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5 things I loved (and 4 I hated) about my vacation on the world's biggest cruise ship

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Royal Caribbean got almost everything perfect with their newest and biggest cruise ship, but there were a few things I disliked about my recent cruise on Icon of the Seas.

When itineraries on Icon of the Seas became available to book nearly a year and a half ago, I immediately booked a cabin for the first sailing. Having cruised on most of Royal Caribbean’s ships, I was interested to see how Icon of the Seas would stack up against the rest of the fleet.

Icon of the Seas was, without a doubt, the most anticipated ship of 2024, and her official announcement in 2022 led to the single largest booking day in Royal Caribbean’s 56-year history. The ship promised the “ultimate family vacation,” with immersive entertainment, eight distinct neighborhoods, and over twenty dining venues.

Icon in port

Related: Guide to Icon of the Seas cruise ship

No matter how much design and research goes into making a new cruise ship, though, there are always going to be a few aspects of a vessel that do not hit the mark. Whether a faulty cabin design or high price tag, it’s impossible for a new ship to be flawless.

During my time onboard last month, I had mostly positive experiences, and the ship quickly became my favorite in the fleet. Nonetheless, there were bound to be a few things I did not enjoy about Icon of the Seas.

Here are the 5 things I loved (and 4 I hated) about my vacation on the world’s biggest cruise ship.

I loved the amount of activities on the ship, which catered to both kids and adults

Dueling Pianos

The amount of things to do on Icon of the Seas is unparalleled in the cruise industry. You would need to spend weeks onboard to try, see, and do everything offered.

Active cruisers will appreciate familiar favorites like a rock climbing wall, mini golf course, surfing simulator, and ice skating rink. However, new attractions have launched on Icon of the Seas, too, including the cruise line’s first-ever waterpark with six record-breaking slides.

I even had the opportunity to try Crown’s Edge, Royal Caribbean's obstacle course and zip line attraction. While this activity costs extra—around $50 per ride—it was exhilarating.

Crown's Edge Icon of the Seas

Related: Pros and Cons of a Royal Caribbean cruise

The course extends over the edge of Icon of the Seas. To complete the course, participants must walk on a platform that drops beneath their feet, sending them dangling on a zip line with nothing but the ocean below.

Not interested in breaking a sweat? There are countless other ways to enjoy your time, from watching The Wizard Of Oz Broadway production to cheering on pianists at the newly-launched Dueling Pianos bar. No matter the time of the day, you're bound to find an activity that fits your interests on Icon of the Seas.

I hated the price tag of Icon of the Seas, even if the ship is brand new

the hideaway pool on icon of the seas

One of the main cons of sailing on a new cruise ship are the higher prices, and this was definitely the case on Icon of the Seas.

In total, I paid $5,179.62 for a 7-night cruise. The cost included accommodation for two people in a Central Park Infinite Balcony cabin, taxes, fees, and gratuities.

This price is substantially higher than any cruise I had booked before. For the inaugural sailing of the cruise line’s second-newest ship, Wonder of the Seas, I paid just over $2,000 for an interior cabin. For a similar interior cabin on Icon of the Seas, you’re looking at spending over $2,000 per person.

There’s no question that Icon of the Seas comes with a hefty price tag. Even though I had a wonderful time onboard, I’d be hard-pressed to book this ship over and over again when I can have a similar experience on other large ships for half the price.

I loved Pearl Café, and it's a huge improvement from Royal Caribbean’s older cafe venues

pearl cafe on icon of the seas

One of my favorite additions to Royal Caribbean’s venues is Pearl Café, the coffee shop on Icon of the Seas. At Pearl Café you can find specialty coffee beverages, grab-and-go sandwiches and snacks, and stunning ocean views from the cafe’s 36-foot-high windows.

Older Royal Caribbean ships also have places to order coffee drinks onboard, but they are far less aesthetic than Pearl Café. Cafe Promenade is found on several ships, but it functions more like a casual dining venue than a true cafe.

I was happy to see Royal Caribbean following the trend of creating more expansive coffee shops on cruise ships. On my MSC World Europa cruise last May, for instance, I loved spending time at Coffee Emporium, the ship’s standalone coffee shop. The coffee shop felt like a trendy cafe on land, and it was an excellent place to sip a latte while reading or chatting with friends.

At the time, I could only hope Royal Caribbean—my cruise line of choice—would create something similar, and they hit the mark with Pearl Café.

I hated the obstructed balconies in Central Park, and I wish I knew this before booking one

central park balcony cabin on icon of the seas

I booked a Central Park Infinite Balcony cabin in the ship’s Central Park neighborhood for the inaugural sailing of Icon of the Seas. Looking back, I never would have picked this option without doing further research.

One of the most recognizable areas on Royal Caribbean’s Icon and Oasis Class ships is Central Park, an open-air neighborhood filled with lush greenery, restaurants, bars, and shops. Above these public spaces are cabins, which feature balconies overlooking the park instead of the ocean.

The main advantage of booking a Central Park Balcony are the views from your cabin's balcony. Not only are these balconies excellent for people-watching, but you can also hear live music played in the park during the evenings, and the balconies provide a more romantic atmosphere compared to ocean-facing cabins.

Related: The absolute worst cruise ship cabins to avoid on any ship

Intrigued by this option, I booked this category of cabin for the inaugural sailing of Icon of the Seas. I booked cabin 10225, which appeared to be a cabin like any other in the park.

central park obstructed view balcony

Yet once I saw the cabin for myself, I realized that my balcony offered an obstructed view. Instead of an open view of the park, the cabin’s balcony was directly above a giant brown roof. The roof houses The Pearl, a 4-deck high spherical sculpture found in the Royal Promenade.

Essentially, the roof obstructed almost the entire view of the park, and this was not ideal. Looking back, I wish I had known about these obstructed cabins, so I could have selected a better location within Central Park. Unfortunately, these cabins are not listed as obstructed by Royal Caribbean, so I assume many other cruisers will find themselves disappointed, too.

I loved spending time with friends in the new Overlook Pods

The Overlook on Icon of the Seas

While the main feature of Icon of the Seas’ AquaDome neighborhood is the indoor AquaTheater entertainment venue, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Overlook, another unique feature of this neighborhood.

Located adjacent to the AquaTheater is The Overlook, an indoor hangout space in the very front of Icon of the Seas. Upon first glance, it’s easy for this area to leave guests awestruck. With massive windows and sweeping views of the ocean, The Overlook quickly became a frequent hangout spot for me once onboard.

The Overlook is filled with comfortable, colorful seating, but the most coveted hangout areas are, by far, the Overlook Pods.

Inside The Overlook are four semi-private nooks—the Overlook Pods—two of which are elevated into the air. I have never seen anything like this before on a cruise ship, and I absolutely loved the concept. One evening of my cruise, my travel partner and I snagged a pod all to ourselves, and it was the perfect place to sip a cocktail and take in the ocean views.

I hated how the cabins had baskets instead of drawers for storage

baskets under close icon of the seas

While admittedly not a huge problem, I was not a fan of having baskets replace the drawers in my Icon of the Seas cabin.

Traditionally, cruise ship cabins feature both drawers and closets to provide storage space. And while Icon of the Seas cabins have an impressive amount of storage space, one fault of these cabins are the baskets.

Under the closet are four baskets that guests can use to store clothing, accessories, and other travel essentials. Although functional, I would have preferred a regular drawer instead.

These baskets do not slide on any type of device, meaning you have to physically move the basket every time you want to take something out. I feel as though this will easily lead to marks and scratches on the light-colored furniture, and it clearly seemed like a design choice rather than a practical one.

I loved how family-focused activities were centered in specific areas of the ship

Surfside neighborhood on icon of the seas

One of my hesitations when booking my Icon of the Seas cruise was the focus on families. It’s no secret that Royal Caribbean is a family-focused cruise line, but the amount of family-focused activities on Icon of the Seas was slightly off-putting as a 20-something without kids.

Initially, I was concerned the ship would be stuffed to the brim with children, and that it would be difficult to find quiet, adult-centered spaces onboard.

My concerns could not have been more unwarranted. Even though Icon of the Seas does cater toward children, it also caters toward adults of all ages. Sure, you will find kid-focused areas onboard, such the Surfside neighborhood, which almost exclusively caters toward young families. Additionally, Thrill Island is popular with families, as the Category 6 Waterpark is a must on any child’s to-do list.

Related: 10 Best Cruise Lines For Families

However, having family-focused areas in one place means you will encounter fewer kids and families around the rest of the ship. Places like Central Park, the Royal Promenade, and even parts of the pool deck all seemed quieter than what I had experienced on older, smaller Royal Caribbean ships.

I hated the Starbucks location on the ship, as it was confusing when disembarking

Starbucks on Icon of the Seas

Hated might be far too strong a word here, but I disliked the location of Starbucks on Icon of the Seas. The coffee shop is located in the center of the Royal Promenade, which seems like a sound choice, but long lines led to confusion on disembarkation day.

On the morning of disembarkation day, I decided to grab a latte from Starbucks prior to getting off the ship. My iced matcha would cure my post-cruise depression, right?

As I stood in the long line to order, though, the atmosphere was hectic. Unfortunately, when the Starbucks line gets to a certain length, it nearly cuts off the pathway for those passengers disembarking the ship.

The machines to scan your SeaPass card and disembark are located right next to Starbucks, and it can be confusing to navigate your way around the Starbucks line and to the machines. Given that thousands of passengers were trying to leave the ship at the same time—and rolling heavy suitcases—it was a bit chaotic.

While it was not a major con of sailing on Icon of the Seas, I thought the location of Starbucks could have been better thought out.

I loved the amount of complimentary dining venues, which meant I didn’t have to choose between just the dining room and buffet

AquaDome market on Icon of the Seas

Another thing I loved about Icon of the Seas was the amount of places to grab a bite to eat at no extra cost.

One of the advantages of booking a cruise vacation is that food is included in your cruise fare. Even though most ships, including Icon of the Seas, also have restaurants that cost extra, there’s nothing wrong with choosing to dine only at complimentary venues.

On older ships, complimentary dining options can be limited. The oldest Royal Caribbean ships, like Grandeur of the Seas, may only offer complimentary meals at the buffet and Main Dining Room, with light snacks offered elsewhere around the ship.

Icon of the Seas could not be more different from older ships in the fleet. You’ll find over ten complimentary dining venues on the vessel, including the brand-new AquaDome Market food hall and Surfside Eatery.

sandwiches at pearl cafe on icon of the seas

Related: 18 easy ways to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Having so many complimentary options meant I rarely ventured to the dining room or Windjammer buffet. Instead of a lengthy sit-down meal, I often preferred grabbing a quick meal at a venue like Park Cafe or El Loco Fresh.

There are so many new places to dine, in fact, that you could try a new restaurant every day of a 7-night cruise and still not try everything! Because I don’t always like spending extra on specialty restaurants while on a cruise, I appreciated the variety of complimentary choices.

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