Check-in went very smoothly with plenty of staff and well organised boarding. The overall appearance of the ship was very impressive and all the staff were very cheery and seemed proud to be involved with a brand new vessel. Our cabin looked a little smaller than expected but perhaps this was because it was dominated by a large and very comfortable double bed. For once there was plenty of storage space in the cabin for clothes and things but the balcony was disappointingly small with room (just!) for two chairs and a tiny table. Celebrity balcony dining would have been interesting but difficult. It was also overhung by the horizon buffet which might make sitting out there in sunnier climes less attractive.
We generally like the layout of Princess ships and this one was even better than usual. The dining rooms (we were on our favourite any-time dining) were really good and the waiters' service areas dotted around were unobtrusive. The food and service in the dining rooms was excellent but we missed having a menu posted outside, this is normal on cruise ships and would help passengers plan where to eat in the evenings The Horizon self-service dining area was a huge improvement on any others that we have seen on any ship. It was large and very well laid-out with attractive displays of food and wide aisles so that there was no appearance of crowding. One definite niggle was that it was so large it was often difficult to find things. It was split into two halves and on our first visit we did not find the second part with its yummy cakes and deserts. A few signposts in this area would be invaluable.
The decor was to our mind very tasteful and the co-ordination of the lighting, stairs, ceiling design and carpeting was extremely well done. The piazza area was very attractive as the shows could be seen from three different decks and the pianists could be heard all round, even if playing on one of the higher up decks. We particularly liked the strong man show and the string quartets were very good and entertaining. The choice of casual dining or snacking was the best we have experienced with the International cafe and the Pizza area being top of the poll.
The open deck areas were well laid-out with plenty of chairs and loungers and many places to sit out. The swimming pools seemed adequate although we felt that a covered in one such as on the Diamond Princess would have been useful. The Cruise Director and Staff were very good, for once not overbearing and patronising, and they persuaded us to join in many activities where we would normally be spectators. We were disappointed that there was not a proper "Showtime" in the evenings and very unhappy that the well-publicised Water Fountain show did not take place. We asker numerous staff about this, some told us it would be at 9 pm on the second evening and when it did not happen then we got a different excuse every time we enquired - that the weather was too rough was just unbelievable!!
A few niggles to end on. Before boarding we were informed that the dress code involved one formal evening. The Patter then oscillated between one casual and one formal evening and two casual evenings which was a bit confusing. The Patter also omitted breakfast timings such that we were too late for silver service breakfast on our first morning. The shower (as usual a very small one!) in our room took some time to run hot and the TV did not work. We mentioned both to our steward and the shower was either fixed or rectified itself but the TV remained blank. We rang to report this and were assured that it would be fixed immediately. Many hours of blankness later we went to Reception to complain and were again told it would be sorted out. Regrettably by the time we disembarked it was still not working - this lack of service is very unusual for Princess.
Overall a great ship and we would probably sail on it again, however, this was obviously a pre-naming shake-down cruise and the ship appeared only about half full (one dining room was closed for the first night). It would be interesting to see how it fares fully loaded.