Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ruby Princess - Part 1

Ruby Princess, or as she's affectionately known by Princess, the "Love Boat." She is the newest, and largest member of the Princess fleet. At just over 1 year old, she's 18 decks tall and 131,000 tons in weight.
On our sailing, we had 3,399 passengers from 46 different countries. That doesn't count the 44 different countries represented by the crew. The captain was Tony Draper, and the Cruise Director was James Lay. Americans represented just under half the number of passengers on the ship. Following the USA, the next largest group of passengers came from the United Kingdom, and rounding out the top 3 was Canada.

This was by the largest ship I had ever been on before. I was afraid, prior to going on the cruise, that the ship would feel cramped or crowded and that getting on and off the ship at ports would be an issue, especially our tender port of Santorini. But that was far from the truth. Any delay we ever had in getting of the ship at a port call was due to the crew or local officials and never due to crowds. In fact, it almost seemed like there weren't 3,400 passengers on board. The only time you really ever noticed the crowds were at the ship parties, where having tons of passengers participate was a plus, and at the International Crew Show, which was packed. Other than that, this felt like any other small, intimate ship I had sailed on before.

This was our third time sailing with Princess. Our first experience came in 1996 on the old Golden Princess. That was a miserable experience, partly because the cruise ended up getting cancelled due to a fire on the 2nd day of the cruise in the engine room that crippled the ship. It wasn't until 2008 that we went on our second Princess cruise. This time, it was on the Grand Princess sailing through the British Isles. We were persuaded to take our 3rd Princess cruise on the Ruby Princess because a) the price was right, b) the itinerary included a good mix of places we wanted to see, and c) she was a new ship.

Due to our experience on Grand Princess having booked an obstructed oceanview cabin, we had decided to go that same route again. The obstructed ocean view (Category FF) provides us with a bit of a price reduction vs. the regular oceanview, but it still provides us with an ocean view, which was important to us. I spent quite some time studying deck plans to try and pick the obstructed oceanview cabin that would actually have the least obstruction. On our cruise last year, due to the layout, I was able to book a room that literally had no obstruction as it was right in between two lifeboats. This time around, the Ruby had a bit of a different layout, so the best I could do was to choose a cabin in which the end of the lifeboat provided a minor obstruction to the ocean view. When I got to the cabin, I was pleasantly surprised by the view we had. In order to save money, I'd go with this option every time.

I would say that with Ruby being a new ship, and a big one, I had expected there to be the fireworks and the glitz and glamour that some of the other cruise lines have incorporated into their new ships. Instead, I didn't really feel like that existed in this ship. There are a few new additions to the ship, but overall, it still had a very Princess feel. Unfortunately, I really thought that this would be their opportunity to do something different, and to that extent, I was disappointed. But I completely understand that their design elements, or lack thereof in my opinion, is strictly subjective and based on one's opinion.
I think that thinking of this cruise, and just analyzing the cruise ship and cruise line aspect of it, there were pluses and minuses to it all. There were elements I really liked (International Cafe), others that I didn't really like (lack of pizazz with the design elements), and others that were just average (food selection).

Would I cruise Princess again? Definitely, a vacation is a vacation, right?

Would it be my first choice in cruise lines? No, probably not. But then again, to be fair, it never was.

In the end, as always, if the price is right, the itinerary is right, and the timing is right, I'll sail almost every cruise line on any ship.

There's really no greater thing than traveling, and if this cruise line on this ship gets me to where I want to go, well that's all that matters.

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