Last Updated on 06/05/22 by quiltripping
Some days I wish I had a maid. And a cook. And since I am dreaming, lets add a chauffeur and a gardener to the list. I’ve probably watched Downtown Abbey once too often and read too many books set in Britain’s golden age where the hired help does all the work and the Lord and Lady of the manor just get to have fun.
Alas, I was not to the manor born nor am I a princess by birth, but on my recent Ruby Princess cruise I certainly felt like one. For 16 glorious days I was waited on as if I were royalty and it was heavenly.
My Ruby Princess review
It was the end of February and I had had enough of cold weather and dreary skies. As I searched for sunnier options, I decided on a whim to look at cruises. I looked at many cruise lines and to my surprise, Princess Cruises was offering great last minute deals that had only a 10% single supplement. Sold!
I studied all the available itineraries for an early March departure and settled on a 16 day full transit cruise through the Panama Canal on the Ruby Princess.
This cruise checked off all the boxes for what I was looking for:
- a cruise longer than a week
- plenty of time in a warm, sunny climate
- lots of sea days for relaxation, writing, reading (and quilting)
- an itinerary that included a unique bucket list destination – the Panama Canal
- departure cities that were easy and inexpensive to fly to and from – Fort Lauderdale and San Francisco
- a great price with a minimal single supplement
- a dependable cruise line with a good reputation for catering to mature adults
I booked an oceanview cabin directly on the Princess website and ten days later I was flying to Florida to meet the ship.
What I loved about this Princess cruise
Each person has different wants and desires when they cruise. For this trip, I was looking for a relaxing break with no responsibilities and the Ruby Princess cruise ship delivered.
I was fortunate in that my cruise was only half full, so the ship never felt crowded. The service was fantastic, always delivered with a gracious smile even though they were understaffed and the staff worked long hours 7 days a week.
It was wonderful down time with no chores while someone else waited on me. I loved having someone make my bed, clean my room, and bring clean towels each day. And I loved not having to cook and being able to eat on my own schedule.
One of my favorite activities was watching concerts and movies on deck “under the stars” while eating pizza, or a burger or ice cream, or sitting in the hot tub – it was like being at a drive-in without having to drive.
And I really loved having breakfast on the balcony in the morning, staring at the blue ocean swimming by. Or dinner with sunset views. My mini suite stateroom was roomy and comfortable and was my private sanctuary.
With 9 days at sea, I was able to get lots of writing done and yes, also quilting. I watched a lot of movies, listened to audiobooks, saw shows in the theater and enjoyed good food – probably a little too much food. There were also plenty of activities on the ship if I wanted a distraction.
Then, at the end of each day, I loved watching the sun set over the water – each day was different, but always beautiful.
Ruby Princess mini suite review
Check-in at the cruise port in Fort Lauderdale went surprisingly quickly and efficiently. Before departure, I had prefilled all the information on the Princess Medallion app which put me into the “green” check in lane. The only brief additional step was to register the bottle of wine that I was bringing on board.
Once on the ship I was pleased to find that Princess had upgraded me to a club class midship mini suite cabin on deck 9 – the Dolphin deck. Mini suites are 323 square feet which makes them about 100 square feet larger than a balcony cabin. This makes them a good choice for families, so as a solo cruiser, all that space was utterly luxurious.
The mini suite had one area that held the queen sized bed with night stands and a desk, and then an equivalently sized area with a sleeper sofa, small coffee table and a single chair. And the suite had two TVs – not that I needed that many TVs, but it was nice to be able to watch one TV while lying in bed and the other one when I was sitting on the sofa.
The size of the bathroom also surprised me – it certainly could have been large enough for a bathroom in an apartment in NY city. It had a full sized tub with shower, lots of counter space around the single sink and 3 shelves for storing toiletries.
The other pleasant surprise was the amount of total storage space that I had in the cabin. Each night stand had two drawers and the desk had a deep two shelf cabinet. The desk was big enough for my sewing machine which made me happy since I wanted to spend some of my days at sea quilting. In addition, the half circle divider between the two sections of the cabin held a mini fridge and two large open shelves.
The closet was equally spacious with plenty of shelves and more than enough hangers. There were also two robes and a safe to store personal items of value.
My only complaint was the lack of conveniently located outlets and USB ports (a common issue on cruise ships I understand). There were two outlets at the desk and two at the top of the half-round shelf divider. For me these were sufficient, especially with an additional multiport extension cord.
But, for multiple people in a cabin or a family traveling together, keeping all the modern techie gadgets charged will take some juggling.
Traveler’s Tip – Note that you can bring a multi port power strip on board like the one in the picture below, but you are not allowed to bring a surge protector.
Besides all the space, I also loved the bed linens. I have a little bit of a Princess-and-the-pea complex when it comes to sleeping and I am quite particular about my bedding at home.
It was so very nice to sleep in a bed that felt as good as what I am used to. The mattress was very comfortable, the linens were a high thread count crispy cotton and the feather pillows were large and fluffy, just the way I like them.
Between the gentle rocking of the cruise ship and being enveloped by such nice bedding, I slept like a baby each night.
The final space in my cabin that I utterly enjoyed was the balcony with its floor to ceiling glass window and door. I got into the habit of having breakfast out there each morning, letting the sun warm me up as I watched the blue ocean swim by.
The Ruby Princess ship details
By today’s standards, the Ruby is not an overly large ship, but she is large enough to provide a lot of amenities.
- Year inaugurated – 2008
- Last refurbished –2018
- Last dry dock – October, 2021
- Maximum number of passengers –3080
- Maximum number of crew -1200
The Ruby Princess had plenty of public spaces that offered numerous activities all day if I wanted them.
This is a list of all the public spaces on the Ruby Princess with lots of photos to give you a good sense of the space and design details.
Deck 5 – Plaza
The Piazza – the beautiful three story heart of the ship showcases elegant, curving staircases with lots of glittery gold, marble and glass accents.
Surrounding the Piazza are:
The International Café – one of my favorite places for food and my favorite spot to pick up a breakfast of a yogurt parfait and an almond croissant. This was a great place to get quick snacks, a light lunch, pastries, or cookies 24 hours a day. This is also the place to satisfy your specialty coffee cravings for a fee.
Good Spirits at Sea – the place to try new specialty mixed cocktails.
Vines Wine Bar – the spot to try different wines from around the world.
Future Cruise Planning – put a deposit on a future Princess cruise and get free onboard credit.
Internet café – a nice quiet place to catch up on e-mails with views of the ocean. I enjoyed sitting here with a cup of iced coffee while working on my blog.
Michelangelo Dining Room – one of the three main dining rooms on the ship.
Fine Arts Gallery – showing new art for the art auctions at sea.
Deck 6 – Fiesta
Public spaces forward to aft:
Princess Theater lower level – the venue for evening shows and performances.
Gatsby’s Casino and bar and the Speakeasy Cigar Lounge – plenty of options for those that like to gamble. Note that smoking is allowed in this space.
Guest Services – the place to go for answers and get help during the cruise. Staff were always very friendly and helpful. Also the place to go when you first board the ship to see if room upgrades are available.
Shops of Princess – plenty of choices for browsing and buying.
DaVinci Dining Room – this is where Club Class dining was located (and was where I ate my dining room meals) as well as where afternoon tea is served.
Botticelli Dining Room – note that you can only access this dining room from the aft lift area.
Deck 7 – Promenade
Public spaces moving forward to aft:
Princess Theater upper level – the place to go for enrichment lectures and evening shows.
Shore Excursion desk – if you don’t want to book your shore excursions on line or on the app, you can book in person onboard at this location.
The Wheelhouse Bar and the Gastro Pub – The Gastropub is one of the specialty restaurants.
The Shops of Princess – lots of choices for browsing and buying.
The Library – A quiet and intimate space where you can find a variety of books to borrow as well as games and jigsaw puzzles.
Crooners Bar – relaxing spot for drinks and music with views of the Piazza.
Explorers Lounge –large venue for drinks, daily activities and evening entertainment.
Crown Grill –specialty steakhouse restaurant serving fine steaks and seafood.
Photo Gallery – purchase your ship photos here.
Club Fusion – another large venue for drinks, activities and evening entertainment.
Outside you will also find the Promenade Deck that circles the whole ship and is good for walking or just relaxing in the shade on a deck chair.
Deck 14 – Riviera
Terrace pool – this out of the way pool area in the back of the ship was hardly ever busy
Deck 15 – Lido
Public spaces from midship to aft:
THE MIX – poolside bar for drinks of all types.
The Salty Dog Grill – great spot to satisfy that burger-and-fries craving. Loved, loved, loved the North Carolina pulled pork sandwich.
Neptune’s Reef and Pool – big pool with two hot tubs in the middle of the ship with lots of lounge chairs for sunning and relaxing.
Slice Pizza – Princess says they have award winning pizza, and after eating some almost every day, I have to say that I agree. The Neapolitan style pizza had a thin, crispy crust and each day there was a special that offered different toppings.
Coffee and Cones – free soft serve ice cream any time of day and specialty coffees and teas for an extra charge.
Calypso Reef and Pool – the second large pool located midship with two hot tubs and lots of lounge chairs. This pool is below the “Movies Under the Stars” screen and it is fun to sit in the hot tub or in the pool and watch a favorite movie or concert on the big screen.
Calypso Bar – outdoor poolside bar offering a variety of drinks.
Horizon Court and Café Caribe – the place to go for buffet meals or self serve drinks of water, tea and coffee.
Horizon Terrace and Outriggers Bar – deck area around the Terrace Pool that can be accessed from the Café Caribe. This outdoor seating was hardly ever busy on my cruise.
Deck 16 – Sun
In the front of the ship:
Fitness area – The place to go to work off all the calories from all that good food. Walk for miles on a treadmill while looking out over the deep blue sea.
Lotus Spa – Inside the large spa area you will find the beauty salon and spa treatment rooms. Additional facilities are also on deck 15.
Lotus Spa pool – this intimate pool and hot tub is open to the outside deck and can be used by anyone, not just those using the spa. It was never busy or crowded.
Tradewinds Bar – another bar for drinks on the deck above the Neptune pool.
Movies Under the Stars – a large screen above the Calypso Pool where you can see movies and concerts. This was one of my favorite activities on the ship and was practically empty on formal night.
Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria – one of the specialty dining restaurants. I had a lovely dinner here one night.
Adagio Bar – bar area across from Sabatini’s Restaurant. Great place to hang out during the day as it was never very busy. Also enjoyed coming here in the evening and listening to jazz.
Outdoor deck with fountains around the Terrace Pool – a very pleasant area to relax with a book. One of my favorite outdoor quiet spaces.
Deck 17 – Sports
The Sanctuary – a quiet, adult only retreat to relax without the crowds. An extra daily fee is charged to reserve a deck chair here each day.
Camp Discovery and the Teen Lounge – dedicated club areas for children and teens with its own hot tub and a pool.
Deck 18 – Sky
Skywalkers Nightclub – by day a quiet place to read and enjoy up high views of the sea. By night, an active spot for music and drinks. Note that access to this space is via the aft lift only.
Deck 19 – Star
This area is accessed by the aft lifts only.
Center Court – basketball court.
Jogging Track – walking 16 times around the track is one mile.
Princess Links – a small putting green.
My Ruby Princess itinerary for a full transit through the Panama Canal
I specifically chose this cruise because it had so many sea days where I could just relax and also because it was a full transit through the Panama Canal – a bucket list item for me.
Day 1 – depart Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida ; all aboard 3:15 PM
Day 2,3 – at sea
Day 4 – Cartagena, Columbia from 7:00 AM to 2:30 PM
Day 5 – transit through the new locks of the Panama Canal
Day 6 – Fuerte Amador, gateway to Panama City, Panama from 6:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Day 7 – at sea
Day 8 – Puntarenas, Costa Rica from 7:00 AM to 6:30 PM
Day 9, 10. 11, 12- at sea
Day 13 – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Day 14, 15 – at sea
Day 16 – dock at the San Francisco, California Port Terminal at 7:00 AM
During the cruise we had three formal dress nights in the main dining rooms and the rest were all smart casual.
Ruby Princess food review
I can honestly say I enjoyed all the food on the Ruby Princess and I took advantage of just about all of the dining options that were available to me.
At each location, the service was always fantastic and delivered with courtesy and efficiency and always with a smile. I found all the wait staff to be extremely personable and eager to please.
The DaVinci Main Dining Room
Since I was in a Club Class mini suite I got to eat in the Club Class section of the dining room. This meant I could just walk in any time I wanted to and did not need a reservation.
While I did not eat here every day because there were so many other options throughout the ship, I did eat breakfast, lunch and dinner a number of times throughout the course of the cruise.
The menus always offered something that I enjoyed, especially when I wanted something on the lighter side. I liked that the portions were not huge which meant I could try a few items on the menu without getting overly full.
On sea days, afternoon tea was offered each day in the DaVinci dining room as well. Waiters came around with trays of bite sized sandwiches, mini deserts and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. And of course tea.
I love a good afternoon tea so I made sure to give this a try a few times during the cruise. But then it was a light dinner that evening since I was quite full after tea time.
This was definitely one of my favorite food spots on the ship. I am a late riser and don’t like big breakfasts, so their options were ideal for me. I got into the habit of picking up breakfast here in the late morning and taking it back to my room.
My usual morning choice was a yogurt parfait and an almond croissant (though the pound cakes were also quite good). Afternoons or evenings I indulged in a desert or two or a few of their really good cookies.
The café also makes specialty coffees and tea drinks (at an extra cost) for those that need to satisfy their latte, cappuccino or chai habits.
The International Café also offered light food fare like small sandwiches and quiches which were a great option for a quick snack or a light meal.
Horizon Court Buffet
I did not eat here that often, but the buffet was my choice for a snack or a fast meal or if I did not feel like changing clothes for the main dining room. I really liked the individual portions of salads, chips, veggies, and other small bites, served up in glass cups and single dishes.
I also went up to Horizon Court to refill my water bottle during the day with ice water or iced tea, and to get hot tea (or coffee for those that drink it).
Slice Pizza and Coffee and Cones
I must confess that I really like pizza – a lot. This was my go to spot for lunch, along with a cup of chocolate ice cream since both were served at the same location.
I usually tried the daily specialty pizza (Mexican, Hawaiian and others) and liked them all.
Salty Dog Grill
This spot was quite busy at lunchtime as pool goers waited in line for their order. At dinner time however, I never had to wait.
If I was watching a Movie Under The Stars, then this was my go to dinner spot for food while watching the movie. The burgers were very good, but I really liked the North Carolina style pulled pork sandwich and had that a couple of times during the cruise.
I chose to eat here the first night of my cruise – it felt like a good way to celebrate the beginning of a special trip. Since I am not a big steak eater, I chose the French onion soup and the lobster -it was definitely a good decision.
Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria
I really liked the Italian dishes I tried at this specialty restaurant. I could pick one item from five different categories – soup or salad, antipasti, fresh pasta first course, main entre second course and a dessert. This was way too much food, so I only did three items: a burrata appetizer, veal marsala and a delicious chocolate dessert.
Salty Dog Gastro Pub
I was not able to try this specialty dining restaurant but will certainly make it a priority on my next Princess cruise. The menu looked fascinating.
One of the best things about a cruise – getting room service delivered – especially for breakfast or after a long day of sight seeing, and eating on the balcony. The ultimate luxury experience as far as I am concerned.
Ruby princess excursion reviews
The stop in Cartagena was short, only about 6 hours total. To make the most of my time and give me the flexibility to see the sights I was interested in on my own time, I chose the HopOn-HopOff bus excursion.
The bus met us at the dock and then drove us toward the old town of Cartagena. My first stop was the old historic fort Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. An hour there was enough to explore one of America’s oldest Spanish forts.
Then it was back on the bus to the next stop in Cartagena’s Old Town. I wandered the colorful lanes of this UNESCO listed area for a few more hours until it was time to head back to the ship. The day was hot and humid, and the sun was strong so I was glad to get back to the port by early afternoon.
The cruise ship port in Cartagena had a nice, shady, Eco Park that you walk through before getting back on the ship. The colorful macaws, peacocks and flamingos were quite photogenic.
Read my full story of how I spent A Day in Cartagena, Columbia – A Colorful, Independent Cruise Excursion.
Cruising through the Panama Canal
Going through the Panama Canal on the Ruby Princess ship was the highlight of this cruise for me, as well as for most of the passengers on the ship. It took the whole day, and even though the process of going through the locks was repetitive, I was fascinated by it.
We had a Panama Canal expert on board who gave lectures about the canal and also provided commentary all day as we went through the canal. For me, this really added a lot to the whole experience.
Fuerte Amador, gateway to Panama City
The excursion I chose here was a guided trip to see the Panama Canal locks at Colon followed by a train ride through the rain forest back to Panama City. I was particularly interested in experiencing this historic rail line which connected the Atlantic to the Pacific 50 years before the canal was built.
A one hour bus ride took us from Panama City back to the Agua Clara Locks Visitor Center in Colon, which is where we entered the Panama Canal on the day before. Seeing ships going through the locks provided a different perspective and a better appreciation for the size of this engineering marvel.
Then it was another bus ride to the train station to get on the train. I was told that at this time the tourist train was only running for cruise passengers, so the train was not full. The train ride was only about 45 minutes through the rainforest and followed the canal and Gatun Lake to Balboa.
Another bus ride took us back to the port and the ship. There was an awful lot of time on a bus this day, but I am glad I had a chance to take the train ride.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
There were many interesting excursion choices for our one day in Costa Rica, but in the end, I picked a Local Connections experience that I would not have been able to easily do on my own.
Our small group of 7 drove about 90 minutes (over some very rough roads) up one of the mountains to Macaw Lodge, an eco resort focusing on providing a sustainable environment for its guests.
At the lodge we had a cooking lesson, learning how to make a local dish. It was a cross between an empanada and shepherd’s pie. Boiled yucca root was mashed and then formed into a disc which was filled with a flavorful ground beef filling. We also made sauteed veggies using vegetables grown on site and a beautifully presented salad. All this made for a unique and absolutely delicious lunch.
The grounds of the lodge have also been developed into a botanical garden of indigenous species, many of which had beautiful flowers. Then it was another 90 minutes drive back to the ship. Again, it was a lot of time driving in a van, but the experience was worth it.
Los Cabos, Mexico
There were quite a few excursions available for this stop – many of them involving time on the beach. I opted to just get off the ship on my own and walk around the port for about an hour and then spent the rest of the day on an empty ship.
Additional Ruby Princess cruise tips and information
The Medallion is a waterproof, round electronic button that holds all your personal Princess cruise information. Since I booked last minute, I picked up my medallion at check in at the port and wore it through the cruise on the provided lanyard. If you want something more fashionable, Princess sells Medallion accessories like chains and wristbands on board.
The Medallion automatically unlocked my room once I was within about 3-4 feet of my cabin door. I also used it for any on board charges for drinks, excursions, etc. It was also my key to get back on the ship after getting off in port.
The Medallion App
I used the Medallion App to check in before my cruise. My phone is an older Samsung model and the app was somewhat slow, but eventually, with lots of patience, I was able to fill out all the necessary information to eventually get into the “green” check in lane.
Once you are on board, you can use the app to schedule dinner reservations, order room service, order drinks to be delivered to your seat, track and find members in your cruising party and look at your bill. Again, the app was very slow on my phone, so I did not use it during the cruise, though I saw many other cruisers taking advantage of it.
Interactive On Board Screens
Near each elevator, a large interactive screen displayed a map of the ship or the current activities going on throughout the ship. These touch screens were very easy and intuitive to use.
I had the 4-device package for the full length of the trip so that I could use both my phone and my computer while on board. Signing up and logging into the Wi-Fi network was easy.
I used my sea days to catch up on blog writing and posting. I did not try streaming movies or music. Most of the time the internet worked well for me and was fast enough for what I needed. There were a few evenings when it was slower – presumably too many people were trying to use it at once.
Traveler’s Tip – Remember to switch your phone to Airplane Mode before you leave port so that you do not incur roaming charges.
On my cruise, my cabin steward dropped off the Princess Patter each night and it listed the following day’s activities. I know that on some ships only a digital version is provided, but on this cruise, I received the paper version every day.
In room TV
Since my Medallion App was slow to load on my phone, I used the functions available on the TV to order room service and drinks, and to schedule dinner reservations.
Besides watching movies and TV programs, and listening to music, I was also able to watch the enrichment lectures that had been presented at the theater in the comfort of my cabin.
You can see where the Ruby Princess currently is through its bridge cam at https://www.princess.com/bridgecams/
As I said, I really enjoyed my Ruby Princess cruise through the Panama Canal. It gave me everything I was looking for.
If this is what it is like to live like a princess, then I could definitely get used to it! I will absolutely be doing this again!
I hope you found this Ruby Princess cruise review helpful. To book a Princess cruise, find all the upcoming Ruby Princess cruises and to see the most recent cruise deals go to https://www.princess.com/.
Please note that I received a media upgraded cabin from Princess. All content and opinions in this post are my own.
Other cruising stories you may like:
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How I spent my day in Cartagena, Columbia: One Day in Cartagena, Columbia – A Colorful Independent Cruise Excursion
Taking a luxury barge cruise in France: My France Canal Cruise: Quiet Luxury in the French Countryside
Alaska cruise excursion tips: Alaska Cruise Excursion Tips to Inspire Your Best Alaska Trip
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