Onboard the Royal Princess, awaiting the festivities

By Tom Stieghorst
Royal Princess arrival in SouthamptonSOUTHAMPTON, England -- It was a quiet evening on the new Royal Princess with a comparatively small number of Princess staff, contractors and international travel agents aboard.

The weather was cloudy and cool, making Movies Under the Stars a bit less appealing. The ship's dancing waters fountain presented an ever-changing show to the people strolling Deck 16.

But the scene will be more lively on Wednesday when a black-tie gala will enliven the ship and more agents arrive for a two day preview cruises.

Thursday's naming ceremony will be full of British formality. The talk of the ship is the formal gowns women have brought to the christening, as well as the elaborately trimmed headpieces called "fascinators" that will help make the event uniquely British.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, is scheduled to name the Royal Princess in a ceremony starting at 11:30 a.m. London time, or 6:30 a.m. eastern time -- 3:30 a.m. at Princess' California headquarters. Princess will stream the festivities live at www.princess.com.  

The hub of the $735 million ship is the three story atrium area called the Piazza, which is elegantly trimmed in tan and cream marble and features a pair of stunning multideck light fixtures that pierce the middle of two spiraling stairways connecting decks 5, 6 and 7.

Also making a big first impression are the ship's 1,438 balcony staterooms, each separated from one another by partitions, giving the Royal Princess an unmistakably modern profile as it sits in Southampton's Ocean Terminal, awaiting its maiden voyage.

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 
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