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irvinejohn

Ruby Princess Alaska Jun 28 - July 5 2015 Photo Review

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One thing by brother and I noticed about the Ruby in our first lunch buffet was how low the ceiling was. Is this how Princess got 3,000 passengers on board? Later we noticed that deck 7, the Promenade, had the highest ceiling. I took the stairs as often as I could as my attempt at exercise and did see that deck 7 had more steps than the other decks.

 

In terms of all the passengers, I didn’t know where they were the majority of the time. Princess does a very good job of scheduling events all around the boat to spread the people around. There were conflicts with meal times so you had to pick lunch or the Deadliest Catch presentation in the theater for example. The most crowded area was the Piazza atrium.

 

The Ruby is a very clean and nice looking boat. I didn’t see anything that seemed worn down and you could see the maintenance staff working on something nearly every day such as painting, cleaning the Lido windows, or inspecting the life boats.

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We've been on 4 different Princess ships and all the dining rooms are single story. It does make them seem closed in somehow. All the other lines that we have sailed on had 2 story dining rooms where the center is open to the second story. That gives a more open feeling which I like. You also get the grand staircase that you sort of expect on a cruise ship.

 

We were on the Ruby in 2009 and she is a beautiful ship but BIG. It was a very long walk from our cabin near the front of the ship to the laundry room and adult pool at the back of the ship.

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Six people in and inside cabin? I sometimes feel crowded with just 2 of us in an oceanview cabin. How did you do it? How old are the kids?

 

BTW, the picture looks great!

 

My oldest is 12, the middle is turning 10, and the twins are 7 but tall for their age while my middle one is petite and only a couple of inches taller than the twins. Sometimes we get asked if the three of them are triplets.

 

It was not the ideal experience to share the lower twin bed with one of the twins. We had hoped the twins could be put together to form a king as on the Zaandam but this was not the case with the way the upper twins were situated with the ladders.

 

We didn't spend that much time in the room and were out and about most of the time. The kids would get glued to the TV with one of the movies and we would have to remind them we didn't come all this way to watch TV.

 

I did like having a window to the outside world on the Zaandam, but the Ruby seems to have mostly balcony rooms instead for the outside view.

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The mandatory muster drill for us was held at the Wheelhouse Bar. It was crowded but for those of us without seats we sat on our life jackets to be more comfortable as instructed. I liked not being out on deck and not having to wait for the laggards while on the Ruby. There was another muster drill later for the guests who missed the first muster drill.

 

On the Zaandam, the kids had to wear a bracelet at all times with their muster station. If they were at the kids club they would be escorted to the muster station. There was no equivalent on the Ruby. In the unlikely event of an emergency, you were responsible in an emergency to retrieve your child if they were at the kids club. I liked how Princess handled the muster drill better than HAL, but kind of liked how HAL handled the younger kids.

 

During the drill, we discovered that there was mix up in our dining assignment. We all had the early traditional dining but my sister’s room was assigned to a different dining room, perhaps because of the different surname. We started talking to people to get this fixed but were eventually told on the dining staff can make the correction so we decided to camp out early at about 5 for the 5:30 dinner.

 

It would have been better if we had found out about the mistake when we first checked in since perhaps we could have the dining arrangement changed before dinner that day.

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The maître d’ was quite the busy body the first evening dealing with all the change requests. He could switch my sister’s table to the same Botticelli dining room, but couldn’t get us all together. So we were a table of eight and four next to each other and another four several tables away. At least we were in the same dining room but my sister’s table could have been in Siberia because it seemed they were so far away relatively and out of the conversation.

 

They liked their server in Siberia so they didn’t mind the current arrangement and didn’t press the issue but my dad wanted everyone together. So the first two evenings we were eyeing other unoccupied tables of four nearby and it was kind of hard to develop a relationship with our server because we knew that worst case we would switch to anytime dining. Overall there was an unwanted cloud over our dinning assignment that we eventually worked out by Wednesday during open seating. If we really wanted to, the maître d’ could have gotten us all together by the next day in a different dining room however.

 

We did visit all the dining rooms and the Botticelli had the most natural light since it was at the very back of the ship with windows on three sides while the other two dining rooms were mid ship with windows on one side. However the natural light from all three sides in the Botticelli was offset by the darker environment. It was still the easiest dining room to take pictures though.

 

Speaking of photo’s, what is a photo review without the food pictures?

 

Here are three appetizers. I didn’t always take a picture of the menu so I don’t remember the names of all the dishes.

 

I think my mom got the fruit cocktail appetizer.

 

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I ordered the smoked salmon. I don’t care for cooked fish so my wife was willing to take this if I didn’t like it. I prefer my fish raw because it smells less like that fish smell that I don’t like. I’m OK with cooked shellfish although I don’t like to perform surgery to eat my food so scallops are my favorite shellfish. But this was actually good although I did share most of it with my wife. I thought the salmon dish was presented well.

 

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My wife got the vegetable spring rolls. Notice the cilantro garnish. I absolutely detest cilantro with a passion and can notice even one tiny little bit of stem in my food. My wife will say this doesn’t have cilantro in it but then I say otherwise if it did. We switched appetizers after I confirmed there was no chopped cilantro in the spring roll.

 

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I got the asparagus, my favorite green vegetable, soup. It was kind of bland so I say this one is OK to skip.

 

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Both my parents got the prime rib.

 

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My wife got the crawfish.

 

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And I got the pork dish.

 

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For desert, knowing that this is just day one of the cruise, I thought I’d be good and get the sugar free mango cheesecake. This was a mistake since there was no texture in the cheesecake. Instead of having firmness, it was kind of wobbly. I avoided all other sugar free deserts afterwards. Somebody from the other table ordered the always available crème brulee and only took one bite out of it. I gave up on the cheesecake and finished off the crème brulee. I’ll have a picture of the crème brulee later.

 

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I forgot who ordered the chocolate souffle.

 

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Thanks for the review and the pictures.

 

You do know that you can order another appetizer/entre/dessert if you aren't happy with what you select. I felt a little funny doing it the first time but have never hesitated since then. I have done it several times and it doesn't seem to bother the waiters at all. I love asparagus too and if they are on the menu anywhere you can order them with your entre. I did that once on the Coral Princess and our waiter brought a big bowl of them for everyone to share. One time all of us at the table were talking about how much we liked the crème brulee and our waiter overheard us. The next thing we knew he was bringing 5extra ones to our table! I also sometimes order 2 desserts if they have a tempting ice cream or sorbet selection. I just ask for a single scoop along with the other dessert. Hey, it's vacation. You are allowed to splurge.

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After dinner, the Princess theater show feature was the comedian Steve Caouette. We didn’t’ have any issue finding seats in the first showing at the large Princess theater, but we would later as the week progressed. The comedy show was fine. Don’t show up late or leave early up you will likely become part of the show. After the show, the cruise director introduced his staff and announced activities for the rest of the evening and for the following day.

 

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Afterwards for a night cap, the kids had pizza at the pizza bar on Lido deck. My brother’s family initiated this late night tradition on their first cruise. Sunset was around 10PM. We weren’t used to length of the day since the sun sets around 8:30 where we live. I think I took one of the kids to restroom so I missed a lot of the pizza and most of the sunset. It can’t be helped when nature calls. It was breezy up on deck, but not cold yet.

 

We retired to our rooms for the rest of the evening.

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Monday was our first sea day. The kids stayed up late the night before and throughout our trip in Seattle so it was tough getting up. As we walked on the Lido toward the buffet, we noticed the weather was overcast with low visibility and quite chilly. The Ruby sounded the fog horn to warn other ships of her presence. We didn’t hear the fog horn in our room.

 

The kids wanted to swim in the pool, but it didn’t seem like the weather was going to cooperate today. We though the previous day would have been a good swim day but it was not a good idea to go swimming in a possible thunderstorm and we told them to hold off for the following day, today.

 

This was the second experience in the buffet with lunch yesterday and breakfast today. The food was fine but I was bit underwhelmed by the selection. I remember there being more variety on the Zaandam. Here is my breakfast plate. My buffet plan was to limit myself to just one plate and pick up smaller quantities, so there was only one piece of bacon and one sausage link etc. The smoked salmon was pretty good last night so I got some more for breakfast. This salmon was available daily. However, this one was a little fishy and didn’t go back for more the rest of the trip.

 

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After breakfast we went to see the ship’s naturalist, Jules Talarico, in the Princess theater. The presentation was already in progress and there were plenty of seats available. He was very enthusiastic and I wanted to attend some of his other sessions, but the stars did not align going forward.

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The next presentation in the theater was the shopping highlight show. I did not plan on staying but they were going to give away free gifts including a diamond necklace so my wife decided to stay and I tagged along with the kids. We moved up front toward the front of the stage because they were going to throw out some of the gifts to the audience.

 

This turned out to be a mistake for all of us. By going up toward the front of the stage we were “trapped” by the people around us so it would have been an annoyance to leave by going around other people. I thought we could endure a one hour show but it dragged on for about an hour and a half. Yes they did give away a diamond necklace but if you didn’t get any of the free gifts, I think this was pretty much a complete waste of time.

 

Andrew the presenter was in total sales mode and this was his job on the cruise director staff. He did read the disclaimer that the stores represented in the presentation paid to get mentioned and Princess receives remuneration from the shops. Translation – prices will likely be higher at these stores.

 

There was kind of a cool change in the sunlight Alaska bag from Del Sol. If you bought the coupon booklet for $25, you can get the bag for free. Or you could buy two t-shirts and get free bag. We eventually did get two t-shirts and the bag for free. I thought one the more effective sales pitches was the buy the diamond back for the same price guarantee when upgrading. But these few tips were not worth the time involved. I apologized to the kids for sitting through this and told them we can do what they wanted to do next.

 

If you were really unsure of where you wanted to shop maybe you would have found value in the presentation. Instead I think the majority of people would be better served by doing something else.

 

There was a photography class for natural and artificial light that I was interested in at 11AM, but I had no idea that the shopping program was so long and missed it.

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I was also interested in the Deadliest Catch presentation next in the theater from Capt. Terry Barkley. But this was during lunch and my kids wanted pizza. So we got pizza at the pizza bar. My sister saw the presentation and she said it started off slowly but got going once the captain started into his stories. She liked the video where she showed the ship getting hit by the rogue wave.

 

The Princess pizza is actually good. It is a thin crust pizza, and very light, airy, and crusty. You had your choice of cheese, pepperoni, and the pizza of the day. Today it was mushroom truffle. I love mushrooms so I got this. I liked the pesto sauce on this pizza today and got a second slice.

 

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Princess also serves ice cream next to the pizza bar and there is also another line for milkshakes. I got a strawberry milkshake for my son. I’m surprised I don’t have any pictures of the shakes. I didn’t sample any of the ice cream on the cruise. The lines were fairly long sometimes in the pizza bar area.

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After the pizza the kids want to play miniature golf. We went to the 19th deck, but all the putting wedges and balls were being used by other golfers. Note there is only one elevator in the aft section that takes you to the 19th deck and there is one stairway on the left side of the ship from the 18th deck that took you to the 19th deck. You could also take the external stairs to get up to 19. There was also a basketball court on the 19th deck.

 

So went down one deck lower to Skywalkers Nightclub on 18 to check it out. This was like the Crow’s Nest on HAL but at the back of the ship. It was pretty empty during the day and became a night club in the evening. The whole family wound up there and we watched the sea and played cards. It is a good view but probably not the best for the upcoming trip to Tracy Arm. It seems like it would be better toward the front of the ship so you would know what is coming to you.

 

The sky cleared up but it was still kind of cold for a swim. There were some brave souls in the pools every day. The Ruby does not have any covered pools that the kids can use. The aft pool and the Sanctuary are for adult use. I never actually saw the Sanctuary or that part of the ship with my own eyes. The Ruby is so big I forgot about it. The Zaandam has only two pools but the main pool has a removable roof. If the Ruby had a covered pool, I’m certain it would be used more.

 

The Ruby was also so big it was very stable. Most of the time, it was hard to feel any motion on the ship. On the Zaandam, the movement was significant and you could see the horizon line move up and down a lot during the first dinner service in the dining room after we left the sheltered San Diego Bay. Even about one week after the Zaandam trip, I thought I was still feeling the after effects and there seemed to be motion on dry land. I had no such experience on the Ruby. If you are worried or susceptible about motion sickness, aim for the bigger ships.

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Since we didn’t have any specific plans after lunch we were close to the kid’s clubs on deck 17, we asked the kids if they wanted to visit. My brother’s teenagers decided to pass, but the twins were willing to check out the Pelicans for ages 3-7, and my older boys and my niece went to Shockwaves for ages 8-12. I have the programs for if anybody is interested in seeing the schedule for the week. We didn’t plan around the schedule but just went if there was an opening in our schedule.

 

It was the first formal dinner in the evening so I planned on picking up the kids at 4PM so we could be ready for our 5:30PM dinner. The twins liked Pelicans and colored t-shirts during their short stay. My youngest twin would later always ask to go back to Pelicans often and insisted that we go back to our cabin so he could change into his Pelican shirt. I know Wii games are on the schedule so that was part of the attraction, but I’m OK with it on the cruise. The twins did not go to Pelicans every day and their stay was under two hours. All the clubs closed around meal times. Late night care after 10PM until 1AM was an option for a fee but we didn’t use this.

 

The older kids did not like Shockwaves at all. There were a lot of kids and the attendants were kind of bossy from what I understand. The older kids did not ask to go back and we did bring them back. Later in the cruise they said they were willing to give it another go but only if they had the right to sign themselves out like the oldest club for the teens. I changed their permissions to allow this and then only went back once for less than an hour on lone repeat visit.

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When the kids were in the club, we explored the ship some more. I found the three story Piazza mid ship and where most of the people were. Frequently there was some event in the Piazza atrium with a lot of people watching. It was the happening place on board. The Klondike music festival was going on at this time.

 

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I knew about the International Café and visited it. The Café was the deck 5 and a hip place very similar to a Starbucks vibe. With the exception of the gelato, all the treats behind the glass were complimentary as well as regular coffee.

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Most of my siblings were at the International Café except my youngest brother who was on his first cruise and felt sea sick. We didn’t have any medication so I went to the front desk on deck 6 of the Piazza to ask for some sea sickness medicine. They informed me that it was sold in the gift shop. On the Zaandam, sea sickness medication was free two years ago.

 

All the adults except for my under the weather brother decided to give afternoon tea in the nearby Da Vinci dining room on deck 6 a try at 3:30PM. We had never sampled this service on the Zaandam. The waiters wore tuxedos and were very cheerful as they served tea. We thought maybe we could move dinner here. The waiters went around often and offered the snacks and refills on the beverages. The tea was strong and good. It was quite an enjoyable experience.

 

This is what my wife picked for snacks.

 

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The late hour along with the snack immediately before in the International Café meant I wasn’t that hungry for dinner at 5:30PM. I left around 4PM to retrieve the kids and get ready for the formal dinner.

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I'm enjoying your report and looking forward to more. Interesting that your brother felt seasick after you mentioned the larger ship was more stable.

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I'm enjoying your report and looking forward to more. Interesting that your brother felt seasick after you mentioned the larger ship was more stable.

 

I'm glad you are enjoying it. I found similar reports useful for me so it is time to give back.

 

I knew my youngest brother got seasick on of the two sea days and thought it was at the end of the trip. But then I remembered he was the only adult that missed afternoon tea and that was actually the first sea day.

 

I do believe in the stability of larger boats now that I have experienced it. More members of our party got a little seasick on our last cruise on the smaller Zaandam, but I think they were all fine on the Ruby except for my youngest brother.

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We wanted to meet at 5PM to take some formal pictures as well as our own pictures. It took a bit of time since we were undecided on where and when to take our own pictures. There were formal studio positions all around the ship with quite a few clustered around the Piazza where we got in line with a Ruby backdrop. So if you would like to have the photographer to take a studio shot, plan for about 30 minutes of time. By the time we went to dinner, it was already 6PM.

 

The studio photographer team shot formal pictures in the dining room but they were only shooting individual portraits with a prime lens on the first formal night.

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Tonight’s dinner celebrated the 50 year anniversary of Princess. All the diners received a copy of the tonight’s menu. I think I misplaced my copy but I did remember to take a picture of tonight’s menu. I couldn’t do much about the reflection from the lights so I'm not going to bother posting the picture.

 

I choose my items that were celebrated on the 50 year menu.

 

The appetizer was a Duck Terrine, Apricot Preserves, and Porcini Mushroom Cappuccino Soup

 

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Panache of Greens Balsamic and Walnut Vinaigrette - presentation could have been better by wiping the rim clean

 

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Intermezzo to clean your palate – Blueberry Mojito Sorbet, Candied Lemon

 

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My parents got the always available Grilled Alaska Salmon. My dad’s fish was little overcooked but my mom’s fish was a little undercooked. The waiter offered to bring something else but my mom declined. We did have afternoon tea not too long ago.

 

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My wife got the Filet of Turbo Truffle Chive Sauce.

 

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And I ordered the Malabar Peppered Beef Tournedos. In the picture, you can see the issue I had with a lot of asparagus in the dinners. The stalks were not fresh. Instead of a lively deep green color, they were a drab and dull lighter green which means they were going to be chewy. I cut the tips off and left the stalks.

 

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For desert my mom got the Orange Grand Marnier Soufflé

 

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My dad ordered the Crème Brulee

 

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And my wife and I got the Norman Love Chocolate Raspberry Mouse with Vanilla Crème Brulee and Crunch Shortbread. We got two of the Norman Love offerings in the dining rooms. I believe the more upscale and extra fee Sabatini’s Italian Restaurant and the Crown Grille Steakhouse had more Norman Lear Chocolates. I think the Zaandam had a greater variety of deserts than the Ruby, but nothing could compare to Norman Love.

 

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Dinner conflicted with the Captain’s Welcome and Champagne Toast at 7:15PM so I knew we were going to miss it.

 

After my dad complained about the dining arrangement again, my wife set an appointment to speak with the maître d after the champagne toast and we got two eight seat tables next to each other in Michelangelo at 5:30 starting on Wednesday. So we knew that tomorrow night will be our last night in Botticelli.

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Returning from dinner for the second night, we got chocolates again as we did every night in the cabin, but there were no towel animals so that was a bit of a letdown. On the first night, each kid received a shark week squeeze toy which we thought may have substituted for the towel animal. But we knew now not to expect any towel animals anymore. They were a nice whimsical touch on the Zaandam and we even went to the towel animal folding presentation back then. We changed back into casual clothes and went back out.

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