated ship I have been on and this compares to Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Carnival ships. We had previously taken a honeymoon cruise on the Royal Caribbean to Eastern Caribbean and enjoyed our experience tremendously. We were expecting more "Love" from the brand new Ruby "Love Boat" that Princess was famous for. First of all, we booked a mini suite category. We felt that this line, in comparison to other cruises, seemed to charge for all the amenities we typically receive for free on other ships. We had to pay for ice cream at the pool, appetizers before dinner in the lobby, pizza delivery from room service and $12 for a cheese board/fruit platter from room service! The excursions were overpriced compared to other cruise lines. "Anytime dining" is not a good idea if you want to eat anytime other than 6pm or 8pm. When we would show up at 7pm, we received a pager and then had to wait for a table for 15-40 minutes. You can call ahead in the morning to make a reservation, but we found out they only take about 20% of the restaurant as a reservation and only before 4pm. If you make a reservation, you get a table right away. You will have a different waiter staff each night, which made it difficult to receive any special attention or friendly "get to know" atmosphere we enjoy on other ships. Next time we would do the late seating. I highly recommend the specialty Italian restaurant. It is worth the $20 supplement. The food in the dining room for dinner was just OK. Not as good as Royal or Holland. Menu is a little boring and tasteless. Our room was beautiful, although smaller than the mini suite on Royal Caribbean. Room service menu was not very good and we felt that suite passengers should be offered a different menu to choose from, other than free sandwiches. The room attendant was friendly and probably the best cruise staff we met on board as far as attention and helpfulness. Our room was decorated nicely outside for our anniversary and my birthday. We also enjoyed receiving special cards to give to the head waiter at the restaurant to notify that it was a special occasion. They brought us a special dessert each time we notified. Tendering on two ports (Princess Cay and Grand Cayman) was not a great experience at all. We had long lines to wait in on the return to ship from port and watched as other cruise lines were handing out water and snacks to their passengers. Also, we felt that we had to get on the ship much earlier in each port than necessary. We would have enjoyed staying longer in each port, rather than on board by 4pm. The activities on board were not much to be desired. We were comparing to all the fun activities on the Royal Caribbean, with rock climbing and ice skating. The Ruby should have more focus on the education programs and add another cooking demonstration, which was the best demo I have seen on any ship. I highly recommend it and the cookbook for purchase is reasonable $28 and you can have it personally signed by the Exec. Chef. The shows at night were fair. The second evening show, Broadway Review, was the best. All the others we were not that impressed. They had a guest singer from Vegas that was excellent, but he is not normally on the ship. Compared to Royal, it was a 4 and Royal entertainment an 8 out of 10. So, in conclusion, bring back the LOVE. Please stop charging for ice cream! Where was someone like Issac at the pool? The pool drink attendants need to smile and enjoy their job. What is better than serving drinks under the sun! Make it a more personal experience for the guests, especially if you are paying suite pricing. Ruby needs to hire a different Cruise Director. By the end of the trip, we had to turn her off our TV screen. Best things on board: Movies Under the Stars (need less sports and more movies) Cooking Demonstration and Ship Kitchen Tour Decoration of the ship, live musicians playing in the lobby upon check in. Ports of call were excellent, but you'll need to book excursions. Least favorite things: Lots of little charges everywhere. Cost of fruit drinks without alcohol. Entertainment and getting turned away because all the seats were filled! Bingo prices. Art Auction not as great as Royal Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
This was our first Princess cruise, and we decided to book the Ruby Princess because it was a new ship, and the reviews were generally good. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale 2 days prior to sailing, and we stayed at the Holiday Inn. The hotel ... Read More
This was our first Princess cruise, and we decided to book the Ruby Princess because it was a new ship, and the reviews were generally good. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale 2 days prior to sailing, and we stayed at the Holiday Inn. The hotel accommodations were average and overpriced,but Ok for a pre-cruise stay. The embarkation went pretty well. We took a chartered bus from the hotel, and we arrived at Port Everglades by 11:30 AM. We were herded into a huge room with a large number of people and not enough seating! After a 30-45 minute wait, everyone filed out of the room in groups and were then dispatched to registration stations. We were then allowed onto the ship and we were in our room by about 12;45 PM. We found our way to the buffet for lunch, and we got an unpleasant taste of what to expect during most of the trip-unbearable crowds and lines! It felt like we were standing in line forever before we got our lunch, and then it took quite a while to find a place to sit! My luggage arrived at the room within a few hours, but my wife's luggage did not arrive at all! By 5;00Pm, I complained to our cabin steward, and he went to look for the luggage. He could not find it, and he suggested that I go to the purser. The purser suggested I wait and return at 7 PM before anything could be done. Since dinner was at 6 PM, I returned at 5:40 PM and told the purser I wished to check the luggage room myself. The purser then pointed to a group of 8 suitcases sitting in the open and unprotected about 50 feet away. I checked the suitcases, and I found my wife's suitcase(WITHOUT A LUGGAGE TAG)!! The purser said the luggage would be delivered to our cabin, but I refused and dragged it to the cabin myself! The ship itself is absolutely gorgeous and generally spotless. The crew and staff were from many different nations, and most were hardworking, friendly, and courteous. I am sorry to say that the only rudeness we encountered came from crew and employees from the US. For us, there were just too many passengers on board. We constantly encountered lines, and we had difficulty finding chairs for lounging and tables at which to eat. Another complaint was the constant smell of tobacco. Even though smoking is forbidden in many areas, we constantly were irritated by the smell of tobacco in all parts of the ship, but mainly in the cabin hallways and on the decks. For us, the problem was intolerable! There were passengers of all ages, but mainly under 45. There were numerous teenagers and children on board, many of them out of control. Also, there was no shortage of constantly crying babies! The main dining rooms were quite uncomfortable with an extremely high noise level, a feeling of crowdedness, and perpetually crying children. The service was good, but the food was remarkably below average-extremely rich with little taste! After trying the main dining room for several nights, we finally gave up and started eating dinner at the buffet. The food at the buffet was much better-average to above average, and the noise level was tolerable. The breakfasts and the lunches at the buffet were fine. One thing that bothered me was to be charged for ice cream! Room service was pretty good, but not enough variety on the menu! We did not eat in the specialty restaurants. We stayed in what is described as a mini-suite( more expensive and slightly larger than a balcony stateroom)). The cabin was beautiful, comfortable, and spacious, but whoever designed the balcony must have been on drugs! Our balcony had no covering, and it was totally visible to numerous other balconies above and around us! So much for privacy! Also, we had no protection from the elements(sun, wind, rain) and no protection from the horrible tobacco smoke! There were smokers occupying the cabins above us and on both sides of us. I do not understand why there cannot be a group of cabins set aside for non-smokers! I should add that our cabin steward was great! He did his best to meet our needs, and he was always friendly and courteous! The entertainment was OK, but I do not understand why the music has to be so loud. The loudness of the sound around the pool, in the lounges, and in the Princess Theater is guaranteed to injure one's hearing apparatus! The Movie Under The Stars is a good concept, but its sound is also too loud. The sound was disturbing enough in the immediate area of the movie screen, but it could be heard in all outdoors areas of the ship, thus destroying the evening ambience. There is certainly not enough seating in the Princess Theater. People began arriving 45-60 minutes before the shows, and there were usually no seats available by 20-30 minutes before the shows were to begin. We finally gave up and stopped trying to attend the shows! I should also add that the cruise and entertainment director was too ever present, obtrusive, and a bit annoying. S he finally began getting on our nerves! The "street performers" in the Piazza were entertaining and enjoyable(although it was annoying that some of the acts lasted only 5 minutes!) The Ports of Call were less than desirable, and for us, not an attraction. Because of the crowds,waiting for the tenders became quite irritating! The disembarkation went fairly well, but we were forced off the ship by 8 AM. It seems we should have been given an extra hour at least to relax and enjoy breakfast! We booked a transfer to the airport through Princess. We stood in line for an hour waiting for a bus. After I originally booked the cruise, I had asked Princess representatives what time I should expect to be picked up by a bus. No one could(would) give me an answer. To be safe, I therefore booked a late flight, and we had to sit at the airport for quite awhile. For the reasons described above, we were generally disappointed on our first(and last) Princess cruise. In summary, our principal complaints were with luggage disposition, disappointing food, disappointing ports, too many people, long lines, too much tobacco exposure,crowded and noisy dining room, terrible stateroom balcony design,loudness of music and inability to attend shows because of not enough seats. The positives were as follows: beautiful ship,wonderful crew and staff, nice entertainment in the Piazza, and nice cabin(except for the balcony!) Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
I will start with the beauty of the ship. Let me remind you that beauty is only skin deep. I booked this cruise for my anniversary gift to my wife. I had arranged for roses and chocolate covered strawberries to be in the room at ... Read More
I will start with the beauty of the ship. Let me remind you that beauty is only skin deep. I booked this cruise for my anniversary gift to my wife. I had arranged for roses and chocolate covered strawberries to be in the room at embarkation. The roses were there but the strawberries were MIA. This takes the element of surprise out of it when you have to ask where they are. They were brought up all at one time!!! Two trays at once, they are not any good after put them in the ref. They next stop was the balcony of the mini-suite. Great balcony on the 9th floor (6' x 8')the 10th are bigger. The sea spray and salt build-up on the glass door and glass railings was NOT acceptable. We ask for these to be cleaned and maintained, this was not done. Our luggage finally got ther about 8 pm Do not stay this far back as the vibration on the PORT side is bad, I never found the machine on the nightstand for quarters but that was free. Now on to the rest. You must get off the pool deck at the Terrace pool at 7-ish they are afraid that the chairs will blow off with you sitting in them. The attendants on the pools were hard to find and you might go thirsty waiting. The chair HOGGING was horrible. I am an early riser and there would be towels on the loungers at 7 am. The very top deck (sky deck 18 mid ship)the chairs were never unstrapped this would have been much nicer for people who don't want all the traffic, one way up and one way down; not an option. The cruise director on TV is soooo annoying that you will turn her off too. The volume level on all speakers and movies is full blast. The BINGO games are too short for $20/per card (4 games). Bring your own dobbers. I did win $250 on Friday to offset the over-priced scuba trips I took. Finding a place to sit for any-time dining and buffets was difficult. The food was not up to my expectations. The Pepperoni pizza and the hot dogs and fries were the best FREE meal on the ship. The BEST dining for an upcharge was The Crown Grille($25/steak and $9 more get lobster). Spend the $34 for the full meal deal and eat the Brazilian Lobster tail, much better than Maine lobster for my count. The ports are OK. Jamaica do not get off unless you enjoy saying NO THANK YOU every 3 seconds. Grand Cayman, too many banks beautiful beaches. Cozumel, great eat the tortilla soup at the Fiesta Americana Dive Resort. Princess Cays, the island you want to be stranded on just make sure you have shoes. Some people think that glass and bare feet go together(not me) bottle caps are everywhere except the trashcan. The ship is very hard to navigate at mid-ship levels 5 & 6 to get through you must go up or down one floor to get around. If you like to know what is happening in the world while you are at sea, go to the computer bar and pay.75/minute. The only news you get is Nancy Grace and Octo-mom. the "patter" is going to make sure you know about the Sanctuary not any news; unlike Celebrity (my favorite) This was my first Princess cruise and probably my last. I will certainly remember my anniversary for sure. Before I go; be sure to allow 4-5 hrs to make a plane once you get to FLL from the terminal. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Second time cruiser. My first cruise was 8 months ago on RCL in the Easter Caribbean. We are late 20s newlyweds who took this cruise with good friends (they are new to cruising). First of all, let me say this ship really is beautiful. ... Read More
Second time cruiser. My first cruise was 8 months ago on RCL in the Easter Caribbean. We are late 20s newlyweds who took this cruise with good friends (they are new to cruising). First of all, let me say this ship really is beautiful. The decorations are nice and the Piazza is very pretty. The onboarding process was downright impressive. We were through the front door, security, and check in within 15 minutes. It was a far cry from the long wait we had with RCL. Our room was a bit of a let down, although this is partly our fault. We booked a balcony guarantee room. Initially I didn't expect much because of the guarantee. We wanted to get away from the cold and we wanted a balcony - done deal. We got our assignment well in advance of the cruise. I read on the boards here before about the tiered balconies and was pleased to see we were on the top level of balconies. Hooray for privacy! Unfortunately, when we got on the ship we realized we were right below the pool. At 6:30 every morning we awoke to the sound of lounge chairs slamming around. During the afternoon and late evening we heard MUTS when our balcony door was open. Then we heard the chairs being put away at night. To top it off, our friends were on the Caribe desk - and we realized we lost the balcony lotto. The balconies on the top decks are private - but smaller!! Our friends had the same category stateroom, but had a balcony 2x the size of ours. Also, the pool deck hung over our balcony, so we never really felt out in the open like you do on the balconies on the lower levels. Unless you really care about people above you being able to see you - book a balcony on one of the lower levels. The privacy wasn't worth it. Speaking of MUTS, this is one of Ruby's most redeeming qualities. How wonderful it was to be out in the open on a comfy chair. We enjoyed the popcorn, milk, and cookies. We were a little annoyed when about 15 minutes before the movie ended, it looked as though a tour bus pulled up and dropped off a load of loud drunken buffet dwellers. We were still enjoying the 7 o'clock movie and people were swarming around marking their chairs for the next screening. It was as if we weren't there at all! I saw several people around us just get up and leave well before the movie was over due to all the noise. The food was exactly as I have read on all the other Ruby reviews - a real snooze fest. The buffet wasn't bad and it wasn't good. The selections for anytime dining were either boring or odd. Most nights I had a hard time finding either an appetizer or entree that looked appealing. We ate at the Grill on the first formal night. We are huge foodies - we love to go out to eat and we're not afraid to spend a lot of money on a great meal. That being said, the Grill was just OK to us. We overheard a man behind us tell the waiter he had just consumed the best steak in his life. We joked that he may frequent Applebees and Outback, because the food was similar. If you do go to the Grill, get the chocolate lava cake dessert. It was absolutely delicious and made up for my average dinner. Sabitini's was upsetting to say the least. Our waiter was a real know-it-all. He showed us a menu with an antipasta selection, salad selection, pasta, and entree. Then the waiter told us we could only pick an entree and the rest would be served to us family style. Other than the pasta course, the food was not good at all. I have never been to a place that soaks their crab cakes in lemon juice for 3 days before serving...they were absolutely horrible. I wanted our $40 back. It wasn't worth the money. Now the children...they were everywhere. I'm not sure if this particular cruise is appealing to parents with small children but they were absolutely everywhere. And unlike RCL, the two large pools are open to everyone. On RCL, one large pool was adults only and was a little slice of heaven. The only place on Ruby to get away from kids is the terrace pool on the back of the boat - which is beautiful and a fabulous view - but the area is VERY small. There aren't many chairs out there. I had to get up at 6:30 AM on our 2nd at sea day to get a chair out there. Once in a while an adult would bring their child out to the terrace pool and the staff wouldn't tell them to leave! The other all adult pool is part of the spa - and is $20 a person for the day. Paying to use a pool is absolutely ridiculous. I rarely saw children with the staff or participating in children's programs. On our other cruise, most children were gone all day. Because of this (I'm assuming here) I think Princess may not have the best children's programs like other lines do. The staff in the anytime dining rooms were always great. Full of personality, quick, and very accommodating. The bartenders and pool servers often were less than impressive. We went to the nightclub on the first night and the bartender was completely rude to us when we ordered waters. After we finished our water, he picked up the glasses and walked away as if to say "get away from my bar so I can make money." I noticed that anyone with a refillable soda cup would have to wait longer at the bar for service. I guess if the staff isn't getting a tip, they don't want to waste their time on you! Overall, it was nice to get away. The ports are beautiful - we had gorgeous weather every single day. I expected more out of this cruise for two reasons: 1) the ship is the newest in Princess' fleet 2) I was always under the impression that Princess was one of the luxury cruise lines (within certain patron age limits, of course). I was ready to write Princess off completely until we met another couple the last night who have cruised over 30 times (they were under 35 years old!). They told us that they always cruise with Princess and were extremely let down by this cruise. They had been on a Hawaiian cruise just two weeks before and had a wonderful time. They had the same complaints as us - the food and the children. On their several other cruises they never experienced such disappointing food with Princess. They also said they never had to deal with children everywhere - in the pools, taking up lounge chairs, running around the decks, and splashing around in the hot tubs. I will give Princess another try but definitely in another location. If and when we return to the Caribbean, I think the best experience is with RCL. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
This ship has only been sailing for a few months and it is awesome. I was concerned sailing on a ship that had over 3200 passengers but I rarely felt inconvenienced. Getting on and off the ship was simple and quick in both ... Read More
This ship has only been sailing for a few months and it is awesome. I was concerned sailing on a ship that had over 3200 passengers but I rarely felt inconvenienced. Getting on and off the ship was simple and quick in both directions. Princess has done a very good job with this. We had an outside room without a balcony. We don't spend a lot of time in the room so didn't see the need for the extra expense. The room was a nice size for a ship and we never felt like we were living in a closet. Speaking of closets, there was plenty of room for all our clothes and our huge suitcases fir under the bed. The showers don't leave room to change your mind but I am 6ft 2in & 250 pounds and I had no trouble maneuvering in there. We did traditional dining. The dining room was beautiful and the service was excellent. The food was adequate but I did not eat anything that was not good. There was never a long line at the buffet for lunch or breakfast. There was always plenty of entertainment and the Theatre is very nice with the utmost in state of the art technology. The best thing about this ship for my wife and I was the "Movie Under The Stars" feature. This ship has a huge digital screen outside above one of the pools on the upper deck. They show movies during some parts of the day, but at night they cover the lounge chairs with cushions, give you a blanket, pop fresh popcorn, and you watch the movie under the stars....This Was NEAT!!! In the morning, they allow you to play Wii fitness on this huge screen. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
We were on the last cruise of the Ruby Princess to the Caribbean before she sailed to the Mediterranean on April 18, 2009. This is my third cruise and my husband's first. Embarkment: Very easy and painless. We did have a ... Read More
We were on the last cruise of the Ruby Princess to the Caribbean before she sailed to the Mediterranean on April 18, 2009. This is my third cruise and my husband's first. Embarkment: Very easy and painless. We did have a bottle of wine in our suitcase and security did not care. Formal Nights: Always done on the evening when we were at sea all day. Food: Stay clear of the buffet on Lido deck when you first board. It was a madhouse and people were sitting around the tables talking with empty dishes in front of them. Head out to the pool grill, pizzeria, or the international cafe. We had anytime dining and we thought the food was good. We ate in the Michelangelo dining (less crowds) and always had a table for two without waiting. The only complaint I had was the service was so slow. The servers would wait for all the tables for two would fill and then bring all our food out a one time. If you got there at 5:30 and the last table filled at 6, every table would get their entrEe at the same time. We arrived one night at 5:30 so we could watch the movie at seven. We did not get out entrEe until 6:45 and we missed the movie. I was so disappointed. The first night at dinner, we ordered a bottle of wine. We asked to have to cork the bottle for the following night. The girl kept pouring us the wine. You need to make it very clear you only want one glass of wine. The buffet's food was okay and did serve ice cream every afternoon. There are two different buffet areas and they do serve different foods on each line. The pizzeria pizza, international cafe and the grill by the pool were all very good. We did the ultimate balcony dining, which included fresh flowers and a free photo. It was well worth the $100. The ships photography came and took appx. 8 pictures. Carlos and Roger were wonderful and attentive to us. They gave us plenty of alone time and were always there when we needed them. The dinner started with canapEs and a cocktail of our choice then it proceeded to a crab pastry appetizer, salad (much too large for this many courses), lobster and steak, fresh fruit and mousse, followed by an anniversary cake and cookies, plus a bottle of champagne. Let it be known the ship will only do three ultimate balcony dinners per night unless they are on the same floor close together. We called the first day at sea and they were all booked for the night we wanted. We asked to be on the waiting list and were called the next day because someone had cancelled. I tried to book the dinner prior to boarding and I went through five different people on the phone when I was informed it had to be booked on the ship even though all the literature says to book prior to leaving on your trip. Alcohol: My husband and I enjoy margaritas. We tried them at four different bars on the ship and they were all syrupy sweet even when we asked them not to make them sweet. I did not realize they were from a pre-mix. Ask the bartender to make the drink from scratch and to put some alcohol in the glass because I did not even get a buzz from drinking a double. Laundry: I did not use them but the washers ($1.50) and dryers ($1.50) are on almost each deck. The wash soap was $1 from the dispensing machine. There was a change machine in the room but it was empty. If you plan to use the machines, it would not hurt to bring quarters so it would not be a hassle to find quarters. Stateroom: We had a minisuite on the dolphin deck. Our deck had the farthest balconies out and closest to the water, which I loved. Yes, everyone could see our balcony but I did not look up. Our steward was interesting in a bad way. He let us know from the beginning the company worked him like a machine. He worked eleven hrs a day, seven days a week. I did not want to hear complaints from the employees especially from the steward on my vacation. The steward addressed and only spoke to me. He totally ignored my husband from the first time they met. The steward only addressed my husband one time because I called the steward's attention that my husband was also present. My husband tried to initiate conversations with him. The steward was matter of fact, no happiness was in his job, and I never saw the man smile or laugh. On my way out I gave the steward an extra tip because he did do a good job. I felt he was ungrateful and snubbed my husband as we passed in the hallway to leave. There is a full TV and channels guide located in the back of the small hardback blue book in the room plus a small card to carry for all the dining options times and locations. We found this out late into the voyage. Leaving: We were in the first group to leave at 8:10 am with our luggage. We were in the dining room at 7:20 am, and were able to leave the ship at 7:30. After we cleared customs and out the door, there were two reps from Southwest available to check our luggage and give our boarding passes at the pier. Our plane was leaving at 10:35 so there was no charge to check in our luggage. It was perfect. The cab ride to the pier was $19.50 and returning to the airport was $12.50 which we shared with another couple. Activities: I was surprised at the small number of activities offered for the 3,000+ passengers. Natalie really stood out to me on the activity staff. She was fun,laughing and always having a good time with the passengers. The comic Kevin Jordan was very good. The productions in the theater will entertain you. You need to get there at least a half hour prior to the show to get a seat because the theater seats 900 people. We played putt putt golf (bring your own golf balls) and had few balls available. The adult pool is in the back of the ship and less crowded. The outdoor movie screen plays movies all day so check the Patter for listings. They do have different kind of dancing lessons as an activity. Passengers: We had many different ages and nationalities on board. I was surprised at the number of scooters and wheelchair people on board. There were a few I thought that they boarded to die out at sea. Yes, my husband and I did enjoy the cruise. It was okay but not great. We do about three major vacations per year and I would have to get a really good deal to cruise with Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
General info I am late 30's, my husband is mid 40's. This trip was to celebrate our 15 year anniversary and it was our first time to Europe. The #1 piece of advice I would give to anyone on a trip like this is to do your ... Read More
General info I am late 30's, my husband is mid 40's. This trip was to celebrate our 15 year anniversary and it was our first time to Europe. The #1 piece of advice I would give to anyone on a trip like this is to do your research and plan very far ahead in order to make the most out of every day - one day in a major European city requires much advance planning and a decision making about what is important to you to see. We felt like this was a terrific way to see Europe for the first time and would recommend it to anyone. It was truly a trip of a lifetime and enabled us to get the flavor of a lot of different countries in one shot. We did private tours in every port but 1 and definitely feel this is the way to go to make the most out of your trip. We had impeccable weather - it was high 70's with a slight breeze and not a cloud in sight every day but one. We felt so fortunate to have this amazing weather in the beginning of May (the trip was May 2 - 18). Flights & pre cruise in Barcelona We flew Air France out of LAX via Paris to Barcelona and again via Paris back home from Venice. I had heard flying through Paris was a nightmare but that wasn't our experience - our flights coming and going were on time and comfortable and the service was outstanding and the food was even good and all luggage made it safely - phew! We stayed 2 nights at the Le Meridien Barcelona pre cruise. It was a perfect location on Las Ramblas and very comfortable and we had terrific service. We had 2 full days in Barcelona and feel like we barely scratched the surface. We could have easily spent a week there. Barcelona proved to be one of our favorite stops of the entire trip. The first day we took a 2 hours walking tour of the Gothic Quarter - this was an excellent way to start our time in the city and we learned a lot about the history of old Barcelona. Thoroughly enjoyed this tour and it was very inexpensive. After our walking tour we went to the Picasso Museum, then Citadel Park, then wandered through the Gothic Quarter on our own and of course stopped for tapas and sangria in the later afternoon to give our feet a break. Later that night we went to see the magic fountains at Montjuic. This was very, very special and a must see in Barcelona if you're there overnight! One of the highlights for us. Don't miss it! Day 2 in Barcelona was spent in the Eixample District. We saw all the Gaudi sights. All were very, very crowded so we just took pictures to them from the street and didn't get close up.  We did go into Parc Guell which was well worth it. Very unique area with beautiful city views. Also a must see! We had purchased a one day pass for the HOHO bus but every time we tried to get on it the wait was 30 to 60 minutes so we always ended up giving up and walking (we hate lines!!). If I were to go again I would probably just skip out on the HOHO bus and walk everywhere or hail a cab if I get too tired. I'm not sure if we just hit the HOHO bus on a bad day (there were lots of ships in port). Maybe its not always like that. Before heading to the ship we went to take out some cash at an ATM on the Ramblas. Our card was eaten up and we could not get it back. Thankfully we had a secondary ATM card. Make sure you have a backup plan for getting cash!  We boarded the ship at about 4 PM. Embarkation took about 10 minutes. We took a cab from the hotel and it was a snap. The ship - Ruby Princess Wow - what a beauty! This was our 6the Princess cruise and this ship was the most impressive so far. This cruise was so port intensive that we felt we barely got to enjoy all the wonderful amenities onboard. But what we did utilize we couldn't have been happier with. The staff was impeccable - the best service we've ever had onboard Princess (its always good but this was over the top). The matire d' hotel, Generoso Mazzione, was an absolute gem. He and his staff paid attention to every detail and went far and away beyond any service I would ever expect on a ship with 3,000 passengers. The food was overall the best food we have ever had on a cruise. Night after night, day after day, the food was impeccable. We had anytime dining and the head waiter, Godwin, had the same table for 2 reserved for us in the Da Vinci dining room every night regardless of what time we showed up. Our server, Grisana, became our friend. We were fortunate enough to enjoy the Chef's Table one night. It has been well reported on already so I won't be redundant but suffice it say it was one of the best meals we have ever had (and we're major foodies) and the VIP treatment that comes with the experience is so over the top that we just couldn't believe it. We will never, ever forget that special night! Truly a highlight of the trip. We didn't see as much entertainment as we normally do since we were so exhausted at night. We did manage to catch all 3 Broadway style shows and they were all very good - Once Upon a Dream was downright phenomenal. So innovative and unique - the best show we've ever seen on a cruise ship by far! Don't miss it!We had a balcony stateroom on the Baja deck. We originally had an inside cabin because we were thinking we'd barely be around enough to enjoy a balcony so why pay for it? We re-thought it a few months prior to the trip and I am so glad we did! At the end of each day we were so exhausted and drained we were so happy to have a nice room and balcony to relax in! Well worth the extra money - especially for a cruise this long. One other noteworthy item - Ultimate Balcony Dining. We did this the night after sailing away from Istanbul. Wow - what an experience! The biggest lobster tail we've ever had and the filet was great too. Neither of could finish our meal which almost never happens (we're big eaters!). I highly recommend this experience - truly special in every way. AS luck would have it we had an incredible sunset that night too. The 2 servers even came in and sang "Happy Anniversary to you" with a cake and a candle. They were so sweet! It was the perfect way to end an incredible day and we would do it again in a minute. The ports: Monaco We had a tour with Michele at: www.revelationtours.com We went to St. Paul de Vence, then drove through Nice on the way to Eze, then finished the day in Monte Carlo. We shared the tour with 6 other members of our roll call. Both SP de Vence & Eze were incredible - two villages that time seems to have just passed by. We thoroughly enjoyed them both but if you can only see one I think I would pick Eze - just slightly more charming and a little less crowded. But either one is fantastic and we were so happy we got to spend time in each of them. Nice was just OK - I'm glad we didn't spend any time there. We live in Southern CA and it felt a lot like home to us. We enjoyed our time in Monte Carlo. We went inside the cathedral and walked around the casino area and then through the park near the cathedral which is just lovely. Michele was terrific - very flexible with our schedule (we had some confusion with our ship's docking time) and he was also very informative - we learned a lot about the history of the area, etc. We really enjoyed having him as our guide. He also took us to a few lookout points with incredible views where we got some of our best pictures of the whole trip. Of all the ports, Monaco was the one we were least excited about prior to the trip - but after going there we felt differently. This was a very, very memorable day and we absolutely loved the area and it is truly unique in every way. We'd go there again in a heartbeat. Livorno We toured with Guido from: www.tuscanyinmypocket.com We cannot say enough about the day we had with Guido. I actually got emotional saying goodbye to him - that is how much he touched our heart. He made this day special and memorable in every way. He was born and raised in Florence and everywhere we went people we honking and waving at him like he owned the place. He would pull us up to the door of each major site - right into the square amidst crowds of people - and get is into the sites with no line. We felt like celebrities. It was crazy. His knowledge of the region is simply astounding, and his passion for his home comes through in everything he says. We spent the first half of the day in Florence. There's so much to see there - we needed 3 days! We did see the original David - a must see in my opinion. Absolutely mind blowing - the size, the detail. We will never forget it. We of course went to the duomo and spent a little time in the area around it. We also went to Santa Croce cathedral and saw the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, etc. We loved everything about Florence. A big city with a small town feel. Definitely on our list of places to return to! After Florence we went to Chianti. Guido took us to a family owned winery called Montagliari. We sat outside overlooking the vineyards and had the best meal of the entire trip at the winery. Caprese w/ homemade mozzarella and home-grown tomatoes, homemade pasta with wild boar sauce, balls of spinach with gorgonzola sauce, and Italian apple pie, all accompanied by a bottle of Chianti of course! After lunch we toured the wine caves and the balsameria where they age the balsamic vinegar, then we finished with wine tasting in the tasting room.  The winery and surrounding area were incredibly beautiful - green and lush everywhere you looked. The hospitality at the winery was over the top - we felt like we were at someone's home. This day was one we will never forget. It was special in every way and meeting Guido was one of the highlights of the entire vacation. I cannot say enough about him and about this tour. Civitavecchia We used:www.limoinrome.com We joined someone else's tour from our roll call. There were 8 of us. Our driver was just OK. He was nice but never said a word after we got into the van as we were heading to Rome. I felt like I didn't learn nearly as much this day as we could have. He seemed more like a driver than a guide. He just kind of dropped us off at sites and we were left to figure it out on our own. We saw all the must-see sites: Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, Colesseum, Pantheon Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Forum, etc. One place we went that is not as typical is the Basilica of Sao Paulo. This was probably the most beautiful church we saw in Italy. And because its slightly off the beaten path it wasn't crowded. I highly recommend visiting this church. It also has the remains of Peter and the actual chains that he wore when imprisoned. Very impressive building. After dashing from site to site we grabbed a quick sandwich and then met up with our licensed historian at the Vatican for a 2 hour tour. I cannot imagine visiting the Vatican without a guide. It is so enormous and there's so much to see and learn - we would have been lost without her. She was a terrific guide and this was definitely the highlight of the day. Everything we saw at the Vatican Museums blew our mind but the Sistine Chapel is in a class all its own. Do not miss this! Naples Our guide was Fabrizio Fiorinelli at: www.amalfi-drive.com This was an incredible day and a nice change in pace after running ragged all day in Rome. Fabrizio was so professional and sweet and gave us terrific background on the area without talking too much. We first went to Sorrento. Wow - what a place! The charm and the lemons everywhere - just a really special, unique little town. We went to the Limonoro Limoncello Factory for some tasting and of course walked out with 2 bags of purchases. They are so friendly in there and when I asked if I could take a picture of the guy making the limoncello he invited me to come in and be in the picture with him, holding the bottle as though I were making it. Just a fun, happy place! We had about 90 minutes to walk around and explore the nooks and crannies of this special place. From there we headed to Positano. All I can say is - WOW! You approach the town from above and the car can only go to the top of town. From there you can only walk as you wind through the shops and galleries and head towards the sea. There is a certain magic or mystique to this place that it is hard to describe - a definitely must see on the Amalfi Coast! We hope to go back someday and stay for a few days. After leaving Positano as we were winding along the road Fabrizio stops and there's a man standing on the road that hands him something. We are wondering what in the world is going on. Fabrizio them hands the package to me and tells me it's a gift. I open it and it's a plate with a hand painted design and lemons on it and it says "Amalfi Drive 2009" and has my name at the bottom. What a special, thoughtful touch. I will always cherish that plate and the memories of this special day. From there Fabrizio took us to La Tagliata for Lunch. It sits high up in the mountain, overlooking Positano and the sea. The minute we sat down (there were 6 in our group) - they started bringing food and wine. We had NONE - yes NINE - antipasti, then 5 different pastas and all the red or white wine we could drink. Then they brought 7 desserts and shots of limoncello for all. This was probably the 2nd best meal we had on our trip (after the Chianti winery) and we were shocked when the bill came and it was only $25 per person. At home a meal like that would have been at least $50 per person. This restaurant has amazing views and the service and attentiveness from the staff is top notch. What an incredible experience! Now it was time to head to Pompeii. We can't say enough about how impressed we were with Pompeii. We paid the additional fees for a licensed guide (I highly recommend this!!). He was also named Fabrizio and he was a delight. We learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed this peek into 1st century Roman life. Pompeii is not to be missed. It was great going tin the afternoon because it wasn't crowded at all. Our guide said the first half of the day you can barely get around its so crowded. When we got back to the car Fabrizio #1 had a pizza waiting for us. He had heard us talking earlier about how we wanted to be sure to try a pizza from Naples since that's where it was invented. This was another thoughtful, personal touch that really impressed us. I can't say enough about Fabrizio and his kind demeanor. He went out of his way to make our day special and he succeeded. I would hire him again without hesitation. Sea day Boy we were ready for this. The exhaustion was really setting in. We had read how tired you are on this trip but nothing could have prepared us for this level of exhaustion. I slept in til 10 AM, my husband slept till 1 PM. I got a pedicure (which was so-so, not nearly as good as the spa pedis I get at home). We sat by the pool for a couple of hours then took a nap. It was really nice to rejuvenate and catch up no rest. We needed it! Mykonos This port was a nice diversion - casual, beach-y, easy. We rented a quad from: www.okmykonos.com This was a terrific way to explore the island. We rode all over the place and finished the day at Stefanos Beach right in front of where the ship was docked. A lovely island and lots of beautiful beaches. I highly recommend renting a quad or moped so you can explore on your own. We got lost a couple of times which was half the fun. The island is small so its easy to find your way if you get turned around. We felt completely safe on the quad. We rented 1 and rode on it together. Istanbul Since we were in Istanbul on a Monday we had to take a ships tour if we wanted to see the Hagia Sofia. We reluctantly signed up for the "Best of Istanbul" tour and hoped for the best. We were pleasantly surprised. It was not bad at all. Our guide was terrific and we didn't feel like we were in a cattle herd like I had feared. I talked to other people who took this same tour on a different bus and they said it was an absolutely nightmare. I think that bottom line is - when you take a ships tour in a city like this it's a crap shoot. A lot depends on the guide and the timing of your landing at certain sites. We enjoyed our day very much and were so happy to be able to see the Hagia Sofia. I read somewhere else that someone was very "underwhelmed" by it - I guess everyone is different......because it was the highlight of the day for us. The history of that building is so impressive and to see the Muslim and Christian relics side by side is really something. I would classify this as a must-see. We also visited the Blue Mosque - wow - what a beautiful and unique place of worship. We then headed to Topkapi Palace where we toured the palace, then had a very delicious lunch in a lovely restaurant overlooking the water, then toured the Harem. Do not miss the Harem! It is a fascinating look into the life of the sultans and their families. After the Harem we had about an hour in the Grand Bazaar. A really fun experience - I felt an hour was plenty - its kind of the same 10 shops repeated over and over again. We were ready to go after an hour. We got a little lost and came out the wrong exit - the place is huge! We had some momentary panic as it was getting closer to the time to meet up with our group, but we found our way and met up with 2 minutes to spare. Close call!! This was a very memorable day - Istanbul is a fascinating city and absolutely beautiful! Just walking over to Topkapi Palace from the Hagia Sofia was lovely - beautiful boutique hotels, some newly renovated apartments - very, very charming. We are so happy we had the opportunity to visit such a unique and fascinating city. Ephesus Tour guides in Turkey are very affordable so we decided to do a private tour here with just the 2 of us. We used EKOL tours and had Ozgur as our guide. It was nice to have a private tour and Ozgur was a delight and was very knowledgeable. We were surprised to find that Kusadasi is an absolutely beautiful, modern port. We were able to wander around there for a couple of hours after out tour - we did some shopping and sat down for a beer at a waterside cafe. I highly recommend allowing time to spend in Kusadasi itself. It is beautiful and the people were very friendly. Our tour took us to Mary's house, Ephesus and the Terrace Houses, and the tomb of St. John. Ancient Ephesus was so impressive and we felt the Terrace Houses are a must see. They are still excavating there and you wouldn't believe how well preserved everything is! Ephesus overall was one of the most impressive sites from the whole trip. We are students of the Bible so it really meant a lot to us to see in person an area that is often mentioned in the Bible. Even if you aren't a Bible student, I cannot imagine anyone not being impressed with this ancient city. Having a private tour was the way to go - we arrived at every site about 30 minutes ahead of all the large buses so the crowds weren't too bad. It was great to get at our own pace since it was just the 2 of us. The geography in this area was beautiful - rolling green hills down to the sea - it reminded us a lot of home (southern CA). Athens We shared a tour with 8 other members of our roll call we used Paul from: www.athenstaxi.org Paul was very nice and was informative. We were surprised at how dirty Athens is - there was a lot of graffiti everywhere. This was one of least favorite cities. We visited the Acropolis and all its sites, then went to the National Archaeological Museum. Afterwards we had a few hours to wander the Plaka and we used that time to have lunch there too. After that we explored the ancient Roman & Greek agoras - both fascinating and lovely and worth seeing! The National Archaeological Museum was the highlight of the day for us. Very, very impressive collection. We only had an hour there and wished we had longer to explore the many treasures. The shopping in the Plaka was so-so - lots of junk and we could have used less time there. We did have a wonderful lunch there at one of the tavernas. We sat outside and enjoyed watching all the hussle and bussle. It was a welcome break because it was very hot that day! Sea Day Another welcome break to gear up for our 3 day Venice extravaganza! And more beautiful weather to boot. We spent the whole day on a lounge just outside the sanctuary - so peaceful and quiet! We napped on and off. A great, great day! Venice Sailing into Venice was quite a site to behold. This was the only cloudy day of our trip but even that didn't dampen the excitement of our sail-in. We stayed on or balcony - I heard it was very crowded on the upper decks. We were happy to be on the side of the ship that sailed by St. Marks. What a memorable way to see Venice for the first time - from the water! They had the Andrea Bocelli music paying up on deck and also had it piped in through the tv so we were able to turn it on I the cabin and hear it out on deck. It was truly magical and lived up to the hype! Our ship sailed in at 1 and we had a tour lined up at 2 PM along with 6 other roll call members. We were picked up by a water taxi and had a 1 hour Grand Canal tour followed by a 3 hour walking tour. We used: www.tours-italy.com Our guide, Sabine, was so passionate about Venice! Our land tour started at St. Mark's Basilica. After going inside we then began a tour of the off the beaten path areas .This was incredible! We saw where Venetians actually live and learned so much about the history of the city. We never would have found any of these places on our own. It was a terrific introduction to the city. After the tour we all went our separate ways. We shopped a little then headed towards the ship. We got lost and it took a couple of hours to finally make it there. We were wiped out! The next morning was disembarkation day. We opted to self-disembark and it was an absolute breeze! We were among the first off the ship and another member of our roll call had arranged for a private water taxi for 6 of us. The taxi dropped them off at their hotel with their luggage then dropped us and our luggage off. We stayed at the Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo, just a stone's throw from the St. Stae vaporetto stop. Loved everything about it - including the location and price! They welcomed us with open arms even though we arrived at the hotel at 8:30 AM. They invited us in for breakfast. We had some coffee and got our bearings and headed out for the Secret Itineraries tour at the Doge's Palace. We took our time getting there since it wasn't until after 11. We took the elevator to the top of the campanile at St. Mark's Square - great views! It was early enough in the morning so there was not wait to go up. Good timing! The Secret Itineraries tour was awesome! I highly recommend it. The Doge's Palace itself is really something too. After our tour we wandered around there a bit. We could have spent more time there but we were getting hungry. Off we went to Cafe Florian for lunch and of course champagne! Sitting there in St. Mark's Square with the music of the orchestras shipping champagne...WOW! Dreams to come true. It was amazing. We then headed to our hotel where our bags had already been delivered in our room. We chilled out for the afternoon and had dinner at a cafe near the Rialto Bridge. It was a memorable meal with great views and terrific people watching! The following day we visited the Accademia - very impressive! I had pre-reserved tickets with a specific entrance time. It turned out it wasn't needed - there was no line. But you never know. Afterwards we had pizza and beer at the pizza place alongside the Accademia bridge - YUM! We just kept saying :" I can't believe we're really here!" From there we toured Ca' Rezonnico - which we really enjoyed.....we paid the additional fee for the audio tour which was well worth it.  For dinner we went near the St. Mark's square area to a restaurant that Generoso had recommended to us - excellent meal and a terrific way to end our trip! It was called Centrale Bar and Lounge. Warning - its not cheap! Venice is such a magical place - we had very, very high expectations and they were exceeded. It ended up being our favorite city overall from the whole trip and we can't wait to go back. It is unlike any other place we've ever been, and I would imagine, unlike any place on earth. What a perfect place to end this vacation of a lifetime! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
My husband and I are new to Princess.  We have cruised Carnival and Royal Caribbean before.  We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on the Ruby Princess.  We picked Ruby Princess specifically for their ports.  We picked ... Read More
My husband and I are new to Princess.  We have cruised Carnival and Royal Caribbean before.  We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on the Ruby Princess.  We picked Ruby Princess specifically for their ports.  We picked a balcony for this cruise.  We had B756 which was at the back of the ship.  We loved the position of our cabin because it allowed us to sit on the balcony each night and sip wine as we left each of the ports.  Our cabin steward was spectacular too!  Our cabin was always well taken care of.  We did notice though they didn't make any "towel animals" on this cruise.  The food was good too!  We did "Anytime Dining" and loved the flexibility.  We did make a standing dinner time in Da Vinci dining room each night at 8:30 with the head waiter, Gardwyn.  I loved each night being greeted by him!!  Our waiter, Antonio was extra special.  He paid attention to all the details and looked out for us each night.  We did try both specialty restaurants on the ship.  The Crown Grill was excellent.  The steaks were great and service was exceptional.  Our favorite specialty restaurant was Sabatini's.  They fed us a 16 course meal.  The service was exceptional too.  They sang at our table for our 25th anniversary.  Our view was out of this world and super romantic.  We were both happy with our experience with Princess.  Their way of getting 3000 passengers on board and off the ship is much better than any other cruise we have gone on.  We both were happy with the nightly entertainment, but felt Royal Caribbean had better nightly shows.  They were more "Vegas like" than Princess, but were still happy with what we did see.  The ship was mainly people/couples in their 40's and older.  We did see many families, but felt it was more of an older crowd.  We both loved the Ruby and are already looking at where else we can travel with Princess.  They treat you wonderfully on this cruise!!  Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
The Ruby Princess is a wonderful ship.  Staff were very attentive and friendly.  The common areas were very clean and well maintained.  Food was wonderful.  Don't miss the Crown Grill, well worth the $25 extra for a great ... Read More
The Ruby Princess is a wonderful ship.  Staff were very attentive and friendly.  The common areas were very clean and well maintained.  Food was wonderful.  Don't miss the Crown Grill, well worth the $25 extra for a great meal.  Those who get a balcony room and you want an unforgettable, romantic, "lifestyles of the rich and famous" meal, reserve a balcony dining experience.  They only offer four per night, so reserve early.   For a quiet after dinner drink find Adagio on the 16th deck aft!  Try their variety of olives!Unfortunately, wind prevented us from getting to Rome.  But the extra day at sea was a nice break.  This is a "marathon cruise", not for the "just relax" crowd.We visit more than 6 ports, but he pull down did not allow for more.  Athens and Ephesus were the two not reviewed below.  Visit the ruins at Ephesus and see the Acropolis, they are not to be missed.  Both days exceeded 100 degrees so bring an umbrella to creat your own shade! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
This is a revised version of my "Live From the Ruby Princess." Accordingly, some of it is written in the present tense, as it was just happening. Before each cruise, I always learn so much from folks here on Cruise Critic. This ... Read More
This is a revised version of my "Live From the Ruby Princess." Accordingly, some of it is written in the present tense, as it was just happening. Before each cruise, I always learn so much from folks here on Cruise Critic. This time, however, I have to point out a particular member. If you are planning a trip that includes Italy, and plan to use the trains, you must search for GPSLover and read his or her information on Italian trains. No, do not read it. Study it. Print it all out and take it with you on your cruise. The information is invaluable to negotiating the trains, the ticketing and the schedules. I=ll add one thing that I learned about the trains. I tried to maneuver the English language version of the Italian Trenitalia website for quite some prior to this cruise. Then I discovered www.RailEurope.com It contains all the same information except its user friendly and all in English. I was even able to pre-order several of our tickets that I=ll discuss later, and have them shipped to our house prior to our trip. It really wasn=t necessary, as I=ll explain, but it was nice have them in hand prior to leaving the US. LAX to Rome We booked Continental after a great experience last February for our first trip on CO. This one was even better. We flew coach to Newark, and then cashed in a ton of AMEX points to do Business/First to Rome. It was well worth it. Excellent service. Incredible food. And we arrived in Rome at 7:30 a.m. ready to hit the streets on the Thursday prior to our cruise. We had planned to take the 30 minute train from FCO to the Termini Station, one Metro stop away from our hotel. However, as we were approaching the train station at FCO, a man approached us and offered transport directly to our hotel with some other people for $15 Eu per person. As the train was $11 Eu per person, this seemed like quite a deal and we felt safety in numbers (there were 6 of us). The trip into town was quite quick and scenic. We met another nice couple from Houston that had also flown in on our flight. Within 40 or so minutes, we were at our hotel, the Hotel Napoleon, which was recommended here on Cruise Critic. The Hotel Napoleon is a small (75 rooms) 3-star, family-owned hotel in an "ok" area of Rome. At $99 Eu per night, it was hard to complain. The rooms are nice. A little small, but you are not in them much other than to sleep. The bathroom was newly renovated and spotless. The A/C ... one of the best we had in Europe. The Metro Station for Vittorio Emanuelle is literally just outside the hotel's front door, and our room was ready at 10 a.m. (which may not always be the case) upon our arrival! All-in-all, a good choice. We heard from another couple that they had gotten a great deal at the St. George through priceline.com, which is a 5-star hotel. I've only started using Priceline, and will probably do that in the future. We have to plan our vacations so far in advance, it's hard to leave pre-cruise lodging up to chance, but in this economy, we probably could have done better hotel-wise by waiting. Nonetheless, the staff at the Hotel Napoleon is wonderful. Roberto the Managing Director greets you by name and hosted a little get-together with lots of wine, cheese and dried meets on Friday evening. Nice touch. Thursday - Rome The Rome sub-way system, while not the cleanest, is very easy to maneuver. There are two lines. Red and Blue. The self-service ticket machines are just before the turn-styles. Select English and it will walk you right through the process. You can purchase passes for single trips ($1 Eu each way), the day and I believe you can purchase a 3-day pass through the machine. Just don't lose that ticket. We purchased passes for each of the two days, which allows you to jump on and off the Metro and the city bus. We never felt our safety was compromised, as there are always people around. Just keep your wits about you, wear a money belt (got a great one from Magellan that attaches to the belt and tucks inside your shorts or pants) and you'll be fine. Just be sure to make sure which direction you're headed. You can print a quick map online of the subway system, and iPhone has an application for the major Metros of the world. After a quick post-flight shower, it was off to the Vatican. The Metro stop at the Vittorio Emmanuelle is on the Red line, and the trains on the Red Line are air-conditioned (yea!). The stop for the Vatican is Ottaviano - San Pietro. We made the mistake of going to the next stop, Cipro, as it is marked "Musei Vaticani." But the walk from this station is up a huge flight of stairs. The walk from the Ottaviano station is much easier. I had pre-reserved tickets to the Vatican Museum through a ticket broker, goporta.com. You may be able to book directly with the Vatican, but for a relatively small service charge, goporta arranged for the tickets, e-mailed the confirmation and we went straight to the head of the line at the Museum. When you approach the Museum, there is a long, long, long line to the left. At the right, we saw some official looking people in blue shirts. We approached them, showed them our vouchers and they showed us the line (or no line, that is) for entrance to the Museum. We literally walked right in. Be forewarned, signage in Italy is TERRIBLE. I think even if you read Italian, it would be hard to figure out. But do not be afraid to ask questions. We had stopped in the Gift Shop on the way in, made some purchases, and the ladies there were very helpful. They explained that the actual entrance was two more flights up. We had taken a self-guided tour, and they explained we could purchase listening devices just before the entrance, which we did. The Vatican Museum is extremely overwhelming. And if you have issue with crowds, August is not the time to go. There really is too much to see. I had purchased a book on Italy from the "Top 10" series, so it was good to have a point of reference to see the important works. Otherwise, especially with some jet lagged, it all starts running together. Obviously the big draw at the Museum is the Sistine Chapel. It was amazing. But the crowd in the room was overwhelming to me. You literally were shoulder to shoulder with very little room to even turn around. Not that I'm paranoid, but it did make me think, if there were an earthquake or fire, there would be a lot of dead people in the Sistine Chapel because of the inability to move anywhere close to an exit. I really would have appreciated a bit of a wait in line, if they had limited entrance to the Chapel and cleared it every 15 minutes or so. But we got to see it. Here's a trick we learned too late. After viewing the Chapel, go back the way you came in and there apparently is a door that will take you right into the Basilica. The person who informed us of this said she just asked a guard and they showed her right where to go. Apparently, it is for guided tours, but as long as you have your ticket to the Museum, you have access to the Basilica as well. We did not know this beforehand. So we exited the Chapel with everyone else, walked the remainder of the Museum, which is quite long. We exited the Museum into the hot sun, and walked the perimeter of the Vatican wall to the front to the square. The square is magnificent, but the line to St. Peter's was even longer than the one to the Vatican. We were simply too hot and too tired to endure that line. If only we had known that we could have exited the Sistine Chapel through the back and gone right into the Basilica. I hope that helps someone else. We went back to the hotel, took another shower (in this heat, you take about 3 a day) and took a nap for a couple of hours. We got up and back onto the Metro to go see Fontana di Trevi. The Metro took us to square very near the fountain at the Barberini Metro stop, which is also on the Red Line. We had to ask questions as to which way to head from the Metro stop. If you have an iPhone, download a compass or take a small one with you. Otherwise, maps are almost useless. Trevi Fountain was crowded in the hot summer evening, but that made it part of the fun. We sat and enjoyed the fountain for a while and of course threw a coin in before leaving. We strolled the streets nearby and found a small restaurant and had a great dinner. We crossed back to the Metro station walking by the Fountain, now lighted in the night. Back to the hotel for that 3rd shower and fell into bed. Friday - Old Rome I had to get up early to finishing a nagging work project. WiFi is free in the hotel and quite fast. Be sure to bring an adapter for your dual voltage appliances. Make sure they are dual voltage, otherwise you will also need a voltage regulator. Most laptops are dual voltage, but I probably should have brought a small power surge adaptor. But no problems at all. I sat in the Hotel's "parlor" for lack of a better word from about 6 a.m. to 7:30. It was very quiet and I did not disturb Glenn who was still sleeping. The Hotel Napoleon offers a nice breakfast in the morning, including some hot items. This is included in your room charge. We had breakfast there all three days. We headed down to the Metro to the Colosseum (Colosseo). The Colosseo is on the Blue Line, so you have to take the Red Line one stop over to the Termini and change trains. The Blue Line is one flight up from the Red Line, but the trains are not air-conditioned. However, you are not only the train but for a few minutes. We later learned that the Hotel is about a 10-minute walk to the Colosseo, but in the heat of August, I'd still do the Metro, even though it takes about 40 minutes. The Metro stop for the Colosseo is literally across the street from the monument. Again, we had pre-booked reservations through goporta for an English speaking tour. We were early, and walked around the grounds for a bit. Then we approached the entrance. We forewarned, there are "guides" outside that look like they're from the Colosseum Museum asking for tours. They are not with the Museum. They try to convince you that you check in with them and pay the entrance / tour fee to them. If you already have reservations, take your voucher straight to the ticket windows. We obtained our ticket, were given a 9:30 tour sticker to put on our shirts and were told to go to a waiting area under the "red"sign ...again, a signage problem. We went through the turn-style and walked toward what appeared (and was) the entrance to the tour. We waited with another gentlemen, and waited and waited. Finally, at 9:45, Glenn went back to the tour window to find out what was going on. Turns out the "red" sign which we and the other gentlemen had missed was really "brown" and was just past the turn-style and to the right. Had we not asked, we would never have seen it as it is tucked away behind a column. We were given new stickers for the 10:15 tour and settled in for a few more minutes late. Personally, the Colosseum was the highlight of Rome for me. I have dreamed of seeing it as a child and it is spellbinding. You cannot appreciate the size of it until you are standing on the second level looking down to the floor and across to the other side. The tour was very informative and the guide responded to all of our questions. Truly an excellent experience and for very little money. There is no reason to pay for a high-priced tour or excursion. The Colosseum sells itself. Your ticket to the Colosseum includes the Roman Forum. We left the Colosseum and studied the poor signage for a bit, figuring out where the entrance to the Forum was. Once there, we saw the huge line, but since you already have your ticket, you by-pass the line and go straight to the turn-styles ... and right in you go. (Probably could have done the same thing at St. Peter's, but didn't think about it until the Forum.) By this point, it was HOT! We took small totes umbrellas in our day packs, which really helps. There are parasols for sale all around, but a same-sex couple with parasols would have been a bit much. Nonetheless, many people commented what a good idea it was to have a small umbrella. A hat is a good idea too, as well as a bottle of water for the hike through the Forum. The Forum was very interesting. We had not rented an audio-tour, and that was just fine. Sometimes it's better to just walk, look and imagine what it was like. At the end of the Forum is a long staircase up to the Capitol building. There's a large piazza up there with a cold fountain to splash your face. The Capitol Museum is right there, but we were getting tired and wanted some lunch. I dug out the Top 10 book and saw that the Capitol Museum has a cafeteria on the second floor overlooking the city. What a find! We had a delicious lunch overlooking the city. Even in the cafeteria, signage was lacking. If you serve yourself, the seating is inside near these huge windows. If you want waiter service, it is on the covered deck outside. We had already gotten our food cafeteria-style, so we sat inside next to one of the large open windows where there was a great breeze. It was splendid. After lunch, we strolled out onto to the adjacent deck for some of the best views of the city. Rejuvenated after lunch, we struck out from the Capitol to the Pantheon. We had almost skipped it ... what a mistake that would have been. The building is magnificent. Words cannot describe it. Very near the Pantheon (on the side across the street) is a Minerva Cathedral. It is nothing to look at on the outside, and we basically stumbled into it. BE SURE TO GO IN IT. Stunning. And Michelangelo's "Risen Christ" is there, immediately left of the altar. The square in front of the Pantheon was packed, but there was literally NO ONE inside this beautiful church just next door off the square. From the Pantheon, it is a short walk to the Piazza Novano, one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome. We took some pictures there and, as the heat of the day was increasing, we decided to head back to the Hotel for shower #2 and a nap. There is no Metro station near the Pantheon, so we grabbed a cab for about $5 Eu straight to the hotel. Later in the early evening, we stopped by Roberto's wine tasting party, which was very nice. Then we headed out to the Spanish Steps, which is also on the Red Line at the Spanga Metro stop. The Spanish Steps is in the heart of the high-end shopping district, and is quite a scene. It was fun just to sit there for a while and enjoy the sights. Some folks had gotten a bottle of wine, some cheese and bread and were enjoying it on the steps. After a while, we strolled down the streets and found an outdoor restaurant literally in an alley. The food, as usual, was wonderful. I had wanted to see the Colosseum at night. So we got back on the Metro, switched to the Blue Line at the Termini, and we were at the Colosseum in no time. What a sight all lit up. No crowds, and people just sitting along the wall across from the entrance quietly enjoying the view and the warm night air. I'm glad was saw the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, but this was the Rome I had read about as a child. I'll never forget this day. Saturday -- Embarkation OK, despite GPSLover's excellent train advice, getting to Civitavecchia by train ... not so much. We got up early on Saturday, and wanted to get to the ship just shy of noon before the heat really set in. We checked out, took our bags down the Metro, got to the Termini (remember, one stop away) and got up to the train station with no problems whatsoever. I had pre-ordered our tickets to Civitavecchia online and they were delivered in a matter of days via UPS. Probably did not need to do that, as the automated ticket stations are everywhere, but I had them in hand before leaving Los Angeles, which I liked. At GPSLover's suggestion, we spent the extra few Euros for 1st Class, as there is more room for luggage. The scheduled platforms are listed, but they are changed often and the train to Civitavecchia was no different. When purchased, tickets are good for months, so in order that they are "valid" for travel, you MUST validate them in the little yellow machines you see everywhere on the train station. You put each ticket in, and you hear it print the date and time on the ticket. Make sure to validate your ticket at the little yellow machines, as there are ticket checks sometimes and the fine is hefty! (The Metro is different. The Metro tickets are only valid a short time (like 90 minutes) from purchase, and they do check from time to time to see that you have your tickets. The train was about 10 minutes late getting into the station, and it was difficult to figure out which compartment we had been assigned to. (Again, signage is TERRIBLE). We finally figured it out, and our compartment was at the very front of the train all the way at the end of the platform. We scurried down there through all of the smokers catching their last puff before getting on board (ugh) and finally found our compartment. No sooner had we gotten on board than the doors slammed shut. Thinking this was GPSLover's reference to the quick train stops, we thought, "Whew! We made it." (GPSLover really covers everything ... even how to get luggage on and off the train, which was helpful. One person gets on the train, the other hands the luggage up. Sounds silly, but it helped to visualize it before we got there.) What we hadn't yet realized, the slamming doors was due to the train losing power. We made our way into the so-called "first class" cabin, which was OK, save for the lack of A/C. We found our seats, which were not together, but made due with another woman who was traveling to the ship with her two small children. So we got settled and bought a couple of bottles of water from a boy who was obviously not an employee of Trenitalia. We sat in the heat. The A/C would come in intermittently, but would not stay on. Our train was due to leave at 9:35. At 10:30, people became quite upset. We had no word from anyone. Finally, a train conductor came through and announced in both Italian and English that the A/C in that compartment was not working. We would have to leave our luggage there, and stand in another compartment. Well, pandemonium broke out. Much screaming and yelling in Italian. There were no other trains left in the station, as all the morning trains had pulled out. We figured, by the time they got everyone off this car and onto another car, plus trying to get back into the car to get our luggage at the stop and then get off ... we quickly made the decision to get off the train now and get a cab. The other person from the ship agreed, so the 5 of use (3 adults and 2 small children) grabbed our luggage and dashed. We got the front of the station and negotiated a cab far for 2 cars at $150 Eu for each cab. Ok, so much for trying to save money and travel like an Italian. But, had the train gotten off, it would have been fine. Just another bump in the road. This was our driver's second day on the job and her first trip to Civitavecchia! But she was adorable and we actually have a fun time driving to the port. We got to the ship and were on board within minutes. We dropped our carry ons at the cabin and headed straight to the Sanctuary to purchase the cruise-long package. Much has been written about whether the Sanctuary is a "rip off," "waste of space," etc. For us, it is the best thing we've done on Princess second only perhaps to the Chef's Table. We used to get balcony cabins, but found we rarely used them. I know other people live on their balconies, but all it takes is a smoker nearby to ruin that experience (as has happened to us in the past). So we get a window cabin, and put the money into the Sanctuary without even thinking about it. We were there at 12:30, and there were already about 10 of the 20 or so cruise-long loungers available already booked. It is getting VERY popular. They only have 20 or so available for the whole cruise. The remainder are sold on a day-by-day, first come, first served basis. We then grabbed some lunch, and then headed back to the cabin. Our luggage arrived a short time later. We unpacked, and headed up to the Sanctuary. Being in port, it was quite warm, so just before sail-a-way we headed back to the cabin. Civitavecchia is a major commercial sea port, so sail-a-way is not particularly scenic. We thought we'd nap for a bit and then get ready for dinner. I guess jet lag and the bustle of Rome had set in b/c we woke up about 8:30, went to Horizon Court, and back to bed. Sunday - Monte Carlo We woke up about 4:30 a.m., so at 5 we went up and had breakfast. Being in the Horizon Court that early was new to us. Virtually no one there, and all the fresh food for breakfast was just set out. It was great! Back to the cabin. We cat-napped until 7 and went to the gym for a work out. Here's where things get a little dicey. Glenn finished his work out and wanted to grab a little nosh at the Horizon Court. I was still on the treadmill, so he went on his own. I got back to the cabin and he was not there. He came hobbling in a short time later, having fallen by the pool. Apparently, they wash the pool deck down around 7 (others have commented they have seen the same thing). Glenn slipped on the linoleum path immediately around the pool and went down. He did not hit his head, but badly wrenched and skinned up his knee and could not get up. Another passenger came to his aid, and security and the nurse were called. No need to go into it here, but Glenn reported that the nurse was basically scolding him for walking on the wet surface and inquiring whether he had a pre-existing knee condition. Huh? The nurse said he could see the doctor, but that, of course, there would be a charge. I understand that, but Glenn said she showed no compassion whatsoever, did not offer so much as a bandage for his bleeding knee cap, and it was the fellow passenger who went and got ice for his knee. Later we had to fill out an accident report, and a security office interviewed him. We're healthy and in our late 40s, but Glenn was and remains in significant pain, and I'm hoping he did not tear his ACL. The only person who has shown any concern was from the dining room (I think it must have been Generoso, the Maitre D' extraordinare), who called after we missed dinner that night and the next night and wanted to know if there was anything he could bring us. Oh well, another bump in the road. We tendered in Monte Carlo, but when we left the ship (probably around 9:30 a.m.), all of the tours were gone and we simply walked to the tender deck and got right on a tender to shore. We had planned on walking Monte Carlo, but that was now not possible. Even able bodied, I would not recommend it. So, off the cuff we rented a car directly across the street from the harbor. We got a cute, brand new Fiat 500 for about $100 Eu. Why we can't build cars like these in the U.S., I do not know. Fast, fun and sporty. We ended up driving to Eze, France. Getting up into Eze with a bum leg was probably not the best of ideas, but we took it very slowly and got to see some of it. It was amazing. We had lunch and just took in the views. We headed back to Monte Carlo and drove by the Casino (long line outside). We decided to go to the Palace grounds. Again, signage ... very confusing. We finally found a parking garage and escalators for the most part. One section we had to walk up, which was slow and difficult, only to later on find an unmarked elevator tucked back in an obscure corner. Boy, to be disabled in these countries must just be hell. (Since writing this in a "Live From" another Cruise Critic Member posted some GREAT information on Monte Carlo. Search under the Princess forum for "Live From Ruby Princess" and you should see the information on Monte Carlo added by another member.) The Palace grounds are incredible. The Cathedral where Grace and Rainier were married was exquisite. The Chapel just inside the front door to the left (which no one seemed to even see of stop by) with the Crucifix was unbelievable. Stunning. We saw Rainier's and Grace's tombs and then headed over to the Palace where the flag was flying indicating that Prince Albert was in residence. Very short line to tour the Palace. I'm not sure people even realized you could go in b/c it's not really marked. The tour is self-guided with a headset and is only 30 minutes. It is well worth it. You get to see the main courtyard where the Royal Family receives dignataries, as well as several of the Palace rooms. Well worth the time and nominal entrance fee. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed in the Palace. We would have liked to have spent more time on the Palace grounds, but time was running short. So we headed back down to the port, parked the car near the rental agency, and dropped the keys in the after-hours box. We got back to the ship, some more Advil into Glenn, showers and settled down. Glenn did not feel up to going to dinner yet, so we just got something from the Horizon Court and turned in early again. Once again, we were up early the next day for a fresh breakfast in the Horizon Court. Monday -- Livorno (Florence / Pisa) We docked in Livorno. Thanks to some other Cruise Critic members, we disregarded what was in the Patter, as to how the taxies outside the gate only ran to Pisa and/or Florence, and how you had to wait for the shuttle to get to town. Some misnomers ... some on Cruise Critic have chastised Princess for charging $8.50 Eu round trip on a shuttle to town. Princess makes it very clear in many places, it does not operate the shuttle. That being said, the Livorno port is a huge commercial port, and you cannot walk to the gate. So, you either have to take a ship tour, the shuttle or a taxi to get out of the port. However, we left the ship almost immediately after it docked at 7 a.m. We went out to where there was an army of taxies. For $20 Eu, instead of $17 Eu for the shuttle (which only takes you to the center of town), we were taken directly to the train station where we caught the 7:30 a.m. train to Florence. We were in Florence by 9 a.m. From the train station, we walked to a cafe and had some delicious pastries. Then we walked to the Duomo. As it was Monday, all of the museums were closed, so we basically walked around the Duomo and through the surrounding shops. We got in line to go into the Duomo, but the young lady who was just in front of us (who happens to live about 20 minutes from us in Los Angeles) informed us of the 486 steps, which was not possible with Glenn's leg. We got back to the train station and headed back to Pisa. We bought a ticket for the bus and finally figured out which bus to take (again, no signage!). (As walk out of the train station, walk across the street to the ROSA (red) bus line.) A short trip away, we were at the grounds of the leaning tower. It is very impressive. We walked the grounds for about an hour (no climbing the tower this trip). It was very exciting and the duomo, cathedral and tower are beautiful. We headed back to the bus stop, which was packed. So we grabbed a cab back to the train station for $7 Eu. Made the 2:30 train and we were back to the ship around 3. A quick but fun day. Napoli - Amalfi Coast Today we toured the Amalfi Coast. I had found Fabrizio's tour (info@allarounditaly.net) through Cruise Critic. If you search Cruise Critic, you will see that he has a good reputation here, and his company did not disappoint. We were met by Carlos promptly after the ship docked at just after 8 a.m. in Naples. I had met up with John and Joyce and Howard and Rachel (and Deb and John who had to cancel their cruise) here on Cruise Critic, and we embarked on what would turn to be a splendid day. At $500 Eu for the day's long tour, it was well worth it. Even though we were now down to 3 couples, it actually worked out better, as 8 in the van would have been tight. Eight would be doable, but 6 people is perfect in the mini-van. Carlos drove us in a Mercedes coach from the port in Naples to the Amalfi Coast. As we approached the coast, we stopped at a roadside market high above the first city, Positano, for pictures from an incredible vista and some fruit, where we found lemons the size of your fist and larger. It is this area of Italy where the finest lemon cello is made. We then visited the small town of Positano, which was beautiful. Tough for Glenn to walk, but he endured and was quite a trouper. We did some shopping there, indulging in a set of oil and vinegar glazed cruets with bright lemons on them, and tasted some of the local lemon cello. From there, we pressed on to Sorrento. Carlos recommended we eat lunch at a local establishment, the Ristorante Bangi il Delfino, which was a family owned restaurant on a pier over the water, with a view back towards Sorrento. It has a website, so do a search and you should find it. More of a local place, rather than tourists. The service was incredible, as was the food and wine. And, as a promise to our fellow tour members, I sang Torna A Surriento in Italian. We polished off the lunch with a good sized lemon cello. What a day. As Rachel said, the best day yet ... and many more to follow. We were so relaxed that time sort of got away from us, and we had very little time for shopping in Sorrento, but that was ok. Aside from the lemon cello stores, it was much of what we had seen before. We headed back towards Napoli, with a slight detour to Pompeii. We had pre-arranged with Fabrizio to have a guided tour of Pompeii. We were met at the entrance by a robust Italian woman who obviously enjoys her job. The guide was an extra $100 (split 3 ways) and I would recommend it. I had no idea how large Pompeii was. It was a fairly major city, and with a guide you get the highlights and an explanation of what you are seeing. My expectations were set a little too high for what we would see at Pompeii, but we still enjoyed it. We had heard that Herculean is actually a better preserved site, but did not have time to stop there. Nonetheless, the view of Vesuvius from what was the town square in Pompeii is daunting. What those poor people must have endured prior to their deaths. We were back at the ship in no time. After a long shower to wash off the dust / ash, which is still quite present when the wind blows, we got to the dining room for dinner for the first night (second seating). As a same-sex couple, the first night at dinner can be filled with a bit of anxiety. Turned out, we were assigned the exact same table we had on the Emerald in February of this year. We met our table mates for the first time and, as usual, ended up closing the place with very interesting conversation covering many different subjects, including religion as one of our dining companions is a obviously very intelligent and interesting pastor of a church in North Carolina who is in the midst of completing his PhD dissertation. We've yet to have a dud table on a cruise. Day at Sea Today's the first day we have had a large block of time to spend in the Sanctuary. I'm sitting here typing up this entry on my chaise lounge with the Mediterranean sea at my feet. I will not be leaving this chair for the day! Tonight is formal night. Santorini, Greece We had a beautiful day in Santorini. I had been here about15 years ago and it was everything I remembered. There were 3 ships in the caldera this morning, so the line for the cable car was so, so long. I finally convinced Glenn that at least once in life, everyone has to take a donkey up to Fira upon arriving on Santorini. At $5 Eu / person (the smell was no additional charge), we took to saddle .... with NO REINS! The donkeys know where they're going, though brushes with the walls can be a little scary. You just have to push them away from the walls when they get too close. We zipped by those that had chosen to walk up ... (Walk up?!!!!!). I felt sorry for the beasts (the donkeys, not the walkers), but they seem to be suited for the ordeal. We pretty much laughed the whole way up, despite the smell. For fun, I had rented us a convertible Smart Car for the day. The Smart Car was cute and fine. However, we did not need to spend the extra for the convertible. The sun was just too intense to enjoy it. And, we had 30 knot winds today, as well. We sort of struck out on our own with no plan. The island is not very big and we headed to see the black sand beaches. We got a little off track and ended upon driving up, rather than down to the beach. We got to the top of the island (Mountain of Prophet Elijah), and then found our way back down to the black sand beaches. We found a little local beach tavern for a great lunch overlooking the Sea of Crete. We then strolled the beach at Vlihada Bay, with the huge cliffs and dunes that were described as Dali-esque. They do appear like something out of a Dali painting, with the sagging and drooping edges carved out of the wind and blowing pumice sand from the beach. We sat on the beach for a while, but the wind was pretty intense. We headed back to Fira and walked around the shops, making a few purchases. We then found a restaurant that overlooked the town down to the shoreline. The view and pictures were amazing. We had a delicious Greek salad and just took in the view. We didn't make it up to Oia and that may have been a mistake. But we got to see much of the southern end of the island, and still had time for Fira. I never seem to have enough time in Santorini, and this trip was no different. It is such a special place, and we just had a wonderful day. Friday, Kusadasi, Turkey As if reliving my memories of Santorini could not be topped, Turkey remains my favorite country in the entire world that I have visited thus far (aside from the U.S. ?). I came here in 1997 with no expectations. I knew nothing about Turkey, and that was before the internet put so much information at our fingertips. And, I was blown away at such a beautiful country, with dear, kind people, as well as so many historical and archeological treasures. So, I was a little apprehensive that either I might have been romanticizing my memory of Turkey, or the past few years of conservative leaning government had changed her. I am happy to report, Turkey remains my favorite country to visit ... and Glenn agrees! We sailed into a bustling Kusadasi, which I had remembered as a sleepy little fishing village. But it has not lost its charm. Seemingly freshly scrubbed for our arrival, we docked at the pier and immediately found "Jingus" from Sammy's Travel for our tour. There were only 2 ships in port today, with the other being a much smaller (the "Ocean Queen") that appeared to be a former U.S. cruise ship. I'll have to look her up. Again, we had joined a tour organized by a Cruise Critic member who had to cancel her cruise at the last minute. So, instead of 16 of us, there were only 14 in our group. We boarded a newer motor-coach that was already chilled for a hot summer day and ready to go. We first drove to the House of the Virgin Mary, beating most of the tours from the ships, viewing the beautiful country-side along the way. Much like California, except without the clay-tiled developments everywhere. We were there for about an hour and were able to take our time through the beautiful grounds and the House of Mary. Next, we traveled to Ephesus, which is only a short distance from the House of the Virgin Mary. I tell everyone ever considering coming to Turkey that a trip to Ephesus cannot be missed. Sometimes I think I "over sell" it, but Glenn (his first trip) assured me that I had not. He agreed that Pompeii, while interesting pales by comparison. When you first arrive, the first ruins, while not much, are impressive. But it is that turn of the corner, when you are standing at the top of the hill staring down into the town of Ephesus to the library and the valley beyond that simply takes your breath away. For me, the presence of the former inhabitants of Ephesus is palpable b/c so much of it remains. The streets, the remnants of the buildings, and everyone's favorite, the public lew, which shows how advanced they were. New for me were the Terrace Houses, which have only been excavated in the last decade. The structure built to protect the Houses is an engineering marvel in and of itself. Viewing the mosaics, friezes and frescos is just incredible. Jingus did a great job and describing what we were seeing. Not to give short shrift, but it's difficult to describe Ephesus and do it justice. We walked to the library and then down to the amphitheatre that used to seat 25,000. We saw the agora (marketplace) and the street that used to lead to the sea. The river has since filled the valley with silt and debris, which was the downfall of Ephesus when the sea "moved" away from the town and destroyed its significance as a port city. I had forgotten this part from my last trip. The fall of Ephesus was the result of Mother Nature, more than anything else. After Ephesus, Jingus took us to a leather outlet ... "no obligation to buy." Ok, I know on every tour they take you somewhere to spend money. But this was pretty neat. We were treated to the customary sweet, apple tea upon arrival and then a New York-style fashion show with lights, music and live models of the latest leather fashions from the manufacturer there. The models even got a couple of the teenagers in our group to participate, which was fun. Then, they took us into the "show room," which was beautiful. It was hard not to get caught up in it, and Glenn and I are suckers for a good show. We each ended up purchasing leather jackets at "40% off just for us!" Yeah, right. And, they did throw in three leather baseball caps. Ok, did we get a good deal? I'm not sure. But working for Neiman Marcus, Glenn knows good stuff and we did get a substantial discount off the "list price" and have a great story, as well as beautiful coats. They're all leather, but the salesperson said this is new, New, NEW and is made from some part of the goat so soft and fine that they're calling it "silk leather." I'm not sure I want to know which part of the goat it's from, but it's water proof, wrinkle proof, and as my salesperson demonstrated on me with his lighter, fire proof. But is a lighter weight that is perfect for California. So, if you are soon seeing "silk leather," you read it here first. From there, Jingus took us to a local eatery for lunch. This for sure was a good deal. We shared a Turkish salad (which looked suspiciously like a Greek salad), meat balls and lamb kabobs, and we each had 2 beers -- $14 Eu. After lunch, we went to St. John's Basilica for more history from Jingus and finally we saw all that is left of the Temple of Artemis. We ended back in Kusadasi, just near the ship. Jingus guided us to a rug shop, if we wanted to go. Glenn had never seen them "throw" the carpets, so we went. Almost got hooked again ... (the last time I was here, I did come home with a carpet ... that my dogs ruined). The "show" was worth it, even if only a couple of us from our group went. I talked to one of the owners after they did their thing. He said they had been very busy, but few buyers. The economy's hitting them too. Even if you have no intention of buying a carpet when in Turkey, go to a demonstration. Show your interest and be nice and appreciative, and they will still give you a good show. And if you ever happen to buy one and carry it home, like I did, either hang it on the wall or keep the pets away from it! Saturday, Mykonos Upon leaving Kusadasi on Friday evening, Captain Tony announced that he would have the pedal to the metal because he wanted to get to Mykonos by 1 a.m. He said it was because he wanted to beat the morning winds (as they can prevent getting in), but I think it was because the crew knows where the late night places are to have a good time. Captain Tony cautioned that while we were free to leave the ship upon landing, he did not recommend it b/c the area is not well lit and one could get hit by cars. By the way, his warning had nothing to do with crime b/c people here just do not seem to be wired that way. I'm sure it exists, but it does not appear to even be prevalent. Nowhere in the Patters are their warnings about going ashore, as we have seen with ports in Mexico and the Caribbean. With a port intensive cruise, we have been early to bed and early to rise, so we did not partake of a late night outing in Mykonos. Though we did hear many of the crew were dragging their tails this morning. The town is actually quite nearby, though walking in the dark would have been treacherous. I assume, however, the local cabs know when the ship is making port early, and may have been available. Ah, to be that young again. We had scheduled a car rental with Kosmos Cars (on the internet and very near the ship) b/c I had read that much would be closed in Mykonos for the Day of Ascension (August 15). Not so. With 2 ships in town, I saw little closed for the day. For those not of the faint of heart, a scooter or a quad would also be fun, but in August the sirocco winds are intense. So we were glad to have a small car. I had my confirmation printed out from Kosmos and called them when we were ready to leave the ship. The shuttle to the rental office was there in minutes. It took a couple of tries to figure out the country code, which you must use for a U.S. cell phone. It might be a good idea to look up the country codes for all cities you are visiting and have them with you for Europe (and that calling the U.S. is 00 before the 1). We had planned for this to be a beach day, and had read about Elia beach. It was also the first beach the owner of car rental office suggested. It is on the south side of the island, and frequented by the locals, rather than tourists. We went out there for the day, rented an umbrella and two chairs and had a nice, relaxing day. We ate lunch on the beach, as there is beach service there. However, we should have walked into the restaurant and had lunch. We stopped there to use the restrooms upon leaving, and it was like something on South Beach in Miami. Everything in white, everyone in white linen, great music, etc., with an incredible view of the sea. You can get by without a car in Mykonos, if you're not planning to go far from the ship. There is a paid shuttle into town (I think it was $7 Eu roundtrip). Walking into town would be a pretty good hike. There are also shuttles to Paradise Beach, which I had also read is very nice. We came back into town after our beach day and walked around town for a bit. Glenn had some baklava and I had some gelato before heading back to the ship. We were so tired from our beach day, we decided to head up to the Cafe Caribe. We stopped by to tell Yani, our waiter, only to find that our tablemates had checked out on dinner too. Mykonos is a great day for relaxation in a port intensive cruise. In bed early for an early rise for Athens. Sunday, Piraeus / Athens Well, today was another lesson in mass transit. Having been to Athens before, I remembered the subway / train system as being fairly easy to maneuver, and it remains so. There are basically 3 lines: No 1 (Green), No. 2 (Red) and Line 3 (Blue). If I have not mentioned this before, iPhone has an excellent application for the Metros of the world, with maps and adjacent sites listed. Or, search the internet for a "map of Athens Metro" and you'll probably find one in color. I had a copy with us, and it was very helpful to pull out. If you are only going to the Acropolis and the Plaka, you really do not need to spend the money for a tour or a cab, unless you want commentary. The subway / train is quite fast and efficient, and cheap. $1 Eu each way. Captain Tony likes to get places early, as he did in Mykonos. So, we arrived in Piraeus sometime in the very early morning. I believe he said it would be around 4 a.m. There are a limited number of large passenger ship docks in Piraeus, and apparently he again wanted to get the best parking spot. If you look for a map online of the Piraeus port, we docked immediately adjacent to the Port Authority at E11. The Piraeus passenger terminal is very nice, but nothing was open when we left the ship. We decided to get in and out of Athens before the heat set in. We got up very early and left the ship before 7 a.m. We were at the gate to the Acropolis at about 8:15. The train / Metro station is located almost directly across the port from the passenger terminal between port gates E5 and E6. I had read it was about a 10 minute walk. It's more like 20-30. It was quite cool with a breeze, and the sun had not yet cleared the buildings so we were fine temperature-wise. And, since it is all flat surfaces, Glenn was ok, though still nursing his knee. He's still having issues with lateral movement, but going straight on a flat surface is not too bad. After having done the walk, we probably should have grabbed a cab to the Metro, though I'm not sure how much a driver would have appreciated getting out of line for those heading all the way into Athens only to drive us 5 minutes to the Metro. That early, however, a driver may not have minded zipping over to the Metro, and getting back into line. But in the early morning, walking it is not bad, and then taking a cab back from Metro in the afternoon ($5 Eu) worked well. The train stations in Athens are MUCH cleaner than those in Italy. They're actually quite nice. As in Italy, we again had no sense that we were compromising our safety. Even on a Sunday morning, the trains were bustling with people. And, if you get lost, ask questions. People are very nice. You can purchase a one-way ticket either from a machine or from a ticket booth. As in Italy, your ticket is not time stamped upon purchase, SO MAKE SURE TO GO TO ONE OF THE LITTLE VALIDATING MACHINES AND STICK YOUR TICKET IN BEFORE GETTING ON THE TRAIN. THE FINES ARE 60 TIMES THE FARE IF YOUR TICKET IS NOT VALIDATED. When you stick it in the validating machine, you will hear it print a date and time stamp on your ticket. We were never stopped today, but a couple of times in Rome there were ticket checks when you got off the train. Ok... I had read some older information, and hope to improve upon that here. From Piraeus to the Acropolis Metro stations, it is a short 20-25 minute train ride with 6-7 stops. The "old" way was to take the Green Line (No. 1) to the Monastiraki station. From the Monastiraki station, you walk south and approach the Acropolis from the north side, turning west to enter the gates near the Propylea. BE FOREWARNED - this is a very steep approach to the Acropolis with significant stairs near the base of the Acropolis to the entry gates. Thankfully, it's easy for Glenn to go up stairs than down. We were just a little worried about getting him down, but you'll see later the backside was much easier to negotiate. We were at the gate to the Acropolis at around 8:15. There was hardly anyone there (it opens at 8:00 a.m. in the summer). You purchase your tickets from the little ticket booth and head into the gate just below the Propylea. You can hire a guide at the entrance, if you're so inclined. However, a good tour book will tell you most of what you need to know to tour the Acropolis. It's a bit of a climb up from there, but once to the top, it's relatively flat. Wear good walking shoes. It never ceases to amaze me to see people in flip-flops and even women in wedge sandals. The marble up there is very slippery, even dry. We even saw a security guard slip on the marble and take a tumble. It was Sunday morning, and all the church bells started ringing in the city below as we walked the Acropolis. It was quite an experience. The weather was perfect. The sky was bright blue and the sun was still fairly low in the sky, with a good breeze. The views were magnificent. I had read that the New Acropolis Museum had recently opened, so we thought we'd walk down the South side of the Acropolis towards the Dionissiou Areopagitou. I had purchased a good, laminated street map of Athens before leaving the U.S., and it came in very handy. However, be aware that the Greek spell things differently from time to time, even on their own maps. So, you sometimes have to look at a street name a few times and interpolate what various spellings may look like on the map you have in your hand. A word about the dogs ...they're everywhere. I had forgotten about the dogs in Athens. But, they're all collared and tagged and quite sweet. I sort of remember that the government tags them and inoculates them, rather than rounding them up and exterminating them. Maybe I'm making that up in my head, but I sort of remember it. And, all the ones we saw were collared, well fed and tagged. At first Glenn was saying, don't touch them, they're mongrels. By the time we were on the Acropolis, we were petting them and taking pictures with them. Now, I'm pretty sure the last time I was here this street at the base of the Acropolis was open to traffic. Now, it is a pedestrian only walkway, and while at an incline, a much easier approach to the Acropolis than from the Monastriaki station. So, here's how I wished we had traveled to the Acropolis, especially for someone with walking difficulties: 1. Take the Green Line (No. 1) from Piraeus to the Omonia station (1 station past Monastiraki); 2. Transfer to the Red Line (No. 2) to the Arkropoli station. You should not need a new ticket, and more than likely will not even enter the train station. Just look for the signage (which is much better than Italy!). The Akropoli station is very near the New Acropolis Museum. So, from the Akropoli station, find the Dionissiou Areopagitou and walk west along the southern border below the Acropolis which will climb by grade rather than stairs. You'll walk past the Herodean Theater and turn to the right to find the same gates to the Acropolis we approached from the North. Much, much easier. After the Acropolis, re-trace your steps down to the Dionissiou Areopagitou and back to the New Acropolis Museum. We were at the Museum by 9:30, and again, no one in line. I thought we might need reservations, but we walked right in and bought tickets (an unbelievable $1 Eu) each. (Checking to see if they allow online reservations might still be a good idea. This was early Sunday morning, and another day might be more crowded). Be sure to walk over the glass walkway to the Museum and view the excavation underneath. The Museum itself is an amazingly modern structure, juxtaposed to the antiquities on display. Yet, it has an incredible use of light with homage to ancient times with giant cement pillars holding the roof up. On the second floor (Floor 1), there is a balcony that allows you to look down on the main exhibit area. It is quite spectacular interior view, in and of itself. The Museum is not that large, and you can spend a short period of time, or as much as you want for just $1 Eu. Amazing. Be sure, however, to see the original Caryatids (from the Porch of the Maidens) which were removed for protection and placed in the Museum (replaced by replicas at The Erecthion) due to the city's pollution destroying them over time. They are on the second floor (Floor 1). One of the original 5 was removed (stolen?) from The Erecthion by Lord Elgin in the 1800s and is now in the British Museum. Her place on the Museum stands present but empty, hopefully to be reunited with her other 4 sisters someday. (The Brits should really give her back!) From the New Museum, we headed into the Plaka, which again was an easier walk down than up. We stopped and had a light snack (having eaten at 5 a.m.) We walked around the Plaka for a while and were about to leave when one of the shop owners (barkers) said, "You must be from California." Boy, they're good here. He reeled us in, and before you know it, I had purchased a Greek necklace with the "long life" medallion on it. Glenn purchased a beautiful yellow gold on white gold crucifix for himself, and another one for his assistant. I told the shop owner that he was good at pulling people in. He said that folks from the U.S. are generally very nice, even when they do not want to come into the shop. He can usually tell when someone is from the U.S., and he knew a lot about California. I said that was nice to hear b/c we have a bad reputation around the world. That being said, there are a lot of other nationalities on this cruise, and the folks from the U.S., in general, are much more polite that the Europeans on this cruise. We walked back to Monastiraki Square and back to the Metro station. Within 30 minutes were back in Piraeus. By this point, even with the breeze, the Mediterranean sun was getting pretty intense. So, we grabbed a cab to the ship and were in the Sanctuary shortly thereafter. The breeze up here is much nicer than at street level. For those who have enjoyed the Sanctuary on the Ruby, Carlos just stopped by as I write this. I had previously told him what a celebrity he had become on Cruise Critic. He had not heard of Cruise Critic and was so embarrassed. The ship has connection problems in Piraeus, so I will bring my laptop up here tomorrow and let him read the greetings from those of you reading this. He asked me all about the Acropolis b/c he wanted to see it before the ship repositions back to Miami. He's seen a lot in Italy and in Turkey, but has not been to the Acropolis yet. He was shocked to hear that he could get there and back for $2 Eu. I showed him how to get there and gave him all of my maps and such that I have been writing this section on. He is very excited to schedule a day off for Athens before the repo cruise. Katakolon, Greece We chose to take it easy today and skip Olympia. I had read up on taking the train to Olympia and back and going to the little museum there, but we're getting a little tired and needed some R & R before returning home. We spent the morning in the Sanctuary and then walked into town for lunch. I have to say at this point, many of the Greeks and the Italians we have encountered on the ship are down-right rude. They refuse to wait in lines, cutting to the front without caring in the slightest. And, in port, service is lacking. We sat first in a beach front restaurant. When a waiter finally came over to us, he asked us for our order. We had yet to even see a menu. When I asked him if we could see the menu, he literally rolled his eyes and walked away. He returned only to literally fling one menu at us. We simply got up and left. The next place over was virtually empty. The waiter never even approached us. We continued down the stretch in front of the water and found one place that was completely empty. Presumably it was the owner who came out and greeted us and directed us to a table right by the water. We ordered and started to receive some decent service from him, but before we knew it a few more people sat down and he was overwhelmed. Mind you, there was the Ruby and an MSC ship in port both a stones throw away from these sea-front cafes, but they all seemed to have limited staff for the day. The couple that sat down next to us, also from the Ruby, eventually got up and left too, as they could not even get the owner's attention to place an order. Having said all that, however, we shared a Greek salad, mousaka, chicken souvlaky and some ouzo, and it was delicious. Getting the check, however, was another test of endurance and patience. We shopped in the little town with no intention of purchasing anything, but we came upon a little shop that made and sold olive wood sculptures, kitchen utensils, pepper grinders, and such. It was all fairly unique and beautifully made so we purchased some things there for ourselves and as gifts. They have a leather goods store as well, directly across the street, that had fine pieces at very reasonable prices. We saw several people with bags from the same store where they had purchased bags and purses. People seemed genuinely excited about their purchases, and I'm happy we got the olive-wood pieces we did. The name of the store escapes me, but I will post it later in the review if anyone is interested. Back on the ship, Glenn had a reflexology treatment and for reasons I won't go into here, the spa manager, Kirsty, got involved with Glenn's injury and arranged for Glenn to immediately see the doctor free of charge. Even though she is with Steiner, and technically not a Princess employee, she really took the bull by the horns and "Made a Difference." Shortly after Kirsty's entrEe into the fray, we also received a call from Princess Customer Service upon returning to the cabin wanting to make sure that everything was ok. The doctor examined Glenn's knee and took some x-rays (the equipment is all state of the art, digital developing with images on the screen - pretty impressive). By the way, security was hovering about the area the entire time Glenn was being examined. It is an ACL injury, but the doctor does not believe it's torn, for which we are thankful. He is going to do a full write up and give us everything today, and wants Glenn to get an MRI upon returning to LA, which we will do. Lesson learned, we're not complainers, but we really should have sought out assistance earlier in the cruise. There's nothing more that really can be done for his knee on board, other than an elastic brace which the doctor offered (we had already purchased the exact same brace while in Florence). But the ship's staff, other than security, is finally exhibiting some concern over his injury, which is appreciated. Another note, Generoso is truly a consummate professional. We see him all over the ship just stopping by and checking with everyone making sure there's anything they need. We've had good Maitre d's in the past (Silvio on the Emerald was wonderful), but now I really see why Generoso is so highly regarded. He's the perfect host. Corfu, Greece Another day of taking it easy. We walked into town to get some more Euros (we're going through them like water here) for extra tips for some of the staff. The town is pretty much the same as everything we have seen, but still quaint. We only spent about an hour in town. However, I have heard that the nearby beaches are beautiful. Got in to a bit of a tussle with some Italians from another MSC ship that is also in town. There is a taxi station at the edge of town where everyone lines up at to get a cab back to the ships. It was very hot and most people were waiting patiently. One family of four in particular (they were not the only ones) kept trying to cut in the front of the line. The folks in front of us were very vocal about it. Then the family just started waiting in the street, hoping to cut off a cab before it even got to the front of the line. When it came to be our turn, a cab pulled up and we started towards it. They cut us off (the 20-something son shoving Glenn) trying to get into the cab first. I made it clear to the father that we had been waiting for almost 20 minutes. None of us even noticed that the cab already had two people in it, so the cab driver said he was taking us with the other fare and the family would have to wait. They, of course, started shouting as we drove away. Amazing. Currently enjoying The Sanctuary, taking some time to write up a few "You Made a Difference" cards for crew members whom we have particularly enjoyed. I will probably do some packing today. May have to purchase another bag in Venice to get everything we hadn't planned to buy home! Tonight is our second and last formal night. The ladies are encouraged to wear their RUBY red gowns for this evening's formal night, in case anyone is interested in getting something in red for their upcoming cruise. There is also a New Year's Eve style party in the piazza starting at 11 or so. There was also a White Party on deck the night we left Turkey, but you can get some great white linen on this itinerary for that. No need to bring it. If I haven't mentioned earlier, this cruise is always scheduled to arrive in Venice at 10:00 p.m. However, Captain "Pedal to the Metal" Tony has announced that he will be getting us in at 6:00 p.m. so that we can see Venice from the sea and enjoy the evening ashore. I don't know if this is a one-time thing that Captain Tony had to negotiate with the local port, but it is a real unexpected treat to have another evening in Venice. The folks that are leaving early Saturday morning are particularly excited. I'm thrilled, if only to get the lay of the land before we start making our way to the Locanda Sturion near the Rialto Bridge with luggage. Wednesday, Venice, Italy Last night was our last time at dinner, as everyone at our table was planning to get off the ship and enjoy our first night in Venice. We said our farewells, exchanged e-mails, and gave Yani and Pavel an extra gratuity, as they had treated us all so well. Once again, we lucked out on tablemates. We also said good-bye to Generoso … again, what a lovely person. We saw the new show, Once Upon a Dream. This was really the first show we had seen on the ship, given how intensive the port schedule is. The show is a spectacle, incorporating high-tech screens as backdrops. The technology is amazing, and the costumes were fantastic. However, I was disappointed to see that they have completely abandoned live accompaniment (at least for this production show). As a musician, the "click track" is way over produced (in my opinion) for the venue, but the four lead singers were good. The belt-soprano in particular was excellent, though she really only had a couple of featured numbers. The alto is the featured singer for this show. Our last day was basically a sea day, which was nice. We packed most of our large bags early in the morning, and then headed to the Sanctuary after breakfast for one last day of relaxation. As we approached Venice, the excitement began to rise. Realizing things were getting hectic, we took the time to say good-bye to Carlos, Bosco and Tongpool, and give them their extra gratuities. We had also turned in "You Made a Difference" cards for them, as well. Sailing into Venice was basically unbelievable. They played Andre Boccelli on the loud speakers as we began our approach to the canal at approximately 4:15. Small boats were riding along with the ship, blowing their horns with people waiving. The ship sounded her horn a few times to announce our arrival along the canal. Given that the horn is directly above the Sanctuary, you can imagine the shock waves it sent through all of us, but it was a source of laughter for all of us and just added to the excitement. The Sanctuary (starboard) is an excellent place to see the approach to Venice, as is the top of the flying bridge (which can be accessed through a door on Deck 14 we were told). But, earlier in the morning, I had ventured up to Deck 19 AFT, which is the Star Deck. We had never gone up there once during the cruise. It has the Princess Links and the small jogging track. Take some time on a sea day and walk up there. You can only get up there on one specially marked aft elevator. The views are incredible. You are right next to the funnel and have a great view of the entire ship in front of you. Even though we had great seats in the Sanctuary, I could only imagine what the view from that deck aft looking forward to the bow as it sailed into the canal must have looked like. If you do not book the Sanctuary for this itinerary, the front of the ship is where everyone gathers for Venice, but Deck 19 aft (starboard) would be the place I would stake out. It really was a magical hour or so during which we passed the Piazza San Marco at about 5:15-5:30. A word about this itinerary … this is obviously a port intensive cruise. I personally could have done without Corfu and had another sea day to rest up. But we relaxed most of that day anyway. I am very happy that we did Rome to Venice, rather than Venice to Rome, as the "heavy lifting" sightseeing-wise is the first part of this cruise, in my opinion. Then you have Katakolon and Corfu to sort of rest up before Venice. Overall, it's a great itinerary, though I wish we could have stayed later in Santorini and/or Mykonos to experience some of the nightlife there. Back to Venice, as we pulled into the dock, we went back to the cabin and finished packing, got showered and changed for our evening in Venice. The ship offers a shuttle ($15 USD / person round trip) to St. Mark's Square. However, that shuttle takes a short cut around the island, rather than going through Venice. If you are willing to walk a bit, exit the ship and the port (past the very long line for the ship's shuttle). Walk to the Piazzalle Roma, which is probably a 10-15 minute walk from the ship. The signage is actually pretty good, and there are port agents around if you need to ask. We did not see any taxis, but the ship's arrival was early, so perhaps they did not know it was already in town. There is a large public parking garage at the base of the bridge connecting to the port. It is actually visible from the ship. Across the street from the garage is the Pia. Roma vaporetto station. Vaporetti are basically the bus system of Venice. You can purchase 1-way tickets or round-trip tickets, or you can purchase 24, 48, 72 hour passes for the vaporetto. I had pre-reserved / pre-paid for 72-hour passes at Venice's official website, veniceconnected.com, but I had arranged for the delivery date to be 8/20, as we thought we would be arriving late on 8/19 and not going ashore. This was a mistake, and you really do not need to do this. After paying on veniceconnected.com, you are given a PNR (Personal Number Reference) with your order (we also got the Museum Pass package) that allows you to obtain your passes from the ticket booths upon arrival. However, they could not advance the "delivery date" to 8/19. Sooooo, we reluctantly shelled out yet another $26 Eu for 2 roundtrip vaporetto tickets. We could have just as easily bought the 72 hour pass without a reservation at that time, though I think it is cheaper if you do so online beforehand. I should, however, have made the "delivery date" the date we arrived in Venice, no matter how late it was scheduled to be. The vaporetto runs at all hours, so even if you get in at 10:00 p.m., you may still want to get off the ship and enjoy Venice. Using the vaporetto requires some patience, but it is a fairly simple system to figure out. Note, water taxies are available, but at 80-100 Eu, we opted for the vaporetto. Again, make sure to validate your ticket before getting on the boat. The validating machines here are scanners, so you just waive your ticket in front of the scanner near the entrance to the boat docks. Despite the added expense, I am so glad we opted for this over the ship's shuttle. We sailed all the way from the start of the Grand Canal near the ship to the end of the canal at St. Mark's Square. This allowed us to really get the lay of the land, as well as see Venice just as the sun was beginning to set behind the buildings. We passed by our hotel near the Rialto Bridge (Locanda Sturion … more on that after we get there), and finally arrived at St. Mark's Square. The Piazza San Marco is spellbinding. We walked around for a while and then began looking for the restaurant Generoso had recommended to us, Centrale. We ended up having to ask a shop owner for directions, but she was more than happy to oblige. We found Centrale, which is very chic, very high-end, non-tourismo restaurant. I can see why Generoso says it's where he eats when he's in Venice. We had a lovely dinner with our table mates from the ship, Melissa and Leann, who also came upon Centrale. After dinner we strolled the Piazza again, to find that the small chamber orchestras had started playing. We will be coming back on Thursday night, as it's enchanting. Disembarkation As anyone who has sailed Princess knows, they have this down to a science. New to us was "Silent Disembarkation." You are sent to a particular lounge where you wait to be released from that lounge. There are no ship-wide announcements. Only those colors in your lounge are announced there. Being Platinum, we were in the Crown Grill and disembarked around 9:30. No lines, no waiting. Walked right off the ship and found our bags within seconds, literally. This time, there were cabs aplenty outside. We grabbed one and headed back to the Pia. Roma, where we were able to retrieve our vaporetto passes and board the vaporetto to our hotel. TRAVEL NOTE FOR THE FUTURE: We have yet to use the Princess Valet Luggage service. I believe it is rather expensive, and I do not know if they only do it one way or not, but we should have at least considered it for our arrival into Venice. It wasn't too bad getting the bags on to the vaporetto, but it sure would have been nice to send our large suitcases home with Valet Service, and just keep back our carryon rollaways for the next couple of days. It's not necessary for all disembarkation ports, but Venice is the one to at least look into it. Hotel Locanda Sturion The location could not be better. You are smack dab in the middle of Venice. No, you're not right at the Piazza San Marco, where the major hotels are. But you're only a few vaporetto stops from the Piazza and literally on top of the Rialto Market district. Be forewarned, the Locanda Sturion is four flights of stairs above the Canal with no elevator. It actually sits above another hotel. But, we have a post-card view of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge from our hotel windows. The Sturion is very quaint with a nice sitting room, where I am currently writing this entry. Our bed chamber looks like something out of a period-piece movie, complete with fabric wall coverings, 12-foot ceilings and a Venetian chandelier hanging above the bed. The entrance to the building has a marker that it was built in 1290. The air-conditioning is not the best, but it's tolerable. We spent the morning before our room was ready looking around the Rialto Market. Lots and lots to see and buy. We stopped by a little trattoria off the canal. The prices looked reasonable, but before we knew it, our lunch (one caprese salad, one order of tortellini, one margherita pizza and two beers) came to $45 Eu … that included a $4.00 Eu service charge for sitting down. As we are so centrally located, we stopped by the Hotel and decided to wait until later afternoon to continue on, as it is very hot and obviously humid here. If you come in the summer months, try to get out in the morning and back to your hotel for a siesta. Then you can venture out into the early evening and well into the night. We're going to head out the Doge soon. I'll finish up later on. On the way to San Marco, we stopped at the basilica Santa Maria del Salute (last stop before San Marco). It is very beautiful. We then got back on the vaporetto and went over to San Marco again. We walked along the waterfront and then into the Doge Museum (the entrance is on the waterfront). We walked through the Doge Apartments, but that was about as far as we could get. The heat indoors was just too much. We sat at a cafe in San Marco with a view of the water and enjoyed the evening. Friday, Venice Ok, it is HOT here. Shame on us for coming in August, and the Locanda Sturion's air-conditioning is really not up to the task, at least in Room 2. Another time of year, where you could throw open the windows and enjoy the breeze high above the canal, would have been fine. Regardless, we have tried to see as much as possible, despite the heat. We got a lot of use out of our vaporetti passes, so I highly recommend purchasing a 24, 48 or 72 hour card upon arrival or through veniceconnected.com before you arrive. You can literally decide to jump off if there's something you want to see or stop at a museum, and then jump back on. You can even virtually circle the entire island. Last night we took the 41 line down from San Marco and there is a beautiful park at the Giardini Biennle stop (the Giardini della Biennale) well off the tourist strip of the Grand Canal. Don't be afraid to venture off … there is no sign of crime, and if you get a little lost (which is half the fun), just ask someone. Just be sure to keep your vaporetto pass in a safe place (like in your money belt). Glenn must have pulled something out of his pocket later in the day b/c he lost his (though I'm usually the culprit on these types of things). Luckily, by that point in the day, we only had one more trip from the hotel to the train station. The breakfast at the Locanda Sturion is fine. Cereals, fresh crescents, cheeses, juice, etc. Enough to quell the hunger before you venture out. We made a pass through the Rialto looking for last minute purchases. If you have time, definitely look around before buying the first thing you see or think you'll want. You will see much of the same thing everywhere, and a mixture of prices. We then decided to make one more trip back to San Marco, which turned out to be delightful. We walked the shops on the perimeter of the square hoping to find that one piece of Murano glass that we just had to have. We saw some amazing pieces, but none we could justify purchasing at this point. We decided to have a little lunch / snack, so we took at table at the Florian Cafe on the south side of the square, directly in front of the musician's stand. The Florian Cafe opened in the 1700s and the cafe is now also at Harrods in London. We spent about an hour in the shade enjoying the live music (violin, flute, clarinet, piano, upright bass and accordion) as well as a light lunch. Again, almost $50 Eu (which included a $6.00 / person Eu music charge) but it was worth it. It was simply wonderful to sit in San Marco Square with your significant other, people watch, enjoy beautiful music (the musicians were first rate) and some very good food. If only they didn't allow smokers! (or at least segregated them; sorry, but I had to say it). The time came that we had to head back to the Sturion to retrieve our luggage. Even though we had lunch, Glenn wanted one more slice of pizza. So, we grabbed the No. 2 vaporetto (fewer stops than the No. 1) to the Rialto stop (there are several, by the way, on either side of the canal before and after the bride). We stopped by the shop where Glenn had seen a mask (we must have looked at hundreds) that he finally decided on for one of his co-workers. If you are interested in masks, be sure to google the mask maker for "Eyes Wide Shut." His shop is off the Rialto and it is quite a place. We literally stumbled across it. The masks there are like no others you will see in Venice. Even if you're not in the market for one, it's worth walking through his shop. We grabbed a slice of pizza for Glenn and the "self-service" cafe on the north side of the Rialto Bridge. You are not charged a service charge to eat here. A quick note about Venice; it is against the law to sit on the ground say, on the steps of the canal, and grab a quick bite of pizza or rest. It is not like Rome in this regard. You have to either pay a service charge to sit at a restaurant or find a place like a self-serve cafe. We walked across the bridge and I stopped at a shop selling gondola shirts. The ones on the tourist kiosks have "Venice" written on them. If you want a real one, walk around the Rialto area. There are a couple of shops selling real ones there. I found a shop that had them, not logo wear from the carts. They come in various designs (boat neck, crew neck, with collars, sleeve-less) for $19 Eu. We made our way back to the Sturion and with Glenn's bad knee, I climbed the 4 flights of stairs 3 times to retrieve our luggage. It was much easier coming down with the luggage than going up, but it's still quite a work out. Oh well, there was no gym in Venice and my new shorts were getting tight around the waist. We went to the Rialto Mercado station and grabbed the No. 1 to the St. Lucia Train Station. For the first time, the vaporetto conductor asked for our tickets. He got off with me at the next stop to make sure they were still valid. He was very nice, but he was doing his job, so they do check from time to time. He checked everyone that came on board with luggage, so it is probably just something they do as people are leaving town and maybe getting a little lax in purchasing or validating tickets (as we never saw them do that until now). By the way, if you are booking a train out of Venice, make sure you are booking the Santa Lucia Station (if you are staying on the island), rather than the Venice Mestre Station on the mainland. If the Rome to Civitavecchia train episode was a bit of a disaster, the Venice to Rome leg is the complete opposite … so far, at least. We got our bags to the Santa Lucia Station (Princess Valet Service is looking even MORE interesting now). As an aside, we've constantly been astounded by some odd observations on this trip regarding movement through the cities. The Santa Lucia Station has a huge set of lovely marble stairs in front of it … perfect for lugging large pieces of over-filled luggage around in 99% humidity. We finally found a ramp up … well, almost … the ramp goes up to the last flight of steps just in front of the station at which point you have to take your luggage in hand and walk up the last flight of steps. But the EuroStar high-speed trains are beautiful. We booked first class tickets for our almost 4 hour train ride to Rome and so far it has been lovely. We arrived in Rome and walked to the Hilton at the airport through the multiple sky bridges. The FCO Hilton is quite a distance away from the train station, and if the enclosed connecting bridges were ventilated or air-conditioned, that would have made the trek a lot more comfortable. It's amazing how many places in Italy are enclosed with absolutely no ventilation … trains, buses, elevators. At the end of the bridges, we had to take an elevator down to the ground level as no stairs or escalator is available. Even though it was merely one floor, stepping into a small, heated, stifling box after walking 10 minutes even for a short period of time was mind-numbing. The common areas of the FCO Hilton are very nice. The rooms, however, are merely adequate, which is fine for one over-night stay. The air-conditioning, however, was again not up to par. The sheets … horrible. Very uncomfortable. (By the way, this reminds me, the mattress, sheets, pillows, duvet on the Ruby … excellent. Finally, Princess is listening to its customers!) The price for the Hilton was $168.00 USD guaranteed with an online booking. Again, I probably could have taken a chance with Priceline, but I pre-arranged all lodging early on. After two room service burgers and two beers (at $70 Eu!!! - ouch, and no live music), we re-organized and re-packed our over-stuffed bags and collapsed into bed. We checked out first thing in the morning. The desk clerk the night before had told us there is no airport shuttle and that the only way back to the airport was through the hotter than hell sky bridges. We asked the desk clerk in the morning, and sure enough, an air-conditioned shuttle was waiting just outside to whisk us to our terminal. When in doubt, ask someone else. One last travel bump in the road … our flight from Rome to Newark on Continental was delayed by 5 hours!!!!! Even though we were traveling Business/First, the check-in agent said there was nothing they could do for us and that we'd have to just wait with the folks that had checked in just before us. They did say that they would put us up overnight in Newark if need be. Turned out, back at the ticket counter, they were re-booking everyone else on other available flights. Well, it helps to have an ex-airline employee (Glenn) with you who knows the federal regulations regarding flight interruptions. He had to get a bit riled up and go through a couple of agents to supervisors (and luckily did not get thrown in jail in the process), he was successful in getting us and the couple in front of us booked on Alitalia to Newark and re-booked on a later flight on Continental to LAX, which happened to also be their final destination. And, since Alitalia does not have business class, we're in first class with the new pod seats that fully recline and individual "on demand" entertainment systems. Awesome! Just watched Star Trek …. TWICE. Great movie. Newark to LAX We tried to purchase an upgrade at the gate to first class, but no luck. Boy, those last 5 hours in coach were brutal. Not because it was coach, but we were in an exit row that doesn't recline. I love the extra leg room, but with absolutely no recline, there's not too much you can to do change your position. The good news was, the movie was Star Trek, which I had really wanted to see. ? And, you know, it gets better each time. Epilogue: It's been over a week since we returned from Europe. I'm already counting the days to the next cruise. Was the Ruby Princess perfect? No. But it was a great cruise, even if I don't feel rested. But that's due to the itinerary and jet lag. If I did not mention this before, we felt that the Ruby had "new ship-itis" in some respects. Everything on our prior cruise on the Emerald had just been about perfect, and the Ruby still has a ways to go. However, I'm sure Generoso will snap her into shape. I love looking at our pictures, and to some extent wish I had just taken a few extra moments here and there to just "take it all in." You kind of forget to do that when you're seeing so much and feel there is so much to see. So … just remember to take a deep breath and forget about taking pictures and just study what you're seeing from time to time. Fin. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
My husband and I just got back from 12 days on the Ruby Princess. We left from Venice and cruised to Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Monte Carlo, Naples, Rome, Florence, Mykonos, and ended in Barcelona. Overall we had a great time on the ... Read More
My husband and I just got back from 12 days on the Ruby Princess. We left from Venice and cruised to Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Monte Carlo, Naples, Rome, Florence, Mykonos, and ended in Barcelona. Overall we had a great time on the ship. We had a balcony cabin on the Lido Deck due to a last minute upgrade from Princess. Cabin and staff: The cabin was small but very comfortable with a nice balcony with two chairs and a table which we spent a lot of time outside on. The bed was very comfortable and the bathroom was standard (great shower pressure). There was two dressers and a chair and a TV on top of a cabinet with a refrigerator. A complimentary robe was provided. The walls were a bit thin but overall we enjoyed the cabin and had no complaints. Boarding and disembarking the ship was very easy and Princess has it down pat. They are very organized with regard to tours and getting on and off the ship. Most of the staff was extremely helpful and nice (especially our cabin steward). Food: The food was okay. We ate breakfast in the buffet and it was large and full of hot and cold items. We avoided lunch at the buffet and dinner after the first night. Food wasn't so great. Service at the buffet was hit or miss. The anytime dining was great as we were not hungry the same time each day due to all the ports we visited. The main dining rooms was very organized and the food was good. I would say not outstanding but we didn't expect 5 star food. Most of the food was good and you had a lot of choices. We had pizza and a hamburger at the grill which was very good. We did not pay the extra to eat at their signature restaurants. Entertainment: We are not into the typical cruise shows and spend many nights up on deck watching movies under the stars which were great. I think we watched 6 of 8 movies including Star Trek, Terminator, The Proposal, Angels and Demons, etc. Something for everyone. There was plenty of room and the lounge chairs were cushioned and comfortable. The staff handed out blankets and popcorn and then came by at the end with milk and cookies (a very nice touch). Other than that I cannot comment on the larger shows. Tours: The cruise tours were very expensive and I researched options and we booked private tours at less money. There were a lot of complaints about the tours among fellow passengers (too many people and could not keep up with the guide). I would suggest if you are able to book private tours or find you own company in lieu of Princess. That was you save money and get a much better and more personal experience. For example we paid 350 euro/$500 (4 of us) for a tour of Pisa/Florence and the same tour on princess (only difference was lunch included) was $369 a person. Spa: I did have a massage as there were a lot of special deals. I didn't see that many people using the gym facilities which were clean and very nice. I used the treadmill and stair stepper a few times and there was no wait. The spa staff was very nice and helpful. Overall, the Ruby Princess was a great ship (very large) and comfortable with lots of choices for entertainment and food. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We sailed on the Caribbean Princess on a similar itinerary last year and loved every minute. This cruise on the Ruby Princess was even better. The ship was very clean in every area and the staff really seemed to enjoy being on this ... Read More
We sailed on the Caribbean Princess on a similar itinerary last year and loved every minute. This cruise on the Ruby Princess was even better. The ship was very clean in every area and the staff really seemed to enjoy being on this beautiful ship. It's great to sail with people who love their jobs and understand the concept of "service." Since this ship had just repositioned from the Med, there were many cruisers from different countries and it was fun to get to spend time with different nationalities. Pre-embarkation hotel: We stayed at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Courtyard Airport and CruisePort. Hotel provided a free shuttle from the airport as well as a free shuttle to the ship. In addition, the complimentary breakfast was fantastic. Rooms were clean and quiet. Hotel is located by a good seafood restaurant and also the Sport Fishing Hall of Fame. Embarkation: We found embarkation at Port Everglades to be very well organized and painless. We arrived at the port around 11:45AM and thought we'd be able to get right on the ship. However, because of the Coast Guard inspection (a good thing for a ship that has just come from overseas!)boarding was delayed for about an hour. We sat inside the terminal which was air conditioned and had restrooms. At the "all clear," boarding was effortless. After we checked out our stateroom, which was all the way on the back of the ship, we began the Scavenger Hunt to find all the fun areas of the ship.This was a great thing to do and we actually won a prize in the sailaway drawing! The tour of the Lotus Spa was really the best! They did such a good job of showing us all the amenities that we signed up for quite a few which included massages, exercising in the gym, swimming in the Sanctuary pool, and acupuncture with Dr. Martina. We are in our 60's and have some arthritis issues that we decided to address. We found the acupuncture treatments to be an unexpected benefit of this ship. Stateroom: Our stateroom was a regular balcony stateroom on the Baja Deck, but at the aft of the ship looking out over the wake of the ship. It was wonderful! The balcony was 1/3 bigger than usual balconies with an overhang for shade. We could not see into a balcony below or above. Because of the breeze, there was never any cigarette smoke smell on the balcony. There were some food smells from the kitchens below but these were not offensive. This area of the ship did not seem any "tippier" than any other area of the ship. The view was always amazing and peaceful. We'll try to do this again. Sea Days: We had 2 sea days at the start of the cruise and we found lots to do as well as relax during these days. Dining: We were wait-listed for First Seating Traditional and so we experienced Anytime Dining for the first time. We ate in the DaVinci dining room the first night and joined 4 others at a table. Enjoyed the company, but found this dining room to be a bit noisy for conversation across the table. Our breakfasts were either in our stateroom or in the Horizon Court. Because we're not picky or huge eaters, we always found good things to eat there. Yes, at times it was hard to find a table by ourselves, so we asked other diners if we could join them and met some very nice people this way. The 2nd through the 10th evenings we ate at about 5:30PM in the Michaelangelo dining room. We met another couple that we enjoyed so much that we became traditional diners at a certain table at 5:30 every night. This standing reservation allowed us to get to know our Waiter and other dining staff. We were very well accommodated at a table by a window where it was quiet and delightful. The food choices were enough so that we could always put together a gourmet meal. Our waiter's recommendations were always very good and we came to trust his choices. One night he brought us one of every dessert on the menu for a sampler! Now that was fun! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day before and stayed at the Comfort Inn in Hollywood. Fla. Nice room with a king size bed, fridge and microwave. Free shuttle from the airport and cruise port and breakfast included for $99. Embarkation ... Read More
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day before and stayed at the Comfort Inn in Hollywood. Fla. Nice room with a king size bed, fridge and microwave. Free shuttle from the airport and cruise port and breakfast included for $99. Embarkation - not a good impression, I must say. We spent 1.5 hours in line outside before spending another hour inside. Apparently there was a language barrier which held up our line. I was very surprised because I had heard that Princess was very good at this...maybe it was just a fluke. Our cabin was larger than i had expected and Ren, our cabin steward was the best. We had an obstructed view which was okay but next time I would get a balcony. Dining - I would say the food was good but not great. We chose the anytime dining and ended up eating with other people at our table most nights. We asked for a table to ourselves one night and were told it would be 40 minutes...we waited 5 minutes. I think I get it. We loved going out on the promenade deck late at night with a glass of wine and just relaxing. Maybe it's a first time cruiser thing, but I enjoyed it. The entertainment was top notch and there was always something to do. We hung out at the pool a few times but found it very hot and kind of boring. Went to the casino once and lost $10 - not big gamblers! We enjoyed Sabatini's and the Crown Grill very much - well worth the cover charge. Vines was fun as well. We did the wine tasting for $25 a person which was an interesting experience, we learned a lot. The galley tour was fun and a great opportunity to have a "behind the scenes" look. Can't wait til the next cruise!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Let me start off to say, It was a cruise and any cruise is better than being at work. The ship is beautiful, and our mini suite was nice and spacious. We stayed the night before at the Renaissance Hotel and it was very nice at a great ... Read More
Let me start off to say, It was a cruise and any cruise is better than being at work. The ship is beautiful, and our mini suite was nice and spacious. We stayed the night before at the Renaissance Hotel and it was very nice at a great price. We arrived at the Pier and we saw the Oasis of the Seas and it looked massive, not even a ship but more like a hotel floating on the water. I will start with the positive, the itinerary was excellent, so was the ship tours we did. We had perfect weather and the sailing was smooth to each port. I like trivia and games so there was some of this each day, but there could be more. I loved the balcony dinner was great and our best meal on board the ship. Going on the tours was very smooth and no problems. We had a wonderful room steward he was always there was to make you happy. The back of the ship's pool on the aft is the best place to be, and Herman was always there to chat and bring you a great cold drink when needed. Crooner's has the best martini's and variety. Have the "From Russia with Love" in the James Bond Series "always shaken never stirred" International cafe was a great place to have coffee and a light snack or lunch. There was a non smoking night at the Casino which was very nice. We loved our balcony it was covered and it was great to walk out every morning. Let me start to say, this is my first Princess cruise and I have been on over 40 with other lines. All cruise lines are there to make you happy and I would rather be on any cruise than be at work. The food in the dining room was not too good, all soups were creamed even the chicken and rice. The food was bland and lack of flavor. The meats were tough and the pasta was mainly one style. The service is the dining room was good. Once thing I can say is your food was always served hot and I really like that. No wine steward in the dining room to assist you I thought this was odd. The buffets, the breakfast was different, they premade fried eggs all plated instead of the usual make to order and sometimes they sat there for a while before anyone would take them. The breads were good and variety. I really enjoyed the abundance of lox that was there each morning. It was hard to get a seat for the buffet and no assistance from the waitstaff to help. I noticed the waitstaff did go up to people who snapped there fingers for assistance to serve them coffee or juice. I couldnt do that out of respect for the server but I also was never offered a cup of coffee either. The lunch buffet was good most of the time. We loved the Mexican buffet on the last sea day. The buffets also lacked flavors and spice as well. We did have high hopes at the Crown Grill, while our appetizer was great as well as soup and salad, our porterhouse steak was not too good. It didnt seem to have the flavor and I don't mean the huge garlic butter they place on the steak as flavoring. It almost taste like the steak was cooked half way earlier and then the final cooking when ordered. It did not have the "hot off the grill flavor" So we were very disappointed and only ate a small portion of our steaks. Our server was not too informative about the menu or suggestions as we heard others make suggestions and the porterhouse was not recommended by the other servers. This had to be one of the hottest ships I have ever sailed. This is were they must be cutting back on the air conditioning to the point that condensation was dripping from the ceilings. I complained but nothing really changed. I know I read this in other reviews and it is so so true. Very uncomfortable to sleep in. A reminder, I pre paid for some items such as the champagne breakfast but didn't use it because of the menu, and was told it was not refundable on the last day so make sure you use it or you lose it (money). The casino is so smokey, and really just too much since there is not too much air circulation there. I didnt care for the payout system. Will I cruise Princess again? I don't know, I was looking so forward to this cruise since I heard so much about it. There was not too much to do at night unless you like ballroom dancing and the music was more orchestra than bands. I did enjoy the comedian. The 8:30 shows were always packed never to get in. I would havet to wait for the 10:30 show. I was not too happy with Muts. Mostly sports, and concerts like Tina Turner it was just such a let down. Why all the football when they could watch it at the bars that was showing the same thing. Dan is great, he is so funny. I didnt see too much of Lisa other than the Bingo. Getting off the ship was easy, and they want you off EARLY. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
This was our second cruise on the Ruby with the 1st being Nov. of last year. We loved our last cruise so when I found out the Ruby was doing a special 3 night cruise in Dec. my husband and I decided to give ourselves an early Christmas ... Read More
This was our second cruise on the Ruby with the 1st being Nov. of last year. We loved our last cruise so when I found out the Ruby was doing a special 3 night cruise in Dec. my husband and I decided to give ourselves an early Christmas present. We loved our cabin before so we booked the same cabin. Embarkation was a breeze for us. We drove down the night before and stayed the night at the Hyatt Pier 66 and had a very nice dinner at the restaurant there. The next moring we drove to the pier to park but since my husband has a concealed to carry permit and had a weapon in the car we were told we had to park at the Park N Go over by the airport. That was a great idea as the parking there is only $10 day and you get a discount off that if you are a AAA member. The shuttle picked us up immediately and took us to the pier and when we got of the shuttle was right there. The neet thing about Park N Go is that they have a family of monkeys living right next door and they feed them banannas so we got to see them. Parking at the port is $15 a day. We were on board very quickly. Cabin: The cabins on Caribe (10) deck have the biggest balconys onboard. They are a huge 9' x 9' and the front half is covered. The balconys are tierd so if you don't want to look down on someone or have someone look down on you do't book princess. We don't care. Now you can hear others on their balconys and you can smoke on your balcony. You have no control over that and neither does Princess or any other crusie line. It is just like a hotel balcony in that you have your personal space but it is not completely private. FOOD & SERVICE: The staff onboard to us was wonderful and very courteous and friendly. We are not buffet people so we only did the buffet for lunch the first day. It was crowded and impersonal. We had anytime dining and never had to wait more than 50 or 10 min. to get seated ever for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The food was great we thought. ULTIMATE BALCONY DINNER: I HIGHLY recommend doing this if you are at all romantic. WOW we felt like royalty. The cost is $50 pp. but so worth it. Our personal waiter arranged everyting out on the balcony with a beautiful table set up complete with flowers. First course was canapies, Second course was appatiser and we had steak for the main course and the dessert was do die for WOW along with water, wine and champagne. The photographer took some beautiful pictures of us. Between courses the waiter waits outside your door so you do have complete privacy. Our dinner was the ultimate highlight of our cruise. We had a day at sea so early that moring at 7 am I went to sign us up for the Sanctuary for the afternoon in the adult area. We love that area as it is quiet and relaxing with wait service. Then I went and worked out in the gym. In the moring I shoped and took pictures. PRINCESS CAY DAY: We slept in as we were in no hurry to get to the island. Princess Cay is a pretty island with tons of water sports opportunity with bars, grills and local shopping. IT was a fun day. The tendering was very organized getting to shore and back. CROWN GRILL: our last night of the crusie we had dinner in the Grown Grill. IT was wonderful and so was the food. MISC: Movies under the stars was fun with blankets and popcorn. Loved the internationa cafe with sandwiches and desserts. The Champagyne waterful they do was so much fun and a great photo op. It only lasted a few minutes. We never did so see a show as time and our plans did not allow. We spent a lot of time on our balcony reading and just looking at the water. We love the Ruby Princess and are now looking forward to our next crusie on her. the only negative was that the cabins never really get what I call cool, like you keep it at home so I brought a small fan and extension cord and used that at night. I think the thermastates are just there for looks. In the day time it helps to keep the drapes closed if you are not in your cabin. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
First Princess Cruise went perfect! We had two trips with Carnival and they were good, but this was even better. Our balcony cabin on deck 10 Caribe had a huge balcony and I just loved hanging out on the balcony while my wife got ready ... Read More
First Princess Cruise went perfect! We had two trips with Carnival and they were good, but this was even better. Our balcony cabin on deck 10 Caribe had a huge balcony and I just loved hanging out on the balcony while my wife got ready in the morning and later at night before dinner. I didn't go with the Jr Suite and felt that the standard room with the big balcony was a better deal. The room seemed to have plenty of space, even though we had gotten use to the Jr suites on our previous Carnival curies. The one odd thing about the trip... is we thought the food selection in the buffets was better then the dining room (all you can eat lobster claws the first night). We hadn't done any buffets on our last two trips, but this time we found the portions and selections to be more tempting than the dining room most nights. I had no idea that we would finish our trip with a professional published book, that documented the entire incredible trip! But my wife talked me into buying the new book that Princess sells on board. We over-planned our trip with multiple excursions in each port and had no idea that we would be able to fit it all in. But the weather and ship's timing was perfect so we were able to hit every event we had planned. Wow! It couldn't have gone any better on our first cruise with Princess. If you want to see some different excursions on Aruba, Bonaire, Eleuthera, Dominica, Grenada, St John, Little Cayman, and Cozumel... take a look at our trip report with the help of the new service Princess is offering- PanRaven which allows you to enter your text and photos into a professional looking book which you then share with friends on-line and print out a copy for your home. http://www.panraven.com/visitor/VisitorViewStory.epage?sp=Sview&sp=154975 ONE TIP- if you click on the arrows below the photos, you can see 2 pages at a time, which give a better panoramic view. If you click directly on the photo instead of using the arrows...you can only see one BIG page at a time (click again to go back to two page view) Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Embarkation was simple enough and our room was ready by the time we got on around 1PM. We carried on most of our bags except for one so we could change, have a drink, then explore the ship. The Ruby was a beautiful boat, the design and ... Read More
Embarkation was simple enough and our room was ready by the time we got on around 1PM. We carried on most of our bags except for one so we could change, have a drink, then explore the ship. The Ruby was a beautiful boat, the design and finish was excellent. For a boat that is about 2 years old though, it is showing a lot of wear and tear. The main thing I noticed was the hallways were banged up and often dented. Probably from baggage, but still very surprising to see that. Food: The food was ok. As others have mentioned, the buffet is poorly designed and the layout leads to people walking all over the place. The food on some days was very good, but on others was poor. It was hit or miss. Same with the food in the dining rooms. Some days our meals were good, on other says the selection wasn't very good and the food was just ok. We did try Sabatini's one night and that was definitely one of our favorites! Employees: Again a mixed review here. Some employees really went out of their way to help you, others couldn't give a darn. Our room steward was nice, but we've had better on Carnival and Norwegian. Waiters at DaVinci and Michelangelo were the same. Some were very pleasant, others would make things very difficult, especially when asking nicely for a substitution. The bartenders were all very nice, especially the ones in the casino. Entertainment: This is where we felt that Princess really catered to the older crowd and that was the majority of the people on board. There was a good number of people over 65 years old and many people on walkers, scooters, etc... Not a bad thing, we met some wonderful people, but we were really hoping to meet and connect with more people our age. So, the bands and lounges were often geared towards the older crowd so we didn't enjoy it too much and found ourselves in the casino a lot. The comedians were great, the magician had a bunch of tired routines, the movies under the stars were good, the nightclubs were often empty, and the poolside bands were just ok. Actually, one day the singer didn't really know the words to any of the songs, she would just sing intelligible words. How do you not know the words to Red Red Wine? Ports: Enjoyed all the ports, even Barbados in the rain. Did zip lining in St. Lucia and spent the days in other ports on the beaches. Cabin was nice, well laid out. One thing that somebody else mentioned is the boat is loud! We were on the deck 10 specifically chosen so there was no public rooms above or below us. Even then, we could hear the music from the Lido and the theater in our room. Don't know why it would echo through all those decks but it did. Very weird. The cabin was nice, amenities were good. I personally would have put less closet space (who needs that much room for clothes for 10 days?) and made the bathroom/shower bigger. Probably the smallest shower of all other ships we've been on. So again, not a horrible cruise, but I would definitely not cruise Princess again until I'm over 50 years old. I feel they are really not trying hard enough and enjoy Norwegian, Carnival, and RCL more in terms of fun and service. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We (early 30's) have been anticipating this particular itinerary (Jun 22 sailing) from Princess for several years. Being this was a milestone anniversary, we decided now was the time. This was our 9th Princess cruise, 11th overall. ... Read More
We (early 30's) have been anticipating this particular itinerary (Jun 22 sailing) from Princess for several years. Being this was a milestone anniversary, we decided now was the time. This was our 9th Princess cruise, 11th overall. This review is lengthy, but I appreciated those who took the time to detail out their trips on this itinerary (i.e. SingerEsq), especially since this is a bigger trip/investment than most itineraries. (Note: all prices below are per person) The ship was wonderful, as expected from the newest Princess ship in fleet. Service was spotty, and food is good but we continue to see spotty Princess service (see Princess Specialty Restaurant review below). The itinerary was perfect, and the weather couldn't have been better. Rome Transfer: Marco to Termini was 14Euro each. Once to Termini be sure to take a taxi to your hotel. DO NOT transfer from Termini to Red/Blue Line. I cannot count the amount of steps we took with no escalator in sight. Take a taxi with luggage since they are reasonably cheap. Rome: Spent 2 nights at Westin Excelsior using points. Room on 6th floor facing courtyard was exceptionally nice & spacious compared to Euro standards. Everything regarding the room was perfect. The only complaint was the concierge service (or lack thereof). Our friends lost their luggage & for 3 days their only answer to helping find the luggage was "no news". In contrast, after boarding the ship Princess located & had the luggage in their stateroom w/in 2 days...And the ship moves everyday! Westin Excelsior Rome Concierge Staff...You badly suck! As for Rome, we loved the city. Used RomeinLimo for a '1-day tour of Rome'. Visited the Colosseum (12Euro), Catacombs (6Euro), Vatican (15Euro), and other highlights of Rome. We opted for a private guide inside the Vatican (150Euro total for party), which was well worth the price. The trip can be done on your own, but with our first visit & limited time we wanted to see everything. Ship Transfer: Taxi was 8Euro from Westin to Termini (worth the price with luggage!). Train was 3Euro from Termini to Civitavecchia. We each had baggage & no steps in station. As long as you can carry your own luggage on/off the train, there is no reason to pay the excessive 150-200Euro for a private transfer...You'll need that cash for more pizza & gelato. Once off the train, proceed toward the boats (you'll see them). Once inside the gate look to your left for the free bus shuttle stop to take you to your ship. The guards didn't tell us this while watching us haul our luggage down the street, so we walked more than necessary before figuring out on our own. Shuttle drops you off at the check-in area where you proceed to the ship's check-in from there. We arrived around 4P, & looked to be the last people checking in so there was no line (VIP style!). Cabin: We had an inside room (Cat J) on the Baja deck. Room was standard Princess cabin. We always find them roomy enough for 2 with plenty of storage. Steward was good, except we had dirty glasses again as we found on the Emerald in Mar10. We don't think they bring clean glasses like some hotels, so we always wash them ourselves to be sure, or just get some from the bars. I think we're bringing a small spray bottle of 409 to do our own germ spot cleaning next time. Oh, & if your bringing wine onboard (see Monte Carlo), don't forget to buy your own wine opener. The bottles fit easy in the fridge, and for wine glasses just call room service & they will bring as much as you want. Monte Carlo: Did on our own. We took the public bus from outside the dock area to a stop on the other side of the harbor (1Euro) to catch the bus going to Eze/Nice(1Euro). Got off in Eze & visited for over an hour. Then we caught a bus from Eze to Nice(1Euro). Enjoyed the sights of Nice & caught local train to main station (1Euro), then regional train back to Monte Carlo (3.3Euro). Walked to the Casino & then back to Port. This was all easily doable in a day. Also, there is a supermarket (aka Casino Supermarket) a few blocks from the port on the main street facing the water. This was the best & cheapest wine/champagne & bottled water stop on our entire trip. So stock up & carry as much as you can to your stateroom...A 6-pack of 1L water bottles was less than 3Euro! And great wine/champagne for 3-6Euro. Livorno: Did on our own. The problem with this port is you cannot walk to any public transportation. You are bound by the shuttle or taxis to take you out of the port (very industrial & far). A taxi will take you to the Livorno train station for 20Euro. So round up some people & share the cost. We caught the 830A train to Pisa San Rossore Station (3.6Euro). You will transfer trains at Pisa Centrale to get to San Rossore Station which is only about a 5min walk to the Leaning Tower (no signs, follow crowds or ask). We took pics & walked back to Centrale station (about 2mi), found some cheap clothing stores, and then caught the 10A train to Florence. (Search online for the Tom Ogg review of Florence for step-by-step guide of Florence). We walked around, took pics of Duomo, David, & bridge, shopped, had lunch, and then took 335P train (6,6Euro) back to Livorno Centrale. Shared 20Euro taxi back to port. Naples: Used Pleasant Travel for a private tour of the Amalfi Coast & Herculean with other CC'ers. Public bus/train strikes appear to be common here so be wary of doing on your own. We visited towns of Ravello, Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento, and Herculean (11Euro). We purchased radio guides inside Herculean for 6Euro each, which provided lots of info & easy to use. With so much driving, we were only able to explore for 20-30min in each town, and 1hr for Herculean. We will go directly back to Amalfi on our next trip to Naples (and Capri which our friends did on their own & loved). Capri is easier to get to on your own by hydrofoil. Boats to Capri are private owners so no strike worries. Kusadasi: We took a private tour with other CC'ers to St John's (2,5Euro), Ephesus (10Euro), Houses (inside Ephesus for an addtl 7,5Euro!), & House of Virgin Mary (6,5Euro). Did not enjoy our guide & not many fond memories for this port. Ephesus is well preserved, but it's very hot & this would probably have been easier & cheaper on our own by getting a taxi. Shopping is lots of pushy salespeople. Kusadasi is checked off our list. If we ever find ourselves back here on another cruise, we heard from many people that the beaches just south of town are amazing. Santorini (awww, Santorini!): We rented a car & explored on our own. Driving & parking is very easy on this island. We were on one of the first tenders into Fira. Took cable car up (3Euro) & rented a 4dr manual from Tony's (40Euro), who said we were 1st to check-in & last to check-out. Drove to Oia first & explored the town for several hours (much larger than I expected). Then drove to Kamari Beach (8Euro for chairs/umbrella), and then to the Red Sand Beach (6Euro). Both beaches were very nice. Dropped off car & shopped Fira for a little before deciding the line for the cable car was too long (what a mistake that was). We proceeded to walk down the donkey path dodging nastiness & missing the views down. That's a one-time only experience I need. Cable car is your best (& should be your only) bet. Mykonos: We did on our own. We paid 5Euro for the shuttle from the ship to the main port area (worth it). Then we walked from the drop-off point around the harbor to windmills & up to the bus station to go to Paradise Beach. Bus was 1Euro each way; just find the store sign which says "Bus Tickets". Paradise Beach is very nice; just don't get too close to the rock barrier as several friends were stung (luckily not harmful). Chairs & Umbrella were 12Euro. We then proceeded from the bus station visiting some shops & getting some excellent gelato in the harbor area (like Roma) before catching the last 5P shuttle to the ship. Athens: We did on our own. You take the free shuttle to the terminal. Once outside, no taxis will take you to the train station. So if you are able to walk about 2mi, then do so & catch the train to Akropoli for 1Euro each vs a 20-40Euro cab. Station is a few blocks from the Plaka & Acropolis entrance (12Euro). We hiked up the entrance for pics, then visited the museum for 9Euro, which had great A/C to cool off but we're not museum people so we didn't find too interesting for the price. Afterward, we walked to the Plaka for some excellent gyro's & moussaka. Then took train back (1Euro) & walked lunch off with the 2mi trek back to the ship. Katakolon (or 'cat-a-colon' for the smell): We rented a car & did on our own (40Euro for 4dr manual or 80Euro for 8pax manual van). We had no reservations, but as long as you show up early (830A) you should have no problems renting. The roads were very easy to drive as they were much like the US. We drove to Olympus, and walked around (9Euro). The ruins were very disappointing as they were nothing but scattered rocks on the ground. Nothing like Herculean, Acropolis, or Ephesus we visited. We all felt this could be skipped if not that important in your itinerary. Afterward, we drove back to ship and parked the rental car (literally) next to ship for an onboard 'free' lunch. Then we proceeded to Kastro beach for the afternoon. The beach was very nice (but small) with nice facilities & a restaurant. Corfu: We rented a car & did on our own (40Euro for 4dr manual). Visited the Paleokastritsa beach that was very nice water but ICE cold. Others reported Dassia beach was nice with warmer waters. Island is very easy to drive on own, although signage (as most of Europe) could be better. Princess Specialty Restaurants: We dined in the Crown Grill for our anniversary dinner with great company. And while our steaks were good, the service needs work. They would not allow us to order 2 main entrees in lieu of appetizers/salad. Now, if this were a normal restaurant we'd understand. But we're paying $25 each additional to dine here. In contrast, the dining room let's you order whatever & however many dishes you please (i.e. my 4 orders of Lobster & Prawns!). So why could I not order a Filet & Lamb Chops? One in our group ordered 2 steaks, but we were made to feel as if the waiter & the kitchen were doing us a huge favor. We were all perplexed & certainly felt $25/each was a waste. As for the food, my medium filet was bloody in the middle which had to be sent back. Shouldn't these "specialty" restaurants have the best cooks & wait staff on the ship for the extra (stiff) price..?!? We also had bad service with Sabatini's on the Emerald in March 2010. I think Princess needs some serious service work on their "specialty" restaurants. We will not be paying extra to dine in the future. Entertainment: We were too tired to ever see a production show. We did watch & participate in some game shows. Watching the World Cup on MUTS was an experience. This is a port intensive cruise, so we needed our rest. Venice: We carried our own bags off the ship. Walked outside the building & to the right where you can find the Alliguna (public boats to St Marks Square). Price was 6Euro + 3Euro for each large bag. We walked from the stop to the Westin Europa. Mostly flat except for 2 stairs over water. So if you cannot handle carrying your own bags, then get a private boat (75-90Euro). We enjoyed walking around, but Rome was our favorite over Venice. Found some good restaurants around the Rialto & Traghetto area. This is an expensive city, so save your Euros for this visit. Westin Europa: We spent 2 nights on cash & points. Hotel refused to check anyone in before 3P, which is their policy but how can all the rooms be ready exactly at 3P...? With Gold status, not a good start Europa. The room itself was roomy & nicely furnished however there was no AC in the bathroom which made for sweating & multiple cold showers. Not something I'd expect from a $500/night hotel. Again, not good Europa. But the location was excellent & after figuring out the bedroom door had to be closed individually for the room to cool, we had a good stay. One bonus goes out to the concierge staff who, when we inquired about visiting Murano, recommended a glass factory that was offering a promo which provided a private taxi to/from Westin to Murano. So we took up the offer, did the sales tour, had lunch in Murano (cheaper than Venice), and headed back to the Westin in a free taxi! The boat alone would have been 12Euro each on the public boat. Free IS better. Leaving: We had an early flight out (650A), so the only viable option was a private water taxi for 110Euro (ouch!). Luckily we shared half with some fellow cruisers & the boat picked us up right at the hotel dock. Concierge staff made sure the boat arrived on time. Thanks again Westin Concierge Staff! Venice airport was surprisingly busy at 630A. If not for our business class tickets, carry-on luggage, and preferred security line we may not have made our flight on time. To check-in luggage would have taken at least 30-45min, and the security line, with only 2 stations open, would have taken at least another 45 minutes. So if your coach, be sure to arrive at least 2-2.5 hours before your flight. Air France Business Class: A disappointment from Venice-Paris with a 3-seat configuration for business. But we flew the 777-300 from Paris to Houston. Excellent. Great Service. Great Food. We were impressed. A great end to a long trip. Thank you miles! ? Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Let me preface this review by saying that I am an experienced cruiser (my 18th cruise) and my wife is a novice (2nd cruise). That being said, I had very very high expectations going into this cruise since I took over a year to plan it and ... Read More
Let me preface this review by saying that I am an experienced cruiser (my 18th cruise) and my wife is a novice (2nd cruise). That being said, I had very very high expectations going into this cruise since I took over a year to plan it and I had been on Princess before and knew what to expect. My overall final conclusion is..... satisfied. There were many things on the cruise that met my expectations but only a couple that exceeded them and a few that disappointed. It is difficult to measure because of the very high expectations I had but I would say that things were solid. This cruise was extremely port intensive (which I loved but took some getting used to for my wife). While we are both young and are eager to see things I can honestly say that even we were exhausted. I planned all of our excursions independently through reviews I read on this site and I can say that those were absolutely amazing. I would never book excursions through the ship and it still baffles me as to why people do this. Here are the items that exceeded my expectations (cruise only) 1. shows (the new once upon a dream is amazing) 2. timeliness of the departures (all previous ships I had been were constantly late to leave port) Disappointments: 1. the continued requirement to pay for additional services. This one really bugs me. We paid thousands of dollars for this cruise and now we have to pay for a coffee card and a soda card? not to mention that tips are automatically included on everything and that they no longer procide juice machines. Also, my wife and I did a couples massage and even though it was very expensive ($300) the massage therapists came in after we were done and tried peddling the products they used on us which were ridiculously priced. I did not like this at all. 2. noise in our room. We could constantly hear the banging of the housekeeping crew on the 10th floor where we were located. Slight annoyance but still bothersome. 3. debarkation in venice. This is slighlty unorganized and no one told us to get off the ship even though we were sitting in our area for over an hour. The average age on our ship was 60 which didnt bother us all that much but next time I think I will take this into consideration more as it would be nice to have a cruise where the disco and shows arent all geared to the senior crowd. Overall we had an amazing honeymoon and I would cruise with Princess again but since I am a platinum member with Carnival I would still prefer them. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
we went on our honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean. we had heard how super fantastic that princess was , so we were expecting over the top experiences. it wasn't as great as i had hoped. was it bad, no..but personally i think that royal ... Read More
we went on our honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean. we had heard how super fantastic that princess was , so we were expecting over the top experiences. it wasn't as great as i had hoped. was it bad, no..but personally i think that royal Caribbean was better. the buffet food was ok, some was just awful. hard cold pancakes, cold food and some that were just nasty tasting. the dining room had some days were there really wasn't anything on the menu we wanted so we went with items that were on the any day you want to have it list like fettucini alfredo. we had gelato at their coffee bar thing and it was not good at all. dinner rolls were cold hard and dry. the music that played at the piazza was a group with accordion, piano, bass and violin. it sounded like they were playing in different tempos every time they played. especially the accordion. if they played in unison, it would be OK. otherwise it was just grating on the ears. the balcony breakfast was really nice. we enjoyed that. the 'crown grill' dinner was nice, but not sure it was worth the cover charge. the waiter who only seemed to have a few tables seemed so frazzled, running here and there. they said that they were completely booked for the entire cruise for both of the specialty restaurants, yet when you walked by the crown grill at dinner time , almost every table was empty. the maitre d said that they have 20 diners at one time. most of that time there were maybe 10 people there that we could see. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
• For our 30th wedding anniversary, we wanted something special and different. Although this was our tenth cruise (7th on Princess), it was our first transatlantic. We have done one 12-day cruise in the Mediterranean and the rest in the ... Read More
• For our 30th wedding anniversary, we wanted something special and different. Although this was our tenth cruise (7th on Princess), it was our first transatlantic. We have done one 12-day cruise in the Mediterranean and the rest in the Caribbean. We are a married couple in our early sixties. We like Princess because of the food, multiple dance venues, and a wrap-around Promenade deck for running and walking. • We flew in to Venice a few days early to do some sightseeing. We stayed in a 1200-year old hotel right on the Grand Canal. Early in the mornings we sat in our window alcove, sipping coffee and watching boats carrying school children, trash, groceries, dry cleaning, UPS deliveries, etc. We took advantage of the local seafood and pasta and even tried the local specialty drink, a Bellini (Prosecco and peach juice). Being ballroom dancers, one of our goals was to dance in Saint Mark's Square, so we headed there the first evening and danced to several dueling orchestras around the piazza. • We boarded the Ruby Princess Friday afternoon around 2 pm. There were no lines; embarkation was well organized and we were in our stateroom within 30 minutes of dropping off our bags. The average passenger seemed to be about 65-75 years old and surprisingly active. We were told that there were only four children on board. The Venice Chamber Orchestra performed in the Princess Theater the first night. They were excellent and played Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and Anderson's Syncopated Clock and Blue Tango. Sailaway was Saturday around 2 pm, complete with Sarah Brightman singing "Time to Say Goodbye". • Sunday was a relaxing day at sea. • Monday - When we docked in Naples, we awoke to a downpour, which lasted till around noon. That didn't stop us from going on a private tour arranged by a friend. 20 of us toured Pompeii and Herculaneum, with a stop for lunch in Pompeii. • Tuesday - Rome is over an hour away from the port of Civitaveccia so we opted for the ship's day-long tour. This meant no standing in line and not having to worry about the ship leaving without us if our tour bus was late returning to the port. • Wednesday - Cannes - This was an unexpected treat. Eight of us took a private tour. We had an excellent guide who drove us up the French Riviera, first to Antibes, then to the foothills of the Alps and inland to St. Paul de Vence, a beautiful walled city. • Thursday - Barcelona - Having been to Barcelona twice before, we decided to explore on our own. The Gaudi "Bone House", Casa Battlo, was the ultimate destination. A visit to Barcelona would not be complete without a stroll down Las Ramblas and the Boqueria (market) where we picked up a few gifts. • Three lazy sea days followed. Several times a day, performers entertained in the Piazza, including acrobats, singers, and a musical quartet. The nearby International Cafe had a good variety of snacks and pastries, along with specialty coffees. We took advantage of Princess' "Coffee Card" ($24), which entitles you to 15 specialty coffees and unlimited fresh-brewed coffee. Princess has no shortage of activities. Several lecturers spoke on a variety of topics (these were not your usual port shopping lectures!). During the day, the Crown Grill was designated the "Games Room" and Skywalker's night club was a quiet reading room. Movies were shown throughout the day, both on deck and in the Princess Theater. There were the usual trivia, bridge, ceramics, dance classes, Pub Lunches, High Tea, tours, so many things to do it's hard to imagine anyone being bored. • Ponta Delgada, on the island of San Miguel in the Azores was our last port. It was a beautiful green island with a lot of farmland. We took the ship's tour to a beautiful pair of lakes in the crater of an inactive volcano. • Five lazy sea days followed Ponta Delgada. Again, lots of opportunities to participate in activities or relax around the ship. On the last formal night, the Cruise Staff held the Ruby Red Ball in the Piazza, with music, dancing to Rhapsody, a balloon drop and a good time for all. General comments about the cruise: • Sam, the Cruise Director, was great, the best cruise director we have experienced in our ten cruises. She was quite friendly, very visible and full of enthusiasm. • We had one of six oversized interior cabins on the Riviera Deck. The extra storage space was well appreciated. Michael, our cabin steward, was very efficient, unobtrusive and responsive to several special requests. • Many of our fellow passengers were well-seasoned cruisers and shared stories of itineraries quite different from our usual Caribbean cruises. This inspired us to think about different itineraries for our future travel. • Ballroom dancing is an important part of cruising for us and we especially like live music. Princess always has several dance venues and bands, in addition to the house orchestra. There is always some place to dance from about 5:30 pm till the wee hours and most groups are quite willing to take requests. (Thanks a million DJ Marcus!). • We were concerned that the seas would be rough on the Atlantic crossing. The second day was a bit choppy, but overall it was a fairly smooth voyage. • Cruise food is a very subjective topic. We feel that Princess' food is not quite as good as it used to be (our first Princess cruise was in 1998). Nothing was ever bad, but the menu often seemed lackluster and we opted for the buffet on several occasions. We chose Anytime Dining because of the flexibility. Service was mixed, sometimes excellent, sometimes slow and average. • Entertainment - we enjoyed the production shows. The singers and dancers were quite talented. The house orchestra and the group "Rhapsody" were our favorites. In summary, we had a blast on our first transatlantic and we will certainly be back! A tip of the old pirate's hat to Commodore Romano and the crew of the Ruby Princess for a great overall experience. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We arrived in FLL airport on November 14th at 1130AM, and were at the port by 12PM. Easy and smooth embarkation. We were given orange "number 1" cards and grabbed a seat near the entryway to paradise (in reality, an oversized ... Read More
We arrived in FLL airport on November 14th at 1130AM, and were at the port by 12PM. Easy and smooth embarkation. We were given orange "number 1" cards and grabbed a seat near the entryway to paradise (in reality, an oversized cubicle wall that would give Dilbert heart failure, which separated us from the convention style desks marked with deck designations). After a 40 minute wait, our "number 1" cards were called and we cavorted through the cubicle. After a quick processing and interrogation by Helga the Terrible (check in)we were in our cabin by 1 PM. In all seriousness, the embarkation staff were wonderful. We called the dine line immediately at 1 PM to get a spot at the Holy Grail of all princess cruises, the Chef's Table. A nice fellow named Icky (yes, that was the name he gave me) took our information and lack of allergy needs, and told us we would hear from his office about whether we would be attending the event. I felt like we were aspiring Hollywood actors, and Icky the agent had just told us "Don't call us, we'll call you." Since I had called by 1 PM, I thought we had the part. That'll teach me to be so smug, but later on that one. Oh yes, I also had Icky book us at the Crown Grill and Sabatini's, per the advice of my well travelled CC peers. Apparently, those shows were hard up for even bad actors, as we got in at both without issue. Armed with special knowledge from the CC boards, my DW and I marched to the Pursurs desk to ask which dining room was open for lunch. We were told that they were all closed. Hand to the side of my face, I confided in the Princess Rep that we had special knowledge that one DR was indeed open, all she had to do was tell us which one, and we wouldn't let the secret out. She again said none were open. Fine then. I collected myself and decided to investigate this one on my own, DW shaking her head sadly behind me. The first DR we came upon was the DaVinci, and low and behold, staff was in there and pax were seated at tables! I marched in triumpant and asked to be seated. "Sorry sir, we are closed," was the reply. How could this be, my inside info was wrong! "Sir, we closed at 2:30, it is now 2:45." Yes, I was so secure in my knowledge that I forgot to think "lunch" had an expiration time. I guess that's when "dinner" starts. Oh well, off to the buffet and a shrimp fest that would make Red Lobster blush. The next heavy lifting activity was the Muster Drill. I was confident in the knowledge that I could handle a life jacket, and quite certain the proper direction to abandon ship was down, so I wanted to skip this one. I had read on CC that the crew hadn't gotten the card scanning thing down at the muster stations, so I could get away with it. My DW, however, pointed out that the Muster flyer said this was REQUIRED BY LAW, so my logic was a bit flawed. Of course, I took a stand on this one, as all husbands must......You know what, they DO scan cards now. I realized this as we entered our muster stations during the drill. Did you know that a human female can speak the words "I told you so" with just a glance? Sailaway was breathtaking. We found the CC secret spot above the bridge. Just as we arrived at the first door from the Lido deck to this spot, DW said "I don't think we are meant to go through here." I confidently opened it and looked down a short, dismal hallway to another nondescript door. She KNEW we shouldn't go through that one. I did anyway and we were there! Best view on all sides, high above the ship, spectacular. And for the first time on this cruise, I was actually right! I tried to bask even slightly in my glory, because it might be my only chance. We passed the Allure of the Seas on the way out, and that ship is huge. I managed to get some great camera shots of the Allure, setting sun, and planes taking off from FLL above. Ah, the sights and sounds of sailaway, and the anticipation of a great week at sea. I won't forget it, at least not until we take our next cruise. Dinner that evening was to be our first taste of specialty dining, the Crown Grill. We had reservations at 6 PM and arrived 10 minutes early, so we opened the front door and walked right in. Ooops. The place looked deserted, with maybe one chef in the back and no one at the podium up front. That prompted me to keep walking in further. I realized after a bit that I was now alone, as DW had stayed cautiously by the front door, perhaps sensing impending danger or outright doom. From out of the elegant, dimly lit atmosphere, or shadows, came a huge fellow with a Russian accent, who told me they were closed, sir. As a brave American who weathered the might of the cold war, I naturally retreated, gathered my DW, and waited outside. Fashionably early at the Crown Grill is not a good thing, tovarish. When we entered properly after 6, our maitre d', whose name escapes me but whose size never will, cheerfully showed us to our table. He didn't look as imposing when armed with a smile, better lighting and the fact that they were now actually open. Our server was a dynamo named Nestor. He exuded friendliness and let us know right away we could have whatever dining experience we wished, whether slow and savory or fast, like "Speedy Gonzalez". This caused me to picture Nestor as a rodent in white peasant garb and a big sombrero for the rest of the night. He probably still wonders why I had to suppress a giggle every time he walked by. Other than the long ears and whiskers, he was a truly fine server. We ordered cobinations of different appetizers and entres, and he never said no. We even ordered six extra lobster tails (which I guessed would get us a Speedy kick right out the door) and he said "right away." Nestor was top notch, as was the food at the Crown. I had the scallops and foe gras appetizer (that's leeeever, i theeenk), and loved it. DW had the filet, and it was cooked to perfection. The lobster tails were incredible...we cut them with a fork! Dessert had to be sent to the room for later. After dinner, we explored the ship a bit. I confirmed that the Ruby is exactly like the Crown (we sailed the Crown last November), with some minor exceptions, such as the location of the excursions desk. I then decided that it was my time to start divesting the Ruby of its money by way of the casino. Since I am an expert blackjack player, this was to be an easy process. Unfortunately, someone before me had taught the Ruby's dealers how to play, and play well. So well that I was not going to be anything but broke if I kept this up. Exit stage left. We played cards with my in-laws later that evening, and I watched the lights of passing ships out on the balcony. A very peaceful end to the first day onboard. Yes, I said peaceful and in-laws in the same paragraph, we actually do get along very well. Day two was a stop at Princess Cays. We planned to tender over later, let the crwods beat us, in effect. I ventured out at 8 AM for my daily walk. Since I had lost a bit of weight (truth be told, the Michelin Man had nothing on me until recently, when I could finally be considered in the "normal" body mass range), I was determined to complete my very own "cruise marathon", or 26.2 miles of walking during the cruise. I had heard on CC that the Promenade deck of the Ruby was a 1/3 mile walk on level ground, so three laps were a mile. This was almost true. I noticed that tape had been placed on the outer edge of the deck, marking every 10 meters. As I walked along, I looked down carefully at the markings to figure out the length of a lap. Suddenly, my foot, followed by my body, bumped into a set of steps which had no business being on a flat deck. Apparently, the forward section of the Promenade deck is actually the Emerald deck, separated by about 20 steps up, then down. My marathon would now be a mara and stair climber thon. The deck ended up being 610 meters, slightly more than 1/3 mile, for those of you who could use this info. I thought I might be the only person up this early. However, about a dozen people had joined me on my walk. It was interesting. I speed walked, which meant I passed other walkers. Some folks ran, which meant they passed me. Other runners and walkers were going the other way. Even worse, the deck became a one lane road at the stern. The whole scene resembled a demented Autobahn full of drunk or Sunday drivers in the wrong lanes. "Excuse me" turned to "on your right" and quickly became "ouch!" Note to self: get up earlier tomorrow. By the time I returned to the room, DW was ready to eat, and didn't even comment on the musty smell accompanying her to breakfast. We tried the Horizon Court buffet, and it was a winner. We ate breakfast there every day. An omelette station was hidden next to the scrambled eggs, and the sky was the limit. They even offered Egg Beaters. I'd like to think the veggie/egg beaters omelette balanced the bacon very well, but I could be kidding myself. The tender to Princess Cays was a breeze. We sat in the Michaelangelo dining room for about 5 minutes, then off we went. Princess Cays (PC, for short, although some of the bathing suits I saw were anything but PC) was fantastic. Nice sandy beaches, but the water was surprisingly cold for the tropics. The cookout was delicious. Plenty to choose from, even for dieters like me. I had a salad and grilled chicken, and it was delicious. Very fresh fruit was served near the picnic area. After a quick tender back to the Ruby, we ate dinner at the DaVinci DR. We had assigned dining at 5:30 PM, which was a newer concept. I had read complaints on CC about anytime diners being put out by this, since DaVinci was previously anytime only. I can understand this. When we walked in, we were asked if we had a table and were shown in right away. Others waited in line outside, as they had anytime dining. I can see why this would ruin the anytime experience, and I would not opt for anytime until they fix this. We met out servers, Lorentz and Suppon. Both were fabulous, and catered to anything we asked. Iceberg lettuce wedge as a salad? No problem. Balsamic dressing? Sure. More than one appetizer? Absolutely. Can you make my food spicy? Huh? What? But you are from the U.S.! We aren't used to that one. They passed the baton to Filipe, our head waiter. Within a few minutes, he had the chefs dice up some jalapeno peppers, which I sprinkled on my food. Tasty, but not hot enough. Felipe promised to call in the troops and be ready for me the next night with the big guns, the Indian and Thai chefs. I'm not so sure I like this. Day three began earlier, at 6:45 AM. As I tried to go out the doors to the Promenade, I noticed they were taped off. They apparently clean the decks until 7. Great. I could just see myself slipping on a wet deck and becoming either a railing ornament or a fishing lure. No need to worry though, they dry the decks too. The walk was easier today, since I had beaten the walker's rush hour. The winds at the bow were brutal. I felt like the guy sitting in an easy chair in front of the stereo in that older commercial, with everything blowing off of me as I walked forward. After I turned the corner at the bow, the tail wind doubled my speed and practically threw me down the steps. Exercise, meet the X games. Since today was a sea day, it would be total relaxation. DW spent a good portion of the day laying out at the pool, while I was layed out flat by the dealers in the casino. At 2 PM, we went up the Skywalkers for our CC role call "meet and greet" event. We were a bit nervous, since I had only "met" any of these people on the CC bulletin boards, and I really hadn't posted much to our role call. Everyone on there semmed to have cruised together before or been friends since birth, as inside jokes or perhaps cult codes were often passed back and forth on the roll call. Not to worry, they were just really nice people who had a lot more cruise experience than we did. Conversation flowed and I understood it all, including the jokes. Not one cup of kool aid was passed either. Just as the atmosphere started to get festive, the wedding party shows up. Ummmmm, we do intend to renew ours vows eventually, but no one told us to dress up and we just can't afford to rent these people! But they wouldn't leave. Apparently, Princess had double booked the room, and the wedding party had security with them, so they won. We were sent off before anyone could even schedule another room or suggest another day to meet. Great people on our roll call, luckily none of them named Jones. Just before dinner, we received notice that, to the great regret of Princess, the roles of leading man and lady would be given to ten other passengers. We missed the Chef's Table for tomorrow night. No white coats, free books, free flowing wine, stellar food, or behind the scenes looks at the kitchen. We tried to beg our way in with the maitre d', Generoso who despite his name, could not be generous. He did try, and even went to our table personally to apologize. Fine, I will exact payment in the form of spicy food. Formal night dinner started with a visit from our head waiter. Felipe was grinning ear to ear, mumbling something about Thai spice powder. I was presented with a shrimp dish in a tomato based sauce, with lots of suspicious looking little seeds. Felipe couldn't tell me what it was, just that it was HOT. It was indeed delicious, but still not spicy enough. Wednesday began bright and early, after the cleaning crews quit for the day. It was amazing to walk the decks and watch as we approached the island of St. Martin, entered the harbor and docked. Thw whole docking process on such a huge ship amazes me, as I grew up around smaller boats. Same concept, just on a massive scale. St. Martin is a split island. We had docked on the Dutch side. I understand the French side is rich in culture, french cooking and fine architecture. It was also a $38 cab ride, so we stuck with the Dutch side. Lots of nice shops, a McDonald's (so there is grest food on the Dutch side too!), and an adorable little town hall. We passed a bar called the "Blue B*tch" (add an "i" for the *). It made for a good picture, but I wasn't going in there. The casino on the island had relatives dealing on the Ruby, so they knew me. Bad idea there. Dinner that night was a shrimp and scallop concoction that was spicy, just not quite there yet. Felipe left unhappy, but determined. I mentioned habanero or ghost peppers, but they had none on board and had no pepper dealers in the islands. The fine cast of the Chef's Table walked right by us, white coats on display, on their way to the kitchen and culinary nirvanna. May your Dramamine patches fall off in rough seas, grrrrrrrr. Thursday was St. Thomas, where my in-law's family jeweler was to meet us at the dock and drive us to his shop and then to lunch. Now, if you are wondering why my in-laws have a jeweler, I'm right there with you. This did not bode well for me. The island is great for shopping, with two cruise docks about five miles apart, both full of every shop you can imagine. DW did well. The blackjack dealers on the ship were kinder to me than this island was. I did get some spicy Chinese food out of the deal, though. Friday brought a new island, Grand Turk. We debarked (pulled the skin off of a tree?) quickly, since we had a snorkelling excursion planned. Reef and Ray, oh my. It sounded fabulous. At the reef, I had to be the first off the boat. That was when I felt the current pulling at me. DW joined me and we both swam around, marvelling at the sea life on the reef. Then I met the reef up close and personal. I felt my flipper hit something, then turned around and was up to my neck in coral. My left forearm and right leg were on fire. I managed to warn DW in time and extricate myself, but the damage was done. My arm was red and swollen, with little bumps on it like I was in a cold climate. I thought, "this is pretty cool" and kept swimming around. Apparently, the strong current had tossed me into a higher reef that was just at the water's surface. When we were called back to the boat, the current slammed DW into the ladder as well. I was sitting on the boat bench a bit later, when another passenger said, "hey, your leg is bleeding!" I looked down and my leg was bloody from the calf down due to two cuts from the coral. Cool again. Good thing there weren't any sharks in the area. Well, the crew had me fill out a thorough incident report, and seemed really worried. I suppose other might try to take advantage of such a situation, but accidents happen. The "ray" stop consisted of one sting ray held by the crew and shown to passengers. I think they took it there by leash in its own tank. One of them slipped up and called it Fido. The trip could have been better without that nasty current, but c'est la vie. I wouldn't take this excursion again, but would instead follow the advice of other CC members and book ahead via the web. After the bloody snorkel and ray, Grand Turk got better. The dock there is obviously brand new, as are the shops. Ron Jons Surf Shop is there, so T shirts had to be purchased. I had to get a shirt from Margaritaville as well, since it was this very song that got me tossed out of the Princess Pop Stars competition. Yes, I found my lost shaker of salt. Since we had a reservation at the Crown tomorrow, tonight was Felipe's last shot at me. He did well, as his last dish had me sweating just enough to declare it spicy to my tastes. Not the hottest I've ever eaten, but don't tell him that! Felipe was by far the crew member who went out of his way for us (well, me) most. He took me on as a personal challenge, and succeeded in his mission with what he had on hand. Bravo Felipe! Saturday was a sea day, which gave me one final shot at redemption in the casino. While DW fried her body at the pool, this lilly white boy sat in the casino for a few hours, bound and determined to go broke or at least take back what I had given them for 6 days. After a hard (and fun) fight, I managed to end up slightly ahead for the cruise, which is a win for me. After a nice tip to the dealer, I walked out with a big smile, never to return (for this cruise). Dinner that night was at the Crown, where Speedy worked his magic yet again. Great food at the Crown. Service at the DR's is top notch, and they go the extra mile for you, but the best food and food quality is at the Crown, hands down. It helps to be served by a fast mouse, too. Sunday came too quickly. The first thing I noticed was an attitude change in the crew. These nice, wonderful friendly people were getting moody. It must have been that time of the....week? My guess is that turnaround day is so hectic that it brings out the worst in people, and they don't have to see me tomorrow, so why bother so much? Understandable, logical, but fun to observe. Debarkation was hectic for us, as the purser's desk made a bit of an error. This can easily happen, but it sure seemed like they wanted us to miss our flight and stay with them. I'd be fine with that, but my relatives only offered to babysit for ONE week. They sent us to the wrong room to debark, so we ended up leaving the ship an hour later. We did make our flight, so they failed in their attempt to keep us. However, it was frustrating. All in all, this was a dream vacation for us. Princess was the right choice and did a fine job, with just a few understandable exceptions. Did any of the issues really matter in the big picture? Not at all. Can Princess make up for it by sending a chef, some wine, a couple of white coats and a cookbook to our house right away? Yes. So, if Princess thinks I will ever cruise with them again, they would be correct. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We sailed on the Ruby in October, 2009 and liked the ship and our stateroom so well we booked the same stateroom this time. The night before we embarked, we stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Cruiseport hotel. This hotel will shuttle you ... Read More
We sailed on the Ruby in October, 2009 and liked the ship and our stateroom so well we booked the same stateroom this time. The night before we embarked, we stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Cruiseport hotel. This hotel will shuttle you free from the airport to the hotel and then free from the hotel to the ship. Good hotel rooms but this year we had to pay for breakfast. It was a nice breakfast buffet and we think it was about $11 per person. So, the savings on taxi fares were spent on breakfast. Embarkation was absolutely easy! We arrived at the cruiseport at about 10:30AM and were seated inside with a number 1 in our hands! There are restrooms inside and chairs were comfortable. At exactly 11:30AM, we boarded the ship and went directly to our stateroom. We have found we love this stateroom which is on the absolute back of the ship, looking out at the wake. It is covered, 1/3 larger than other balconies, private, and you never have cigarette smoke to smell because of how the wind is while sailing! The stateroom itself is very standard and the storage is very plentiful. Bathroom was not a problem. It's a small shower, but the water was always hot! Our stateroom steward, Cristian, was by far and away the happiest Princess employee we have ever encountered on any cruise. We wanted to adopt him! We went upstairs to the Horizon Buffet for lunch and found it to be very good. We did the Scavenger Hunt prior to the Sail away. It is a great way to find out where all the good places on the ship are and then there's a fun party and drawing for prizes at the Sail away time. We opted for the early seating traditional dining this time and enjoyed a table for 6 in the Botticelli Dining Room. We loved our table mates and our Waiter and Junior Waiter, Sapon and Hartoto. We always had adequate menu choices for dinner and the hot food was hot, and the cold food cold. We were especially impressed with the care the staff took in accommodating one of our table mate's needs for a Vegetarian Diet. The Maitre'D and our Waiters continually checked with this person to be sure he had good choices to his liking. Portion sizes were just right for us, and we know that if you want more food, all you have to do is ask. Our first port was Princess Cays. Tendering seemed easier than last year and certainly went faster. It wasn't as hot as last year so we actually enjoyed being there this time. No need to rent a cabana. There are many, many lounge chairs in shady areas on the beach. We did not try any of the excursions or beach toys but it appeared people seemed happy with their choices all day. The BBQ lunch was very good and there were many choices. The one negative was the island drink we purchased. Neither of ours seemed to have much if any alcohol in them as promised. We did hear this complaint from others as well. St. Maarten was our second stop. Our excursion was the sailing on the America's Cup sailboats for a 12 meter race aboard either the Stars and Stripes or Canada 2. We loved doing this! There were crew jobs for those who wanted to be active and also some for those who just wanted to enjoy (we even had an "iceberg watcher" position!). Unfortunately, we did not have enough time in port to do much else on the island as we would have liked. One of our pet peeves about the excursions we sign up for onboard ship is that so many times, time is wasted waiting on the pier for late comers. There just don't seem to be any consequences for those who make the rest of us wait for them and hence, lose time enjoying the excursion and extra time on an island. Princess, are you listening???? St. Thomas is, of course, a shopping extravaganza. However, this time we chose to take a water taxi to the island of St. John to go to the Trunk Bay beach. This beach is absolutely pristine and wonderful. It is part of the Virgin Islands National Park and so is well kept pristine. We loved the snorkeling and even the fun (crazy driver) ride from the taxi port to the beach. Water taxi took us past Madonna's St. Thomas home, and other famous landmarks which were announced. Nice 45 minute ride. Again, this tour took so long (5 hours) that we didn't have time to do much else on St. Thomas. We didn't care here, but if you do need to shop as well as go to St. John...not possible. Our last port was Grand Turk. We did not expect to like this place because we had been told, and had read, that "there's nothing to do here." WRONG. The beach is directly beside where the ship docks so there is no need to get transportation to a beach. It is a very nice beach with many, many chairs (free) under the shade of many palms. Nice restrooms. Great shops right here too. And the crown jewel of this port is Margaritaville! There's a nice pool for those who don't want the ocean water, a swim up bar, a wave rider, and the best drinks we had during our entire cruise. We absolutely loved this port. It was just fine to have a day where we didn't have to go far to relax. We didn't find the Casino as fun this year as we did last. The smoke in here (there were 2 non-smoking nights however) was oppressive. The $5 Blackjack table now uses 8 decks which is not to the player's favor and they shuffle about halfway through the decks. There were other games but we didn't try them. Slot machines were just fair. A few were what I would call loose, but the majority were not and there were very few of the newer slots you might see in a regular casino. We did not go to the theater or any of the bars for the entertainment this year. The boutiques had a good selection of duty free items and the sales were fun. Don't ever pass up a sale in one of the dining rooms. They occasionally have a real good deal buried somewhere in a pile! We found the prices at the Lotus Spa for massages to be almost double what they were last year so we did not book a massage. We love the fact that anyone can use the Sanctuary Pool. That's pretty much of a secret onboard but it is true. Try the current machine. Great exercise trying to swim against the current! Very quiet place and you're not on display for too many other cruisers. Disembarkation was fantastic. Easy and very efficient. All in all, this was another excellent cruise! Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Ruby Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.9
Family 5.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.9
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 5.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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