Ruby Princess – Ship Amenities Review

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015


In my previous post in this series, I reviewed our cabin, a mini suite, as well as my dad’s accessible stateroom. This post will give an overview of the ship and ship’s amenities!

Let’s start with the outdoors!

Outdoor Activities and Pools

The rear of the ship (aft, yes, I know), was home to a small pool and some hot tubs:

Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess (aft) Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess (aft)

There were also two larger pools, as well as some hot tubs, in the middle of the ship.

Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess

One of the pool areas in the middle had a huge TV screen above the pool. Movies played at scheduled times. Since it was chilly at times even in June, (we were, after all, heading to ALASKA!) cruise staff passed out blankets during the movies so you could stay warm!

Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess TV screen in pool area on Ruby Princess

There was also an adults-only pool area, called “The Sanctuary.” Entrance to The Sanctuary was an additional fee, and every time I saw that area it was almost completely empty.

Entrance sign for The Sanctuary, the adult only pool on Ruby Princess The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area

The Sanctuary had plusher chaise lounge chairs and regular seating as well.

The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area

As I mentioned, my 2-year-old niece and 9-year-old nephew were on this trip. During one of their drop-offs at the kids areas, one of the cruise staff said that there were only 40 kids onboard under the age of 12. That’s MUCH different than like a Caribbean cruise! So, there probably isn’t much need to escape kids on an Alaskan cruise.

There was a mini-golf course on the ship:

Miniature golf course on Ruby Princess Ken playing mini golf on cruise ship

And my nephew was a big fan of this sports area, which had basketball hoops:

Basketball and soccer area on Ruby Princess.

And here are just a few other random photos of outdoor spaces on the Ruby Princess:

Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior)

Bars, Restaurants, and Casino

In no particular order, here are some of the onboard restaurants and bars, as well as the casino!

Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars

This was the “Da Vinci” dining room, where we ate all our sit-down (non-buffet) meals:

Da Vinci Dining Room Da Vinci Dining Room Da Vinci Dining Room

The menu was posted for each meal outside of the restaurant.

Da Vinci Dining Room

 

Atrium and Grand Staircase Area

This was always a fairly crowded area. There was usually piano music playing on the bottom floor of the atrium, there was a guest services counter in the area, and several shops and bars!

Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess

The Theater

Princess Theater Princess Theater Princess Theater Sign XX

The Library and Internet Cafe

I never priced out how much it would be to use the internet onboard the ship. Mostly I just relied on my phone when we were in port. In between ports, there was no cell service or data, so the internet cafe could be an option for those that really need it.

The Ruby Princess Library The Ruby Princess Library The Ruby Princess Library Internet Cafe Sign Internet Cafe

Kids Play Area

This was a play area for younger kids. There was also an area for older kids, with like some big couches and TVs and video games, but I didn’t get photos of that area.

Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess

You could drop off kids that were potty trained. Non-potty trained kids (like my niece) had to be accompanied by an adult.

Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess

There was also a little outdoor area of the kids play area as well:

Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess

Overall, the ship was great. The service was mostly good. I was getting annoyed with a near constant “upselling” of things like soda passes and alcoholic beverages. I even noticed that I got significantly better and faster service when I ordered beer or wine with my meals. When I went without alcohol, our service suffered. My sister had talked to a staff member in port, and he mentioned that employees get “time off” bonuses for selling certain numbers of soda passes or drinks. He was off the ship because he had achieved a certain amount sold. I understand Princess’s desire to incentivize, but the upselling really did leave a sour taste about the entire shipboard experience.

I still don’t think I have a “favorite” cruise line just yet. In the past 10 years, we’ve been on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and now Princess. I have always liked Carnival, but it’s been 15 years since I’ve been on a Carnival Cruise, so I’m guessing they could’ve changed as well.

Have you been on a Princess cruise? What did you think? What is your favorite cruise line?

Amtrak Cascades Line Vancouver to Seattle (Review)

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

After our quick stay in Vancouver, it was time to make our way to Seattle, the embarkation city for our Alaskan cruise. And what a scenic journey it was!

View from Amtrak Cascades Line

As I mentioned in the introduction for this trip report, I kinda tripped upon the Amtrak Cascades Line as our method of transportation from Vancouver to Seattle. To recap:

My original plan was to just stay at an inexpensive hotel near Vancouver Airport, and then drive the following morning to Seattle. (Our flight wasn’t arriving in Vancouver until like 12:45AM, so I didn’t want to start driving so late at night. But there was one issue. Rental cars were INSANELY EXPENSIVE. A ONE DAY rental from Vancouver to Seattle was going to be $199 CAD (About $150 USD.) I swallowed my pride and made a reservation, but I couldn’t help but think that there had to be a better, and cheaper, way.

And lo and behold, there was! I came across the Amtrak Cascades option! I had read that it was a very picturesque way to get from Vancouver to Seattle, and much more relaxing than a drive. Even though we have Global Entry these days, the line at the Canadian-US border crossing can get very long, so the train seemed like a good option to minimize the delay as well!

Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station

We arrived at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station about an hour before the train departure.

Outside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station

We weren’t sure what kind of Canada customs or exit processing there would be. There was a dedicated line for the Cascades line, since it was crossing into the United States. There was also a dedicated line for business class passengers.

We walked around the station for a little bit.

Inside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station Inside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station Inside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station

After a short while, they started processing the passengers, including checking our passports and providing seat assignments.

Amtrak Cascades Line Business Class Review

Amtrak Cascade Line’s business class consists of seats in a 2–1 configuration, which I had learned long before our departure. However, I wanted to make sure that we were on the “coast” side of the train. Since the train was heading south to Seattle, that meant we wanted to sit on the right side of the train to have the best views of the coastline. But, I was never able to figure it out in advance if the coast side was the “2 seat” side or the “1 seat” side.

Amtrak Cascades Line Business Class configuration Amtrak Cascades Line Business Class

At the check-in, we were assigned seats in the “2 seats” side of the train. I asked the agent if that was the “coast” side, and she said no. That traveling south, that’s the “1 seat” side. Even though it meant not sitting next to each other, we opted for the “1” side. But, as a bonus, she was able to give us two single facing seats, instead of sitting one in front of the other.

Seats facing each other on Amtrak Cascades Line | Business Class Seats facing each other on Amtrak Cascades Line | Business Class

Since we still had quite a while before the train departure time, I went outside and took some photos of the exterior of the train.

Exterior of Amtrak Cascades Line from Vancouver to Seattle Exterior of Amtrak Cascades Line from Vancouver to Seattle

Views from Amtrak Cascades Line, Vancouver to Seattle

This train route has been touted to be one of the most scenic in the world, and I dare say that I have to agree! [Photo overload to commence] View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

It’s worth pointing out that since we were traveling south, and seated on the west side of the train nearing sunset, it was incredibly sunny! Ken wore his hat and sunglasses even on the train!

Sunny side of Amtrak Cascades Line View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

Seriously, SO scenic. I couldn’t take my eyes off the outdoors.

View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

At the Canada-US border crossing, everyone had to stay in their seats while US Customs and Border Patrol officials boarded the train and checked passports. We were stopped for about 20 minutes or so at the border, and then the train continued on.

View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

Photo Tip: The glare from the windows of the train really could have affected our photos if we had not had our polarizer filters on our SLRs! Seriously, if you do this train ride, be sure to have a polarizer filter, otherwise your photos will be filled with glares!

I walked around to some of the different cars and took some additional photos.

Menu on Amtrak Cascades Line Dining car on Amtrak Cascades Line Snack bar on Amtrak Cascades line Snack bar on Amtrak Cascades line Advertisements for Amtrak Cascades

As we got closer to Seattle, farmland started to mix in with the coastal views (which were still scenic!)

View from Amtrak Cascades Line

And then, the sun started setting farther below the horizon.

Sunset from Amtrak Cascades line Sunset from Amtrak Cascades line Sunset from Amtrak Cascades line

We arrived in Seattle, disembarked, and took a taxi to our hotel, the Grant Hyatt Seattle. Highly recommend Amtrak Cascades!


A few hours in Vancouver, B.C. (Alaska 2015 Trip Report)

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

Arriving in Vancouver in the wee hours of the morning and then having a train to catch to Seattle at about 6PM, we certainly didn’t have much time do see even a sliver of the sites that Vancouver has to offer. But, since our transportation option to the Pacific Northwest took us to Vancouver, we decided to make the most of the short time we did have in Vancouver. We spent all that time at Stanley Park. And holy smokes, we probably could’ve spent another full day or two JUST seeing that park.

Well, first, we started off with breakfast at Le Petit Belge, just a block from the hotel. They offered some amazing Belgian Waffles, both sweet and savory! (I got savory, and Ken got sweet!)

Exterior of Le Petit Belge Sign for Le Petit Belge Savory waffle with prosciutto, asparagus, and egg salad Large waffle with maple syrup

It was fantastic, and we definitely recommend it!

Since we were so short on time, we took a taxi to Stanley Park. From some of the first sites in the park, we were enthralled. Take a look at that skyline!

Skyline view of Vancouver from Stanley Park Sailboats and Skylines at Stanley Park in Vancouver

As we walked along the path in the park, we came across the First nations art and totem poles exhibit.

Totem poles in Stanley Park in Vancouver

According to the City of Vancouver’s website, “Three beautifully carved, red cedar portals welcome visitors to the Brockton Point Visitor Centre and to the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people. Their form represents the traditional slant-roof style of Coast Salish architecture. The gateways show the history and thriving modern culture of Coast Salish people.” They were installed in 2008.

Brockton point totem poles Totem poles in Vancouver

As we walked around, we saw a seaplane taking off! We were watching it closely because we would be going on a seaplane in just a few days time on a cruise excursion in Ketchikan, Alaska!

Seaplane taking off near Stanley Park in Vancouver

The paths were well marked with lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Paved paths in Stanley Park Bike and pedestrian lanes in Stanley park

And again, the views of Vancouver! Stunning!

View of Vancouver skyline from Stanley park

As we continued our walk around the paths in Stanley Park, we came across the Brockton Point Lighthouse.

Brockton Point Lighthouse in Stanley Park Lighthouse in Stanley Park | Brockton Point

Just past the lighthouse, we saw a lovely sculpture, which we later learned was called “Girl in a Wetsuit.”

Girl in a Wetsuit Sculpture in Stanley Park | Vancouver Statues Sculpture that looks like Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid Statue | Girl in a Wetsuit

And right near the statue was a replica of the S.S. Empress.

Replica of SS Empress in Vancouver’s Stanley Park Description of the SS Empress Replica of SS Empress in Vancouver’s Stanley Park

And a few more fun finds in Stanley Park:

You are here sign in Stanley Park

A sign that I thought was most stereotypically polite Canadian: “Water not suitable for swimming.”

Funny signs in Vancouver | Water not suitable for swimming

And of course, those views!

Water views from Stanley Park

We reached a shadier area with lots of trees, and we even spotted a splash park for kids.

Stanley park trees Splash pad in Stanley Park

It was at this point we had burned off all our Le Petit Belge breakfast calories, and we were getting crazy hungry! And we had no idea where to pick up a taxi. (At the time, Uber was not operational in Vancouver. Not sure if that’s still the case.)

But, we actually located a bus stop and waited there for a bus. Only one problem. When the bus arrived, we realized we had ZERO Canadian money. Since we had verified that taxis took credit cards, we just assumed that we wouldn’t need any cash during our VERY short time in Canada! The bus driver still let us board, and we were apologizing profusely. We were mortified.

We were going to take the bus all the way back to the hotel, but we were driving past a strip downtown that looked like it had a good concentration of restaurants. So we got off the bus, and headed to a pizza place. Except the pizza place was open air and didn’t have A/C. And we were pretty sweltering at that point (it was pretty hot weather for Vancouver. Seattle was the same way, pretty unusual). So, we opted for a pub-like place right across the street called Malone’s.

Malone’s Restaurant in Vancouver

We started out with some poutine (of course, right?)

Poutine

And we both had burgers, albeit with different toppings!

Burgers from Malone’s Burgers from Malone’s

We finished up our late lunch, rested our legs for a little while longer at the restaurant, and then decided to walk back to our hotel, which was about 15 minutes away. We needed to get our things packed up and to get ready for our train ride. Since the train was going to Seattle, we’d have to transit customs at the train station, so we wanted to allow ourselves plenty of time for that.

We definitely need to get back to Vancouver for a more thorough trip! I think I envision a Pacific Northwest road trip sometime in the future!


Westin Grand Vancouver (Hotel Review)

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

By the time our flight landed in Vancouver, we transited Canadian immigration and customs, and stood in a long taxi line, it was about 3AM when we got to our hotel, the Westin Grand Vancouver. We were only staying for one night, but they had graciously already pre-approved a (very) late checkout for us of 4PM the next day.

I had long lamented what hotel to stay at in Vancouver. Which was silly because we were going to be there for such a short time. Did we want to stay close to the airport? Close to Stanley Park? (since that was going to be our primary place to visit during our short stay?)

I had been ogling the Fairmont Pacific Rim, but alas, couldn’t justify the price. Although the Westin Grand Vancouver was not terribly close to Stanley Park (we took a taxi there), it was centrally located in Downtown Vancouver and was very reasonably priced.

I booked a Deluxe Corner Suite, with view.

Upon entry to the room, there was a bathroom door straight ahead, and a living room to the left.

Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver

The living room was nice, but oddly shaped and not as spacious as I expected.

Living room in Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver Living room in Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver Living room in Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver Living room in Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver

There was a small nook in the hallway with a closet, coffee supplies, and a small fridge.

Coffee Nook | Westin Grand Vancouver review

The bathroom was spacious and had a separate tub and shower.

Bathroom at Westin Grand Vancouver | Hotel Review Bathroom at Westin Grand Vancouver | Hotel Review Bathroom at Westin Grand Vancouver | Hotel Review

There was also plenty of counter space, which is greatly appreciated.

Bathroom at Westin Grand Vancouver | Hotel Review

The bedroom was a decent size, and had wraparound windows.

Bedroom Deluxe Suite Westin Grand Vancouver

The windows were gorgeous and allowed for great views of the city, but it was summer, just shy of the solstice, so the days were LONG and the sun was up early. And the room darkening curtains had some unfortunate gaps, especially in the corners. Not usually a problem when we travel, but when you’re not getting to bed until after 3AM.

edroom Deluxe Suite Westin Grand Vancouver edroom Deluxe Suite Westin Grand Vancouver

There was a door to a small balcony next to the desk in the living room.

Door to balcony in Deluxe Suite

There were some fantastic views of the Vancouver skyline from the balcony. And if you peak far in the distance, you can even see the coast! (er, the bay?)

Views of Vancouver at Westin Grand from hotel room balcony Views of Vancouver at Westin Grand from hotel room balcony Views of Vancouver at Westin Grand from hotel room balcony

One minor complaint about our stay is that the elevators in this hotel were HORRENDOUSLY SLOW. There were only two, and the hotel had at least 30 floors, if I recall correctly.

But, the hotel location was great, and I was so appreciative of the late checkout that they allowed. Since our train to Seattle wasn’t leaving until 5PM, I didn’t want to have to pack up and put our luggage in storage before heading out sightseeing for the day. I’m never a huge fan of having to put my luggage in storage after checkout and before moving on to our next destination. So, the late checkout gets a big thumbs up from me!

Have you visited Vancouver recently? Where did you stay?


 

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Review (First and Business Class) – JFK-YVR

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

After our long, but lovely layover spent in the British Airways lounge at JFK, it was time to board our Cathay Pacific flight to Vancouver!

You can read more about why I sat in business class and Ken sat in first class in my previous post, but here’s a quick excerpt for the lazy:

I had originally booked two business class tickets on Cathay Pacific, knowing that they usually open up first class availability at the last minute. The idea was that I would switch our seats from business class to first class. About two months before our departure, ONE first class seat opened, and I jumped on it, booking it in Ken’s name. And I kept checking and checking for one more seat to come available. There were four open seats in first class according to ExpertFlyer (meaning that only two seats were booked, one of which was Ken’s).

Long story short, a second first class seat NEVER opened. I checked all the way until the morning of our departure. The flight did, in fact, go out with FOUR empty first class seats. Ken and I had talked about it, whether we both just wanted to sit in business class together, but I told him I really wanted him to experience Cathay Pacific First Class. So, I sat in business and he sat in first.

Cathay Pacific Business Class Review – JFK-YVR

My business class seat was fantastic. I sat in the “front row” of the business class cabin, which the ticket counter agent was kind enough to do so Ken and I were really only one “row” apart, even though we were in different classes.

Business class seat review on Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR 777–300ER Business class seat review on Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR 777–300ER Business class seat review on Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR 777–300ER

The business class cabin is set up in a 1–2–1 configuration, and I had a single seat. I snapped a photo of the middle seat configuration as well:

Two center seats of business class configuration on Cathay Pacific 777–300ER

The TV screen was at an angle, but popped out for viewing.

TV screen Cathay Pacific business class

The remote control and TV controls were above the seat, which I much appreciated after constantly adjusting my seat by accident thanks to the poorly placed seat controls on Air Berlin’s Business Class.

Seat controls Cathay Pacific Business Class

There was also a small, convenient table between the seat and the window.

Cathay Pacific Business class seat

The food was decent, but to be honest, I was getting pretty tired by the time food was being served. It was a 10PM flight departure, and I had already been, ahem, imbibing quite a bit at the lounge, so I was feeling pretty sleepy 🙂

I opted for the Potato Leek and Vegetable Strudel. I thought it was quite tasty!

Cathay Pacific Business class menu JFK-YVR

My starters were placed on my tray first.

Meal tray on Cathay Pacific Business Class

Followed by my main dish, the Potato Leek Strudel.

Main dish in Cathay Pacific Business Class

After dinner, I reclined my seat, put on my headphones, and started watching Selma. I fell asleep shortly into the movie (which is no indication of how I felt about the movie! Tiredness was just winning out at that point!)

I woke up to some turbulence and turned on the airshow, which showed that we were over Montana. I peeked out the window and saw some lightning in the clouds far off in the distance to the south.

Airshow Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR Airshow Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR

Cathay Pacific First Class Review – JFK YVR

Ken thoroughly enjoyed his first class seat! Toward the very end of the flight, the flight attendants even let me come up from business class to join him in his “guest” seat for a cup of Hong Kong Milk Tea.

Cathay Pacific First Class Guest Seat Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Milk Tea

Although, I had snuck up there briefly to talk to him before, and snap a picture of him cozy in his bed-in-the-sky. (Full disclosure, he’s not actually sleeping, just pretending for the photo)

Sleeping in Cathay Pacific First Class

Here were some photos he took of his bed. And seriously, how can one person have SO MANY CABLES AND ELECTRONICS next to him on his seat?

Cathay Pacific First Class Lay Flat Bed Cathay Pacific First Class Lay Flat Bed

Ken is a fairly picky eater. Basically, if there’s any “fancy” sounding ingredients, it’s pretty much safe to assume that it won’t be anything he’ll want to try. So, this gorgeous looking ramen bowl didn’t get eaten much. (Sorry, we didn’t get a picture of the menu, so I’m not sure of its precise name).

Cathay Pacific First Class Dining Cathay Pacific First Class Dining

He did indulge on the bread though!

Cathay Pacific First Class Dining

And dessert too.

Cathay Pacific First Class Dining

And check out the fancy sink in the first class cabin lavatory. Since there were only two passengers in first class, and two lavatories, each passenger basically had their own bathroom. 🙂

Cathay Pacific first class lavatory sink

Ken didn’t sleep as much as I did on the flight, so he enjoyed flipping through the inflight entertainment system.

Inflight entertainment on Cathay Pacific First Class Inflight entertainment on Cathay Pacific First Class Inflight entertainment on Cathay Pacific First Class

Also worth pointing out were the seat massage controls available!

Seat massage first class Cathay Pacific

Once we landed in Vancouver (nearly 1AM PDT), we transited immigration and customs, and then hopped in a taxi to our hotel, which I’ll review next in this trip report!