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Pat Robins

Age: 49

Occupation:Finance - Self Employed

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Ruby Princess

Sailing Date: 2011-02-20

Itinerary: Caribbean

One of the most happiest, unforgettable, awesome, touching, relaxing, spiritual and inspiring vacations I've ever had (and I just got back from Scuba diving at the Hilton Barbados in July, replete with celebtrity US State Dept. company... I didn't think it could get any better than that). I'm a business owner who curbs costs but indulges in luxury designer goods and the Ruby Princess is the perfect ship, price point (and community class) for feeling private, classy, respected and pleasantly indulged without having to go to Seabourne or Cunard. The Ruby is still in brand spanking new condition with continuous attention to those details plus their expense on 21st century state-of the-art entertainment and public areas will make you think they are bankrupting themselves for the cruise price they charge. I saw and met seniors, groups of ten plus and even a few families with children and it was still possible to stay in my own quiet, reverent, romantic world and meet other eligibles toward the end of the cruise for a few classy dates. There were singles, couples, romantic seniors, active groups all interacting with one another and all out to have the same sensible, classy, respectable time, which is why this ship is suited for everyone, while simultaneously pursuing individual goals. I beached, tanned and snorkeled all day, took off my clothes, grabbed a cup of herbal tea and sat up in the Lotus Spa eucalyptus steam room before I showered, rested and watched first rate documentaries and CNN with room service coffee and sandwiches while readying for the evening schedule of shows and dinners. The ship designers have also thought of everything to do with your belongings so you don't ever have to feel like you're running around or inconvenienced.. you can just go from one setting to the next and just, 'be." I also got the feeling that (maybe it was just my sailing group, or it's this ship's conducive atmosphere) but no one was going to walk off with your pricey belongings. If you left it there, it was going to be there when you got back. One woman left pricey designer sunglasses, a music player and other pricey accessories on her pool chaise and we kept wondering after four hours when she was going to get back (from clearly somewhere else across the ship). No mind, however. We just kept watch, sunbathing and pool dipipping. Respectful co-passengers.

Honestly, the food doesn't become tasy and impressive until you pay extra for the specialty dining at Crown Grill or Sabatini's. Then, we're talking 22oz. Porterhouse steaks, filet mignon, lobster tails, etc. I come from New York where we cook and dine for real so I can't be impressed or fooled by food service industry food dolled up as 'gourmet." A steak is a steak and you either grill it right or you don't. They don't offer or do that in the 'anytime' or regular seating restaurants so I just shelled out an extra $20 per day for the specialty cover charge and ate $100 of NY quality every night. Everything else is just a snack. But, not necessarily bad, and you can be creative. It's just that the lack of differential quality in the regular (free) dining may force you to want something more commensurate with the overall 5 star quality of your ship experience. As for creativity? Sometimes I'd have Tiramisu or Creme Brulee and fruit with my coffee for breakfast or eat my leftover refrigerated filet mignon and lobster with eggs for breakfast the next morning. Or, ask the morning Horizon Court chefs to make an omelette from smoked salmon, red onion, spinach and mushroom that you pluck from the self-serve stations instead of their normal food service ingredient choices, like 'ham.' So, you really can personalize it, get creative and keep it classy at all times. If room service is pricey (they like to incidentally charge you on most items, so choosing can be a bit of a financial obstacle course), I'd just run up to the Horizon Court and drag back nice salad sanwiches on croissant for my stateroom balcony as I sailed into the sunset. Every stateroom has a nicely sized, discrete refrigerator so I just dragged back extras of delicious things offered at different times and ate them later, when I wanted to (like when watching 2 am documentaries before going to sleep).

Absoultely fabulous, to my liking. I was smart and insisted on booking a basic balcony which made all the difference for my cruise and vacation experience. The 'basic' I refer to was the balcony as in Riviera 608 (Category BB) where it was large and ample enough but private enough for just one or two persons. This ship and its balcony are clean and modern with clean lines, clear floor-to-midriff glass, fine wood railings, clean and pleasant to look at and stand on rubber floor mats, and large double clear glass sliding doors. Nothing was cheesy, unpleasant or obstructed for this cabin category. I basically felt like they had transplanted my NY co-op balcony to the ocean. A few co-passengers complained they wished they'd booked the balcony and will next time, but not because their rooms were sub-par. It just adds to the heightened experience. I've sailed four cruises with other lines over 20 years and never had a balcony, before. I'm not going back. There's an added freedom and versatility to being able to experience the ocean, sunrises and sunsets, at times, without having to be in public or leave your stateroom. I also liked the colors and the furnishings were up-to-par, not seedy, tacky or "used". A note, the colors on the "port" side of the ship (even cabin numbers) are a subdued pastel peach whereas the starboard side features 'ice blue.' I honestly prefer the pastel, port side oriented staterooms. Something about the way the cabin is oriented and the way the light hits the peach decor on this side of the ship makes it feel more 'at home.' The 'ice blue' on the starboard side looked a bit clinical given the blue sea backdrop. (I tried to peek in and tour a few other cabins when permitted). I must say, however, inside stateroom are not what they used to be. I thought they were relegated to the basement but they are even on the highest floors throughout the ship and are often very spacious, ambiently lit and looked quite romantic and cozy when I passed by a few open doors. I think for those who resort to this option might 'get over it' fast because these ships seem to have put some emphasis into making these staterooms more pleasant, and you just forget about it. However, I'm glad I booked out of my initial 'fully obstructed window view' stateroom with an emergency boat blocking 90% of the frame and light shadows just creeping in from the corners. That would have just been a mind trick. You know what I mean. Without digressing... I didn't see one molded or dirty grout line anywhere in my cabin, the pool areas, the spa, etc., that my nosy eyes could see. For basics, cleanliness is what I'm big on and the Ruby's pristine cleanliness will quickly make you forget about nitpicking and move on to realizing you've got a 5-star vacation within the first few hours of touring the ship. Book into the basic balcony on Riviera deck, which is all you'll need to feel like you're sailing your own personal yacht. I left the balcony doors open all night to hear the waves thrashing by, let the sea air in and awake to Caribbean water, sky and air moving right by my bed. Heaven! Cabin steward service three times a day. What also makes this ship feel so luxurious and personal is (I guess) is their architecture of all public areas on the ship. What 3,100 passengers? I never saw them until I wanted to, which was at grand occassions like theatre shows, or special dinners (and even then, the groups were downsized due to staggered timing and choice of venues).

Well, there are plenty enough of them. The constant remark among fellow passengers is "how to be five people at once." I liked the idea that you can actually have time to yourself to coif your hair, moisturize your fresh tan, don an evening gown and saunter down to an (well, an off, off Broadway) show every night. The shows do glitter, razzle and dazzle and while the performances may not be impecabble (okay, I live in New York and I'm used to Broadway), the ship's 21st century state-of-the-art light and sound technology and impressive theatre venue take over where a few misplaced footsteps leave off. I did felt enchanted and pleased by the theatrical elegance for which I give the Ruby Princess itself a lot of credit. The ship's entertainment areas, rival, for me at least, some of the better venues in NY for class, comfortability and ambiance. For example, I'd rather dance the night away at Ruby Princess' Skywalker's disco than in majority of NY's. They must have poured over several million into it. Flat panel monitors are discretely everywhere and the glass floor lights up in colors as videos of the current song on demand pop-up through dry-ice fog, overlooking the ocean. Oh, if you've never done a spa before, as I haven't, set aside some extra money as I will for next time and indulge yourself. You can get lost in this place, alone. They even have a Rasul (I even thought his name was Rasul and he was out of his office with the door locked until someone told me it was an exclusive mud-suite with more showers and exfoliator scrub stations) that you reserve when you come into the spa. I took a cup of herbal tea into (one of three) eucalyptus steam room. Heaven! Steam rooms, tropical showers, eucalyptus fog mists, Rasuls, Saunas, plush robes, scandinavian lockers and changing rooms (did I forget that I left my belongings on the pool chaise outside for two hours, now?) And, that's not even the acupuncture or the juvederm or the teeth whitening or the private-spa treatment part of it all. Good tip: they run sales on treatments during the last several days of your cruise, so check with them. I can't think of a better way... getting acupuncture for nerve pain (which my fellow Canadian co-passenger got and said it worked!) and getting juvederm to fill in nasal facial creases... to end a trip and come back a brand new person. I've never been a spa person and now that's changed. Even the laundry rooms on every floor are clean, neat and inviting to do laundry. I was done in 30 minutes; wash to dry. Also, this ship's layout affords quick, convenient access to everywhere. Although it seems confusing when you first board, you'll soon find the size and layout of this ship easy to navigate without walking long distances or winding up in undesirable areas. There are no undesireable areas or "dead-ends". The designers, here, are making sense. Again, it's like a private yacht.

The only problem I find (like most cruises) is jumping up at 6am to be the first off at port to take full time advantage of the excursions plus any island 'discovery" time. The port hours are limited, i.e., 7-3 pm, which is eight hours. Most tours take up about 4-6 hours. That leaves only 2 hours for personal exploration and/or just simply breakfast disembarkation. Personally, I limited my 'partying' to one or two nights until 2am and didn't drink alcohol at all so that I could take advantage of the rapid pace and not make myself sick. You can't be on-time for a 7am scuba excursion in St. Thomas and enjoy it if you've drank and partied until 2am the night before (or the day before that, but that's just my opinion). I enjoyed the Catamaran sail in St. Maarten; it was sleek and elegant like and like being in an MTV video, however, there weren't really that many fish. Skip the BOSS Underwater Adventure in St. Thomas. If you're going to snorkel, snorkel. If you're going to SCUBA, then SCUBA. But, BOSS is an uncomfortable, sight-limited, awkward, heavy underwater scooter apparatus that you can do without. The technology is interesting and I'm glad they've engineered something seemingly adventurous that fills a niche market, but if you can don a snorkel, you're better off up close and personal with the fish. The BOSS is heavy on you, awkward to ride and navigate for the limited 30 minutes you're down there (only 10 feet) and will give you carpal tunnel trying to keep the accelerator depressed to keep up with your group. I'm Certified PADI Open-Water but I chose BOSS because I have an arm nerve injury I thought would prevent me from safe diving but this machinery was captivating and obscured vision of the sea life. I should have chosen Grand Turk Snuba, instead for my physical limitations. I must say all the tour operators are professional, entertaining and safety-focused, which is comforting. However, when we returned, there wasn't much time (in fact, none) to see St. Maarten and you're mostly guided into high-end shopping. If you want to go off on your own beaten path and not be constantly enticed into shopping the minute you disembark, head straight for the private taxis and a cab tour-guide. If you try to do both, you will have to know the island beforehand and have a James Bond strategic approach to time. And yes, the ship will leave you. That's personal advice from the staff.

Very, very, very nice. For the first few days, I was determined to stay quiet, to myself, in reverence of the beauty and peace of the ocean and the ship. And, I got that, too. However, I struck up pleasant conversations with a Canadian investment banker and his wife, many other very nice Canadians discussing politics, etc. By the cruise's end, I had even more friends with whom I dined and met for the ship's shows and shore relaxation. And, while I didn't go "overboard," I can truly see why they would call this line, "the Love Boat." Elegance and atmosphere can invoke opportunity so do not hesitate to travel alone and be, "stunning." Now, I know I can go anywhere in the world with Princess and travel alone because they take such good care of you, account for you and your co-passengers become an immediate community of friends. If you are tired, depressed, overworked, need some "me time," need to hear yourself think, scared to travel alone, With this cohort, at least. They need to do time shares. Tips for a successful cruise: DO visit the Spa and even book a service especially if you are not a Spa person. The place is amazing. DON'T drink alcohol - feel refreshed everyday and save tons of money on your budget. There are AA meetings on board with amazing and supportive people. DON'T look for negative things to complain about. You will be rewarded handsomely. I was thinking of asking the cabin steward to change my robe everyday until some woman told me they didn't change her linens on another line for an entire week. I could rant on and on but I have to resume work right now. However, I do have another booking confirmation aboard the Ruby and the price can't be beat.

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