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TravelIcon of the Seas review: What's it like on the world's largest...

Icon of the Seas review: What’s it like on the world’s largest cruise ship?


It’s “the biggest, baddest ship on the planet” (according to Jason Liberty, CEO of Royal Caribbean Group), the most expensive Royal Caribbean ship to book and a social media star with equal numbers of lovers and haters. But what’s it really like to sail the 250,800-ton, 7,600-passenger Icon of the Seas? It’s pretty dang fun.

Royal Caribbean’s goal was not to break size records. Instead, the cruise line wanted to create an epic family vacation experience that would rival not only other cruise ships, but the best resorts and destinations on land. To do that, the line would need to put a wide variety of delicious dining venues, appealing watering holes with modern cocktail menus, inviting hangouts and attractions and entertainment for all ages onto one ship.

Is it any surprise that the ship needed to be humongous to house all that?

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It’s hard to be bored on Icon of the Seas, whether you like thrill rides or chill hangouts in the sun. With the ship divided up into “neighborhoods” with their own unique vibes, you’re bound to find someplace to love. Or perhaps you’ll find new areas of the ship to explore each day. The neighborhoods, plus some smart operational planning by the cruise line, make it easier than you think to make your way through the ship, no matter where you wish to go.

Whether you’ve been avidly waiting for this floating entertainment behemoth to arrive, or whether you’ve got a morbid curiosity about this sea monster, check your preconceptions and discover what it’s really like to cruise Icon of the Seas.

Overview of Icon of the Seas

Icon of the Seas is 20 decks high (with 18 passenger decks) and 1,198 feet long and measures 250,800 gross tons. It can carry 5,610 passengers at double occupancy (two passengers per cabin) or up to 7,600 passengers at maximum occupancy, plus 2,350 crew members. These stats make it the largest ship in the world.

That’s larger than fleetmate Wonder of the Seas, the 2023 record holder for the world’s largest cruise ship. To compare, Wonder of the Seas measures 235,600 tons and carries 7,084 passengers at maximum occupancy.

However, Wonder of the Seas beats Icon of the Seas in one specific area: cabins. Wonder of the Seas has 2,867 cabins, while Icon of the Seas will only have 2,805. That’s because Royal Caribbean has styled Icon of the Seas to attract more families, with 80% of cabins designed to accommodate more than two guests.

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Related: The 7 classes of Royal Caribbean cruise ships, explained

Icon of the Seas also borrows the Oasis Class use of “neighborhoods” — themed areas of the ship with a mix of attractions and dining, drinking and shopping venues. It features eight neighborhoods, including three returning areas from its sister ships and five that are exclusive to its new class of ships.

From the lowest deck to the highest, here are the eight neighborhoods and what you can expect to find on board.

Royal Promenade

The Pearl on Icon of the Seas. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The Royal Promenade is a Royal Caribbean staple found on all Voyager, Freedom and Oasis Class ships. Icon of the Seas offers a two-deck version of this indoor mall-like space with multiple shopping, dining and drinking establishments. Highlights of Icon’s Royal Promenade are floor-to-ceiling glass windows on either side that bring light and sea views into the space and The Pearl, the ship’s iconic indoor sphere that functions as an artistic stairway and also as the support structure that holds up that section of the ship.

Surfside

Surfside. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Surfside, on Deck 7 aft, is a neighborhood dedicated to young families. It’s open to the sky and the back of the ship. A slide leads from Deck 8 down to the neighborhood, and the area is mere steps from the Adventure Ocean kids club and Social 020 teen club on Deck 6.

The stay-all-day destination for kids under 7 and their adult caregivers features family-friendly eateries, the Lemon Post bar with a menu of matching kid-and-adult mocktails and cocktails, a carousel, an arcade, a splash area with slides aimed at the youngest splashers and an infinity pool for grown-ups.

Despite its name, Surfside will not be home to Royal Caribbean’s surf simulator, the FlowRider.

Related: Is Icon of the Seas the ‘ultimate family vacation’? It depends

Central Park

Central Park. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Another open-to-the-sky neighborhood, the greenery-filled Central Park makes a return on Icon. On Deck 8, it lures adult cruisers to its bars and restaurants for a romantic date night or walk in its onboard park, featuring live trees and plants. New venues here include a grab-n-go window for Izumi’s sushi, the intimate and upscale Empire Supper Club, jazz club Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues and the walk-up Champagne venue, Bubbles.

AquaDome

AquaTheater. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Icon of the Seas does not have a Boardwalk, but it does offer its own version of that neighborhood’s popular AquaTheater. The AquaTheater — which hosts acrobatic and diving shows in a high-tech stage/pool — has been moved from its outdoor, lower-deck, back-of-ship location on Oasis-class ships to an indoor, upper-deck, front-of-ship spot on Icon.

The theater is the marquee attraction within the ship’s Deck 15 AquaDome neighborhood — if the draw is not the dome itself. The giant 363-ton glass-and-steel structure offers guests 220-degree ocean views. Inside, you’ll find dining and drinking venues, cozy lounge space, a Royal Caribbean logo jewelry store and new cabins with panoramic views through the dome.

Chill Island

Chill Island’s Swim & Tonic bar. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Aft of the AquaDome is Chill Island, Icon’s main pool area featuring four of the ship’s seven pools among its three decks. It will include the line’s first swim-up bar, Swim and Tonic, and what Royal Caribbean is claiming is the largest pool at sea. Pools and hot tubs are positioned along the edges of the ship so guests can take in the sea views while soaking in the water.

Cabanas will be available to rent in this neighborhood, but there’ll be plenty of free lounge space, too.

The Hideaway

The Hideaway. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

High above Surfside, at the back of Deck 15, is The Hideaway — Royal Caribbean’s take on an adults-only beach club. The main attraction here is the first suspended infinity pool at sea. It’s flanked by tiered lounge space, hot tubs and a bar specializing in Champagne and Champagne-based cocktails.

Thrill Island

Thrill Island. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Thrill Island is Icon’s go-to neighborhood for adrenaline-pumping activities. Found on Deck 16 aft, it’s home to all the wild top-deck attractions Royal Caribbean is known for — as well as some new thrills.

The FlowRider surf simulator, Lost Dunes miniature golf, the Adrenaline Peak rock climbing wall and the sports court are all Thrill Island staples. Category 6 is the largest water park at sea, featuring an open free-fall slide, the tallest drop slide at sea, family raft slides that accommodate four riders at once and two mat-racing slides. The Crown’s Edge is a ropes course-style attraction based around a giant version of the ship’s crown-and-anchor logo.

Suite neighborhood

Coastal Kitchen. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The ship’s final neighborhood spans decks 16 to 19. The Suite neighborhood is a mix of many of the ship’s top suites plus restaurants, lounges and outdoor areas exclusive to suite guests and some of Royal Caribbean’s most loyal travelers. Icon of the Seas’ suite neighborhood is Royal Caribbean’s largest restricted-access enclave for suite guests, a la Norwegian Cruise Line’s The Haven.

The Coastal Kitchen restaurant returns, but is now two decks high, with windows overlooking the AquaTheater. The sun deck has been transformed into The Grove, a multistory space featuring an alfresco restaurant and bar, pool, hot tub and lounge areas.

Related: Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Society cruise loyalty program: The ultimate guide

What I loved about Icon of the Seas

It’s surprisingly easy to get around

You might think you’d spend a week lost on the largest cruise ship on the planet. But you can learn your way around Icon of the Seas in a day. That’s because the neighborhood concept (arranging themed attractions in one area of the ship) makes it easy to figure out where you’re going.

The Royal Promenade on decks 5 and 6 is the central public space, flanked by the main dining room and the theater. Its upper level leads to Deck 7’s family-focused Surfside, which leads up to leafy Central Park. (And if you don’t want to hit Surfside, you can get directly from The Royal Promenade to Central Park via stairs by the Pearl Cafe.)

Chill Island, Thrill Island, The Hideaway and The Aquadome all flow into each other across the ship’s top decks. The AquaDome is at the front (easy to remember once you’ve seen the outside of the ship with its bulbous forehead), with The Hideaway and the water park at the back for balance.

It’s not perfect; I definitely got turned around in the huge elevator lobbies (there are two, each with 12 elevators), and I never remembered which spaces were on the forward or aft ends of the Royal Promenade. But the few dead ends are easily learned; access the Hideaway from Thrill Island (not the Windjammer), Absolute Zero from Playmakers and the Royal Theater from the Promenade (not through the casino). You’ll be a pro in no time.

Related: Why the world’s largest cruise ship won’t be as crowded as you fear

The lighter, brighter Royal Promenade is the best in the fleet

Royal Promenade. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The Royal Promenades on Royal Caribbean ships have always been compared to shopping malls because the long corridors are lined with restaurants, bars and shops and suffer from a lack of natural light. The second-level dead ends also frustrated guests trying to get from point A to B on a megaship. So the cruise line rethought out the promenade space on Icon of the Seas, and came up with a winning design that’s lighter and more inviting.

Royal Caribbean ditched the promenade-facing cabins for multideck-high glass walls that flood the space with light. The need for a replacement structural support led to the creation of The Pearl, the central focal point art piece of the neighborhood. The cafe behind it is a win for its comfy windowside seating with killer views and elevated cafe snacks.

Another win is that the upper level is now a complete circle, so you can walk from the forward to the aft elevator banks and back on both decks of the Royal Promenade. There’s even a stairwell up into Central Park.

Plus, some of the new venues on the promenade are quickly becoming guest favorites. The hip 1400 Bar, with its craft cocktails and central indoor-outdoor location, and Dueling Pianos Bar were happening hot spots on my sailing.

Related: TPG’s first impressions of Icon of the Seas

The shows are incredible

My favorite evenings combine dinner and a show, and the top-notch entertainment is something I’ve always loved about Royal Caribbean. Icon of the Seas brings it in a big way with its new shows.

I was dreading a 90-minute version of “The Wizard of Oz” but fell in love with Icon’s production due to its creative use of flying technology, gorgeous costumes and sets, adorable puppets and modern staging. “Starburst,” the ice show, combined some stellar skating moves with an incredible juggler, and the AquaTheater is always killer no matter what those divers, dancers and acrobats are doing.

I was also pleased to see that Icon of the Seas will introduce shorter shows at earlier show times for families with young kids in the AquaTheater and Absolute Zero ice rink.

What I didn’t love about Icon of the Seas

Thrill Island is more extreme than I expected

Category 6 water park. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

I was so excited to take my 9-year-old daughter on all the Category 6 waterslides at Thrill Island, and figured that we’d play there for hours, as we did on a recent trip to the Great Wolf Lodge water park. But four of the six slides were simply too extreme for a kid and her mom.

Our favorites were the two family raft slides, where two to four riders slide together in round rafts. But there wasn’t a basic body slide that a kid could ride again and again without a friend or parent along. All the others had steep drops or were face first and super fast, with too much water in your eyes and nose.

Opposite the water park, the new Crown’s Edge ropes course is also not a play-all-day, kid-friendly course, like the ones I’ve tried on Carnival cruise ships and Great Wolf Lodge. The course is extremely short, with a vertigo-inducing section over the open ocean. It’s also got a steep entry fee (the water park is free).

I was hoping that Thrill Island would be a place where older kids and their parents could spend an entire afternoon hopping from ride to ride. The Lost Dunes minigolf course and the rock climbing wall are very accessible. But I’d rate the water park and ropes course more T for teen than E for everyone.

Related: What are the largest cruise ships in the world?

New Infinite Ocean View Balcony cabins are a mixed bag

Infinite balcony cabin. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

On Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean added a new kind of balcony room: the Infinite Ocean View Balcony. An idea borrowed from sister line Celebrity Cruises, these cabins bring the balcony sitting area into the cabin’s interior to create a longer room. To bring the fresh air in, the far wall of each cabin is a wall of glass, and the top half can roll down at the push of a button (like a car window).

Some of these cabins look out over the ocean, while others face inwards, overlooking Central Park.

I loved the extra cabin space and the additional sitting area facing a window. However, we rarely opened the window because it messed with the entire room’s climate control as heat (or, in my case, chilly breezes) flooded the cabin. Plus, noise from other decks, like the poolside DJ, also infiltrated the entire room.

The new rooms also had a few design flaws, which were repeated in other categories as well. These included a lack of outlet variety by the beds, clunky wire baskets beneath the wardrobe that were hard to access because they were too close to the cabin’s sofa and possibly not enough general storage for anyone traveling as a family in one room.

Icon of the Seas cabins and suites

Royal Caribbean cruisers will have 14 new cabin and suite types to choose from out of 28 total accommodation types. Many of these are family-friendly rooms that sleep four guests; some can accommodate six or eight guests. In total, 313 cabins and suites are listed specifically as family-focused accommodations, though many regular room types can sleep more than two guests.

Related: Royal Caribbean cruise ship cabin and suite guide: Everything you want to know

Inside cabins

Inside cabin. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The most affordable rooms on Icon of the Seas are inside cabins (and they’re still not cheap). In addition to standard 156-square-foot inside cabins and 178-square-foot Spacious Interior cabins, new 157-square-foot Interior Plus rooms feature extra-large walk-in closets.

Icon of the Seas also features 187-square-foot Surfside Family View Interior cabins (replacing Boardwalk View cabins) and similarly sized Central Park View Interior cabins. These rooms do have windows, but they look inward onto the neighborhoods.

No rooms on Icon of the Seas are listed as offering the “virtual balconies” found on select Royal Caribbean ships.

Ocean-view cabins

Panoramic ocean-view cabin. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Icon of the Seas has only two types of ocean-view rooms with a window but no balcony. Its new Panoramic Ocean View rooms are within the AquaDome, offering floor-to-ceiling windows rather than the standard picture window. They will also be larger than the standard balcony cabin at 258 square feet (compared to 160 to 187 square feet).

Balcony cabins

Balcony cabin. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The majority of Icon of the Seas’ cabins are balcony rooms, ranging from 196 to 285 square feet in indoor space, with private verandas of 50 to 70 square feet. The ship introduces four new types of balcony cabins to the fleet.

The Infinite Ocean View Balcony cabin design takes an idea from Royal Caribbean sister line Celebrity Cruises, where instead of a standard balcony external to the ship, the room features a glass wall with a window that can roll down halfway (like a car window) to allow fresh air in. There are also curtains to close off that area from the rest of the cabin to create a veranda-like space.

Additionally, Icon has an extra-long family version of this room type. The Family Infinite Balcony cabin can sleep up to six people, with an alcove featuring upper and lower beds for kids, a separate sleeping area for grown-ups, a living area and a split bathroom (toilet and sink in one room and shower and sink in the other).

Also new to Icon are smaller Surfside Family View Balcony cabins and Infinite Central Park View Balcony cabins. Central Park balcony rooms, which look out over the interior’s open-to-the-sky neighborhood, come in regular balcony versions as well. Icon also features hundreds of standard balcony cabins looking out to sea.

I stayed in an Infinite Central Park View Balcony cabin, which has the same cabin design as the regular Infinite Balcony room but overlooks the interior neighborhood instead of the sea. As I said above, I adored the additional interior space, but didn’t make much use of the window. In addition to climate control issues, when I opened the window in my room, the noise from around the ship flooded my cabin, and I’m not sure any conversations I had on my “balcony” would be private.

I also discovered that all the inward-facing rooms of any category lack privacy. From my room, I could see straight into the cabins across from me. I watched people leaning on their balcony and room attendants cleaning cabins. And, yes, I did see a dude in his underwear one morning. Any time we needed to change clothes and once it got dark outside, I would close the curtains, changing my lovely room with a view into an inside cabin with no natural light.

Related: Which cruise ship cabin category should your family book?

Suites

Royal Caribbean offers three tiers of suites, and each subsequent tier comes with increasing Royal Suite-class perks and amenities.

Icon’s Sea-tier suites include Junior Suites and four new Sunset Junior Suites with expansive balconies.

The Sky tier includes several new suite types, starting with the Surfside Family Suites. These 269-square-foot suites sleep four with a glassed-in living area that can turn into a kids bedroom at night, plus a real 53-square-foot balcony overlooking the Surfside neighborhood.

Sky Junior Suites have the same layout as regular Junior Suites but are high up on the ship’s top decks. Guests in these suites receive additional Sky-tier perks (such as access to all the Suite neighborhood amenities), whereas regular Junior Suites come with more limited amenities. Sunset Suites and Sunset Corner Suites feature extra-large balconies and beds that face the ocean rather than a wall.

Panoramic Suite. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Panoramic Suites are within the ship’s iconic AquaDome structure, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. You won’t miss the balcony when you’re gazing out to sea from your chic sitting area in front of the glass wall.

The Infinite Grand Suite offers the new convertible balcony design in conjunction with a larger space that sleeps four and includes a split bathroom, useful when multiple guests need to get ready at the same time.

Of the nine top Star-tier suites, only one, the Royal Loft, is on other Royal Caribbean ships. Seven of these top accommodations are new Icon Loft Suites, two-deck-high accommodations with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large balcony with a private dining area and floor-to-ceiling windows.

The creme de la creme of suites on board is the three-deck-high Ultimate Family Townhouse, an evolution of the Ultimate Family Suite that wowed guests on Oasis-class ships. In addition to kid and adult sleeping areas, this 1,772-square-foot top-level suite features an in-suite slide, a movie-viewing room, a karaoke machine and spacious indoor living spaces.

It also offers 751 square feet of outdoor space divided among two balconies and a “backyard” with a pingpong table, outdoor seating and a white picket fence leading directly to all the Surfside neighborhood attractions. It can sleep up to eight guests.

Icon of the Seas restaurants and bars

Main dining room on Icon of the Seas. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Icon of the Seas takes Royal Caribbean’s drinking and dining game to the next level. The line added new-to-the-brand restaurants to ensure that every neighborhood had a food venue easily accessible, with more quick-service eateries and options for families.

In addition, the line worked with master mixologists to create new and innovative bar menus, complete with zero-proof mocktail options, in watering holes throughout the ship.

Related: The ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean cruise ships and itineraries

Restaurants

Icon of the Seas showcases new dining venues and updated spins on guest favorites. From elevated dining experiences to quick bites, here is what you can expect on board.

The Dining Room: The three-level main dining venue (decks 3, 4 and 5) will offer three courses of globally inspired dishes, such as escargot and spaghetti Bolognese, as well as the cruise line’s signature dishes. The center chandelier is stunning. Choose from multiple set-dining times or a more flexible dining plan. You’ll find plenty of variety, a kids menu and waiters willing to expedite your dinner so you can make a show, even giving you your dessert to go. (Included.)

Windjammer Marketplace: It wouldn’t be a Royal Caribbean ship without an enormous pool deck buffet, and Icon of the Seas has its version on Deck 15. The options are varied and tasty, with Indian entrees and a gluten-free counter in the back. I was impressed with the quality of my meals here. (Included.)

Sorrento’s Pizza: You’ll find several restaurants within the Royal Promenade, starting with Sorrento’s. The popular complimentary all-day and late-night pizza parlor on the Royal Promenade churns out several flavors of pies daily. You’ll also find a soda machine here. (Included.)

Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar: The extra-fee purveyor of pizza, pasta, meatballs and more Italian specialties found on some Oasis Class ships and a smattering of other Royal Caribbean vessels has a new location on Icon of the Seas. It’s moved from Central Park (on Oasis Class ships) to the upper level of the Royal Promenade, open to all the hubbub and foot traffic of the bustling neighborhood. (Lunch $24.99 per person, dinner $54.99)

Pearl Cafe: This new grab-and-go coffee shop in the Royal Promenade is your day or night spot for fresh sandwiches, pastries and to-go salads. The warm sandwiches are a cut above what you’ll find in its predecessor, the Promenade Cafe, but its comfy seating and stellar views steal the show. (Snacks included, but coffee drinks cost extra.)

Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade: Bite into a juicy burger or an outrageous dessert at this extra-fee bar and grill. You can even order signature cocktails that come in football helmets. Playmakers has been repositioned to Deck 6 in an interior location across from Adventure Ocean and Social020 at the far end of the second level of the Royal Promenade. It makes the bar feel like more of a dive and less like a family-friendly grill where you’d take your kids for burgers. (A la carte pricing.)

Surfside Eatery: This new family-friendly buffet venue in the Surfside neighborhood is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It serves up kid-friendly casual fare and options for adults, meaning families don’t need to trek up to the Windjammer buffet for meals, and kids can play within sight of their parents if they finish eating first. (Included.)

Pier 7: Also in Surfside, Pier 7 is the casual specialty restaurant aimed at families dining together. It serves California-inspired dishes for lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast all day (but not at night). The baja fish tacos and Korean fried chicken were excellent, and the warm toffee chocolate cake was perfectly molten with bruleed marshmallows on top. Kid dishes include grilled cheese and chicken tenders; brunch options range from a pancake board to eggs Benedict. (Included for kids under 12; a la carte pricing for adults.)

Surfside Bites: This walk-up window eatery makes it easy to grab quick snacks like burgers, popcorn chicken, french fries and cinnamon-sugar churros. (Included.)

Izumi Hibachi & Sushi: Another relocated venue, Izumi takes its rolls, sashimi and juggling hibachi chefs to a new and larger Central Park location with more hibachi tables. It will also feature a Royal Caribbean first: Izumi in the Park, an all-day grab-and-go window for sushi takeout. (Hibachi $64.99 per person, sushi priced a la carte.)

Chops Grille: Royal Caribbean’s steakhouse returns to Central Park on Icon but with a twist. Guests can now choose their own cut of meat from the butcher’s display. Also, an open window provides diners with a view of chefs preparing their selected cut. (Lunch $29.99 per person, dinner $69.99.)

Park Cafe: This casual favorite for breakfast, lunch and snacks also returns to Central Park on Icon of the Seas. Its Royal Kummelweck roast beef sandwich has a cult following. (Included.)

Empire Supper Club: Designed to evoke an atmosphere of New York City in the 1930s, this new venue offers an upscale experience. Guests can savor an extravagant eight-course meal (think: caviar and wagyu), complete with entertainment. Each dish is paired with a cocktail created by celebrity mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim specifically for Royal Caribbean. A meal here will set you back some serious cash, though with spots for only 38 guests a night, you’ll have to book quickly to get a table. ($200 per person.)

Vitality Cafe: Icon of the Seas’ spa area on Deck 14 is home to a healthy cafe for extra-fee smoothies and fresh juices. (A la carte.)

AquaDome Market: The line’s first food hall will feature five dining options — Feta Mediterranean (fresh pitas and bowls), Toast and Garden (sandwiches and salads), Mac’s (macaroni and cheese with varied toppings like beef chili or bacon), GNGR (Asian dishes like tofu-vegetable stir-fry and sweet-and-sour shrimp with pineapple) and Creme de la Crepe (both sweet and savory options). (Included.)

Celebration Table: The new private 12-seat dining experience provides an ideal backdrop for celebrating milestone events. Choose from exclusive American, Italian, Asian and seafood menus. The table is set up inside Hooked Seafood. (Pricing may vary.)

Related: The ultimate guide to cruise ship food and dining

Hooked Seafood: Found in the AquaDome neighborhood, this New England-style seafood venue is the place to go when you’re craving oysters, fish & chips and lobster rolls after staring at the waves all day long. (Lunch $24.99 per person, dinner $64.99.)

Sprinkles: Help yourself to ice cream at this Chill Island poolside lineup of soft-serve machines. You’ll also find a soft-serve machine in the Surfside neighborhood. (Included.)

El Loco Fresh: Fast-casual Mexican hits the spot after a day in the sun. Pick up a quick lunch or dinner at this Chill Island outpost. (Included.)

Basecamp: When you’ve worked up an appetite after all the sliding, climbing and surfing at Thrill Island, head to Basecamp to fuel up. Order a hot dog, warm pretzel and tater tots for free, or pay a la carte for comfort food like chicken waffle bits, shrimp bao buns and Wisconsin cheese curds. (A la carte pricing.)

Desserted: Thrill-seekers can enjoy a different kind of rush at this milkshake bar in the Thrill Island neighborhood. You’ll find sugary options for kids and spiked versions for grown-ups. At $14 a milkshake, we expected more than just a cute photo; get a cone of soft-serve and top it with a cookie or brownie from the buffet, and you’ll replicate the taste for free. (A la carte pricing.)

Coastal Kitchen. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Coastal Kitchen: This restaurant, exclusive to suite guests and Royal Caribbean’s top-tier Pinnacle loyalty program members, features a new two-story layout overlooking the AquaTheater. (Included for select guests.)

The Grove: Icon’s expanded Suite neighborhood now includes a casual, alfresco Mediterranean restaurant, reserved for suite guests. (Included for select guests.)

Bars

1400 bar. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Royal Caribbean is doubling down on the craft cocktail craze with Icon of the Seas. The line worked with master mixologists to create new bar concepts and menus to take the ship’s drinking game to the next level. If you’re game to try them all, buy your drink package in advance of your cruise when they’re often discounted.

The Royal Promenade is home to Royal Caribbean’s first double-pianist bar, Dueling Pianos. The two performers take requests and involve guests in musical fun. It is definitely becoming a hot spot at night. That doesn’t mean the lone pianist at the Schooner Bar on the opposite end of Deck 6 is feeling lonely. The nautical-themed bar is always a fan favorite.

You’ll also find dueling coffee bars here — the dedicated Starbucks venue on Deck 5 and the Pearl Cafe, serving coffee drinks on Deck 6. Other Royal Promenade bars include 1400 (the place for craft cocktails that pay homage to the cruise line’s history), Spotlight Karaoke (for that musical buzz), Boleros (the always popular bar and lounge for Latin music and dancing) and the Point & Feather pub.

Down on decks 3 and 4, the Music Hall is the place to jam out and dance to live music. Next door, the casino, of course, has its own bar.

You might not think the ship’s family neighborhood would have a bar, but the Lemon Post in the Surfside zone serves both cocktails for the parents and mocktails (elevated lemonade mixes and overly sweet colorful juice concoctions) for the kids.

In Central Park, guests find the new jazz club Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues, with cocktails themed to the biggest jazz cities around the world. The walk-up Champagne venue, Bubbles, features mimosas, bellinis and other bubbly-based drinks. The Trellis Bar is also back, now with an extra-fee food menu to accompany your beverage of your choice.

In the AquaDome, the Overlook is a gorgeous lounge featuring special nooks (Overlook Pods) and wraparound windows providing fantastic ocean views. Order the Overlook Bar’s signature drink, the AquaDome Spritz, exclusive to this ship and venue. The new coffee shop Rye & Bean will offer caffeine hits and cocktails starring tea and coffee. (Don’t miss the chai Old-Fashioned that smells as good as it tastes.)

Beverage destinations in Chill Island include a three-story Lime and Coconut Bar (now with frozen cocktail machines) and Cantina Fresca (serving margaritas). Swim & Tonic is the line’s first swim-up bar.

The Basecamp bar in Thrill Island is the place to steady your wobbly post-ropes-course knees with a drink, or you can order a Desserted milkshake with a shot of Baileys or Fireball. The Hideaway Bar serves the adults kicking back in their no-kids-allowed resort-style infinity pool hangout.

Suite guests will find bars exclusive to them in the Coastal Kitchen restaurant and the Grove sun deck. The spa also keeps guests refreshed with the Vitality Cafe smoothie bar.

Icon of the Seas activities

A Caribbean cruise is all about fun in the sun, and Icon of the Seas’ upper decks are the place to be.

Chill Island is the ship’s three-deck pool area with multiple pools and hot tubs situated along the sides of the ship for stunning ocean views. You’ll also find a couple of ping-pong tables and a dry slide from Deck 16 to 15. Open-air cabanas are available to rent.

The Hideaway is an adults-only retreat with hot tubs, lounge chairs facing the ship’s wake and an infinity pool cantilevered over the sides of the ship 15 decks up. You can only access The Hideaway from above on Deck 16; don’t try to cut through the Windjammer Marketplace like we did. You won’t get there.

Thrill Island consolidates all of Icon of the Seas’ high-octane activities into one area along Deck 16 aft. Here, you’ll find the FlowRider surf simulator, Lost Dunes minigolf courses and rock climbing wall.

Most of Thrill Island is dominated by the Category 6 water park with six slides. Two are raft slides that accommodate two to four people, and two are toboggan-style forward-facing racing slides. One is a drop slide and the other is a 90-degree plunge. Most of the slides are pretty extreme, and little kids (and their wussy parents) might find them too intense.

Also new on Icon of the Seas is the Crown’s Edge ropes course. Its claim to fame is that the course takes you around the ship’s giant logo, out over the ocean, with a zip line finish. However, there’s not much else to the attraction; it’s possibly the shortest ropes course we’ve ever traversed. You’ll spend more time gearing up than you will enjoying the course. Crown’s Edge offers a fun thrill, but I don’t think it’s worth paying $89 per person for one run of the course.

Related: 35 Royal Caribbean cruise tips and tricks that will make your voyage better

The ship’s Vitality Spa on Deck 14 offers salon services for men and women, plus all your favorite spa treatments and an extra-fee thermal suite with heated loungers and aromatherapy showers. The fitness center is separate, located on decks 5 and 6 (though the Deck 5 entrance is off the jogging track that loops that deck). It’s a sprawling gym, with space upstairs for fitness classes.

If you’re looking for kid-friendly water play areas, the Surfside family neighborhood is your destination. It features Baby Bay for diapered tots; Splashaway Bay, with a dump bucket, water sprayers and junior waterslides; and an infinity pool for grownups and older siblings. Kids can also enjoy a climbing structure and the carousel with its colorful cartoon creatures to ride.

The Adventure Ocean kids club and Social 020 teen lounge, both on Deck 6, are the it spaces for the under-18 crowd. Adventure Ocean is easily accessible from Surfside, with a long entrance hallway peppered with gaming screens so kids can be entertained while they wait to be checked in (or parents can sneak in a game while they wait to pick up).

Unlike on older ships, Adventure Ocean is divided into AO Babies, the nursery for ages 6 to 36 months; AO Juniors for 3- to 5-year-olds, with their own play space; and the main Adventure Ocean club for kids ages 6 to 12. The Adventure Ocean space is further divided into the Hangout, with video games and digital game tables; the Arena for sports and active play; and the Workshop for science experiments and art projects. A theater space is set to host a black-light, interactive puppet show that families can participate in together.

Drop-off play at Adventure Ocean is free during the day and early evening; it’s an hourly rate per child after 10 p.m. The nursery also charges per hour for drop-off at any time.

Social 020 is hidden between Playmakers and the Absolute Zero ice skating rink. It has gaming pods, hangout nooks and comfy seating, and foosball tables. It’s meant to be a place for teens ages 13-17 to meet up and hang out, but much of the teen programming will take place around the ship. Look for teen-only takeovers of the water park and Hideaway Pool, VIP seating for select shows, group dinners at Izumi and exclusive laser tag play.

Absolute Zero is the ship’s skating rink, accessed from Deck 6. If you’re inspired by the cast of its shows, you can lace up and try a few spins during open skating hours on sea days. This is typically where Royal Caribbean hosts its laser tag games as well.

On the opposite end of Deck 6, Icon’s escape room sits across from the Crown Lounge for Crown & Anchor VIPs.

You have to search to find the ship’s casino on Deck 4. The Casino Royale has all your favorite slots and table games. Other nightlife options include Spotlight Karaoke for embarrassing guest performances, Music Hall for dancing, Dueling Pianos and Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues for live music and Playmakers for watching sports and playing table games.

You’ll also stumble upon live music across the ship, from the pool deck to Central Park to the pub.

The ship offers a mix of programming from Latin dance classes to liquor tastings, spa seminars, pool games, trivia and more. Check the line’s app or the printed Cruise Compass daily newsletter so you don’t miss events around the ship.

Family programming in Surfside will be led by Admiral Awesome, who’s more or less the family cruise director. You won’t miss him in his wild, brightly colored outfits. Activities include the Larger Than Life Family Festival (with giant games and face painting) and evening bedtime stories.

You’ll find souvenir and jewelry shops throughout the ships, but predominantly in Central Park and along the Royal Promenade. A Park West art gallery is here, too.

Surfside features the Sugar Beach candy shop and Sunshine & Sundries, which sells plush dolls and kid swim gear you forgot to pack. Don’t miss Royal Bling in the AquaDome, where you can buy Royal Caribbean logo jewelry, including a bejeweled chalice that costs $100,000 and comes with a free lifetime drinks package on all Royal Caribbean ships.

The guest services and NextCruise desks are located on the Royal Promenade by the pub. Shore excursions and the photo gallery are behind The Pearl on Deck 5. A conference facility and medical center are located on the ship’s lower decks.

Icon of the Seas shows

AquaTheater. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Royal Caribbean is known for its innovative high-tech, large-scale shows — in the theater, in the water and on the ice. The entertainment on Icon of the Seas stays true to brand and does not fail to impress.

It’s difficult to know this early on how hard it will be to get a seat at your preferred show time with so many people on board. It’s a good idea to figure out how early you can book shows and book them in advance on the Royal Caribbean app or the “My Royal Cruise” section of the website, or as soon as you board. You’ll also want to arrive early for the best seats — or to get in a standby line in case of no-shows.

Icon of the Seas’ Royal Theater is located forward of the Royal Promenade on decks 4 and 5. Its signature show is “The Wizard of Oz,” and you shouldn’t dismiss it. Royal Caribbean has found a way to modernize the show, and the impressive special effects, including set pieces flying above the audience, will captivate cruisers of all ages. Don’t miss Toto and other puppets created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

“Wizard of Oz” employs the biggest-ever orchestra at sea (16 pieces), so it’s no surprise that Icon of the Seas’ second theater show highlights their talents. “Showband!” was not running on my sailing, but the line describes it as an immersive, sensory experience, employing state-of-the-art technology.

On the opposite side of the Royal Promenade on Deck 5 aft is the Absolute Zero ice rink. You can access it past Playmakers on Deck 6. The venue features a circular rink versus the square ones in the Studio B rinks on sister ships.

Its new show is “Starburst,” which is themed around the elements (carbon, helium, etc.). Group, solo and pair skating numbers are combined with next-level juggling by a character dubbed “The Starman.”

ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The costumes are creative and fun (including glow-in-the-dark and light-up outfits), and the use of lighting and video on the walls and the ice sets a spacey scene. The round ice stage makes it easier for the skaters to use the entire space to get up speed to do jumps and tricks. You’ll gasp at the impressive lifts, spins and jumps the skaters can execute on a moving ship.

The same cast will also present a second, shorter, family-focused show called “Once Upon a Time: The King’s Royal Ball.” In the show’s story, familiar fairytale characters come to a king’s party to entertain the families of the world.

Royal Caribbean’s famous AquaTheater has been moved from an outdoor space at the back of the ship to the indoor AquaDome at the front of the ship on Deck 15. It also will run a longer, later main show and a shorter, earlier family-friendly show. Neither were ready yet on my preview sailing, but we got to see a few numbers, and they were jaw-dropping and stunning as only acrobatic/diving/synchronized shows with robots, wild lighting and video imagery can be.

The main show, “Aqua Action!” doesn’t have a storyline, as far as I could tell, but is meant to push the boundaries of entertainment and wow every audience. You’ll witness an aerial pas de deux, dancing robotic arms, crazy high dives and dancing with a lot of splashing. Trust me — you’ll be mesmerized. Arrive early because the seating area is surprisingly small given the size of the ship and the popularity of these shows.

The family show is called “Pirates vs. Mermaids,” featuring an epic battle to decide who truly rules the waves.

Icon of the Seas will carry on Royal Caribbean’s Promenade parade tradition with a pirate-themed show called “Ships Ahoy!” Look out for a soon-to-debut Promenade street party focused on one-hit wonders.

The Attic is the ship’s comedy club, located on the Royal Promenade on Deck 6 forward. You’ll definitely want to show up early to get a seat for these popular shows.

Live bands perform at night in The Music Hall on decks 3 and 4 by the casino.

Icon of the Seas itinerary and pricing

Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay private island. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Icon of the Seas sails weekly from the port of Miami. Its itineraries include weeklong Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries that began with the ship’s maiden voyage on Jan. 27, 2024. Travelers can book one of several routings available through April 2026:

  • Seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyages with stops at St. Kitts, St. Thomas and Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay
  • Seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyages with stops at St. Maarten (the Dutch side of the island of St. Martin), St. Thomas and Perfect Day at CocoCay
  • Seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyages with stops at St. Thomas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Perfect Day at CocoCay
  • Seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyages with stops at St. Maarten, San Juan and Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private beach on Haiti
  • Seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyages with stops at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; St. Thomas; San Juan; and Perfect Day at CocoCay
  • Seven-night Western Caribbean voyages with stops at Roatan, Honduras; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; and Perfect Day at CocoCay
  • Seven-night Western Caribbean voyages with stops at Costa Maya, Cozumel and Perfect Day at CocoCay

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Royal Caribbean ship

ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Cruises on Royal Caribbean’s newest and largest ship don’t come cheap, and the prices have only increased since the ship first went on sale in 2022. Expect premium pricing for this highly sought-after ship.

When we checked in January 2024, the lowest price for an Icon of the Seas sailing was $1,775 per person, based on double occupancy, for an inside cabin. The cheapest balcony cabins started at $2,426 per person. These prices are for cruises departing in January 2026!

The most expensive sailing at present is a New Year’s cruise, departing Dec. 28, 2024, with inside cabins starting at $9,419 and balconies at $10,104 per person.

You might wonder if Icon of the Seas’ fares are all-inclusive — they are not. The fares include meals in the main dining room, buffet and a handful of other complimentary restaurants; most entertainment and activities; use of the kids club; and basic drinks like standard coffee and tea, milk and select juices at breakfast. You will pay extra for soda and alcoholic beverages, specialty restaurants, spa treatments and select activities.

Related: 11 extra charges on cruise ships that will drive you nuts — and what you can do about them

What to know before you go

Required documents

Since Icon of the Seas is currently sailing round-trip from Florida, U.S. citizens can sail with either a current passport or an official copy of their birth certificate and a driver’s license or other government-issued photo I.D. Passports must be valid for at least six months.

The name on your reservation must be the same as what’s printed on your passport or other official proof of nationality. Double-check if you’ve recently gotten married or go by a different version of your name.

If you’re traveling with a child for whom you are not the legal guardian, you will need to bring a notarized letter, signed by the child’s parents or legal guardians, giving you permission to travel with the child.

Related: What documents do you need for a cruise? From passports to printouts, here’s what to take

Gratuities

The room stewards and dining staff on Icon of the Seas are friendly and helpful and deserve an extra thank-you. Royal Caribbean makes that easy by charging you an automatic gratuity of $18 to $20.50 per person per day, depending on your cabin category, added to your onboard account and final bill. You are allowed to adjust this amount at the Guest Services desk before disembarking, but please don’t — even if you are disappointed by the service. Gratuities are an important part of crewmembers’ paychecks.

An 18% gratuity is added to bar, specialty dining and spa/salon bills. You should not feel pressured to add an additional tip.

Related: Everything you need to know about tipping on cruise ships

Wi-Fi

Royal Caribbean has one of the fastest Wi-Fi systems at sea, called Voom, and you can take advantage of this on Icon of the Seas. Currently, Wi-Fi packages with streaming bandwidth start at $30.99 per day for one device (or $24.99 per day per device for packages accommodating two, three or four devices), though prices do change over time.

Often you can get the best discounts on onboard Wi-Fi by purchasing your plans online in advance of your cruise. If you’re a member of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society cruise loyalty program, check to see if you’re eligible for discounts on Wi-Fi packages.

Certain suite guests and upper-tier loyalty program members receive complimentary Wi-Fi, so know your included perks before you sign up for a package.

Related: How fast is the internet on Royal Caribbean ships? We put it to the test

Carry-on drinks policy

Royal Caribbean guests of legal drinking age can bring one bottle of wine or Champagne onto Icon of the Seas at boarding. If you want to drink that bottle outside your cabin in a restaurant or lounge, you must pay a $15 corkage fee.

Guests can also bring up to a dozen standard cans, bottles or cartons of nonalcoholic drinks such as sodas on board on embarkation day.

Smoking policy

Smoking (including e-cigarette smoking) is forbidden in cabins and on cabin balconies, and those who violate this rule will face a $250 cleaning fee.

Passengers can smoke in Icon of the Seas’ casino while playing or in a designated outer area on Deck 17 by the Cloud 17 pool area.

Laundry

Icon of the Seas does not offer self-service launderettes. Passengers can pay extra for laundry, pressing and dry cleaning services.

Electrical outlets

Cabins on Icon of the Seas have a ton of outlets, though not always where you want them. In my Infinite Ocean-View Balcony cabin, I found two USB, two USB-C, one North American-style 110-volt outlet and one European-style 220-volt outlet by the desk. Two more USB outlets were hidden in the shelving across from the sleeping area. One side of the bed had a USB outlet and the other a 110-volt outlet. (I would have preferred to have one of each on either side of the bed.)

There’s also an outlet for shavers by the bathroom shelving near the sink.

Currency

The onboard currency is the U.S. dollar, but you won’t need cash on the ship. You’ll receive a SeaPass card that functions as your shipboard ID, room key and credit card. You’ll charge shipboard purchases (drinks, souvenirs, extra-fee meals, shore excursions and so on) to your onboard account, and Royal Caribbean will charge your credit card on file once the cruise ends. You can check your onboard bill in the cruise line’s app or at Guest Services.

The shops on CocoCay also take your SeaPass card. The onboard Starbucks outlet (not other cafes where Starbucks-brand beverages are sold) should take Starbucks gift cards and payment through the Starbucks app.

Drinking age

You must be 21 to consume alcohol on Icon of the Seas.

Dress code

During the day, people dress casually. T-shirts, shorts, athletic wear, casual sundresses and bathing suits are commonly worn on board and ashore. Bring a cover-up to go from the pool back indoors.

You’ll also want to dress for the activities you plan to do on board. Wear long pants, socks and a sweatshirt for skating in Absolute Zero (and bring something warm to wear when you go to one of the shows); full-coverage swimwear for the FlowRider and waterslides; and closed-toe shoes and a glasses strap for the Crown’s Edge ropes course (and skip the skirt so you can easily put on the jumpsuit).

In the evening, the ship does have a suggested dress code, either casual (just look decent, but shorts are frowned upon at dinner), smart casual (nice restaurant or date attire) or formal (your version of fancy). A seven-night cruise will typically have two formal nights.

Royal Caribbean ships are pretty casual about the dress codes. What you really want to avoid is swimwear, bare feet, pajamas and athletic-style tank tops in the main dining room and specialty restaurants. And dress for your dining venue: You’ll want to get dolled up more for a meal at the Empire Supper Club or Chops Grille than you might at Pier 7 or Giovanni’s.

Related: Ultimate cruise packing list

Bottom line

Icon of the Seas is a groundbreaking ship for Royal Caribbean, introducing new venues, attractions and accommodation styles while bringing back and evolving fan favorites from past ships. Entertainment is next-level, and the ship’s amazing attractions are sure to please all types of vacationers with multiple interests.

Though the ship is the line’s largest, it’s easy to get around, with lots of crowd control measures in place. You will, however, want to book quickly to obtain your preferred restaurant and show reservations. It might be difficult to be spontaneous and still get to see and eat everything you wish.

The ship has put special emphasis on catering to families with young kids and has created innovative programming for teens. However, its adults-only pool area, inviting bars with creative cocktail menus and plethora of grownup entertainment venues make the ship a perfect option for multigenerational families, friend groups and couples, as well.

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