By Cynthia Boal Janssens
A number of cruise ships have been christened over the past few years and usually the ceremony consists of much pomp and circumstance and an abundance of speeches.
Princess Cruise Line decided to change that model when it named the Ruby Princess on Nov. 6, 2008, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Because Princess likes to promote itself as the “Most Romantic Cruise Line,” it decided to make the christening of this lovely new ship a themed event.
Ruby red roses adorned the rails and table. Guests at the black tie gala were arrayed in all shades of crimson. Lots of fellows sported red bow ties with their tuxes, while the ladies bedecked themselves with lavish amount of red lace, crepe, and satin.
Of course, there was a speech or two. Actor Gavin MacLeod, of “Love Boat” fame, made his traditional cheery appearance. And there were all the usual cruise line executives and city officials.
However, instead of royalty or movie stars getting the honor of breaking the bottle of champagne, Princess invited Trista and Ryan Sutter, of “The Bachelorette” television fame, to name the ship as they celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary.
That was plenty fun, but the most memorable part of the naming ceremony was an actual wedding that took place. The couple from Mt. Dunsmuir, Ca., won a contest run by Princess and USA Today magazine. Gavin MacLeod gave away the bride and Trista and Ryan served as the attendants. It was such fun to see them around the ship the next couple of days as they enjoyed their new-found fame.
“It’s only fitting that as the most romantic cruise line in the industry, we celebrate the naming of our newest ship with a tribute to ‘romantic milestones,’” said Alan Buckelew, Princess Cruises president and CEO. “It was exciting to have Trista and Ryan Sutter serve as godparents of Ruby Princess and of course the wedding during the ceremony added an appropriate touch to the festivities
The idea for this romantic naming ceremony is credited to Julie Benson, a vice president of Princess, who confessed that she came up with her own red dress at the very last minute, from a catalog, no less. All in all, the event was a dramatic and classy event. If you want to view it yourself, the naming ceremony can be seen on www.princess.com.
And that is the best term to describe the Ruby Princess: classy. There are rich woods, lush fabrics and impressive art, all commissioned specifically for the ship. This vessel does not shout at you. Rather, she makes you feel like you have entered a superbly decorated mansion.
The Ruby is not a new design. She is a sister ship to the Crown Princess and the Emerald Princess, both already in service. However, she is the last new-build for Princess Cruise Lines for the time being and so has had much attention lavished on her by her designers.
She is perhaps the finest Princess product sailing at this time. She features the newest of everything, including new programs the line is introducing. There is little question that the company intend to position Princess as the very best if the big ship cruise lines. (Crystal Cruise Lines is no doubt the best of the larger lines, but is in a class of its own…at a considerably higher price.)
We were on board just three days, but here are some of the touches that we were impressed with on the Ruby Princess:
- All of the pools are fresh water instead of salt water.
- There are seven laundromats on board, a boon to families and those sailing on cruises over a week long.
- There is now a Fitness-at-sea program offered on the in-cabin TVs for those who are uncomfortable or unable to go to the gym.
- There or two large flat screen TV’s in the mini-suites.
- Sabatini’s Italian restaurant is now open for private breakfast to those staying in the 26 suites.
- Cookies and milk are available each evening in the Piazza and on the upper decks.
- “Princess Pasta” is back with two different pasta dishes on every dinner menu
- This disembarkation process is silent, with no announcements. Everyone is told where to be when and they leave the ship accordingly.
- Pizza is now available through room service 24-7, no charge.
- All food on board is made from scratch, including the bread which is baked three times a day and the hamburger is ground fresh.
- Chilled face cloths are presented to passengers as they return to the ship from shore excursions in hot climates. And deck stewards are equipped with “misters” on hot days to cool down those lounging on deck.
- A complimentary pub lunch with four to five traditional entrees has been introduced to the Wheelhouse Pub on sea days. They intend to add an array of British beers and ales.
- Complimentary evening canapés are served in the bars before dinner.
- There is now wireless internet and cell phone service throughout the ship.
- You can enjoy fine wines by the glass, artisan cheeses and freshly-made sushi in Vines on the Piazza.
- Although not known for its children’s programs, the facilities for the younger folk are exceptional. In particular, much thought has been given to the teen program, one of the hardest to do right…and they seem to have it figured out.
To be sure, Princess still charges for some on-board programs and food items, but the array of what is included is quite excellent in these economic times.
A programs being introduced on the Ruby Princess is the Ultimate Ship’s Tour, a three-hour look “everywhere behind the scenes” on the ship. It includes many special gifts and will cost $150 because they anticipate the demand will be high. It will be offered about three times per cruise.
They will continue to offer the Chef’s Table on most cruises. For $75 each, passengers will tour the galley during actual dinner service, meet the chef, enjoy champagne and canapés and enjoy a special menu with wine.
The Ruby Princess is currently on its inaugural seven-day sailing to the Western Caribbean. Ports include Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico and Princess Cays in the Bahamas. Next spring the ship will move to Europe for 12-day sailings in the Mediterranean and Greek Islands.
Look for excellent deals on cruises this fall and winter. And remember that CruiseCompete.com is your best online resource for getting the best price on any cruise.
Cynthia Boal Janssens is the former travel editor of the Detroit News and a past president of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). She specializes in writing about cruising.