The Royal Caribbean Icon of the Sea is impressing us even while it’s still under construction
There’s a good reason Royal Caribbean is a favorite cruise line of families: it’s downright impossible to experience boredom on its ships. From expansive pools to immersive entertainment and standout dining, it has paved the way for much of the industry. And when the highly anticipated Icon of the Seas welcomes guests in early 2024, it will become the world’s largest ship to ever set sail, introducing cruisers to never-before-seen at-sea experiences and classic staples of the brand.
We recently had the opportunity to visit a currently in-construction Icon of the Seas at Finland’s Meyer Turku, largely regarded as one of the finest shipyards in the world. On any given day, up to 3,000 workers are tasked with making this almost unfathomable dream a reality.
To be frank, this ship gives new meaning to pushing the envelope. And avid cruisers are already eating it up with its first public sailing completely selling out in less than 24 hours.
At 20 total decks, the 1,198-foot-long ship can accommodate up to 7,600 guests and is being billed as “the world’s best family vacation.” The name of the game here is bigger and better than ever before—a theme you’ll notice throughout. It’s an innovative amalgamation of adventure that combines foodie delights, a multitude of entertainment, relaxing poolside finds, and theme park fun all wrapped up into one vacation. It’s truly a playground for the young, the old, and everything in between.
From the largest waterpark at sea to newly conceived family-friendly neighborhoods, here’s what we’re most excited for when Icon of the Seas takes her maiden voyage in 2024.
The most water-based fun at sea
If you’ve ever been on a ship with limited pool venues, you know what a drag that can be as spaces quickly fill up with guests—that won’t be a problem on Icon of the Seas. With the Icon setting sail to the Caribbean, pristine weather can be enjoyed from a whopping 7 pools and 9 whirlpools—adding up to a total of 62% more water surface area than previous liners.
Chill Island, one of the ship’s neighborhoods, will act as the heart of the water-based fun and be complete with the brand’s first-ever swim-up bar and 4 of the ship’s pools across its three levels.
Here, guests will find the largest pool ever at sea, Royal Bay, outfitted with lush palm trees and in-water seating, and an adults-only retreat. The Hideaway, located at the ship’s stern, will feature the first suspended infinity pool at sea offering 180-degree stunning views.
Some serious thrills
The self-proclaimed adrenaline junkies will clamor over Thrill Island, home to Category 6, the largest waterpark at sea. There are 6 record-breaking water slides to choose from, including the tallest drop slide at sea and the first open free-fall slide at an incline of 66 degrees.
Not for the faint of heart, Thrill Island will also house Crown’s Edge, an over-the-sea hybrid ropes course-meets-skywalk where guests will hang 154 feet above the waves alongside the ship’s crown and anchor emblem.
All-new neighborhood Surfside
Royal Caribbean splits the layout of its ships up into several different themed neighborhoods—and Icon of the Seas is welcoming a mix of cruise fan favorites, like a new-and-improved version of Central Park, along with new neighborhoods.
The all-new Surfside solves a common problem associated with family-friendly destinations: kid-focused areas with virtually nothing for the parents or grandparents to enjoy. The colorful, open-air promenade was specifically designed for young families and promises to be a place where the entire family can enjoy the day with something for everyone. Little kids can splash around across its water experiences, like playscapes and pint-sized slides, while parents can have fun too with a bar that features menus for both kids and adults.
Attached to Surfside, families can find easy access to the complimentary Adventure Ocean, the cruise line’s award-winning youth program. New for the Icon, ‘Admiral Awesome’ will be a sort of new-age, kid-centric cruise director designated with keeping the fun going for families as the head of LOL (leader of laughter).
Plenty of teen & tween fun
Teens and tweens can often feel out of place when cruising as it can be challenging to navigate social situations. Royal Caribbean attempts to ease that with a hangout just for them, Social 020. The posh lounge will up the ante with a comfy, lounge-style setting, video games, and movie viewing. There are plenty of other onboard activities to break the ice, like a mini golf course, rock climbing, FlowRider surf simulator, a sports court, laser tag, an escape room, and the largest ice-skating arena at sea.
Thoughtfully designed rooms
There’s no getting around it. Cruise ship cabins can prove to be tight quarters when traveling with your family. For the Icon, Royal Caribbean is introducing a staggering 28 categories that range from standard rooms to suites with a specific focus on accommodating families comfortably. With 2805 staterooms, these intuitively laid floor plans maximize the square footage availability ensuring everyone can have their own space and storage. Conveniences include split-design bathrooms (a game changer when getting ready for the day!) and secluded bunk alcoves for kids complete with their own televisions.
For the ultimate splurge, Royal Caribbean will be debuting the one-of-a-kind ultimate family townhouse, a three-story family suite donning a white picket fence-lined yard and an in-suite slide.
20+ dining experiences
Foodies rejoice! It’s safe to say that you won’t go famished on this new ship. There will be over 20 dining experiences, including new and returning signature options that range from casual window-service spots to a supper club—and that number cranks up to 40+ when you include bars and lounges.
AquaDome Market will be the line’s first-ever food hall, and a perfect solution to the family with differing cravings as the location will feature five different stalls with food ranging from savory crepes to Mediterranean delights. An all-new kid-approved buffet, located in Surfside, will operate morning, noon, and night ensuring you won’t have to leave the water-filled fun for a refueling bite.
An impressive amount of live entertainment
Entertainment is a beloved staple of cruising and the Icon will offer pretty much everything and anything you could think of, from comedy shows and karaoke to dueling pianos. The AquaDome features jaw-dropping 220-degree wraparound ocean views (and a soaring 55-foot-tall waterfall) with nightly entertainment housed in its AquaTheater. The highlight will be an aquatic show utilizing state-of-the-art projection technology and robotics.
In addition to Royal Caribbean’s original superhero show The Effectors, the flagship production will be a 90-minute Broadway-style staging of The Wizard of Oz utilizing a showstopping digitally created tornado.
Icon of the Seas, the newest of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships, will begin sailing year-round in early 2024 out of Port Miami on 7-night western and eastern Caribbean vacations.