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Marek

Age: 54

Occupation:Engineer

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Ruby Princess

Sailing Date: 2009-07-21

Itinerary: Italy and Greek Islands

Please note that these comments are based on the expectations of 5-star cruise ship. I found the cruise to be uninspiring with poor customer service. Below my expectations.

I sailed previously with Holland America, so my experience is based on comparison between the two lines. Overall it wasn't a bad cruise, but it could have been much better if the crew was better. I have to say that the itinerary was great (this is why we selected this cruise) and the price was quite good, too (however, I am not sure if the good price was more due to the last minute booking).

It seems that Princess is not catering to any particular audience, so the experience might be a bit bland. This is certainly not a party ship, but it is neither a "luxury" or "seniors" place. This is good and bad at the same time. Nobody is completely dissatisfied, but nobody is completely happy, either.

I would rate the ship at the max. 4.5 stars (not the 5, as it claims to be).

The food was uninspiring. In the restaurant, there was enough choice, but what was lacking was the little bit of "flair", this one extra step that you might expect form a high-end cruise. However, all food was quite tasty and the variation was sufficient.

In the buffet, again, not much inspiration. There was enough good food, but most of it was the same through-out the cruise. I would compare it a decent, but not outstanding all-inclusive resort.

We were booked (contrary to our wishes) for the "eat anytime" dining. This may appeal to some, but you get, generally, an average restaurant experience. This was certainly not a 5-star service. The waiters seemed in a constant rush, almost throwing plates at you and pulling half-completed course from under your nose.

The restaurant stuff seemed uneven; some waiters obviously had decent experience; others must have been new to the trade. The problem might be in the way Princess is recruiting recently. They hired (apparently) many people from Central/Southern Europe, many without much prior experience (this is based on comments from some of the staff).

My stateroom (a standard balcony cabin) was fine. A bit smaller than on our previous trips, but nicely done and comfortable. The cabin steward made the trip comfortable.

One major issue was that half way through the cruise, they decided to repaint the walls on the balcony. This rendered the balcony unusable for at least 36h. There was no notice before or apology afterwards.

The entertainment was, I guess, ok. But it was unimpressive. A standard mix of stand-up comics, a bit of a music-hall production and some game shows. Additionally, a few bands and sole artists entertaining in the bars.

Maybe the problem is that it wasn't directed at any particular audience so it seemed to cater to anybody. I bet that almost everyone wished that there was more of their type of music. If you liked Rock, there was too much R&B, if you liked ballroom, there was too much Rock. To me it looks like they tried not to offend anyone, but they failed to satisfy anyone.

On top of that the bands played 30min and took 30min breaks. And they took breaks at the very same time. So if your idea of spending an evening was to dance the night away, you would be disappointed.

There are plenty of tours to choose from. And they are quite well organised. If there is a single thing where they excelled, it was in the organisation of leaving the ship in the morning and coming back after the tours. No line-ups, no extended waiting (well, at least considering the 2000+ people trying to leave the ship at the same time).

A word of advice for first time European cruisers: don't overdo the tours. There is so much to see and so little time, so many people try to see everything (we got caught in that mode, as well). After a few days you might feel quite exhausted. I wish that in a few more ports we had done the sightseeing on our own, instead of taking a tour. If you feel confident about roaming around a foreign city on your own, you might be better of doing that instead of taking a tour. Tours are fairly expensive ($60-$180 pp). For the same amount (for two people) you can easily rent a car for the day or take a cab or train and do some exploring on your own. However, the trips were all well organised, with good guides (who could speak decent English).

Be prepared to walk some distance on any tour and be prepared for the heat of the Mediterranean sun (for most of the cruise the temperatures were in the 30-35C range).

Overall, we are reasonably happy with the trip. It was at a discounted price (we booked it about two weeks before leaving) had a very good itinerary and it was quite comfortable.

The ship could benefit from some more customer focused front desk staff (as it is they show a "this is not my problem" attitude) and possibly more training for their restaurant staff.

Another interesting quirk was that since the crew is very multinational, and many of them have quite strong accents, you have to re-learn their language all the time.

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