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Icon of the Seas docked at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
Icon of the Seas docked at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

Icon of the Seas Debuts in Miami: All the News and a Sneak Peek

Icon of the Seas docked at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
Icon of the Seas docked at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
Editorial Copywriter
Kristen Adaway
Editor
Jorge Oliver
Executive Editor, U.S.
Chris Gray Faust
Editor-In-Chief
Colleen McDaniel

Last updated
Jan 30, 2024

Icon of the Seas, the newest ship from Royal Caribbean, is here! The largest ship in the world represents a new class for the cruise line, with a number of firsts: the largest waterpark at sea, with six waterslides; a suspended infinity pool and the first Royal Caribbean ship with LNG power.

Icon of the Seas is also the size of a small city, with the ability to carry up to 7,600 passengers (double occupancy is 5,610 people, but the ship is built for families so expect that number to be higher) and 2,350 crew. It measures 1,198 feet long – more than three football fields – and is 250,800 gross tons.

The ship set sail on its maiden voyage January 27 from Miami, and Cruise Critic members and editors have been onboard reporting from the most-anticipated ship of 2024.

Icon of the Seas Embarked on its Inaugural Sailing: Here’s What Cruise Critic Community Members are Saying

Passengers embark Icon on the Seas in PortMiami's Terminal A (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Icon of the Seas sails out of PortMiami's Terminal A (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

(January 28, 2024) -- After a series of preview sailings, Icon of the Seas set sail January 27 from PortMiami on its first trip with paying guests.

As the largest ship in the world make its way to the Eastern Caribbean, visiting St. Kitts and St. Thomas for the first time – Cruise Critic community members onboard Icon of the Seas are sharing their experiences and first impressions.

For Cruise Critic community member FromSea2ShiningSea, sailing on Icon of the Seas' first full voyage is akin to a storybook moment. "I really feel like Charlie with my Golden Ticket in hand along with 5500 other ticket winners,” wrote the community member.

Passengers are reporting every detail, from the swift embarkation process in Royal Caribbean's Terminal A to the quality of the onboard entertainment. The thread is brimming with photographs of Icon of the Seas' most eye-catching venues, including Royal Promenade, The Pearl, the welcome buffet at Windjammer Marketplace, Category 6 Waterpark, AquaDome and its AquaTheater and the Royal Theater. Even Rover, Icon of the Seas' Chief Dog Officer, made an appearance.

"We just saw the Wizard Of Oz. It was very good and they got a standing ovation," wrote ReneeFLL. "When the tornado came by, there was a very strong breeze that swept over the audience. It made my straw move in my pina colada drink."

The first passenger review of Icon of the Seas has also surfaced on CruiseCritic.com. Assigning a 4.0 overall rating, Cruise Critic member Cruise4family5 opined that Icon of the Seas is an "amazing new ship with some minor issues."

The reviewer gave high marks to the embarkation process and some aspects of the entertainment and food offerings. "The Aqua Action show is INCREDIBLE. It is very unique in a one-of-a-kind venue with amazing diving, flying, aerial harnesses, audio, and video," write Cruise4family5. "You won’t find another experience like it anywhere else. The performers were amazing."

Other Cruise Critic members commented on the cost of sailing on Icon of the Seas, which is on average higher than other Royal Caribbean ships.

While cruisers pointed out that the prices for Icon of the Seas can be unattainable, they also acknowledged that it is understandable for the ship to be more expensive than other mainstream cruises.

"I’m definitely priced out of ICON right now. I can’t wait to sail, but for me it’s going to be a while" wrote eroller. "Royal spent a fortune to design & build an amazing ship that is generating unprecedented demand. Good for them. Prices are market driven so as long as people feel ICON is worth the premium, these high prices will continue."

Still, for other members the high prices of Icon of the Seas are presently a deterrent. "We would rather do 2 or 3 weeks on other ships, not 1 week on the Icon," wrote FOXTROT.

-- Jorge Oliver, Editor

Soccer Star Lionel Messi Officially Kicks Off Icon of the Seas Era

Lionel Messi poses with actor Mario Lopez during Icon of the Seas' naming ceremony (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Soccer icon Lionel Messi christened Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

(January 23, 2024) -- Cometh the hour, cometh the GOATfather.

More than 10 days after arriving in Miami with a bang, Icon of the Seas has officially been christened in its homeport by Lionel Messi, the soccer star widely considered the greatest of all time (or GOAT).

The hour-long event was held on the ship’s AquaTheater, located on Deck 15 in the new AquaDome neighborhood.

Although the venue has generated a lot of enthusiasm, it couldn’t compare to Messi’s celebrity status. The presence of the Argentine athlete brought the filled-to-the-brim crowd of the AquaTheater to its feet.

For the world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean chose a godfather of equal stature in Messi. Affectionally nicknamed “La Pulga” (the Flea) due to his relatively short height, Messi is nothing short of a soccer giant. His achievements include winning the World Cup in 2022 with Argentina and amassing a record eight Ballon d’Or awards, the highest individual honor a soccer player can get.

Before introducing the man of the hour, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty revealed that Messi’s qualities as a family man are what make him the ideal godfather to a ship that heralds a new era of multigenerational family cruise experiences.

“I know him as a devoted father and husband, who also happens to be really good at soccer,” the Royal Caribbean executive said.

“This is a great honor for me,” said Messi while delivering his blessing completely in Spanish. “I know what this ship means for the city of Miami and for the entire world.”

As is customary for all christenings of Royal Caribbean Group ships, the event started with a bagpipes-and-drums procession. But in a break from tradition, the musicians in charge of the procession were the Celtic rock band Red Hot Chili Pipers. They took the stage to play renditions of Avicii’s “So wake me up” and Journey’s “Don’t stop believing” with their unique mix of electric guitars and bagpipes.

The event also featured a sample of the AquaTheater’s brand-new Aqua Show, which will debut in full during Icon of the Seas’ first sailing on Jan. 27. To add to the evening's star power, actor and TV host Mario Lopez served as the master of ceremonies for the event.

--Jorge Oliver, Editor

Sneak Peek! Cruise Critic Visits Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay

Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

(January 22, 2024) -- Icon of the Seas stopped today at Royal Caribbean's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

The much-heralded beach destination, which delivers a blend of "thrill" and "chill" experiences, has just opened an adults' only spot, dubbed Hideaway Beach. This will be open to paying guests starting with Icon of the Seas' January 27 sailing.

Cruise Critic got a sneak peek of Hideaway Beach, which carries a fee of $39 per person.

Located west of the pier and away from CocoCay's other attractions, the new beach feels like an exclusive area all on its own. But just because there aren't kids there doesn't mean it's quiet -- we loved the dance music and general energetic vibe you felt the second you walked in.

The pool at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
The pool at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
At the heart of Hideaway Beach is the main pool, which includes a swimup bar, which was already starting to bet busy when we arrived at just after 9:30 a.m.

The area also has two restaurants: Slice of Paradise and Hideaway Hut. The former is located near the middle of Hideaway Beach and offers a simple menu consisting of pizza (cheese and pepperoni), barbeque chicken, seafood escabeche, and chicken and beef empanadas. You'll also find a full-service bar in Slice of Paradise.

Slice of Paradise, Hideaway Beach (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Slice of Paradise is one of two eateries in CocoCay's Hideaway Beach(Photo: Jorge Oliver)

On the east end of Hideaway Beach, you'll find Hideaway Hut. The menu here is more robust, with beach-friendly selections like hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, coconut shrimp and ceviche, as well as sides like fried mozzarella sticks and French fries. Salads are also on the menu: Caesar salad, Greek salad and grilled vegetable salad, and you have the option of adding coconut shrimp or chicken to any salad. You can also order desert and your options are chocolate chip cookies chocolate caramel brownies and funnel cakes.

Although Hideaway Hut doesn't have a bar, you'll find one right nextdoor. On the Rocks is the largest bar in Hideaway Beach, and features bar seating as well as a ton of colorful and fun conversation areas. It has a pool table and a bartop shuffleboard, as well as two large TVs. This is the best spot to take photos of your cruise ship.

On the Rocks bar at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
On the Rocks bar at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

Hideaway Beach also is full of cabanas: Our favorites are on the far western part of the cove, as they have their own infinity pool, which you can step into right from your cabana. (All cabanas carry a fee, which we're told varies by season and depending on how many ships are on port.)

The cabana infinity pool at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
The cabana infinity pool at Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

Of course, you can't have a "Hideaway Beach" without an actual beach, and this one's a beauty, as it's a protected cove that has rock barriers that prevent waves from crashing in.

Hideaway Beach is a five-minute walk from the arrivals area, but a tram regularly takes passengers there as well.

-- Colleen McDaniel, Editor in Chief

We Went on Crown’s Edge. Here’s All you Need to Know About Icon of the Seas' Thrill Ride

Crown's Edge thrill ride on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
Crown's Edge is Royal Caribbean's latest thrill ride, found only on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

(January 21, 2024) -- We tried out Icon of the Seas' most thrilling ride -- the brand-new Crown's Edge -- and it's definitely not for the faint-hearted!

The thrill ride is found portside on Deck 16 -- not surprisingly in the Thrill Island neighborhood. Reservations are required in advance and during our 3-day preview sailing we were able to secure them via the Royal Caribbean app.

The ride starts out with a safety briefing, where the staff will fit you with a neon yellow jumpsuit, harness and helmet. We were then led up a flight of stairs to the starting point, where your harness is attached to the top railing.

The first portion of the ride consists of a suspended walkway with steps of different shapes and sizes. The strong winds during our preview sailing added an extra layer of thrill to the experience. Looking down is optional (we preferred to keep our eyes firmly fixed to the horizon).

The last portion of the walkway is a rectangular platform that gives a new meaning to walking the plank. After a few seconds of standing on this platform, the plank suddenly drops and you zip line your way back to the deck while gliding 154 feet above the sea.

All in all, the entire loop takes less than one minute, while prep time can take as much as 20 minutes.

Initial reports indicated that the cost for Crown's Edge would be $89.99 per person. But the staff at the attraction explained that Royal Caribbean's revenue team will lower the price significantly: $24 per person on sea days, and $19 per person on port days. The staff mentioned, however, that the price for the thrill ride will change depending on the season, with high season itineraries commanding higher fees.

The price also includes a GoPro video, as the camera is attached to the harness to capture the entire experience from a first-person perspective. We also recommend having someone film or photograph you from the deck to get another cool perspective of the ride. A Royal Caribbean photographer is also on site to snap photos of your experience.

This feature comes in handy, as you're not allowed to bring your phone on the ride nor anything else in your pockets other than your stateroom card.

Who can go on Crown's Edge? The thrill ride is not for everyone. Passengers must have a minimum height of 4 feet and be no taller than 6 feet, 8 inches, as well as weigh between 44 and 297 lbs.

The staff will also not allow passengers with certain conditions, including high blood pressure or prior stroke; history of spine or neck injury, major limb fracture or abdominal trauma; congenital heart defect, known heart problems or heart implants; fear of heights leading to known incidents of panic attacks or anxiety; and susceptibility to motion sickness or seizures. Pregnant women are also not allowed on the attraction, and neither are passengers under the influence or alcohol or drugs.

--Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

Surfside family area will likely host some events with the elusive Rover. (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Surfside family area will likely host some events with the elusive Rover. (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

(January 21, 2024) -- Without a doubt, the most talked about crewmember on Icon of the Seas is Rover, the ship's roving golden retriever.

The pup made its splashy debut a few weeks ago, and now everyone is posting selfies with Rover to their social media accounts.

But maybe no one is a bigger fan than Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley, who's idea it was to bring the dog onboard.

Speaking with media onboard the ship today, Bayley said they tested the concept of having an onboard doggo by bringing an employee's golden retriever onboard three different ships (between sailings, so only crew were onboard) and setting it loose while wearing a GoPro camera. The dog captured smiles, laughter and even tears of joy as the crew engaged with it.

So the idea was born.

Bayley compares Rover to a Hollywood A-lister.

"Rover is like a movie star," he said. "When she’s ready, she may show up."

As such, she might have bodyguards in the future, as she tends to get mobbed when she makes her appearances, he said, in order to not overwhelm her.

Bayley also said Rover really is for the kids, so the staff, including Rover's handler, will look for opportunities for events at Surf Side.

Rover Also Makes Appearances Ashore in CocoCay

Icon of the Seas' Chief Dog Officer Rover plays in CocoCay's Chill Island Beach(Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Rover, Icon of the Seas' Chief Dog Officer, can also be spotted ashore (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

While we barely had a chance to spot Rover on board the ship on our three-day preview sailing, our luck improved when we visited Perfect Day at CocoCay on day 3.

The golden retriever pup was having the time of her life playing with her handler Alison Hubble, whose official title is Rover Chief of Staff. Although Rover's main focus was catching her ball in Chill Island Beach, she still managed to fit in her schedule some cuddles and belly rubs from the handful of passengers present at the beach.

Cruise Critic editor Jorge Oliver meets Rover in CocoCay (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Meeting Rover, Icon of the Seas' Chief Dog Officer, in CocoCay (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

Hubble mentioned that Rover is now very familiar with CocoCay, having visited Royal Caribbean's private island on every Icon of the Seas sailing since the ship arrived a week ago.

--Colleen McDaniel, Editor in Chief, and Jorge Oliver, Editor

An Iconic Sendoff: Icon of the Seas' Celebrates Sailaway with Massive Balloon Drop

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)

(January 21, 2024) -- Sailing out of Miami on the world's biggest cruise ship can never inspire anything less than a massive party.

And Icon of the Seas didn't disappoint. Our three-night preview sailing on Royal Caribbean's newest ship got off to a rousing start, complete with a massive balloon drop in the ship's roomy Royal Promenade.

The celebration began at 6 p.m., with a fireworks show in PortMiami to herald the moment when the ship began pulling away from Terminal A. From that moment, the 250,800-gross-ton ship turned up the volume throughout its multiple public areas and venues.

Gradually, the party focus shifted to the Royal Promenade, where a live band kept the crowd pumped until the big balloon drop at midnight, when 10,000 pink, purple and blue balloons rained on hundreds of reveling cruisers. A deafening rat-a-tat of popping balloons soon followed, giving way to the next scheduled activity, as highlighted on the daily planner: The Big Recycle Balloon Pickup.

Cruisers were encouraged to assist with cleanup efforts, but most of the crowd began to disperse. Some headed to Dueling Pianos or the Music Hall to keep the party going, while others made a dash to Sorrento's to indulge on pizza.

And others played it more conservatively, heading back to their cabins to recharge their batteries, cognizant that two days of partying still lay ahead.

-- Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

A Taste of the AquaDome Aqua Show Debuts on Icon of the Seas

Aqua Action show on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Icon of the Seas' AquaDome Theater is the setting of the Aqua Action show (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

(January 20, 2024) – Robotic arms shinning down on swimmers with flashlights, a love story played out in aerial ballet and a percussive number with a flying drum.

These were some of the highlights shared by Icon of the Seas' entertainment team during the first performance in the AquaTheater, located within the ship's AquaDome neighborhood.

We caught a glimpse of Royal Caribbean’s brand-new Aqua Action show during a three-night preview sailing on Icon of the Seas. According to Nick Weir, senior vice president of Royal Caribbean International, the show is still a work in progress and will debut in full during Icon of the Seas first revenue sailing, which starts January 27.

“We’ve been preparing for more than nine months,” Weir said. “But we’ve only had water in this pool for seven days. There is no rule book; we’re making it up as we go. And we are building this together with you.”

Weir couldn't have asked for a better audience to test out the show. The crowd left no empty seats in the AquaTheater, which was already full well ahead of the show's 10 p.m. start time.

Accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack that included U2, Aerosmith, the Imperial March from Star Wars and the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, a cast of 21 performers dazzled the crowd for 30 minutes. The performance consisted of four numbers, featuring high-flying acrobatics, aquatic choreography and divers plunging into the 16-foot-deep AquaTheater pool. And each number was met with rousing applause from the audience, a positive harbinger for Aqua Action ahead of its definitive debut.

-- Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

A Strategy for Icon of the Seas' Category 6 Waterpark

Category 6 Waterpark on Icon of the Seas. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
Category 6 Waterpark on Icon of the Seas. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

(January 20, 2024) -- It's already obvious that Category 6, Icon of the Seas' incredible six-slide waterpark is a hit. We've been onboard for a mere two hours, and it's already busy with guests eager to try out the biggest waterpark at sea.

The 17,000 square foot park is impressive. The name Category 6 plays on the category ratings used for hurricanes; category 5 is the highest. Standing in the waterpark, all the way at the back of Icon of the Seas, you can't miss hearing the sounds of a storm brewing, piped through speakers throughout the area.

Kids and adults alike are taking the plunge.

But we got the scoop, chatting with the people who know the slides best: the team of lifeguards who keep thrillseekers safe.

Nervous about the Frightening Bolt (the favorite among lifeguards)? Start with the Pressure Drop, a 108-foot freefall slide that is a good teaser. Then, move your way up to the Storm Chasers, duel mat slides -- you can even race your friends.

After taking those on, you should be ready for the tallest drop slide at sea, which sends sliders careening (and based on what we've seen, screaming) 282 feet down to deck far below.

-- Colleen McDaniel, Editor In Chief

All Ready to Board Icon of the Seas!

The Pearl in the Royal Promenade on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
The Pearl in the Royal Promenade on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

(January 19, 2024) -- Four-hundred and fifty-eight days.

That’s how long it’s been since I got a first glimpse of Icon of the Seas, as Royal Caribbean hosted an event for the media in Miami revealing the details of what would become the world’s largest cruise ship.

Tomorrow, I will set foot on the massive ship to set sail on a three-day preview, along with Cruise Critic’s Editor in Chief, Colleen McDaniel. And it feels like I’ll finally get to meet a dear pen pal or a relative that I’ve grown to know well yet haven’t met face to face.

As a Cruise Critic editor based in Miami, I have had the privilege to follow and report on every Icon of the Seas milestone. I’ve spent many a day at Royal Caribbean’s headquarters in PortMiami, learning new and exciting details about the ship’s eight neighborhoods. To finally get to walk through each of these neighborhoods or throughout the ship’s 20 decks will be a veritable pinch-me moment.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to witness that my excitement for Icon of the Seas has been widely shared by pretty much everyone in the city of Miami. Since arriving a week ago, the massive ship has taken hold of South Florida at a level I’ve never witnessed before, becoming quite literally the talk of the town. Miamians of all walks of life that I’ve encountered recently know exactly how many water slides the ship has, how many passengers it can carry, and that global soccer icon and Inter Miami star Lionel Messi has been chosen as its godfather.

Today, less than 24 hours away from embarking on Icon of the Seas, I feel the same thrill I experienced 458 days ago when the ship was revealed. Stay tuned for more as we continue reporting from the world's largest cruise ship.

Jorge Oliver -- Cruise Critic Editor

What Does the Thrill Ride Crown’s Edge Looks Like on Icon of the Seas? Take a Look.

Crown's Edge, one of the attractions on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Crown's Edge thrill ride on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Icon of the Seas has brought many firsts for Royal Caribbean. And in the thrills department, the world’s largest cruise ship has a hair-raising attraction in the form of the novel Crown’s Edge ride.

Located portside on Deck 16 in the appropriately named Thrill Island, Crown’s Edge is part ropes course, part skywalk, taking cruisers 159 feet above the open ocean. On the last portion of the ride of the ride, the walking surface drops and riders remain suspended by their harnesses while zipping down to the end of the course back on the ship’s deck.

Royal Caribbean president and CEO Michal Bayley recently posted a video of himself on social media trying out the thrill ride.

“That was fantastic. When you come around the corner and you suddenly realize you are literally standing over the sea on this little piece of metal, you suddenly feel pretty scared,” the executive said in the video. “I’m shaking still.”

Cruisers will have an opportunity to try out Crown’s Edge beginning on January 27, when Icon of the Seas embarks on its first revenue sailing. The attraction, however, isn’t included in the fare and has an additional cost of $89 per ride.

--Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor


Here's How the World's Two Largest Cruise Ships Look Side by Side

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)

(January 16, 2024) – Yesterday, the world’s two largest cruise ships met for the first time on a tiny Bahamian island.

Icon of the Seas, the heir to the distinction of world's largest cruise ship, shared the pier of Perfect Day at CocoCay with Wonder of the Seas, the Oasis-class ship that had held the heavyweight crown since being launched in 2022.

The massive ships appear to overwhelm Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas that measures less than a mile from east to west and just under 480 yards from north to south.

But how do Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas really compare in size? Seeing both ships side by side, it’s hard to tell which one is larger. In fact, it may even seem that Wonder of the Seas slightly outsizes its fellow Royal Caribbean ship.

While their size difference is difficult to ascertain upon a simple glance, the numbers don’t lie. Wonder of the Seas measures an astonishing 1,188 feet in length (or 362 meters), but Icon of the Seas barely edges it with its 1,198-foot length (365 meters), a difference of just 10 feet.

Icon of the Seas also surpasses its fellow Royal Caribbean behemoth in the ship volume category. The Icon-class vessel clocks in at 250,800 gross tons, while Wonder of the Seas sits at 235,600 GT.

On a category that’s easier to quantify, Icon of the Seas boasts a total of 20 decks, 18 of which are passenger decks, while Wonder of the Seas offers 18 decks (16 passenger decks).

But perhaps the metric that best exemplifies the admittedly tight size difference between the two ships is passenger capacity. Icon of the Seas can accommodate a maximum of 7,600 cruisers, while Wonder of the Seas has a maximum capacity of 7,084.

Following their historic meeting in CocoCay, the ships went on their separate ways. Icon of the Seas returned to its homeport in Miami, ahead of its inaugural sailing on January 27. Wonder of the Seas carried on with its schedule of 7-day roundtrip itineraries to the Eastern and Western Caribbean from Port Canaveral.

--Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

We Got Onboard! Icon of the Seas is So Big, It’s Almost Impossible to See it All in One Day

Entrance through the gangway to Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Entrance through the gangway to Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

(January 11, 2024) – Cruise Critic editors Chris Gray Faust and Kristen Adaway boarded Icon of the Seas promptly at 9 a.m. They came off at 5 p.m., two of the last people to leave before the brand-new ship took a two-night spin down to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

The Pearl on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
The Pearl on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Our editors saw so much, we can’t fit it all in this news piece, so we've put together a photo essay that showcases all the new spaces you'll find on Icon of the Seas. Hungry for more? Read on for some of the tidbits we picked up.

Icon of the Seas Has Something For Everyone, Even New Cruisers Without Kids

The Lemon Post Bar is located in Surfside and offers adult and kid-friendly beverages (Photo: Kristen Adaway)
The Lemon Post Bar is located in Surfside and offers adult and kid-friendly beverages (Photo: Kristen Adaway)

(January 11, 2024) -- With Icon in its new Miami home port until its maiden voyage, I was giddy at the opportunity to get a first look at everything the ship has to offer -- especially because it was the first Royal Caribbean ship I’d ever been on as a newbie to the cruise world. Icon is described as being the "ultimate family vacation," and, as a very single person without children, I was curious to see if the ship would make me feel like I belonged, too. (Spoiler alert: It did.)

Because Icon is such a massive ship, I developed a loose game plan for which highlights I wanted to check off my list, starting with its many food options. Though the ship is geared toward families and children, I hoped there would be other dining options aside from overly sugary drinks and chicken tenders and French fries. Luckily, for those of us well into adulthood, variety indeed existed.

Blueberry pound cake from Pearl Cafe (Photo: Kristen Adaway)
Blueberry pound cake from Pearl Cafe (Photo: Kristen Adaway)

To see all of the ship, I didn't have time to dine at every new restaurant onboard, but I made sure to study each menu carefully. As a childless cruise beginner, I really appreciated each restaurant offering multiple meal options that didn't sound like they'd belong in a Kid Cuisine (think caviar, wagyu beef and fancy crepes). Plus, most of them still managed to offer sleek, luxe aesthetics that make perfect Instagram backdrops.

Next on my list was entertainment, which even with my growing cruise knowledge, I was aware that some cruise lines focused more on than others. As for Icon, there's no shortage of entertainment options to keep kids busy, but would the same ring true for adults, single and not?

The AquaTheater located inside of the AquaDome (Photo: Kristen Adaway)
The AquaTheater located inside of the AquaDome (Photo: Kristen Adaway)

The new AquaDome neighborhood was one of my favorites, as it has jaw-dropping ocean views and houses the impressive AquaTheater, where marquee aqua shows happen at night. There's even a coffee-centric cocktail bar right next to it, which I thought was a fun touch that gave a nod to adults who appreciate a good caffeinated boozy beverage.

The interior of new piano bar, Dueling Pianos (Photo: Kristen Adaway)
The interior of new piano bar, Dueling Pianos (Photo: Kristen Adaway)

Another hotspot was new kid on the block, Dueling Pianos, a piano bar that was definitely far from what I envisioned one on a cruise ship to look like (in a good way). It was low-lit, vibey and had the most striking lifesize piano key decoration along the walls of the cozy booths. I even got to enjoy a few performers warming up for the night before I left the ship.

Category 6 waterpark offers six thrilling waterslides (Photo: Kristen Adaway)
Category 6 waterpark offers six thrilling waterslides (Photo: Kristen Adaway)

My final takeaway from the ship was that Royal knows how to create an immersive water experience, and Icon has the perfect example. Though I consider myself still cruise-curious, instead of a seasoned expert, I did know that pools are not uncommon on cruise ships and are typically the hangout spot on any given ship. But Icon doesn't just have measly pools. It has an entire waterpark that takes up a ton of real estate on the 20th deck featuring six vibrant, winding waterslides.

As I walked through this section of the ship, I couldn't help but feel my inner child jump for joy (partially because I used to beg for a waterbed when I was a kid and this was a thousand times better than that). Had I brought swimwear, and, had the day's weather not been a windy, rainy mess, I would have been first in line to test out the slides myself. I made a mental note that if I ever cruised on Icon, I'd reserve a day to hang out in the area.

Cruise Critic editor Kristen Adaway (Photo: Kristen Adaway)
Cruise Critic editor Kristen Adaway (Photo: Kristen Adaway)

So, did Icon live up to my expectations as a cruise-curious, single traveler? It definitely did, and the hype it's gotten is well-deserved. Consider me a cruise believer, Icon.

-Kristen Adaway, Editorial Copywriter

Would You Pay $80,000 for a Week in Icon of the Seas’ Ultimate Family Townhouse? Take a Look!

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)

(January 11, 2024) – Icon of the Seas is still going through its final touches – although we have to say, the ship is looking really good, considering that it’s not taking paying guests for another few weeks.

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

There’s been a lot of hype about Icon’s latest and greatest suite for families. The Ultimate Family Townhouse is just that: a 1,772-square-foot, three-deck, two-bedroom suite that can sleep up eight. Located in a prime position, at the aft of the ship with direct access to Surfside, Icon’s new neighborhood just for families with young kids, the Townhouse is the ultimate in cost, too – a week goes for a cool $80,000.

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

Needless to say, we at Cruise Critic had to take a peek, even though contractors were still working on the wraparound balcony (which also has its own Jacuzzi). What we saw made us wish we could be adopted by the quick-acting families who have already booked the Townhouse – too bad it’s already sold out for 2024.

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

It wasn’t just the slide between the floors that made us so jealous. Or the fact that every bunk in the kids’ room came with its own flat-screen TV.

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

Or the trampoline net on the second floor where you could spend hours lounging.

Snow cone machine in the Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Snow cone machine in the Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Or the cool shark-themed sitting cubby in the suite’s private screening room, which even boasted its own Cusinart snow cone making machine.

Interactive dining room table in the Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Interactive dining room table in the Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

No, it was the interactive dining room table, which came with an entire set of games you could play, that kept us lingering. Whack-a-Mole, trivia, maze games – it was all at your fingertips. We couldn’t stop pushing buttons.

Some lucky kids are about to board.

–Chris Gray Faust, Executive Editor

The Hideaway and Cloud 17 Shift Purposes; Hideaway Now Adults-Only

The Hideaway infinity pool on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
The Hideaway infinity pool on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

(January 11, 2024) -- While Icon of the Seas starts its series of shakedown cruises on Saturday, the line is still making changes in anticipation of its paying guests. One change that was just decided this week: the Cloud 17 and The Hideaway areas will swap purposes, with the latter becoming the adults-only swim spot.

There were several reasons for the change, Royal Caribbean Chief Innovation Officer Jay Schneider told us. One, Hideaway Beach at Perfect Day at CocoCay is an adults-only venue – and so it makes sense for The Hideaway on Icon to have the same philosophy.

Cloud 17 sundeck on Icon of the Seas, near Lime and the Coconut (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Cloud 17 sundeck on Icon of the Seas, near Lime and the Coconut (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Second, Icon of the Seas is billed as the “Ultimate Family Vacation.” So it didn’t really make sense to have Cloud 17, prime real estate that encompasses a sundeck and pool with ocean views on Deck 17, to be closed off to families.

Families will certainly be glad for the change. While adults will certainly love the views from the Hideaway pool – it’s an infinity pool, at the back of the ship – as well as the staggered decks for sun loungers, they might not love its location: The pool, with an accompanying sundeck and bar, is right below Thrill Island and the noisy waterslides there.

The Hideaway infinity pool on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
The Hideaway infinity pool on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

That’s OK, Schneider said – the Hideaway Pool is meant to evoke a beach club, which by definition isn’t quiet (we posit there’s a difference between loud club music and screaming kids, however).

And parents might love the idea of having a little escape where they can relax and have a cocktail while their older children take on the six waterslides just a deck above.

Cloud 17 sundeck on Icon of the Seas, near Lime and the Coconut (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Cloud 17 sundeck on Icon of the Seas, near Lime and the Coconut (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

People traveling without kids might be a little salty about losing Cloud 17. That space is right next to Lime and the Coconut, a Royal Caribbean favorite, that specializes in delicious frozen beverages.

Swim & Tonic on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Swim & Tonic on Icon of the Seas (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

We predict, though, that guests sans children will find sanctuary in the Deck 17 swim-up bar on the other side, Swim & Tonic, which has a decidedly adult vibe, even if it's ostensibly open to all.

--Chris Gray Faust, Executive Editor

Royal Caribbean Celebrates Icon of the Seas’ Miami Arrival with Party

icon of the seas party

(January 10, 2024) -- Celebrating Icon of the Seas' arrival at PortMiami started with an early morning party at the Pérez Art Museum in Downtown Miami. Royal Caribbean staff, all decked out in matching pink sweatshirts with "This Is The Icon Of Vacations" printed on the back, stood greeting visitors at the entrance, along with cheerleaders in sparkling attire to match the festive occasion.

From there, the party started. Several visitors and Royal Caribbean employees played cornhole nearby, while others snacked on a variety of breakfast treats and beverages at the food stations. After taking in the glorious views of the port and getting pumped by the upbeat music boosting through the nearby speakers, the best spot to see the ship come into port was the pebbled waterfront which had an unobstructed view.

Icon of the Seas arrives in Miami accompanied by fireboats (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Icon of the Seas arrives in Miami accompanied by fireboats (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Around 7:30 a.m, the front of the ship was in clear view as it slowly navigated down the main channel. Roughly 10 minutes later, the people surrounding me on the edge of the waterfront burst into excited cheers and whistles as it began to turn toward the port to dock. Fireboats spewing streams of water accompanied it down the channel to aid in the celebration of its arrival.

A few moments later, all of the well-deserved glory of Icon's impressive exterior was in full view, including the 6 colorful waterslides and 7 swimming pools. A nice added touch was the presence of dozens of onboard Royal Caribbean crew members that were excitedly waving from the ship's top decks.

Leading up to Icon's debut, the main talking point of the ship was its size and it's even bigger than anyone imagined. As the ship continued its journey to port, carefully changing directions while showing off the back, onlookers stared in awe and many pointed out how massive it was. It made nearby docked ships, such as Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady, look tiny.

Once Icon turned around and headed toward its berth, collective hurrahs continued and planes with banners streaming Icon of the Seas flew overhead.

For many of the Royal employees, today was the culmination of months of planning and work. They, and the ship, deserved the celebration.

-Kristen Adaway, Editorial Copywriter

Cruise Fans Rise Early to Welcome Icon of the Seas Into Miami

Icon of the Seas approaching Miami (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Icon of the Seas approaching Miami (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

(January 10, 2024) -- They came to Miami Beach’s South Pointe Park Pier by foot and by bike, with drones and dogs -- cruise fans all -- to be the first to see Icon of the Seas sail into PortMiami.

The pier sits at the top of the channel into PortMiami, with cruise ships coming so close, it seems like you can touch them. While Royal Caribbean gathered its employees for an official party at the Perez Art Museum, cruise line fans in the know went to their tried and true viewing spot.

Cruise fans waiting in Miami for Icon of the Seas to arrive for the first time (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Cruise fans waiting in Miami for Icon of the Seas to arrive for the first time (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Don Vander Linde, of Sunrise, Fla., watched Wonder of the Seas – now dethroned as the largest cruise ship in the world – come into Miami last year on a livestream. For Icon, he wanted to get a gander in person.

“My wife’s addicted,” he said, noting that the couple has bumped up their cruise habit from twice a year to four times a year. They were leaving with friends on Celebrity Silhouette from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale later today.

Drone shot of Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Nathan Ashinhurst)
Drone shot of Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Nathan Ashinhurst)

Navy officer Nathan Ashinhurst came with his drone from Naples, Fla., across the state via Alligator Alley. “Seeing how this thing works” is a motivator for the former chief engineer’s interest in the immense ship; he is sailing on it in March, and takes cruises on a regular basis with his family.

Cruise fans taking selfies with Icon of the Seas as it arrives in Miami for the first time (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Cruise fans taking selfies with Icon of the Seas as it arrives in Miami for the first time (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Dawn hit, just as Icon approached the channel. On the jetty, fans took selfies with the ship, its 20 decks lit up like the holidays never ended. The pier, which normally doesn’t open until 7:30, swung its gates and people swarmed to the end, cameras and phones on video.

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)

Music blared as Icon of the Seas passed by. People on the pier jumped, whistled and waved at the crew, who stood out on the decks, all dressed in pink "This is the ICON of vacations" long-sleeved T-shirts. Think of a skyscaper on its side, and you have an idea of how big Icon is.

Drone shot of Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Nathan Ashinhurst)
Drone shot of Icon of the Seas coming into Miami (Photo: Nathan Ashinhurst)

As it passed the other cruise ships in PortMiami – Virgin Voyage’s Scarlet Lady and even MSC Meraviglia (which is no slouch at a 5,700-guest total capacity), Icon of the Seas dwarfed them all. For now, the industry has a new queen.

-- Chris Gray Faust, Executive Editor

Meet Rover, Icon of the Seas’ Furriest Resident

Icon of the Seas crewmember Goodwin Fernandes poses with Rover (Photo: Goodwin Fernandes Instagram)
Rover has joined Icon of the Seas as a permanent resident of the ship (Photo: Goodwin Fernandes Instagram)

(January 9, 2024) -- Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Icon of the Seas has capacity for up to 7,600 passengers, 2,350 crewmembers… and one dog.

The cruise line introduced Rover, a female Golden Retriever, in a 44-second clip posted on social media. The pup boarded the ship recently in Ponce, Puerto Rico, while Icon of the Seas was undergoing routine inspections ahead of its deployment to Miami.

"Meet Rover, Chief Dog Officer and family dog on board for Icon's crew," Royal Caribbean International posted on the cruise line's official Facebook page.

"As a crewmember on Icon, Rover strives to bring joy and happiness to her fellow crew and guests onboard. All the while, she gets to explore the Caribbean shores and beautiful ports, and of course, live in one of the biggest playgrounds in the world," explained the video that introduced Rover. "From daily walks to hanging out on the bridge with the captain, Rover has already made herself at home on board."

The Golden Retriever pup is already a star on social media, racking up more than 12,000 likes in less than a day on Instagram. According to Royal Caribbean, passengers onboard Icon of the Seas will be able to meet Rover, and the four-legged crewmember's adventures on the ship will be documented on social media.

--Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

Icon of the Seas Spending Monday at Coco Cay, Crew Party at New Hideaway Beach

Perfect Day at CocoCay (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Perfect Day at CocoCay (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

(January 8, 2024) -- So where is Icon of the Seas starting its week? On Monday, the ship is at Royal Caribbean’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, where the 2,350 crew members are among the first to tour a new section of the island, Hideaway Beach.

“Our amazing Icon crew will be the first to experience the biggest and best private island party at the new Hideaway Beach,” Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley said on his Facebook page. “This break is so well-deserved, as they’ve been working hard to put the finishing details on Icon, making sure the ship is just right for our first guests.”

Hideaway Beach is almost (but not quite) as anticipated as Icon. The area will be adults-only and be an extra fee experience that includes a private beach and pool, new venues for food and drink, cabanas for rent, live music and more.

Michael Bayley at the Icon of the Seas crew party at Hideaway Beach (Photo: Michael Bayley's public Facebook page)
Michael Bayley at the Icon of the Seas crew party at Hideaway Beach (Photo: Michael Bayley's public Facebook page)

Social media posts showed a bar called On the Rocks, a live band playing for the crew and lounge chairs with a cute orange and teal green color scheme.

Icon of the Seas was originally schedule to pull into PortMiami on Tuesday, January 9. Rain in south Florida has pushed the arrival day back to Wednesday, January 10.

--Chris Gray Faust, Cruise Critic Executive Editor

Icon of the Seas Schedule for January

(January 8, 2024) -- Icon of the Seas won’t carry any paying passengers until January 27. But plenty of people will be onboard for various reasons before the ship officially launches.

A schedule drawn up on social media shows the different “shakedown” ‘and “preview” sailings that Icon will take in January. What’s the difference between the two? A shakedown cruise is usually limited to company employees and special guests. It’s a chance for the crew to go through their paces with a vastly reduced amount of passengers, just to make sure that everything goes well before guests who have paid get onboard.

January 2024 schedule for Icon of the Seas
January 2024 schedule for Icon of the Seas

Sometimes media and travel agents are invited on shakedown cruises. That’s not the case for Icon of the Seas, however. Instead, members of the media – including Cruise Critic’s editor in chief Colleen McDaniel and Senior Editor Jorge Oliver – will first sail on the ship during its first preview cruise on January 20.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t be giving you a sneak peek. Several Cruise Critic editors – Chris Gray Faust, Jorge Oliver and Kristen Adaway – will be on the ship Thursday, Jan. 11 for a special viewing. Watch this space!

-Chris Gray Faust, Cruise Critic Executive Editor

Cruise Critic Members Signed Up for Icon’s First Sailing, Eagerly Awaiting Ship

(January 8, 2024) -- Cruise Critic members are getting excited for Icon of the Seas. A Roll Call, where guests can plan, chat and make plans to meet others on their cruise, for the ship’s inaugural, has been active for months.

In addition, several threads about the ship’s entry to Miami are active on the Cruise Critic forums. Take a peek and join the conversation!

-Chris Gray Faust, Cruise Critic Executive Editor

Puerto Rico Welcomed Icon of the Seas as the Ship’s First Stop in the Americas

Icon of the Seas docked in the port of Ponce, Puerto Rico (Photo: Michael Bayley's public Facebook Page)
Icon of the Seas spent four days in Ponce to undergo regulatory inspections (Photo: Michael Bayley Facebook Page)

(January 8, 2024) -- Although bound for Miami, where the ship will be homeported for the next few years, Icon of the Seas’ first stop in the Western Hemisphere was not in the coasts of South Florida.

Instead, the largest cruise ship in the world made its way to the Caribbean -- specifically the island of Puerto Rico – after embarking on its first transatlantic voyage last month.

In what turned out to be another interesting twist, Icon of the Seas didn’t stop in San Juan – one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean – but instead in Ponce, on the southern coast of the island, which functions primarily as a cargo port.

The megaship arrived in Ponce on January 2, 2024, and spent four days in the Puerto Rican port, where it underwent regulatory inspections and final touches. Some 4,700 crewmembers and contractors were onboard the ship.

The presence of Icon of the Seas in Ponce caused a frenzy among the local population, who flocked to the port en masse to witness the world’s largest cruise ship before anyone else in the Western Hemisphere.

Although Puerto Rico caught the very first glimpse of Icon of the Seas in the Americas, the island won’t see the ship again until May 2025, when it’s scheduled to make its maiden call in San Juan during a 7-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary.

According to reports from the local media, however, the Port of Ponce is engaged in conversations with Royal Caribbean to bring Utopia of the Seas later this year for similar inspections. The 6,700-passenger ship is currently under construction in Saint-Nazaire, France and is scheduled to debut in July 2024.

--Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

Icon of the (Soccer) Fields: Royal Caribbean Names Lionel Messi ‘Icon’ of Icon of the Seas

Global soccer icon Lionel Messi (Photo: Royal Caribbean)
Royal Caribbean has chosen Lionel Messi as the Icon of Icon (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

(December 13, 2023) -- Royal Caribbean is set to kickoff the arrival of its newest megaship, Icon of the Seas, with the help of the world’s most decorated soccer player.

Lionel Messi, eight-time Ballon d’Or award winner and TIME’s 2023 Athlete of the Year, has been named “Icon of Icon,” a role that essentially translates to godfather of Icon of the Seas. The soccer icon plies his trade in Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami CF team and will welcome the largest cruise ship in the world at a naming ceremony in Miami in January 2024.

“I’m thrilled and honored to join the Royal Caribbean family to celebrate the arrival of the game-changing Icon of the Seas,” said Messi. “Icon is beyond anything else that’s out there for family vacations, with incredible never-before-seen features, all designed for making memories together.”

Royal Caribbean recently announced a partnership with Inter Miami CF, through which the cruise line became the team’s Main Partner and Official Vacation Partner. According to Royal Caribbean, the next stages of this partnership will be revealed at a later date, once Icon of the Seas arrives in South Florida.

“Icon of the Seas is the culmination of more than 50 years of delivering memorable vacations, and it’s set to live up to its name in more ways than one when it changes the vacation industry in January 2024,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International.

“It’s that ability to make such a widespread impact and change the status quo that the Icon of Icon must personify, and Lionel Messi has proven to be the perfect example of that for years in the world of sports and most recently in introducing a new era of excitement and passion for fútbol in Miami and the U.S.”

Icon of the Seas Arrives in January

Icon of the Seas during sea trials (Photo: Royal Caribbean)
Icon of the Seas during sea trials (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

As ‘Icon of Icon,’ Messi will take part in the naming celebration for Icon of the Seas, much like a traditional ship godfather. As dictated by tradition, the sports star will bestow safekeeping on the new ship, its crew and passengers.

Construction of the 250,800-ton ship was recently completed in Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland. Icon of the Seas will soon make its way across the Atlantic Ocean, ahead of its inaugural season.

The ship will be homeported in PortMiami, from where it will embark on 7-day itineraries, alternating between Eastern and Western Caribbean destinations. All of Icon of the Seas’ itineraries will include calls in Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island experience in The Bahamas.

The ship’s first passenger sailing is scheduled to depart on Jan. 27, 2024; a roundtrip out of Miami with stops in St. Kitts, St. Thomas and Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Cruise Critic will sail onboard the 7,600-passenger ship on a three-day media sailing on Jan. 20. Stay tuned for more news as we report live from Icon of the Seas.

--Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

Royal Caribbean Reveals New Bars and Nightlife Venues on Icon of the Seas

Two talented pianists go head-to-head on Royal Caribbean's new Dueling Pianos bar aboard Icon of the Seas. (Photo: Royal Caribbean)
A Royal Caribbean first, Dueling Pianos debuts in the Royal Promenade on Icon of the Seas. (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

(March 28, 2023) -- A dueling piano bar, a coffee bar and a walk-up Champagne bar are among the new venues set to debut on Royal Caribbean's new ship, Icon of the Seas.

The cruise line has revealed more than 15 of the bars and nightlife spots that will make an appearance on Icon of the Seas, including brand new venues and returning favorites.

Scheduled to arrive in January 2024, Icon of the Seas will surpass Wonder of the Seas as the world's largest cruise ship and will feature more than 40 restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.

Icon of the Seas Will Introduce Six New Bars/Nightlife Venues

Rendering of Central Park neighborhood, Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)
Rendering of Central Park neighborhood, Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)

(March 28, 2023) -- Two of the newcomers will be located in the Central Park neighborhood. Lou's Jazz n' Blues will feature live performances of jazz classics, while Bubbles will be a walk-up Champagne Bar serving mimosas, prosecco, Bellini and the namesake bubbly.

Elsewhere, 1400 Lobby Bar (named after Icon of the Seas' shipyard order number) will serve drinks developed by mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim. The new bar will also boast a new feature, as it will be the first venue on a Royal Caribbean ship to have an ocean-facing terrace on the Royal Promenade. Dueling Pianos will be Royal Caribbean's first-ever dueling pianos bar and is set to be located in the heart of the Royal Promenade.

The brand-new Aquadome, arguably Icon of the Seas' most emblematic feature, will be home to Rye & Bean. This new coffee bar will double as a morning hangout with sweeping ocean views and a nightlife spot with views of the AquaTheater at night. Also in the Aquadome, the Overlook Lounge and Overlook Pods will be located in decks 14 and 15, and will feature 160-degree views of the ocean.

“We’ve set out to introduce a new kind of vacation in every sense and taken a blank slate to create an unparalleled blend of ways vacationers can celebrate and make memories whatever their mood, vibe and style,” said Linken D’Souza, vice president, food and beverage, Royal Caribbean International. “From all-new venues and bolder favorites to new iconic drinks on every menu, zero-proof cocktails and twists to classics, there’s something for everyone to make the most of their nights out on Icon of the Seas.”

Existing bars and venues set to return on Icon of the Seas include The Attic, Music Hall, Trellis Bar, Boleros, the signature Schooner Bar, Spotlight Karaoke, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and Point & Feather pub.

--Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

Sushi to Go, Mommy-and-Me Bar and AquaDome's Installation: New Details We Learned About Icon of the Seas

(November 15, 2022) -- Icon of the Seas will offer a sushi "to-go" window, two new-to-Royal Caribbean bars and a neighborhood just for crew, a company executive revealed.

Jay Schneider, senior vice president and chief product innovation officer at Royal Caribbean International, spilled the beans to media (including Cruise Critic) and travel agent partners while onboard Allure of the Seas. He also said the ship will be floated out -- meaning it will touch water for the first time, in December at Meyer Werft shipyard in Turku, Finland.

A cruise ship float out ceremony takes place when a new vessel is first touched by water and is considered a key milestone in the construction of a cruise ship. The float out ceremony can be held once the exterior of the ship is completely built. It's typically a short ceremony, attended by people who are connected with the construction.

In May 2023, Icon of the Seas will have its first sea trials, one of the final steps in the process of constructing and deploying a new cruise ship. Conducted by the ship's new captain, the trial is designed to test the major systems of the vessel. The second set of sea trials is scheduled for June 2023, although Schneider noted that these dates are subject to change.

The next milestone is the delivery of the ship, scheduled for late 2023, while the first sailing is set for Jan. 2024.

Icon of the Seas' AquaDome Has Been Installed

Speaking of milestones, Royal Caribbean also shared an update from Meyer Werft's Turku shipyard in the form of a video that shows how Icon of the Seas' new AquaDome was installed. The 363-ton dome is 82 feet tall and 164 feet wide, and features 673 glass panels and 712 aluminum panels, which makes it the largest structure of glass and steel that's been lifted onto a cruise ship. All in all, installation of the dome took more than 80 hours.

The massive dome is the centerpiece of Icon of the Seas' brand new AquaDome neighborhood. The structure will allow 220 degrees of ocean views and will enclose restaurants, bars, lounges and an aqua theater that will feature a 55-foot-tall waterfall.

New Details About Icon of the Seas

Since revealing the look of Icon of the Seas last month, Royal Caribbean has kept other details under wraps. But during Schneider's presentation, he gave away a handful of previously unknown facts about the 250,800 gross-ton ship.

Among the highlights, the executive shared that Asian-inspired restaurant Izumi -- a mainstay across Royal Caribbean's fleets -- will have a new feature in the form of a sushi-to-go window, where passengers can order bento boxes and other menu items. As previously revealed, Izumi will be located in Icon of the Seas' Central Park neighborhood.

Schneider also shared that Central Park will feature two new, unnamed venues. One will be a restaurant and the other will be an entertainment venue. Central Park standards Park Cafe and Trellis Bar are also confirmed on the new ship, as is Royal Caribbean's signature steakhouse Chops Grille.

The ship's Royal Promenade neighborhood will be home to a new bar named 1400. Schneider explained that the name of the bar is an homage to the number assigned to the ship's hull in Meyer Werft's shipyard.

Another new aspect of the Royal Promenade is that the restaurants and venues flanking the thoroughfare will now have open facades, as opposed to the enclosed look they currently feature on Oasis-class and Quantum-class ships. Additionally, the layout of the two-story Promenade will be 360 degrees, eliminating the presence of dead ends found in other ships' Promenade neighborhoods.

The renderings displayed during the presentation also revealed other venues set to be featured in the Promenade, including Sorrentos, Boleros, Giovanni's Italian Table, Spotlight Karaoke and Playmakers Bar.

Rendering of The Lemon Post Bar, Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)
Rendering of The Lemon Post Bar, Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)

The Lemon Post Bar, another newly revealed addition to the ship's food and beverages offerings, will be found in the new Surfside neighborhood. Because it will be located in a neighborhood intended for families with children, the Lemon Post Bar will feature a "mommy and me" concept where children can enjoy an alcohol-free version of the adult drinks.

Additionally, Schneider revealed that the ship's crew will have its own Crew Area neighborhood, with reimagined cabins and public areas.

--Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

Icon of the Seas Sets New Cruise Sales Record for Royal Caribbean

Thrill Island Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas
Thrill Island Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas

(October 27, 2022) -- More than a year away from its inaugural sailing, Royal Caribbean's new cruise ship Icon of the Seas is already making waves. Itineraries went on sale October 25, which the company says is the largest booking day in its 53-year history.

The 250,800-gross-ton vessel, the first in Royal Caribbean's new Icon class, is expected to be delivered in late 2023. The ship's first sailing is scheduled for January 2024.

Icon of the Seas will feature 2,805 cabins that can accommodate 5,610 passengers at double occupancy and 7,600 passengers at maximum capacity.

"The enthusiasm and excitement for Icon are undeniable in more ways than one," Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley said. "The incredible response we have received from our loyal guests, vacationers new to cruising, crew members and travel partners continues to come in, and this is just the beginning. We can't wait to share more of what Icon has in store in the coming months."

Royal Caribbean has shared details about Icon of the Seas' public areas and cabins, including the ship's eight neighborhoods and 28 room categories. According to Bayley, the first reveal of the ship -- made public October 27 -- constitutes about 20% of what's in store. More reveals are expected throughout 2023, leading up to the delivery of the ship.

Prices are Higher But Not a Deterrent

Sales for Icon of the Seas have set a record despite the higher-than-average prices for a Royal Caribbean ship. The lowest available fares on Icon of the Seas start at an average of $981 per person for an inside cabin on a 7-day cruise. In contrast, Wonder of the Seas' inside cabins start at $560 per person on a similar 7-day Caribbean cruise.

On Cruise Critic's message boards, community members have expressed their excitement for the new ship, while also commenting on the cost of the fares.

"Pretty pricey, but I guess not that much more expensive than the holiday cruises," ARandomTraveler wrote on a thread about the ship. "Plus it's a new ship so that's to be expected."

Added KimA75: "I grabbed a junior sunset (suite) on the 9/14/24 sailing. I can't wait to try this new cabin. It's definitely more than I was hoping to spend, but with it so far out I have plenty of time to make payments towards it."

Icon will homeport in Miami, sailing year-round seven-day itineraries to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Every itinerary will feature a call in Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas.

--Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

Royal Caribbean Reveals Details for New Cruise Ship Icon of the Seas

Icon of the Seas will be a true amuseument park at sea (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)
Icon of the Seas will be a true amuseument park at sea (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)

(October 20, 2022) -- For the first time since announcing the construction of Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has shared a comprehensive look of its new ship, which also ushers in a new class for the line. And what’s apparent at first glance is that this megaship will be all about families, with onboard experiences that span multiple age groups.

This first look of the ship’s asymmetrical layout, revealed exclusively to the press at Royal Caribbean's headquarters, shows oodles of tangled slides, bright colors across the spectrum, layer upon layer of exposed decks and an abundance of pools and water attractions. Icon is akin to a floating theme park, not unlike Royal's Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, made no secret of Icon's primary audience. "Our target market is family and I feel like we'll deliver the goods. This ship is an evolution of all that we've built and learned from our other ships and fulfills our promise to deliver the ultimate family vacation."

Along with revealing the look of the ship, Royal also announced that Icon of the Seas will be delivered in late 2023, pushing back its maiden voyage to January 2024. General sales open on Tuesday, October 25, while Crown & Anchor loyalty members will be granted early access to bookings on Monday, October 24.

Expected to clock in at 250,800 GT, Icon of the Seas will become the largest cruise ship in the world by gross tonnage, exceeding Royal's own Wonder of the Seas. It will feature 2,805 cabins accommodating 5,610 passengers at double occupancy, slightly below Wonder of the Seas' 5,734 passengers. Maximum capacity on Icon, however, rises to 7,600 passengers, higher than Wonder of the Seas' cap of 6,988 passengers.

Along with being first in class, Icon brings several other firsts for Royal Caribbean, including being the first LNG-powered vessel in the cruise line's fleet. The line is calling Icon of the Seas its “most sustainable to date,” with shore power connection and other innovations.

AquaDome Set to Stun

The Aquadome aboard Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)
The Aquadome aboard Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)

Speculation had been rife over the dome that Royal Caribbean has been building for Icon of the Seas. And now we know: the glass-covered AquaDome on the ship’s bow is designed to feature wraparound ocean views during the day and at night will house the signature AquaTheater, complete with a 50-foot waterfall. This AquaTheater will have a transforming pool, four robotic arms and state-of-the-art projection capabilities.

AquaDome is also one of Icon's eight neighborhoods, expanding on the concept first introduced on 2009's Oasis of the Seas and featured on subsequent Oasis-class vessels. Aside from AquaDome, four new neighborhoods are set to debut on Icon: Thrill Island, Chill Island, Surfside, and The Hideaway. Royal mainstays Central Park, Royal Promenade and Suite Neighborhood round up the ship's neighborhoods.

Plenty of Slides and Attractions in Thrill Island

Thrill Island best represents Icon of the Seas' theme park-like appearance. The centerpiece of this neighborhood will be Category 6, a waterpark featuring 6 waterslides. These include Pressure Drop, an open free-fall slide with a 66-degree incline that Royal Caribbean says is the first in the industry. The Frightening Bolt is another drop slide that registers 46 feet, which the line also says will be the tallest at sea. The Hurricane Hunter will take the trend toward raft slides even bigger, with four riders per raft, making it the first attraction of this sort that can include the whole famiy. Finally, Storm Chasers will offer passengers a chance to race each other on mats.

Continuing the thrills is Crown’s Edge, an attraction that the line is billing as “part skywalk, part ropes course and part thrill ride.” It culminates in a moment where you swing 154 feet above the ocean.

Multiple Pools and Swim-Up Bars For Adults and Kids

The Swim and Tonic Bar aboard Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)
The Swim and Tonic Bar aboard Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Chill Island has a more laidback atmosphere. Occupying three decks at the center of the ship, this neighborhood will feature four of the seven pools on board the ship. Swim & Tonic is set to become the line's first swim-up bar at sea, while Royal Bay pool is billed as the largest pool at sea. The remaining pools are the adults-only Cloud 17 and the infinity-edge Cove Pool.

Lime and the Coconut will return with four locations, including Royal Caribbean’s first frozen cocktail bar.

Elsewhere, Surfside is Icon's neighborhood devoted to younger kids with two splash-and-play areas: Splashaway Bay and Baby Bay. The neighborhood will also feature dining options, as well as lounge areas, a bar, a carousel, an arcade and a lounge pool for adults.

On the back of the ship', The Hideaway is anchored by what is billed as the first suspended infinity pool at sea and features a multilevel terrace, whirlpools and a dedicated bar. This neighborhood will be perched 135 feet above the water and is meant to take advantage of uninterrupted ocean views.

The Grove Comes to the Suites; Other Favorites Return

The Suite neighborhood is not new, but the private sundeck has been re-imagined as a space called The Grove. The multi-level area will have a private pool and whirlpool and Mediterranan restaurant, as well as a two-story Coastal Kitchen.

Returning attractions include a mini golf course called Lost Dunes, a rock-climbing wall and Royal Caribbean’s largest ice arena.

Not much has been revealed about Icon of the Seas dining options, but the Royal Promenade, Central Park and Surfside neighborhoods are expected to feature a variety of restaurants. Line favorites Giovanni’s Kitchen & Wine Bar and Izumi are definitely back.

Icon of the Seas Will Feature 28 Cabin Categories

The Ultimate Family Townhouse aboard Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)
The Ultimate Family Townhouse aboard Icon of the Seas (Rendering: Royal Caribbean)

(With 2,805 cabins, accommodations are abundant on Icon of the Seas. But there is also an emphasis on choice, with 28 cabin categories, including new layouts for families of three, four, five and more.

The clear standout is the three-story Ultimate Family Townhouse, a 1,700-square-foot suite that will accommodate up to 8 passengers and will feature an in in-suite slide, a cinema space, karaoke and a private entrance to the Surfside neighborhood. It also has its own white picket fence and mailbox, for that “home away from home” feel.

Also of note: The Surfside Family Suite has alcoves for kids tucked away from the adults. New for Royal include Sunset Corner Suites and Panoramic Ocean View cabins that are located within the AquaDome.

Icon of the Seas will Focus on Caribbean Itineraries

Owing to its obvious family-friendly vibe, Icon of the Seas is scheduled to homeport year-round in PortMiami and sail 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. All itineraries will visit Royal's private island destination in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Some of the destinations set to be featured on Icon of the Seas’ itineraries include Cozumel, Phillipsburg, St. Maarten and Roatan.

-Jorge Oliver, Cruise Critic Editor

What's the Large Sphere on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas? Released Video Gives Some Clues

Icon of the Seas construction (Photo/Royal Caribbean)
Icon of the Seas construction (Photo/Royal Caribbean)

(May 31, 2022) -- What comes next after Wonder of the Seas? For Royal Caribbean, it's a brand-new class of ship -- Icon of the Seas -- which is already well underway at the Finnish shipyard Meyer Turku.

The 5,600-passenger Icon of the Seas will debut in Southampton, U.K., in fall 2023, marking the line's first Icon Class ship. Icon of the Seas will also become the line's first ship powered by liquefied natural gas.

But what's driving questions from cruisers ready to sail is, what is the mysterious sphere that's part of the new ship's design?

A video released by Royal Caribbean outlines construction of the 175-metric ton sphere. The orb is 46 feet tall and 50 feet in diameter.

Other details released about the orb are that it has air conditioning ducts and lighting. But little else, including what the sphere will be used for, has been revealed.

Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International, has kept relatively mum about the new class of ship. "Five years ago, we began dreaming of Icon of the Seas, and now the next phase of this iconic adventure is beginning," he said during the ship's keel laying and coin ceremony last month.

"As this game-changing ship takes shape, the excitement from families and travelers alike, travel advisors and our partners continues to build. Later this year, we’ll reveal the lineup of firsts and favorites that will set a new standard for vacations come fall 2023."

The laying of the keel and coin ceremony are long-standing maritime traditions and mark the official first steps in the construction of the ship.

The occasion saw a massive steel block placed into the new ship’s building dock on top of freshly minted coins. The coins are meant to bring luck during construction, and they will be retrieved and given to Icon’s captain and crew before setting sail.

Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group; Richard Fain, chairman of Royal Caribbean Group; Meyer Group Managing Partner Bernard Meyer; and Meyer Turku CEO Tim Meyer, were at the ceremony.

Cruise Critic members are keeping tabs on Icon of the Seas' progress in an ongoing thread on the Royal Caribbean message board. Join in the sphere speculation there.

-Kerry Spencer, Cruise Critic Contributor

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