Ruby Princess achieves something most 3,000-plus-passenger ships can't: A feeling you've just come home. (Think a high school reunion, only with people you just met.) It's easy to strike up a conversation with someone and feel like you've known them forever. Passengers aren't just friendly; they're down to earth, curious, outgoing and share a love for cruising traditions.
Those traditions are what keep so many past Princess passengers coming back. They don't care that the ship has no rock climbing wall or water slide. Instead, they love that free dining venues outnumber for-fee restaurants. They look forward to the balloon drop on the last formal night of the cruise (Princess passengers still take formal night seriously, by the way) and the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party and Champagne Waterfall, where the maitre d' helps passengers pour bubbly over a tower of glasses. Perhaps most popular of all is Princess' signature Movies Under the Stars, where passengers snuggle up on the top deck with fleece blankets and popcorn.
After a late 2015 refurb, Ruby Princess gives passengers even more to love with new dining and entertainment options. The hands-down winners of the new offerings are the Salty Dog Gastropub, a dinner-only menu created by celebrity chef Ernesto Uchimura, available at the Wheelhouse Bar; the new "industrial chic" specialty restaurant Share, created in partnership with celebrity chef Curtis Stone; and yet more Norman Love "Chocolate Journeys," which include chocolate-flavored cocktails, breakfast treats and even a tasty spa treatment.
The line's new entertainment forays were a bit more hit and miss. The partnership with NBC's "The Voice"? Total hit. The new musical created in partnership with Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz? The jury's still out on that.
Our biggest hat-tip, though, goes out to the ship's 1,200 crew members, who are not only friendly and attentive, but also have a great sense of humor and upbeat spirit. Fun tidbit: Ruby Princess is dedicated to keeping its crew happy and motivated. One way the ship's hotel manager accomplishes this is by taking his crew biking in port about once every two weeks. The team bonding enables an open platform for discussions on ways to improve crew and passenger life onboard.
Ruby Princess' cabins are divided between seven categories: interior, ocean view (obstructed), ocean view (full), balcony, minisuite, family suite and suite. To further accommodate families and multigeneration groups (beyond the family suite option) interconnecting doors were added to 100 cabins during the 2015 refurbishment.
Despite their age, cabins show no obvious signs of wear. Decor in all cabin categories is similar: cream-colored furniture, light maple wood trim and pops of jade, robin's egg blue, light gold and coral.
Each features a bathroom with a shower (suites also include bathtubs), desk, two chairs, a minibar, two twin beds that can be converted into a queen-size bed with Egyptian cotton linens, two nightstands with lamps, a safe, phone, adequate shelving and closet space, and a satellite TV (two in suites) showing movies and episodes of "The Love Boat." Passengers in balcony cabins, minisuites and suites should keep an eye open for pillow chocolates left by the room steward at night.
One new addition to cabins – Princess Luxury Beds -- is particularly welcome. A product of a collaborative effort between Dr. Michael Breus (also known as "The Sleep Doctor") and HGTV designer Candice Olson, the beds include a plush, two-inch-thick pillow top; a medium-firm mattress for enhanced support; and individually wrapped coils for less partner disturbance.
Our only cabin gripe was the lack of adequate outlets; most cabins only have one 110-volt outlet with North American plug fittings by the desk, so tech-savvy cruisers should pack power strips.
Here's a breakdown of all the cabin categories.
Interior: Windowless interior cabins range from 162 to 182 square feet. Most sleep two people, though the layout is a bit tight, with almost no space between the bed and the sides of the cabin and not a lot of space between the edge of the bed and the desk. In some interior cabins, Pullman beds can be used to accommodate a third or fourth passenger. There is one narrow closet with shelves, space to hang items and a longer shelf above the hanger rod. Located on Decks 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14 and 15.
Ocean view: Oceanview cabins, which can be found on Decks 5 and 8, offer unobstructed views and roughly 179 square feet of space. Like interior cabins, they can feel a bit small unless you opt for the two twin bed layout, which leaves more room to get in and out of bed. There are also a number of obstructed view oceanview cabins, measuring 158 to 179 square feet; these cabins are located on Decks 8 and 15.
Balcony: Eighty percent of Ruby Princess' outside cabins have balconies. Rooms are 231 square feet, with 45-square-foot balconies (bigger than what you'll find on Princess' newest ships). Balcony cabins are equipped with the same closet setup as interior and oceanview cabins, but you'll find additional storage nooks in the seating area, which features a desk, corner table and two chairs. Balcony furniture includes two plastic chairs and a small cocktail table. Note that some decks have staggered balconies. Anyone staying on a higher-level deck has a full view of those below. (You're in the clear if you're on Deck 11 or above.) On our sailing, we saw many passengers embrace the lack of privacy, by engaging in conversations with their neighbors above and below.
Minisuite: Minisuites span 323 square feet, with balconies -- each of which comes with two plastic chairs and a small cocktail table -- around 57 square feet. Each minisuite has two flat-screen TVs and a separate seating area with a sofa bed that can accommodate a third passenger. Bathrooms feature a shower/bathtub combo. Passengers staying in these cabins are welcomed with a glass of Champagne and enjoy nightly chocolates on their pillows. Minisuites are located on Decks 8 and 9.
Suite: Both suites and family suites range in size from 460- to 777-square-feet with 95- to 241-square-foot balconies. Like minisuites, suites also feature two TVs and a separate seating area with a sofa bed. Suite-only amenities include upgraded balcony furniture (two padded loungers, two padded chairs and a larger table -- all wooden), a walk-in closet, CD/DVD player with complimentary media library, whirlpool tubs in addition to showers, upgraded bathroom amenities from the Lotus Spa, a minifridge and minibar with complimentary setup.
Suites are broken up into five subcategories, which differ primarily by size.
Vista suites range from 460 to 495 square feet, including the balcony, which is slightly larger than that of a minisuite. They are located on Decks 8, 9 and 10.
Premium suites, only available on Deck 15, offer between 531 and 568 square feet, including the balcony, and space for either three or four people.
Penthouse suites span 524 to 534 square feet, including the balcony, and can be found on Decks 10, 12 and 14. Most accommodate three passengers, though some can fit up to four.
Owner's suites, which range from 687 to 777 square feet (balcony included), are the largest accommodations onboard. They only can be found on Deck 12.
Two-bedroom Family Suites, which are at least 606 square feet with the balcony, are available only on Deck 9. Both bedrooms have two twin beds that can convert to a queen and a bathroom with a shower (one also has a tub); both open onto a shared living area. Family suites can sleep up to eight people.
Suite passengers (not including minisuites) get complimentary use of the Lotus Spa thermal suite, and laundry and dry-cleaning services handled by the staff (versus self-service). They also enjoy priority boarding, disembarkation and tendering, as well as a dedicated guest services desk and private disembarkation lounge.
Another perk is the complimentary, suite-only breakfast at Crown Grill (open from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. on sea days and 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. on port days). We found it to be a popular breakfast option for suite passengers on our cruise. Menu items include basic items like pastries (including a Norman Love chocolate assortment), eggs any style with your choice of a side such as sausage links or bacon, as well as French toast and eggs Benedict -- our personal favorite.
Later in the day, suite cruisers can enjoy free hors d'oeuvres in one of the bars (reserved just for their use) and request in-room afternoon tea or evening canapes. On cruises of six nights or longer, suite passengers can dine free at the specialty restaurants on the first evening of the cruise.
There are 31 wheelchair-accessible cabins: six interior, four ocean view, 16 balcony and one minisuite.
Princess keeps its restaurant selections simple. Passengers on Ruby Princess have a few free and for-fee options to choose from -- including three main dining rooms, an extra-fee steakhouse and the recently added venue from celebrity chef Ernesto Uchimura, giving them more options to splurge if they wish. Additionally, a select few Uchimura dishes are incorporated into the main dining room menu, allowing diners to sample some of the new offerings free of charge.
Princess also does a great job accommodating dietary requests if notified ahead of the cruise. Even if you don't give the line advance notice, vegetarians will find appropriate options in nearly every dining venue, and low-salt items can be requested in the main dining room. Passengers with gluten and dairy intolerances, however, might be hard-pressed to find foods that meet their needs if they haven't given the ship a head's up.
Michelangelo Dining Room (Deck 5, aft), Botticelli Dining Room (Deck 6, aft) and Da Vinci Dining Room (Deck 6, mid): Ruby Princess' three main dining rooms span two decks and feature similar design elements (muted color tones, wood paneling, twinkling-lit ceilings and floral-patterned carpet) as well as artwork inspired by the artists for which they're named.
All are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, though the Botticelli Dining Room is reserved for those who prefer traditional dinners (set dining times and assigned seating/tablemates). Seating times are at 5:30, 6:30 and 8:15 p.m. The Da Vinci Dining Room offers the earliest anytime dining options (open seating between 5:30 and 10 p.m.), while the Michelangelo Dining Room offers anytime dining between 6:15 and 10 p.m.
Dinner menus, which change nightly, are the same at each restaurant and include appetizers, "always available" dishes, soups and salads, signature pastas, main courses and a new "Crafted by Curtis" section, from which passengers can order complimentary, pre-selected meals designed by celebrity chef Curtis Stone. Popular starters include vegetable spring rolls and chilled soups (such as pina colada and apple cider), which are served in cocktail glasses and sipped from a straw. Entrees include "Princess favorite" fettuccine Alfredo, prime rib with corn on the cob and eggplant with basmati rice. Vegetarian options are available nightly. Desserts range from cheese platters to sugar-free coconut cake. You also will find an assortment of Norman Love-designed treats, such as a chocolate souffle.
A small selection of "Crafted by Curtis" menu options is always the same, but varies based on itinerary. On our Mexican Riviera cruise, passengers could choose between dishes like mac-and-cheese and chicken with beets and goat cheese.
Breakfast is available in all the dining rooms, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. daily. Options run the gamut from eggs Benedict to French toast with fresh fruit, and servers make the rounds with Norman Love chocolate pastries and tarts.
Lunch also can be enjoyed in any of the three main dining rooms, from noon to 2 p.m., though only on sea days and select port days. Menu items range from mozzarella sticks and tuna salad to matzo ball soup and Lotus Spa dishes, which are lower in fat, sodium and cholesterol.
Both breakfast and lunch are open seating.
Horizon Court (Deck 15): The ship's buffet has a lot standout features. There's ample seating inside and outside so it's easy to find a table, the scrambled and fried eggs are actually delicious (which is almost unheard of in the world of cruise ship buffets) and waiters serve your drinks (iced tea, coffee, water, juice and lemonade) at the table. Prefer specialty coffee? Waiters will go out of their way to fetch you a mocha latte or cappuccino, if you're willing to pay.
On the menu you'll find pre-fried eggs and made-to-order omelets, assorted meats, cereal, pastries (including Norman Love options), bagels, cold cuts, fresh fruit and oatmeal and grits for breakfast (6 to 11:30 a.m.). Early risers have a smaller selection of items from 5 to 6 a.m.
At lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.), expect antipasti, grilled paninis, hot wings and soup. Light snacks, such as cheese and crackers, cookies and dried fruit, as well as iced tea and lemonade are served until 5:30 p.m. Dinner is served in Cafe Caribe buffet (details below).
One thing we didn't love about the buffet? On busy days, we couldn't tell where the food line began or ended, and unknowingly found ourselves breaking one of the 10 commandments of cruise ship buffet etiquette: cutting in line. The wait staff tried their best to help by pointing us in the right direction, but it was every buffet diner for him or herself once in the ring.
Cafe Caribe (Deck 15): Cafe Caribe is a smaller, secondary buffet within Horizon Court, offering mostly Caribbean cuisine but also other flavors from around the world. Because of its location, it's hard to distinguish from the main buffet; diners grabbing a bite at Horizon Court can end up at Cafe Caribe without even realizing it. The hours are 6 to 10 a.m. for breakfast, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for lunch (on sea days only; port day hours depend on the ship's arrival time), 5:30 (when Horizon Court closes) to 11 p.m. for dinner and 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. for late-night bistro service.
Breakfast options are pretty much the same as in Horizon Court, just a bit more limited. Lunch usually features themed stations, like Mexican, Italian and Japanese.
Dinner features a carving station, deli sandwiches, sushi and themed nights, such as Italian or local fare. Passengers also can enjoy Caribbean-inspired cuisine like jerk chicken and paella-style prawns. The late-night bistro offers snacks and sandwiches.
Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): Everyday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the venue serves up a complimentary pub lunch (think shepherd's pie and fish and chips).
International Cafe (Deck 5): Located in the atrium, the International Cafe is convenient and open 24 hours, serving complimentary pastries (including Norman Love options) and parfaits until 11 a.m. and free paninis and salads throughout the day. An adjacent stand sells specialty coffee and gelato. Specialty coffees -- such as espresso, cappuccino and flavored lattes -- and hot tea range from $1 (for regular coffee) to $3.50 (for specialty beverages).
Pizza and Ice Cream Bar (Deck 15): Perfect for a quick lunch on a day of lounging by the pool, the Pizza and Ice Cream Bar fires up thin-crust pies, ranging from Margherita and pepperoni to daily specials like pear and coppa (Italian pork cold cuts). Soft-serve ice cream, available in chocolate or vanilla and in a cup or a cone, can be enjoyed from 11 a.m. to midnight.
Trident Grill (Deck 15): Open from 11 a.m. until usually 11 p.m., this poolside grill offers grab-and-go bites like hot dogs, grilled cheese and chicken breast sandwiches, burgers (including veggie) and fries. On most nights from 6 to 11 p.m., passengers also can enjoy smokehouse barbecue options.
Room Service: Room service is free, and passengers can place orders 24/7. Breakfast must be ordered via a cabin card placed outside of your cabin door by 11 p.m. the night before. The complimentary menu includes sandwiches, salads and pastries. Canapes and pizza also are available for a $3 fee.
Share (Deck 16); $29: With celebrity chef Curtis Stone at the helm, Share is Ruby Princess' most upscale specialty restaurant. The rustic, yet, chic vibe (contemporary farmhouse-style tables, eclectic wall art, wanderlust-inspired trinkets and industrial lighting) invites diners to dress in their best yet still feel relaxed. Open from 5:30 to 10 p.m., the restaurant -- which replaced the line's popular Sabatini's Italian restaurant during the 2015 refurbishment -- serves up inventive, high-quality meals that are meant for sharing (thus the name). The menu features a charcuterie platter and five courses from which diners can select one dish each: appetizers, mains, sides, cheese and desserts. We found the ingredients enticing. Dishes include shrimp salad with lemon gel, turnip, citrus salt and brioche; twice-cooked duck with fennel, bacon jus and parmesan crumb; and butter-poached lobster with caramelized endive.
Share also offers an extensive wine list, ranging from a $9 glass of Austrian Gruner Veltliner (white) to a $480 bottle of South Australian Grange (red blend).
Salty Dog Gastropub (Deck 7); $12: Every night from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., the Wheelhouse Bar transforms into the Salty Dog Gastropub. Nothing about the venue actually changes, except that a dinner menu created by celebrity chef Ernesto Uchimura is available as is an extensive new whiskey menu. For $12 you get an appetizer for sharing (bread sticks with beer-cheddar fondue), your choice of three entrees (from a total of 12) and a dessert. The most sought-after dish is Uchimura's award-winning Ernesto Burger, which features inventive ingredients like caramelized kimchi, beer-battered jalapeno and charred onion aioli; the mere sight will make you salivate (we know from experience). Other entree choices include grilled cheese with white tomato soup; roasted cauliflower with curry; and Maryland-style crab cake topped with Old Bay seasoning. Some of the portions are larger than others, so come hungry or ask your waiter to clarify which dishes are bite-sized to help you decide what you can fit.
Desserts include coffee and doughnuts, as well as our favorite: bourbon chocolate, salted caramel popcorn.
Funny enough, we found the Salty Dog Gastropub to be more of a sharing venue than Share. And at five dishes for just $19, we think it's the best bang for your buck.
Crown Grill (Deck 7); $29 and $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12: Crown Grill is Princess' signature steakhouse. Furnished with cozy booths, large tables, dark woods and dim lighting, it feels intimate -- perfect for date nights. The menu includes appetizers such as lamb carpaccio and pan-seared scallops; soups and salads; seafood dishes ranging from a mussel pot to Maine lobster; and a hearty list of chops and steaks. Popular entrees include a 22-ounce porterhouse and an 8-ounce filet mignon.
One of our favorite treats at Crown Grill was the flavored salts served to complement grilled-to-order dishes. Diners choose between Hawaiian black salt, Himalayan Mountain pink salt and smoked applewood salt -- our favorite, which basically tastes like a campfire.
Desserts include lemon meringue pudding tart and smores -- another favorite. (In retrospect, the smores probably would have paired wonderfully with a little "campfire" salt sprinkled on top!)
Crab Shack (Deck 15); $29: On select nights throughout each cruise, from 6 to 9 p.m., the buffet hosts a pop-up-style eating experience known as the Crab Shack. Diners start off with popcorn shrimp, hushpuppies and clam chowder soup before they tie on bibs and indulge in entrees like bayou-style crawfish boil or a clam, mussel and shrimp pot. Reservations are recommended, as seating is limited to a small section of the Horizon Court. Crab Shack nights are listed in the Princess Patter, though we recommend snagging your reservation either the first or second night of your cruise.
The Fondue Dispensary (Deck 15); $20: Like the Crab Shack, the Fondue Dispensary takes over part of the Horizon Court buffet from 6 to 9 p.m. on select evenings. With options like German cheddar with beer and French cheese with Champagne, the experience is a must for cheese lovers. Details can be found in the Princess Patter.
Chef's Table; $80 nonalcoholic, $95 with wine: Dining on Ruby Princess doesn't get much more exclusive than the 10-person Chef's Table. The experience begins with a tour of the galley, with cocktails and appetizers, ranging from foie gras terrine on toast to asparagus risotto with lobster. Dinner follows at a private table in one of the main dining rooms, where diners receive an exclusive handwritten menu. Each diner also receives a photo taken during the meal and an autographed copy of Princess' cookbook, "Courses, A Culinary Journey" as a keepsake. Reservations are required.
Ultimate Balcony Dining; $45 for breakfast and $100 for dinner, per couple: For those craving a more intimate experience, Ruby Princess offers passengers the option to dine on their balconies with Ultimate Balcony Dining -- a meal served by two waiters. Available from 7 to 11 a.m., breakfast options include quiche, smoked salmon and fresh fruits, along with a half-bottle of chilled sparkling wine. Dinner options, offered from 6 to 10 p.m., include steak, lobster or both (surf and turf), preceded by Champagne and hors d'oeuvres. Vegetarian options are available upon request. Reservations are required and must be made onboard.
On seven-night itineraries, Ruby Princess hosts two formal nights. Most women do without the glitz and glamour of formal evening gowns, instead opting for tasteful cocktail dresses or dress pants and blouses. Men mostly don ties and jackets, but some go all-out with tuxedos, which can be rented onboard. Daytime wear varies, depending on whether you spend most of your time inside or out. Shorts, T-shirts and loungewear are suitable for gallivanting around the pool and recreational decks. Those who spend most of their time inside dress more resort-casual (khakis and polo shirts for men, and leggings and billowy tunics for women).
The Princess Theater features 800 plush seats with small, wooden tables tucked in between chairs for those with drinks in hand. On select nights, passengers can enjoy "Magic To Do," a Broadway-style production show developed by Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz. The show pays homage to famous magicians through the use of some of Schwartz's most famous songs, such as "Magic to Do" from Pippin and "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. It also includes a song created exclusively for Princess, called "A Little Magic."
We loved the singers and dancers in "Magic to Do," as well as the visual effects, but didn't feel the story -- composed of a series of short acts -- flowed well. We weren't alone, as we learned after chatting with some fellow passengers, but others really liked it.
The Princess Theater is also home to two other Broadway-style production shows, "Once Upon a Dream" and "Colors of the World," as well as the "Voice of the Ocean," a spinoff of NBC's "The Voice." The show -- which is held on the last night of every cruise -- features passengers who were handpicked from karaoke auditions earlier in the week, to compete for "The Voice of the Ocean" title. A panel of three judges (ship crew, usually the hotel general manager or captain) determines the winner. (They even have spinning "I Want You" chairs just like the TV show!) Be prepared for a full-house. On our sailing, it was standing room only. Late-arriving passengers were encouraged to watch the show from flat-screen TVs at Club Fusion. We'd recommend getting to the theater at least 30 minutes before the show starts.
Princess' daily planner, the Princess Patter, overflows with fun activities for every taste. Typical options might include a golf-putting competition, special interest meet-ups (such as knitting), themed trivia, scavenger hunts, dance classes and pool volleyball.
A Princess staple, the three-deck Piazza is the ship's main hub, where you'll find live music, dancing, bars, restaurants and shops. Music is often influenced by the areas the ship sails through; a mariachi band performed a few times throughout our Mexican Riviera cruise, for instance.
During football season, the ship hosts "Game of the Week" tailgate parties (complete with beer buckets, team-inspired drink specials and game day snacks like burgers and hot dogs) and broadcasts games on the outdoor movie screen.
Evening entertainment is also varied, though we found that nightlife tended to die down around 11 p.m. (night owls, take note). Before everyone hits the sack, however, the Piazza, bars and lounges are full of life.
Even the sun decks draw crowds -- thanks to Movies Under the Stars, a Princess favorite during which passengers snuggle up on poolside loungers, munch on popcorn and cookies with milk (all complimentary), and watch a flick (typically newer, family-friendly options like the non-animated Cinderella and the Avengers) on the outdoor movie screen located directly above the Calypso Pool on Deck 15. Crew members hand out cozy fleece blankets on chilly nights.
Gamblers who want to try their luck can head to Gatsby's Casino on Deck 6. Games include craps, roulette, blackjack, Caribbean Stud, Let it Ride and Three-Card Poker, as well as a variety of slot machines (sometimes open 24 hours if the ship is at sea). In order to play, passengers can tap into their onboard accounts, apply for credit prior to sailing or cash checks, withdraw cash from an ATM or get credit card advances.
Princess also offers stargazing on select nights (weather permitting) through its partnership with the Discovery Channel. During an interactive guided sky tour, a stargazing specialist (a trained Princess crew member) will help passengers identify iconic constellations and share a bit of folklore about them.
Princess Ruby passengers like to sip, socialize and soak up the scene and there are plenty of onboard spots from which they can do so. In particular, Ruby Princess specializes in wine, whiskey and craft beer -- thanks to a dedicated wine bar, extensive whiskey menu and the line's own craft beer, Seawitch, an exclusive IPA from Strike Brewing Co. near San Francisco.
Vines (Deck 5): Ruby Princess' wine bar is one of the best at sea. Located in the Piazza, the rustic, Italian-style venue allows you to enjoy all the action from the sidelines. Wine lovers can order single glasses or custom-made flights -- such as the "Trio of White Grapes" and "Norman Love Confections," paired with Norman Love chocolates. Sommelier-hosted tastings also are available for $15. Sushi and tapas are complimentary with any wine purchase. Vines is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): The Wheelhouse Bar is the place to go for craft beer and whiskey. It serves a variety of brews, including Princess' very own Seawitch IPA, as well as an extensive whiskey selection. Whiskey and bourbon lovers can enjoy top-notch sips from around the globe, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and Japan. The venue boasts a nautical theme with a modern pub feel. There's also a small stage, which hosts live bands on select nights.
Explorer's Lounge (Deck 7): Seating around 250, the Explorer's Lounge is home to a number of daytime and nighttime activities, such as comedy shows, trivia and art auctions. The space features armchairs, tables and loveseats positioned to face the stage, which typically hosts a band at night.
Crooner's Bar (Deck 7): This classy piano bar located at the top of the Piazza features a music-inspired Art Deco theme and clear view of all the action below, if you sit along the railing. Cocktail connoisseurs flock here for its "Tee Many Martoonies" menu (the chocolate martini is a favorite) and Norman Love concoctions available nowhere else on board, like the Dirty Piglet (Maker's Mark bourbon and a touch of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate dipped bacon) and Mayan Margarita (Don Julio Reposado tequila, agave nectar, sweet chocolate, chili pepper and tangy citrus).
Club Fusion (Deck 7): This versatile venue offers exercise and dance classes (like Zumba and line dancing) by day, and karaoke and live bands by night. You'll also find streams of live shows from the theater on ample flat-screen TVs throughout the venue.
Adagio (Deck 16): Across from Share, Adagio is far from the crowds and has a sophisticated, "clubhouse bar" feel. It comprises a small bar with high-backed stools and a number of cozier seating arrangements (chairs and love seats surrounding cocktail tables). Passengers can enjoy cognac, scotch, wine and liqueurs while listening to the nightly sounds of a pianist or jazz ensemble.
Skywalkers (Deck 18): Skywalkers, the ship's nightclub, is where passengers typically end the night. It features a small, disco ball-lit dance floor on one side, a bar on the other and ample seating that stretches the length of the club. Some nights were more energetic than others when passengers lingered until about 2 a.m. versus midnight most nights, though it was never fully packed. The DJ kicks off the night with '70s and '80s pop music, and shuffles in more modern hits as the crowd picks up.
Speakeasy (Deck 5): The ship's dedicated cigar bar (and the only place to smoke one onboard) is nestled next to Gatsby's Casino. Decor includes cobalt-blue carpeting and lovely stained-glass wall accents against wood paneling.
Calypso Bar (Deck 15): Tucked under the giant movie screen and right beside the Calypso pool, this is the go-to bar for outer-deck loungers. Be warned: It can get pretty crowded, especially during pool games. If you're looking for a quieter place to enjoy a cocktail and soak up the outdoor scenery, head to the Outrigger Bar.
Outrigger Bar (Deck 15): The Outrigger Bar offers some of the best views onboard. Located at the back of the ship, it overlooks the Terrace Pool and has a clear view of the ship's wake trailing behind. Passengers typically don't discover this oasis until at least halfway through the cruise, so take advantage early on. Still, you shouldn't have a problem finding an empty bar stool or seat -- plus, loungers are within easy reach.
Mermaid's Tail (Deck 15): The Mermaid's Tail is a small pool bar, adjacent to the Trident Grill. It's a nice spot to grab a quick drink during your "lunch break."
Tradewinds Bar (Deck 16): This relaxed outdoor pub caters to sun deck loungers who want easy access to frozen drinks.
Ruby Princess has four pools and two family-friendly splash areas; hot tubs are plentiful.
The Calypso Reef and Pool is the most popular place to take a dip. It sits midship on Deck 15, below the Movies Under the Stars screen and adjacent to the Calypso Bar. Because of its location, the space is almost always packed -- especially during pool games or when the outdoor screen plays movies (or football, if there's a game). Its two hot tubs also are popular during the day, and at night during Movies Under the Stars. With such a busy atmosphere, Calypso Pool is not for those who want to nap or read a book.
Nearby is the Neptune Reef and Pool. Also complemented by two hot tubs, the pool is popular among families since it doesn't get as crazy as the Calypso Pool, and there's more lounge space. It is overlooked by a small stage, where live bands sometimes perform on sea days. Staffers also host occasional pool games, such as a synchronized swimming contest. The Mermaids Tail, a small bar and Trident Grill, which serves up burgers, hot dogs and more to go, are a few steps away.
Our favorite pool is the Terrace Pool, located on Deck 14 aft. Smaller than the Calypso and Neptune pools, the Terrace Pool is positioned at the very back of the ship and offers breathtaking wake views. There are no hot tubs and the pool never felt crowded on our sailing.
Another tranquil option is the Lotus Spa pool. Found on Deck 15, the adults-only pool is easily accessed from the ship's spa and fitness area, as well as via The Sanctuary. It's flanked by a Buddha statue, surrounded by padded loungers and has two hot tubs, almost always in use -- possibly because spa-goers head there to soothe their muscles after massages.
Family options can be found on Deck 17. They include a kiddie splash area complete with toy bikes little ones can ride in the pool, a family pool that looks more like a hot tub and the Chill Out hot tub for teens only. (All kids in the designated pools must be potty trained.) Unisex bathrooms for easy changing are nearby.
Recreation is not one of Ruby Princess' strengths. What recreation the ship does have can be found on Deck 19: Princess Links, an underwhelming, nine-hole golf putting course; two small greens for putting practice; croquet; a small, netted sports court for tennis, volleyball, badminton and half-court basketball; and a jogging track, which requires 16 laps to run a mile.
A Ping-Pong table on Deck 16 can be accessed via a portside staircase. Hold onto the railing tight on windy days.
Like pools, Princess does sun decks well. Deck 16 has the most open lounging space, but other sun decks include those surrounding the Neptune and Calypso pools (Deck 15), the Horizon Terrace and just below the Terrace pool (Deck 14 aft). There's also a small sun deck on the same deck, forward.
For a little more privacy, sunbathers should consider the adults-only, extra cost Sanctuary. Located on Deck 17, the exclusive, Astroturf-floored space comprises padded loungers and chairs and a few shaded canopies reserved for massage treatments. Some chairs are located along glass windows, facing out to sea, while others are in little side nooks. For the utmost peace and quiet, we recommend snagging a spot close to the windows or shaded tents. Each lounger comes with a plush towel and adjacent cocktail table on which to place fresh drinks and snacks.
Access to The Sanctuary costs $20 for a half day and $40 for a full day. Cruise-length passes are priced at $30 per day. Food delivery incurs a $3 fee; menu options range from cantaloupe with cottage cheese and lettuce-wrapped spring rolls to burgers and hot dogs. Smoothies also are available. Servers walk around offering infused water (lemon or cucumber) and small desserts and cookies -- all at no extra charge.
The ship's 25-computer Internet Cafe is located on Deck 5, though we hardly saw anyone using it on our sailing. Passengers wishing to stay connected can purchase Internet plans for the Internet Cafe or their smartphone, laptop or tablet. WiFi costs $73 for 60 minutes, $103 for 240 minutes, $163 for 460 minutes, $203 for 680 minutes and $253 for 1,100 minutes, plus a $3.95 activation fee. You'll receive bonus minutes if you purchase a plan on embarkation day. Princess also offers convenient, last-day Internet access: 15 minutes for $9, for passengers wishing to access departure flight information.
Tech-savvy passengers should check out Princess@SEA, the line's free app, which can be accessed in airplane mode. Through the app, passengers can browse restaurant menus and daily activities, as well as access their onboard accounts and sign on to the Internet, if they purchased a plan. The best part: Passengers onboard can communicate with each other via the app's free messaging system.
Both guest services and the shore excursion deck are located on Deck 6. At the shore excursions desk, crew members provide information about tours and other activities ashore. (Princess adds more tours if demand is high enough. Don't be afraid to ask if there's any way you can get on a sold-out excursion.)
On Deck 7, passengers can escape to the library, which not only offers a nice selection of books, but also board games, brainteasers and more. The venue isn't far from the photo gallery, where passengers go to look for photos the ship's photographers took of them on embarkation day, formal night and throughout the cruise. Prices start at $10 for a 5x7" and $22 for an 8x10" print. Ruby Princess also offers a Platinum Photography Studio (Deck 19), which shoots professional black and white photos.
Ruby Princess has four boutiques: Calypso Cove (toiletries, liquor, tobacco and souvenirs) and Meridian Bay (clothing and accessories) on Deck 6, and Essence (high-end perfumes, colognes and toiletries) and Facets (jewelry and watches) on Deck 7.
The art gallery, where you'll find nearly 1,300 works of art, is also located on Deck 5. Passengers can purchase art at any time during the cruise, or bid for their favorites at an art auction.
Lovers tying the knot or renewing vows can do so at the Hearts and Minds Wedding Chapel, located on Deck 16. The venue also hosts religious services, led by passengers.
A self-service launderette is located on every deck that has cabins. Inside you'll find washers, dryers, irons and ironing boards. Swipe your key card to purchase detergent and tokens (expect to pay about $6 to $9 per cycle, including the detergent). Professional and dry cleaning services also are available for an additional fee.
Kids have free reign of Deck 17 aft. The closed-off area is home to three small pools -- including one for teens -- as well as the youth center, which is divided into three groups: Princess Pelicans (ages three to seven), Shockwaves (ages eight to 12) and Remix (ages 13 to 17).
Princess Pelicans keeps little ones entertained with magic tricks, crafts and T-shirt coloring during the day. Fun nighttime activities include a pajama party and face painting. Children under three are allowed in the Princess Pelicans facility, as long as they are accompanied by a parent.
Shockwaves is made up of lounging areas and gaming stations, featuring Wii, PlayStation and karaoke machines. Kids also can take advantage of Princess' Discovery at Sea program. Activities are both fun and educational, and range from 3-D puzzles and rocket building to a glimpse at the culture and wildlife of the destination they're sailing. Movie nights and theme parties keep kids busy at night.
Group childcare is available in the kids' club for $5 an hour, per child; there is no in-cabin babysitting.
Remix activities run the gamut from air hockey and video games to mocktail-making and hip hop dance classes. Craft activities might include T-shirt and backpack design classes. At night, teens can enjoy late-night movies and dance parties. Additionally, Ruby Princess hosts a teens-only dinner on formal night.
The majority of Ruby Princess cruisers are North American couples between 40 and 70. Many are past Princess passengers who appreciate the ship's "classic Princess" feel. Kids make up only a small portion of the demographic -- usually less than 10 percent. You'll see more young adults, families and multigenerational groups on holiday sailings, warmer weather itineraries and more nationality diversity on longer bucket-list cruises to exotic destinations.
The Asian-inspired Lotus Spa is tucked away on Deck 16, just below The Sanctuary. Despite the sleek wood paneling and black marble, we found the spa, and especially the waiting room, to feel too much like an office. A U-shaped hallway hugging the Lotus Pool connects the reception desk to a dimly lit waiting area and massage rooms. The facility includes adjacent male and female locker rooms, which each contain a sauna and steam room.
Treatments are similar to what you'd find on land. Passengers can choose simple massages like a deep tissue (50 minutes for $129) or bamboo (50 minutes for $149). Also on offer are an array of wraps and facials -- all mostly using Elemis-brand products -- and a weight-loss detox (50 minutes for $159). You'll also find acupuncture, Botox and teeth whitening treatments. The Lotus Spa's standout feature is its Chocolate Indulgence Body Treatment, which uses actual Norman Love chocolate. Priced at $195 for 75 minutes, the treatment combines a chocolate scrub, body mask and massage using chocolate oil.
Other services include manicures ($29), pedicures ($45), waxing (from $15), men's collagen mini-facials with shaves ($95), eyelash lifts ($124) and keratin treatments with blowouts ($149).
While the locker-room steam rooms and saunas are complimentary, those looking for a more exclusive retreat should head to the thermal suite. The area features heated stone loungers as well as grottos and chambers that release dry heat, steam, mist and aromatherapy vapors. Prices depend on the cruise length and itinerary, but can range from $29 for day passes to $129 for weeklong passes. Spa-goers must be at least 18 years old.
The biggest downside for spa-goers is the upselling. Although quite knowledgeable and charming, massage therapists came off as aggressive when trying to sell products at the end of the service.
Adjacent to the spa and as forward as you can get on Deck 16, the fitness center features sweeping ocean views from nearly every angle. Exercise machines, positioned along a glass wall and facing out to sea, surround a studio floor used for classes such as yoga and body sculpting. There are 22 treadmills, 10 ellipticals, four bikes and various weight machines and dumbbells ranging from 1to 10 pounds. The space is small and simple but gets the job done.
Each class costs $10 each. There is an option to pay more for a combo of various classes, but we recommend sticking with the a la carte method, as times might clash with each other, plus it might be tough to plan other activities around your workout schedule.
Runners should head to Deck 19, where the ship's small jogging track is located. (Sixteen laps equal 1 mile.) The sports court also can be found on this deck.
Gratuities, which are automatically charged to onboard accounts, are $12.95 per person (including children), per day; passengers staying in minisuites and suites will pay $13.95 per person, per day. A 15 percent gratuity is added to beverage purchases onboard. Spa and casino staff members do not share in the gratuity charges -- if you use these services, tips are advised.
Date Refurbished: 2015
Regular Capacity: 3070
Maximum Capacity: 3080
Number of Crew:1225
Crew Nationality: International
Officer Nationality: British/Italian
Language(s) Spoken:< Multiple Languages
|For a romantic getaway, there's no better cruise ship than Ruby Princess, which was christened in 2008 by lovebirds Trista and Ryan Sutter of TV's The Bachelorette. A night of romance can be created wherever you look, from a Piazza singer's sweet serenade, to a relaxing couples massage from a cabana in The Sanctuary®. Movies Under the Stars® is also a cozy venue, where you can cuddle up under a warm blanket and watch a romantic comedy amongst the evening stars. To enhance its elegance, Ruby Princess sails to some of the world's most breathtaking destinations, including the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Rekindle your passion onboard Ruby Princess!|
Health and Beauty
No. of Dinner Sittings: 2
No. of Dinner Sittings: 6:30pm & 8:30pm
Special Diet: Available upon request
Dress Code: Dress ranges from casual to formal.Gratuity Policies
Suites $15.50 USD per passenger per day
Club Class $14.50 USD per passenger per day
Regular Staterooms $13.50 USD per passenger per day