We've sailed on many cruise lines, but we hadn't, until now, sailed with Princess Cruises. We were in for a most enjoyable treat, and now, after having had such a marvelous experience, we highly recommend this ship to others. Using some of the terminology given to precious gems of all kinds, we will illustrate our many points based on this analogy. One thing's clear – the sparkling brand new Ruby Princess is highly desirable from every angle! As one of our waiters told us one night when we had special requests, Aboard Ruby Princess, everything is possible. We love that attitude.

A Cut Above. All in all, the staff of the Ruby Princess gave us a very polished performance. Princess being a deluxe premium line (vs. an all-inclusive, ultra-luxury line) we were very impressed by the attention to detail and the impeccable service that was presented. Every request we made – from having diet Seven-Up in our room – to the gorgeous work-of-art culinary amenities that graced our room every night – all added to the pleasure of our onboard experience. And it's no wonder – the new ship was launched to underscore Princess Cruise's tradition of excellent onboard service. But remember, as this is not an all-inclusive luxury line, so you will have to pay extra for any alcohol and soft drinks.

Our onboard experience all started in our stately suite – Dolphin 201, which featured a bathtub (the ultimate ship luxury!), two plasma TVs, a dining area with sofa in the sitting room, and an outdoor verandah. At 323 square feet, we never felt cramped and found our quarters most enjoyable. The ship features nearly 900 staterooms with private balconies.

The ship's new amenities, to add to your experience, include enrichment programs that let you make the most of your days at sea, which, in our discussions with fellow passengers, many have come to love. (After all, it's a day to rest and relax and really take advantage of the ship's features.) A number of new ScholarShip@Sea programs debuted on the Ruby Princess to include The Art of Entertaining with lifestyle expert Susie Coelho; Mixology at Sea, which allows you to channel your inner bartender; even Art History@Sea, showcasing the evolution of art from Botticelli to Warhol. Other experiences include ceramics, and dancing lessons.

These special touches, all of which are designed to offer unforgettable experiences, also include the Wheelhouse Bar Pub Lunch, where passengers can enjoy bangers and mash, and other traditional English fare; the special breakfast in Sabatini's, for suite passengers; and the 12 varieties of artisanal cheeses served in Vines, a passenger favorite that serves more than 30 wines by the glass. The ship also features an ever-changing line-up of street performers in the atrium; an extensive children and teen center, and even a wedding chapel.

Certainly, another of the highlights is the unbelievably superior entertainment program spearheaded by Mr. Martin Hall, Vice President of Entertainment Services for Princess Cruise Lines. Mr. Hall told us how Princess has brought all of its entertainment in-house, so that it does not look to an outside, third party contractor to hire singers and dancers. This gives Princess the opportunity to personally oversee all of the talent, and make their motives clear: they want first-rate performers and performances. The entertainment is a whopping success – we have seen a lot of cruise shows, and Princess' shows are, hands down, the absolute finest, and worthy of the Broadway stage.

For example, early in our cruise we saw the show, Abbacadabra, a group of four Abba-sound-alikes who performed the group's hits. With spot-on lighting, costumes, and music, Abbacadabra was a delightful performance.

But the piece de resistance was the show Once Upon A Dream, a multimillion-dollar show for which we would have gladly paid admission. This show projects a series of 3-dimensional video backdrops (producing the kinds of images you used to need 3-D glasses for) which made for one of the most imaginative and creative performances we've ever seen. It started as a young girl's dream, with switched-on Mozart, and characters dressed up vibrantly as Alice and other characters at her tea party. From there came Beatles tunes with the actors and singers singing in the court of Versailles (and dressed accordingly); followed by a giant saw following one of the singers in a scene straight out of The Perils of Pauline. One of the most adorable sequences featured gorgeous girls in stunning costumes, with a charmingly dressed camel, as the cast sang, Mr. Sandman. And on and on it went. As Mr. Hall told us afterwards, Princess handles its entertainment as a substantial point of differentiation, and has gone so far as to create a state-of-the-art theatre, and we can attest to its superiority. Princess' rehearsal studios are in Los Angeles, and the 13 dancers have one month in which to learn four different shows. And their jaw-dropping costumes are created by the legendary Silvia's Costumes of Hollywood. It's all as polished and as professional as they come.

Another unique point of differentiation: the first-rate Ultimate Ship's Tour, a two-hour back of the house tour of the ship, including such areas as the galley, engine control room, medical center (with a fully stocked pharmacy), print shop, and laundry. It will not be advertised, but only available to passengers through word-of-mouth. The $150 tour also includes $150 worth of gift items, including fluffy robes and a chef's smock.

Clarity -- of Purpose. Yes, one thing's clear on the Ruby Princess – you are going to have a wonderful vacation. One of the things that makes it all clear was our early-in-the-cruise visit to Princess Cays, which is located in the Bahamas, in the southern portion of the island of Eleuthera. (This port-of-call is on Princess' 7-Day Caribbean itinerary from Fort Lauderdale; it would not be available on other itineraries. We suggest you seek details at www.princess.com.) Princess Cays is the Princess Cruise's manicured private island, and here you can simply soak up the sun, or take advantage of a wealth of watersports and activities: swimming, snorkeling, aqua bikes, kayaks, and banana boats, along with volleyball and basketball courts. We've never met a private island we didn't love, and we feel the same about Princess Cays.
We also enjoyed our time at the Lotus Spa and Fitness Center on board. The fitness center had a wide array of state-of-the-art machines as well as helpful and informative fitness classes. And as far as the spa goes, it was marvelous experience. Deb had the Tri-Enzyme Elemis Resurfacing Facial that certainly left her skin looking luminous. Other treatments offered include GoSMILE Teeth Whitening, Acupuncture, an array of massages include aroma stone therapy, and the mud room Rasul for couples. Coming next: Botox! Deb also had opportunity to have her hair washed and blown out in the sunny salon; the staff was warm, friendly, and completely professional. Take our advice and book early and online, in advance of your cruise, to avoid blocked-out appointment times. There's also a professional photographer on board – take the opportunity, if you're a woman, to get your hair and makeup done in the salon, then pose with your spouse for a professional portrait for your living room.

The Sanctuary, adjacent to the Lotus Spa, is a little slice of Heaven. Here's where you can escape (for $20 a day) to an isolated, quiet, peaceful area on an outside deck in which to sunbathe and eat lunch. We enjoyed this area thoroughly – and please note – if you love to sit by the pool, read a book, or take a nap, the Ruby Princess' pool area is NOT the place to do it. The huge Jumbotron at the pool, on which they show Movies Under The Stars is going full-tilt all day long, showing loud movies and videos, and so the only place you can go to really escape is The Sanctuary.

Color – Ruby – Very Attractive. There are lots of things to draw you to the Ruby Princess. One of them is Movies Under the Stars, which we already mentioned. This is essentially an outdoor movie theatre, allowing feature film showings at night. A ginormous screen in the outdoor pool area, it plays videos and movies all day. At night, it's a completely different experience than daytime; you can watch a movie out there, complete with complimentary popcorn and a blanket, if needed.

Another feature? Anytime dining, which means that there are no specific seatings. Instead, you can dine anytime between 5:30 and 10PM in either of the main dining rooms.

We grew especially fond of dining in Sabatini's, the alternative-venue Italian eatery that requires a $20pp service charge, and is akin to dining in a five-star restaurant (only here, you won't be presented with a check!). Enter the wrought-iron gates, sit on a cushioned banquette, and you can feast on air-dried beef, white-bean and Parmesan soup, and roasted chicken, to give you just a few examples. (If you love Italian food, there's also a pizza station on the ship, along with an ice cream bar.)
Another favorite? The Crown Grill ($25pp), serving seafood (premium seafood selections have a $9 pp added charge too). Here's where you can indulge in a filet mignon seasoned with rock salt, rack of lamb, whole Maine lobster, and other notables including Mediterranean lobster cakes, sea scallops with foie gras, and black-and-blue onion soup made with Jack Daniels. Hearty side dishes include sautéed wild mushrooms, garlic-and-herb French fries, and scalloped potatoes. Do what we do – look at all the selections, and pick-and-choose an entrée here, an appetizer there, a side dish anywhere – it's the best way to get and try everything you like, and the chef is very happy to accommodate.

We also thought that the nine-hole miniature golf course on the top deck was quite adorable.

Carat – It Pulls Its Weight! The Ruby Princess is a heavy hitter in the deluxe category, and we are sure it will attract many travelers, as it has a great deal to offer.

But let us just tell you a couple of things we didn't like. The ship holds 3,080 passengers, and the result is that there is frequently a lot of waiting – at elevators, and in the restaurants. On the day before disembarkation, at the main reception desk, there was a line of at least 25 people at all times, constantly during the day, all trying to settle their account balances and related disembarkation matters. And frequently when we called reception from our suite, no one picked up the phone.

But in fairness, there is always room for improvement in every hospitality operation, on land or at sea, and these are really the only negative things we experienced. Despite those facts, we would gladly go on another Ruby Princess trip in a heartbeat! For more information, visit www.princess.com, 1-800-PRINCESS.