Sneak peek: Inside Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship ever

Editor’s be aware: TPG’s Gene Sloan accepted a free journey to the shipyard in Finland constructing Icon of the Seas in an effort to get an early take a look at the vessel. The opinions expressed under are fully his and weren’t topic to overview by the road.

On the subject of constructing essentially the most wonderful megaresorts at sea, Royal Caribbean lately is mainly simply competing with itself.

It is a robust assertion, for certain. I am guessing that many Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line followers will quibble with it. But it surely’s what stored swirling by my head this week throughout a sneak peek on the line’s subsequent new ship, Icon of the Seas.

At 250,800 gross tons, the much-awaited, 20-deck-high vessel would be the largest cruise ship on the planet when it debuts in 2024. Nevertheless, it isn’t simply its big measurement — about 6% larger than the subsequent largest cruise ship — that can set it aside.

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What turned clear to me on Wednesday as Tim Klauda, Royal Caribbean’s vice chairman for product growth, took me deck-by-deck by the partly-finished vessel at a shipyard in Finland, was that it might additionally haven’t any rival within the cruise world relating to the breadth and depth of its choices, significantly for households.

From an unprecedently large water park at its high with six waterslides to essentially the most progressive inside promenade of eating places, bars and retailers ever on a cruise vessel (simply wait till you see the hovering glass wall that bathes the area with pure gentle), there’s simply by no means been something fairly like what you are going to see on Icon of the Seas — and I say that as somebody who has sailed on practically each main cruise ship afloat.

Briefly, Icon of the Seas, the primary of an all-new class of vessels for Royal Caribbean, will likely be, palms down, the final word megaresort at sea. And because of this, it’s going to be the ship that lastly tops Royal Caribbean’s vastly profitable Oasis-class vessels to reign supreme on the planet of big cruise ships.

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That is notable, because the Oasis-class ships have dominated the world of megaresorts at sea for practically 15 years. Different traces have tried to match what the Oasis-class vessels supply with new ships through the years and have fallen brief — although a number of have come shut.

To place it one other means, within the nice sport of cruise ship design one-upmanship that has raged among the many largest cruise traces for many years, evidently solely Royal Caribbean lately can high Royal Caribbean.

It is as if the opposite main traces proper now aren’t even on the taking part in area.

The highest decks of Icon of the Seas taking form on the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

With seven months of development to go earlier than Icon of the Seas is able to sail, there may be a lot nonetheless unfinished on the vessel.

As is typical at this stage of development of a brand new ship, the outside of Icon of the Seas and the framing for its inside areas is generally full, however plenty of ending work stays. Some areas stay little greater than empty shells.

That stated, the epic nature of what’s to come back was clearly seen as Klauda took me and several other different cruise writers from deck to deck on Wednesday amid a cacophony of hammering, welding and sanding.

The tour got here because the ship was tied up at a moist dock on the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, the place the practically $2 billion vessel has been beneath development for practically two years. Greater than 2,500 shipyard staff had been on board working on the time.

Listed here are among the most notable components of Icon of the Seas that I noticed through the tour that lead me to assume it’s going to change into the brand new king of big-ship cruising.

A surprising ‘thrill’ deck

Whereas nonetheless removed from finished, the highest deck of Icon of the Seas already is shaping up as a sight to behold, largely as a result of it has a water park the likes of which you have by no means seen on a cruise ship.

We’re speaking six separate water slides — none of them small.

Solely about 20% of the most important slides had been in place as we walked across the space, however the large towers from which the slides will descend primarily had been completed, and the sheer measurement of the footprint for the park was beautiful. There aren’t many resorts on land the place you’ll discover one thing like this.

The primary items of six big waterslides deliberate for Icon of the Seas already are in place. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

Known as Class 6, the water park’s thrills will embody an open free-fall slide, the tallest drop slide at sea, household raft slides that accommodate 4 riders without delay and two mat-racing slides.

It mainly takes up the entire again third of the ship’s high deck, together with such extra signature Royal Caribbean amusements as a FlowRider browsing simulator, a miniature golf course referred to as Misplaced Dunes, a mountaineering wall and a sports activities courtroom.

The brown towers above are being put in to help components of the six waterslides deliberate for Icon of the Seas. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY
An artist’s drawing of what the Class 6 water park space will appear like upon completion. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

As well as, I noticed the makings of a ropes course-style attraction primarily based round a large model of the ship’s crown-and-anchor brand (which was in place however wrapped up so it did not get dinged throughout the remainder of development).

I additionally strolled by a big informal eating space close to the foot of the waterslides referred to as Basecamp, the place you can seize your breath after careening down one of many slides with quickie snacks and drinks.

Collectively, the entire space will likely be referred to as Thrill Island, and that just about sums up what it’s going to be.

And a powerful ‘chill’ space, too

Balancing the joys zone that’s Thrill Island, the middle a part of the ship’s high is dedicated to chilling within the type of kicking again in lounge chairs, scorching tubs and swimming pools.

On the subject of the latter, what struck me most through the tour was the large measurement of the primary Royal Bay Pool, which appeared to run half the size of the ship. Whereas nonetheless within the roughed-in stage, its big measurement as in comparison with what you usually see atop cruise ships, was noticeable (Royal Caribbean claims that is the biggest pool ever constructed on a cruise ship, and we do not doubt them).

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The Royal Bay Pool was simply one among three swimming pools taking form within the space, which will likely be referred to as Chill Island. The others included a pool with a swim-up bar referred to as Swim and Tonic — a primary for Royal Caribbean.

It can additionally characteristic plenty of lounge chairs, cabanas (for an additional cost), scorching tubs and a multistory Lime and Coconut Bar (a Royal Caribbean signature).

The AquaDome

The AquaDome is a kind of crazily bold points of interest that Royal Caribbean does on its ships occasionally that simply makes your jaw drop. Should you’ve seen the North Star rides on the road’s Quantum-class ships, you realize what I am speaking about. However the AquaDome is on an excellent larger scale than the North Star rides.

It is mainly a large glass dome — and we imply big — plopped onto the entrance of the ship that enshrouds an aqua theater of the kind discovered in the back of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships. There are additionally eating and ingesting venues and even some enclosed-within-the-dome cabins.


Earlier than I noticed it in particular person, I actually did not get the size of what it might be. And also you possible will not, both, till you see it.

It is a glass dome to high all glass domes. We’re advised it was so huge and heavy (363 tons) that there actually wasn’t any shipyard crane on the planet that would raise it into place atop the ship besides the enormous crane on the Meyer Turku shipyard, which itself is a marvel.

While you’re standing beneath it, you are wanting up 4 or 5 tales to its high.

The aqua theater itself will likely be one among Icon of the Seas’ marquee points of interest, with reveals that mix diving and aerial performers, dancing fountains and different high-tech options.

The hovering Aqua Theater is totally enclosed inside the bigger Aquadome area. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY
An artist’s drawing of the Aqua Theater that will likely be inside the AquaDome. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

The area additionally will entice passengers all through the day and evening with its eating and ingesting venues and comfy seating areas. A model of the Hooked Seafood restaurant discovered on another Royal Caribbean ships will likely be among the many choices.

Even larger household focus

Royal Caribbean already is arguably the final word household cruise line. However as I noticed this week, Icon of the Seas will take its household focus to even larger heights.

Along with the water park talked about above, which could have your teenagers and tweens squealing with delight, Icon of the Seas is loaded with such family-friendly points of interest as Surfside — a whole themed part of the ship (Royal Caribbean calls them neighborhoods) devoted to younger households.

In an open-air area in the back of the vessel that’s roughly the place the New Jersey shore-themed Boardwalk space is discovered on the road’s Oasis-class ships, Surfside is an all-day play space for households with children ages 6 and beneath (although everyone seems to be welcome).

The centerpiece of this zone will likely be a watery splash park for youths and adults referred to as Splashaway Bay (and an adjoining Child Bay for junior cruisers), in addition to the Water’s Edge pool for grownups. All had been simply beginning to come collectively throughout my go to.

The Surfside kiddie zone on Icon of the Seas nonetheless is generally lined in scaffolding. The round basis within the foreground will likely be house to a pool-themed carousel. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY
An artist’s drawing of how the Surfside neighborhood will look upon completion. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Colourful deck chairs will line the area so mother and father can lounge with their ft up or soak within the pool whereas sustaining sightlines to their taking part in children. It will even have a carousel, identical to the Boardwalk areas on Oasis-class ships.

As well as, Surfside will home family-friendly eating venues and bars serving exclusive-to-Surfside “mommy and me” drinks. Youngsters can order the nonalcoholic variations of their mother and father’ tropical cocktails.

Stairs from the zone will take you and your children straight to the Journey Ocean children membership, one deck under (in addition to the Playmakers Sports activities Bar and Arcade).

Icon of the Seas will even supply extra family-friendly high-occupancy cabins than ever for a Royal Caribbean ship, together with some rooms that may accommodate as much as eight individuals.

The family-friendly cabins will embody a brand new class of Household Infinite Balcony cabins that may sleep as much as six individuals, with an alcove that includes higher and decrease beds for youths, a separate sleeping space for grown-ups, a dwelling space and cut up toilet (bathroom and sink in a single room and bathe and sink within the different).

The principle sleeping space of the Household Infinite Balcony cabin. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

The ship will even be house to what could be the most epic household lodging on the planet, on land or sea: A 1,772-square-foot Final Household Townhouse that will likely be three decks excessive and sleep as much as eight individuals.

Amongst its promoting factors are an in-suite slide, movie-viewing room, karaoke machine and a “yard” with a pingpong desk, out of doors seating and a white picket fence main on to the Surfside space.

The Royal Promenade

Like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-, Freedom- and Voyager-class ships, Icon of the Seas could have an indoor, mall-like area with eateries, bars and retailers referred to as the Royal Promenade working by the center of its inside. Nevertheless, it is a Royal Promenade in contrast to any you have seen earlier than.

The sport-changing innovation right here, which is tough to know from the deck plans of the vessel that the road has launched, is that the area now’s related to the ocean in a means it is by no means been earlier than.

This new connectivity is due to a large, four-deck-high glass wall that traces one facet of the Promenade, permitting gentle to spill into the area.

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The glass wall will certainly be one of many ship’s nice options — I do know I will be standing alongside it gazing out on the immensity of the ocean typically after I’m on board the vessel.

Nevertheless, it is also a marvel of engineering, as it’s situated at a structurally crucial a part of the ship’s sidewall that — ever for the reason that Titanic cut up in half round its center in 1912 earlier than sinking — most naval architects have been loath to pierce with a large span of glass.

The naval architects that labored on Icon of the Seas acquired round the issue of structural integrity by the intelligent insertion of structural metal in an enormous round artwork set up/round stairway referred to as The Pearl that’s situated simply steps away.

To the untrained eye, it is simply an uncommon focus for the world that’ll supply a show-like expertise at occasions with sound and high-tech shifting wall screens. However in actuality, it is holding the ship collectively.

An enormous glass wall (at the moment principally lined in a protecting coating) will convey gentle into the Icon of the Seas’ Royal Promenade. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

We acquired a no-photos-allowed sneak peek contained in the round area for a really brief snippet of the sound and shifting wall expertise that passengers can count on. All we will say is — we won’t wait to see extra.

Along with The Pearl, the primary degree of The Royal Promenade will characteristic Sorrento’s Pizza, Starbucks, the ship’s karaoke bar (referred to as Highlight Karaoke) and its pub (to be referred to as the Level and Feather). One deck up, a second-story to the Royal Promenade will likely be house to such Royal Caribbean signatures as Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, the nautical-themed Schooner Bar and Boleros (a bar and lounge for Latin music and dancing). Notably, you can circle the second story of the Royal Promenade utterly, one thing you may’t do on different Royal Caribbean ships.

Surrounding the Royal Promenade are lots of Icon of the Seas’ leisure venues. The ship’s primary Royal Theater is ahead of the promenade, and the ship’s ice skating rink, which is newly named Absolute Zero and has a brand new oval design, is aft. The Music Corridor and On line casino Royale is one deck under, and an escape room, Diamond Membership elite lounge and comedy membership are close by.

Backside line

Royal Caribbean has dominated the world of large megaresorts at sea for practically 15 years, ever since its first Oasis-class vessel debuted.

Roughly 40% larger than another ship at sea once they first arrived on the scene, the Oasis-class ships are nonetheless the biggest and most amenity-filled cruise vessels on the planet.

Nevertheless, they will quickly have a brand new rival within the type of Icon of the Seas, the primary of a brand new sequence of even larger, extra amenity-filled Royal Caribbean vessels.

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