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Icon of the Seas Review

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Colleen McDaniel
Editor-In-Chief

For more than a year before Icon of the Seas launched, Royal Caribbean ran a marketing campaign unlike any we’d ever seen, with flashy messaging promising a ship filled with family fun, thrills and incredible choice. The ship’s name was on everyone’s tongue.

The world’s largest ship delivered on its promise.

The massive ship, which can accommodate 5,610 guests at double occupancy (and 7,600 when full), is a floating family resort destination in and of itself, offering so many activities for kids, adults and families to do together, it will continue to draw cruise fans and curious travelers who want to try cruising for the first time.

Where it succeeds is with its clever approach to its eight neighborhoods, each distinct in its offerings but seamlessly transitioning to the next. Wows abound, from the spectacular six-slide waterpark to the gravity-defying AquaTheater and fun, kid-friendly touches (like a full-time resident golden retriever and slides that move you from one deck to the next).

The neighborhoods are their own destination, each offering a bar, free sitdown restaurant, included grab-and-go eatery and a specialty restaurant. The result: Guests don’t have to leave a spot to find food and drink, and flow is naturally controlled – it’s likely spaces, even when the ship sails at full capacity – will fill unbearably busy. (Another smart crowd-control measure: Elevator banks offer many elevators, forward, midship and aft; they require guests to select the deck number before they load, so people are spread between elevators, avoiding crowding. This however, can create some longer wait times.)

The first ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet to be powered by cleaner-burning liquified natural gas, Icon of the Seas has innovation at every corner, including the multilevel kinetic art Sphere, which welcomes guests onboard and is a centerpiece of the Royal Promenade and the beautiful, tranquil Overlook, which offers incredible sea views and peace during the day, before the area is transformed into the AquaDome at night.

The variety of rooms onboard Icon of the Seas is impressive, with more than 80% offering beds for three passengers or more. Cabins are made for families, though storage space ultimately could be an issue with larger groups, especially with more standard accommodations.

Food on Icon of the Seas is just OK. You’ll come away having some great meals, but perhaps nothing that stands out, unless you’re willing to invest in specialty dining. Still, kids will be happy, as the line offers children’s menus in virtually every restaurant onboard.

The ship also comes with a higher price tag than any of the other vessels in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. Many of its Caribbean sailings start at nearly $200 per person per night, based on double occupancy. What you get, though, is a ship that will keep you and your family busy and happy throughout your vacation; you might not even want to leave the ship when it's in port.

Icon of the Seas Deck Plan Emphasizes Immersive Neighborhoods, Including New Options

With 20 decks (18 of them accessible to guests), Icon of the Seas can seem vast and overwhelming. While you’ll have no problem clocking thousands of steps a day, the layout of the decks is smart and convenient, allowing for easy access between adjacent neighborhoods.

Speaking of neighborhoods, there are eight on Icon of the Seas and five of them are new to Royal Caribbean – AquaDome, Thrill Island, Chill Island, Surfside and The Hideaway. Upon embarkation, you’ll enter through the Royal Promenade – a Royal Caribbean mainstay and the beating heart of the vessel.

But on Icon of the Seas, this familiar neighborhood manages to feel new and unique, mainly thanks to the commanding presence of The Pearl -- a glass art interactive installation spanning two decks that features more than 3,000 panels that move and change colors. The Pearl sets the tone for Icon of the Seas: It’s big, bold, colorful and impossible to ignore. It’s also responsible for filling Royal Promenade with natural light – a feature missing on previous iterations of this neighborhood.

Royal Promenade is also connected to two other walkable neighborhoods: Surfside on Deck 7 and Central Park on Deck 8. The former is the ship’s space dedicated to young families – an open-air space with whimsical venues like an arcade, a carousel and Splashaway Bay play area, as well as new restaurants like Surfside Eatery, Pier 7 and Sugar Beach. The latter is Deck 8’s tranquil Central Park, a Royal Caribbean mainstay since debuting on Oasis of the Seas in 2008.

Icon of the Seas’ true wow factor, however, is arguably found on its upper decks, where the ship’s multigenerational family focus shines brightest. Nevermind that the area is home to multiple pools and more than a dozen bars and eateries; some of Icon of the Seas’ most emblematic attractions are found here. Look no further than Category 6 on Deck 16’s Thrill Island -- a mesmerizing maze of six waterslides that’s billed as the biggest waterpark at sea – or Crown’s Edge, Royal Caribbean’s newest thrill ride that’s part ropes course, part zip line.

Deck 15 is home to AquaDome, one of Icon of the Seas’ new neighborhoods that’s housed within a 363-ton glass dome. The centerpiece is the AquaTheater, where the vertigo-inducing Aqua Show takes place. But other venues -- like Hooked Seafood, Celebration Table, AquaDome Marketplace and the weirdly cool Overlook Pods hangout areas – also bring AquaDome to life.

The cabins on Icon of the Seas are located throughout decks 3-4, 7-14 and 16-18. In what represents a departure from the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class, Icon of the Seas doesn’t have cabins on the same deck as the Royal Promenade (Deck 6), which in turns allows this space to be more spacious and brighter.

The ship’s main dining room spans decks 3-5, while other entertainment venues – like the Royal Theater, Music Hall, Casino Royale and Absolute Zero ice arena (now featuring a round instead of square layout), are also found in these decks.

Icon of the Seas Rooms Have Categories for All Family Sizes

In keeping with the family theme found throughout the ship, Icon of the Seas rooms are designed for groups. Half of the ship’s 28 cabin categories are new to the line, including the much-talked about three-level Ultimate Family Townhouse, which costs a cool $80,000 a week and includes a slide from the top level down.

Generally, Icon of the Seas rooms are spacious and have smart touches, like charging spots everywhere and storage in cubbies, drawers and closets. (While we found the storage sufficient for two people, it could get tight for families on a weeklong trip.)

Cabins also are relatively quiet for a busy ship, though we did hear a little noise from the AquaDome, as our room was located at the front of the ship. Other rooms to avoid on Icon of the Seas include those directly above or below busy spaces, especially on Deck 14.

Icon of the Seas Food Brings New Options to Cruisers

Icon of the Seas food is the most expansive in the fleet; the ship offers more than 40 restaurants and bars. The overall approach to dining is smart, with each of the ship’s eight neighborhoods offering a minimum of three restaurants (and one bar): one included sitdown restaurant, one grab-and-go venue and one specialty spot. This means you don’t have to leave your neighborhood to find food and mess up your groove.

Overall, the quality of food is hit and miss. The Windjammer Marketplace is a win; the company has managed to create a buffet with excellent options (including those for people with allergies) and an efficient layout that moves people through effectively. Specialty dining is also a highlight – our tip here is to buy a dining package so you can sample a few for-fee restaurants in addition to the included options.

We were disappointed in the ship’s approach to a food hall: AquaDome Marketplace. The quality felt more food court than special, and the area is simply too small to support the crowds coming through.

Pros

Innovation and fun are found at every turn on the biggest ship in the world

Cons

Dining is so-so, and pricing is higher for this ship than any other in the fleet

Bottom Line

An exceptional experience for families or groups traveling together who want a ship that is the destination

Inclusions

Included with your cruise fare:

  • All theater and AquaTheater shows and most entertainment options

  • Meals at Windjammer Buffet, Main Dining Room, and select specialty restaurants

  • Many daily activities, including the FlowRider Surf Simulator, water slides and rock-climbing wall

  • Use of the fitness center (but not most fitness classes and personal training)

  • Adventure Ocean Kids Club activities for kids ages 6 months to 17 years (some exceptions apply)

  • Beverages including iced tea, tap water, some juices and basic coffee

Not included with your cruise fare:

  • Gratuities

  • Soda, alcoholic and upgraded beverages, coffee from Starbucks, bottled water

  • Wi-Fi

  • Automatic gratuities for beverage, mini-bar, spa and salon purchases

  • Mini-bar purchases

  • Meals at most specialty restaurants

  • Spa treatments

  • Most fitness classes and all personal training sessions

  • Access to the ship's Sea Thermal suite

  • Casino

  • Activities like alcohol tasting events

  • Shore excursions

  • Photographs and artwork

Fellow Passengers

As a ship made for families, Icon of the Seas primarily attracts cruisers traveling with children – 82% of the cabins can hold three guests or more. Most passengers will be from North America, but given that the ship sails from Miami – a destination known for international tourism – it won’t be uncommon for Icon of the Seas to attract global passengers.

Icon of the Seas has 50 wheelchair-accessible rooms. It routinely holds gatherings for LGBTQ+ and solo travelers, though the ship does not have any solo or studio cabins.

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More about Icon of the Seas

Icon of the Seas Cruiser Reviews

The ICON of Vacations!

We were fortunate to sail on the Inaugural cruise of Icon of the Seas on the 27th January 2024.Read More
Coast To Coasters

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Amazing ship with way too much to do.

Izumi was also good, but the space was really small and noisy. Empire was an experience that was well worth the splurge. The only downside I have of Icon is the pool situation.Read More
tylerz48

many10+ Cruises

Age 28s

Two weeks on Icon of The Seas

My wife an i spent two weeks in mid-ship rooms on icon of the seas-the first two weeks of february.Read More
Bernie Pleskoff

oneFirst Time Cruiser

Age 79s

Amazing ship with a few challenges

Same for the elevator system, which Carnival employed (to much disdain of the cruisers) on the Mardi Gras, but on the Icon they are embraced and appreciated.Read More
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