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Icon of the Seas: How the New Biggest Ship in the World Will Cater to Young Families

We have to admit we were a bit surprised. Royal Caribbean International had promised to reveal details of its new Icon of the Seas, which will arrive in late 2023 and make its debut in January 2024. It's a vessel that we thought was going to be slightly smaller than Oasis class, but it turns out that Royal Caribbean can’t do anything small. The new Icon of the Seas will actually be larger than the recent Oasis-class Wonder of the Seas, displacing 250,800 gross registered tons, measuring 1,197 feet long, and carrying up to 7,500 guests when all berths are filled (5,610 double occupancy).

Indeed when at full capacity with all guests and crew, Icon will have 9,950 souls aboard. So this is a big ship, so big in fact that it will have eight “neighborhoods” where guests can stay in 28 categories of accommodations, dine at a variety of familiar and new eateries, play with their families in whole new neighborhoods, and be entertained in that unique Royal Caribbean way.

We learned all this and more during a “secret” preview two days ago at Royal Caribbean’s product innovation center and product lab at the company’s headquarters in Miami (and the information was embargoed until today). Everything was so secret, in fact, that we had to put our mobile phones in small bags that were locked so we couldn’t take photos (or make notes).

We were led through the complex to what Royal Caribbean product developers called “The Cave,” where there’s a virtual, 3-D simulation of the new ship projected on giant screens that surround you (viewed through 3-D glasses while we wore felt booties on our shoes). We also saw mock-up of an area that is suddenly central to the ship—Surfside.

Surfside is one of Royal Caribbean’s new neighborhoods, devoted to accommodating and entertaining young families (those with kids 6 years old and younger). It’s taking the place of what is Boardwalk in the stern of Oasis Class ships. As Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bailey emphasized, this is truly a ship meant for families. Not that the cruise line’s other ships don’t deliver on that, but Icon has been designed to cater very specifically to the family market.

Five years in the making, Icon also has been designed by taking the best from Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class and Quantum Class vessels, adding in some of the company’s Perfect Day at Coco Cay, and offering even more innovations. Royal Caribbean executives say the vessel represents the sum of all their learnings from previous classes of ships.

From the beach retreat to the resort escape and the theme park adventure, with Icon, every kind of family and cruiser can experience their version of the ultimate family vacation. “With each new ship, we raise the bar in the travel industry while enhancing what our guests know and love,” said Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group. “From the moment they step on board, every experience is specifically designed to give them the best vacation anywhere on land and at sea. With Icon of the Seas, we’ve taken this to a new level and made the ultimate family vacation.”

Of course a “family vacation” can mean many things. Whether it means getting away as a family, couple or friends, Icon features a variety of firsts and next-level favorites for everyone. There are adrenaline-pumping thrills, including the largest waterpark at sea (echoing the one on Perfect Day at Coco Cay), and new ways to chill with more ocean views and more pools (seven) than ever before, plus a blend of more than 40 new and returning dining, bar and nightlife options, and cutting-edge entertainment.

“Icon of the Seas is the culmination of more than 50 years of delivering memorable experiences and our next bold commitment to those who love to vacation,” said Bayley. “Now more than ever, families and friends are prioritizing experiences where they can bond and enjoy their own adventures. We set out to create a vacation that makes all that possible in one place for the thrill-seekers, the chill enthusiasts and everyone in between, without compromise. It’s this first-of-its-kind combination that makes Icon the future of family vacations, and that future is here.”

Icon’s eight neighborhoods will come alive day and night, including five new venues and three returning favorites. Each one is a destination in and of itself filled with an array of experiences, live entertainment and ways to grab a bite and a drink. There are five new neighborhoods, including:

Thrill Island: Cruisers can test their limits, scale new heights and reach top speeds at the center of thrill. This lost island adventure is home to highlights like Category 6, the largest waterpark at sea, with six record-breaking slides: Pressure Drop and its 66-degree incline make it the industry’s first open free-fall slide; the 46-foot-tall Frightening Bolt, the tallest drop slide at sea; Storm Surge and Hurricane Hunter, the first family raft slides at sea with four riders per raft; and Storm Chasers, cruising’s first mat-racing duo. Living on the edge takes new meaning with Crown’s Edge. Part skywalk, part ropes course and part thrill ride, it culminates in a surprising, shocking moment that will see travelers swing 154 feet above the ocean.

Chill Island: Among the seven pools on board, four are in this three-deck. There’s a pool for every mood, each with prime ocean views: the vibrant Swim & Tonic, the line’s first swim-up bar at sea; Royal Bay Pool, the largest pool at sea; Cloud 17, an adults-only retreat; and the serene, infinity-edge Cove Pool. Plus, The Lime & Coconut returns with four locations, including Royal Caribbean’s first frozen cocktail bar.

Surfside: This brand new neighborhood sis made for young families from end to end, where adults and kids ages six and under will want to stay and play all day. Grownups can soak up the endless views at Water’s Edge pool, as they keep an eye on the kids at Splashaway Bay and Baby Bay. Only steps away are dining options, places to lounge, a bar, the signature carousel, an arcade, Adventure Ocean, and Social020 for teens.

The Hideaway: Tucked away, this neighborhood 135 feet above the ocean combines the good vibes of beach club scenes around the world and the uninterrupted ocean views only a cruise can offer. The first suspended infinity pool at sea is at the center of it all, and it’s surrounded by a multilevel sun terrace with whirlpools, a variety of seating and a dedicated bar.

AquaDome: Perched at the top of Icon near the bow, this is a transformational place unlike any other. In a tranquil oasis by day, guests can take in wraparound ocean views and an awe-inspiring waterfall as they enjoy a bite or drink. By night, it becomes a vibrant place great for a night out, complete with restaurants, bars and the cruise line’s marquee aqua shows at the next-level AquaTheater. The signature entertainment venue takes artistry and cutting-edge technology to new heights, with a transforming pool, four robotic arms, state-of-the-art projection and more.

Royal Caribbean has raised the bar even further with each of its signature neighborhoods: A grander Royal Promenade features its first floor-to-ceiling ocean views, plus more than 15 restaurants, cafes, bars and lounges; a more lush and livelier Central Park has more ways to dine and be entertained; and the largest Suite Neighborhood is three decks of luxury, offering a multilevel suite sun deck, The Grove, which has a private pool, whirlpool and dining, and a two-story Coastal Kitchen. More returning favorites include experiences like new takes on mini golf at Lost Dunes, rock climbing at Adrenaline Peak, and Absolute Zero, Royal Caribbean’s largest ice arena, and dining venues such as Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar on the Royal Promenade and the Asian-inspired Izumi in Central Park.

With 28 ways to stay, rooms designed for every type of vacationer, with more choices, ocean views and space. There are new layouts made for families of three, four, five and more, like the Family Infinite Balcony and Surfside Family Suite, with kids alcoves tucked away from the adults, and the three-story Ultimate Family Townhouse, complete with its own white picket fence, mailbox and slide. When it comes to views, among the best are from the brand’s first Sunset Corner Suites and Panoramic Ocean Views in AquaDome.

The debut of Icon Class will also mark the next step in Royal Caribbean’s journey toward a clean-energy future. Icon will be the cruise line’s first ship with fuel cell technology and powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), the cleanest-burning marine fuel. Along with other proven applications, such as shore power connection and waste heat recovery systems, the new ship will be the cruise line’s most sustainable to date.

The new standard of vacations also extends to the home away from home for those at the heart of Icon—the crew. Where they live and work has been reimagined with more intuitive design, amenities, room and activities, including a new, patented stateroom created by crew for crew.

Icon will sail year-round on seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean vacations from Miami. Every cruise will visit Royal Caribbean’s private island destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas, where adventurers can create their ideal vacation day. In store is everything thrill and chill, from Thrill Waterpark’s 13 waterslides, including the tallest in North America, to Coco Beach Club, featuring the first overwater cabanas in The Bahamas, and Up, Up & Away, a helium balloon adventure.

When Icon arrives, the cruise line will debut the island’s adults-only oasis, Hideaway Beach, with an expansive pool, private cabanas with pools, and unmatched views of the ocean hues. Guests will also visit Caribbean islands like Cozumel, Mexico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Roatan, Honduras. Guests can book their iconic adventure with travel advisors on Tuesday, Oct. 25. Crown & Anchor loyalty members can look out for special access on Monday, Oct. 24.

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