Courtesy of Donna Heiderstadt
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Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
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Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
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Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
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Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
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Icon of the Seas

Our Ship Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

A superlative like “the world’s biggest” might be a red flag for some people, but in the case of Icon on the Seas, its size is actually its biggest asset. Even before its January 2024 debut as the largest and most exuberantly top-decked vessel in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, the 1,198-foot-long ship, which can carry 5,610 guests at double occupancy and as many as 7,600 at full capacity, had social media buzzing — both with giddy anticipation and outright disdain. 

So does Icon of the Seas live up to the hype or deserve the ridicule? I’ll admit I was a skeptic, but once on board I was pleasantly surprised — shocked in fact — by how easy this 20-deck megaship is to navigate. I was even more impressed by its design, with wide-open spaces and visual delights around every corner. Not once did I feel that sense of overcrowding that usually sends me retreating to my stateroom, although, admittedly, on my media preview cruise there were only around 4,000 guests versus the 6,000 to 7,600 Icon of the Seas will typically accommodate. Yes, this massive 250,800-ton ship might not be for everyone, but Royal Caribbean loyalists will find a lot to love. 

Icon of the Seas is, in fact, so over-the-top that it’s a true wonder to behold — sorry Wonder of the Seas, but you’ve lost your “world’s biggest” title to a worthy successor. With its eight areas (AquaDome, Central Park, Chill Island, Royal Promenade, Surfside, Suite Neighborhood, The Hideaway, and Thrill Island), seven pools, nine whirlpools, six waterslides, and 40-plus dining and bar venues, Icon of the Seas feels more like a sprawling land-based resort in Las Vegas or Orlando than a cruise ship. And with a design that ranges from elevated contemporary (The Overlook and Central Park) to cheerfully cartoonish (Surfside and Thrill Island), it’s as Instagram-ready as any ship at sea. 

New features on board include the glass-roofed AquaDome, which replaces the AquaTheater found on Oasis-class ships, and Surfside, a family-friendly realm with a carousel, splash pool, and superhero host known as Admiral Awesome. 

Shipboard flow is managed by two massive elevator banks, one forward and one aft, featuring a total of 22 elevators. All are efficiently summoned (for the most part) by tapping your intended deck number on a touch screen, which will display the letter of the elevator you should take. There's also an escalator from the Royal Promenade on deck 5 to the Casino on deck 4, while staircases lead from the Royal Promenade’s lower level to its upper level and link several adjoining neighborhoods. It’s all surprisingly intuitive, making it pretty hard to get lost on a ship that should feel overwhelming but somehow manages not to be.

What We Love

The Lighter, Brighter Royal Promenade: The dated shopping mall aesthetic is gone. The Royal Promenade, which — on all ships that have one — is home to boutiques as well as popular bars and eateries, has been reimagined. This expansive two-level space greets guests as they board Icon of the Seas and it’s a stunner. Awash in natural light, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, the space no longer features an awkward hodgepodge of windows from the inward-facing promenade-view staterooms of old. 

Now, vast panels of glass actually let in light and offer ocean views. This is made possible by The Pearl, a dazzling sphere that structurally supports three decks, weighs more than a 747 plane, and is covered in 3,600 kinetic tiles that change color. A stairway leads up through it to the Pearl Café, an inviting 24/7 eatery serving coffee and light bites with a side of sea views. Lining the Royal Promenade are 15 dining, bar, and entertainment venues that are both familiar (Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, Sorrento’s Pizza, Bolero’s, Schooner Bar, Point & Feather Pub, Spotlight Karaoke, The Attic comedy club, and Starbucks) and new (1400 Lobby Bar and Dueling Pianos). 

Thrills & Chills: When guests exit the aft elevators on decks 16 and 17 they can head to either Chill Island or Thrill Island for two very different experiences. Thrill Island is an unapologetically theme-park-like open-air area that’s home to Category 6, the largest waterpark at sea with six brightly colored intertwined waterslides: Pressure Drop (an open free-fall slide), Frightening Bolt (a 46-foot drop slide), Hurricane Hunter and Storm Surge (family raft slides), and Storm Chasers (a pair of mat-racing slides). The thrills don’t stop there since you’ll also find the FlowRider surf simulator, the new Crown’s Edge rope course (sign a waiver, harness up, and walk your way around a scary platform 154 feet above the ocean), and the Adrenaline Peak rock-climbing wall. Prefer a more mellow thrill? The Lost Dunes mini-golf course is a fun, multi-generational challenge. 

Chill Island, which spans decks 15 to 17, is equally colorful but designed for lounging and socializing. It’s home to four pools and six whirlpools (Icon of the Seas has 62% more water surface than any other Royal Caribbean ship). Take a dip in Royal Bay, which at 5,813 square feet is the most expansive pool at sea, the infinity-edge Cove Pool, or Cloud 17 Pool. You can even order a cocktail at Swim & Tonic, the first swim-up bar at sea, or head to any of three The Lime & the Coconut bars (one on each Chill Island deck). Here, you’ll also find lots of shaded areas with loungers in which to dodge the Caribbean’s intense rays.

The Hideaway: With the ship’s aft freed from the massive AquaTheater that dominates Oasis-class vessels, the designers opted to create The Hideaway. Located on deck 15 but accessed solely from Thrill Island’s deck 16, this adults-only, beach-club-inspired space features two large whirlpools, the first suspended infinity pool at sea, and the Hideaway Bar. It’s quite popular, so claim your lounger early in the day.

The Overlook: Tucked behind the aquatic performance venue in the AquaDome, this new day-and-night venue is a soaring space featuring panoramic ocean views and eye-catching décor. It houses two bars, one the chic Overlook Bar, which is topped by a sculptural metal palm tree, and the other the sociable Rye & Bean bar that serves coffees, teas, and coffee-and-tea-inspired cocktails. 

The Included Eateries: No one — not even vegetarians and vegans — will lack for choice when enjoying the included dining venues on Icon of the Seas. In addition to the three-level Main Dining Room and the deck 15 Windjammer buffet (both of which serve better quality food and offer more choices than has been recently reported on older Royal Caribbean ships), there are also familiar venues such as El Loco Fresh (for DIY tacos and burritos), Park Café (for sandwiches and wraps), and Sorrentos’ Pizza. New included dining spots are Pearl Café (open 24/7 and offering grab-and-go bites such as bagel-and-egg sandwiches and yogurt parfaits); AquaDome Market (a mini food court serving Asian dishes, Mediterranean fare, sandwiches and paninis, crepes, and several kinds of mac ‘n’ cheese); and Surfside Eatery and Surfside Bites (offering family-friendly menus available throughout the day).

Best Known For

Central Park: This sophisticated, open-air space, which made its debut on Oasis-class ships, has been further refined on Icon of the Seas. Five decks high and featuring more than 30,550 live plants, Icon's Central Park is lusher than ever. It’s home to eateries Chop’s Grille, Izumi, Park Café, and the new retro-style Empire Supper Club, where an eight-course cocktail-paired tasting menu is accompanied by live big-band music (cost: $200 per person). Also new is Lou’s Jazz & Blues (for cocktails and live jazz) and Bubbles (a walk-up Champagne bar).

Stellar Entertainment: Royal Caribbean ships are known for their entertainment and the line-up on Icon of the Seas will delight anyone and everyone. In the Royal Theater, you can enjoy the first-ever cruise ship production of “The Wizard of Oz” (a nostalgic tale with Broadway-caliber special effects), while AquaDome is the setting for “Aqua Action: Range of Motion,” an extravaganza featuring high-divers, acrobatic rope walkers, skateboarders, and a 50-foot waterfall. In Absolute Zero, the largest ice rink at sea, skaters embody the foundations of life in “Starburst: Elemental Beauty” (yes, it explores the periodic table of elements, but in very clever ways). Some of the liveliest evening entertainment is in Music Hall, where top cover bands belt out rock classics from the ‘80s, and Dueling Pianos, where the keyboard pounding is fierce. You can also cheer on amateur vocalists in Spotlight Karaoke, applaud professional jazz musicians in Lou’s Jazz & Blues, enjoy a “One-Hit Wonder” dance party on the Royal Promenade, and laugh yourself silly at the salty “adult comedy” shows in The Attic and Royal Theater.

Stateroom Options: This ship features 28 different stateroom and suite categories, half of them new. Staterooms have light wood finishes, neutral décor with touches of blue and green in the pillows and tropical print artwork, and a well-designed bathroom. All stateroom baths are identical with ample storage and a large shower featuring a built-in bench, while suite baths are more elaborate and vary by category. 

Categories range from 157-square-foot Interior Plus staterooms (with a clever walk-in closet that keeps your stuff away from the snug sleeping area) to the 1,772-square-foot Ultimate Family Townhouse (a three-level, kid-centric indulgence that sleeps up to eight and has a doozy of a price tag) and the 1,482-square-foot Royal Loft (a two-level space with more sophisticated décor). A total of 13 categories fall into three tiers of the Royal Suite Class, with amenity perks that vary by tier but always include exclusive access to the Suite Neighborhood’s Coastal Kitchen restaurant and The Grove pool and sundeck. 

The majority of staterooms are either 204-square-foot Oceanview Balcony (there are 738 of them, each with a 50-square-foot balcony), 250-square-foot Infinite Oceanview Balcony (these 419 staterooms are a new category, with convertible balconies similar to the Infinite Veranda on Celebrity’s Edge-Series ships), and 160-to-187-square-foot Ocean View (there are 264). Icon of the Seas also features staterooms with interior views, including 200-square-foot Infinite Central Park Balconies (there are 196, but the ones opposite or above Lou’s Jazz & Blues will be noisy during evening hours until at least 12:30 a.m.) and 196-square-foot Surfside Family View Balcony (172 of them overlook the Surfside neighborhood).

Who It's Best For

Millennial Parents & Their Kids: Millennial parents and their kids will have a blast on Icon of the Seas, where the Ocean Adventure kids club and Surfside and Thrill Island areas are designed to indulge active young families. Gen X parents and their teens or young adult kids will also love the complementary atmospheres of Thrill Island (energetic and lively) and Chill Island (fun and relaxing).

Anyone Who Loves a Vegas Vibe: The key to feeling at home on Icon of the Seas is being able to embrace the spectacle of it all — in the same way that Las Vegas’ massive casino resorts or Orlando’s frenetic theme parks stimulate the senses. There is so much to see and do that it’s a great option for a group of friends or a multigenerational family, as long as the older generation is okay with a highly energetic environment from the moment they get out of bed in the morning until they fall asleep at night.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

You Better Like the Caribbean: For the foreseeable future (through at least 2026), Icon of the Seas will homeport in Miami and offer seven-night itineraries to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. These will call on two or three ports as well as Royal Caribbean’s family-friendly private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas (home to 14 waterslides, the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, private overwater cabanas for rental, and the new adults-only Hideaway Beach).

A Few Guest Favorites are Missing: Fans of Royal Caribbean’s adults-only Solarium indoor pool area might be upset to learn that it’s not on Icon of the Seas. Similarly, the Dog House, serving a menu of hot dogs and bratwursts on a number of Royal Caribbean ships, is nowhere to be found. And both the relaxation area and thermal suite in the Vitality Spa are entirely interior and devoid of sea views; there’s also no spa whirlpool. That said, the seven pools and nine whirlpools located all around the ship offer plenty of places to relax. The vibe in the forward-facing The Overlook is exceptionally chic: It's a wonderful spot to chill with a coffee or cocktail and a good book.

You’ll Pay a Premium to Sail: Royal Caribbean may be a mainstream cruise line, but consumer demand has pushed Icon of the Seas fares into the premium realm. Many 2024 sailings sold out quickly, while guests seeking to book as the ship’s debut garnered media attention found they couldn’t snag an Inside Stateroom for less than $2,000 per person until October 2025. And the prices for the Suite Neighborhood? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. I did and the answer was $7,000 to $55,000 per person, double occupancy.

You’ll Get Your Steps In: Icon of the Seas is just shy of 1,200 feet long — that’s almost a quarter of a mile and equal to more than three football fields. To enjoy this massive ship, be prepared to walk. I logged an average of 9,600 steps and 4.3 miles each day.

Donna Heiderstadt
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger
Cruise Expert