BLYTH - Answered a Question by smith (17 Nov 08 10:02)

This is a review I know a collaegue posted it is quite extensive and was based on the inaugural cruise so it might help you, but he is American !!! Ruby Princess is a sister to Crown Princess and Emerald Princess, so in theory, it should be more of the same, right? Not really; full marks are due to Princess' top executives for recognising that sometimes the “same old, same old” needs a bit of rejuvenation. And so, they've added a host of new features. Having said that, they should also get kudos for avoiding change for the sake of it. This is still a Princess ship, through and through, from the decor to the service and quality of the food, both of which were generally very good but with a few disappointments. One of the nice things about Ruby Princess is that a lot of the new stuff comes without a charge -- a refreshing change since, these days, so much cruise ship innovation seems to come with a price tag. So, you can enjoy the new pub lunch gratis, as well as free lemonade in the Horizon Court and canapes on trays in the lounges in the evenings -- again, at no charge. Likewise, most of the new enrichment classes are free. There are new misting stewards to help you keep your cool while sunbathing, two new production shows -- which, unfortunately, we didn't get to see -- and more audience participation events. Karaoke with a live band anyone? Not everything new is free, with the unique behind-the-scenes tour a prime example. But, it's such a specialist thing that cruise director James Lay's argument -- that, in this case, fees were implemented to keep participant numbers low, rather than to nickel-and-dime passengers -- does actually ring true. Mealtime There are three main dining rooms on Ruby Princess: Botticelli, at the aft end of the ship, for two-sitting fixed dining; Michelangelo and Da Vinci, further forward, for passengers who prefer more relaxed, anytime dining. This allows you to eat when you want and at a table size to suit you. Da Vinci is also open for waiter-service breakfast and lunch each day. The Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe self-service outlets are open 24 hours and serve complimentary lemonade throughout the day. Since you have to ask a waiter for it, ordering two beakers at once might be a good idea. There are also new waffle stations in the Horizon Court. Princess' trademark speciality restaurants are now located across from each other. (Crown Grill is now in place of the Adagio lounge on Emerald and Crown Princess.) Crown Grill is the ship's alternative restaurant, specialising in steaks, fish and seafood, for an extra $25 per person. Sabatini's Italian multi-course extravaganza consists of appetisers, pizza, soups, salads and desserts and costs $20 per person. On Ruby, Sabatini's becomes a breakfast venue for suite passengers in the mornings. As I said, we did not get the usual menus in either restaurant during our cruise, but I know from experience that both are good. Given the choice though, for me, it's the slightly more costly Crown Grill every time. They have done a great job introducing the English-style pub lunch in the Wheelhouse Bar. It sounds the part -- a menu of cottage pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash and a ploughman's lunch (bread, ham, cheese and a pickle). Even if this Brit realised it wasn't 100 percent authentic, it's a close approximation. The pub lunch is only served on sea days, from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Based on my experience, there will be queues to get in because it is such a novelty -- and it's free -- but the line was well-managed and moved fast. At the International Cafe in the Italian-designed Piazza (that's the atrium on other cruise ships), you can have breakfast, lunch and evening snacks through the day. Some items, like pastries and salads, are free; tapas are available from about 5 p.m. for a $4 charge. In Vines wine and seafood bar, there is a new selection of artisan cheeses on the menu. Twelve varieties will be featured each day; a selection of three costs $3. The Chef's Table, which offers a galley tour during dinner service (followed by a five-course dinner, paired with wine and dessert with the executive chef), and balcony dining (four courses and a bottle of Champagne, served by your personal waiter) have been brought across from other Princess ships. Prices are $75 and $50 per person, respectively. Princess' tradition of balcony brunch and dinner is also available on Ruby Princess. Bedtime This is one area where things have really not changed, as the cabins have stayed classic Princess. Classic means they're comfortable, and plenty of staterooms come with balconies. I was in a mini-suite on Deck 9, which had the advantage of a separate sitting area. (Sofas can be made into double beds, so these make good family rooms.) But, the disadvantage is that your balcony is overlooked by everyone in decks above you, due to the ship's tiered sides -- a design that runs through all Princess ships built after 1998. Below me, there were outside cabins and, above, standard balcony cabins. Tip: Cabins on Deck 10 have double-width balconies, as well as suites and penthouses. All rooms have flat-screen TV's, hairdryers, safes, mini-bars and 24-hour room service. In penthouses, mini-bars are stocked with water, beer, soda and a selection of spirit miniatures, which are all complimentary, but you will pay for refills. Grand Old Favorites For all the new stuff they are keen to shout about on Ruby Princess, final analysis shows this is still a Princess ship -- a particular focus on service and style, rather than shock and wow. Princess regulars will only have to set foot onboard to feel right at home and can be sure there is nothing nasty or offensive lurking in the decor. Service in a couple of places was shaky, but this was the first time many of the crew had had to deal with passengers, and as far as I'm concerned, the few “ouch” moments were more than made up for by the exemplary service and friendliness -- something for which Princess is famous -- encountered elsewhere. Knowing Princess well, I have no doubt service will be back to 100 percent within the first couple of cruises. New & Nifty The Ultimate Ship's Tour is a behind-the-scenes glimpse, taking you to parts of the ship you never knew you wanted to visit, such as the laundry, print room, photo lab and medical centre. They are all places that must exist, if you think about it, but -- the medical centre aside -- quite honestly, I never had. The tour also takes you into the funnel (behind that big grill -- emblazoned with the Princess logo -- at the top of the ship), the galley, backstage at the theatre, to the food store rooms and into the engine control room. It costs a painful $150, but for that, you get Champagne, caviar, canapes and a chef's jacket in the galley; and strawberries and a picture with the captain on the bridge -- not to mention the joy of knowing you are one of only 12 people per cruise to take the tour. (So, if this appeals, you have to book fast.) Ruby is the first Princess ship to have mobile phone access while at sea, and I was really pleased that Wi-Fi, only in public areas on other vessels, has been extended throughout the ship, so you can keep in touch from your cabin. Huh? New enrichment programmes include highbrow topics, such as navigation, astronomy and the history of art. But, how on earth can learning to mix cocktails come under that heading? And, I'm not sure party-planning has a place there, either. The new classes are free, apart from Mixology@Sea, which costs $25 per person, but for that, you get to make -- and drink -- different cocktails. Kid-Friendly Factor Children will have a great time on Ruby Princess, which has a huge area devoted to kids and teens. Those aged 3 to 7 -- Princess Pelicans -- get their own room with comfy beanbag chairs, PlayStations and a large, secure, outdoor deck space. The 8- to 12-year-olds sign into Shockwaves next door, where there are activities on offer from morning to night, including discos, arts and crafts and Movies under the Stars. Another room is set aside for the teens, offering table football, computers, makeovers and dating games. There are also new yoga classes for kids and a Wizard's Academy, where they can explore the connection between science and magic. Bottom Line Princess Cruises, as a company, is all about relaxed, casual cruising with an American edge, and Ruby Princess has certainly stayed well within those parameters. It is a big vessel -- 113,000 tons, with room for more than 3,000 passengers -- but the design, with lots of smaller public rooms and venues, gives a small ship feel that will appeal to cruisers of all ages.

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smith - replied to BLYTH (18 Nov 08 08:59)

Thanks for this info and yes I am really getting excited now!

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Wilson - replied to BLYTH (17 Nov 08 14:23)

Wow & double wow!! I to am on the Ruby 29th Nov so this review is brilliant thank you.Cant wait to read reviews from passengers who are on it for a week. Hope you're as excited as me smith!! Not long now.

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Morgan - replied to BLYTH (19 May 09 21:31)

Does the Ruby have draught beer, and I mean draught not draught out of a can, and what is it.

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Blyth - replied to Morgan (20 May 09 09:22)

The review was from a contact in the States but as I understand it they do have bottles and draught beers but don't know the price, so can't help much more but his review is detailed in many other respects. I would make a guess the bottled stuff could be around $4.5 to $6 with the 15% to be added....Bill.

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