This year Princess dropped the 7 day or more paradigm and added a slew of 3,4,5 day cruises and combo trips to make 7,9,14 day back to back. We decided to jump on a 5 day out of Ft Lauderdale with two at sea days and stopping at Grand Cayman and Cozumel (two places we'd never been).
We had 8 people in two inside cabins (upper berths).Cost of the cruise and taxes (less gratuities and alcohol) was $2000.00 or $250/person or $50/day. Pretty cheap for lodging/food/transportation.
We weren't really cramped and the upper berths were comfortable for an old guy like me. Sure, I'd of like 4 cabins (we've done that).....but we don't spend much time there anyway (sleep and shower).
Less than a week before sailing we get an email from Princess wanting to buy us out of the cruise with a 2 for 1 credit of what we paid, a balcony upgrade and 150/each towards airfare change costs.
We were like what's with that? Cancelling the cruise? About a month out we saw that every outside balcony cabin around us was unsold-----turns out they sold all those cabins primarily to Florida locals who told us they basically paid them to take the cruise and fill her up. They wanted our cabin for a bunch of folks who wanted to sale back to back making it a 9 day. Regardless, we stayed the course as we were already in Florida. I had made backup hotel reservations in case the sailing was cancelled. We cancelled those as the boat left the pier.
Check in was smooth as always for us with Princess in Florida. This was our 5th cruise with Princess and 3rd on the Ruby Princess. We brought 5 bottles of wine, 1 for each adult. They didn't even blink an eye or look at it.
Our cabin was ready right away and by the time we got to it our bags were all there. We met our great steward who already knew our last name as we were several cabins away. In fact all the stewards in that area knew our name. Group of 8 gets attention. They were great the whole trip. Room always spotless and clean. We never came back to a messy cabin.
We went straight up to the buffet. We were wondering if there would be cuts in food types/quality. We didn't see any on the buffet. The Ruby Princess has three buffet areas. As one is shutting down the others open for continuous service. The servers were always quick with getting us drinks or sodas from the bar.
The formal dining room (there are three dining rooms) food was of high quality and presentation and the service was very good to excellent. We were just on here in 2010 and 2012 and it was clear the waiters were doing more tables so there we saw some cost cutting. The service was still better than any restaurant we frequent and better than we see in SXM. I'd say they did the best they could. My complaints were a little slow on bringing me my fifth fork compared to previous cruises. The big thing I look for is beef quality. On this cruise it was very good for their standard filet and strip steaks. The Prime Rib was the only thing to wish for better meat. All the appetizers, salads and desserts were interesting, unique and top notch. We probably gained 10 pounds in 5 days.
We did not go to the extra cost restaurants as the FDR is plenty primo for our group.
Entertainment is an area where it usually looks like Princess is light in the dollar - so that is my expectation. But we were entertained a great comedian twice and two floor shows with good singing and sets and all.
We don't gamble, but it looked like a fair number were enjoying themselves.
Pizza and ice cream available all day and tasty as always.
Movies under the stars was always a treat with warm blankets and popcorn.
The ship was in good shape. We didn't notice any wear and tear.
First at sea day was Sunday and we were able to watch NFL playoffs by the big screen. Better than being at the game or at home. That first day was also our only formal night. We usually bring our best dresses and Tuxedos, this time we took a more relaxed approach with easy tp pack dresses and just a sport coat and tie. Looking back, should of ditched the coat and tie. We got some great group photos. They still waste a lot of photo prints in that concession but they must make a profit because they keep doing it. I got away with spending $100 for 4 good photos. I would gladly give them $250 for a CD of all photos. I hear they are going digital someday. Only peeve is they kept taking individuals and other people combos while we are eating. Note to them---we don't buy pictures with our food plates in them.
Grand Cayman - We anchored off Georgetown with 4 other ships. We purchased a reef and wreck snorkel tour from the ship. We boarded our tender for the shore. We waited about 15 minutes for the dive boat to arrive and pick us up. This trip accomplished its goal of getting everybody in the water on a reef and over a wreck - the "Cali". It was all pretty good. Lots of fish and a big ray on the reef. And the shipwreck was pretty cool. The only slight disappointment was these two sites were within swimming distance of the shore and within sight of the ship. Next time I'll buy/rent snorkel gear and swim out from the Burger King to "Cheeseburger Reef". The boat was the Cayman Star and the crew was very professional. I'm certified scuba but my gang is mostly rookies. They gave a good briefing on equipment and the need for snorkel vests. One stayed aboard watching from above and the other was very attentive in the water. One of my group started straying alone pretty far and they were all on it.
We spent the rest of the day at seven mile beach soaking rays.
We were supposed to head to Cozumel that night. Unfortunately the Captain told us there were 5 meter seas and gale force winds that would make a rough ride and maybe impossible for us to dock. We were planning a Mayan ruin trip with Tulum beach break. We were a bit bummed but we had heard the ride from Cozumel to Playa Del Carmen can be barfmaking on a normal day.
We were afraid we would get another sea day, but instead we would get Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I was like yeah! I hadn't been to Jamaica since 1973 and my parents had tried to find Dunns River Falls in a rental from Montego Bay. We found em and climbed em. A lot of fun. We also saw Green Grotto Caves used in James Bond movies. Actually the highlight of the two stops. Lots of bats (in fact they said 2 million) were down deep in the cave that come out every night and eat LOTS of mosquitos. SXM needs some bat caves.
We were a little worried about Jamaica and crime and all. In actuality in the day time it seemed no more sketchy than SXM, St Thomas, or the Dominican. Maybe at night and off the beatin path I would be worried. My parents drove all over Jamaica day and night in 1973 without fear. Maybe we were na´ve. Clearly, they were NOT making the most of the cruise stops. Many shops boarded up and they need to tell them to limit stuff to 20% Bob Marley and the weed. It does them NO good in my view.
All in all, Princess made the best of it but we really missed seeing the Mayan ruins. Guess we'll be going again and hitting Roatan and Belize.
The next day was a very warm sunning day and we scoped out 8 chairs looking out the back of the ship. Like a private deck with good drink service.
5 days turned out to be just right not short at all and we were fully relaxed the same as a 7 day cruise.
We had purchased a motorcoach seat for all 8 from Port Everglades to Miami airport for 25 each. We only got 4 tickets in our room. When I went to inquire they said we could by 4 more but that that group wouldn't be called off the ship until 8:40am at the earliest if no delays. Our flight was at 11:20AM. So after waying worst case thinking we walked off and caught cabs. They were heavily delayed at the govt only sent two employees to clear the boat. We were first off at 8:30am.
They divided us up into two cabs----the TWO WORST CABS IN THE WORLD. Our driver was falling a sleep at the wheel in a vehicle that the wipers did not work and yes it was raining. The other 4 ended up with a tinky no air conditioning can that the driver drove down the emergency lanes and beat us to the airport by 15 minutes. We all lived and it cost $215 dollars. Next time I'll book a later flight and wait for one good big cab.
All in all a good trip on a good ship with a good crew.
Thanks Princess. Those 5 days will be remembered for at least 50 years or more.
-------------------- Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people.
Jack Dawson - Movie Titanic