Monday, December 29, 2008

Cruise III

A day at sea, after yesterday's lovely beach-lounging. We're heading to Jamaica, so we have a day to explore the ship and laze about at one of the many pools. We slept in a bit (we didn't get to bed until 2am after the infirmary excitement), and met everyone at the main pool for drinks and lounging at lunchtime.

The boat is huge. 950 feet long, 165 feet wide, carries up to 4000 passengers and 1200 crew. The Ruby Princess is a new ship (Oct 2008), and it's very comfortable. There is a huge theater (where they have live shows and movies), an enormous video screen on the top deck that shows movies, four pools, three dining rooms, a wine bar and international cafe, library, pub, a couple of nightclubs, a casino, spa, the works. We wandered around poking our noses into things and just enjoying the breeze from the deck. It's nigh on impossible to get a lounger around the pool, but there are plenty of other places to relax and enjoy the sun.

Our room steward is Polish -- his name is Piotrek, and he got everyone's last name right the first time (which is not common if you're not actually polish, too). The crew of the boat hail from all over -- we saw a ton of people from England, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia, Greece, Thailand, the Phillipines, China. Apparently, the jobs on cruise ships are contract gigs, and there is fierce competition to get the slots. Some of the people we talked to were on their sixth or seventh contract - each one is six months long, and they work 12+ hour days most of the time. We often saw the wait staff from one restaurant working elsewhere later in the day -- enough so that we asked if they were just locked in the hold for the few hours they weren't on duty! They have their own quarters and lounges (and even a pool) belowdecks, since htey aren't really allowed to mix with the passengers in their off hours. They have their own crew mess, too, so they don't really get the same food, either. But everyone seemed to really like it (and going for four years at a stretch adds some credence to that claim). Me? Well, I'd be hard pressed to be that pleasant to everyone all the time!

We stopped and got a "soda stamp" -- food is always included on the boat (except for some speciality cafes), but soda, coffee, and any alcohol will cost you. You can buy a stamp up front for 25 bucks that lets you drink soda for free all week. For us, it was a great deal. We drink a lot of diet soda, so it was worthwhile to get. THey have a coffee stamp, too, but that's less of an issue since coffee is included with meals. and you only pay for coffee at other times.

Dinner was excellent - seafood and lamb and steaks. The menu changes every day, and it's worth it to wait for dessert. Michael, my BIL, has it down: order two or three desserts up front to save time!

Despite the number of people on the boat (I think we were near capacity), it never really felt crowded in most places. The pool was always crowded, of course, but we never waited in line or got caught in crowds going to any of the other parts of the ship. Intellectually I know there are some 5000 people on the boat, but it doesn't really seem possible. Dinners are not crowded, the theater was rarely full, even the main plaza seemed open and airy. There are simply so many places for everyone to go that they rarely end up in the same one, I guess. We only aborted our plans once when too many poeple showed up and that was to the movie showing on the upper desk with the huge outdoor screen -- we were a little late and couldn't find a lounge chair free.

The boat rocks a little when underway, but it's almost soothing. I can't imagine that anyone gets seasick on a boat this big, but the doctor last night assured me that many people do. I find the gentle rocking very pleasant, actually.

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