Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ruby Princess-Post 3

In this session, I’ll spend time on some of the areas of the ship. I’ve already written about the Piazza, which is a lovely gathering place for casual snacks, coffees, and entertainment. Another popular spot is the pool deck featuring the Princess signature Movies under the Stars. Movies, features, and especially NFL games, proved a big draw, with staff doling out blankets and serving complimentary popcorn with the option to purchase candies. Around the corner are the pizza and ice cream stations, and the Horizon Court and Caribe eateries are just steps away. Great sound system, too.

Toward the fore of the ship near the spa is The Sanctuary, a shaded adults-only retreat offering lounge chairs, personal service, and optional private cabanas for fee-based outdoor massages. Half-day passes to The Sanctuary cost $10; full-day passes go for $20. A limited menu of light sandwiches comes at a nominal service fee, as do specialized beverages. We didn’t spend time there ourselves, but it looked like a very restful area that would prove especially beneficial when lots of kids are sailing.

Staff in the Lotus Spa itself were friendly and efficient, serving up the usual list of massages and treatments…which seem to get more and more costly. Some classes are complimentary; others, such as Pilates, cost extra. The fitness center is well equipped, and yes, I did spend time there!

Three production shows unique to the Ruby showed off the technical capabilities of her $13 million theater. The LED curtain alone was said to cost a quarter million, so it’s no wonder they pulled out all the stops. I must make special mention of the innovative show, “Once Upon a Dream,” which uses multidimensional cinematic projection as a background for the talented singers and dancers. The story line follows a young woman’s journey through her dreams as revealed through a wild assortment of computer generated scenes accompanied by an eclectic selection of musical numbers. (And aren’t our dreams just as eclectic sometimes?) Very innovative and entertaining! My only frustration came with the rather low-key and unenthusiastic response of the more senior audience to these shows. I’m sure they appreciated the talent and technology, but these kids thrive on applause and ovations—and deserved more of both. Great job, guys!

Comedian Troy Thirdgill has us laughing till it hurt, and all with good, clean jokes about life, which can be funny enough without the cusswords so prevalent with some of today’s entertainers. The magician team of Tony Laffan and Kasey performed an entertaining show (where did that woman go?), and hypnotist Tim Triplett and ventriloquist Ron Lucas also got high marks, although we missed those shows.

Our ship’s 10-night itinerary called on the Eastern/Southern Caribbean ports of Princess Cays in the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia, and Antigua, bookended by one and then two days at sea. A host of excursions offered by the cruise line offered a variety of options at each place. Our visits to Sandals properties on St. Lucia and Antigua kept us occupied there, although we squeezed in a very nice catamaran snorkel trip in St. Lucia to the marine park. We saw thousands of beautiful fish in crystal clear waters. Note that Catamaran Cruise to the Pitons is one of the most popular excursions and sells out quickly. We never cleared the waitlist after trying much too late to order it. Regarding St. Lucia, I must also add how lovely the port is now, with the addition of a shopping area unlike the typical conglomerate of diamond and jewelry stores. Yes, some of them set up shop, too, but I enjoyed the nice assortment of both normal souvenir and classier apparel shops. Managed to find a couple of things I really “needed.”

Having visited St. Thomas numerous times, we decided to just go to Coki Beach for some snorkeling. Located adjacent to Coral World, fish are numerous and the water is clear. Enjoyed visiting with Gordon at the Perfection Daiquiri station. He’s an expat who tired of corporate life in Houston and set up shop on the island. Great daiquiris, too!

We snorkeled with turtles in Barbados—nice, but there weren’t many fish. The goal was to see turtles and snorkel near them. Now we can check off encounters with beluga whales, dolphins, and turtles. Think we’ll pass on sharks….

On St. Kitts, we grabbed an independent tour in an open-air vehicle that took us around the island to great overlooks and beaches, as well as to batik factory, where many of us did a little Christmas shopping.

Now, who would enjoy this cruise? Obviously, with a longer cruise over the Thanksgiving holiday, you can expect an older crowd. There were a few younger couples onboard and some teens and children, as well. But they were definitely in the minority. Of the some 3,000 passengers sailing, over 2000 were past passengers. To accommodate them all during the traditional past guest party, Princess scheduled four of them. (Royal Caribbean, take note.) Princess also honors Elite Passengers with 15+ Princess cruises to their credit with a special cocktail lounge most evenings, free laundry and dry cleaning, free Internet minutes, and other perks. That helps generate loyalty.

But Princess offers amazing itineraries visiting some of the best ports in the world, and service on this ship has truly been excellent. We can nitpick food items and talent, etc., but the value is outstanding.  And before we had begun packing up to disembark, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Thanks for the great cruise, Princess!

On to the Oasis again for the maiden seven-night inaugural. Watch for photos from all three cruises soon!

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