Your Savvy Seafarer just got back from a whirlwind trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the gala naming ceremonies of Princess Cruises newest gem, The Ruby Princess (see my related blog entries for more background). It was a quick, first look, but everything seems shipshape so your Savvy Seafarer says she deserves a 4 Star rating. My trip was eventful to say the least. I flew in a day early and boarded the ship prior to the arrival of most other participants, mostly fellow journalists, travel agents, and 10 lucky couples who won a chance to join in the inaugural fun and games, some who actually redid their vows. In case you’re interested these are the lucky winners: Catherine Conner of Clatskanie, Ore.; Gale deClairmont of The Woodlands, Texas; Sara DeWitt of Herriman, Utah; Alan Horwitz of North Las Vegas, Nev.; Marty Marruffo of Eureka, Calif.; Janis Neill of Ruskin, Fla.; Larry Peppers of Greenville, S.C.; Ann Percy of Weaverville, N.C. and Marlene Sweeney of Hanover Park, Ill. I met one of them in the spa and she was thrilled to be among the group and sailing on the “most romantic ship afloat.” Love was in the air. Okay back to my reflections: the next morning I virtually had the place to myself and was able to check out the mega-ship–not an easy task on a 951 foot-long, 113,000-ton behemoth with 1,540 staterooms and 16 decks. I did manage a swim in the large inviting pool and a workout in the fitness center. A very impressive facility with 22 treadmills and lots of late style equipment. Took a steam bath (free for all, no charge), and a few miles around the Promenade deck. All in preparation for the anticipated dinner in Sabatini’s Restaurant later–which alas while a tasty meal, later caused the “event” heretofore mentioned. Seems something didn’t agree with me and I well I was up barfing most of the wee small hours of the morning. Why I am telling you this is because there has been much criticism about ship’s medical staffs. And the nurse and doctor who treated me dispelled all the bad press. The pair not only doled out much-appreciated TLC but they did a complete medical check of me and my symptoms. This of course is not just good will on their part as cruise ships are responsible to report any such symptoms to the CDC lest I should have turned out to be viral Patti and infected the ship. They even came to my mini as they do for any pax who comes down with anything remotely resembling a virus. The good news it wasn’t a virus, the bad news for me, just to make certain it wasn’t I was quarantined to my cabin for the one day at sea we had. Bummer to say the least. But I got a good tale out of it. They gave me a complete meal menu for ordering in, offered comp laundry service and anything I needed just so I didn’t leave the cabin and alas spread my evil germs. They also gave me an injection and pills and took all my vitals from BP to pulse etc. Tell you it was better care than I get from my HMO provider. I was finally able to move around the ship by night time and able to go to the naming ceremony followed by a cocktail party (just had a Compari and soda to settle my stomach) and dinner at The Crown Grille. I did pick at one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten and a light salad, but couldn’t do the food much justice. However this was the best meal on board. The Horizon buffet left a lot to be desired. The cheeses were pretty ordinary, the fruit not ripe enough, a fried fish really greasy and the general appearance of the dishes not overly appetizing. On the other hand the service was fantastic as it was throughout the ship and the crew one of the best on any big ship I’ve sailed on. They do need to learn how to make a good cappuccino in the dining room, although the one I had at the Crown Grille was good. The coffee on board was really low octane and tasteless. I’m a major coffee freak so I notice this. I did have a miso soup sent to my suite while I was recovering which was fantastic and made on board. Food on ships is really hard to critique as it varies from ship to ship and even cruise to cruise on the same ship. Princess normally does a good job in this department, but don’t expect haute cuisine in the dining room. The alternative venues do the best meals for which pax pay an addition $25 each for Crown Grille and $20 each for Sabatini’s.
Now back to the inaugural ceremonies.. The headliners were adorable Trista and Ryan Sutter who were selected to christen the vessel. The pair are best known as the only couple from the The Bachelor and Bachelorette franchises who wer wed. Of course the indomitable Captain of the Love Boat, Gavin MacLeod (aka Captain Stubing) was aboard and charming as ever, greeting everybody and being well, his amiable self. Head honchos from Carnival Cruise Lines, which owns Princess, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale and other luminaries were also on the podium. A woman sang our National Anthem, which was great, a band played, cocktails flowed freely and it appeared a good time was had by all.
And, like many businesses and cruise lines today it also tags on lots of additional fees for services, but hey they have to make a living and pay high energy bills. Still the price per diem and the comfort of cruising on these spiffy floating hotel-like ships makes it all worth it, and you don’t have to drink wine, booze, soda or bottled water (all extra), use the Internet (mo money), send your laundry out (you can do your own for a few quarters bring lots though), gamble (optional, not fee to gamble at Gatsby’s, your Savvy Seafarer didn’t win, sorry to say,but had fun trying), take shore excursions (really big tabs on these but not as pricey as treatments in the spa, wow has the cost of a rub gone up, but if you can afford the stiff tab, the therapies are well-done and the spa’s a winner).
New Enrichment Programs –Obviously no time for this during my cruise so I am taking this right out of the press materials: A number of new ScholarShip@Sea enrichment programs debuted on this ship like: The Art of Entertaining offers passengers the opportunity to learn party-planning tips from lifestyle expert Susie Coelho via a multimedia presentation hosted by the cruise director. Navigation@Sea focuses on the history of navigation as well as the complexities of plotting the route of a modern cruise ship, with a presentation by the ship’s navigator. Mixology@Sea lets passengers channel their inner bartender with a hands-on course taught by the ship’s bar manager. For star gazers, the new Astronomy@Sea program provides passengers with the opportunity to explore the night sky through a telescope on the top deck, with the expert guidance of a ship’s bridge officer. Two New Production Shows – “Broadway Ballroom” featuring music of the ‘Great White Way’ with a ballroom flair, pairing the songs of hit musicals with dance numbers ranging from foxtrot to rumba. The show also features the talents of a costume designer and choreographer from the TV hit “Dancing with the Stars.” Meanwhile, “Once Upon a Dream” uses unique multidimensional cinematic projection to follow a dreamscape unlike anything seen at sea. The audience accompanies a young woman’s journey as she dreams of everything from a tea party in an English garden to singing camels in the desert, and even a trip through a waterfall and brief nightmare before waking to a new day.
The Audience Gets in the Act –audience-participation gone wild offers pax their 15 minutes of fame on Love Boat Legends, where participants are become famous artists. So You Wanna Be A Rock Star? moves beyond pre-recorded Karaoke tunes to give audience members the opportunity to rock out with a live band on stage. Oceans of Talent puts passenger talent center stage – whether they play a musical instrument or want to try out their comedic timing. The Wake Up Show takes Princess’ popular morning show with the cruise director to a new level with an irreverent talk show format, live band, special guests and an opportunity for passengers to join the “studio” audience, as the show is taped in the evening before its broadcast the next morning. A Few Fine Touches –yes I noticed these and they work great. Now for those you unfamiliar with the sister ships of the Ruby, they are pretty much cookie cutter inside and out with some unique décor differences, on the Ruby changes were made to the Horizon Court buffet, with new waffle stations (not open during my trip) will offer fresh cooked-to-order waffles at breakfast and throughout lunchtime, and the buffet will also begin serving complimentary lemonade as a beverage choice. In the evening, passengers will find a selection of canapés in several of the ship’s public lounges. Passengers arriving back from shore are greeted with chilled face cloths, and by the pool, “misting stewards” offer a quick refreshing spritz with Evian to cool off.
Kid Stuff – Wizards Academy, an exclusive presentation from the award-winning California Science Center. This enriching new program lets children explore the connection between science and magic in a fun and participative environment. Kids will also enjoy activities and projects from popular arts and crafts company Klutz, or participate in Yoga for Kids, a healthy and fun course designed specifically for children.
Wireless Internet and Cell Phones – laptop users additional wireless hotspots around the vessel, including staterooms. The ship will also be equipped so that passengers can use their personal cellular phones, if they have international roaming plans, while onboard. Adult Fun….
Ultimate Ship Tour –peeks at “back of house” areas that are key to a ship’s daily operations. You can see the engine control room, medical center (without getting sick), print shop, laundry, photo lab, funnel, bridge and other spaces.
Gatsby Casino, where your savvy seafarer spent some time
The savvyseafarer’s rating of the Ruby Princess
Food-*** in dining room; ***** in alternative dining rooms