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Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas side by side in CocoCay (Photo: pdeboer_photos Facebook page)
Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas, the world's two largest cruise ships(Photo: pdeboer_photos Facebook page)

Icon of the Seas vs. Titanic: 7 Ways These Ships Are Not the Same

Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas side by side in CocoCay (Photo: pdeboer_photos Facebook page)
Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas, the world's two largest cruise ships(Photo: pdeboer_photos Facebook page)
Contributor
Jason Leppert

Last updated
Feb 13, 2024

Read time
6 min read

Titanic vs. cruise ships: an almost inevitable comparison, especially when a new cruise ship hits the open seas. That's because the Titanic is one of the most popular frames of reference for many when it comes to cruising. So, when Icon of the Seas, currently the world's largest cruise ship, took its maiden voyage on Jan. 27, 2024, people began wondering, how does this massive ship compare to the Titanic?

Fortunately, the infamous White Star Line vessel is, in fact, a far cry from Royal Caribbean International’s new Icon of the Seas -- in more ways than one.

Here's our breakdown of Icon of the Seas vs. Titanic, specifically the seven most "iconic" ways the largest ship in the world (at the moment) is profoundly different from the most notorious cruise ship of all time.

1. Icon of the Seas vs. Titanic: Size (Matters)

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

When the ten-deck-tall Titanic set sail in 1912, the ship was widely known as the biggest man-made moving object of all time. But, by current measurements, it was relatively small. At a gross tonnage of 46,329, length of 883 feet and width of 92 feet, it was not long before its dimensions were surpassed.

For instance, those who have cruised from Long Beach, California and seen the original Queen Mary permanently docked adjacent to Carnival Cruise Line’s berth might recognize the Cunard flagship was already quite a bit bigger when it launched in 1936. At the time, it was 80,774 gross tons, just exceeding 1,000 feet in length.

The 20-deck-tall Icon of the Seas, by comparison, measures in at a whopping 250,800 gross tons, stretching 1,198 feet long and 213 feet wide. That makes the new ship twice as tall (excluding Titanic’s towering funnels) and over twice as wide, as well as nearly 5.5 times larger volumetrically. If anything, it’s the two vessels’ lengths that are the closest to one another. In summation, 2024’s Icon mostly dwarfs 1912’s Titanic.

2. Icon of the Seas vs. Titanic: Passenger Space Ratio

Thousands of balloon drop in Icon of the Seas' Royal Promenade (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Icon of the Seas' sail away party included a balloon drop (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

The total capacity of the ships and amount of space there was and is for each guest to go around are also significant statistics. While not full at the time of its first and only sailing, Titanic had a guest capacity of around 2,600, and Icon lists a maximum of 5,610 (at double occupancy). This mathematically amounts to a surprisingly tight passenger space ratio of 17.8 on the ocean liner versus 44.71 -- and loads more resulting elbow room -- on the cruise ship.

3. Icon of the Seas vs. Titanic: A Cruise Ship and an Ocean Liner

Trellis Wine Bar in Central Park on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Trellis Wine Bar in Central Park on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Besides their dramatic size and space differences, Icon and Titanic were built for two very different purposes as well. The classic White Star ship was an ocean liner, and the contemporary Royal Caribbean one is a cruise ship. That is to say Titanic was primarily a means of transportation to cross the Atlantic Ocean from point A to point B while Icon is a tourist vessel designed to visit multiple ports and serve as a destination unto itself.

Since Titanic predated widespread air travel, it was the premier means of departing Europe (from Southampton, England) for America (to New York City, New York) with no calls in between -- that is besides Cherbourg, France and Cobh, Ireland to briefly pick up additional passengers on its ill-fated maiden voyage. Comparatively, Icon is scheduled to frequent Caribbean destinations, like Royal Caribbean’s own CocoCay private island, roundtrip from Florida.

For the nuts and bolts crowd, that also means Titanic had a bigger draft than Icon. The amount of hull that descends below the waterline was greater on the former (34 feet) than the latter (30 feet). This is a function of an ocean liner’s increased stability while frequently crossing rougher open seas versus a cruise ship’s ability to reach multiple shallower harbors while traversing calmer waters overall.

4. Icon of the Seas vs. Titanic: Safety (of Life at Sea)

The above is not an indication that an ocean liner is inherently any safer than a cruise ship, only that a liner is less likely to list (or heel) from side to side in windy weather than a comparable cruise ship, at least technically.

In practice, the aforementioned Queen Mary was dubbed the "rolling Mary” due to its tendency to dramatically list despite its 39-foot draft. The truth is hydrodynamic hull design and testing have advanced to a point that a cruise ship with a shallower draft today should roll less than vessels of yesteryear. Besides, Icon’s considerable width is another dimension certain to further reduce rolling.

More to the point of safety equipment, Icon is far more well outfitted than Titanic was. Preventively, state-of-the-art radar (versus limited human lookouts) can pick up any potential intrusions, such as an iceberg, long before a cruise ship would ever encounter them and thus avoid them entirely.

But if there ever was a breach on Icon, double hull structures and enhanced watertight compartments could better defend against flooding. However, if worse came to worst and it ever had to be evacuated, for whatever reason, modern cruise ships have far more lifeboats, rafts and other flotation devices that exceed a vessel’s passenger capacity, let alone Titanic’s devastating deficit.

If anything, we have the historic ocean liner disaster to thank for SOLAS (Safety Of Life at Sea) provisions since it actually prompted such modern standards.

5. Icon of the Seas vs. Titanic: Edwardian Era and Class

View of Chill Island and Central Park on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
View of Chill Island and Central Park on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Another hallmark of Titanic was its Edwardian-era style and respective first-, second- and third-class distinctions. While the wealthiest travelers could afford the sheer opulence of first, it was the poorest immigrants that could only pay for the most minimal third (or so-called steerage, named after its proximity to steering equipment).

Icon of the Seas is considerably more equitable, but it does sport its own ship-within-a-ship complex. Of its noted “neighborhoods,” the Suite Neighborhood and its double-decker sun deck, pair of private restaurants and VIP lounge are accessible exclusively by guests occupying the ship’s most top-tier accommodations.

But otherwise, Icon passengers have free rein of the rest of the vessel, which was certainly not the case on Titanic and across its rigidly enforced passenger spaces.

6. Icon of the Seas vs. Titanic: Public Amenities

Surfside neighborhood on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Icon of the Seas' Surfside neighborhood is dedicated to young children (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

Speaking of which, its Icon’s relaxed vacation amenities where the newest cruise ship most departs from the formal lifestyle of the outdated Titanic.

The ocean liner was a simpler ship with fewer, but still grand, public venues: a swimming pool, Turkish bath (spa), squash court, gymnasium, library, reception and smoking lounges, Parisian cafe, a singular a la carte restaurant and only one main dining room per class.

Compare that to Icon’s staggering countdown of 20-plus dining venues, 10 entertainment offerings, nine whirlpools, eight neighborhoods, seven pools and six waterslides, and you have yourself quite the maritime juxtaposition.

7. Icon of the Seas vs. Titanic: Private Suites

Slide in the living room of the Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Slide in the living room of the Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Even having a look at private accommodations, Icon manages to beat Titanic. The ocean liner’s two largest Deluxe Parlor Suites were known to encompass 50 feet worth of promenade deck all to themselves.

However, the cruise ship’s three-story Ultimate Family Townhouse for up to eight guests surely supersedes them at 1,770 square feet, a wraparound 750-square-foot balcony, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, living and dining space, in-suite cinema, interior dry slide, Royal Genie service and much more.

So fear not: Icon of the Seas is not only safer than Titanic, it is far superior in every way.

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Publish date February 13, 2024
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