Ruby Princess has a laid-back, family vibe that despite carrying 3,000 passengers never felt crowded. And while not an overly active ship, people were always engaged -- whether it was kids playing in the kids' club or participating in a scavenger hunt or adults trying their luck at bingo, competing enthusiastically in The Voice of the Ocean or soaking in the hot tubs. Passengers tended to be friendly, and audience participation in most activities was the norm. Trivia nights were popular, with strangers quickly grouping up to become friends and allies.
The service throughout is noticeably good. Cabin attendants on our sailing went that extra mile bringing playing cards to our kids when they needed something to do; waiters remembered those that were trying to avoid carbs and asked if bread was wanted instead of just bringing it out. Overall, the crew made an effort to offer personalized and intimate service, even while being on a big ship.
Daytime: Princess cruises are informal during the day, and most passengers simply dress for the weather.
Evening: Most nights the dress code is informal, but there are two formal nights on most cruises. The dress code was pretty casual on informal nights -- everything from jeans and sweaters to casual dresses. While some passengers really got dolled up on formal night -- tuxes and suits -- a good majority of them just wore nice dresses and trouser suits for women and buttoned-up and collared shirts for men.
Not Permitted: The only items of clothing specifically not permitted in restaurants are bathing suits (all venues) and tank tops (main dining rooms and most speciality restaurants).
The main theatre onboard Ruby Princess is where you'll find several big-stage musicals. The costumes and story lines during each is creative, and the singing and dancing always got the crowd into the spirit. One thing we noticed was that young kids were noticeably absent, but the older crowd especially enjoyed the shows. In addition to the nightly performances, the theatre is the setting for daily nature lectures when the ship is in Alaska.
During the day you'll find plenty of daily entertainment including trivia, lectures and live music. On warm-weather sailings, you'll find many people by the pools and pool games are a popular attraction. During the day, you'll also find concerts and sports games broadcast on the giant Movies Under the Stars screen by one of the pools.
There's lots to do at night on Ruby Princess, including energetic karaoke, dancing, live music, comedy and the once-per-cruise balloon drop (a Princess tradition that is held on the second formal night). Live music is available in several spots; from solo singers to trio instrumental performers, there was no shortage of tunes to be heard. The bars throughout the ship were busy but not packed (meaning you could always find a stool or seat and make yourself comfortable), and many people were up past midnight. The Skywalkers Nightclub drew a crowd of dancers each night.
Every night also features films as part of the line's Movies Under the Stars offering. Feature films are either family-friendly or geared toward an older audience. At all showings, popcorn is offered, as are fleece blankets (especially useful during cold and rainy Alaska sailings).
Another popular activity is The Voice of the Ocean, which was inspired by the popular TV show and includes blind auditions, mentor sessions and coaches all playing a part to finding the winner. Audience participation was very active, and on our sailing, it was especially popular with the 30- and 40-something crowd. The casino on Deck 6 was well-attended during our sailing. Adults could take part in gaming lessons, playing slot machines and more. The most popular games seemed to be blackjack and Texas Hold'em.
Vines (Deck 5): Located in the Atrium, this wine bar has a nice selection of both sparkling wines and regional vintages. Complimentary tapas is served with each alcoholic drink.
Speakeasy Cigar Lounge (Deck 6): This cosy spot is the place to be for those who enjoy cigars; it's the only place onboard where you can smoke them.
Explorers Lounge (Deck 7): Live music and nightclub-esque decor makes this place a happening spot at night, and it seemed to attract the most gregarious cruisers onboard. It wasn't uncommon for people to quickly make friends and start hanging out together here most nights.
Club Fusion (Deck 7): Club Fusion is the scene of karaoke contests, live music and theme parties -- like a disco night or 80s night. Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7): This laid-back space is a good place to meet up for a drink or play some cards or board games. Some nights they also had live music, and on those nights, it was more lively.
Crooners Bar (Deck 7): This small bar is for the old-school crowd interested in Sinatra tunes and a classic drink menu like signature martinis.
Adagio Bar (Deck 16): Featuring live music and Italian cocktails, this is a good spot for pre- and post-dinner drinks. And due to its location -- up so high on Deck 16 -- it has a great view.
Skywalkers Nightclub (Deck 18): During the day, Skywalkers is a great place for chilling out while checking out the panoramic views. At night, it's where you'll find DJ-ed music and a dance floor. It draws a good crowd but never felt crowded. On Alaska cruises, this is also where the onboard National Park ranger gives lectures during Glacier Bay sailings.
The Calypso Reef & Pool on Deck 15 is a good spot to chill out; there are lounge chairs and two whirlpools nearby. Another good pool spot is Neptune's Reef & Pool also on Deck 15 and located near the Trident Grill and Pizzeria; this is the most popular pool and the one where all the kids hang out. There are plenty of lounge chairs and whirlpools nearby. For a quieter spot, go to the Terrace Pool on Deck 14; it's located on the Riviera Deck below the Horizon buffet. Finally, the Lotus Spa Pool on Deck 16 is the adults-only pool with a hot tub, lounge chairs, tables and umbrellas.
Ruby Princess is not an overly active cruise ship, but there is a Sports Court used for basketball, volleyball and pickup games. There's also a nine-hole miniature putting course and a golf simulator for those who love the game or are newbies and want to have some fun. There's also a jogging/walking track around the ship.
If you're looking for outdoor space, head to Deck 16, which has the most space and lounge chairs. The pools also have space (it's a bit louder here, but good if you have kids). Many people hang out on the sun decks, playing cards or taking in the scenery. There were lounge chairs throughout and unattended items left past 45 minutes were removed, so someone else could use the chair. The Sanctuary on Deck 17 is for adults only and entry comes at an additional cost ($20 for half-day; $40 for the whole day). You're paying for seclusion and exclusivity, plus the lounge chairs here are padded, so they are supercomfortable.
If you didn't pre-book your excursions, you can head to the excursion desk on Deck 6, which has a long line on Days One and Two of the cruise. Guest services is also on this deck (hint: they know a lot of about excursions as well, so if the excursion line is too long, head here). The library on Deck 7 has books, board games, cards, brainteasers and puzzles. Plus, it's just a good spot to read or get away from the crowds. There is an internet cafe on Deck 5, but few people used it. Most people bought a package for their phone (packages start at $73). The Princess@Sea app is free and it's a great tool to check out menus, show times and themes, and daily activities.
Every floor (that has cabins) has self-service laundry with washers, dryers, ironing boards and irons. You can use your keycard to buy detergent and use the machines. There's also dry cleaning service available for pick up in each cabin (for a fee). The photo gallery on Deck 7 is the place to find all the professional photos taken during the cruise (starting embarkation and including formal nights). Photo prices start at $10. What's cruising without an art gallery? Pieces here (Deck 5) go for several hundred up to several thousands of dollars. There are also art auctions, though more people show up for the free sparkling wine than to bid on art. If you forgot something at home or want to buy souvenirs (ranging from key chains to jewellery), no worries, there are two stores on Deck 6 (Calypso Cove and Meridian Bay) and two on Deck 7 (Essence and Facets).
The spa on Ruby Princess, located on Deck 16, offers a variety of body treatments, acupuncture and medispa options, while the salon has hand and foot treatments as well as haircuts, colouring, styling options and teeth whitening. Slots fill up quickly, especially on sea days so make your bookings online before you sail or head to the spa on Day One. Men can take advantage of the "Time for Men" menu featuring comfortable, fuss-free services. The Barber on Board offers shaves, as well as face and scalp massages. Other options include special hair care, facials and body treatments designed just for the guys. Teens can get in on the action, too, with the YSPA program, especially for ages 13 to 17. The Heavenly Massage and Fabulous Fruity Facial are popular choices. Teens can indulge in spa treatments alone (if 16 or older with parental permission) or can pair up with mom or dad (mother–daughter; father–son).
For those who prefer to lounge away the day inside the spa, there's a sauna and steam rooms, and -- for an extra charge -- passengers can book the thermal suite, which has different chambers that release a variety of dry heat, steam and mists into the air with aromatherapy-filled vapours. The big draw here is the warm stone beds. You can buy a day pass or a pass for the whole cruise. Prices vary depending on the length of the cruise and the ship's itinerary, but typically a day pass is around $29 or $129 for the duration of the cruise. The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The gym on Ruby Princess is well maintained and has the standard gym equipment -- treadmills, bikes, elliptical machines, weights and yoga mats. You'll also find a host of complimentary classes (like stretching) and seminars led by the gym staff (and often attended by the older clientele) including Detox for Health & Weight Loss and Relieving Back Pain and Improving Posture with Good Feet. (These seminars are really just sales pitches for a variety of products so be prepared for a hard sell.) The gym is most crowded in the mornings between 6 and 9 a.m. Fee-based classes are also offered including cycling, Pilates, yoga and abs classes. A particularly popular option was the Body Sculpt Boot Camp. The gym is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and passengers must be 16 and older.
Foodies will appreciate the many choices -- both free and fee-based -- aboard Ruby Princess; there are many options available throughout the day (and night). The food was good and the options diverse, and if you don't like a meal you've receive, they will promptly replace it with something else you'd prefer. We did appreciate that overall, the food in the general dining rooms, buffets and the speciality restaurants seemed equal in taste and presentation. You don't have to pay more for good food on Ruby Princess. Cruisers with special dietary needs (gluten-free, low-sodium, vegetarian) can be accommodated but should alert the cruise line ahead of sailing or the main dining room maitre d' immediately upon getting on the ship.
Michelangelo, Botticelli and Da Vinci Dining Rooms (Decks 5 and 6)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D): There are three dining rooms open for both traditional dinner seatings (5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.) and the line's more flexible Anytime Dining (5 to 10 p.m.), where passengers can sit with just their immediate group or ask to be seated with other cruise passengers. Michelangelo and Botticelli are used for traditional dining and Da Vinci is for Anytime Dining.
Breakfast is usually offered in just one of the main dining rooms (which one may vary by sailing), while lunch is only available on sea days and on select port days. Breakfast options include the usual morning options, such as French toast, omelettes and pastries. Lunch and dinners include salads, soups, meat and fish. Service for breakfast and lunch is a little longer than dinner, especially if you're signed up for early dinner where the servers need to get everyone served and out of the dining room in time for the later seating.
International Cafe (Deck 5)
Meals: Open 24/7: One of the biggest draws of this cafe is that it's open 24 hours and is a popular place for a late-night snack or a grab-and-go breakfast before an early-morning excursion. You'll find both free and extra-fee items, though most of the food and pastries are complimentary.
Horizon Court (Deck 15)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D): Horizon Court is a casual buffet restaurant on Ruby Princess and is a big draw for many passengers who enjoy the fresh meals (food is constantly being replenished) and prefer the serve-yourself atmosphere to the more formal sit-down options in the main dining rooms. At lunch and dinner, there is always a nice combination of healthy options (salads, fruits and vegetables), American cuisine (chicken and beef) and different ethnic dishes (Indian, Italian) each day. The hours are consistent: continental breakfast: 5 to 6 a.m.; regular breakfast: 6 to 11:30 a.m.; lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; afternoon snack: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and dinner: 5:30 p.m.to midnight.
Slice Pizzeria (Deck 15)
Meals: L, D: Perhaps the most consistently popular place on the ship, Slice Pizzeria offers freshly made pizza, usually with different toppings each day. Plus, you can get an order of avocado toast. We loved how creative the cooks were here; on our Alaska sailing, they served a "glacier pizza," which consisted of various cheese toppings.
Coffee & Cones (Deck 15)
Meals: Snacks: This is another popular spot onboard, especially with kids who lined up every day for the complimentary ice cream cones -- chocolate, vanilla or swirl -- with sprinkle toppings. Additional items, such as specialty coffees and desserts, are available for a fee.
Meals: Available 24/7: Room service is available all day, with breakfast items more limited and ordered via a paper menu you hang on the outside of your cabin door. Always available items (such as sandwiches) are available most of the day. Most items were complimentary, but some carried a charge.
(Pricing was accurate at time of review but may have changed since.)
SHARE (Deck 16); $29 for adults; $14.50 for children 3 to 12
Meals: D: This restaurant -- celebrity chef, Curtis Stone's first eatery at sea -- is a good spot for couples looking for a romantic evening out or groups looking to share a big meal together. Designed as a six-course menu, the idea is that each person in a dining party will pick six small bites they want to try and everyone will then share. There are lots of choices -- including steak, salmon and vegetarian options -- and everything we tried was tasty. Reservations are recommended.
Crown Grill (Deck 7); $29 for adults; $14.50 for children 3 to 12
Meals: D: The most popular extra-fee dining venue onboard, Crown Grill is a French-style steakhouse that works well for both a romantic dinner or a festive group outing. The service is top-notch and the food excellent with a variety of cuts along with seafood options. Reservations are highly recommended.
The Salty Dog (Deck 15); $12
Meals: D: This pub-style venue, located inside the Wheelhouse lounge, was developed with chef Ernesto Uchimura, creator of the original Umami Burger. In addition to the various burgers on the menu, the alcohol selection (which costs extra) includes a diverse variety of beer, whiskey and cocktail selections. The live music gives this a fun, festive vibe.
Crab Shack (Deck 15); $29
Meals: D: This restaurant is open on select evenings during the cruise (check the daily Princess Patter newsletter for hours). It offers seafood selections from crawfish boil to mussels and clams.
The basic cabins on Ruby Princess are comfortable but not overly spacious. One of the standout highlights are the beds, which Princess is known for. These "Luxury Beds," as they are called, really are comfortable, whether it's a twin (which is a bit on the small side) or queen. My kids are not great sleepers and yet they slept beautifully each night (and it was hard to wake them up).
Basic cabins have two twin beds that can be pushed together to form a larger bed, a desk, two closets, flat-screen TV, mini-fridge and hair dryer. There's plenty of drawers and closet space for two to three people. Rooms have just one or two electric outlets, which is tough for anyone travelling with a slew of electronics. If that's you, bring a plug with multiple USB outlets (just make sure it's not a surge protector because those are not permitted on cruise ships).
Interior: There are 436 interior cabins sized approximately 158 to 162 square feet.
Oceanview: There are 218 ocean-view cabins ranging from 146 to 206 square feet. They have a picture window or porthole, which allows for natural light and views.
Balcony cabins: There are 682 balcony cabins, ranging from 214 to 222 square feet. Each includes a private outdoor balcony with a table and two chairs. There are floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors between the room and balcony.
Mini-Suites: There are 178 mini-suites, each about 324 square feet including a separate sitting area with sofa bed and coffee table, and a balcony with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. The balcony (about 50 square feet) has two to four chairs, a table and an ottoman. Cabins also have a bathroom tub, massage shower head and upgraded amenities. Those staying in this room category get a complimentary welcome glass of Champagne on embarkation day, luxury mattress topper and pillows, and two flat-panel televisions.
Suites: There are 28 suites onboard Ruby Princess, ranging in size from 460 to 932 square feet including oversized balconies. The balcony (which has sliding glass floor-to-ceiling doors) includes two loungers, four chairs, a table and ottoman. Each standard suite also has a separate sitting area with a flat-screen TV, a sofa bed, a chair and two tables, and there's another flat-screen TV in the bedroom area. The bathroom has a tub and a separate shower. The two-bedroom family suite has two bathrooms, a living room and a large balcony with two to four chairs, a table and an ottoman. One of the bathrooms has a tub -- perfect for families with small kids -- and the other has just the shower. The living room has a sofa bed and a coffee table. Passengers in suites get one complimentary mini-bar setup and free daily bottled water, complimentary Lotus Spa Thermal Suite access, complimentary laundry and professional cleaning services, complimentary dinner in a speciality restaurant on embarkation day, priority speciality dining and shore excursion reservations, and priority disembarkation at tender ports. Passengers staying in suites may also partake in an exclusive breakfast served every morning in the Crown Grill restaurant.