Fodor’s Expert Review
Within the Princess fleet, Ruby Princess is on the smaller end of the scale, but she is by no means small. At 113,561 gross tonnage and a maximum capacity of 3,080 passengers, the ship will appeal to those who want a decent variety of dining, bar, and entertainment options, without sacrificing on service. Ruby Princess still delivers the signature guest experience the cruise line is known for.Read More
Ruby’s passenger demographic depends on the itinerary’s length and destination. Generally the ship attracts a multicultural mix of Americans and Canadians from 40 to 70 years of age. The Princess app, a key part of the cruise experience, is available in English, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Japanese, German, Spanish, and Russian, a testament to how the company tries to cater to international guests. Longer sailings and Alaska skew older, though grandkids do tag along in the summer months. The shorter five- to-seven day Mexico and Caribbean winter getaways attract more families and multigenerational groups. The newly refurbished, beautifully decorated Camp Discovery kids’ club ensures youth are well entertained.
Adults will also be entertained if they enjoy audience participation and friendly competition. The program is stacked with these types of activities, from pickleball and ping pong, to amped-up game shows like Deal or No Deal in the main theater.
When it comes to programming, don’t expect high-octane thrills. There are the expected production shows, talented musicians, and dance classes, but the ship is also conducive to relaxation. It has four pools (one with a retractable roof), seven hot tubs, 13 bars/lounges serving alcohol, plenty of deck space, a casino (smoking permitted), spa, Thermal Suite, and The Sanctuary, an adults-only area at the bow of Deck 17, above the Lotus swimming pool. The breezy, shaded area and its deluxe, cushy loungers are ideal for scenic days at sea. It is $20 for a half day, $40 for a full day, or $60 when going through the Panama Canal or Glacier Bay. Ruby Princess also has a library, an increasingly rare feature on ships.
Ruby Princess is an older ship. To give you an idea, it was christened in 2008 by Trista and Ryan Sutter from the The Bachelorette, a reference only those who lived the reality TV craze of the late aughts would understand. Though it was refurbished in 2018, the vessel shows its age with its dated theater and boring, albeit serviceable, comfortable staterooms. Ruby is scheduled for a dry dock makeover September/October 2023.
On the upside, Princess’ MedallionClass technology has already been fully integrated into the experience. The free quarter-sized waterproof medallion does much more than unlock your stateroom door. In conjunction with the app, set up an arrival time and have contactless boarding. Use it to find your cabin mates on the ship. Order food/drink and have it delivered to almost anywhere. Use digital portals to make dinner reservations or bookmark events, among many other things. A pamphlet in the stateroom on embarkation day explains how it works.
Despite its age, the ship has noteworthy features. The Piazza, the golden atrium spanning three decks, is gorgeous and grand. Bright lighting, marble floor, glass elevators, sweeping staircases, and a domed chandelier help the space soar. Three different bars, a 24-hour cafe, and live music are all reasons to linger here. Multiple shops around the atrium deliver a galleria shopping experience. Browse handbags, cosmetics, Effy jewelry, perfume, watches, and cosmetics. Buy accessories for your medallion, such as wristbands or keychains. Shop Calypso Cove for sundries, basic medicine, snacks, cruise wear, alcohol, and Princess branded merchandise. The photo center sells binoculars and Go Pros.
Sabatini’s and Crown Grill, Ruby Princess’ two specialty restaurants, have an ambience and decor you would find in an upscale restaurant on land. Both have a reasonable cover charge of only $25 and $29 per person respectively. Wheelhouse Bar has also hopped onto the gastropub trend and serves rich, gourmet pub bites. Dining options are ample for Ruby’s one- to-two week itineraries.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
Ruby Princess has a total of 1,542 staterooms, of which 1,106 are outside and 456 are inside. The age of the ship is reflected in the rooms’ dated style and furnishings, lack of USB plugs, and some awkward design features. All bathrooms, even of the top category, use Princess’ standard Lotus Spa bath products. Overall, the staterooms are comfortable and feature a neutral, calm palette of beige, cream, and brown.
The 682 balcony (214-222 square feet), 218 Ocean view (146-206 square feet), and 436 inside (158-162 square feet) cabins all have a queen or two twin beds, a generous amount of closet space, flat-screen TV, mini bar, desk/vanity, and a function-over-fashion bathroom with tiled floor, shower curtain, and adequate counter space. Extra beds come in the form of Pullman beds, except for a few balcony rooms that have a sofa bed. Balconies are accessed by a sliding glass door and have metal patio furniture. The surprisingly deep balconies are covered in a blue anti-slip mat that has seen better days.
For the 178 mini-suites (323 square feet), the balconies are less deep, the space given to the small sitting area that has a sofa bed and coffee table. Compared to the balcony staterooms, mini-suites are more spacious. They sport private balconies, two televisions, and a bathtub-shower combo. A built-in half-circle bar/shelf/cupboard that divides the sitting area from the bedroom is a clunky design decision; the shape and location makes for awkward storage. A floating shelf between the bed and bathroom is just the perfect height and location to accidentally walk into it in the middle of the night.
There is plenty of space to spread out in the 26 Suites (460-932 square feet). Suite guests can look forward to a number of perks, including one complimentary mini-bar setup, bottled water, laundry service, and a specialty dining dinner on embarkation evening. They also get priority embarkation and disembarkation. There is no private lounge for suite guests on Ruby; however, they may enjoy Sabatini’s as a private breakfast restaurant and club class dining.
Overall, the interiors are not the most modern, but all rooms have been upgraded for OceanMedallion entry. A digital touch screen at the entrance senses your medallion as you approach and will unlock the door and display any messages. Use the touch screen to request privacy or housekeeping service.
Ruby Princess has 31 wheelchair-accessible cabins: one suite, four mini-suites, 16 balcony, four outside, and six inside. They do not have automatic doors.
To request special assistance or equipment, the company requires submission of the mobility questionnaire at least 60 days prior to sailing.
ADA seating at the Princess Theater is at the back row. There is a dedicated wheelchair lift to access the Thermal Suite, which is one level below the spa.
Food & Drink
Ruby Princess has a well-balanced variety of both complimentary and paid dining options.
For complimentary dining, there is a buffet, three main dining rooms, two casual poolside options , a 24-hour cafe, and 24-hour room service. Horizon Court is the breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet on Lido deck 15, adjacent to Calypso Reef & Pool. The food stations are in a semi-enclosed area, which can feel cramped. However, they are able to enforce hand sanitizer use upon entering the area.
Crudities, prepared salads, and tapas are in individual serve bowls, making for easy self-service, elegant presentation, and safer food hygiene. Passengers can help themselves to bread, a salad bar, cold cuts, sandwiches, soups, pastas, grilled or roasted meats and seafood, plenty of side dishes, Indian food, rice, and Asian stir-fry. There are both cold and warm desserts. Gluten-free dishes are labeled.
Ruby Princess has three main dining rooms: Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo; reservations recommended. The rooms are all similar in style and as the name suggests, the spaces have subtle Italian/European flair. Renaissance-style artwork and motifs adorn the chestnut walls. Golden accents, wall sconces, beige wooden chairs, and a flashy patterned carpet create a classic setting. Da Vinci has a section for Club Class, which means a separate entrance, priority seating (no reservations required), a dedicated service team, and an expanded menu.
Princess Cruise Line no longer does traditional dining with assigned seating and set time. Of course, passengers can make reservations for their preferred time, but there is no guarantee it will be the same table or server. The dinner menu changes daily, except for the “Princess Favorites,” five core dishes always available: shrimp cocktail, romaine and kale caesar salad, French onion soup, salmon, and pan-roasted chicken breast. From the daily menu, expect three starters, three salads/soups, two pastas, and mains that include at least one vegetarian, fish, poultry, and red meat. Think beef Wellington, Southeast Asian curried noodles, rum-marinated island spiced jerk chicken, or breaded lemon sole in tarragon butter.
When feeling peckish, you’ve got several casual options. Aside from 24-hour room service and grab-and-go pizza at Slice, The Salty Dog Grill (formerly known as Trident Grill) jazzes up the usual poolside burger and hot dog menu, adding pulled pork sandwiches, chipotle-lime chicken tacos, and loaded chili cheese fries. The 24-hour International Cafe at the Piazza serves specialty coffee, baked treats, and snacks. Or use the app to order food to almost anywhere on the ship.
For a refined dining experience, try the three specialty restaurants. In terms of layout, style, and decor, Crown Grill and Sabatini’s both feel like a restaurant you’d find on land, a welcome modernization for a ship built in 2008. Crown Grill is the most popular and it is strongly recommended to make reservations as soon as possible on the first day. Going for the feel of a cozy upscale London pub, the space exudes warmth through ruddy cherry wood paneling on the walls and ceiling, red carpets, green leather chairs, velvety booths, green marble, and brass railing. The restaurant is divided into intimate sections. In the middle of the very long open show kitchen is a semi-circlular bar. For a cover charge of only $29 per person, feast on appetizers such as Mediterranean-style spiny lobster cake, black tiger prawn and papaya salpicon, or seared jumbo sea scallops and salmon caviar with herb beurre blanc. For the main, choose chops, steaks, or surf and turf, accompanied by your choice of sides and special salt.
Sabatini’s on Ruby Princess couldn’t be more different than the Sabatini’s on Sapphire Princess, which has the cliche Italian decor of Roman columns, paintings of Tuscan towns, and faux brick walls. On Ruby, Sabatini’s is contemporary and chic. Charcoal walls, chocolate leather low-backed banquettes, white curtains, and hand blown glass pendant lighting set the mood. The restaurant used to be SHARE, family-style dining by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, before the partnership ended. This explains the attractive set of high communal tables that are at the center of the dining room. The interior may feel new, but passengers who have sailed Princess before will be familiar with the menu. A cover charge of $25 per person gets you a filling dinner of a soup or salad, antipasti, fresh pasta, entree, and dessert. The selection is a cut above the basic Italian dishes. Expect pappardelle with wine-braised beef cheek ragu, roasted lamb tortelloni, and seafood al cartoccio (a medley of seafood wrapped in parchment and steamed).
In the evening, Wheelhouse Bar turns into The Salty Dog Gastropub. At a cover charge of $18 per person, choose two indulgent plates from a select menu that includes lobster mac & cheese, fried chicken sandwich, beef short rib poutine, and according to the crew, the best burger on the ship. Beyond Burger and three other vegetarian plates are available.
From quiet corners to spirited bars delivering good spirits, Ruby Princess has 13 outlets to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. The emphasis is on comfort. Every bar or lounge is usually furnished with clusters of comfortable armchairs, sofas, and padded bar stools.
The Piazza alone has three bars. Vines, the wine bar, is the least inspired of the lot, though it has the best view of the entertainment in the center. Good Spirits At Sea combines cocktails featuring regional ingredients and flavors with a little storytelling; twice an evening the bar has a mixology show to highlight the special drinks. Green velvet armchairs fill Crooners Bar, which wraps around the atrium on deck 7. Music motifs on the walls, lamps on glossy black, low tables, and nightly piano entertainment give it a New York piano bar vibe.
Along the same note, Adagio is a jazz-themed bar tucked away at the stern on deck 16. Service here is in the evening only, making this a pleasant indoor place in the daytime for a quiet activity. Remember, you can order food and drink to you through the app.
Looking for life and action? The entire evening could be spent at nautical-themed Wheelhouse Bar since it has a dance floor, stage, and gastropub food menu. Explorer’s Lounge is the place for trivia, game shows, challenges, and live music. Concentric rows of bistro tables surround the stage and screen. As the name suggests, the theme of the eye catching decor is the olden days of exploration and tomb raiding of Asian antiquities. At Club Fusion, large scale photos pay homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood. This is the energy-filled venue for dance classes and bingo by day, music trivia and theme parties at night. The club is equipped with professional lighting and sound equipment, plus an enormous dance floor.
The aptly named Skywalkers Nightclub (18 years and over) all the way up on deck 18 kicks off at 10:30 pm with a theme hour of hits followed by a DJ dance party until late. Floor to ceiling panoramic windows and sky-high views makes this a terrific place to be during sail away.
Ruby Princess’ entertainment is all about engagement. Hopefully you enjoy competition because the daily program is chock-full of games and challenges. In a single day at sea you might have pickleball open play, speedy sudoku, a poker tournament at the casino, mahjong, boardgames, bridge, jackpot bingo, ping pong, golf putting, darts, spelling bee, The Voice of the Ocean singing auditions, and several kinds of trivia and game shows, including Deal or No Deal, music trivia, and trivia showdowns versus ship officers. Phew! Don’t forget the hosted and unhosted get togethers to connect: Singles and solos, LGBTQ+, veterans and military personnel, bible study, knitters, and Friends of Bill W.
Older in style and layout, the Princess Theater features production shows centered on singing, musicians, and dance—no high-wire acrobatics, trampolines, or lasers here. Other nights showcase a soloist, comedian, or game show.
Live music kicks off at the Piazza around 4 pm and continues with different sets all evening. Catch the Good Spirits at Sea mixology show, also at the Piazza every evening. Then it’s a tough choice between catching musical talent at Crooners Bar, Wheelhouse Bar, Explorers Lounge, or Club Fusion, before late night DJ and dancing at Skywalkers Nightclub. Or eschew it all for casual Movies Under the Stars, on deck 16.
Spa & Fitness
Occupying the entire bow of deck 16, the Lotus Spa includes a beauty salon, fitness centre, and thermal suite. It wraps around the Lotus pool and hot tubs, which is open to all passengers, not just spa guests. Lotus flowers, Chinese artwork of nature, and black lacquer decorate this Asian-inspired wellness center. Their most loved treatments are the Aroma Seaweed Massage ($299 for 100 minutes) and the Elemis BIOTEC Facial targeting specific skin issues ($229 for 50 minutes). Popular with older guests are Ionithermie Leg Therapy ($99) which helps with fluid retention, R3 Pain Management Therapy ($299 for 100 minutes), and acupuncture. Treatment rooms are simple and calm, and have windows to gaze at the ocean once you peel yourself off the bed.
The salon has four hair stations, two nail technicians, teeth whitening, and barber services. A doctor on staff administers Medi-Spa aesthetic treatments such as Restylane dermal fillers, Thermage, and DYSPORT cosmetic wrinkle treatments. A 18 percent service charge is added to all spa treatments.
Located at the front of the ship, the fitness center (6 am to 10 pm) has the type of equipment expected of a gym. Elliptical machines and treadmills are positioned at the windows. At the center is the enormous aerobics studio stocked with stationary bikes, mats, weights, stability balls, and aerobic step platforms. A studio this large is a rarity on new ships. Join free classes like abs, stretch, and body conditioning, while TRX, Pilates, yoga, and spin cost $20 per class, or 3 for $39.
The Thermal Suite is small but has all that one needs to follow the tradition of alternating between hot and cold, wet and dry. There is one regular steam room, one aroma steam room, a warm and cold rain shower, heated tile loungers, as well as a gentle dry sauna, its warm tiled seats curving to fit the body just right. A wheelchair elevator means the experience is accessible. Passes are sold for the length of the cruise. For example, on a 10-day itinerary it is $196. Day passes are sold only if there is space.
Key cruising tips
Health & Safety
Most mask, vaccination, and testing requirements have been lifted, except itineraries for countries where restrictions remain. Travelers can consult the CruiseHealth tool on the Princess website to learn about requirements for their upcoming voyage.
A health advisory letter in the stateroom on embarkation day recommends wearing face masks while indoors and reminds of good hygiene practices such as hand washing and covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing.
Princess’ MedallionClass technology helps to reduce physical contact. Using the app and the wearable medallion the size of a quarter, you can select an arrival time for staggered embarkation, have a contactless arrival, keyless entry into your stateroom, and contactless payment at outlets. Also order food/drink on the app instead of waiting in line. QR code menus are still being utilized at restaurants.
On embarkation day, rather than crowding the muster stations for the traditional safety briefing, passengers watch it on their stateroom TV or app, then check-in at the muster station before sailing.
Dress for the cruise the same way you would for a nice resort. In the daytime, casual sportswear, lightweight pants, shorts, and sundresses are acceptable.
In the dining rooms, the dress code is smart casual or formal. For smart casual, men should wear pants and collared shirts or dress shirts, while women can wear dresses, slacks, skirts, blouses, and sweaters. Shorts, pool/beachwear, baseball caps, and jeans with holes are not allowed. There is one formal night for every week of sailing and you are expected to dress up. Men can wear a tuxedo, dark suit, or dinner jacket, women an evening gown, cocktail dress, or elegant pant suit.
Young sailors are spoiled with the recently refurbished Camp Discovery kids’ club. Three spacious, fun-filled rooms offer a nature-themed escape from the adults: The Tree House (ages 3-7), The Lodge (ages 8-12), and The Beach House teen lounge (ages 13-17).
Partnering with the Discovery and Animal Planet brand, the spaces and complimentary activities tie into wildlife, nature, and exploration. The walls are covered in murals of colorful geometric trees, stones, and animals. On the schedule there might be “Shark Attack Night” with shark themed games, slime making, learning the science of magic, and challenges designed by the California Science Center.
Aside from programmed activities, the rooms are well-stocked for free play. The Tree House has an indoor playground, puppet theater, arts and craft tables, and oodles of space to run around. Both The Lodge and The Beach house have an air hockey table, foosball, skee-ball, and gaming consoles. Teens can hang out, play ping pong, and join gaming tournaments, movie nights, or parties.
Ruby Princess has a passenger to crew ratio of 2:57 to 1. The cruise line tends to attract a more multicultural American and Canadian passenger base. Princess’ international crew are adept at delivering professional, friendly service to people of different backgrounds and ages.
Like other premium cruise lines, a service charge/crew appreciation is automatically added, per guest, per day. For Interior, Oceanview, and Balcony staterooms it is $14.50, Mini-Suite and Club Class $15.50, Suite $16.50. Tip staff directly to recognize someone for extra good service.
A 17 to 18 percent service charge is automatically added to spa, beverages, beverage packages, and dining.