If there’s one descriptive phrase to describe Royal Caribbean International’s new 5,610-passenger Icon of the Seas, it’s “wow, Wow and WOW! ” Here are a few initial impressions of this new icon by Shelby Steudle, president, Pavlus Travel, as well as yours truly, The Meandering Traveler’s chief blogger.
During a three-night cruise in January 2024, we checked out this 5,610-passenger ship. Yes, Icon of the Seas is huge. In fact, it’s the world’s largest ship. But it’s important to put the size in perspective. How so?
New Icon: Spreading Out the Guests
It’s important to know that Royal Caribbean has sizable experience (with its Oasis-class ships, for example) in spreading out guests. Much like that Oasis-class design, the Icon of the Seas, which is the first of a new ship class for the line, features a wealth of individual neighborhoods and spaces.
In fact, it offers 40 restaurants, bars and lounges, not to mention all the activity venues! Bottom line? That spreads people out well. Requiring reservations for big shows at the AquaDome or theater also manages the volume of people attending at any one time.
“On our cruise, 4,200 were aboard,” says Steudle. “But even if the ship were at full capacity — with 100 more people added to multiple different spaces around the ship, I still don’t sense that it would have felt overly crowded.”
Finding Quiet, Relaxing Spaces
In fact, The Meandering Traveler found plenty of spots to read a good book, sit quietly in an uncrowded public space, or relax with a glass of wine at a practically empty bar.
Bottom line? “Yes, this is a mega-ship but overall, at the same time, it has lots of nooks and crannies,” emphasizes Steudle. Here below is the main walking thoroughfare of the Royal Promenade, taken after the ship had set sail but wasn’t in port.
While this hub of the ship was much busier at times, even then, we felt it was akin to what’s on other large ships in terms of the crowd and flow. That said, the ship encompasses a lot of territory to cover in terms of walking, for sure.
Now, here’s a potpourri of photos focused on five highlights around the ship!
1. The Pearl – Idyllic Stairway, Iconic Selfie Spot
If you’re looking for a grand staircase, this ship definitely has one! The Pearl is the Royal Promenade’s centerpiece. With lighting that changes colors, this shell-like structure surrounds the staircase up to Deck 6.
The Pearl’s thousands of kinetic tiles create a gorgeous special effect. Guests will see those tiles within the structure’s interior.
In addition, at The Pearl’s base, a floral display spelling out “ICON” is a popular selfie spot. To enjoy “people watching” and soak in the Pearl views, we’d suggest heading to the bar area of Giovanni’s on Deck 6. Enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine, peer out, and watch the happenings below.
In addition, the stairway connects up to Deck 6. In fact, it opens into the new Pearl Cafe. Just look up to see a gigantic whale art piece hanging from the ceiling. And Bolero’s and Schooner’s are just steps away.
2. New Icon: Water, Water, Everywhere
If you’re a fan of pool play, you’ll find seven pools aboard this ship. Plus, Icon of the Seas has nine whirlpools. Here are a few water shots we snapped.
In addition, this ship has a Category 6 Waterpark that spans 17,000 square feet. You’ll find plenty of thrills there and some milder water adventures too. The 46-foot-high Frightening Bolt is the tallest drop slide at sea, while Storm Chasers at 394 feet long and 425 feet long create the first mat-racing duo at sea.
That said, Hurricane Hunter and Storm Surge are the first-ever family raft slides at sea. And there’s much more. In total, Icon of the Seas offers 62 percent more water space than on any other Royal Caribbean ship.
3. Suites Galore Including an Icon Loft Suite
You’ll have plenty of accommodations choices — 28 different categories of staterooms and suites. We stayed in a “Spacious Infinite Central Park Balcony Suite” overlooking the park neighborhood. It worked superbly for our needs. But if you really want to travel in style, check out the many suite options.
Among those is the fleet’s first three-level “Ultimate Family Townhouse.” That’s a good option for a multigenerational family group with teens and small children. It has access directly to Surfside, the neighborhood designed for families with young kids.
New Icon: Iconic Loft Suite
We toured several other different suites, among them a two-level “Icon Loft Suite,” #17016. Spanning 656 square feet, this suite can accommodate up to four guests.
Guests will sleep on one king bed in the upstairs bedroom loft, plus the double sofa bed downstairs. This suite also offers a private balcony of 108-to-172 square feet, depending on which specific suite number is chosen.
Here are five photos of the “Icon Loft Suite.”
4. New Icon: Greenery in Central Park
Deck 8’s Central Park — a five-deck area that’s open to the sky with loads of greenery — proved a favorite “getaway” spot on our cruise. One of Royal Caribbean’s “returning” neighborhoods, it’s a great place to relax and soak up some fresh air.
In addition, this neighborhood is now a bit more vibrant with the addition of Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues Club, and an eight-course experience at Empire Supper Club. But we still felt it delivered quiet relaxation amid an eco-friendly environment.
All in all, it’s a nice spot to socialize with friends, and enjoy food and libations. We’d suggest grabbing a seat on a park bench or small seating area, perhaps sipping and savoring at the same time. You might even find yourself listening to live guitar music, as we did.
Be sure to check out the flora. This Central Park has at least 20 percent more greenery than on any other ship’s Central Park. In particular look for blue (yes, we said blue) and dark pink orchids. They’re lovely.
5. We’re Off to See the Wizard!
Do you love the classic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz”? Then reserve a seat at Icon of the Seas’ superb Broadway-style production of that show. It’s the first seagoing rendition of that film and stage classic, based on the book by L. Frank Baum.
You can expect 600 costume elements, a cast of 20 or so singers and dancers, plus dialogue/songs that are true to the classic film. Plus, the aerial and high-technology special effects add razzle-dazzle.
As a result, “I thought the Wizard of Oz was the BEST show I have ever seen on a cruise ship,” says Pavlus’ Steudle. It was excellent.”
Watching the journey unfold by Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, we didn’t want it to end, frankly. And yes, you’ll hear from the good and bad witches, and of course, The Wizard himself.
Running about an hour and 45 minutes or so, the show unfolds in the Royal Theater. Again, reservations are a must.
New Icon: Parting Thoughts
The above photos and space are just the tip of the iceberg as to what’s on Icon of the Seas. We’ll put up more photos from our cruise in another blog this month.
Meanwhile, the ship is now sailing seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries. A seven-night eastern Caribbean voyage includes time at Perfect Day at Coco Cay, the line’s private Bahamian isle. Starting fares for that itinerary are $1,852 per person, double occupancy.
Operated on dozens of departure dates, that itinerary also includes port calls at Philipsburg, St. Maarten, and Charlotte Amalie, U.S.V.I.
Other seven-night Caribbean voyages have starting prices of up to $2,196 per person, double occupancy. In general, cruise fares on this ship tend to be higher than on many other Royal Caribbean ships, thanks to strong consumer demand.
Consumer Demand is Strong
“This innovative, new ship is selling extremely well, and, in fact, is pretty well sold out for 2024, as consumers are eager to vacation on it,” says Pavlus’ Steudle. “So, if interested, be sure talk to your personal travel planner today about reserving a spot on this iconic ship for 2025 or 2026. But if you want to travel this year, talk with the travel planner about any options.”
Her advice is, “Don’t wait as this beauty is proving really popular.”
And if you do book, here are some packing tips for your upcoming voyage from frequent travelers and travel industry experts.
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