First impressions of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, the brand new largest ship on this planet

TPG’s Erica Silverstein accepted a free journey from Royal Caribbean to sail its latest ship, Icon of the Seas. The opinions expressed beneath are completely hers and weren’t topic to evaluate by the road.

The cruising world has been breathlessly awaiting the debut of Icon of the Seas, which formally joins the Royal Caribbean fleet Saturday. This week, I skilled the megaship — the most recent to carry the title of “world’s largest” — on a three-night preview cruise.

Three days will not be a whole lot of time to expertise every thing on board a 7,600-passenger, 250,800-ton ship, particularly not when our sea day was chilly and windy and the pool decks have been a ghost city. However my 9-year-old daughter and I did our greatest to check out as many kid-, adult- and family-focused actions and sights as attainable to see if Royal Caribbean really has created the final word household trip with no compromises, as its workforce likes to say.

Icon of the Seas was not crusing anyplace close to most capability, with 4,500 friends on board (and solely 300 of these kids), so I am unable to touch upon how crowded the ship will really feel or how lengthy queues will likely be when the ship sails full. Additionally, not all the reveals and actions have been operating, so I did not have the whole Icon expertise.

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Listed here are my first impressions after three days aboard Icon of the Seas.

It is surprisingly straightforward to get round


The primary time I went on one among Royal Caribbean’s humongous ships, I used to be nervous that I’d be misplaced or that it could take eternally for me to study my method across the ship. However the cruise line invented the neighborhood idea and designed its megaships to make them simpler to navigate than you’d suppose.

Icon of the Seas follows the identical mould. The Royal Promenade on decks 5 and 6 is the central public house, flanked by the eating room and the theater. Its higher stage results in Deck 7’s family-focused Surfside, which leads as much as leafy Central Park. (And if you happen to do not need to hit Surfside, you may get straight from The Royal Promenade to Central Park through stairs by the Pearl Cafe.)

Chill Island (the primary pool and sunbathing space), Thrill Island (water park and different lively pursuits) and The Hideaway (adults-only pool and solar deck) all move into one another and The AquaDome (the glass dome on the entrance of the ship housing the AquaTheater). There are a couple of useless ends, and The Hideaway is purposefully tucked away behind Thrill Island, accessible solely from the deck above.

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The trickiest a part of navigating the ship is remembering which approach to flip towards your cabin if you step out of the large elevator lobbies. I by no means acquired that proper in three days; fortunately, indicators will direct you the place you could go.

Associated: Sneak preview of Icon of the Seas: Images of Royal Caribbean’s latest ship

Reveals will impress


Royal Caribbean is understood for its progressive high-tech large-scale reveals — within the theater, within the water and on the ice. The leisure on Icon of the Seas stays true to model and doesn’t fail to impress.

“Starburst” is the ice skating present within the newly designed round Studio B rink. It is themed across the components (carbon, helium, and so on.) and intersperses group, solo and pair skating numbers with next-level juggling by a personality dubbed “The Starman.”


The costumes are artistic and enjoyable (together with glow-in-the-dark and light-up outfits), and using lighting and video on the partitions and the ice units a spacey scene. I am no determine skating professional, but it surely appeared that the spherical ice stage made it simpler for the skaters to make use of the complete house to stand up pace to do jumps and tips, and I used to be impressed with the lifts, spins and jumps executed within the house.

The AquaTheater reveals weren’t prepared for prime time on our crusing as a result of the theater has solely been absolutely operational for per week. We caught a preview of some of the numbers, and the choreography of acrobats, divers, dancers and robots was mesmerizing.

The marquee primary stage present on Icon of the Seas is “The Wizard of Oz,” and also you should not dismiss it. Royal Caribbean has discovered a approach to modernize the present, and the spectacular particular results, together with set items flying above the viewers, will captivate cruisers of all ages.

Icon of the Seas has Royal Caribbean’s finest Royal Promenade


The Royal Promenades on Royal Caribbean ships have at all times been in comparison with buying malls. The lengthy corridors lined with outlets, eating places and bars undergo from a scarcity of pure gentle, even when the ceilings are many decks excessive. However the cruise line acquired it proper on Icon.

By ditching the promenade-facing cabins for multideck-high glass partitions, the Promenade feels lighter on Icon than on every other Royal Caribbean ship. One other win is that the higher stage is now an entire circle, so you may stroll from the ahead to the aft elevator banks and again with out operating into useless ends. There’s even a stairwell up into Central Park. The entire space feels extra inviting and extra simply navigable.


The Royal Promenade’s gorgeous centerpiece is The Pearl, a spherical construction turned artwork piece with 3,600 kinetic tiles and coloured lighting. Climb its middle stairway to the Pearl Cafe; its window-facing cozy seating and attractive cafe snacks make it a preferred sea-day hangout. The hip 1400 Bar, with its craft cocktails and central indoor-outdoor location, and Dueling Pianos Bar have been taking place sizzling spots on my crusing.

Fan favorites like Starbucks, Boleros (Latin music and dancing), Sorrento’s (pizza all day and night time) and a British-style pub (right here referred to as the Level & Feather) return. You may be shocked to seek out that you just’re spending extra time on the Royal Promenade on Icon of the Seas than you have got on different Royal Caribbean ships.

Associated: Why the world’s largest cruise ship will not be as crowded as you concern

New eating venues are successful


The eating on Icon of the Seas is a mixture of returning favorites and new ideas. We have been fairly happy with the brand new choices.

A favourite is AquaDome Market, a five-venue meals corridor serving crepes, macaroni and cheese, Asian, Mediterranean, and sandwiches and salads. My Mediterranean bowl topped with falafel and veggies was a wholesome counterpart to my indulgent Nutella-banana crepe. I loved a bowl of tofu stir-fry, noodles and a veggie egg roll as effectively. I discovered the mac ‘n’ cheese uninteresting.

The Pearl Cafe is an elevated tackle Cafe Promenade on different ships. Each the roasted apple and the pulled rooster sandwiches I attempted have been pleasant, however the Oreo cupcake was dry and disappointing. Know that the sandwiches are heated up, which takes a second, so be ready to attend. You may also assist your self to chilly grab-and-go sandwiches and salads.


Surfside Bites had all my daughter’s favorites — pizza, popcorn rooster, burgers and sizzling canine — however I used to be capable of get a bit of barbecue rooster and a few candy potato wedges subsequent door on the Surfside Eatery buffet. (Nonetheless, there was no inexperienced salad, which might have been a pleasant possibility for health-conscious mother and father.) We loved breakfast there, as effectively; it has a smaller choice than the Windjammer Market however has sufficient choices for teenagers and adults alike.

My fish tacos and Korean rooster at Pier 7 — Surfside’s informal, family-oriented specialty eating venue — have been implausible and probably my favourite meal of the three-night cruise. My daughter loved her steak tacos, after she pushed apart all of the beans, and the molten chocolate cake dessert was so good it might need dethroned Carnival’s as finest at sea. I’d have appreciated to see a greater children menu there or at the least kid-size parts.

Basecamp is annoyingly extra-fee because it’s consolation meals, however the chicken-waffle bites I had have been enjoyable and attractive. Should you dig Wisconsin-style cheese curds and shrimp bao buns, you may be keen to pay up, or you may get a sizzling canine, heat pretzel and tater tots without cost.


Do not waste your cash on Desserted across the nook. The epic milkshakes topped with brownies and mini-pinatas are meant for social media, however the precise style is disappointing.

The most popular ticket would be the Empire Supper Membership, on condition that the venue seats fewer than 40 friends and the value tag is $200 per particular person. Evidently, we have been unable to expertise it, however the venue appears to be like intimate and funky.

Thrill Island is extra excessive than I anticipated


My household loves waterslides and had a blast at a latest Nice Wolf Lodge go to and on earlier cruises with Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line. My daughter and I had excessive hopes for Icon’s Class 6, the biggest water park at sea. It did not ship for us.

Why? A lot of the rides have been just too excessive for a 9-year-old and her mother. Our favorites have been the 2 household raft slides, the place two to 4 riders slide collectively in spherical rafts. They have been quick and dizzying however not overwhelming — the right waterslides. However you may’t experience by your self.

Of the others, one was a 90-degree drop, with no twists or turns. Which means it is over in a couple of seconds, and you do not actually need to experience it once more. My daughter, who cherished the drop slide at Nice Wolf Lodge, didn’t just like the one on Icon; she mentioned it was too quick, an excessive amount of water went up her nostril, and she or he bonked her head by leaning it again.

The ultimate two slides are face-first toboggan-style mat slides, and so they’re so quick that you just get a face filled with water as you careen backward and forward down the slide. I went so quick that, as my raft banked a flip too excessive, I tumbled off and hit my head.

There was no primary lie-on-your-back thrilling-but-not-extreme slide for tamer riders like a few of the ones my daughter rode on Surprise of the Seas. The water park is clearly aimed extra at teenagers and adults, and I used to be upset there wasn’t at the least one possibility for a youthful child who’s outgrown the Splashaway Bay splash park at Surfside however not fairly prepared for 90-degree drops.

Reverse the water park is Royal Caribbean’s new Crown’s Edge ropes course. It is also not for the faint of coronary heart because the observe takes you over the sting of the ship, the place the wind actually picks up. I will not spoil the top of the experience, however you’ll gasp in shock. That thrill was extra my type, but it surely will not be if you happen to’re afraid of open heights.

Notice that the course takes maybe a minute to finish, which is tremendous quick in comparison with the longer programs on traces like Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival. There’s additionally a whole lot of prep time, as you need to don a jumpsuit along with the harness and security gear. The cruise line appears to nonetheless be determining pricing for the attraction, and it is unclear if you are able to do the course a number of instances in a row with out disrobing and getting again in line.

For more-accessible thrills, attempt the Misplaced Dunes minigolf course or the mountain climbing wall.

Cabins really feel trendy, with some good new classes


The usual cabins on Icon of the Seas felt extra trendy and upscale than comparable rooms on Surprise of the Seas, which debuted solely two years earlier. Gentle wooden furnishings are accented with darkish blues that lean towards slate, somewhat than nautical hues, and the rooms are welcoming, somewhat than mass-market cruise primary.

I applaud the vainness areas, with their massive lighted mirrors, deep drawers for storing clothes and a mixture of charging shops: 120-volt, USB and USB-C (the primary time I’ve seen the latter on a cruise ship, although I am instructed different new ships like Carnival Jubilee have them, as effectively). Extra USB shops are situated by the mattress and subsequent to a shelf, and one other plug outlet is on the alternative aspect of the mattress.

Icon of the Seas cabin lavatory. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

I used to be happy to seek out hidden storage behind a full-length mirror and a few slim cabinets tucked right into a recessed wall space. The bogs neatly add a small bench within the bathe, loads of shelving and a drawer for storage.

Household Infinite Balcony Cabin. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The road has additionally added some good new cabin classes for its goal markets. Extra cabins than ever can sleep greater than two individuals. They embody Surfside Household Suites, every of which encompasses a separate windowed sunroom with a loveseat that doubles as a child mattress. Household Infinite Ocean View Balcony Cabins supply a primary sleeping space and a enjoyable bunk mattress nook for teenagers, in addition to a cut up lavatory (one room with sink and bathroom, one other with sink and bathe).

Inside Plus rooms have extra-large closets for individuals who need to squeeze a number of individuals into the most cost effective lodging, and Sundown Suites place beds to face the ocean views, so that you get up to views of the ocean.

… However they miss the mark in a couple of areas

Central Park-facing Infinite Balcony cabin. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Not each cabin on board is a real winner, and plenty of are a blended bag. I had a couple of points with my cabin, partly as a result of it was Central Park-facing, partly as a result of it was an infinite veranda and partly due to the brand new design.

I’ve lengthy been interested in Royal Caribbean’s inward-facing cabins. The truth is that you would be able to see straight into different individuals’s rooms, both out of your cabin or from Central Park.

If you wish to preserve that attractive floor-to-ceiling glass wall unshaded, you surrender privateness. Which meant that each night, we closed the shades and principally created an inside cabin scenario the place it was pitch darkish with no pure gentle, and I had no thought what time it was. Additionally, sounds from the brand new Central Park jazz membership and the DJ on the pool deck carried into the room. Presumably, Surfside-facing cabins have comparable challenges.

The Infinite Balcony was additionally hit-and-miss. On the one hand, I do not usually use a balcony a lot once I cruise, and I cherished the additional cabin house. (I had a sitting space to dump my stuff and a sitting space to truly sit!)

Alternatively, you actually do not need to open the window portion of the outer wall as a result of it lets within the warmth (or would on a hotter voyage — our crusing was somewhat chilly) and much more noise from exterior. Plus, your conversations would perform into Central Park — once more with the dearth of privateness. It is not clear if the curtains you may pull to separate the primary a part of the room from the windowside sitting space would assist with local weather management.

I desire the ocean-facing Infinite Balcony cabins to the interior-facing rooms, however you’d nonetheless have local weather management points contained in the cabin as a result of the balcony will not be exterior to the remainder of the room.

Central Park-facing Infinite Balcony cabin. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Lastly, the brand new design appeared to get some issues proper and a few issues mistaken. I cherished the variety of USB ports within the cabin, however I’d have appreciated greater than two common 110-volt shops, or each common and USB shops on all sides of the mattress.

I cherished the purposeful drawers however disliked the 4 wire baskets within the wardrobe space that weren’t on tracks and have been clunky to tug out and push again in as they’d fall off their storage cabinets. The 2 closest to the wall have been additionally tough to entry as a result of there’s not a lot room between the sofa and the wardrobe.

Our cabin had greater than sufficient storage for a mother and child on a three-night cruise, however I might guess that greater than two individuals sharing a cabin on a weeklong crusing may wrestle to unpack all of their clothes. It is unclear how helpful all of the small, slim cabinets within the room would really be.

Lastly, whereas I admire the brand new lavatory design with a bigger bathe that features a bench, the bogs are tight and do not have a whole lot of flooring house.

The ship caters effectively to younger children and teenagers


Surfside accomplishes Royal Caribbean’s mission of catering to households with children ages 6 and youthful. It has accessible eating venues, enjoyable play areas (resembling a toddler pool, splash park, imaginative carousel and play construction) and programming geared to younger children. Mothers, preserve a watch out for Admiral Superior, an Australian hottie in a brightly coloured uniform who will entertain children with bedtime tales and card tips.

Within the coming weeks, Icon of the Seas can even add shorter kid-themed ice skating and AquaTheater reveals scheduled for earlier hours than the longer night reveals in the identical areas. Households can nonetheless benefit from the spectacles of those occasions with out making an attempt restricted consideration spans or pushing again bedtime.

Social 020 teen membership. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The youth workforce has additionally give you progressive methods to captivate teenagers, making the Social 020 teen membership (hidden between Playmakers Sports activities Bar and the Studio B ice rink) extra of a touchpoint than a full-time hangout and focusing as an alternative on cool takeovers of grownup areas like Hideaway Bay and Izumi. They’re going to even be lured out with teen-only laser tag, unique water park time and VIP seating for sure present instances.

Nonetheless, children within the center aren’t served as effectively by the ship. If Thrill Island is just too excessive and Surfside too younger, children in that 9-to-11 vary will should be content material with swimming swimming pools, pingpong, minigolf and the mountain climbing wall. My daughter really most popular the number of Surprise of the Seas, the place she might simply hop from splash park to approachable waterslides to the swimming pools, multi functional handy location.


The Journey Ocean play house is massive, with sections targeted on video and digital video games, science experiments, craft initiatives and lively pursuits. In case your children are keen to ditch their mother and father (mine wasn’t), it guarantees selection for all ages.

Backside line

Icon of the Seas is a showstopper. Royal Caribbean blended knowledge and suggestions on its current fleet with a healthy dose of creativity and innovation to create wonderful areas on board. Will the road’s self-contained neighborhoods and various programming preserve friends transferring across the ship with out overcrowding anybody house? Will you have the ability to do every thing you need on board on a weeklong crusing? Solely time will inform.

The ship is not good for everybody; my daughter, for one, continues to be staunchly voting for Surprise of the Seas as her favourite Royal Caribbean ship. However everybody can discover one thing to love on board, whether or not it is the gorgeous reveals, the fun rides, the ocean-facing swimming pools, the artistic craft cocktails or the eating selection.

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