Friday, August 21, 2009

Ruby Princess - Part 3

Entertainment is a wholly subjective opinion. What is enjoyable and necessary to one person, may be completely unenjoyable and unnecessary to someone else. However, when you book a cruise, you expect to be entertained during all those moments not spent on land. After all, that service is a part of the cruise fare you are paying for.

With the completion of my recent Mediterranean cruise on the Ruby Princess, I have now sailed on 12 different cruises over 5 different cruise lines. Each cruise line, and individual ship, has it's own unique entertainment features, some being much better than others.

Before I sailed on this most recent cruise, the most memorable Cruise Director I've ever sailed with was my very first cruise on Carnival's Jubilee in 1994. It's a bit disturbing when you're most memorable Cruise Director was from 15 years ago! The most memorable cruise overall in terms of entertainment was in 2005 sailing Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas to Alaska, followed closely by 2006's sailing on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas to the Western Mediterranean.

However, with this cruise, I've discovered my new favorite Cruise Director: James Lay. Perhaps it's James' background as a performer and his aspirations to perform on Broadway, but the guy was hilarious and memorable. He was visible all over the ship, which I can't say for some of the other Cruise Directors I've sailed with. And it seemed to me that James worked tirelessly throughout the whole cruise. It's no wonder that James has been the Cruise Director for the inaugural season of the past 3 new Princess ships.

While there was only one sea day throughout this entire cruise, which made enjoying entertainment at sea more difficult, I certainly did enjoy the part of it that I took advantage of. One thing that Princess does well is to provide live evening entertainment on board. Their 2 violinists on board were a great way to start off the evening. Soft, enjoyable, music to listen to. Their party band, Exotique, was great. So full of energy with a wide array of great dancing (fast and slow) music. They also had a piano player that entertained at night that was extremely popular. There was a slow music band that performed each evening as well, that while not as good as the party band, was still enjoyable. Having actual live entertainment, be it in the form of a single musician or a whole band, really does enhance the entertainment experience.

The nightly shows were very good on this cruise. The Ruby Princess singers and dancers performed in 3 production shows. However, they also made appearances during mini performances in the Piazza, the Welcome Show on the first night, and then as part of a variety show on another evening. The production shows we saw were all new to Ruby Princess. From "behind the scenes" shows we saw airing on our stateroom television, these production shows are created, choreographed, and completed specifically for Ruby Princess. And they were spectacular. Especially the last production show. It was called, I think, "In a Dream" and it follows a little girl's dreams and nightmares in the course of one night. It was highly innovative, imaginative, and entertaining. In addition to the Ruby Princess singers and dancers, other performers included 3 different comedians, a hypnotist, and an international vocalists. I also like how the entertainment was organized, what with having 3,400 passengers on board. On nights when there were the big production shows in the main Princess Theater (that seats about a 1,000 or so passengers), they offered that show at 2 different times. However, during that time, they also offered a different entertainment option (comedian, hypnotist, etc.) in the more intimate Explorer's Lounge as an alternate form of entertainment. Then on the following night, those that saw the Production Show the previous night see the other entertainment option in the Explorer's Lounge (offered at 3 different times), and those that saw the alternate entertainment the previous night go to the Princess Theater and see the Production Show. This definitely made the crowds more manageable at each venue, and I believe it all worked out well. And the absolute highlight of all of the entertainment options was the incredibly entertaining International Crew Show. There are some talented crew members on the high seas. That show was capped off by the Cruise Staff's performance of "If I Were Not Upon the Sea." The Crew Show was so popular that 30 minutes before the show there were no seats left. People were standing and sitting in every single spot available in the Princess Theater.

The other service that the Cruise Staff provided, which I found to be extremely useful, was the "Wake Up Show" and "Entertainment Tonight" shows that were filmed each and every day. Both shows were hosted by James, our Cruise Director, and Richie, the Assistant Cruise Director. The Wake Up Show was perfect to watch every morning as we were getting prepared for our port stop. It gave us all the last minute information we needed to know regarding our current ports of call as well as any on board entertainment during the day for those who were staying on board. Entertainment Tonight provided everybody with a list detailing all of that night's activities.

Finally, the two on board parties that were hosted by the Cruise Staff were fantastic. The first one was the White Hot Deck Party. Basically, guests were encouraged to wear white throughout the whole evening, but especially for the night time party being held out on the Pool Deck. The party began at 9:00 pm and lasted well into the evening. There was dancing, music, drinks, conga lines, countdowns and streamers. The place was packed and everyone had a good time. On our 2nd Formal Night, that was dubbed Ruby Red Night. Guests were encouraged to wear whatever red formal outfit they might have. Then we pretended that this was New Year's Eve. There was a party in the Piazza with dancing that went late into the night. At midnight, there was a countdown, such as there would be on New Year's Eve, and there were streamers. The band even played Auld Lang Syne. It was really quite creative, and everyone had a wonderful time.

While no cruise will ever be judge solely on the entertainment provided by the Cruise Staff, good entertainment options can enhance a cruising experience, and bad entertainment options can certainly sour your view on the cruise experience itself.
Part 4 of Ruby Princess to come next week will focus on cruise food!

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