Ruby Princess | Cabin Review | Mini Suite and Accessible Staterooms

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015


Ken and I had booked a mini suite with a balcony on the Ruby Princess. This was our third cruise together. On our first cruise (a Caribbean cruise), we had a balcony. But on our second cruise (a Mediterranean cruise), we had opted for no balcony to save some money. We really regretted the decision on that cruise. So we decided that for all cruises in the future, we’d book a balcony.

This review will cover our mini suite, as well as a handicapped accessible, obstructed view outside cabin that my dad booked. My sister and her family also booked a mini suite, so no separate review is required there! My sister and I decided to book cabins nearby one another on the same deck, but on opposite sides of the ship (one on port, one on starboard). That way, regardless of the side of the ship with the best scenery, we’d have access to a balcony!

Review of Mini Suite onboard the Ruby Princess

This was the view of the room immediately upon entry. The small doorway on the left leads to the closet and the bathroom door.

View of Mini Suite o the Ruby Princess

And here was the closet. There was a hanging part of the closet, as well as tons of shelving behind the mirrored doors.

Closet in the Ruby Princess Mini Suite Shelves in the mini suite | Ruby Princess review

The bathroom was basic, but had plenty of countertop storage space, as well as some small shelf space too. The mini suite had a shower / tub combo.

Bathroom in mini suite Sink and countertop in mini suite bathroom on Ruby Princess

I wish there was a little more space for shampoo and soap bottles in the shower, but I feel like those tiny shelves are pretty standard in all accommodations these days. Boo.

Shower and tub in the mini suite

The queen size bed was comfortable, and there was a desk area right next to the bed. The desk doubled as the nightstand for the one side of the bed.

Queen bed in Mini Suite Desk in mini suite

The other side of the bed had a small nightstand with two drawers.

nightstand in mini suite

The “seating area” also had plenty of storage, along with a small couch, a sitting chair, and a small coffee table.

Sitting area in mini suite Sitting area in mini suite Sitting area in mini suite

The storage area was great for things like charging our cameras and cell phones, and we kept things like bottled water and sodas on the lower shelves (that we had brought with us onboard the ship).

Storage shelves in seating area

And, of course, the balcony! There were two small chairs and a small table on the balcony.

Balcony on the Ruby Princess mini suite

It’s worth noting that we were on the Emerald deck. Not all ship cabin balconies have fully covered “roofs.” We definitely wanted to be on a deck where our balcony was fully covered, to shield us from the rainy Alaska weather as much as possible. We were really lucky and only had one day of rain, but I’d still recommend the fully covered balconies.

Here are a few other miscellanous photos of the cabin, just from other angles.

Mini Suite onboard the Princess Ruby | Cabin review Mini Suite onboard the Princess Ruby | Cabin review Mini Suite onboard the Princess Ruby | Cabin review

Ruby Princess Accessible Cabin Review (Outside cabin, obstructed view)

My dad was going on this cruise, and since he has some pretty extensive mobility problems these days, we booked him an accessible room. It had large open floor space in between the furniture, a no-threshold shower, and plenty of grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet.

Bed and seating area in cabin Bedroom in accessible cabin | Ruby Princess

There was plenty of room for the motorized scooter that we rented for the duration of the cruise.

Plenty of room for motorized scooter

The storage was low to the ground, with the exception of the safe that was higher up in the closet. Luckily my dad can still stand up and everything just fine, it’s just something to keep in mind if traveling with somebody who can’t stand at all.

Desk area in handicapped accessible cabin

The bathroom was fantastically spacious and easy for my dad to get around in.

Accessible bathroom in Ruby Princess Cabin Accessible bathroom in Ruby Princess Cabin

Like I mentioned, there were plenty of grab bars in the shower, as well as a good size bench for him to sit on. (Which was good for the two fairly rough seas days we encountered).

Bench seat in accessible shower

I also liked that there was a “help” button next to the toilet.

Help button in accessible cabin

Although it’s not the best picture, hopefully this gives an idea of the “obstructed view.” Basically right outside the window is a deck walking area (in other words, the window port hole is not directly on the side of the ship). There was also a lifeboat right outside the railing of the walking area. But, at least you get sunlight in your cabin! It was only a few dollars more than an inside cabin.

Obstructed view port hole on Ruby Princess

The only real complaint about the room was that the door to the room was incredibly heavy, just like all the other cabin doors. That made it really difficult for my dad to open the door, which opened inward toward the room, and maneuver his way out the door on his scooter. It would have been really nice to have a button that would automatically open the door for a few seconds to give him a chance to get out the door without having to try and open it.

One other minor complaint. Like most cruise ships, the cabin/stateroom hallways and corridors are very narrow. And throughout most of the day, cabin stewards keep cleaning carts along the walls of the corridors as they clean the cabins in the morning and do things like turn down the beds in the evening. When these cleaning carts were in the hallway, which was much of the waking hours, my dad had an incredibly difficult time moving around the hallways. Luckily my dad’s room was right by the elevators, but sometimes it was more convenient to use another elevator bank, or if he was coming to our cabin or my sister’s cabin.

Anyway, I don’t think that is specific to Princess cruise lines, and it’s definitely nothing I had noticed on previous cruises, but that was only because I was never traveling with somebody who had mobility problems before.

In the next post in this series, I’ll cover a review of the ship and the ship amenities, like the pools, restaurants, and bars!

Westin Grand Vancouver (Hotel Review)

This entry is part 5 of 12 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?


 

Naples and Pompei, Italy – Europe 2010 (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Europe 2010 (Spain and Mediterranean Cruise)

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.

The last stop on our Mediterranean Cruise was Naples, Italy. We were nearing the end of our two week trip abroad, and we were pretty worn out and tired. We walked around Naples for a little while (no photos, gasp!) and then went on an afternoon excursion (purchased through the cruise line) to Pompeii.

Like Rome and Florence, I had been to Naples and Pompeii before on my 1997 trip to Italy. However, this was Ken’s first time there. And I felt like I had a much greater appreciation of Pompeii this time, compared to when my 16-year-old-self viewed Pompeii as not much more than a big pile of rubble.

On our drive to Pompeii from Naples, our guide pointed out Mt. Vesuvius:

Mt. Vesuvius in Naples, Italy

As we walked up a steep hill toPompeii I thought about my previous time there, when I was 16, and I remember being totally bored. It’s a huge, ruined city. “More of the same,” I remember myself saying as we walked around the huge city of ruins. Luckily I had a greater appreciation for it this time around!

Walking up hill to Pompeii entrance

For the most part, I’ll let the pictures do the talking here!

Pompeii Ruins in Italy | Celebrity Cruise Excursion Pompeii Ruins in Italy | Celebrity Cruise Excursion Pompeii Ruins in Italy | Celebrity Cruise Excursion Pompeii Ruins in Italy | Celebrity Cruise Excursion Pompeii Ruins in Italy | Celebrity Cruise Excursion Pompeii Ruins in Italy | Celebrity Cruise Excursion Pompeii Ruins in Italy | Celebrity Cruise Excursion

This dog kept following our tour group around! Adorable!

Dog inPompeii

Luckily, Pompei was not crowded at all. It was so nice to walk around and have space between the people, and not have crowds in every photograph, unlike the previous day in Rome, and our awful experience at the Vatican Museum.

The only crowd we really saw was this line of people, waiting to get into the ancient brothel in Pompei. It still has inscriptions and drawings of …, ahem, menu service offerings on the wall inside.

Line outside the ancient Pompei brothel

The early October weather was just gorgeous for walking around!

Touring Pompei Touring Pompei Touring Pompei Touring Pompei Touring Pompei Touring Pompei Touring Pompei

Our tour was thorough, but only took about 90 minutes. After the obligatory waiting around in the gift shop after the tour was over, our bus departed and headed back to the cruise ship! We had had a great time on our trip, but we were ready to get back home!

We had one day at sea on the ship after Naples, and then we ended the cruise where we started – in Barcelona. From there we headed straight to the airport and started our journey back home!

How we Picked Shore Excursions for our Alaska Cruise

This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

After Ken and I booked our Alaskan cruise, we started researching the cruise excursion options.  As you can probably tell from our Caribbean Cruise in 2007 and our Mediterranean Cruise in 2010, we generally do a mix of independent travel and cruise-organized shore excursions.  We had read before that Alaskan Cruise shore excursions can be VERY pricey, so we wanted to make sure we budgeted appropriately, both for time and expense, and determine if independent options were more cost effective than the options offered by the cruise line.

Selecting Shore Excursions for a Cruise

To keep things organized, we developed a spreadsheet.  (Say Wha? Totally unlike us, right?  End sarcasm).  The goal was to help us identify the shore excursions that sounded appealing to us, and then to compare prices, departure times, and reviews of the shore excursions.  The spreadsheet contained 8 columns:

  1. Tour (shore excursion) Name
  2. Port of Call
  3. Code (this was the code designated by the cruise line.  It helped us differentiate between similar sounding tour options)
  4. Duration
  5. Cost Per Person
  6. Times
  7. Link to description of shore excursion on Princess’s website
  8. Link to online reviews we found of the excursion (mainly from Cruise Critic)

When we had time, we each went through the shore excursions being offered for our cruise, and added ones that sounded interesting to the spreadsheet.  This was great because we could each do it on our own time, and then take a look at each other’s additions, and see if we had any overlap (and sure enough, we did!)

This is what our spreadsheet looked like (well, for the first two ports-of-call anyway):

alaska cruise shore excursion options

 

We also had some general information at the bottom, such as the cruise itinerary and some links to third-party (independent) tour operators.

alaska cruise itinerary times

 

This was great for reference.  For instance, we could see at quick glance that if we did the “Misty Fjords Seaplane Expedition from 7:30-9:30,” then we’d still have time for another cruise excursion after that, such as the “Lighthouse, Totems, and Eagles Excursion” that would leave at 11:30AM.  (We didn’t end up doing that combination, but you get the idea!).  By having the duration and price listed, we could also get a quick idea of an “entertainment price per hour” to try and determine if something was worth the cost.  For instance, does a $99 excursion that lasts 6 hours offer a better value than a $250 excursion that only lasts two hours?  Of course, that’s something we looked into further as we narrowed down our options.

I’ve included a link to our spreadsheet, which you can then save as your own document in Google Docs if you’re looking for a template:

Spreadsheet to Figure out Cruise Shore Excursion Options

Although we didn’t do it in our spreadsheet, I can foresee other options that might be useful for this spreadsheet, such as color coding which entries were entered by which person (probably great for a larger group trying to organize cruise excursions), as well as coming up with a scheme, like maybe an additional column, indicating priority of which excursions sound REALLY REALLY great, and which ones might just be fun to consider if your schedule or budget allows.

Anyway, I’ll discuss which shore excursions we did for each port-of-call as my trip report progresses here on the blog.

 

How do you figure out what to do when you’re in a port-of-call on a cruise?

Pisa and Florence, Italy – Europe 2010 (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series Europe 2010 (Spain and Mediterranean Cruise)

This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.

The next stop on our cruise was Livorno, a port city close to Florence and Pisa. We took the opportunity to see both cities during our short day!

Leaning Tower of Pisa Florence, Italy

We booked another ship-offered cruise excursion. The excursion was essentially transportation to both cities. Once we were dropped off in Pisa and then again in Florence, we were on our own. There were no guided tours, but we were okay with that.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The first stop was Pisa. I’m not sure why, but I was kind of gearing myself up for disappointment at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I think that I was probably wondering if it was going to be overhyped or just not that interesting, or like way overly touristy.

Well, perhaps I just set my expectations low, but I was really blown away by it! As our bus approached, I snapped this picture from the road. Already I was like, wow, that looks pretty cool!

View of Leaning Tower of Pisa from the road

I didn’t know that there were other impressive structures near the Leaning Tower (this whole area is called “The Field of Miracles.”) Everything leans there, because the ground was just too soft for anything to remain straight.

In the foreground, the round building is the Baptistry. Behind that is the Duomo, and then behind that is the Leaning Tower. Although the leaning is not as dramatic, the Baptistry and Duomo also lean!

Baptistry, Duomo, and Leaning Tower of Pisa

It was somewhat crowded, but not too terribly, so we could actually walk around at an enjoyable pace and not be stuck in huge crowds.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

And of course, everybody haad to do the classic “hold up the tower” pose!

People in pose holding up Leaning Tower of Pisa People in pose holding up Leaning Tower of Pisa

Ken and I included!

Ken holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The details on the structures were so gorgeous!

Details around the Field of Miracles and Leaning Tower of Pisa Details around the Field of Miracles and Leaning Tower of Pisa Details around the Field of Miracles and Leaning Tower of Pisa Details around the Field of Miracles and Leaning Tower of Pisa

We walked around and took a TON of pictures. We had such gorgeous skies that day!

Closeup of the Leaning tower of pisa Colorful buildings next to Leaning Tower of Pisa Duomo next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa Baptistry next to Leaning Tower of Pisa

And, let us not forget to point out that McDonald’s has the ability to infiltrate any market. Even the across-the-street-from-the-Leaning-Tower-of-Pisa market.

McDonald’s next to Leaning Tower of Pisa

We didn’t go up in the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but my sister and her family, who took a separate excursion, did go up in the Tower and she said it was pretty cool.

I always love photographing funny and/or confusing signs, and I thought that this one, near the parking area, was a definite contender for confusing signs:

Weird sign with lots of arrows

After walking around the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it was time to board our bus to Florence.

Florence, Italy

I had previously been to Florence. It was in 1997, I was 16, and it was my first trip abroad without family. I remember that even as an angsty teenager, I thought that Florence was super cool. One of my greatest memories was seeing Michelangelo’s The David at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. I just remember how impressive it was. Every muscle was so realistic looking, it was almost impossible to imagine a sculptor so talented. So, I suggested to Ken that the Academy of Fine Arts be one of our stops in Florence. (Again, like Pisa, the excursion didn’t include any guided tours, just transportation to the city).

We booked tickets online to get into the museum, months before we left on our trip. Pretty much right after we reserved the excursion. That was a pretty big gamble because we had no idea, for instance, how long our stop at Pisa would be and what time we would arrive in Florence. Well, as luck would have it, the time we selected was perfect. We arrived just in time to enter the museum, avoiding the VERY LONG line to buy tickets.

Unlike my trip to the Academy of Fine Arts in 1997, photography was no longer permitted. However, pretty much everybody else seemed to be taking photographs. And it didn’t seem to be very enforced. And even when it was, somebody just came up to you and asked you to stop taking pictures. So, right or wrong, I made sure my flash would not fire, and snapped a few pictures inside the museum, including some of The David.

The David The David The David

We walked around the museum for quite some time, but I respected the photography rule for pretty much the rest of the museum. Just taking a few here and there.

Wall of Busts in the Academy of Fine Arts

After leaving the museum, we still had some time to walk around Florence.

Walking around Florence Walking around Florence

We walked toward the Duomo di Firenze, a stunning structure in Florence:

Duomo di Firenze Duomo di Firenze Duomo di Firenze Duomo di Firenze Duomo di Firenze Duomo di Firenze

And then we continued on to the Piazza della Signoria:

Piazza della Signoria Piazza della Signoria Piazza della Signoria Piazza della Signoria Piazza della Signoria

The Michelangelo’s The David, which we had just seen in the museum, had originally been housed outdoors, here in Piazza della Signoria. Today, a replica stands where the original was located. The original was moved the the museum in 1873.

Original location of David statue Original location of David statue

Being so limited on time, we weren’t able to stop at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, but we will defnitely go there on a future visit! We did walk through the courtyard of the Uffizi:

Uffizi courtyard

We walked around Florence’s Arno River:

Along the Arno River in Florence Along the Arno River in Florence

We ended our walk around Florence in the Santa Croce Square, home to the Santa Croce Cathedral:

Santa Croce Square Santa Croce Cathedral Santa Croce Cathedral Santa Croce Cathedral

We had time to grab a great pizza lunch, and then it was time to board the bus back to Livorno and get back on the cruise ship!

XX

Rome was next!