Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Ken T. Eastern Mediterranean May 28, 2009
We were on back-to-back cruises aboard the Ruby Princess from 28 May to 9 June and 9 June to 21 June 2009. We are Elite Captain's Club members so we are familiar with a lot of their ships and the services provided. Our overall impression of both cruises was that they were excellent, but there were some limitations regarding the ship and the services.
Cabins Our most serious complaint concerns the outside cabins. We have purchased inside, outside, balcony and suite cabins on various Princess ships and have always been satisfied with what we received -- up until these cruises. On these two cruises, we reserved outside cabins without balconies and expected to receive a cabin with a configuration like that shown on the Princess web site. NOT SO -- BE WARNED. The outside cabins are nothing like the one shown on the web site. That representation is much like all the cabins we have had on other Princess ships and it is what we expected on these cruises, but Princess has made some radical changes to their outside cabins and the result is nothing less than horrible.
We were given a cabin that had a queen bed pushed into a corner of the room with the head of the bed under the window. On the left side of the bed was a single nightstand with two attached lamps. Obviously, the nightstand was supposed to be used between two single beds. When the two beds were pushed together to form a queen, the nightstand provided light and storage for only one person. The other person could not read in bed and was forced to climb over the top of the bed to enter and exit.
There was one small table and one chair in the room and the table was blocking the door to the refrigerator. The only drawers in the room were those very small ones in the nightstand. All the other storage was in the form of shelves under the vanity or in the closet area. The bathroom storage was almost non-existent with two small, exposed shelves in one corner.
The inside cabins on the Ruby Princess are better than the outside cabins. We looked at several of them on the first day of the second cruise when all the doors were left open to greet the new guests boarding for that cruise. We also showed our cabin steward a copy of the configuration shown on the web site and asked him if any of the outside cabins looked like it. He said he had never seen an outside cabin on the Ruby Princess like the one represented.
We, of course, made our way to the Purser's desk immediately upon seeing the cabin and made known our displeasure. We were at first told that they might not be able to do anything about the situation as the ship was full and no other cabins were available. As it turned out, the head of Passenger Services did eventually come up with an upgraded cabin that had the configuration that we wanted. It was a balcony cabin. However, it was necessary for us to spend a couple of uncomfortable days in the first cabin before the other one opened up. On the second cruise, we had to go back to the first cabin for one day before another balcony cabin became available for us. It took some shuffling and a lot of wasted time, but we were finally satisfied with the result. The head of Passenger Services was very cooperative and did everything she could to satisfy our needs. She is to be commended for her efforts.
The one redeeming factor regarding the cabins was the closet space. It was excellent in all the cabin categories. The cabins also had nice vanities, but they lacked drawer space.
Food We took anytime dining on both cruises and ate almost all of our meals in the restaurant that provided that option. That included breakfast, lunch and dinner. We felt that the food on both cruises was excellent, even a cut above some of the other Princess ships we have been on. Strangely, it seemed like the food in the restaurant was better prepared and tastier on the first cruise and the deserts were better on the second cruise. We noticed a lot of crew people leaving the ship at various ports and surmise that we may have lost or gained some cooks and pastry chefs along the way.
We liked the fact that the dining rooms were opened every day for all meals. Some ships don't open their dining rooms for meals other than dinner on port days and everyone is forced to use the lido restaurant. We prefer to take as many meals as possible in the more formal restaurants. On those few occasions when we did use the lido restaurants, we found the selection and quality to be good.
Service The room stewards all did good jobs. Those servicing the balcony cabins seemed to be a bit more experienced. Whatever is lacking in the room service seems to be the fault of the people working at the Princess on-land offices. We are asked for our onboard preference at the My Princess web site regarding robes, beverages, fruit, etc. Apparently, this information was not transmitted to the room stewards as nothing in the room matched what we had ordered. It was necessary to contact Room Service to correct this situation. It is not a huge issue, but we wonder why Princess asks for our preferences if they don't intend to follow though and satisfy our requests.
The dining room service was excellent on the first cruise, but extremely slow on a few nights of the second cruise. There did not seem to be any noticeable reason for the slowness on the second cruise. Everyone was commenting about it but nobody knew what was going on. On two occasions, we spent nearly 3 hours having a normal dinner. Most of that time was spent waiting to order or for the next course to be brought. The waiters seemed to be having a good time and were under no noticeable stress. We were told that both cruises were full, but there seemed to be a lot more people on the second cruise. I am not sure how that could happen unless there were multiple cabins with more than 2 people to a cabin. We missed two shows because we were unable to get out of the restaurant in time.
Shows We are not big on production shows and only saw one. It was well done. We prefer the comedians, magicians, jugglers, etc. Unfortunately, Princess seems to be cutting back on some of the shows and replacing them with games provided by the cruise staff. In the past most of the Princess ships had two venues for shows; the Princess Theatre where the production shows are shown and a smaller venue like the Explorer's Lounge where comedy and magic acts were performed. They would usually have the same show repeated for two nights so everyone had an opportunity to see both shows on one or the other night. Each show was usually performed at least twice each night. On these cruises, there were times when only one show was presented in the Princess Theatre and the acts in the alternative venue were replaced with game shows or art auctions. We did not understand why this was done as all the entertainers were onboard and could have performed.
Tours We took Princess tours in 13 ports. They all had very knowledgeable guides that spoke excellent English although some had heavier accents than others. The buses provided were all in excellent condition and most of the drivers did a good job. Some were a little aggressive and scared the devil out of pedestrians as well as passengers that were watching the pedestrians jump out of the way of the oncoming bus. Drivers in this part of Europe have a lot of faith in other drivers. Pedestrians need to beware. One guide told us there are two kinds of pedestrians in Italy, the daring and the dead.
Be forewarned that there is a LOT of walking on most of the tours provided on these cruises and a lot of it is up some very steep hills and/or over uneven ground. Several people on each cruise required medical treatment as the result of falls taken while on various tours. Some of them were fortunate that the injuries were not more severe. Pickpockets were also very active and few days passed without someone mentioning that they had lost property while on a tour. These crooks are very professional and you don't even notice them being part of your group until it is too late.
Docks and Shuttles Many cruisers would like to go into the nearest town at some ports rather than take a Princess tour. Shuttles are often provided. Some charge a minimal fee and some are free. It is often very difficult to find this information before you arrive at a port. The information below pertains to our cruises only. It can vary by company and on each cruise with the same company. This information is taken from the Princess Patter. We took Princess tours in most of the ports and only took a shuttle on a couple of occasions.
Monte Carlo: We were under the impression that we would tender into Monte Carlo, but we docked. There was no shuttles provided, but it was not far to walk to town. The Princess Patter stated that walking around the harbor to the Casino would take about 30/40 minutes.
Livorno: Shuttles were provided by a private operator. Cost to the Livorno train station was 12 Euro ($15.00) per person for cruisers wanting to take a train to Pisa or Florence.
Civitavecchia: A complimentary shuttle was provided from the ship to the Port Gates in Civitavecchia. From there it was about a 10-minute walk to the railway station. Information was also provided about the cost of trains to Rome, but there is too much of it to include here.
Naples: On our first cruise, a complimentary shuttle was provided from the ship at Pier 21 to the Stazione Marittima (Maritime Station) where public ferries to Capri and Sorrento depart. On our second visit to Naples, no shuttle was provided, but it was only a short walk to the ferry depot. We took the ferry to Capri and back and it was an easy day once we found out where and how to purchase tickets and where to get on the boat. The Princess tour office onboard has a printed sheet available that provided the names of the boat companies servicing Sorrento and Capri. It also provides the cost of tickets, but the information was outdated and the cost was higher than stated. Just use this information as a general guide. The Princess Patter stated, "Please be advised that return tickets from Capri on the independent hydrofoil can only be purchased whilst in Capri on a first come first served basis -- please be careful when returning as hydrofoils do get very busy in late afternoon." The boat going to Capri was full. We returned on a boat in the early afternoon and it was less than half full. Later boats may have had more passengers.
Mykonos: On the first cruise, we anchored off shore and a shuttle boat was provided at no cost. On the second cruise, the boat docked at Tourlos Pier about 1.2 miles from town. A private shuttle was provided and the cost was Euro 7.00 per person round trip. Princess advised against walking into town, because there is no sidewalk.
Istanbul: Salipazari Cruise Port is located approximately 2.5 miles from the main tourist attractions. There was an independent shuttle bus service from the pier to a drop off point in the Grand Bazaar area. A guide was aboard the bus. She walked us into town and showed us where we would meet to return to the bus. The cost was US $12.00 per person for a round trip ticket. Tickets were purchased at the Shuttle Desk inside the terminal.
Kusadasi: The ship docked a short walk from the center of town. Kusadasi has the second largest bazaar in Turkey after Istanbul. It is a very clean and interesting area to shop and bargains are available. Bargaining is encouraged. Taxis to Ephesus are about $60.00 to $70.00 each way.
Athens: The ship docked at Kanelos Pier (Piraeus). A complimentary shuttle service was available between the ship and the Main Cruise Ship terminal. At the main Terminal taxi service was available.
Venice: Princess has a water shuttle available that goes from the cruise ship pier to St. Marks Square. The cost is $15.00 per person and it can be used all day and the next morning. The vendor provides maps of Venice. Be sure you get one. You can take a local waterbus down the Grand Canal to Piazzale Roma where it is about a 20 minute walk back to the pier. Be sure to get directions from a knowledgeable local about the route back to the ship. It can be confusing. Taxis are also available at the Piazzale that will take you back to the ship for a fee.
Dubrovnik: The ship docks about 3 miles from downtown. A local shuttle bus ran between the ship and Pile Square. Cost was 5.00 Euros each way.
Corfu: A shuttle bus was provided from the ship to the terminal building. Outside the terminal building, there was a local bus at the other end of the parking lot that took us into downtown Corfu for one Euro twenty. The bus was a little hard to find because it was always parked behind another bus. Ask the lady handing out information brochures just inside the terminal building. She walked us out to the parking lot and showed us where to find the bus. Princess did not provide information about this local bus. I learned about it from the lady mentioned above.
Katakolon: The ship docked about 700 yards from the fishing village of Katakolon. The village had a couple of blocks of tourist stores. One storeowner said that she closed up as soon as the ship left. The stores were all very nice and had good merchandise.
Rhodes: The ship docks at Rhodes Commercial Harbor about 300 yards from the Old Town Entrance (it is a flat walk to town). This is another fun place to walk around and check the shops.
Santorini: Independent passengers will be tendered to the port of Skala where there is a cable car that goes up the mountain to Thira. The cable car is 4 euros per person each way. You can also walk up or down the donkey path if you don't mind dodging what the donkeys leave behind. Expect lines and crowds at the cable car. Thira is another fun place to take a walk and window shop.