Relaxing with Princess Cruise Line

As part of my training as a travel consultant, I completed Princess Cruise’s Commodore training last year. For my Commodore Graduation, in addition to celebrating my April birthday, Mr. B and I completed a 5 day Eastern Caribbean Getaway cruise aboard Ruby Princess. It was by FAR the most serene, relaxing cruise I’ve taken to date. Here is my full review:
Since we reside in Tampa, we only had to drive 3.5 hours to Fort Lauderdale, where Port Everglades is located. We had pre-purchased parking at the nearby Park ‘n’ Go lot, which offered a free shuttle to the port. (BVB Tip: If driving, buy your parking online in advance. You will save some serious money by pre-paying). We arrived to the ship around 1:00 PM. After going through the motions of security, we walked straight to the Reservation Agent to complete check-in. Since we’d done most of it online in advance, there was very little to complete at the desk. The agent gave us our Cruise Cards; since I had graduated from Princess’s Academy, I was granted a black Elite card (which is their highest loyalty tier; you’re ship royalty at that level). We headed up to take our pre-cruise photo and strolled onto the ship.

Princess is the fifth unique cruise line I’ve experienced, the 4th I’ve actually sailed. (I’ve done a Disney Dream ship tour, but we didn’t actually sail). Each line has its own personality, and Princess definitely has one of refined relaxation. (Their tagline is “Escape Completely” and trust me, we did).

The ship decor itself was elegant, but not too overstated or stuffy. You didn’t see the bright colors of Carnival and Norwegian, and definitely not as many children as the other cruise lines. The average age of Princess’s passengers is mid-40s, but that does not exclude other demographics. In all, I think there was a nice mixture of people of varying ages and backgrounds. The ship still has kids’ clubs for the children and teenagers, so taking a child on this cruise line will not leave them bored.

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We arrived to our interior cabin….something I had agonized about. I like balcony cabins..what can I say, I’m spoiled. But we booked the interior for this cruise as part of my Commodore status (it was free, y’all). We were in cabin 404 on the Aloha Deck (Deck 12), and I literally gasped when I walked into the cabin; it was LARGE! I’ve NEVER seen an interior cabin of that size. The bathroom and closet were separated from sleeping portion of the cabin, which had a vanity with chair. We went on and on about that cabin’s size..we just couldn’t get over it.

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Waiting for us in the cabin was a mini-bar set up with 2 bottles of Skyy Vodka, Seagram’s Gin, Couvosier, and VSOP each. This was another perk of being an Elite passenger, and a nice one at that. They did not provide us with any mixers for the alcohol, so we either had to get juice from the dining room or drink them straight. (There WAS a small selection of options in the mini-bar, sodas and water, but we weren’t sure if those were included and never sought clarification). Another perk was the option to select from a variety of canapes for formal night. We chose the shrimp and salmon because, why not?

We also brought aboard 2 bottles of wine for personal consumption. Princess allows 1 bottle of wine per passenger (no larger than 750 ml) for in-room consumption, at no extra charge. The corkage fee is only charged if you want the wine served during dinner, or if you bring aboard more than one bottle.

The public spaces on the ship were well situated, especially with our spot on deck 12. We only had to ascend two decks to 15 (there is no deck 13) to access the pools, buffet and sun deck. Movies Under the Stars was also on deck 15; they showed a first-run film every night of the cruise, and sometimes during the afternoon. For us, they showed “Gravity”, “Frozen”, “Captain Phillips”, and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, to name a few. We sat out and enjoyed “Captain Phillips” at sea, which was a lovely experience. It got a little cool on the deck, but other than that, we were perfectly comfortable. They lined the deck chairs with special seat covers, and cruise staff came around with popcorn, cookies and milk.
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There is an adults-only exclusive area available, The Sanctuary, for those willing to pay the entry fee. Guests are greeted with a cool towel, tons of shade, and specialty snacks and beverages. It’s a lovely escape from the chaos of deck chairs on the Sun and Lido decks.
  • Dining: Speaking of snacks and food, Ruby Princess provided some of the best cruise dining I’ve experienced to date. We chose the Anytime Dining option, which found us dining most frequently in the Michelangelo Dining Room (Boticelli is reserved for assigned diners). Since we didn’t have an assigned dining time, we went whenever we felt hungry. We typically eat late at home and followed suit on this cruise, dining between 7-9:00 pm. We rarely had to wait for a table and, when we did, it was due to the fact that we asked for a private table for two. (Be prepared to wait if you don’t want to share a table, especially if you dine at the peak times). The hostess took our name/room #, handed us a pager and we would find somewhere to hang out until it buzzed, usually no more than 15-20 minutes. This only happened twice during the cruise; otherwise, we were seated immediately. The food is the same across the dining rooms, with the exception of the paid specialty restaurants. Guests also have the options to eat in the buffets (Cafe Caribe and Horizon Court), if they’d rather forgo the seated dining experience.
  • Ports of Call: This sailing stopped at 2 cruise ports during our 5 day vacation – Grand Turk and Princess Cays. Our first stop was Grand Turk. After reviewing the available excursions on our Cruise Personalizer prior to departure, we weren’t overly impressed by any of the offerings and decided to go it on our own. We were the only ship in port that day, which is always a nice plus. We walked off the ship and snapped a few photos, before stumbling upon Margaritaville through the port shops. I was shocked; this Margaritaville had the largest pool I’d seen at a cruise port, complete with a swim-up bar! Music was loudly playing and just beyond the restaurant was the beach, complete with available beach chairs. We knew this is where we’d be parked for the rest of the day!! We found a spot near the pool and almost immediately, a waiter descended upon us to take our order. We’d seen guests in the pool with these massive drinks in a blender cup, and knew we both wanted one to sip on. 10 minutes later, we were supplied with our drinks and were enjoying these amazing amenities. Not too long afterward, the Flowrider machine was activated and we watched a few brave souls try their hand at boogie boarding and surfing. (this is an “excursion” that guests can purchase onboard). Eventually, we made our way to the beach and spent some time in the refreshing water.
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  • Our second port, Princess Cays, is the private island owned by the cruise line. This port requires a short tender from the ship to shore, and you have to obtain a tender ticket in the Michelangelo dining room.We weren’t really in a rush to get onshore, so we took our time, ate breakfast, and made our way to the dining room to get our ticket and wait to be called. We didn’t wait long at all and were on the island before we knew it. However, because we waited, we had a VERY difficult time finding two available beach chairs. They were either far from the water or directly in the hot sun. The clamshell shelters that are sprinkled throughout the island are only $8, but were sold out by the time we inquired. It was a hot and frustrating search, but eventually we found somewhere to park. I got in the water, which had a VERY rocky entry and had me wishing I had brought my water shoes. Once I found solid, non-painful footing, then I enjoyed the water before rejoining Mr. B at our chairs. We grabbed some lunch (supplied by the Princess) and bought some souvenirs at the little shop before catching the tender back to our ship.
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Private islands are convenient because 1 – your ship is guaranteed to be the only one in port, 2 – you can use your ship account for purchases and 3 – food is supplied. However, all 2,500 of your fellow passengers are ALSO on the island, making it a very crowded place if you don’t get there early.
  • Overall Impression: We were very pleased with our first experience with Princess Cruise Line. This was a large ship, but not overwhelming. There were plenty of activities to keep us busy (I didn’t discuss the nightly entertainment, which was pretty decent), along with places to escape to relax. I still regret not having a balcony cabin, as I had to retreat to Deck 7’s promenade to find a quiet,shaded place to read my book. (A private balcony would’ve negated that need). We had the opportunity to attend the Platinum & Elite Guest Reception, and were amazed at the number of people who are completely loyal to Princess and the number of cruises they’ve experienced. This line has a following, and now that I’ve had the personal experience of sailing them, I can see why. 🙂DSC_0700
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