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January 26 Ruby - Trip Report

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Cruise Review

Ruby Princess – Mexican Riviera

January 26 – February 2, 2019

 

Background

We are Darren and Cindy in our late 40’s and early 50’s from Great Falls, Montana.  We have been on 8 cruises to the Caribbean, Alaska, and a California Pacific Coastal.  We began looking for cruises in the late fall of 2018 for January 2019.  Montana can be very cold and dark in the winter months and late January was an ideal week for us to travel in 2019.  We were pretty set on this last week in January yet decided to wait until after the “final payment” date to seriously consider a cruise.   In early December we narrowed it down to a couple of “last minute” options.  The deals were pretty good for a 7-night Caribbean cruise with a variety of companies, but the airfare per person from Montana to Miami or Fort Lauderdale, FL was going to be more than the cruise.  OUCH!!   We generally prefer Celebrity Cruises, yet we also were considering a Mexican Riviera cruise with Princess since the price of the cruise was excellent and the airfare was going to be less than A THIRD of the cost to fly to LAX compared to Florida ports.  Eventually about December 17 we committed to the January 26 Ruby Princess.  The “Drop and Go” deal was the lowest price we have EVER paid for a balcony stateroom cruise (no perks included).  We purchased a “Balcony Guarantee”, made our airline reservations, and a pre-cruise night at the Hilton LAX the same day.  This was our third cruise with Princess.  In the past we have always had a good experience with them.  Admittedly, when booking a “guarantee” cabin, you need to be prepared to be satisfied with the worst cabin in your category.  For us, the worst possible balcony cabins would have been a cabin under the fitness center/treadmills or a cabin with the balcony just above or near a smoking section.  About two weeks later, we were assigned R-504, a perfectly acceptable balcony stateroom mid-ship. 

 

Goals:

                For us, the goal for the cruise was a week of sun, warmth, and relaxation with good food and wine in a casual (yet upscale) environment.  We made a couple of decisions pre-cruise which would help us with this goal. 

1.       We like Good Food.  On our past Princess cruises, the food in one of the Main Dining Room was always fine considering the amount of people the main dining rooms must feed within a couple of hour period.  With some of the money we saved flying to LAX as opposed to Florida we chose to reserve EVERY evening in the Specialty Restaurants (Share and Crown Grill) on the ship which we could do for about $200 per person.

2.       We like Good Wine.  Each stateroom can carry on 2 bottles of wine per stateroom for in room/balcony consumption.  For us, we considered the $15 corkage fee Princess charges for guests to bring additional wine on board to drink in the dining rooms/restaurants to be a VERY GOOD DEAL. 

3.       We planned to book the Thermal Suite in the spa for the entire cruise.  We had purchased it on one of our Princess Cruises in the past and were very happy with it. (pic below)

 

Pre Cruise and Embarkation

                We flew from Great Falls, MT to LAX via Seattle on Alaskan Airlines.  We left Great Falls in a blizzard but landed on time in Seattle then onto LAX on time as well.  We stayed the night before at the Hilton LAX and were pleased with the room and hotel.   

 

The Hilton ended up being a good hotel for us since it offered a variety of light dining options for Friday night.  Since it was warm on Saturday morning and since check out was not until 12:00 noon, we spent some time by the pool in the morning, then arranged a ride to the San Pedro Cruise Terminal. (pics below of Hilton view and pool area)

 

We shopped at Purdy’s wine/liquor just a block away from the Hilton.  We bought and carried on 6 bottles of wine 3 white and 3 red and paid the corkage fees.  For us this was a good deal since the wines were about $20 each and corkage was $15.  The wines would have easily been $80-100 on the ship. 

 

We left the Hilton about 11:00am on Saturday and were at the pier by 11:30. We checked our luggage outside.  Check in at the desk was easy and trouble free.  In fact, at 11:45 there was not a single person in line.  We boarded the ship shortly after we arrived. Our room was ready at 1:00pm.   Our luggage arrived shortly after.

 

 

 

Stateroom R-504

                R-504 is near the mid-ship elevators and under the pool deck.  Actually, it is immediately under a dining area for the pizza, ice cream station.  The room was very clean and updated from the recent dry dock.  There was new carpet, TV, mattress, etc in the room.   There was some significant noise from the pool deck (table area) all day long.  In general, it did not bother us too much and we got used to the noise.    If we were to ever book a cruise on Ruby again and choose our room, we would never choose R504, yet for the “balcony guarantee” and the price, we were satisfied with the room. 

 

Storage space – plenty of storage space for us and our stuff

 

Bed – We both found the bed very comfortable

 

Staff – Our Room Steward (Glen) was very pleasant and kept our room well stocked and spotless.  The room staff work hard, and we appreciated their work. 

 

 

Day 1  - Sail away

                After embarking and unpacking we took our wine (for dinners at Share and Crown Grill) to Share to have stored for the cruise, which turned out to be very easy.  Each evening they had a bottle of our Chardonnay and Cabernet ready for us on our table when we entered. 

 

                Thermal Suite – We immediately booked the Thermal Suite in the Spa for the entire cruise.  It is $75 pp when you book on the first day.  It is a wonderful area of heated stone lounges, steam rooms, and showers in a relaxing spa environment. (pic below) 

 

                Muster Drill – We were jammed into the Crown Grill for our short muster drill. 

 

                After Changing for dinner, it was announced there would be a short delay leaving port in Los Angeles because of computer problems.  We left about an hour later than scheduled. 

 

                We arrived at Share for dinner at 5:30.  We both had the Duck Con fit.   As many know, Share is a 6 course dinner with smaller portions.  We think the food and service there are excellent.  Share was never crowded any night we dined there.  Which always makes me wonder, with 3000 guests on the ship, why more people do not dine in the Specialty Restaurants, which admittedly have a small extra fee?  (Share menu pics below)

 

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20 minutes ago, deultgen said:

 

                After embarking and unpacking we took our wine (for dinners at Share and Crown Grill) to Share to have stored for the cruise, which turned out to be very easy.  Each evening they had a bottle of our Chardonnay and Cabernet ready for us on our table when we entered. 

 

 

I'd never thought of doing this.  It certainly does save space in your cabin.  The problem I have is that, generally, we do not have all our meals planned out for the entire cruise.  In fact. an any cruise we will have dinner in our cabin multiple evenings.  Like I say, though, it is a pretty cool idea.  We haven't passed Day 1 of your report, but from the tone of your explanation, it sounds like it worked out well for you.

 

The Duck Leg Confit at SHARE is great.

 

I would also like to second beckntom's comment and look forward to more.

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33 minutes ago, c-boy said:

what label wines did ya buy ?

 

Thanks, we bought 3 bottles of Michael David Reserve Chardonnay and 3 bottles of Juggernaut Cabernet

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1 hour ago, XBGuy said:

 

I'd never thought of doing this.  It certainly does save space in your cabin.  The problem I have is that, generally, we do not have all our meals planned out for the entire cruise.  In fact. an any cruise we will have dinner in our cabin multiple evenings.  Like I say, though, it is a pretty cool idea.  We haven't passed Day 1 of your report, but from the tone of your explanation, it sounds like it worked out well for you.

 

The Duck Leg Confit at SHARE is great.

 

I would also like to second beckntom's comment and look forward to more.

 

I had the impression, the ship stored all the wine anyone dropped of for dinner at any restaurant including the Main Dining Rooms stored in one location.  They tagged our wine with name, room number, etc and always had it ready for us.

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Day 2 – Sea Day

 

                There were calm seas leaving Los Angeles, overnight, and all day on Day 2 of the cruise, which was a Sea Day.  We slept in a bit for us, and had coffee and something light on our balcony from the International Café early.  Then off to the Fitness Center for a bit of a workout.  There were plenty of treadmills available in the fitness center and in general I never found it crowded in the mornings.  

 

                After cooling down we spent some time in the Thermal Suite.  For us, we consider it a great relaxing area and well worth the price.  (pics below) 

 

                We also spent much of the afternoon by the Spa (adults only) pool, reading and enjoying a day of sunshine.  (pics below).  I like this area of the ship, quiet, easy access to the spa, and a small pool with comfortable lounges.  (pic below) 

 

                Dinner was at the Crown Grill – (menu below).  We had a half bottle of each of the 2 wines from the night before waiting for us.  I had the filet which was fine, Cindy had the lamb chops.   I think the Crown is better than the MDR and worth the small upcharge.  It was more crowded than Share and in a better location for people to stop by during the day and look at the menu. 

 

                I will say, if you like wine, both Share and Crown had the most beautiful Riedel Superleggero crystal white and red wine glasses as well as decanters. 

 

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1 hour ago, deultgen said:

 

I had the impression, the ship stored all the wine anyone dropped of for dinner at any restaurant including the Main Dining Rooms stored in one location.  They tagged our wine with name, room number, etc and always had it ready for us.

 

I have often had them store unfinished wine that we had purchased in the restaurant with our dinner, but. like I said, It never occurred to me to have them store wine that I had brought on the ship.  Very cool.

 

I think you and Cindy picked the two best red meat entrees on the Crown Grill's menu.  My biggest problem with the Crown Grill meals is that it is hard for me to get them to prepare it rare.  To me, pink is not rare.  First World problem, I know.

 

A couple of the seafood entrees in Crown Grill are quite good.  I enjoy the Sea Bass, and Mrs. XBGuy loves the Mussel Pot.

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Day 3 – Cabo San Lucas

 

                We were set to arrive in Cabo at 11 am and arrived a bit early.  All cruise ships “tender” their passengers into Cabo.  Since we had heard there were almost 600 elites on board and plenty of people taking excursions, which would be the first two groups to tender, we decided not to get off the ship and stay on board.  It turned out to be a great decision which affected the rest of the cruise.   The pic below is the view of the rocks off Cabo with the Arch from the ship. 

 

                After some time at the fitness center and Thermal Suite, I wandered upstairs to the Sanctuary  area of the ship.  Since it was a port day, there were very few reservations (other than those who had reserved a bed for the entire cruise).  I booked beds for us in the afternoon ($20) in an area of part sun/shade.  The Sanctuary area is a private, quiet, relaxing space to lay, read, relax, whatever.  The lounges were very comfortable and the service exceptional.  There is a small light menu to order from which includes items like Grilled Tuna Salad and grilled shrimp, but also included burgers and pizza.  There is no charge for the menu items but there is a small delivery charge.  (pics below).  Additionally, they serve afternoon tea and treats at about 3pm daily. (Pic below).  We ended up booking the Sanctuary everyday afterward.  Loved it!  

 

                Dinner was again at Share, I had the duck again (pic) while Cindy ordered off the Share vegetarian menu (artichoke then braised lentils).  Sorry, no pics of the braised lentils :classic_dry:.  The service and wine were again outstanding.  

 

                After dinner we regularly visited "The Walker Black Duo" in Explorers Lounge.  They played to huge crowds every night and we always enjoyed their show.  Their show was often preceded by some kind of trivia which was always fun.  Other than this we never did attend any of the shows in the theater or any of the smaller venues. 

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Thanks for the review and photos Darren and Cindy. How’s does the thermal suite differ from the Sanctuary?  We have been on the Ruby, loved her, but are not familiar with the thermal suite,  Is the fee $75pp per day?  Thanks!

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30 minutes ago, bestdogever said:

Thanks for the review and photos Darren and Cindy. How’s does the thermal suite differ from the Sanctuary?  We have been on the Ruby, loved her, but are not familiar with the thermal suite,  Is the fee $75pp per day?  Thanks!

The Thermal Suite is the 2 pics from day two above.  It is an indoor area of heated tiled beds and steam rooms.  It was 75 for the entire cruise.

 

The Santuary is a private, outdoor space with very comfortable lounge chairs

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Day 4 – Mazatlan

 

                The ship pulled into port at Mazatlan early in the morning.  We decided to get off and walk around town on the “Blue Line” walking tour.  Honestly, as you get off the ship in port there begins with a large blue line on the street with helpful blue shirted volunteers at every corner.  The tour takes you through the historic area of town, the plaza, shops, restaurants, a couple of museums, finally the Cathedral and main Market of town.  The whole tour of the historic district may be a mile or two but its flat and lots of potential stops along the way.  We were back on the ship about 11 am. 

 

                Pic 1 – Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the Historic District

                Pic 2 – Cindy and the fish section of the downtown market

                Pic 3 – lots of fruit available at the market

                Pic 4 – looking for a steak for dinner tonight

 

                We again spent the afternoon in the Sanctuary area of the ship.  One note:  Generally, the Sanctuary has few reservations on port days.  We always booked just the afternoon, but it was fine to show up anytime early.  In theory, on busy days (sea days) a lounge chair could be reserved twice, once for the morning and once in the afternoon, but a sea day that was never the case. 

 

                Finally, we received a call late the night before asking if we wanted to join the “Chef’s Table” for dinner on day 4.  Not knowing exactly what that was, I asked a couple of questions and the Maitre D from Share simply said we would enjoy it, encouraged us to attend, and told us to bring our appetite. 

 

                We met our small group and the Maitre D for dinner beginning with a galley tour at 6pm.  The head Chef gave us a tour of the galley and we had a galley table set up for us (pic 5 ice sculpture and edible art) for our first 4 appetizer courses with Champagne.  All the appetizers were great including the caviar (pic 6) and duck prosciutto. 

 

                We then moved from the galley to the dining room where a table was waiting for us and the next couple of courses with a French Chardonnay.  The Crab leg and salmon tartar then the risotto was excellent. 

 

                Finally to the main course, the Chef began by making filets tableside  (pic 7).  I thought a filet was nice for a main course.  I was wrong.  The main course was a filet, full lobster tail, scallops, and a double lamb chop ……… and of course a place of vegetables.  WOW!   Main courses came with an Italian red wine from the Maitre D’s home town. 

 

                There were also at least a couple of desserts.   Full menu below

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OK, who is this guy who gets called to attend the Chef's Table?  I'd never heard of that, before.

 

:classic_huh:

 

Good for you.  I'm still enjoying the reports.

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Thank you for the review. I've been on the Ruby a couple of times, she's a beautiful ship.

 

Can you please tell me what pool that is in your first pictures? I'm thinking it's from your pre cruise hotel stay?

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5 minutes ago, tonit964 said:

Thank you for the review. I've been on the Ruby a couple of times, she's a beautiful ship.

 

Can you please tell me what pool that is in your first pictures? I'm thinking it's from your pre cruise hotel stay?

 

You are right, it's the LAX Hilton.  We flew to LA the afternoon before the cruise and did not want to fight Friday evening traffic to stay near the cruise port.  The Hilton was nice, had a variety of dining options and the pool was a bonus on Saturday morning before we went to the cruise terminal.  Also check out was at noon.

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Did they tell him there was a charge for the dinner (not inexpensive either).  I agree never heard of someone being randomly called and invited to the chef's dinner

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36 minutes ago, XBGuy said:

OK, who is this guy who gets called to attend the Chef's Table?  I'd never heard of that, before.

 

:classic_huh:

 

Good for you.  I'm still enjoying the reports.

 

I'm dying to know this, too!  Congrats!  And I love the review.  We are doing the M/R b2b with a CA Coastal on April 27th and May 4th.  You are giving me lots of ideas for the M/R!

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Day 5 – Pueto Vallarta

 

                After the previous evening of heavy eating and drinking, we slept in.  I assume we arrived at Puerta Vallarta on time.  After working out and a stop in the Thermal Suite, we spent most of the day in the Sanctuary reading and relaxing.  We did not get off the ship.    We met a nice group of new friends in the Sanctuary that day.  I am glad we had a lounge chair in the shade as the day was sunny and HOT. 

 

                Dinner was a Crown Grill.  I had the beef chop, Cindy had one of the fish options.  They were good, but not great.  

 

                We did spend time in Vine’s Wine Bar both before and after dinner.  I thought the wine menu in there was not as good as our cruise about a year and a half ago (also Ruby).  I also think it is odd that they have multiple “Silverado” wine tastings, the place is decorated with Magnum Silverado bottles, all wine is served in Silverado crystal glasses …………….. yet they do not serve Silverado wine in the bar ???? 

 

 

Day 4 update – Chef’s dinner, we are not “elite” or special in any way.  I don’t think we were asked to join the table randomly though.  I think it is most likely we showed some interest in good food, combined with a little personality, and most of all, either very little interest in the table and/or multiple cancellations where they were looking to fill a couple of seats. 

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13 minutes ago, deultgen said:

 

                We did spend time in Vine’s Wine Bar both before and after dinner.  I thought the wine menu in there was not as good as our cruise about a year and a half ago (also Ruby).  I also think it is odd that they have multiple “Silverado” wine tastings, the place is decorated with Magnum Silverado bottles, all wine is served in Silverado crystal glasses …………….. yet they do not serve Silverado wine in the bar ???? 

 

 

Day 4 update – Chef’s dinner, we are not “elite” or special in any way.  I don’t think we were asked to join the table randomly though.  I think it is most likely we showed some interest in good food, combined with a little personality, and most of all, either very little interest in the table and/or multiple cancellations where they were looking to fill a couple of seats. 20190202_072734.jpg

 

Hmmm.  I was on the Ruby Princess in December--same 7-day itinerary.  I definitely remember having Silverado Sangiovese in Vines--two glasses on each of two visits.  I'm pretty sure there was also Silverado Merlot and a Sauvignon Blanc on the list.  That being said, I do know that a new wine list is being rolled out to all the Princess ships.  It sounds like your cruise saw the new list.

 

Interesting about the Silverado tastings that you mention.  A year, or so, ago I was on the Ruby Princess and participated in a Silverado blending exercise at Vines.  We sat at that table pictured immediately above.  We were each given beakers with samples of some Silverado varietal wines--I remember Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot--and were instructed to blend those samples in whatever proportions struck our fancy.  The best part the event was meeting some pretty serious wine geeks.

 

On our cruise last December they did not have the blending thing.  However, there was one Stammtisch event where we tasted three "Old World" red wines--a Bordeaux, a Nebbiolo d'Alba, and a Rhone (CdP?).  Again, the Stammtisch was fun--in spite of the wine mythologies that the facilitator insists on perpetuating.  It's always fun to meet folks who have more than a casual interest in wine.

 

I am sure that your analysis of your Chef's Table solicitation is correct.  I'll bet that your name being on the reservation list for one of the specialty restaurants every evening caught somebody's eye.  When they found that they had openings, they thought, "Here are some people who might be interested."

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Day 6/7 Sea Days

 

We spent our remaining days traveling back to Los Angeles in the Sanctuary during the day and Share in the evening. 

 

We traveled the along side of the Carnival Splendor for most of the week.  We were also in Puerto Vallarta with a NCL and Holland Ship. 

 

Overall we had a very nice vacation and while we still prefer Celebrity Cruises, this Princess cruise as well as those in the past have been very good experiences for us. 

 

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Thank you for the review...we are sailing on the Ruby in May and have been reading that they have

removed the chair and table (leaving only desk chair) in the balcony cabins.  Can you tell me what your

cabin had for seating?  Also I read that on the balcony they no longer have foot stools for the lounge

chairs.  

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16 minutes ago, meh56 said:

Thank you for the review...we are sailing on the Ruby in May and have been reading that they have

removed the chair and table (leaving only desk chair) in the balcony cabins.  Can you tell me what your

cabin had for seating?  Also I read that on the balcony they no longer have foot stools for the lounge

chairs.  

 

In our cabin R504, there was no "sitting chair" only a desk chair, and no foot stools on the balcony.  Personally, it did not bother us.  

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