Just The Facts
• 3,080 passengers
• 1,225 crew members
• 113,000 tons
• Length: 950 feet
• Beam: 118 feet
• 1,104 outside cabins
• 436 inside cabins
• 178 minisuites
• 26 suites
• 2 family suites
• 680 veranda cabins
• 31 wheelchair accessible cabins
Scroll down to find out about Princess' new Ultimate Ship Tour
Princess Cruises new tour bring clients behind the scenes
By Marilyn Green
Billed as a "shore excursion on board," the Ultimate Ship Tour was launched on Ruby Princess, with two tours offered per cruise. The Ultimate Ship Tour goes way beyond the traditional galley tour, taking 12 passengers into the funnel, backstage at the theater and to the medical center, laundry room, print room, photo lab, engine room, galley and more.
Despite its $150 price, the three-hour tour has become the hottest ticket on board. Participants can enjoy an array of exclusive gifts, such as a professional chef’s hat and jacket — which might have cost more than the ticket price — in addition to a luxury robe, personalized stationery, champagne, caviar, canapes and picture with the captain.
However, it’s not the souvenirs that have generated the buzz — it’s the exclusive experience of meeting the cast and production staff backstage in the theater, seeing the costumes and technical effects and hearing the photographers explain how they manage the volume of images they take. Tour-goers are wowed when seeing the medical center lab, intensive care unit, digital x-ray system and even the morgue. Guest are even more impressed when they take in the spectacular views after climbing through the funnel.
There is a special pleasure in exploring areas like the engine room that are strictly off limits to other passengers, and bridge tours are shown off by chief officers. Likewise, the ship’s printer demonstrates how the daily activities guide is printed. On this in-depth tour, French champagne, caviar and canapes accompany the executive chef’s discussion of culinary arts on the ship.
But it the tour of the laundry facilities generated the most discussion, especially the folding machine that manages more than twenty thousand towels a day. Everyone in our group seemed to encourage others on board to take this tour. Therefore, early booking is highly recommended.
Ruby Princess, the 17th ship in the Princess Cruises fleet, has added a number of new features, but she remains a completely recognizable, elegant vessel. Princess, like several other lines, is not contracting new builds at this time. Now, the emphasis is on bringing in new features and making the product consistent across its entire fleet.
The Ruby Princess recently introduced a slew of new offerings.
Among the most popular innovations is the new pub lunch in the Wheelhouse Cafe, which features British favorites, such as shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash (on sea days only). Complimentary canapes are served in the lounges during the evening as well, and lemonade was recently introduced at the Horizon Court. The buffet-style Cafe Caribe, adjacent to the Horizon Court, boasts Caribbean-themed menus. And at Sabatini’s Italian trattoria — now on an upper deck with an outdoor component — suite guests are offered a special complimentary breakfast for leisured mornings on all days at sea.
Other touches include the Ultimate Balcony Breakfast, a champagne breakfast for two with warmed pastries, smoked salmon, fruit and Quiche Lorraine with all the trimmings for a modest $25 per couple. Another delightful option is breakfast in the atrium, which is set up like a town piazza where passengers can also enjoy light lunch and evening snacks. Most items, including the tempting pastries and salads, are free (tapas are available from about 5 p.m. for a $4 charge). Worth every moment of a week of dieting in advance is the $75 dinner at the Chef’s Table with backstage cocktails and hors d’oeuvres with the executive chef followed by an exquisite, off-menu dinner, beautifully presented and accompanied by extraordinary wines. The chef visits, answers questions and describes techniques — in our case, dessert was served on edible dishes that looked exactly like Murano glass and provoked all sorts of inquiries.
Ruby Princess’ Crown Grill expanded upon the Sterling Steakhouse concept, and at the Vines wine and seafood bar, 12 varieties of artisan cheeses are featured daily.
Princess’ simple cookies and milk offering has drawn so much enthusiasm that it is going fleetwide, as is order-in stateroom pizza (a $3 fee). In Alaska, the whole line will be offering complimentary hot chocolate and bouillon.
To counter all the new temptations, an in-cabin fitness program includes yoga and high-intensity workouts. The Lotus Spa and extensive fitness center sees heavy foot-traffic most of the day, as do the outdoor jogging deck, golf simulator and putting course.
Princess is investing in such features as The Sanctuary, an adults-only retreat introduced aboard Crown Princess. It has proven such a success that it is not only included in new ship design, but is being phased into the fleet through 2010. On Ruby Princess, The Sanctuary is a heavily landscaped, peaceful haven, with cabanas for massage treatment, light meals and healthy beverages. Personal care comes from Serenity Stewards, who offer chilled towels and MP3 players preloaded with calming music. The $10 fee for a half-day is just enough to control demand.
One of the line’s most classic onboard features is its exceptional service. Rai Caluori, Princess’ executive vice president of fleet operations, indicated that the company’s major investment in internal training follows the central image of the consummate host, who welcomes guests with genuine warmth and facilitates a wonderful vacation experience. The attitude was clearly felt by the guests, who commented that the line’s excellent service seemed to have been raised yet another notch.
The staterooms are much like those on other Princess ships, very well-planned and comfortable, with rich colors and flat-screen televisions, hair dryers and minibars stocked with complimentary beverages. Family suites are available, and children ages 3-7 have a playroom with features including Sony PlayStations and bean bag chairs. Additionally, the ship has a secure outdoor space for kids with colorful equipment where they can expend some of their pent up energy.
Children ages 8-12 can enjoy themselves at Shockwaves, where they enjoy arts and crafts, games and a disco. The teens’ room features computers, a makeover activity and games such as table football.
What’s more, the Wizard’s Academy helps young cruisers see the connection between science and magic. There are also new yoga classes for kids and spa treatments for teens.
New, free enrichment programs for adults range from astronomy and navigation to art history. For pure entertainment, Movies Under the Stars offers Princess signature blankets, popcorn and drinks.
Gatsby’s Casino has its own cocktail lounge for celebration and consolation, and two new Princess-produced shows are performed in the Princess Theater, "Broadway Ballroom" and "Once Upon a Dream."
Ruby Princess sails seven-day Western Caribbean cruises out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., calling in Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; and Princess Cays, the Bahamas. In the spring, she will operate 12-day Mediterranean and Greek island cruises.