Just when you think Royal Caribbean has hit the limits of cruise ship design, they take it a step further.
The cruise line’s newest ship, Icon of the Seas, is set to launch in January 2024 as the world’s largest cruise ship. Boasting record-breaking activities, unbelievable scale, and family-focused design, she will be a force to be reckoned with in the cruise industry.
Icon of the Seas will be the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s Icon Class, the first new class of vessels since 2014. With twenty decks, a maximum capacity of 7,600, and a gross tonnage of 250,800, constructing the vessel has been a behemoth undertaking.
Cruise Blog recently had the chance to visit the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, where Icon of the Seas is currently being constructed. At over 80% complete, the ship is just eight months away from her inaugural sailing, and nearly 3,000 workers are working on the ship daily.
During our shipyard visit, we took a tour of the ship to discover the vessel’s new neighborhoods, entertainment venues, and activities first-hand. Here are a few of the most exciting features and spaces coming to Icon of the Seas that we saw on tour, many of which are completely unique to the cruise industry.
The ship’s Surfside neighborhood takes family-focused to the next level.
It is no secret that Royal Caribbean is among the best, if not the best, cruise line for families, and the new Surfside neighborhood is the ultimate family destination onboard.
Colorful, playful, and a whole lot of fun, Surfside will feature kid-focused activities including a carousel, Splashaway Bay aqua park, playground, and arcade. The neighborhood also brings three new dining and beverage venues to the fleet: Surfside Eatery, Pier 7, and The Lemon Post.
One of the ways Royal Caribbean wanted to improve ship design with Icon of the Seas was to have more dining venues easily accessible around the ship. With this in mind, they designed Surfside Eatery to be a casual, complimentary dining venue with family favorites.
Pier 7, the neighborhood’s second dining venue, comes at an extra cost but promises “beachside bites” including tostadas, surf ‘n’ turf tacos, and brunch. Finally is The Lemon Post, a bar featuring a menu of “mommy and me” cocktails and mocktails.
It is clear a lot of thought went into the flow of passenger movement on Icon of the Seas. Conveniently down a staircase from Surfside is the ship’s Adventure Ocean programming, which provides childcare for guests aged 6 months to 17 years.
Keeping kid-friendly activities in one place means parents and kids have one location to get all of their needs met onboard without having to traverse around the rest of the ship.
In addition to family-focused activities are family-focused cabins, and we had the chance to tour two of these inventive rooms.
Planning for a large number of families onboard, Royal Caribbean designed nearly three quarters of cabins on Icon of the Seas to accommodate three or more guests. While the ship features standard cabins like interior, oceanview, and balcony rooms, its launch will also premiere several new stateroom categories.
During our shipyard visit, we had the opportunity to tour two brand new cabins: the Surfside Family Suite and Family Infinite Balcony room.
The Surfside Family Suite is a 1.5 bedroom suite that sleeps up to four guests, which includes a nook space for kids with a pullout couch. The suite also features a balcony overlooking Surfside and has a split bathroom design—a first for Royal Caribbean—which makes sharing a cabin easier for families.
Related: Guide to Icon of the Seas cruise ship: pricing, things to do, and more
A unique feature of the Surfside Family Suite is that it is included in Royal Caribbean’s Sky Class, the mid-tier of the cruise line’s suite class. Sky Class benefits include access to the ship’s Suite Neighborhood, access to Coastal Kitchen restaurant, flexible arrival, complimentary internet, and concierge service.
On the other side of the hallway is the Family Infinite Balcony cabin. This room features two bedrooms, one of which is a private bunk area for kids, in addition to in-cabin games and a split bathroom. It also features an infinite balcony, which allows guests to expand their living space by opening or closing the balcony window.
Suite guests will appreciate the fleet’s largest suites-only neighborhood, which features a private sun deck and two restaurants.
Another stop on our shipyard tour was to the Suite Neighborhood on Icon of the Seas, the largest suites-only neighborhood in the fleet to date.
Following the trend of cruise lines like MSC and Norwegian, Royal Caribbean has begun constructing larger suites-only spaces on its ships. Its most recent ship, Wonder of the Seas, was the first to feature a Suite Neighborhood, a “ship within a ship” concept.
On Icon of the Seas, guests staying in Grand Suites and above have access to the Suite Neighborhood. Inside this neighborhood is a two-story sun deck with a private pool and jacuzzi, the exclusive Coastal Kitchen restaurant, and a new casual outdoor Mediterranean venue.
On the top decks, Icon of the Seas will feature the fleet’s first waterpark at sea, Thrill Island.
The family-friendly fun continues on the top deck of Icon of the Seas, where you’ll find Thrill Island, a neighborhood designed exclusively with adrenaline in mind.
The focus of this neighborhood is the Category 6 waterpark, Royal Caribbean’s first waterpark at sea, and it is included in guests’ cruise fare. Whereas other ships in the cruise line’s fleet have just a few waterslides, Category 6 takes it a step further with 6 record-breaking slides.
Inside the waterpark are two family raft slides—the first ever at sea—in addition to a free fall slide and duo mat-racing slides. Arguably the most thrilling, however, is the Frightening Bolt, the tallest waterslide at sea that drops guests 46 feet through a trap door release.
The waterpark was around 20% complete during our shipyard visit, but renderings show this will certainly be a popular spot onboard, and for good reason!
Outside of Thrill Waterpark, we saw the construction of the Crown’s Edge, a ropes course that is not for the faint of heart. Constructed on the ship’s massive Crown & Anchor logo, guests will navigate through a skywalk, ropes course, and thrill ride that takes them over the side of the ship.
Related: The 15 big changes on Icon of the Seas that Royal Caribbean has planned
Of course, Royal Caribbean brings back several classics on Icon of the Seas, including mini golf, a FlowRider surf simulator, sports court, and rock climbing wall.
Kids and adults alike will not need to stray far for food while enjoying Thrill Island, either. We walked through an area that will become Base Camp, a dining venue set to serve burgers, sandwiches, and “over-the-top” sides. This area will also feature a bar and the Desserted milkshake bar, serving both virgin and boozy shakes.
If “thrill” isn’t your vibe, the upper decks feature plenty of ways to chill.
Thrill Island may be suited for adrenaline junkies, but if you are more interested in relaxing on the upper decks, you will want to head to one of two neighborhoods: Chill Island or The Hideaway.
The Hideaway is a beach club-inspired neighborhood at the aft of Icon of the Seas, which features a suspended infinity pool, beach bar, and terraced loungers with jacuzzis. Unfortunately, this area was closed on our shipyard visit, but it is definitely an area worth checking out once the ship launches.
The pool deck of Icon of the Seas is named Chill Island, and while much of the deck was covered on our visit, we still got an insight into what this area will offer.
One of the most impressive areas of the pool deck is the Royal Bay Pool, which will be the largest pool at sea. Walking past the pool really brought its size into scale—I could not believe how long we could walk and still be at the pool’s edge!
Three other pools can be found at Chill Island; although, we were unable to see them during our visit:
- Swim & Tonic: the first swim-up bar in Royal Caribbean’s fleet
- Cloud 17: an adults-only pool deck for ages 16 and above
- The Cove Pool: an infinity pool directly facing the ocean
Perhaps the most impressive neighborhood on Icon of the Seas is the AquaDome, where we got an exclusive look at its entertainment offerings.
Royal Caribbean really saved the best for last!
The last stop on our shipyard visit was to the AquaDome neighborhood, and it left me in awe at first sight. Of all areas on the ship, the AquaDome appeared the most complete, and it gave a better insight into just how grand this ship will be.
Royal Caribbean’s AquaDome neighborhood is built within a 363 ton dome with over 600 glass panels. Inside the massive dome will be lounge spaces, bars, restaurants, and a revamped AquaTheater.
Royal Caribbean’s signature AquaTheater, previously found only on Oasis Class ships, performs high-energy productions featuring high diving, tightroping, synchronized swimming, and acrobatics.
The cruise line wanted to up the notch of production quality in the AquaTheater, so they moved the venue inside, allowing them to further intertwine technology with the show. We got a sneak peek at a performance during the visit and, while photos were not permitted, let’s just say the combination of music, lights, and 3D movement far exceeded any of my expectations.
Beyond the theater, though, my favorite area of the AquaDome was the Overlook, a hangout space featuring 220 degree views of the ocean. Inside this venue is the Rye & Bean, a new coffee shop concept with coffee-infused cocktails, in addition to the Overlook Pods, which are new hangout nooks with expansive ocean views.
The Royal Promenade will return to the fleet with Icon of the Seas, but with new innovations and world-class design.
If there is one design feature Royal Caribbean is most well known for, it is the Royal Promenade. Initially debuting in 1998 with Voyager of the Seas, this indoor thoroughfare has become a staple on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.
And, in line with the “wow” factor found throughout Icon of the Seas, the ship’s Royal Promenade will feature a new design and cutting-edge venues.
As we first walked onto the Royal Promenade during our shipyard tour, we immediately noticed The Pearl. This multi-deck sphere takes guests up steps from deck 5 to deck 6, but it’s much more than just a staircase. As passengers enter The Pearl, the walls move, change color, and play music.
Upon exiting The Pearl, guests will see one of the many windows found within the Royal Promenade, a massive floor-to-ceiling window with sweeping ocean views. One complaint Royal Caribbean addressed with its previous ships was the lack of ocean views from the Promenade, and so they incorporated large windows throughout the ship, allowing guests to feel connected to the ocean regardless of where they are onboard.
Other new additions to the Royal Promenade will include a dueling piano bar, the 1400 Lobby Bar, and Pearl Cafe. Long-time favorites will return, including Boleros, the Schooner Bar, Spotlight Karaoke, and Sorrento’s.
Guests looking for an outside hangout should look no further than Central Park, Icon of the Seas’ open-air oasis.
Central Park first debuted on Oasis of the Seas and quickly became a favorite amongst cruise fans. The open-air park on Icon of the Seas, like on the Oasis Class ships, will feature live plants, entertainment venues, and restaurants.
Jazz lovers will enjoy the new Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues lounge, featuring live performances of jazz and soul music. The venue has both indoor and outdoor seating, allowing passengers to listen to their favorite tunes from the cozy interior or breezy exterior.
You’ll also find a walkup champagne bar within the park along with retail stores, Park Cafe, Chops Grille, and the first-ever Izumi Hibachi & Sushi location in Central Park.
If the shipyard tour showed us anything, it’s that Royal Caribbean is not afraid to innovate and design next-level cruise ships.
When Icon of the Seas launches, there will be nothing like her anywhere else at sea. Visiting the Meyer Turku shipyard put into perspective just how enormous this ship will be, providing guests of all ages with unbeatable fun onboard.
When Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class launched in 2009, most passengers were taken aback by the ship’s features and design. Fifteen years later, as Icon of the Seas sets sail, she will change the future of cruising as we know it.
Icon of the Seas will sail roundtrip 7-night cruises from Miami, Florida starting in January 2024, and sailings are currently available to book on Royal Caribbean’s website.