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Princess Cruises: Ruby Princess

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Dec 4, 2014

Eastern Carribbean

A fine cruise on a fine ship. We had sailed on the Ruby the year she was launched, and she still appears new. The interior was perfect, the exterior showed a little rust, but hey, it is a marine environment Better than the last couple of Princess cruises. We have learned not to order our favorite food on any cruise, but take the opportunity to try new things. If you can live with good hotel food (A Hilton Hotel, for example) then you probably

will be satisfied. Nowhere does Princess, and any cruise line, mention 5-star dining for good reason, they cannot compete. At a table of 6, 4 would rate the dinner good, or very good. One diner would rate his meal excellent, and one would wish they had chosen something else. Almost everything on the buffet was worth trying. If we decided we didn't like our choices we just pushed it off to one side and selected something else. Again, not 5 star, but also not 5 star prices. Perfect cabin. A very good comic, and the Princess band came out of hiding with an excellent jazz, dixieland ragtime show. I whish they would do away with steel bands entirely. Just OK. Do not try snorkeling at St Martin. The "best" site is a long swim from where the boat anchors, and there is nothing to see when you get there. Do something else. If you are in fairly good shape, the eco kayak, hike and snorkeling adventure is worth a try. The snorkeling at Grand Turk was excellent.

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Sep 22, 2014

British Isles

My wife and I have cruised the Caribbean, Greek Isles, Bermuda, and Hawaii, and possibly other routes we can't remember right now! This one was the only disappointment, for reasons described below. Excellent food. The stateroom was a disappointment because it was not as represented on Princess' web site for an "exterior unobstructed view." Instead of flat wall pictures on each side of an apparently queen-size bed, there were large, folded-up

bunks on either side of a king-size bed, causing my wife and me to side-step while leaning forward to access the bed. This repetition over 12 days resulted in some neck and back discomfort. We asked for either just a queen-size bed or removal of the bunks to allow more space, but this request was denied, as was transfer to a stateroom like the one shown of the web site, which we had booked. This inconvenience was politely noted in a follow-up, written satisfaction survey, and acknowledged by e-mail that requested we call. Three calls later, a snippy CSR admitted the room was not as represented but offered no adjustment. I would have been delighted with a $1000 credit on another cruise, but in the absence of any remedy for inconvenience resulting from dishonest representation of the room, I cannot recommend Princess Cruises in spite of its many other very pleasant and enjoyable amenities. Very good shows and entertainment. We took only one Princess-arranged excursion (Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland) which was very good. Several friends we met were disappointed in their "Walking Tour of Edinburgh," Scotland, which consisted of a bus ride drop-off at the center of town with a map, and pick-up at 5:00, for $89 apiece. We accomplished the same thing with an independent bus from the dock to Edinburgh and return at our convenience, for less than $10 apiece. Overall, it was very good in spite of the above exceptions, but again I cannot recommend any business that misrepresents its product/service (see stateroom comments).

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Dec 28, 2013

Grand Mediterranean

Great Cruise but We stayed away from our stateroom except for showers. The room was not up to Princess Standards by any means. This was a two segment cruise aboard the Ruby Princess, Room B244. The first segment was from Venice to Barcelona for 12 nights and the second segment was from Barcelona to Ft. Laurendale, FL for 15 nights. Good Quality bet I am Gluten Free and always had my meals custom prepared. We used the anytime time and found the

best food on the Buffet Line at the Carribean Court not Horizon Court. It is a little known area on the very rear of the ship. The first night of the first segment I noticed a sewer like smell coming from the shower vents and reported this immediately to passenger services for seven consecutive nights before giving up. Meanwhile my wife, I and the room steward, all noticed a leak covering the whole wall adjacent to the bed on the third day of the cruise. With all these problems unresolved on the third day I asked to be assigned to a new room and was told by passenger services that there were none available, which I understood. On the, start of the next segment for the Cruise which was on the twelfth day in Barcelona a lot of people disembarked. So many that they closed day Plaza Deck 5 and almost everyone was given an upgraded room for the next 15 days. Meanwhile my room was still leaking and stinking until day twenty one when it was finally fixed, some nine days after alternate staterooms became available. I would have been happy with any stateroom that did not leak or stink. This fact troubles me the most. I firmly believe that someone should be held accountable. I was disturbed enough by this that I refused to pay the $23 a day additional hotel fee and on the second segment and will continue to do so until this matter is resolved with princess to my satisfaction. For twenty one out of a twenty seven night cruise my wife and I went to bed in fear of the ceiling collapsing under the weight of the water. Great ! We did trivia 3 times a day, attended lectures, movies and shows. Stay away from the Aix Provence Tour. No mic, receiver set up. Hard to hear especially over construction noise and the guide had a heavy french accent. My wife speaks French and she even had a hard time understanding her. Also beware there are no Public Restrooms in Aix Provence. This is in contrast to the Cinque Terra Tour which was excellent. The tour guide was easy to understand, head sets were provided and the subject matter was interesting. We tried an independent tours in Italy and was not pleased with them/ 28 Days, 21 of those days we lived in fear of the cabin roof collapsing. Other then that we had a great time.

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May 1, 2013

The Mediterranean

We are platinum Princess members.We travel with 6 to 12 other couples..We are all used to luxury vacations and you get what you pay for.we have sailed on Celebrity(didn't compare to Princess),Royal Caribbean ,Crystal(excellent) Oceana(disappointing),Ama Waterways,(fabulous) Viking River Cruises(the worst),Costa(horrible) and many others. We always take mini suites on all trips so we are comparing apples to apples.We always go to Europe,Med,Baltic,Asia

.We do not travel to Caribbean as we are Floridians and enjoy that climate year round. We are looking forward to the new Royal Princess we are taking on July5,2013 from Venice to Barcelona. We have traveled on the old Royal ,Crown,Ruby,Diamond,Grand,Emerald etc.We have always found Princess to have beautiful mini suites,Sabatini's and crown Grill Room excellent,great staff,and very accommodating.We never use their Shore excursions,always hire private drivers.Great Broadway shows,love the Sanctuary Deck and movies under the stars. Remember they are feeding 3000 people..it isn't gourmet but it is certainly very good.Viking Food not edible.Ama Waterways and Crystal smaller ships,excellent food.Sabatinis and Crown Room have excellent food,,made special things not on menu for us,very accommodating .Celebrity Equinox private restaurant would not go to regular dining room to get Ceasar salad for our friend.We were told Ceasar salad not available in their restaurant(specialty) only regular dining room.We were in disbelief. We tried anytime dining..we never waited in line.We gave Maitre'd a little tip,told him we wanted to eat at 7:45at same table every night and for 2 weeks our requests were honored 10 very happy people. Also found head waiter came by every nite to see if he could make us special dishes the following day. He showed us following day menu so we could decide if we were eating in Main dining room or specialty. Sometimes a small tip at the beginning of your vacation goes a very long way to assure you above and beyond service! Mini suites beautiful! Large ,clean,and great services only book that type of room.i feel a vacation should be more luxurious then my daily life home.A vacation should be living better then I do at home so we splurge a little. We give room Stewart a small tip first day ($10 -$20 per couple and we tell him what we want for entire cruise) and we have extra towels,fresh fruit,ice tea and cookies waiting in our room at 5:30 pm when we come back from our shore trips.our rooms are cleaned early and often.These Stewart's appreciate the money and it is only $1or $2 extra a day for fabulous service.you get what you pay for! The movies under the stars are great,we play bingo sometimes and we enjoy evening shows after dinner.we like beauty salon spa,massages,gyms and most of all the Sanctuary deck..A little piece of heaven at sea. On the Celebrity and Royal there was no private,beautiful space for us to hang out on sea days.We love sea days and have done several transatlantic crossings..love the 6-8 days at sea.book sanctuary for entire time Don t use your excursions except on Ama Waterways certain days.Since we have been traveling to Europe for 35 years we have our private drivers lined up. Don't like to be with big groups on bus going with so so guides and cheap souvenir shops We have been to the ports many times but we love the entire experience..In Livorno will go to Florence, Luca,Regello, San gimigano,Sienna Montatacini etc.We always mix up our trips for different cities in different years Venice will go to PaduaBologna,Abano ,Verona Vincenzo etcRome,Orvieto etc. Be adventurous..go with other people,split private tours,use car services,have a driver make restaurant reservations for you..Enjoy yourself

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Apr 25, 2013

Eastern Caribbean

The Ruby Princess is a great ship, love the ports of St Thomas, St Maarten, Nassau and Princess Cays. St Turks and Caicos was scheduled however, intestinal illness on the island made it unsafe to port there. Nassau was the replaced port of call. We did book this cruise primarily because we wanted to see the Turks and Caicos, but health concerns are much more important. The food on the Ruby Princess was very good, you could get the same

staples of steak or fish every night or enjoy the different menu items each evening. The chef makes a great presentation on each meal. Our dining steward was absolutely the best. He made feel right at home and couldn't be more attentive. The stateroom was very comfortable, we did choose an outside balcony. Love to see the sunrises and sunsets each day. The bed was very comfortable. The first evening we noticed there was no top sheet, and asked the cabin steward the following morning to supply one. He did and any time we requested anything our cabin steward was most helpful. There was a great variety of daily activities, we especially loved the outdoor movie in the afternoon. At St Maarten we purchased liquor at the store called Friendly Duty Free, this store is on front street. The store was to deliver our purchase directly to the ship. Our purchase was never delivered. After contacting the store twice by telephone and twice by email, we still have not been reimbursed. It is evident they do not intend to reimburse our money. Overall, the Ruby Princess was a great ship to vacation on. Staff is very friendly and attentive. Love the great weather and ambiance of the entire ship.

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Mar 16, 2013

Eastern Caribbean

This was one of the worse cruises I had ever been on. I still have a hard time believing that Princess doesn't care how there Travel agents perceive them. After completing all my courses on Princess I booked my Graduation cruise on the Ruby. As my wife and I walked down the gangway I made a comment to her to be prepared to be amazed. Boy was I surprised for the week ahead held. This was NOTHING LIKE WE HAD PLANNED and fell extremely short of all

teachings within there Polar Academy. The food, was just OK, nothing spectacular. Orange Juice was room temperature when I asked if it was cold I was told to feel the carafe. When I complained about it being warm, I was told this is it. No one offered me even a piece of ice to put in it. Had Egg Florentine one morning of the buffet. The muffin was so hard I couldn't cut through it with my knife. Called the waiter over he called his supervisor over and I was told no one else complained. Their idea of Hash Browns! Deep fried mash potato patty. Most dinners in the main dining room were either cold or under cooked. I don't drink so I bought the coke pass for the week. The first night in the Da Vinci Dining Room waiter came over asked for our drink orders. When I asked for a diet coke and showed him my card I was told I had to wait until he took care of the paying customers first. The staterooms were well maintained average in square footage when compared with the other cruise lines we've been on. We had an inside cabin. However the design and layout of the room made it smaller and took away form the square footage. Cabin service was excellent was a bit disappointed there was no towel animals at night. Activities were just a s good as on any other ship we have been on. Excursions were pricey for what you got. Don't expect GREAT customer service. At best it's far below the average. Towards the end of the trip wife and I decided to place some cash on our tab. After doing so we went to the lounge that night and ordered some wine. The waiter told us my ship account had been closed. We went to customer service and were told that they had been trying to get a hold of us all week because there was credit card on file. The customer service person did not want to listen that we had no such problems all week long and yes there was a credit card on file. She insisted we were wrong and she was going off duty and we had to wait for here supervisor to come on to proceed any further. Deciding not to wait and being upset the with the way this was being handled we headed for the internet cafe and went online to our bank and printed out a statement showing that they had been charging our credit card (the one they claimed was not on file) all week long. So up to customer service we went showed them the printout and at that time we were told there was a mistake. REALLY! Needless to say this cruise was nothing like what we had expected from Princess. And being a travel agent I decided to send there Customer Relations Dept a detailed letter on my experience. I did hear back from them and was basically told no one else complained. And they had put my comments on file. Imagine I'm a Travel Agent and got treated in this manor. Imagine a regular traveler. Needless to say I will no longer be selling or recommending Princess Cruiselines.

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Feb 20, 2013

Caribbean

The ship is gorgeous and the food and service is great. We loved everything about the experience! My husband are in our early 30's and went on the Ruby Princess for our honeymoon. Didn't realize this cruise was meant for an older crowd but we still made it fun. If we went again we would try to find a cruise that leaned toward our age group. The food was great! Could have had more Seafood options. It was cozy, no complaints!

Good for the age group it was leaning towards. Even the comedians were giving elderly jokes so we thought it was funny but not really meant for our age range. Excursions were ok. I would not recommend the Dolphin excursion in St. Thomas but that was only due to the terrible guide we had. She showed no interest in being there and only smiled when we were leaving to go back to the ship, while asking for tips. She always seemed annoyed & made the whole tour boring and not exciting. The Dolphins were our ONLY entertainment. Wish I remembered her name so I could report how terrible she was.

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Feb 20, 2013

Caribbean

The ship is gorgeous and the food and service is great. We loved everything about the experience! My husband are in our early 30's and went on the Ruby Princess for our honeymoon. Didn't realize this cruise was meant for an older crowd but we still made it fun. If we went again we would try to find a cruise that leaned toward our age group. The food was great! Could have had more Seafood options. It was cozy, no complaints!

Good for the age group it was leaning towards. Even the comedians were giving elderly jokes so we thought it was funny but not really meant for our age range. Excursions were ok. I would not recommend the Dolphin excursion in St. Thomas but that was only due to the terrible guide we had. She showed no interest in being there and only smiled when we were leaving to go back to the ship, while asking for tips. She always seemed annoyed & made the whole tour boring and not exciting. The Dolphins were our ONLY entertainment. Wish I remembered her name so I could report how terrible she was.

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By joe_CR

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Jun 15, 2012

Grand Mediterranean

We are a married couple in our mid-30's and are not usually cruisers, but booked this mainly for the destinations. Overall the cruise went well, despite a minor bout of food sickness. Embarkation went very smoothly, although it was quite a walk to get from the train to the ship in Venice. Disembarkation went smoothly as well; we opted to carry our own luggage and pretty much walked right off the boat and then took a cab to our hotel. We

had an ocean view cabin which was spacious and in great condition. Service was overall very good, and the entertainment was OK despite the fact that they really put in a lot of effort to try and put on a great show. Food was just OK - there was no significant difference between the dining room and buffet food, and we did experience minor food sickness during the cruise. It did pass in a day or so, and the overall cruise rating would have been higher if it wasn't for this incident. Ports - booked excursions for half of the ports and mostly through the ship; the only one that we could find a better deal through a 3rd party was for the one in Istanbul. •Venice - took the Alilaguna to our hotel near St Mark's/Doge Palace (15 Euro each). Rialto, Santa Maria, and all other main sites are easily accessible by walking or Vaporetto water taxi. Venice is a little overwhelming at first due to language and the tiny streets, but it gets better after you get your bearings straight and realize how to catch the water taxis in the right direction. Athens - saw the Acropolis/Plaka by ourselves. Piraeus train station is not easy to get to from the port, depending on where the ship is docked. We gave up looking for the station and just took a cab (25 Eur), and returned by taking the train (0.7 Eur/ea) to Piraeus station and then walked a mile or so back to the port. People here were extremely friendly and helpful. Kusadasi - we took an excursion to Ephesus/St John's/Virgin Mary Shrine and were very impressed with all the sites. All the sites were pretty spread out so it was much easier through an excursion. Istanbul - took excursion to Blue Mosque/Hagia Sophia/Topkapi Palace. The Mosque and Hagia Sophia were awe-inspiring, and Topkapi was very crowded but had some incredible jewelry on display. Traffic was awful so this would have been difficult to do completely by ourselves. Mykonos - took an excursion for the town/beaches and the monastery at Ano Mera - just didn't want to deal with the logistics here and relax. Could have also just taken the shuttle into town and taken a short walk to see Little Venice/Windmills. Naples - took a bus (7 Euro each) to Pompeii and returned to Naples with time to spare, so then we walked to Sanservo to see the Veiled Christ statue before heading back to the ship. Bus station was relatively close to the port - will have to ask the local Information for directions. We originally wanted to take a ferry to Capri but the line was ridiculous. Naples is not the nicest or cleanest City, so we walked pretty quickly the whole time. Florence - took excursion for Florence/David/Uffizi. Florence is not to be missed, with incredible views around every corner. Rome is really far away from port, so doing this on your own would be difficult. Rome - took an excursion for Coliseum/St Peter's/Vatican Museum. Again, not to be missed, and difficult/costly to coordinate on your own due to port distance from Rome. •Monte Carlo - walked to the nearest bus stop and took line 2 (2 Euro each) to the Exotic Gardens (excellent view of the city/coast), about 20 minutes away. Took the same bus back to the "Rock" (Monaco-ville) to see the changing of the guard, the cathedral, and aquarium. Could also have just taken the elevator right up to the "Rock" from the port and spent all of our time there. This is one of the nicest, cleanest places we have ever seen. Barcelona - checked into our hotel and found the nearest Metro station. The Metro is relatively clean, very efficient, and covers the whole city. We bought all-day passes for 7 Euro each and headed to Sagrada Familia first to beat the lines - definitely add the admission for the elevator ride up to the "temple". Then we got off at the Urquinaona stop for Palau Musica (expensive to get in), and then headed to Jaume stop on the same line for the Gothic Quarter. Spent some time at the Catedral Barcelona (truly gothic) and in the Quarter, before walking to Las Ramblas and soaking in the scene. Took the Metro from Liceu station back to our hotel for some much-needed rest. There is just too much to cover in Barcelona for one day.

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Mar 15, 2012

carribean

My mom and I recently arrived home from our first cruise. It was a wonderful experience. It was one of the best vacations we have ever had. Everything was fantastic from beginning to end. We had never been on a cruise so we did not know quite what to expect. We were not let down once. The food was delicious...absolutely scrumptious. All of it!! We loved our room. Being it was a balcony room it was blissful to simply relax in bed

and listen to the ocean. Very efficiently set up and lots of closet space and hot water immediately in the shower!! They were great!! We had a lovely trip....there is no other way to say it. It started a whole new addiction!! Cannot wait til our next one!!

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Aug 11, 2011

europe

Beautiful ship but even after many attempts to get crew members to address poor behavior by children, NOTHING was done. I was knocked down by running children twice, had an expensive camera broken in the process. Pre-teens filled adult hot tubs. We were with others who also felt the same way. We love children and being around children but not when their behavior is inappropriate for the occasion. We took many excursions. Most were crowded

and very expensive. We have cruised with 4 other Cruise Lines. This was our first trip with Princess. It will be our last with them.

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Apr 21, 2011

Eastern Caribbean

Over all summary: Food was poor. Room steward was fabulous. Princess shore excursions were OK but costly. Onboard activities were varied and available. Both embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze in Fort Lauderdale. However, if you put aside the food [why would you? you are on a cruise for goodness sake!], the shows were good, there was a good selection of current movies, there were plenty of activities onboard and all the usual cruise

ship things [pools, photographers, casino (even had a non-smoking night), exercise room, etc.] I looked forward to 2 things: great food and spending a few hours in the Sanctuary enjoying peace and quiet, but they had the nerve to charge $10 for each half day [0800 - 1230 or 1300 - 1700] and it was closed for 30 minutes at noon. I guess you have to go somewhere else for that 30 min. They do not charge for the pool so why charge for peace and quiet. As an experienced traveler, cruiser and great cook, I was extremely unhappy with the food throughout the ship, the Ruby Princess. Our first night we chose from the nightly menu and had good prime rib. That was the last good meal in the dining room or buffet. On 3 of the 7 nights we chose to eat in the buffet because nothing on the menu in the dining room sounded good. What a shame! On the last night I had beef tenderloin medallions cooked rare in the dining room. I have no idea what cut of meat it was; neither texture nor flavor were what I expected. Being a nightowl, I tried their buffet served from 2300 to 0400 one night. I was astonished that they had the audacity to serve left-overs from lunch and dinner. {Note: the 24 hour buffet is only 22 hours.} I love ice cream and the only way to get it was as dessert in the dining room. It was a good quality, but not available any other place or time. They only had soft serve in the ice cream shop or gelato for $1.50 a scoop in the pastry shop. A coke was $2 whenever you wanted one with a meal or at other times unless you paid $40 [$6 a day] for an insulated coke tumbler that you could have refilled all week with coke, diet coke, club soda or water. If you wanted to spend $56 [the kids cup, $8 a day] you could also get fruit juice, smoothies and milkshakes. You could get pineapple juice for breakfast by asking/begging for it but not at any other time without a kids cup. The extra "nickel and dime" for everything is terrible. Why don't they charge an extra $25.00 in the fare include the items and let the crew focus on doing their jobs rather than selling. As for the stateroom: The best part of the cruise was our cabin steward. He was fabulous. When that is the best you can say about a cruise, it is a sad thing indeed. We had a balcony on the port side, forward, Riviera deck, R210. It was the first time we had a balcony and enjoyed it a lot. Also the port side of the ship had the better view at all ports. Since we have a nice RV the shower did not seem tiny. The shower, toilet, vanity area was adequate. Plenty of hanging space, about 6.5 feet, for a 7 day cruise; had a shelf above; a 12x14" cupboard with the safe with about 7 shelves. Each night stand had 2 drawers and a shelf. There was room for luggage under the bed. The desk had a cupboard with 2 shelves, mirror, phone, hairdryer and desk chair. There was a small refrigerator in another cupboard with a top that doubled as a bar and a flat panel TV on the wall above it. There was a club chair with arms and a small oval table for drinks or treats. The deck had 2 chairs and a small table. There was enough to keep anyone as busy as they woud like. In St Thomas do not bother with the B.O.S.S. underwater scooter trip. I thought it would be unique and it was, but it was not worth the time and money. The boat owner and his crew were exceptional and accommodating, but the scooter is difficult to maneuver and your view is restricted. The place they take you , Turtle Cove, is terribly overused and overpopulated with snorkelers so there is very little to see. The water is about 15 feet deep and your head is about 8 feet below the surface. I saw more while snorkeling while waiting for my turn than while on the scooter. I am a certified diver and should have gone SCUBA diving. I never have trouble clearing my ears while diving, but on this scooter I was clearing them the entire time. Later I found out that it is because your ears are under air pressure being inside the bubble helmet and your breathing is constantly changing the pressure rather than in the open water where once you get them cleared you are finished because you have equalized then to the water pressure. We booked a tour with AAA for a tour of the island on St Maarten and were very happy with the driver and the tour. He made a point of telling us that he was our driver for the day and would take us anywhere we wanted as long as we were back by 1600. There were 8 of us in the van at about $50 a head. Next time we will hire a taxi when we get ashore as many other reviewers have suggested. Do NOT go to the shops recommended by the cruise, not even for the 'free' trinkets they offer. They are not worth the time or trouble. Some shops gave them freely, but others made it difficult to get the freebie. AND different people got different treatment even in our small group of 4. We each went at different times and got different hassles. Furthermore, the cruise line is getting a kick back from the stores so you are not getting the best price. Do some research before you go to find some stores to patronize. Also be sure you know the price of gold and the price of whatever jewelry you think you might consider [diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, etc.] before you go. In one shop I had on my new diamond and ruby ring and I asked him how much it would cost there. He said $2500; I paid $2600 for it in Vegas so I would not have been worth the cost of the cruise to save $100. On Princess Cays, check out the Bahamian shops behind the Princess store. They will appreciate your business. I completed their post cruise survey and they called me to acknowledge my responses. They did not offer any kind of compensation or inducement to return for another cruise. I have a 3 page letter that I will send by email and snail mail and they gave me the addresses. I also wrote a one page letter of commendation for our steward. I gave him a copy before disembarking and will send copies of it to the addresses also. They printed it from my thumb drive at the customer service desk. Strangely, she blew on the USB connector before she inserted it into their computer. It is not likely that I will travel with Princess again. This was a last minute, spur of the moment trip. I'll think harder and read some reviews before I spend this kind of money again.

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Apr 14, 2011

Eastern Carribean

The Ruby Princess was a sadly disappointing experience. We paid a premium fare as Princess is touted as a "cut-above" in Cruise Lines. This was not our experience. The food was mediocre at best, the service was a bit below that. Our first night in the Michaelangelo dining room we encountered salmon that wa uncooked and another dish served barely warm. On bringing this to the attention of the Maitre'd we got the proverbial kiss-off. Another evening

the salad was so wilter I would not have placed it in a rabbit's cage. Wehen I brought this to the attention of the waited, he wanted to debate with me what was wrong with it. Another evening we encountered a waiter who made a series of smart-ass remarks about the food selections of those at our table. Poor quality, see above rmarks. It was nice, small not as clean as other ships. The bathroom was tiny, even by european standard. The shower was so small it was almost comical. Generally good, although they need to do a better job structuring them so that they don't over-lap one another. The muscians on board were stellar. Hore back ride onGra Turk was excellent. This will be our last rtrip on Princess. We spoke to several other seasoned travelers on board who all said the dame thing, "Never again on Princess.

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Feb 20, 2011

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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Jan 11, 2011

Eastern Caribbean

This is our third cruise and our first on a princess ship. The embarkation and disembarkation were better than any cruise before. Princess did a great job in Ft. Lauderdale. It was quick and organized. I had already taken a cruise two years ago with the family (5). I had heard many positive things about Princess. Once aboard, it was OK. The stops in Princess Cays, St. Martin, St. Thomas and Grand Turk were great. The stops were the highlight

of the cruise and the ship wasn't. At times I felt like I was on the Titanic. The staff were either snobby or could not speak Engish. It seemed that all they were doing was pushing you to buy expensive art, jewelry or anything else they could make a profit on. I think the Ruby is geared more for the 55+ crowd that likes wine, art and overpriced jewelry. I don't regret the cruise, the Caribbean was terrific, but I will try a different cruise line next time. I was very disappointed with the food. I had heard so many great things about the food on Princess cruises and was not impressed. It was OK, but when cruising you expect GREAT food. Basically it was the same fare everyday with something different added each day. The different items were so strange and usually VERY unappealing. Most of which were unidentifiable and unpronounceable. We opted for anytime dining. It gave us the flexibilty to eat dinner when it was convenient for us. The problem with the anytime dining is that Princess allows you to make a reservation for anytime dining. They call it the DINE LINE. It was ridiculous. You show up for the anytime dining and the snobby hostess asks if you if you have a reservation. They had a pizza bar that was excellent when it was open. The other thing that was very disappointing was the way they nickel and dime you over sodas and such. Soon as you step on the top deck,they are hounding you to buy a soda card. It is about $30.00 for a soda only card. If you want a shake or smoothie or virgin drink (kids) that would be extra. And it doesn't work on their private island, Princess Cays. The last thing I would like to mention is that they have a couple of restaurants that are extra ($20-25 cover) to eat in. The Crown Grille is $25 extra which isn't much considering it has steak and lobster and hearty meals, etc. Problem is within the frist day they get pretty much booked solid. The staff there is really snobby. The dining room staff generally try to accomodate (anytime dining). Stateroom was nice. We had a balcony and would HIGHLY recommend it. Ruby is built with a lot of balcony rooms and it really makes your stay MUCH better. Our room steward was fine. Nothing spectacular. He was pretty much out of sight. One thing though, if you need something later in the night you won't get it. The stewards say they cover each other but they don't. It gets taken care of the next day. We had a water leak in the bathroom and luckily it started as we were leaving for dinner. They were on it right away and we left. When we came back it was fixed but they had left standing water on the bathroom floor. The onboard activities were OK, same as other ships. The age specific activities were not well received by my kids (14 and 17). Carnival did a better job at keeping the kids busy. Ruby attempted it but fizzled. We did an excursion at every stop. The princess Cays was very nice. We did a 6 person cabana and it was money well spent. The only thing is Princess tried to convince you to upgrade it and it wasn't necessary. In St. Thomas we did the Pirate Schooner and snorkeling trip. It was the BEST!!!!!!!!!! By far the highlight of the entire cruise. These guys make the excursion a blast. If you do anything, do this.

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Sep 29, 2010

Grand Mediterranean cruise

The food was good. The state rooms were clean. My husband and I and this other couple that we were traveling with were disappointed about everything else. The staff were not very friendly like other cruises that we have been.. The did not came across very polite, even the higher up officials of the ship. The service desks were crowded and closed most of the time. Not enough employees to attend the guests needs. The movies and advertisements repeated

all the time. The ports that we visited were great but not the ship. It was good but not great. Good. They were ok. We did one and that was fine. It started from Barcelona with stops Monaco, Livorna , Naples Rome, Mykonos, Istanbul, Athens,and few other ports ending in Venice. Great places to see. There were excursions to see even more places.

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By Ryan_CR

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Aug 5, 2010

Barcelona-Monaco-Florence-Rome-Naples-Mykonos-Istanbul-Kusadasi-Athens-Venice

My wife and I were celebrating our 25th anniversary and this was our first cruise. We loved everything about it. It was an absolutely spectacular experience. The food was very very good. We ate mostly at the buffet-style Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe. You go through the first time and sample everything that looks good. Then for your second trip you load up on anything that was exceptional. Everything we had was good and there were always a

few things that were exceptional. We thought it was pretty amazing when you consider how much food they have to prepare. The stateroom was roomy enough. It was neat, clean and well designed. The shower was nice. The bed was comfortable. The balcony was also nice although we didn't use it very much. We liked the movies under the stars and we were surprised that we were able to get such nice seats for Avatar (it wasn't the 3-d version, though) even though we showed up only about 20 minutes prior to the start of the movie. We also loved the singer, Claude Eric. There was a multi-media play Once Upon A Dream that was pretty good too. The fitness spa was very nice. The casino was nice. I played video poker. I put a $20 bill in the machine and I was stuck there for almost 2 hours until the money was gone. There were no staff roaming the machines for assistance. The internet was 75 cents per minute and at times it was very slow. One day I went to check email and after 10 minutes I gave up. I got them to take that charge off the bill and they were very nice about that. We did all the excursion on our own. It was much cheaper and much more of an adventure. In Naples we returned to the ship at almost 7pm (the all-aboard time was 6:30pm) just as they were taking away the gang plank. People on the balcony were shouting Hurry! and then cheering/applauding when they saw that we barely made it. If you're the adventurous type, then you can do it. You'll save money and have a great time. But you do have to do a lot of research before you go. We had a wonderful time. The weather was fantastic, warm but not too hot. We never got rained on. We saw so many unforgettable places. My wife gets nauseous veery easily, but only one time did she get a bit queasy. If your cruise includes Venice, then make sure you are on one of the promenade decks during the sail-in. They played some classic Italian opera music. It was not-to-be-missed. We love Princess and the lovely Ruby.

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Feb 3, 2010

Southern Carribean

We sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale on a 10 day cruise to the Southern Caribbean. Except for the entertainment, this was our best Princess cruise so far. This was the best food we have ever had on a cruise. I don't believe we have 5-star dining in Ocala so I don't have a reference point for that category but if most chain rate a 3, then Princess definitely rated a 4. The menu was much more varied and interesting, and the presentation improved. The

only meal I did not enjoy was the cod (fish), but I'm told most cod is pretty ordinary. The addition of an "American" dish to the nightly menu was a very nice touch, and believe it or not, the "Always Available" menu included a very nice fillet. My wife exceeded her red meat allowance for a year. The buffet and pizza were better than on previous cruises. We elected anytime dining, and usually had a difficult time getting a table for two. But when we shared a table we had a very nice time. We did learn to ask for a table for four, and made sure everyone was seated at about the same time. Seen one Princess stateroom, seen them all. Very clean, as one would expect from a newer ship. What activities? One evening after dinner we walked out of the Princess Theater production show (canned music and mostly canned singing, if you can believe it) The quartet in the Wheelhouse bar was playing elevator music, nothing identifiable anyway. The entertainer in the Crooners Bar looked to be at least 80. We poked our heads in and seeing us he said "Ah young people. We haven't seen many young people tonight." He began to play "Hello Young Lovers". My wife and I are in our 60's. The Princess orchestra (sic) was playing Big Band music in the Expolyers Lounge, Club Fusion was empty, as was the disco. On so went the whole cruise. We took care of St Thomas ourselves, and booked other excursions through Princess. All were very nice. We especially enjoyed river tubing and land sailing. Never have we seen so many wheel chairs, walkers, scooters, and canes on a ship. If the average age on most cruises is 65, this cruise must have averaged 105. Must have been the 10 day element. Anyway, this seemed to leave more room in public areas and pools than usual. We watched the Gators get beat on the MUT screen. Not much else of interest. By 10:00 it was like having a very large private yacht, except there was noting to do and no decent entertainment, so we turned in early anyway. If it were not for the shore excursions we would have had a very dull time.

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Sep 9, 2009

Eastern Mediterranean

My family recently spent 12 days aboard the Ruby Princess for a Mediterranean cruise. We would like to offer our opinion of the Ruby Princess. Overall, we had a great trip and enjoyed the shore excursions and entertainment on the ship. The length of the trip was just right, and we had a good mixture of beach excursions along with sight seeing. There were a few disappointments with the Ruby Princess and the quality of their food. However, we

still enjoyed this cruise and the sites we visited. The buffet restaurants on this ship were awful. The breakfast was exceptionally bad and the food was often cold. It might seem unreasonable to think breakfast was bad, but the baked goods were average, the eggs and bacon were cold. We ate lunch there several times and didn't find it much better. We finally just grabbed hamburgers at the pool bar. The dining room restaurant was good and we typically thought the menu was varied. However, the process for using the anytime dining was questionable. We found that every time we went to the dining room we were told there was a 45 minute wait, however; once my husbad slipped the maitre D a $20 tip, we automatically had a table. That practice continued the entire trip. If you tipped the matre D's you received special tables, and appetizers at your table. The stateroom was adequate with a king bed and my son used the upper berth. My 14 year old didn't find the upper berth to be comfortable. I'd suggest families use that option for smaller children. As an adult, I would not want to sleep there for a 12 day cruise. The balcony was nice and we used it often. The refrigerator in the room was convenient and we kept it stocked with water. The entertainment was family friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We had comedians, hypnotists, singers, and of course the traditional love and marriage show. My 14 year old son enjoyed this as well. We did book about 6 shore excursions. The one we were disappointed in was the beach experience on Corfu. It was a 1/2 day beach outing at a local resort. However, they took you there at 9am before many of the activities, pool, and bar were open. When the facilities did open at 10, we were leaving at 11:45 am. This should have been a longer day or started a litle later. Overall, we felt like the excusions had quality guides. We did reserve a few private tours through private companies which were more expensive. However, we received a higher quality tour and experience. The 12 day cruise started in Rome, and stopped in Florence, Napes, Monte Carlo, Turkey along with the Greek Isles and Athens with finishing in Venice. At the conclusion of the trip, the Ruby Princess went into Venice via the Grand Canal and was a spectacular site that was. We were amazed at the sites and the beauty of Venice. The Greek Isles were wonderful as well and we especially liked Santorini.

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Jul 31, 2009

The Ruby Princess

We truly enjoyed our honeymoon aboard The Ruby Princess last December. It was the first cruise for both my husand and me, making this a true adventure for us! We enjoyed almost everything with the exception of our dinner seating selection. We did have a couple of days of rough seas but we both had sea sickness patches to place behind our ears. We did find out through many seasoned cruise veterans that there are bands available in drug stores you

wear on your wrist that prevent sea sickness without medication. If I were to go on another cruise I would take both just in case the bands did not work for me. We chose the traditional assigned seating for evening meals hoping to meet new people and have some interesting dinner conversations. We were extremely dissappointed. We are both in our mid 50's and were seated at a table for 8 with only two other assigned guests. They were in their late teens and did not attend meals every evening, leaving us to dine alone at a huge table making us feel very uncomfortable. When we asked about moving to a different table - we were told they could not do that during the cruise. The food selection is excellent and we enjoyed the incredible presentations. Our server who attended our table each evening was quite simply wonderful. If I were to go on another Princess cruise I would choose the "anytime" seating so we could explore more options. We were impressed with the size and appearance of the room and our balcony was fantastic! The room stewart was very attentive and did a wonderful job of taking care of all our needs. We attended all of the shows and enjoyed them very much. It was good quality entertainment given the time frame they had to present these shows. We booked our own excursions online. Booking directly with merchant is much cheaper and you get good advice online with blogs about places or activities you enjoy. All the excursions we went on were very aware of cruise line time tables and there was NEVER a problem getting back to the ship on time. I was afraid the Princess Cays Island would be a commercial den, but to my great surprise it was more laid back and "Island like" than any other of our stops. It was a delightful day of sitting on the beach and relaxing, making it the perfect ending to our cruise! We enjoyed our first cruise very much - the beautiful ship, wonderful food and interesting stops were just great! The crew employees tend to be from different countries making for some very interesting conversations while exploring the vast ship. Crew members are friendly and helpful however, I could not help but notice a lot of very tired, sleepy crew members. We found out how difficult their schedules are! There should be a little more down time for those employees. A happy well rested crew would have made this a better vacation for me.

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Jul 7, 2009

Italy and Greek Islands

Please note that these comments are based on the expectations of 5-star cruise ship. I found the cruise to be uninspiring with poor customer service. Below my expectations. I sailed previously with Holland America, so my experience is based on comparison between the two lines. Overall it wasn't a bad cruise, but it could have been much better if the crew was better. I have to say that the itinerary was great (this is why we selected this cruise)

and the price was quite good, too (however, I am not sure if the good price was more due to the last minute booking). It seems that Princess is not catering to any particular audience, so the experience might be a bit bland. This is certainly not a party ship, but it is neither a "luxury" or "seniors" place. This is good and bad at the same time. Nobody is completely dissatisfied, but nobody is completely happy, either. I would rate the ship at the max. 4.5 stars (not the 5, as it claims to be). The food was uninspiring. In the restaurant, there was enough choice, but what was lacking was the little bit of "flair", this one extra step that you might expect form a high-end cruise. However, all food was quite tasty and the variation was sufficient. In the buffet, again, not much inspiration. There was enough good food, but most of it was the same through-out the cruise. I would compare it a decent, but not outstanding all-inclusive resort. We were booked (contrary to our wishes) for the "eat anytime" dining. This may appeal to some, but you get, generally, an average restaurant experience. This was certainly not a 5-star service. The waiters seemed in a constant rush, almost throwing plates at you and pulling half-completed course from under your nose. The restaurant stuff seemed uneven; some waiters obviously had decent experience; others must have been new to the trade. The problem might be in the way Princess is recruiting recently. They hired (apparently) many people from Central/Southern Europe, many without much prior experience (this is based on comments from some of the staff). My stateroom (a standard balcony cabin) was fine. A bit smaller than on our previous trips, but nicely done and comfortable. The cabin steward made the trip comfortable. One major issue was that half way through the cruise, they decided to repaint the walls on the balcony. This rendered the balcony unusable for at least 36h. There was no notice before or apology afterwards. The entertainment was, I guess, ok. But it was unimpressive. A standard mix of stand-up comics, a bit of a music-hall production and some game shows. Additionally, a few bands and sole artists entertaining in the bars. Maybe the problem is that it wasn't directed at any particular audience so it seemed to cater to anybody. I bet that almost everyone wished that there was more of their type of music. If you liked Rock, there was too much R&B, if you liked ballroom, there was too much Rock. To me it looks like they tried not to offend anyone, but they failed to satisfy anyone. On top of that the bands played 30min and took 30min breaks. And they took breaks at the very same time. So if your idea of spending an evening was to dance the night away, you would be disappointed. There are plenty of tours to choose from. And they are quite well organised. If there is a single thing where they excelled, it was in the organisation of leaving the ship in the morning and coming back after the tours. No line-ups, no extended waiting (well, at least considering the 2000+ people trying to leave the ship at the same time). A word of advice for first time European cruisers: don't overdo the tours. There is so much to see and so little time, so many people try to see everything (we got caught in that mode, as well). After a few days you might feel quite exhausted. I wish that in a few more ports we had done the sightseeing on our own, instead of taking a tour. If you feel confident about roaming around a foreign city on your own, you might be better of doing that instead of taking a tour. Tours are fairly expensive ($60-$180 pp). For the same amount (for two people) you can easily rent a car for the day or take a cab or train and do some exploring on your own. However, the trips were all well organised, with good guides (who could speak decent English). Be prepared to walk some distance on any tour and be prepared for the heat of the Mediterranean sun (for most of the cruise the temperatures were in the 30-35C range). Overall, we are reasonably happy with the trip. It was at a discounted price (we booked it about two weeks before leaving) had a very good itinerary and it was quite comfortable. The ship could benefit from some more customer focused front desk staff (as it is they show a "this is not my problem" attitude) and possibly more training for their restaurant staff. Another interesting quirk was that since the crew is very multinational, and many of them have quite strong accents, you have to re-learn their language all the time.

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Jun 27, 2009

Venice to Rome

Overall Princess get high marks for keeping 3000 passengers apart using clever tactics such as two show rooms offering the same shows twice in a row so passengers can view both shows over two separate nights. One feature that really really jumped out at us was how Princess constantly marketed to us. The “Welcome Aboard Show” featured 45 minutes of Princess hocking their wares, showing all the places you could spend additional $$ such

as the optional dinning rooms, very disappointing. If you are planning a cruise on Ruby, skip the opening show unless you like be shaken down to spend money. On the first formal night there were no less than six photography stations set up, two blocking main passage way. I made no apologies for waling right through a photo shoot taking place directly in the path of passenger along the main Promenade deck. Spirits, beer and wine are reasonably priced from 3.50-7.00. Food was hit or miss, overall I would rate is 3.5 out of five. In general, we found the food in the buffet area for dinner to be bland and lacking. I offer some details of foods not to be missed and foods better left alone. By the way, while we were able to get an assigned early seating once on board, twice we elected to try anytime dining for our own convenience and found the wati to be 45 minutes......no thanks. Foods not to be missed -Pizza (YUM!) -Fettuccini Alfredo in main dinning room (best I have ever had anywhere) -Chocolate cake in main piazza pastry shop -Pork Belly in main dining room -NY cheese cake Foods better left alone -Steaks (any and all) in main dining area, they were bland and tough -mousse –they tasted like eating grease -chocolate cakes in buffet area (bland) -Scrambled eggs in buffet, powered, yuck. Aloha Deck 235 Smaller state room balcony, shower is tiny, plenty of storage. We found the roon to be noisy due to hearing nieghbors doors slamming shut all the time. To no fault of Princess, the verandah we oppresively hot expect for early morning and late evening. As stated before, it was about the almighty dollar. The opening show was all about how you could spend more $$ while aboard. The comedy was good, but the shows in the main theater were pretty second rate. Too little time in port. with the close proximty of the greek isles, it was pathetic that Princess insisted we be back on board by 4:30-5:30 depnding. I think you are better off selecting a trip on a smaller vessle which allows mre time in port. The quaintness of ports such as Santorini are lost when 3000+ people decend upon towns like this.. We felt we were constantly dodging ship tour traffic. Overall, the trip was OK, but I would caution expecting rest and relaxation. With more time in each port and less being marketing to, the experience might have been more enjoyable and relaxing.

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May 20, 2009

Eastern and Western Med

We had an incredible time on this 28 day Transatlantic Crossing. The Ruby Princess is really nice, this was my first time on a ship this size, and I loved it. Everything was clean, and the food has been really great. The food was better than it had been on my last several cruises. We went to the Captain's circle party; there were so many members on this cruise they needed to have four parties! It was a great party as these things go, with

plentiful drinks and of course the best company. Dinner was exceptional that night. I didn't eat the Lobster but everybody said it was wonderful. We had a chicken dish stuffed with mushrooms; it was the most delicious thing ever. The cold soup, Oranges with tea, was so good and the desert sorbet was a Lime Basil that was to die for. OMG my diet is shot! I am pretty sure Ignazio D Agostino the Maitre D is an angel, he is one of the reasons we love Princess so much. On the second leg of the cruise, Generoso took over as Maitre d Hotel, exceeding all our expectations of what it means to be the cream of the crop. Generoso became like family to us, he totally made our cruise incredible. We are huge fans of Generoso; we will be following him around whatever ship he is on! My Stateroom was B748, it had a lovely balcony and was quite small, but functional. We had the misfortune of getting a cabin surrounded by smokers, and I am an ex-smoker who had such a hard time quitting. After being smoke free for 14 years I couldn't breathe when I was in my room; everything smelled like smoke, and I seemed to get my smokers lungs back. I am not bashing smokers, but I still don't want to breathe smoky air in my room. It smelled bad on the ship where ever there were smokers who smoked in their rooms and the staff spent lots of time spraying chemicals to alleviate complaints, I was not the only person bothered by it. Princess was very kind to me about the smoking problems I had during the 16 day transatlantic. They offered me several rooms around the ship, but I declined because nobody could offer me a guarantee that smokers wouldn't pollute my air, when most of this cruise disembarked/embarked in Barcelona and I hated to give up my beloved aft corner. Turns out the on the second leg of the cruise there was only one smoker near me and they confined there smoking to their balcony (thank you) which did not impact my room. I loved that they tried hard to help me with my problems with the heavy smoking around me, Princess has good people in management on this ship and I appreciate them for that. I would love them more if they were willing to rethink separating smokers and non-smokers where it really counts for us non-smokers to be on different floors, or even different sides of the ship. I'm easy; just keep that smoke far from me so I can breathe. There were tons of activities onboard daily, dancing, trivia, games, movies, sports, shopping, spa, and more. We couldn't do as much as we anticipated because the 23 hour days were killing us and we never considered that. Not a big deal in the larger scheme of things. We saw the new production "Once Upon a Dream" and it was fantastic! It used the most advanced technology combined with talent and creativity to bring us something entirely new and refreshing, hooray Princess. Songs included selections by Pink, Enya, Simon and Garfunkel, and a hefty serving of Beatles! We all loved it, a real stand out for us. You will love it. We also saw "Stardust," another new production show developed for the Ruby Princess. It was nice, the dancing was spectacular and the singing was great! We all enjoyed the show and thought it was just a little better than the first show, which was a Broadway review. We missed the Hypnotist, who I heard was great, because of the intensity of this itinerary we are often too pooped to party! We were able to do less as the ports became more intensive. I got a chance to pour a bottle of Champagne at the waterfall with Generoso and it was simply a blast! I adore this man, he is classy and sweet and very friendly. Generoso really knows how to make us passengers feel like Kings and Queens, and we all love it! Bless him for making this cruise so special for all of us. Trivia had been boring, there was one team that won every game and nobody could beat them, yes I felt sour grapes! Its funny, I applaud their knowledge base of trivia (lots of cruises) but recognize the need to offer different, more challenging questions that are not repeats. Hey I want a chance! Speaking of which, I turned Elite on this cruise! Guides and Port Reviews: I used a lot of private guides throughout the cruise that I got from the Cruise Critic boards with great success. It seems to almost always be better to use private guides rather than ship tours because private tours are smaller and more intimate, something hard to achieve on a ship tour. I took one ship tour in Cadiz and hated it. The only port we missed was Monaco and I needed a sea day then anyway! Many of us cruisers were thrilled with the occassional missed port - those sea days are precious gems that we need. 4-24-2009 Madeira, Portugal: We hit land yesterday and it was very cool! I am under the weather, got a dumb cold and indeed have been relaxing with a capital R! We arranged for our guide to pick us up at 2:30, so we didn't bother getting in line and relaxed and ate leisurely instead and it was so much more relaxed that cueing up to disembark! After the initial crowd, we walked off easily and there was Daniel our taxi driver waiting so we were whisked away quickly. Way ahead of the tour buses. We found Daniel R. de Freitas through CC; he was incredibly knowledgeable about the history, and the flora and fauna of the area. He had maps and pictures and info about the area and he kept us ahead the crowds most of the day. We took the sleds down from Monte first thing to avoid crowds, it was the best fun. Somewhere along the run they snapped our pictures and by the time we got to the end of the run, they had those pictures for sale! I had to laugh, and they were awesome photos. Of course we bought them. Next we went to the Nun's Valley, we drove up through the lush forests of Eucalyptus, Banana, Flowers everywhere (and Daniel knew all the names) wild Birds of Paradise. Madeira is an amazing island, former volcanoes had left the island with very fertile soil and everything grows here. We also visited the Mini Grand Canyon, and the second highest sea cliff in the world. We had some astounding views. Daniel dropped us back at the ship with plenty of time to spare, I would have stayed in town, but I needed rest. I have to say Daniel was a great guide, he can be found at www.daniel-taxidriver.pt.vu or [email protected] I bought some Banana candy and a floaty pen with the sled ride floating by. Total cost 4E! Back on the ship, we leave at around 8PM but I am fast asleep already, trying to get well ASAP because after tomorrow, we are in Cadiz! We ordered hamburgers and ravished them, then passed out from exhaustion! 4-26-09 Cadiz, Spain Cadiz was nice, yes we did not go to Seville but we did go to Arcos de los Fronteras with a Princess tour. The town was beautiful but the guide was terrible, she did not wait for the older folks, several fell on the cobbled streets trying to keep up with her, and a few gave up because they couldn't do it. We didn't see much but I huffed and puffed a lot (and I am fit) and at a dead run down the cobbled streets, we did managed to keep our eyes on the tour guide so we know she was leaving 45 minutes earlier than she told the group to meet (meet at 12:45 but she made us leave a 12:00) so we barely kept up. When the bus was loaded, there was 6 people missing, the tour guide would not go back up the hill to look for them, she said 'oh well they must have gone on another bus" and left them! We were in shock, this was an expensive Princess tour where they are supposed to leave people, and they did. My private guides would never do that! Never. Later we bumped into the 6 people and they followed her instructions exactly, it could have easily been me, and after figuring that she had left them, it cost them almost 500 E to get back to the ship! I felt so bad for them, really nice people. Needless to say their day was ruined. We did walk through Cadiz, it is a great town. Beware that taking Princess tours does not necessarily guarantee you a safe return to the ship. 4-27-2009 Gibraltar, GB Gibraltar was nice especially with the great weather we were having. It was easy to do on our own, with lots of shopping (but no room in luggage :)). We did laundry and enjoyed a slow and unplanned day and it was nice. Wonderful sail away viewing the Pillars of Hercules. They also call it Jews gate, I have no idea why? The weather was warming (70 today) and the seas were calming. Good news for my May 4th friends who I soon would meet! May 1, 2009 Civitavecchia, Italy. Guide: Fabricio Melaragno http://www.allarounditaly.net/ We finally hit Italy (Rome) and the tour with Fabricio (allarounditaly.net) to Orvieto and Civita di Bagnoregio and everybody concurred that it was the best tour ever. It was a day to end all days, these two towns were both incredible, but Civita di Bagnoregio was a "once in a lifetime" moment that all who took the time to visit recognized. We were appropriately blown away! Our guide Fabricio was both knowledgeable, and hilarious. We laughed so much I got cramps. We learned so much, and it was fun. We did twice as much as the tours available on the ship, and Fabricio surprised us with wonderful towns and villages in addition to our planned itinerary because we had the time to take it slow and cover a lot of ground. And Fabricio got us past Police and blockades to places no bus and many locals could not get to, I'm not going to give away his secret but you will laugh and be so happy you booked him when you see this! A real treat. There were 15 of us on this tour, 8 in Fabricio's bus and 7 in Alberto's (also very nice) although everybody wanted to be with Fabricio because he is so alive, so filled with good humor and good intentions. We decided to cancel all the Princess tours and go with him everywhere! So that will be 5 tours with him in Italy, and I highly recommend him to my cruise critic friends. He promised us cheese everywhere, it was a joke and we really appreciated how funny he is and what a good guy he really is. So I don't think that will be an issue but if it comes up, I'll report it. Don't miss Civita di Bagnoregio! Orvieto was pretty cool too, we visited the catacombs and tunnels in the Tufa rock there and that was very interesting as well. The Cathedral in Orvieto is magnificent, probably one of the nicest I have ever seen. It was a great day! May 2, 2009 Livorno to Florence with Fabricio Having our guide pick us up again at Livorno, we all now feel like family with Fabricio! He got us early, before any large buses had left the port and it was much easier than I had expected. I had heard that this port was more difficult to maneuver, and I was expecting it to be a pain - somehow I imagined that I would not be able to find my guide, or that I would have to walk far to find him. Not so, all private guides all right by the ship, in case anybody has the worries I had. We zipped out of the port with our van filled to the brim with very happy campers; everybody by now has experiences a "large bus" tour and recognizes the gift of the private guides and small vans. We don't drive any expressways; instead we take country roads all the way into Florence. Fabricio has many surprises in store for us today, we stop for some astounding views, he is trying to fill everybody's wishes and it feels really good to know how much he wants us to enjoy this day. We love him and now we cannot imagine being without him anywhere. We zip into Florence, passing crowds of people and lots of parked buses; they cannot get 5 steps from Academia like we can... In the sea of "umbrellas held in the air," we walked past them and straight into Academia, where we are free to explore at our own pace. Academia is perfect for a first timer; it's beautiful but not too large so it's a reasonable amount of beauty that does not overwhelm too much. David is magnificent to see in person, as are Michelangelo's haunting unfinished pieces - think prisoners in stone. They are incredible, don't miss Academia. As we step out of the museum, Fabricio is waiting for us. We head back too the van and despite the massive crowds, he gets us to the Piazza Santa Croce in a few minutes. 5 steps and we are in the square. After a brief explanation of the church, we get an hour to wander, shop the markets and grab a delicious sandwich all in the shadow of this beautiful church. Next we head to the Brunelleschi's Duomo, the lines are daunting and we decide not to try to get in. As the day goes on the crowds become overwhelming to all of us and we spend more time walking and less time visiting monuments. We shop a little then head toward the Ponte Vecchio which is way too crowded for me. Luckily I pass this Cameo shop and I find the most beautiful Cameo I have ever seen1 Never mind the price. Fabricio has gotten us no more that 5 steps from every monument, Piazza and Palace and he still has not tried to sell us any cheese! I think he is actually allergic to many cheeses. Anyway no cheese, but lots of special and personalized treatment that makes everyone who meets him really like him. I am sad to not see him for a few days; he won't drive to Monaco or Barcelona for me! May 3, 2009 Monaco Today we missed the port because of wind and gratefully our wonderful Captain kept us safe and canceled the port. We really appreciate how he has no power over the weather and are always grade when our safety is considered first. Thanks Captain Yeomans. Lots of people bitching and complaining about this, really embarrassing for many of us who know there is nothing nefarious about missing a port. I think it has to do with knowing that tomorrow is their last day, meanwhile we continue on to Venice and the weather has been divine. For us it was a great unexpected sea day, we loved every minute, except the ugliness of the laundry room mid morning! May 4, 2009 Barcelona, Spain We pulled into port this morning and it was clear and sunny, I know it would be a perfect day! We had booked GoCars in Barcelona and were planning on meeting friends at 9am sharp. I took the opportunity to scout out other rooms on the ship since this was a disembarkation day and I could! Wahoo, cruise critic friends had said to check out the aft Emerald deck minis and they were awesome! I had booked the most aft room on the Port side and my jaw dropped when I saw the size. My tour guide could pitch a large tent there and I wouldn't even see him! This is a cherry cabin, glad I booked it for next year! We jammed off the ship and took the ridiculously time consuming port shuttle which took precious time and turns out, with 4 it's cheaper and faster to grab a cab. We learned that coming back; it saves us an hour of waiting. When we finally got to the GoCars place, it was closed for business. Oops, guess our credit card deposit is gone, beware if you are planning to do this. In any event, we did switch plans on the spot and just jumped on the HOHO bus, gotta be flexible when you travel. It was very crowded in Barcelona and we passed up Sagrada Familia when we saw the huge line snaking around the Church, having spent this holiday weekend in Italy we were all not feeling like fighting more crowds. We visited Park Guell, very interesting, and we hopped back onto the Hoho to Las Ramblas. We visited the market which was nice, had a few nibbles and walked. We veered off to the ancient town where we visited the oldest synagogue in Europe, but you had to use your imagination a lot since it was just excavation pits. I enjoyed connecting with my own history here too. I found a hidden synagogue in the Barri Gothic (I've abandoned spelling) today where they had a small but powerful display on the ancient Jews that once thrived in this city. I noted that the small size of the remains seemed to accurately reflect the amount of Jewish I am! I like this, it appeals to my sense of balance. Of course, I have to buy something, I notice something that I actually don't want to like, but of course I have to ask what it symbolizes the deconstruction of the ego and I know this is mine! Man talks, God laughs. We really didn't feel unsafe at all in this city, I had heard a lot about pickpockets and such but frankly, I did not find this town any more daunting than Los Angeles! I feel this was all over Europe, I feel silly about all the safety backpacks and junk I bought because Europe is no different than the US in terms of safety issues. Back on the ship, we enjoyed not having to do muster again, nanana  I notice that as the days float by, I am really having a great time. But I miss Fabricio, LOL, and the experience! This has been my "yes" journey so far. I love being able to be different, try different things, say yes to whatever presents itself, push the resistant reflexive crap out of me. Just be. This ridiculous woman with lipstick painted over half her face (the boat is not moving that much) asked me to play trivia and I said yes. She turned out to be brilliant and her husband an accomplished Yogi! I loved every ridiculous inch of her. May 5, 2009 Monaco finally with Guide Michael of Revelation Tours. We got to Monaco slowly but surely and actually did not tender, instead we docked at the floating dock (as Captain Yeomans had told me) and had perfect weather to boot! Captain Yeomans parked us perfectly and we were off the ship within minutes of getting there. Our guide Michael from Revelation tours was waiting with a large sign and we were off once again, beating all the bus tours and making great time. We visited St Paul de Vence first; it was as wonderful as I had remembered. After a brief rundown on where we could go, where and when we should meet him, we were off exploring this wonderful town. Incredible, filled with Art stores and quaint shops and every turn a surprise nook or alley. We loved it here. We drove through Nice, a waste of time in my opinion, if you want to see a place you have to stop and if you don't stop why waste time driving through its traffic? Nice is like Santa Monica, I would go to St Paul and Eze and not even want to drive by Nice! I've spend several days there in the past to be fair, but its nothing special like Eze. After the long drive, we went to Eze. Eze is incredible, even better than St. Paul de Vence if this is possible. Smaller and less touristy, and I say that with reticence since you could hardly describe it as touristy, Eze is filled with the narrowest alleys and quaintest nooks ever. This was a wonderful place, and across the street from the entrance to the small town are several perfume factories that have great stuff, I love Fragonard. May 6, 2009 Volterra and San Gimignano (out of Livorno) Guide: Alberto from allarounditaly.net Leave as early as possible to avoid traffic! We started out at 8 am rather than 7:30 am and it made a big difference, in the amount of traffic we hit, since we had to drive close to Florence - it took us a grueling 2.5 hours to get to our first stop San Gimignano. Later I realized that our guide had taken a more scenic road that was slower and we had to drive through the outskirts of Florence. I would leave early and take the toll road to get as quickly as possible, and I would go to Volterra first because it is much more charming and there will be the greatest opportunity to be alone in this town without many tourists Having said that, less is definitely more on this excursion. We were going to try to fit in Sienna as well but this significantly reduced the amount of time we would have had to wander these lovely towns. We ended up choosing to spend more time in each town and less time driving around because it's not fun around Florence, just congested. Volterra is incredibly interesting and quite walk able, there are nooks and crannies everywhere and lots of ancient churches and buildings, including many towers. We found an ancient Greek forum, a fort with walls you can walk, and lots of photo oops everywhere. This is the place to buy Alabaster; we found demonstrations and great shops selling the most unique items including statues, lamps, tiles, and dishes. May 7, 2009 Rome with Fabricio http://www.allarounditaly.net/ Woke to perfect weather, we pulled in to Civitavecchia, docked and were able to disembark by 7:15 am. Our guide was Fabricio again so we were all looking forward to an experience! I had a check list of things to do, not so much the classics because I've been several times on the classics tour, but the weird and wonderful interesting sights that I've never had time to see. We had 2 van loads of people. We all went to the Coliseum and forum first and then we broke off into different tours, this worked out well because some of us dud not want to go to the Vatican and others had to. I found the best "then and now" books at the entrance of the Coliseum. It's large and red with a DVD's for 25 E and it is the best book. I had looked for this one in the states, but its costs a fortune on Amazon. It's an awesome book; you cannot do the Forum and Colisseum with out it. You also cannot find it anywhere else in the city, including inside the monuments, so don't pass it up! Next we went to San Clemente Church, an incredible 3 level church where you descend to the bottom level and discover the other river that runs through / underneath the city and it runs right through this church. At the bottom is the ancient pagan church filled with ancient frescos and just so incredibly old. Next the old Roman empire church, filled with more recent ancient artifacts! Then of course the current church with its Mosaics and Marble statues. Wow! Next stop San Pietro in Vincoli where the famous statue of Michelangelo's Moses graces this most beautiful of churches. Where can you ever see this for free? Also on display are the chains of St. Peter. One side Catholic, one side Jewish! We visited the keyhole, an incredible place on the Palatine hill, as well as the mouth of truth! It was so cool, you get to climb the ancient walls and walk around the ramparts - truly a hidden gem here and we were the only people in this museum. Onto the Ghetto and Trastevere, we walked around the oldest area of Rome and had a great falafel! Next we went to the Pantheon, probably my favorite building in all of Rome. It's so awesome, inspiring in its simplicity and beauty with its megalithic columns and gorgeous marble floors. We did a quickie at the Trevi fountain then finally hit the highlight; the Capuchin Crypt where we visited the best crypt in all of Rome, a must see. Really interesting, you won't believe your eyes! Fabricio made the day incredible, he knew every shortcut, every policeman and guide and got us within 10 steps of all monuments, gave us great background info and clear directions and meeting times and places and it was so cool when he came looking for us when we got lost! We never felt unsafe, but often grateful that we were not driving, this is an impossible town to navigate. We got back to the ship at 5:30 exhausted but very satisfied. Tomorrow the Amalfi coast with Fabricio! Hooray. May 8, 2009 Amalfi Coast and Herculaneum with Fabricio Naples was our last day with Fabricio; he took 14 of us in 2 vans along the Amalfi Coast to Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello where we ate a slow and delicious lunch that was the best meal we all had in Italy. It was perfect weather, warm but not hot and with out a cloud in the sky. We loved the hairpin turns and beautiful countryside. This was another incredible day with Fabricio, by now it seemed like many people came running over to say goodbye to Fabricio in the morning and afternoon and for good reason. Fabricio completely made our tours in Italy, whenever we had him we laughed, learned, and did it in quick time and always landing close to sights and way ahead of the large buses. Fabricio did raise an umbrella a few times in the van to make us feel like tourists! We all laughed so much we cried, you know how that goes. Fabricio Wanted to get us on the Amalfi coast ASAP to avoid the crowds and buses, so we went there first and it was mind-blowing. We stopped in Positano and walked, snacked, shopped, and then took off to Amalfi. We loved the tour, we changed plans when we hit crowds and finally Fabricio took us to a lovely cliffside restaurant where we all (14) sat and ate the best meal of the whole trip - the freshest pasta, salads, and pizzas and more. It was another highlight, we did not pay a fixed price and instead choose what we wanted and paid for that. We ate and drank like Kings and Queens for under 30 E! No cheese at all here! Next we went to Herculaneum and Fabricio had arranged for a professor to guide us through and we all really loved it. It is smaller than Pompeii, more complete and better preserved, was home to the wealthiest people and therefore the nicest frescos and mosaics, and finally it is much less crowded than Pompeii! Another hit with all the gang, we also bought more "then and now" overlay books. Do buy them when you see then, you often never find them again later in the day. One couple in the group decided to build another home based on the things they saw in this incredible town where the elite lived and prospered as a colony of the Roman Empire. It was so sad to say goodbye to Fabricio, he is the nicest guy, so polite and so funny and so many of us CC people had the privilege of using him and his associates and we all appreciated what a joyous man his is and how filled with life he is. I enjoyed every moment with him as did all the people on my tours, he is a gem. I had read some stuff about Fabricio taking advantage of people and forcing them to buy a thousand dollars in cheese but he never brought us to any cheese place, or any place where we were told to shop. I am a giant pain in the rear, I am a researcher and I teach ancient civilizations so I brought checklists of places to see and Fabricio greeted each list with joy and pleasure - he loved that I found places that he had never been. He even found the Museum of Walls for me, it was very cool. Fabricio is the best I've had, I feel safe and know he will take good care of me and whomever is with me, always mindful of our time limits and always leaving a wide berth of time in case of emergencies that could impede our getting back to the ship on time. Everywhere we went after Fabricio (except in Turkey with Kagan) we missed him so! I even had an opportunity to use a phrase Fabricio taught us all in the dining room! The sun was blarring in my eyes and I asked for the shades to be pulled, mostly because I had a migraine in the morning and was sensitive to light. Another man at another table started complaining about this and I stood up and shook my hands (like Fabricio in traffic) and said ˜shut uppa your face!" I know I'm so bad. May 10, 2009 Mykonos, Greece We pulled into Mykonos early in the morning, ready to disembark by 7 am. There was a shuttle bus that we were encouraged to take, no other alternatives to this but walking so we shelled out 6 E each for the ride. We didn't walk because the port day was short and we were concerned that wasting a half hour walking (the bus took 3 minutes) would cut into our touring time. Turns out it would not have mattered because nothing opened until 9 am and there was an island wide blackout. So its was a cash only day, couldn't get money out of the cash machine, no credit cards taken either. The weather is perfect, once again. It's warm but not hot and I am comfortable in shorts and a tank top. The island is beautiful, covered in boxy white homes that have hilly uneven walls that are thick to insulate from the heat. The water is so blue, except where it is shallow and then it is blue-green. We walk through the quaint town via the waterfront which is called "little Venice," because the houses hang over the water in some places. Despite the blackout, many shops were open and we managed to spend some money, they have beautiful woven clothing and some incredible one of a kind jewelry. Yikes! We stopped and ate some Greek food at the waterfront, relaxing with friends and watching people. I never imagined myself enjoying slowing down and eating some slow meals as much as this happened, I envisioned quick eat-on-the-go meals but hated this especially in fast paced placed like Rome. I always feel like I need to cram as much as possible into sightseeing, even if I been there several times before. This time I slowed down a little and really enjoyed it! Less is more they say. May 11, 2009 Istanbul with Kagan Kosegan http://www.tourguidesinturkey.com/kagankosagan.html Woke up this morning to a perfect day again! Sailing through the beginning of the Bosporus and Golden Horn, I see Aya Sophia, Topkopki Palace, the fort, more Mosques, and more. It is the best sail in I have had ever, the massive traffic in the water is intense, small ferries and boats come so close to the ship its is strange to see this happening. I am mesmerized by all of this, wake up early and don't miss this. Kagan picked us up at 8 am and had his driver drop us off at the Prison that was in Midnight Express; it is now a 5 star hotel! From there we walk to the Blue Mosque, a beautiful temple where Kagan leads us in and we promptly sit cross legged on the floor in our own private section. He begins to teach us about Islam and the traditions around praying and living. Kagan is not Muslim, he is an Eastern Christian and he is clearly educated and compassionate, we learn a lot about this religion that we knew very little about. I love this aspect of travel; it fosters tolerance through learning and being in different cultures in a hand on way! Next we walk to the Palace, we head straight for the Harem; I am astounded by the beauty of the tiles and gardens. The crowds are not too bad, we are trying to keep ahead of the large bus tours but this is almost impossible since most people are on bus tours; you can only get into Aya Sophia with a Princess bus tour. Kagan teaches us about the Harem, the way the women are chosen and how they are kept educated and wealthy, even if they are never picked to become a favorite. We enjoy the Harem tour so much because Kagan is walking us through each room and showing us how the Sultan walked, how the girls tried to allure him, and how they were kept in safe, educated environments where they are provided opportunities to gain massive wealth even if they were never chosen! I can see why families from all over the world wanted their daughters to become part of this Harem! Next we walked to the Basilica Cisterns which are under Aya Sophia, these are very interesting and even if I did not get into Aya Sophia, I got under it. The Cisterns are still in use today, we learn about how there used to be a fish restaurant down here that closed and the owner filled the cistern waters with fish and they are still there today. I got pictures of huge Carp swimming everywhere. The Cisterns are fantastic, held up with ancient recycled columns (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian) including some with statue reliefs. Check out the upside down Medusa's at the end of the Cisterns, but men need to watch the eye contact, lol! Now we decide to eat lunch, we imagined no sit down meals (waste too much time) but have completely changed our notion of travel on this trip. After a full morning of walking and touring, we need to slow down and relax and rejuvenate ourselves at lunchtime. Kagan takes us to a local place, one of his favorites, and we sit and break bread together and enjoy an incredible meal and conversation. As we eat we learn about the spices used in cooking, the different foods and ways of preparing them, and even the traditions surrounding meals and tea. We have Turkish tea—not apple tea—as we finish the meal. Wonderful food, this is a must do with Kagan! After lunch, we hit the grand bazaar. Kagan walks us through the market, starting at gate 1, and shows us where the leather is, the local crafts are, food, Jewelry, and junk! He explained how we should pay about half the initial price offered, and how I should explain that ˜my husband will only let me spend $___" to help the vender save face! This is the polite way of bargaining, and everything here seems quite civil to me. After he orients us, he sets us free to shop for about 45 minutes (our choice) and we love the vendors who are not nearly as aggressive as I expected. In fact, it is an entirely pleasant experience and nothing like what I expected. I got some great deals! We meet back up with Kagan at the designated time and he takes us back into the bazaar and has a man draw my name in Calligraphy, It's gorgeous. Now we visit the markets where all the locals shop, out of the grand bazaar, and then to the Spice market where it smells divine. I buy the freshest Turkish Delight, after sampling f course. I found Rose tea (calming) and Rose jam, and in a small perfume shop I found the best Rose oil I have even had. This is the real deal here, everything is of the highest quality, and I can't believe how a small drop of oil stays with me the entire day. Finally, we find this Pomegranate sauce that we had on our salads at lunch, a must buy if you like pomegranate. Next we walked through the old city, under the city streets through tunnels, and across the Golden horn to the Galata district in an old dinghy boat, very Turkish. This part of town is much newer, only 500 years old! We take the underground funicular to a wide pedestrian street and walk and talk about this area. We walk through a street market with tools, hardware, and home improvement stuff, among ancient buildings and walkways. We find Venice in Istanbul and learn the story of how a Venetian man fell in love with a woman from Istanbul whose family would not let her go to Venice, so he married her and brought Venice to Istanbul. We visit another shop for the freshest Halva around and I buy a small chunk to bring to the ship. Watch this; it is so good and so fattening, lol, not so good after all the great food on the Ruby! We never made it to the Galata Tower, not a biggie since I know I am coming back here, love this town. We ended of walking 5-7 miles, had the best tour of our lives, and one of the best port days as well. Istanbul was a wonderful surprise and gift to me, clean and sane and safe. I fell in love with this city, its people, and especially the Islamic customs and practices of this Muslim country. I loved seeing all the different religions and customs practiced everywhere. Kagan was an awesome guide; I highly recommend him and suggest you book very early as he is popular. We loved having him to ourselves on our walking tour, he charged us $150 E plus admissions and food, and we did tip him like 25%. It was a great port day! May 12, 2009 http://www.tourguidesinturkey.com/kagankosagan.html Kusadasi was quite surprising, I don't know why but we were not expecting such beautiful country with an immaculate city. Our guide Yelda was incredible, she was a nice contrast to Kagan and also quite educated, knowledgeable, and charming. She was a plethora of knowledge about the area, with a real passion for it and that makes such a difference in guides. I hired Yelda through Kagan, we were all completely pleased. First we went to Mary's house, it was lovely and moving and I found it quite touching as a Jew. I bought some holey water and drank it up, it was delicious and I feel wonderful! We beat the large buses by a half hour, but they were right on our heels from that point on. Next we went to Ephesus, an amazing place in beautiful country side, you sort of turn a corner in the country and suddenly Giant columns appear and you know you are in Ephesus. Oh My Gosh pops Mama Mia! This was an incredible experience; Yelda knew everything about the place including secret symbols and all sorts of secrets you never learn on larger bus tours. Those tours kept passing us up quickly, we could see they were barely explaining the info Yelda was lavishing upon us! We saw everything, walked the Marble road, visited the amazing Terrace houses, all guided expertly by Yelda. Most of people I've talked to loved Ephesus better than any ruins they saw including Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Acropolis complex in Athens. I find it hard to top the Parthenon in Athens but it is the only thing left that is beautiful, Athens is a dirty city and the locals do not seem to take as much pride in their city and heritage and it is quite sad considering they were they greatest society that lived at one time. We had a tour for 6 although they brought a large bus for 16! It was a perfect size tour, I highly recommend keeping them small at this kind of sight. I also highly recommend Kagan and his guide Yelda in Ephesus; once again it was one of the highlight days on this cruise. May 13, 2009 Athens Driver: Paul of Athens Taxi We are in Athens--docked at like 5am--and its perfectly clear and warm but not hot (the weather theme this 28 day cruise). Our guide picked us up from the ship at 7:30 and I wish I would have had him come at 7! Do that if you can--we used Paul the driver and he was nice, but did not compared to Kagan in Istanbul, Yelda is Ephesus, and Fabricio in Italy. The Acropolis is incredibl,e but Athens is filthy and it made me very sad to think that these people once produced the greatest minds in the world and now its beautiful city is covered in Graffiti. It is worse than Los Angeles. The sail away from Athens was very interesting, and the sunset was spectacular. We had an incredible time on this 28 day Transatlantic Crossing. The Ruby Princess is really nice, this was my first time on a ship this size, and I loved it. Everything was clean, and the food has been really great. I am pretty sure Ignazio D Agostino the Maitre D is an angel, he is one of the reasons we love Princess so much. On the second leg of the cruise, Generoso took over as Maitre d Hotel, exceeding all our expectations of what it means to be the cream of the crop. Generoso became like family to us, he totally made our cruise incredible. We are huge fans of Generoso; we will be following him around whatever ship he is on! We had our first CC meeting and the captain showed up, what a nice guy. Captain Tony Yeomans has a great personality and seems very approachable and certainly charming. He was warm, and honest, and very informative. I find this to make the difference between a nice cruise, and a great cruise. My back hurt from the motion at the back of the ship during a few of the bad transatlantic days but it did not last long and those were the only real bumpy days of the 28 day journey. I also got a bug (hard to say the F word these days) that put me down for several days, I did not really care to ponder what was wrong with me! I was completely grateful to be on a cruise, and even more grateful when I recovered! Our sail into Venice was fantastic and while we got to the port at 1 PM everybody was out on the top decks by 11 - 11:30 am. We were so excited to finally get to Venice, although it was bittersweet because we were soon leaving the Ruby, our home for 28 days! I loved this ship, the crew made all the difference they were all great. Our last evening together they sang happy birthday to me, I turned 53! Yikes! I was spoiled again by Generoso who sent over the best desert wine I had ever tasted, along with good wishes and great recommendations. He is the most charming man I have ever met! Had many final sales during the 28 day cruise, I had to buy an inaugural Ruby shirt (got so excited to get it at half price) and a few other things all from the Caribbean. Of course all the standard stuff was there as well at 30 to 50 % off. I bought gifts; my people are on a lag so they know they will probably get Hawaii stuff on the Mexican cruises, as well as Alaska stuff from last year. No fill a laundry bag for $20 yet, but the laundry rooms were not too crowded and we had an easy time doing our laundry. Try starting it before dinner, dry it right after dinner and it is ready after the show! On sea days it’s very crowded, so plan accordingly. By our last sea day (between Gibraltar and Sardinia) we had finally achieved our time change! I did not move through the time changing—jet lag moments well, they seemed to last the entire week of the Atlantic crossing. It was brutal on me; I met people who were struggling like me and others who had no issues with it. I don’t know why. The Maitre D Generoso takes his vacations during these crossings because the time changes are tough on him going both ways! Good to know. I have to admit that I was not expecting the food to be great this cruise because the prices were so good I expected the food to reflect that. Not so on this ship, the food was absolutely to die for. I couldn't stop eating, my waiters were awesome, and I had to learn how to not ask them to compare dishes because then both came (I loved it) and they were both wonderful. Furthermore, my waiters were reading my mind as if it were an open book. They knew what I want to drink before I did! The service had been so good. From the Maitre d' Generoso, to the room service waiters, everybody was happy and kind. Disembarkation was shaping up to be a nightmare. At first they said no self disembark and left many people sleepless and worried about making their 6 am flights, needing to disembark at 4 am! We blew it off, knowing that eventually you will get exactly what you need if you just wait. Low and behold today we were all allowed to make self disembark plans to suit our needs. Lesson learned, relax and wait because it always works out!

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May 20, 2009

Eastern and Western Med

We had an incredible time on this 28 day Transatlantic Crossing. The Ruby Princess is really nice, this was my first time on a ship this size, and I loved it. Everything was clean, and the food has been really great. The food was better than it had been on my last several cruises. We went to the Captain's circle party; there were so many members on this cruise they needed to have four parties! It was a great party as these things go, with

plentiful drinks and of course the best company. Dinner was exceptional that night. I didn't eat the Lobster but everybody said it was wonderful. We had a chicken dish stuffed with mushrooms; it was the most delicious thing ever. The cold soup, Oranges with tea, was so good and the desert sorbet was a Lime Basil that was to die for. OMG my diet is shot! I am pretty sure Ignazio D Agostino the Maitre D is an angel, he is one of the reasons we love Princess so much. On the second leg of the cruise, Generoso took over as Maitre d Hotel, exceeding all our expectations of what it means to be the cream of the crop. Generoso became like family to us, he totally made our cruise incredible. We are huge fans of Generoso; we will be following him around whatever ship he is on! My Stateroom was B748, it had a lovely balcony and was quite small, but functional. We had the misfortune of getting a cabin surrounded by smokers, and I am an ex-smoker who had such a hard time quitting. After being smoke free for 14 years I couldn't breathe when I was in my room; everything smelled like smoke, and I seemed to get my smokers lungs back. I am not bashing smokers, but I still don't want to breathe smoky air in my room. It smelled bad on the ship where ever there were smokers who smoked in their rooms and the staff spent lots of time spraying chemicals to alleviate complaints, I was not the only person bothered by it. Princess was very kind to me about the smoking problems I had during the 16 day transatlantic. They offered me several rooms around the ship, but I declined because nobody could offer me a guarantee that smokers wouldn't pollute my air, when most of this cruise disembarked/embarked in Barcelona and I hated to give up my beloved aft corner. Turns out the on the second leg of the cruise there was only one smoker near me and they confined there smoking to their balcony (thank you) which did not impact my room. I loved that they tried hard to help me with my problems with the heavy smoking around me, Princess has good people in management on this ship and I appreciate them for that. I would love them more if they were willing to rethink separating smokers and non-smokers where it really counts for us non-smokers to be on different floors, or even different sides of the ship. I'm easy; just keep that smoke far from me so I can breathe. There were tons of activities onboard daily, dancing, trivia, games, movies, sports, shopping, spa, and more. We couldn't do as much as we anticipated because the 23 hour days were killing us and we never considered that. Not a big deal in the larger scheme of things. We saw the new production "Once Upon a Dream" and it was fantastic! It used the most advanced technology combined with talent and creativity to bring us something entirely new and refreshing, hooray Princess. Songs included selections by Pink, Enya, Simon and Garfunkel, and a hefty serving of Beatles! We all loved it, a real stand out for us. You will love it. We also saw "Stardust," another new production show developed for the Ruby Princess. It was nice, the dancing was spectacular and the singing was great! We all enjoyed the show and thought it was just a little better than the first show, which was a Broadway review. We missed the Hypnotist, who I heard was great, because of the intensity of this itinerary we are often too pooped to party! We were able to do less as the ports became more intensive. I got a chance to pour a bottle of Champagne at the waterfall with Generoso and it was simply a blast! I adore this man, he is classy and sweet and very friendly. Generoso really knows how to make us passengers feel like Kings and Queens, and we all love it! Bless him for making this cruise so special for all of us. Trivia had been boring, there was one team that won every game and nobody could beat them, yes I felt sour grapes! Its funny, I applaud their knowledge base of trivia (lots of cruises) but recognize the need to offer different, more challenging questions that are not repeats. Hey I want a chance! Speaking of which, I turned Elite on this cruise! Guides and Port Reviews: I used a lot of private guides throughout the cruise that I got from the Cruise Critic boards with great success. It seems to almost always be better to use private guides rather than ship tours because private tours are smaller and more intimate, something hard to achieve on a ship tour. I took one ship tour in Cadiz and hated it. The only port we missed was Monaco and I needed a sea day then anyway! Many of us cruisers were thrilled with the occassional missed port - those sea days are precious gems that we need. 4-24-2009 Madeira, Portugal: We hit land yesterday and it was very cool! I am under the weather, got a dumb cold and indeed have been relaxing with a capital R! We arranged for our guide to pick us up at 2:30, so we didn't bother getting in line and relaxed and ate leisurely instead and it was so much more relaxed that cueing up to disembark! After the initial crowd, we walked off easily and there was Daniel our taxi driver waiting so we were whisked away quickly. Way ahead of the tour buses. We found Daniel R. de Freitas through CC; he was incredibly knowledgeable about the history, and the flora and fauna of the area. He had maps and pictures and info about the area and he kept us ahead the crowds most of the day. We took the sleds down from Monte first thing to avoid crowds, it was the best fun. Somewhere along the run they snapped our pictures and by the time we got to the end of the run, they had those pictures for sale! I had to laugh, and they were awesome photos. Of course we bought them. Next we went to the Nun's Valley, we drove up through the lush forests of Eucalyptus, Banana, Flowers everywhere (and Daniel knew all the names) wild Birds of Paradise. Madeira is an amazing island, former volcanoes had left the island with very fertile soil and everything grows here. We also visited the Mini Grand Canyon, and the second highest sea cliff in the world. We had some astounding views. Daniel dropped us back at the ship with plenty of time to spare, I would have stayed in town, but I needed rest. I have to say Daniel was a great guide, he can be found at www.daniel-taxidriver.pt.vu or [email protected] I bought some Banana candy and a floaty pen with the sled ride floating by. Total cost 4E! Back on the ship, we leave at around 8PM but I am fast asleep already, trying to get well ASAP because after tomorrow, we are in Cadiz! We ordered hamburgers and ravished them, then passed out from exhaustion! 4-26-09 Cadiz, Spain Cadiz was nice, yes we did not go to Seville but we did go to Arcos de los Fronteras with a Princess tour. The town was beautiful but the guide was terrible, she did not wait for the older folks, several fell on the cobbled streets trying to keep up with her, and a few gave up because they couldn't do it. We didn't see much but I huffed and puffed a lot (and I am fit) and at a dead run down the cobbled streets, we did managed to keep our eyes on the tour guide so we know she was leaving 45 minutes earlier than she told the group to meet (meet at 12:45 but she made us leave a 12:00) so we barely kept up. When the bus was loaded, there was 6 people missing, the tour guide would not go back up the hill to look for them, she said 'oh well they must have gone on another bus" and left them! We were in shock, this was an expensive Princess tour where they are supposed to leave people, and they did. My private guides would never do that! Never. Later we bumped into the 6 people and they followed her instructions exactly, it could have easily been me, and after figuring that she had left them, it cost them almost 500 E to get back to the ship! I felt so bad for them, really nice people. Needless to say their day was ruined. We did walk through Cadiz, it is a great town. Beware that taking Princess tours does not necessarily guarantee you a safe return to the ship. 4-27-2009 Gibraltar, GB Gibraltar was nice especially with the great weather we were having. It was easy to do on our own, with lots of shopping (but no room in luggage :)). We did laundry and enjoyed a slow and unplanned day and it was nice. Wonderful sail away viewing the Pillars of Hercules. They also call it Jews gate, I have no idea why? The weather was warming (70 today) and the seas were calming. Good news for my May 4th friends who I soon would meet! May 1, 2009 Civitavecchia, Italy. Guide: Fabricio Melaragno http://www.allarounditaly.net/ We finally hit Italy (Rome) and the tour with Fabricio (allarounditaly.net) to Orvieto and Civita di Bagnoregio and everybody concurred that it was the best tour ever. It was a day to end all days, these two towns were both incredible, but Civita di Bagnoregio was a "once in a lifetime" moment that all who took the time to visit recognized. We were appropriately blown away! Our guide Fabricio was both knowledgeable, and hilarious. We laughed so much I got cramps. We learned so much, and it was fun. We did twice as much as the tours available on the ship, and Fabricio surprised us with wonderful towns and villages in addition to our planned itinerary because we had the time to take it slow and cover a lot of ground. And Fabricio got us past Police and blockades to places no bus and many locals could not get to, I'm not going to give away his secret but you will laugh and be so happy you booked him when you see this! A real treat. There were 15 of us on this tour, 8 in Fabricio's bus and 7 in Alberto's (also very nice) although everybody wanted to be with Fabricio because he is so alive, so filled with good humor and good intentions. We decided to cancel all the Princess tours and go with him everywhere! So that will be 5 tours with him in Italy, and I highly recommend him to my cruise critic friends. He promised us cheese everywhere, it was a joke and we really appreciated how funny he is and what a good guy he really is. So I don't think that will be an issue but if it comes up, I'll report it. Don't miss Civita di Bagnoregio! Orvieto was pretty cool too, we visited the catacombs and tunnels in the Tufa rock there and that was very interesting as well. The Cathedral in Orvieto is magnificent, probably one of the nicest I have ever seen. It was a great day! May 2, 2009 Livorno to Florence with Fabricio Having our guide pick us up again at Livorno, we all now feel like family with Fabricio! He got us early, before any large buses had left the port and it was much easier than I had expected. I had heard that this port was more difficult to maneuver, and I was expecting it to be a pain - somehow I imagined that I would not be able to find my guide, or that I would have to walk far to find him. Not so, all private guides all right by the ship, in case anybody has the worries I had. We zipped out of the port with our van filled to the brim with very happy campers; everybody by now has experiences a "large bus" tour and recognizes the gift of the private guides and small vans. We don't drive any expressways; instead we take country roads all the way into Florence. Fabricio has many surprises in store for us today, we stop for some astounding views, he is trying to fill everybody's wishes and it feels really good to know how much he wants us to enjoy this day. We love him and now we cannot imagine being without him anywhere. We zip into Florence, passing crowds of people and lots of parked buses; they cannot get 5 steps from Academia like we can... In the sea of "umbrellas held in the air," we walked past them and straight into Academia, where we are free to explore at our own pace. Academia is perfect for a first timer; it's beautiful but not too large so it's a reasonable amount of beauty that does not overwhelm too much. David is magnificent to see in person, as are Michelangelo's haunting unfinished pieces - think prisoners in stone. They are incredible, don't miss Academia. As we step out of the museum, Fabricio is waiting for us. We head back too the van and despite the massive crowds, he gets us to the Piazza Santa Croce in a few minutes. 5 steps and we are in the square. After a brief explanation of the church, we get an hour to wander, shop the markets and grab a delicious sandwich all in the shadow of this beautiful church. Next we head to the Brunelleschi's Duomo, the lines are daunting and we decide not to try to get in. As the day goes on the crowds become overwhelming to all of us and we spend more time walking and less time visiting monuments. We shop a little then head toward the Ponte Vecchio which is way too crowded for me. Luckily I pass this Cameo shop and I find the most beautiful Cameo I have ever seen1 Never mind the price. Fabricio has gotten us no more that 5 steps from every monument, Piazza and Palace and he still has not tried to sell us any cheese! I think he is actually allergic to many cheeses. Anyway no cheese, but lots of special and personalized treatment that makes everyone who meets him really like him. I am sad to not see him for a few days; he won't drive to Monaco or Barcelona for me! May 3, 2009 Monaco Today we missed the port because of wind and gratefully our wonderful Captain kept us safe and canceled the port. We really appreciate how he has no power over the weather and are always grade when our safety is considered first. Thanks Captain Yeomans. Lots of people bitching and complaining about this, really embarrassing for many of us who know there is nothing nefarious about missing a port. I think it has to do with knowing that tomorrow is their last day, meanwhile we continue on to Venice and the weather has been divine. For us it was a great unexpected sea day, we loved every minute, except the ugliness of the laundry room mid morning! May 4, 2009 Barcelona, Spain We pulled into port this morning and it was clear and sunny, I know it would be a perfect day! We had booked GoCars in Barcelona and were planning on meeting friends at 9am sharp. I took the opportunity to scout out other rooms on the ship since this was a disembarkation day and I could! Wahoo, cruise critic friends had said to check out the aft Emerald deck minis and they were awesome! I had booked the most aft room on the Port side and my jaw dropped when I saw the size. My tour guide could pitch a large tent there and I wouldn't even see him! This is a cherry cabin, glad I booked it for next year! We jammed off the ship and took the ridiculously time consuming port shuttle which took precious time and turns out, with 4 it's cheaper and faster to grab a cab. We learned that coming back; it saves us an hour of waiting. When we finally got to the GoCars place, it was closed for business. Oops, guess our credit card deposit is gone, beware if you are planning to do this. In any event, we did switch plans on the spot and just jumped on the HOHO bus, gotta be flexible when you travel. It was very crowded in Barcelona and we passed up Sagrada Familia when we saw the huge line snaking around the Church, having spent this holiday weekend in Italy we were all not feeling like fighting more crowds. We visited Park Guell, very interesting, and we hopped back onto the Hoho to Las Ramblas. We visited the market which was nice, had a few nibbles and walked. We veered off to the ancient town where we visited the oldest synagogue in Europe, but you had to use your imagination a lot since it was just excavation pits. I enjoyed connecting with my own history here too. I found a hidden synagogue in the Barri Gothic (I've abandoned spelling) today where they had a small but powerful display on the ancient Jews that once thrived in this city. I noted that the small size of the remains seemed to accurately reflect the amount of Jewish I am! I like this, it appeals to my sense of balance. Of course, I have to buy something, I notice something that I actually don't want to like, but of course I have to ask what it symbolizes the deconstruction of the ego and I know this is mine! Man talks, God laughs. We really didn't feel unsafe at all in this city, I had heard a lot about pickpockets and such but frankly, I did not find this town any more daunting than Los Angeles! I feel this was all over Europe, I feel silly about all the safety backpacks and junk I bought because Europe is no different than the US in terms of safety issues. Back on the ship, we enjoyed not having to do muster again, nanana  I notice that as the days float by, I am really having a great time. But I miss Fabricio, LOL, and the experience! This has been my "yes" journey so far. I love being able to be different, try different things, say yes to whatever presents itself, push the resistant reflexive crap out of me. Just be. This ridiculous woman with lipstick painted over half her face (the boat is not moving that much) asked me to play trivia and I said yes. She turned out to be brilliant and her husband an accomplished Yogi! I loved every ridiculous inch of her. May 5, 2009 Monaco finally with Guide Michael of Revelation Tours. We got to Monaco slowly but surely and actually did not tender, instead we docked at the floating dock (as Captain Yeomans had told me) and had perfect weather to boot! Captain Yeomans parked us perfectly and we were off the ship within minutes of getting there. Our guide Michael from Revelation tours was waiting with a large sign and we were off once again, beating all the bus tours and making great time. We visited St Paul de Vence first; it was as wonderful as I had remembered. After a brief rundown on where we could go, where and when we should meet him, we were off exploring this wonderful town. Incredible, filled with Art stores and quaint shops and every turn a surprise nook or alley. We loved it here. We drove through Nice, a waste of time in my opinion, if you want to see a place you have to stop and if you don't stop why waste time driving through its traffic? Nice is like Santa Monica, I would go to St Paul and Eze and not even want to drive by Nice! I've spend several days there in the past to be fair, but its nothing special like Eze. After the long drive, we went to Eze. Eze is incredible, even better than St. Paul de Vence if this is possible. Smaller and less touristy, and I say that with reticence since you could hardly describe it as touristy, Eze is filled with the narrowest alleys and quaintest nooks ever. This was a wonderful place, and across the street from the entrance to the small town are several perfume factories that have great stuff, I love Fragonard. May 6, 2009 Volterra and San Gimignano (out of Livorno) Guide: Alberto from allarounditaly.net Leave as early as possible to avoid traffic! We started out at 8 am rather than 7:30 am and it made a big difference, in the amount of traffic we hit, since we had to drive close to Florence - it took us a grueling 2.5 hours to get to our first stop San Gimignano. Later I realized that our guide had taken a more scenic road that was slower and we had to drive through the outskirts of Florence. I would leave early and take the toll road to get as quickly as possible, and I would go to Volterra first because it is much more charming and there will be the greatest opportunity to be alone in this town without many tourists Having said that, less is definitely more on this excursion. We were going to try to fit in Sienna as well but this significantly reduced the amount of time we would have had to wander these lovely towns. We ended up choosing to spend more time in each town and less time driving around because it's not fun around Florence, just congested. Volterra is incredibly interesting and quite walk able, there are nooks and crannies everywhere and lots of ancient churches and buildings, including many towers. We found an ancient Greek forum, a fort with walls you can walk, and lots of photo oops everywhere. This is the place to buy Alabaster; we found demonstrations and great shops selling the most unique items including statues, lamps, tiles, and dishes. May 7, 2009 Rome with Fabricio http://www.allarounditaly.net/ Woke to perfect weather, we pulled in to Civitavecchia, docked and were able to disembark by 7:15 am. Our guide was Fabricio again so we were all looking forward to an experience! I had a check list of things to do, not so much the classics because I've been several times on the classics tour, but the weird and wonderful interesting sights that I've never had time to see. We had 2 van loads of people. We all went to the Coliseum and forum first and then we broke off into different tours, this worked out well because some of us dud not want to go to the Vatican and others had to. I found the best "then and now" books at the entrance of the Coliseum. It's large and red with a DVD's for 25 E and it is the best book. I had looked for this one in the states, but its costs a fortune on Amazon. It's an awesome book; you cannot do the Forum and Colisseum with out it. You also cannot find it anywhere else in the city, including inside the monuments, so don't pass it up! Next we went to San Clemente Church, an incredible 3 level church where you descend to the bottom level and discover the other river that runs through / underneath the city and it runs right through this church. At the bottom is the ancient pagan church filled with ancient frescos and just so incredibly old. Next the old Roman empire church, filled with more recent ancient artifacts! Then of course the current church with its Mosaics and Marble statues. Wow! Next stop San Pietro in Vincoli where the famous statue of Michelangelo's Moses graces this most beautiful of churches. Where can you ever see this for free? Also on display are the chains of St. Peter. One side Catholic, one side Jewish! We visited the keyhole, an incredible place on the Palatine hill, as well as the mouth of truth! It was so cool, you get to climb the ancient walls and walk around the ramparts - truly a hidden gem here and we were the only people in this museum. Onto the Ghetto and Trastevere, we walked around the oldest area of Rome and had a great falafel! Next we went to the Pantheon, probably my favorite building in all of Rome. It's so awesome, inspiring in its simplicity and beauty with its megalithic columns and gorgeous marble floors. We did a quickie at the Trevi fountain then finally hit the highlight; the Capuchin Crypt where we visited the best crypt in all of Rome, a must see. Really interesting, you won't believe your eyes! Fabricio made the day incredible, he knew every shortcut, every policeman and guide and got us within 10 steps of all monuments, gave us great background info and clear directions and meeting times and places and it was so cool when he came looking for us when we got lost! We never felt unsafe, but often grateful that we were not driving, this is an impossible town to navigate. We got back to the ship at 5:30 exhausted but very satisfied. Tomorrow the Amalfi coast with Fabricio! Hooray. May 8, 2009 Amalfi Coast and Herculaneum with Fabricio Naples was our last day with Fabricio; he took 14 of us in 2 vans along the Amalfi Coast to Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello where we ate a slow and delicious lunch that was the best meal we all had in Italy. It was perfect weather, warm but not hot and with out a cloud in the sky. We loved the hairpin turns and beautiful countryside. This was another incredible day with Fabricio, by now it seemed like many people came running over to say goodbye to Fabricio in the morning and afternoon and for good reason. Fabricio completely made our tours in Italy, whenever we had him we laughed, learned, and did it in quick time and always landing close to sights and way ahead of the large buses. Fabricio did raise an umbrella a few times in the van to make us feel like tourists! We all laughed so much we cried, you know how that goes. Fabricio Wanted to get us on the Amalfi coast ASAP to avoid the crowds and buses, so we went there first and it was mind-blowing. We stopped in Positano and walked, snacked, shopped, and then took off to Amalfi. We loved the tour, we changed plans when we hit crowds and finally Fabricio took us to a lovely cliffside restaurant where we all (14) sat and ate the best meal of the whole trip - the freshest pasta, salads, and pizzas and more. It was another highlight, we did not pay a fixed price and instead choose what we wanted and paid for that. We ate and drank like Kings and Queens for under 30 E! No cheese at all here! Next we went to Herculaneum and Fabricio had arranged for a professor to guide us through and we all really loved it. It is smaller than Pompeii, more complete and better preserved, was home to the wealthiest people and therefore the nicest frescos and mosaics, and finally it is much less crowded than Pompeii! Another hit with all the gang, we also bought more "then and now" overlay books. Do buy them when you see then, you often never find them again later in the day. One couple in the group decided to build another home based on the things they saw in this incredible town where the elite lived and prospered as a colony of the Roman Empire. It was so sad to say goodbye to Fabricio, he is the nicest guy, so polite and so funny and so many of us CC people had the privilege of using him and his associates and we all appreciated what a joyous man his is and how filled with life he is. I enjoyed every moment with him as did all the people on my tours, he is a gem. I had read some stuff about Fabricio taking advantage of people and forcing them to buy a thousand dollars in cheese but he never brought us to any cheese place, or any place where we were told to shop. I am a giant pain in the rear, I am a researcher and I teach ancient civilizations so I brought checklists of places to see and Fabricio greeted each list with joy and pleasure - he loved that I found places that he had never been. He even found the Museum of Walls for me, it was very cool. Fabricio is the best I've had, I feel safe and know he will take good care of me and whomever is with me, always mindful of our time limits and always leaving a wide berth of time in case of emergencies that could impede our getting back to the ship on time. Everywhere we went after Fabricio (except in Turkey with Kagan) we missed him so! I even had an opportunity to use a phrase Fabricio taught us all in the dining room! The sun was blarring in my eyes and I asked for the shades to be pulled, mostly because I had a migraine in the morning and was sensitive to light. Another man at another table started complaining about this and I stood up and shook my hands (like Fabricio in traffic) and said ˜shut uppa your face!" I know I'm so bad. May 10, 2009 Mykonos, Greece We pulled into Mykonos early in the morning, ready to disembark by 7 am. There was a shuttle bus that we were encouraged to take, no other alternatives to this but walking so we shelled out 6 E each for the ride. We didn't walk because the port day was short and we were concerned that wasting a half hour walking (the bus took 3 minutes) would cut into our touring time. Turns out it would not have mattered because nothing opened until 9 am and there was an island wide blackout. So its was a cash only day, couldn't get money out of the cash machine, no credit cards taken either. The weather is perfect, once again. It's warm but not hot and I am comfortable in shorts and a tank top. The island is beautiful, covered in boxy white homes that have hilly uneven walls that are thick to insulate from the heat. The water is so blue, except where it is shallow and then it is blue-green. We walk through the quaint town via the waterfront which is called "little Venice," because the houses hang over the water in some places. Despite the blackout, many shops were open and we managed to spend some money, they have beautiful woven clothing and some incredible one of a kind jewelry. Yikes! We stopped and ate some Greek food at the waterfront, relaxing with friends and watching people. I never imagined myself enjoying slowing down and eating some slow meals as much as this happened, I envisioned quick eat-on-the-go meals but hated this especially in fast paced placed like Rome. I always feel like I need to cram as much as possible into sightseeing, even if I been there several times before. This time I slowed down a little and really enjoyed it! Less is more they say. May 11, 2009 Istanbul with Kagan Kosegan http://www.tourguidesinturkey.com/kagankosagan.html Woke up this morning to a perfect day again! Sailing through the beginning of the Bosporus and Golden Horn, I see Aya Sophia, Topkopki Palace, the fort, more Mosques, and more. It is the best sail in I have had ever, the massive traffic in the water is intense, small ferries and boats come so close to the ship its is strange to see this happening. I am mesmerized by all of this, wake up early and don't miss this. Kagan picked us up at 8 am and had his driver drop us off at the Prison that was in Midnight Express; it is now a 5 star hotel! From there we walk to the Blue Mosque, a beautiful temple where Kagan leads us in and we promptly sit cross legged on the floor in our own private section. He begins to teach us about Islam and the traditions around praying and living. Kagan is not Muslim, he is an Eastern Christian and he is clearly educated and compassionate, we learn a lot about this religion that we knew very little about. I love this aspect of travel; it fosters tolerance through learning and being in different cultures in a hand on way! Next we walk to the Palace, we head straight for the Harem; I am astounded by the beauty of the tiles and gardens. The crowds are not too bad, we are trying to keep ahead of the large bus tours but this is almost impossible since most people are on bus tours; you can only get into Aya Sophia with a Princess bus tour. Kagan teaches us about the Harem, the way the women are chosen and how they are kept educated and wealthy, even if they are never picked to become a favorite. We enjoy the Harem tour so much because Kagan is walking us through each room and showing us how the Sultan walked, how the girls tried to allure him, and how they were kept in safe, educated environments where they are provided opportunities to gain massive wealth even if they were never chosen! I can see why families from all over the world wanted their daughters to become part of this Harem! Next we walked to the Basilica Cisterns which are under Aya Sophia, these are very interesting and even if I did not get into Aya Sophia, I got under it. The Cisterns are still in use today, we learn about how there used to be a fish restaurant down here that closed and the owner filled the cistern waters with fish and they are still there today. I got pictures of huge Carp swimming everywhere. The Cisterns are fantastic, held up with ancient recycled columns (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian) including some with statue reliefs. Check out the upside down Medusa's at the end of the Cisterns, but men need to watch the eye contact, lol! Now we decide to eat lunch, we imagined no sit down meals (waste too much time) but have completely changed our notion of travel on this trip. After a full morning of walking and touring, we need to slow down and relax and rejuvenate ourselves at lunchtime. Kagan takes us to a local place, one of his favorites, and we sit and break bread together and enjoy an incredible meal and conversation. As we eat we learn about the spices used in cooking, the different foods and ways of preparing them, and even the traditions surrounding meals and tea. We have Turkish tea—not apple tea—as we finish the meal. Wonderful food, this is a must do with Kagan! After lunch, we hit the grand bazaar. Kagan walks us through the market, starting at gate 1, and shows us where the leather is, the local crafts are, food, Jewelry, and junk! He explained how we should pay about half the initial price offered, and how I should explain that ˜my husband will only let me spend $___" to help the vender save face! This is the polite way of bargaining, and everything here seems quite civil to me. After he orients us, he sets us free to shop for about 45 minutes (our choice) and we love the vendors who are not nearly as aggressive as I expected. In fact, it is an entirely pleasant experience and nothing like what I expected. I got some great deals! We meet back up with Kagan at the designated time and he takes us back into the bazaar and has a man draw my name in Calligraphy, It's gorgeous. Now we visit the markets where all the locals shop, out of the grand bazaar, and then to the Spice market where it smells divine. I buy the freshest Turkish Delight, after sampling f course. I found Rose tea (calming) and Rose jam, and in a small perfume shop I found the best Rose oil I have even had. This is the real deal here, everything is of the highest quality, and I can't believe how a small drop of oil stays with me the entire day. Finally, we find this Pomegranate sauce that we had on our salads at lunch, a must buy if you like pomegranate. Next we walked through the old city, under the city streets through tunnels, and across the Golden horn to the Galata district in an old dinghy boat, very Turkish. This part of town is much newer, only 500 years old! We take the underground funicular to a wide pedestrian street and walk and talk about this area. We walk through a street market with tools, hardware, and home improvement stuff, among ancient buildings and walkways. We find Venice in Istanbul and learn the story of how a Venetian man fell in love with a woman from Istanbul whose family would not let her go to Venice, so he married her and brought Venice to Istanbul. We visit another shop for the freshest Halva around and I buy a small chunk to bring to the ship. Watch this; it is so good and so fattening, lol, not so good after all the great food on the Ruby! We never made it to the Galata Tower, not a biggie since I know I am coming back here, love this town. We ended of walking 5-7 miles, had the best tour of our lives, and one of the best port days as well. Istanbul was a wonderful surprise and gift to me, clean and sane and safe. I fell in love with this city, its people, and especially the Islamic customs and practices of this Muslim country. I loved seeing all the different religions and customs practiced everywhere. Kagan was an awesome guide; I highly recommend him and suggest you book very early as he is popular. We loved having him to ourselves on our walking tour, he charged us $150 E plus admissions and food, and we did tip him like 25%. It was a great port day! May 12, 2009 http://www.tourguidesinturkey.com/kagankosagan.html Kusadasi was quite surprising, I don't know why but we were not expecting such beautiful country with an immaculate city. Our guide Yelda was incredible, she was a nice contrast to Kagan and also quite educated, knowledgeable, and charming. She was a plethora of knowledge about the area, with a real passion for it and that makes such a difference in guides. I hired Yelda through Kagan, we were all completely pleased. First we went to Mary's house, it was lovely and moving and I found it quite touching as a Jew. I bought some holey water and drank it up, it was delicious and I feel wonderful! We beat the large buses by a half hour, but they were right on our heels from that point on. Next we went to Ephesus, an amazing place in beautiful country side, you sort of turn a corner in the country and suddenly Giant columns appear and you know you are in Ephesus. Oh My Gosh pops Mama Mia! This was an incredible experience; Yelda knew everything about the place including secret symbols and all sorts of secrets you never learn on larger bus tours. Those tours kept passing us up quickly, we could see they were barely explaining the info Yelda was lavishing upon us! We saw everything, walked the Marble road, visited the amazing Terrace houses, all guided expertly by Yelda. Most of people I've talked to loved Ephesus better than any ruins they saw including Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Acropolis complex in Athens. I find it hard to top the Parthenon in Athens but it is the only thing left that is beautiful, Athens is a dirty city and the locals do not seem to take as much pride in their city and heritage and it is quite sad considering they were they greatest society that lived at one time. We had a tour for 6 although they brought a large bus for 16! It was a perfect size tour, I highly recommend keeping them small at this kind of sight. I also highly recommend Kagan and his guide Yelda in Ephesus; once again it was one of the highlight days on this cruise. May 13, 2009 Athens Driver: Paul of Athens Taxi We are in Athens--docked at like 5am--and its perfectly clear and warm but not hot (the weather theme this 28 day cruise). Our guide picked us up from the ship at 7:30 and I wish I would have had him come at 7! Do that if you can--we used Paul the driver and he was nice, but did not compared to Kagan in Istanbul, Yelda is Ephesus, and Fabricio in Italy. The Acropolis is incredibl,e but Athens is filthy and it made me very sad to think that these people once produced the greatest minds in the world and now its beautiful city is covered in Graffiti. It is worse than Los Angeles. The sail away from Athens was very interesting, and the sunset was spectacular. We had an incredible time on this 28 day Transatlantic Crossing. The Ruby Princess is really nice, this was my first time on a ship this size, and I loved it. Everything was clean, and the food has been really great. I am pretty sure Ignazio D Agostino the Maitre D is an angel, he is one of the reasons we love Princess so much. On the second leg of the cruise, Generoso took over as Maitre d Hotel, exceeding all our expectations of what it means to be the cream of the crop. Generoso became like family to us, he totally made our cruise incredible. We are huge fans of Generoso; we will be following him around whatever ship he is on! We had our first CC meeting and the captain showed up, what a nice guy. Captain Tony Yeomans has a great personality and seems very approachable and certainly charming. He was warm, and honest, and very informative. I find this to make the difference between a nice cruise, and a great cruise. My back hurt from the motion at the back of the ship during a few of the bad transatlantic days but it did not last long and those were the only real bumpy days of the 28 day journey. I also got a bug (hard to say the F word these days) that put me down for several days, I did not really care to ponder what was wrong with me! I was completely grateful to be on a cruise, and even more grateful when I recovered! Our sail into Venice was fantastic and while we got to the port at 1 PM everybody was out on the top decks by 11 - 11:30 am. We were so excited to finally get to Venice, although it was bittersweet because we were soon leaving the Ruby, our home for 28 days! I loved this ship, the crew made all the difference they were all great. Our last evening together they sang happy birthday to me, I turned 53! Yikes! I was spoiled again by Generoso who sent over the best desert wine I had ever tasted, along with good wishes and great recommendations. He is the most charming man I have ever met! Had many final sales during the 28 day cruise, I had to buy an inaugural Ruby shirt (got so excited to get it at half price) and a few other things all from the Caribbean. Of course all the standard stuff was there as well at 30 to 50 % off. I bought gifts; my people are on a lag so they know they will probably get Hawaii stuff on the Mexican cruises, as well as Alaska stuff from last year. No fill a laundry bag for $20 yet, but the laundry rooms were not too crowded and we had an easy time doing our laundry. Try starting it before dinner, dry it right after dinner and it is ready after the show! On sea days it’s very crowded, so plan accordingly. By our last sea day (between Gibraltar and Sardinia) we had finally achieved our time change! I did not move through the time changing—jet lag moments well, they seemed to last the entire week of the Atlantic crossing. It was brutal on me; I met people who were struggling like me and others who had no issues with it. I don’t know why. The Maitre D Generoso takes his vacations during these crossings because the time changes are tough on him going both ways! Good to know. I have to admit that I was not expecting the food to be great this cruise because the prices were so good I expected the food to reflect that. Not so on this ship, the food was absolutely to die for. I couldn't stop eating, my waiters were awesome, and I had to learn how to not ask them to compare dishes because then both came (I loved it) and they were both wonderful. Furthermore, my waiters were reading my mind as if it were an open book. They knew what I want to drink before I did! The service had been so good. From the Maitre d' Generoso, to the room service waiters, everybody was happy and kind. Disembarkation was shaping up to be a nightmare. At first they said no self disembark and left many people sleepless and worried about making their 6 am flights, needing to disembark at 4 am! We blew it off, knowing that eventually you will get exactly what you need if you just wait. Low and behold today we were all allowed to make self disembark plans to suit our needs. Lesson learned, relax and wait because it always works out!

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May 7, 2009

Western Caribbean

It was our second cruise with Princess and overall a good experience. Embarkation and disembarkation were flawless. The muster drill was held indoors which was nice. Ruby princess is a new ship and it shows. Everything spic-n-span. Because we chose anytime seating, we had different head waiter/assistant for each meal. Some were better than others, a few were downright rude; a few were absolutely stellar. Overall I would rate the service in the dining

rooms as good (not outstanding, not poor). Wait service at the buffets was poor - very difficult to find a waiter to bring a drink, get a refill, etc. The "Princess Patter" arrives daily and reviews activities. We enjoyed the "demonstration nation" classes where staff carved fruit, folded towels, flower design, hair design, etc. Photo lab folks were great. Entertainment onboard was also very good. One of the highlights of the cruise for us was the coveted "behind the scenes" tour offered by princess. It is done by drawing and it costs $150/pp (not cheap) but you see places in the ship that are off-limits to all but the fewest of staff such as the engineering room, the laundry area, kitchen and food prep, print shop, theatre, medical services (yep they have a morgue) and more. All food onboard Ruby Princess (we learned from the ultimate ship tour) is all prepared from scratch each week -- an outstanding feat when one considers the volume of passengers and crew onboard. Each night featured a different theme (Italian night was especially memorable because the head chef is Italian) and the food was good. As with the servers, some meals were better than others. It's nice to be able to try different foods but the wait times can be long if you order something that you end up disliking. Pastries and sweets onboard were fantastic. Soups were very good, main dishes were good. On seafood night most everyone ordered lobster and it was excellent. We did try the steakhouse while onboard and it was great but it is an experience more than a meal and the three-hours it took to get all the courses was rather lengthy. Buffet food was good but hindered by the poor service in the buffet dining areas. Princess does have the best pizza on the high seas. Big New York style, hot and delicious and made fresh daily on Lido 15 floor. We had a balcony stateroom on the baja deck. Very thoughtfully designed. Built-in hair dryer was great. Our large luggage fit easily under the beds. The closet and storage were ample. I did not like the lack of privacy with regard to the balcony. Ours was fine (no one could see into our balcony), but we could see into dozens of balconys from the baja deck and it made the experience a bit awkward. No one wants to look up and see me looking on them -- and frankly I didn't want to see anyone on their balconies. Unfortunately that is the design of the ship and a design flaw in my opinion. (Our first Princess cruise was on the rear of the ship and in addition to having the largest balconies the rear of the ship is also very private - unlike being on the side). The smell of smoke was pungent from time to time so if you're a non-smoker as we are, there is no way to avoid smelling it. And the teenage next door broke out some marijuana too, so that was also an odor I could have lived without. Onboard entertainment was great. Shows were outstanding -- much like broadway with the lighting, costumes, sound effects, singers/dancers, etc. We didn't see the comedians booked either night but heard they were hilarious. Good sized gym onboard with ample equipment. We especially enjoyed Movies Under the Stars and saw Jim Carrey's "Yes Man" and Dustin Hoffman's "Last Chance Harvey" while onboard. The spa services are great, if you're into that consider scheduling while in port when prices and specials are happening. Activities onboard Ruby Princess are not geared for the adventurous (no rock climbing, wave surfing, etc.,) but it does have putt-putt, several swimming pools (filled with Ph-balanced water not seawater), a large casino, several dance clubs, and more passive recreational opportunities. Large casino but it was smoke-filled so we did not play. The internet cafe onboard is large but the connection times are long and the packages are expensive. We ordered the 100 minute package and it took 3 to 4 minutes to log on each time. DON'T MISS. If you like to see "behind the curtains" consider the Ultimate Ship Tour. It's pricey, but fascinating. We booked our excursions using outside vendors because Princess charges too much for theirs; however, when the ship experienced catastrophic engine failure enroute to Mexico, we arrived to port late and lost the opportunity to take the excursion we'd booked, which required us to book one onboard. We chose Chankanaab and Discover Mexico and it was a good experience. Chankanaab has great scuba and snorkeling and it's reasonably priced. Our itinerary included Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. The port in Ocho Rios, where we disembarked, was surrounded by barbed wire and it was rather chaotic. We climbed Dunns River Falls and later floated down the White River in innertubes. Very memorable. Getting through the vendors at Dunns River Falls is an experience -- they do not sell, they harrass people walking by. Tubing down the White was amazing, we had a blast and it was relaxing and lots of fun. In Grand Cayman we booked SCUBA and it was phenomenal. Be advised Cayman is pricey, especially with the lower dollar exchange rates; our lunch at Hammerheads was $66 USD which included fish n chips, barbecue, two cokes, and a margarita. The service was poor but it seems in the Caribbean most folks operate "on island time" meaning nothing happens too quickly. In Cozumel we booked Chankanaab/Discover Mexico onboard the ship and that tour was interesting but expensive.

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Mar 21, 2009

Eastern Caribbean

If I didn't have such a horrible stateroom experience, I would have enjoyed this cruise more. The food was good, but nothing spectacular. There was a wide variety, catering to everyone's needs, from low cal right thru to "go ahead and pig out." There was never an issue in getting more if that's what you wanted. This was a nightmare! We had booked an ocean view room, and that is what we got. The surprise was the size and layout of the room. Princess'

website showed room layouts which were all fairly spacious, and all included a sitting area with couch and coffee table separate from the sleeping area. Princess has a disclaimer saying that some staterooms may not be exactly as described. What an understatement! Our stateroom had no sitting area, and therefore was very small. To make matters worse, there were 2 bunk beds hung from the walls on either side of our bed. These bunk beds jutted out about 1 foot. The space between our bed and the wall on either side was about 1 1/2 feet. The result was that every time we got out of bed, we hit our heads on the protruding bunk beds. It was quite an adventure trying to avoid getting hurt. We checked with the purser, and unfortunately, the ship was full and we could not be moved to a different stateroom. Upon our return home, I contacted Princess' Customer Relatons by email. After about 2 weeks, they responded with a form letter, unpersonalized, thanking me for the feedback, and saying the matter was now closed. I responded to their response asking why they had not addressed my concerns. Another 2 weeks went by and I got another form letter saying they reviewed my concerns and found them unwarranted. Again, I replied to them explaining my disappointment, and pointed out that their website as actually misleading, and that this particular room layout was quite dangerous. Today I received a response from Princess saying that all staterooms have a sitting area, and no matter how many more emails I send them, nothing will change. They made no mention of the danger in the room. To me, this was the most important aspect of my complaint. The Princess individual who responded all 3 times was quite brief and not to the point. In my last email, I had requested that a more senior person perhaps contact me by phone so that I could discuss my issues in better detail. Nothing transpired in that regard. I did not even receive an "I'm sorry for your trouble" comment. I would have preferred something a little more lively. It seemed to me that Princess was trying to cater to an older crowd, so everything was fairly subdued. This was my 1st Princess Cruise. I had previously cruised with Carnival. I was more accustomed to Carnival's "party" atmosphere and would have enjoyed that better. Having said that, I should point out that there was always something going on, so there was no time to be bored. Princess made all of our travel arrangements. The flight to Ft Lauderdale was no problem. We were transferred from the airport to the Marriot North Hotel. The transfer was comfortable and well organized. Check-in at the hotel was quick and easy, and the accomodation was excellent. The transfer to the ship the next day was a bit hectic, but not bad. Embarkation was probably what impressed me the most. When we got to the port, we entered the Princess embarkation building. We were onboard the ship within 10 minutes. Disembarkation was also handled well. My only complaint is that they herded us off the ship too early in the morning. By 9 am everyone was off. I would have preferred to enjoy a more relaxing, unhurried breakfast onboard. The transfer to the airport was also well organized and easy.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Let me first say, our waiters were the best "KIM" and "Satit" in the Micheal Angelo dinning room. They were so friendly and kept us laughing and entertained all the time, we looked forward to each evening with them. Even though the service was great, the food was not. I hoped the food each day would get better and it only got worse. Lets face it, we go on a cruise looking forward to the food. But even thou there was always plenty of it, honestly

alot of it was terrible. All the desserts, had no flavor, almost like the sugar was left out. The cakes had a jello like texture and nothing tasted like chocolate. I was very disappointed, because the pastry table always seemed so elegant and delicious, but than you would try a something and wonder "What Happened?" Also Carnival cruises always gives you ice cream free, this ship offers it for a charge. Even the cookie/pastry counter in the cafe was empty, because everything had a charge. There was no selection of complimentary drinks on board only water watered down ice tea that not even 10 lemons wedges could fix and coffe/tea. Unlike Carnival which offers lemonade, a assortment of juices in the buffet area 24 hours, milk, hot chocolate, and ice tea. My state room was perfect, very comfortable and easy to move around, I had a inside interior cabin, and I had more than enough closet space, and all rooms have a refrigator. The only big downside was the bathroom, the shower was so small , you could not bend over without hitting your head. I will say the room steward was great, he always had our room spotless, and provided us with extra towels, and supplies each day. I loved the self service laundry room, it had plenty of dryers and washers and 5 irons , so there was no waiting for a turn. I noticed that this ship was full of senior citizens, not many children on board. However, the staff made sure there was a activity for every age group. The night time shows and stand up comics were excellent. I laughed so much my stomach hurt. Sorry we did not go on any excursions, but I found the private Princess island in the Bahamas to be beautiful, a great place to snorkel. So don't forget to pack yours mask and snorkel gear in your suitcase. They have a great complimentary BBQ on the island and great tropical music. I did not enjoy the island of Jamaica, I found the locals to be very persistant on getting you in a taxi, you say "NO" about 5 times and the same guy and 10 others continue to follow you through the streets and harrass you. We got so upset, we turned around and headed back to the ship about 30 minutes later. I have to be honest, my family and I have always cruised with Carnival and loved it, but friends always told me "you should try one of the higher end cruise lines like Princess it will be 10 times better," but in my opinion, for the way more extra money I paid, I thought I would have recieved more. This ship has no water slide, the pools are overcrowed, there are so many chairs, people in wheelchairs had a hard time moving around. And be careful for $8.50 a drink, I was given a pina colada twice with no liquor in it, and when I complained the waiter seemed to mysteriously disappear. There was only one night that served lobster. I found the food had little salt or flavor, and the dessert had no sugar. I did not go on a cruise to feel like I was on a diet for a entire week. It is the one week out of the year when you want to enjoy everything you eat. If you are looking for a week of just quiet ,relaxing and keeping your blood sugar low than maybe this ship is for you. I found hardly any children on board, and alot of senor citizens. I understand this is a brand new ship, so maybe there are still training the chefs, hopefully things will get better.

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