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MaryBeth

Age: 37

Occupation:Homemaker

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Ruby Princess

Sailing Date: 05-7-2009

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

It was our second cruise with Princess and overall a good experience. Embarkation and disembarkation were flawless. The muster drill was held indoors which was nice. Ruby princess is a new ship and it shows. Everything spic-n-span. Because we chose anytime seating, we had different head waiter/assistant for each meal. Some were better than others, a few were downright rude; a few were absolutely stellar. Overall I would rate the service in the dining rooms as good (not outstanding, not poor). Wait service at the buffets was poor - very difficult to find a waiter to bring a drink, get a refill, etc. The "Princess Patter" arrives daily and reviews activities. We enjoyed the "demonstration nation" classes where staff carved fruit, folded towels, flower design, hair design, etc. Photo lab folks were great. Entertainment onboard was also very good. One of the highlights of the cruise for us was the coveted "behind the scenes" tour offered by princess. It is done by drawing and it costs $150/pp (not cheap) but you see places in the ship that are off-limits to all but the fewest of staff such as the engineering room, the laundry area, kitchen and food prep, print shop, theatre, medical services (yep they have a morgue) and more.

All food onboard Ruby Princess (we learned from the ultimate ship tour) is all prepared from scratch each week -- an outstanding feat when one considers the volume of passengers and crew onboard. Each night featured a different theme (Italian night was especially memorable because the head chef is Italian) and the food was good. As with the servers, some meals were better than others. It's nice to be able to try different foods but the wait times can be long if you order something that you end up disliking. Pastries and sweets onboard were fantastic. Soups were very good, main dishes were good. On seafood night most everyone ordered lobster and it was excellent. We did try the steakhouse while onboard and it was great but it is an experience more than a meal and the three-hours it took to get all the courses was rather lengthy. Buffet food was good but hindered by the poor service in the buffet dining areas. Princess does have the best pizza on the high seas. Big New York style, hot and delicious and made fresh daily on Lido 15 floor.

We had a balcony stateroom on the baja deck. Very thoughtfully designed. Built-in hair dryer was great. Our large luggage fit easily under the beds. The closet and storage were ample. I did not like the lack of privacy with regard to the balcony. Ours was fine (no one could see into our balcony), but we could see into dozens of balconys from the baja deck and it made the experience a bit awkward. No one wants to look up and see me looking on them -- and frankly I didn't want to see anyone on their balconies. Unfortunately that is the design of the ship and a design flaw in my opinion. (Our first Princess cruise was on the rear of the ship and in addition to having the largest balconies the rear of the ship is also very private - unlike being on the side). The smell of smoke was pungent from time to time so if you're a non-smoker as we are, there is no way to avoid smelling it. And the teenage next door broke out some marijuana too, so that was also an odor I could have lived without.

Onboard entertainment was great. Shows were outstanding -- much like broadway with the lighting, costumes, sound effects, singers/dancers, etc. We didn't see the comedians booked either night but heard they were hilarious. Good sized gym onboard with ample equipment. We especially enjoyed Movies Under the Stars and saw Jim Carrey's "Yes Man" and Dustin Hoffman's "Last Chance Harvey" while onboard. The spa services are great, if you're into that consider scheduling while in port when prices and specials are happening. Activities onboard Ruby Princess are not geared for the adventurous (no rock climbing, wave surfing, etc.,) but it does have putt-putt, several swimming pools (filled with Ph-balanced water not seawater), a large casino, several dance clubs, and more passive recreational opportunities. Large casino but it was smoke-filled so we did not play. The internet cafe onboard is large but the connection times are long and the packages are expensive. We ordered the 100 minute package and it took 3 to 4 minutes to log on each time.

DON'T MISS. If you like to see "behind the curtains" consider the Ultimate Ship Tour. It's pricey, but fascinating.

We booked our excursions using outside vendors because Princess charges too much for theirs; however, when the ship experienced catastrophic engine failure enroute to Mexico, we arrived to port late and lost the opportunity to take the excursion we'd booked, which required us to book one onboard. We chose Chankanaab and Discover Mexico and it was a good experience. Chankanaab has great scuba and snorkeling and it's reasonably priced.

Our itinerary included Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. The port in Ocho Rios, where we disembarked, was surrounded by barbed wire and it was rather chaotic. We climbed Dunns River Falls and later floated down the White River in innertubes. Very memorable. Getting through the vendors at Dunns River Falls is an experience -- they do not sell, they harrass people walking by. Tubing down the White was amazing, we had a blast and it was relaxing and lots of fun. In Grand Cayman we booked SCUBA and it was phenomenal. Be advised Cayman is pricey, especially with the lower dollar exchange rates; our lunch at Hammerheads was $66 USD which included fish n chips, barbecue, two cokes, and a margarita. The service was poor but it seems in the Caribbean most folks operate "on island time" meaning nothing happens too quickly. In Cozumel we booked Chankanaab/Discover Mexico onboard the ship and that tour was interesting but expensive.

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