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Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

Is Icon of the Seas Too Expensive? Here’s What to Book Instead

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Jason Leppert

Last updated
May 14, 2024

Read time
4 min read

It’s usually true that you get what you pay for, but in the case of Royal Caribbean International’s newest ship, Icon of the Seas, all of its bells and whistles – and there are many – definitely come at a high premium.

For instance, an entry-level inside stateroom (yes, the kind without a window) on Icon can cost as much, per person, as a starter suite on an older vessel, even from the same line. If that kind of value proposition, or lack thereof, is too extreme for you, there are definitely alternative cruise ships to consider.

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Other Royal Caribbean International Options

Wonder of the Seas at Labadee, Haiti (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

If you are seeking to stay within the family so to speak, other Royal Caribbean ship classes that were the bee’s knees not too long ago might make for a more budget-friendly trip now. The Oasis-class remains concurrent, with future new ships still planned within the older series, but its vessels are relatively cheaper than Icon.

In many cases, the older a ship the less expensive it will be, which would make the namesake Oasis of the Seas built in 2009 the most frugal choice. But since the second ship in the series – Allure of the Seas – remains the only one yet to receive the class’ latest enhancements (like The Ultimate Abyss drop slide and other features), Allure of the Seas could actually be the best one to target until it does get updated. (The ship's planned refurbishment was put on the back burner during the global health pandemic.)

Central Park on Allure of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Much of what makes Icon of the Seas stand out was first introduced on the Oasis class, if not even the older Voyager and Freedom-classes, from the expansive central Royal Promenade “mall” to the AquaTheater live performance venue turned AquaDome on Icon.

That means there's something for Icon fans to love about Royal Caribbean's older, but no less awe-inspiring, Oasis-class ships -- including the newest member, Utopia of the Seas.

Try Carnival Cruise Line’s Excel-Class Ships

Carnival Celebration in San Juan, Puerto Rico (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

If you still want the latest and greatest from a mainstream “big ship” cruise line but aren't bound to sailing Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line’s Excel-class cruise ships might fit the bill. These include Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee.

Those even tout something that Icon of the Seas does not: a full-fledged roller coaster at sea in the form of Bolt speedily snaking its way around the iconic “whale tail” funnel.

Inside Carnival Celebration (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Not only that, but Carnival’s newest ships also showcase lots of culinary options – both complimentary (think Guy’s Burger Joint) and specialty (i.e. Emeril’s Bistro) – and they come chock full of the line’s signature “fun ship” activities and entertainment.

Royal Caribbean may best Carnival when it comes to genuine Broadway-caliber production shows, but Carnival still knocks it out of the park with its Punchliner Comedy Club standup sets, Carnival Seaside Theater or IMAX Theatre (found on some of the Vista-class ships) film screenings and even playfully simple trivia sessions.

Set Sail on a Ship Within a Ship on MSC and NCL

Norwegian Joy Haven Suite Bedroom (Image: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Another kind of cruising worth considering if Icon of the Seas is too expensive are the so-called "ship-within-a-ship" complexes found onboard most vessels from Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.

Both The Haven by Norwegian and the MSC Yacht Club offer the luxurious perks of isolated exclusivity in addition to each ship’s remaining big-ship attractions. With private dining rooms, lavish suites, exclusive lounges and upgraded service, these luxury enclaves are becoming a popular way to experience big-ship cruising -- and they still can be less expensive than a week on Icon of the Seas.

On Norwegian, the line’s latest Prima and Breakaway Plus-class ships impressively sport go-kart tracks on the upper decks of their ships, as well as their own thrilling waterslides and dry slides.

The Top Sail Lounge is the social heart of the MSC Yacht Club aboard MSC World Europa (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

And on Mediterranean-based MSC, the line continues to innovate to attract the attention of the North American market with the likes of its Robotron ride (roller coaster-style seats attached to a fast-swinging robotic arm) on MSC Seascape or the longest zip-lines at sea aboard MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview -- not to mention the forthcoming MSC World America that debuts in Florida in the spring of 2025.

Of course, even these two lines can vary wildly on price, so we suggest doing your homework on which amounts to the best value on each individual ship in a particular destination at any given time.

The Benefits of Competition

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

All of this is to say that competition is good for the consumer. As long as competitors are vying for your hard-earned cash, there will always be a push and pull of offering as much as they can onboard at the price point consumers are willing to ultimately pay for.

Icon of the Seas may be expensive now, but it’s only a matter of time before it too becomes more monetarily accessible. After all, new ships are only new for a little while.

Publish date May 14, 2024
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