This was a multi-generational cruise to celebrate my mom's 85th birthday. Travellers were mom - 85, her sister - 83, myself - 47 and my daughter - 14. Having sailed on maiden voyages before, we all knew that a positive attitude and a go-with-the-flow attitude would be key to a great time. I have to say that I was very impressed with nearly everything. As others have noted, the lack of a mid-ship staircase is a pain - those elevators get crowded. However, for my daughter and I it simply proved an added incentive to take the stairs and keep those extra pounds off!
We sailed a 2-night preview, the 7-night from Southampton to Barcelona and the 12-night from Barcelona to Venice. We didn't do any ship excursions, so I won't comment on those.
Cabin - we were in a BZ obstructed balcony on the Marina deck - this turned out to be a bargain as the "obstruction" - a solid railing - disappeared during construction. One minor glitch was the fact that the cabin was sold as sleeping 4 - upon arrival, we quickly determined that it only slept 2 - this was fixed before Mom arrived for the second leg and actually worked to her benefit - she was upgraded to a mid-ship mini-suite on the same deck. This cabin would have been crowded for 4 adults, so I was happy the deck plans were wrong! Small balcony, but not an issue - room for us to sit out and enjoy the view.
Service - top notch! You could certainly tell that Princess had chosen the best of the best to be on board their new ship. Never had crew pass by without saying hello or good morning. All the cruise director staff were out and about, visible and approachable. The staff at the passenger service desk should all get raises for how professionally they dealt with some of the passengers...complaining about dust on your mirror and wanting to move? Seriously????
Food - again top notch. Had one or two meals that were just ok, but over 21-day period, more than acceptable. We did anytime dining and never waited more than 5-minutes for a table - even if we wanted to be just 4. Also ate at Alfredo's pizzaria - top notch, and used the buffet for breakfast. My one food complaint would have to be about the lack of fresh fruit - by mid-cruise, the bananas were black, kiwis had disappeared and there wasn't a berry in sight! Ordering a bowl of berries from room service for breakfast solved that problem.
Chef's table - we were fortunate enough to experience this the night after my mom's birthday and it was amazing. The Head Chef, Sean Condon (sp?) is probably the most personable chef I have ever met on a ship - all the courses were amazing and we left full but not uncomfortable. The surroundings are stunning and in my opinion this was definitely worth the upcharge.
Ultimate Ship Tour - not done on the 7-night, but I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to be chosen to be part of their trial run on the 12-night sailing. It was complimentary, so no robe or apron, but we did still receive the photos and the stationary. We were unable to visit a couple of locations due to logistical reasons (the laundry and behind the scenes of the theatre) but it was still an interesting tour. The bridge is quite large and something to see - but the highlight had to be the mooring room - a massive place and the size of the anchor...wow!
Embark and debark - both were painless - minimal waiting and if you followed the instructions on debark, you were off in no time.
Kids club - my daughter really enjoyed the teen club the first week, but due to being under the weather for a couple of days, missed getting to know folks on the 12-night so didn't go for that leg. That being said, the facilities were amazing and she had a great time - so much so that she's asked to sail the Royal for our spring break next year instead of Disney!
Platinum photo studio - definitely a unique experience. We went to try and get a photo for the grandmother who wasn't sailing with us and ended up with much more. It is a real photo shoot, with proper lighting etc. The finished product is amazing (I am NOT photogenic) but is not inexpensive. If you are looking for a special memory of a family trip, I would highly recommend this - I wish we had discovered it sooner and done it with my mom, instead of just my daughter and I.
Entertainment - while I only went to a couple of the shows in the theatre, I absolutely loved the variety of entertainment in the Piazza - jugglers, acrobats, musicians, you name it, it was there. Easily accessible and could be viewed from all 3 levels - if you didn't like it, you moved on. Many things also took place in Princess Live - its a bit awkard as there is only one entrance but a great venue for shows such as the Magic show currently on board. It is also where the film the wake show each day.
Miscellaneous - fountain show was fun, but the highlight had to be when they turned them on for the kids to play in on a really hot day - nice touch. Lots of seating around the pool and on the upper decks - sun and shade - plus the adult area is quite spacious (although it is windy being at the front)
Used the gym - tried the TRX classes - what a hoot. Staff there are great and the place was always busy. Had a pedicure in the spa - expensive, but it lasted the whole trip and is just now ready to be changed (30 days!)
Overall, I would give the Royal 4.5 out 5. We had a great time and are very glad we were fortunate enough to be among the first to experience her.