Is Icon of the Seas the ‘final household trip’? It relies upon

After three days cruising aboard Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s largest ship ever that it touts as “the final word household trip,” my 9-year-old daughter will let you know she prefers the road’s earlier record-holder, Marvel of the Seas.

Her favourite issues about Marvel?

  • Johnny Rockets for decent canines and milkshakes (not on Icon, although yow will discover each scorching canines and milkshakes at Icon’s Thrill Island)
  • “The cookie restaurant,” aka Playmakers Sports activities Bar & Arcade, which serves a imply Campfire Cookie dessert (the bar’s location on Icon of the Seas makes it much less welcoming for a household meal)
  • The pool deck with a splash park, waterslides and swimming pools multi function place (these areas are break up up on Icon)
  • The one-open-to-suite-guests Coastal Kitchen, the place the waiters handled her like a princess, and “the TV that got here down from the ceiling” (sorry, child, we did not guide a collection this time)

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Does this imply Icon of the Seas shouldn’t be the final word household trip? By no means. However our expertise on board and my discussions with Royal Caribbean’s product improvement workforce members taught me two issues.

The primary is that data-driven Royal Caribbean targeted on the varieties of vacationers who’re on board their ships essentially the most: adults and youngsters below the age of 6. Additionally they spent plenty of time attempting to determine the best way to please the notoriously tough teen crowd. Who was not the largest focus (although clearly not totally ignored)? The 8- to 12-year-old crowd.

The second is that each child and each household is totally different, and even on the most important cruise ship on the planet, it is not possible to account for each single traveler’s desire. All the road can do is comply with the info — both collected from the prevailing fleet or from focus teams with youngsters — and goal to please the bulk.

Is Icon of the Seas your final household trip, even when it is not my daughter’s? This is what I realized from my time on board.

Households with younger kids can have a blast


I’ve cruised with preschool-age youngsters, and it may be tough. The swimming pools are too deep (or they’re in diapers and may’t go in), the exhibits are too lengthy or too late, and the buffet is just too massive and crowded when juggling a number of plates and babies.

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But apparently, youngsters this age are amongst Royal Caribbean’s prime sailors.

Children 6 and below “haven’t got college, so once we have a look at the age ranges all year long, that is a constant depend that by no means waivers,” Erin Stransky, senior supervisor of Journey Ocean and household strategic operations for Royal Caribbean Worldwide, informed me on board. Cruise after cruise, together with within the spring and fall when older youngsters have college, Royal Caribbean ships carry numerous younger households.

When Journey Ocean, the road’s youngsters membership for ages 3 to 12, “6 to eight is often our greatest age group throughout the fleet,” mentioned Stranksy. “We at all times see that quantity as the most important.”

Associated: First impressions of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas

This was clearly a demographic the road wanted to concentrate on — each to create extra areas and actions accessible to younger kids, and to supply their mother and father a trip expertise they did not want their very own escape from afterward. And from what I noticed this weekend, Royal Caribbean delivered.

It begins with Surfside. The neighborhood consists of every little thing a younger household wants for the day: a child pool for youths not but bathroom skilled, a splash playground with tame waterslides for younger youngsters who cannot essentially swim, and a cool infinity pool with sightlines to the youngsters play areas the place mother and father can chill out.


However that is not all. Surfside gives a number of kid-friendly and manageably sized eating places, so meals is well accessible, together with child favorites (like hen nuggets, scorching canines and pizza) and a California informal specialty restaurant the place youngsters below 12 eat free and adults can bask in scrumptious tacos, sandwiches and Korean fried hen.

A carousel and climbing construction are close by, so youngsters have a spot to play throughout all of the “boring” components of a meal (ready for the meals to return, ready for sluggish chatty grownups to complete consuming).

There’s even a cocktail-mocktail bar, The Lemon Put up, so all ages can get pleasure from a refreshing drink. The arcade will maintain older siblings busy, the dry slide into Surfside from the deck above is quick and enjoyable (even the grownups adore it), and a store sells requirements like sunscreen and goggles to save lots of the day when packing snafus occur.

Royal Caribbean might have stopped there, having created a colourful and well-thought-out neighborhood for the youngest cruisers and their caregivers. However the line took it a step additional and applied new programming to attract households into the house and create extra exercise choices for youthful youngsters.

“We’re slowly beginning to discover that households need to do extra issues collectively,” mentioned Stransky, quite than drop their youngsters on the membership and go their separate methods. As Icon of the Seas was being developed, her workforce began to ideate on family-friendly occasions outdoors of Journey Ocean.


These embrace the Bigger Than Life Competition with face portray and outsized variations of desk video games, the Huge Shark Block Get together for some dancing with a reside band, and the Royal Event subject day with household races within the sports activities court docket. We checked out the competition, and it was an ideal occasion for younger youngsters. (My slightly-too-old daughter acquired her face painted however turned her nostril up on the video games).

Because the occasions began to return collectively, it was clear that they wanted a number, a well-known face, a cruise director for households, if you’ll. Enter Admiral Superior. You will discover him wearing colourful costumes greeting company in Surfside and entertaining them with card methods. He’ll lead occasions within the house, similar to interactive bedtime tales at night time because the venues within the space begin to shut down.

(The present Admiral Superior is a handsome Australian with a horny accent, and the phrase on our cruise is that each one the mothers will be certain that they and their households flip up at any time when he is round.)

Associated: Photographs of Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s latest ship

The family-first programming extends past Surfside and household actions in Journey Ocean. Icon of the Seas will quickly debut shorter exhibits within the AquaTheater (“Pirates vs. Mermaids”) and Absolute Zero ice studio (“As soon as Upon a Time”). These will run at earlier hours than the principle exhibits, so households with younger youngsters can get pleasure from Royal Caribbean’s superlative leisure with out having to remain up late or depart midway by a protracted efficiency.

Altogether, because of this households with youthful youngsters lastly have partaking leisure choices, quite than having to cobble collectively a sea day schedule from the occasions geared to older youngsters and adults. Dad and mom will discover they’re making fewer compromises to have a superb time and really feel much less pressured to drop youngsters off at Journey Ocean all day to ensure that each youngsters and adults to have enjoyable.

Mix that with new cabin varieties with separate sleeping areas for youths and break up loos for ease of preparing, and the ship simply is perhaps the final word trip for younger households.

Teenagers get VIP therapy

Social020 teen membership. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Households with teenagers may even love Icon of the Seas as a result of the cruise line has put plenty of thought into the best way to please this notoriously choosy age group.

“What we have been seeing on a few of our Oasis Class ships was actually teenagers hanging out in staircases,” mentioned Jennifer Goswami, director of product improvement for Royal Caribbean Worldwide. They noticed and spoke with teenagers crusing Royal Caribbean and realized that teenagers just like the membership as an area to play video video games and meet up, however they need to hang around elsewhere across the ship.

That realization led to a “massive elementary shift in pondering as a result of we used to get greater, greater, greater within the areas, however it wasn’t making them joyful,” Goswami acknowledged. As a substitute of focusing solely on the teenager house with Icon of the Seas, the product workforce began to focus extra on programming and using the remainder of the ship, particularly grownup areas that will in any other case be inaccessible to teenagers.

On Icon, teenagers will not be subjected to cringey ice-breaker actions or tacky video games. As a substitute, they will be invited into the Social020 membership to entry a QR code that outlines their schedule of occasions across the ship, which could embrace a teen takeover of The Hideaway (the adults-only infinity pool cantilevered above the again of the ship) or Thrill Island (the place the water park and ropes course are situated), a bunch dinner at Izumi or a present on the Absolute Zero ice rink with reserved seating.


Not solely does this give the kids entry to locations they already need to go on the ship, however it “perhaps creates a bit FOMO to the mother and father like, oh I acquired to go right here however you are not invited, Mother and Dad,” mentioned Valentina Madinabeitia, senior product proprietor, product improvement for Royal Caribbean Worldwide.

The top result’s that teenagers can join with one another extra authentically and nonetheless have the teenager lounge to return to after they need to meet someplace or just escape and play video video games or foosball for some time.

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And, in fact, the remainder of the ship is welcoming to teenagers and their households. Informal eating venues like Sorrento’s (pizza), El Loco Contemporary (Mexican), the Pearl Cafe (sandwiches and pastries to go) and Basecamp (scorching canines, pretzels and luxury meals) are accessible to hungry teenagers within the locations the place they’d be hanging out. We noticed teenagers fortunately chowing down with their mother and father at Pier 7, Surfside’s informal specialty restaurant with elevated meals choices however with out the fuss of extra date-night venues like Chops Grille.

Thrill Island isn’t any joke in relation to excessive actions and is made for this age group. With Icon of the Seas’ a number of decks of pool and solar deck house, teenagers are certain to discover a spot within the solar that fits them. Plus, with extra zero-proof cocktails than ever on board, the under-21 crowd does not have to only keep on with soda when they need a enjoyable trip drink.

With the little youngsters tucked away in Surfside, teenagers can really feel like they’re hanging out in grownup quite than child areas on board and will not really feel like a cruise is just too babyish for them.

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Center youngsters are a combined bag


I used to be fairly impressed with how Icon of the Seas dealt with the youngest youngsters and the teenager set. However that leaves us with the youngsters within the center, the 8- to 12-year-olds, like my daughter.

Right here is the place the ship falters, only a bit, however how a lot this can have an effect on your trip expertise will rely upon precisely what your little one likes to do.

Although the Oasis Class ships aren’t a lot smaller than Icon of the Seas, their neighborhoods are laid out in a different way. Whereas the Oasis Class neighborhoods combine ages and pursuits, Icon segregates totally different pursuits in separate components of the ship and leans extra towards the extremes.

Certain, anybody can pop by Surfside, however its points of interest are unapologetically devoted to little youngsters. It couldn’t maintain my daughter’s curiosity for lengthy.

Mountaineering wall on Icon of the Seas. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

On the flip aspect, we love waterslides and have been excited to attempt Thrill Island, however most of the slides have been too intense for each of us. As a substitute of a protracted ropes course that you may maintain traversing when you’re harnessed in (and that is complimentary, like on competitor cruise strains), Icon’s Crown’s Edge ropes course is extra-fee, includes a protracted gear-up course of and has an especially quick course. You are not going to spend a very long time there day after day.

Our sea day was unexpectedly chilly and windy, ruling out the pool and the minigolf course. With out these actions, there wasn’t a spot on the ship that catered to my 9-year-old child — except for Journey Ocean.

And he or she would not go. Video video games and humanities and crafts with strangers weren’t sufficient to entice my little one to go away my aspect.

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What my daughter most popular on Marvel of the Seas was the upper-deck space the place she might simply transfer from Splashaway Bay to the waterslides (which have been extra her pace) to the swimming pools and again. She cherished the Final Abyss dry slide that took her to her favourite neighborhood, the Boardwalk, the place she might trip the carousel, climb on the play construction, go mountain climbing, take a look at the AquaTheater present and revel in meals on the outside tables at Johnny Rockets and Playmakers.

Briefly, she appreciated that the areas have been for combined ages and pursuits.

My daughter may need had a greater opinion of the ship if it had been heat and sunny and she or he might spend time on the pool deck. Maybe, when the ship is totally activated, she’d be prepared to go to Journey Ocean to take part in science experiments or household occasions like the sphere day. (It appears to be like just like the ship is planning a father-daughter dance, which is just too cute!)


One other subject for us on Icon of the Seas was that onboard eating venues did not fairly fulfill youngsters who’ve moved past the nuggets-every-meal stage however have not but developed the palate for sophisticated grownup meals. Each youngsters menu on board was made up of pizza, hen tenders, grilled cheese, scorching canines, hamburgers and pasta. My child loves these, however not at all times for each meal on a weeklong cruise.

Pier 7, the household specialty restaurant, had neither a youngsters menu nor kid-size parts. My daughter ordered a Mexican-style steak dish with out the pico de gallo, painstakingly eliminated all of the steak slices from the beans they have been laid out on and ate solely a 3rd of the meat portion. Discuss meals waste. Her favourite venue was the Windjammer Market buffet, the place she might choose and select what she needed.

However that is only one child. In case your 8- to 12-year-olds are content material with burgers all day, will fortunately play pingpong or sports activities within the sports activities court docket, get pleasure from occasions like household karaoke or trivia, or go to Journey Ocean to play video video games or make buddies, they will possible have a blast on board. In the event that they’re adventurous and love drop slides and mountain climbing, Icon is the ship for them. For those who’ve acquired a quieter child who’s much less of a joiner and does not like thrill actions, they could battle, like my daughter, to search out their place on board.

The final word household trip?


After exploring the ship from prime to backside, and speaking to a number of members of Royal Caribbean’s product improvement groups about how they conceptualized the ship for households, I used to be undoubtedly impressed. It is clear the workforce put a ton of thought and analysis into how actual folks trip and creating each areas and programming for at this time’s households of all ages — as a substitute of simply making a whiz-bang ship and hoping folks interact with the points of interest.

If your loved ones likes big-ship cruising and fun-in-the-sun holidays, I am assured you’ll get pleasure from a cruise on Icon of the Seas. (Whether or not you may afford it’s a entire ‘nother dialog.) For those who’re social vacationers, who like making buddies on board and benefit from the buzz of a bustling venue, you may be proper at house.

For those who’ve acquired younger youngsters, a cruise on this ship would possibly truly be the final word household trip, given how thoughtfully Surfside was conceived and the way tiring it may be to journey with younger youngsters. There’ll at all times be compromises when vacationing with littles (what number of instances do you trip carousels on grownup getaways?), however Icon of the Seas offers mother and father so many choices that you will really feel like your cruise wasn’t nearly struggling to maintain the youngsters joyful.

Households with teenagers have all kinds of trip decisions out there to them. Icon of the Seas would possibly or won’t be your best option, however it’s actually top-of-the-line cruise choices for pleasing your choosy youngsters. (On my first cruise a few years in the past, on the age of 17, I used to be too cool to hang around with the 13- to 15-year-olds within the youngsters membership, too younger to drink and too awake to go to mattress early like my mother and father. I wandered the ship at night time, completely bored. Icon is decidedly not that cruise.)

What about my daughter and her friends? I do not suppose Icon of the Seas is a slam dunk for this age group, however it could possibly be a tremendous possibility in case your youngsters match with the actions provided and have the correct persona for the ship. For those who’re not sure, invite some cousins or buddies alongside. Acquainted faces and a bigger group can do wonders for splitting little one care duties or convincing youngsters to attempt Journey Ocean.

And simply know that once you go, it will possible be a peak college trip week with 2,500 different youngsters on board.

Icon of the Seas won’t be the final word household trip for everybody, however I’ve by no means seen a ship attempt tougher to unravel trip issues and create memorable experiences for cruisers of all ages. And that counts for lots.

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