Icon of the Seas can offer a wide range of cabins - some of which are a world first. Credit: Royal Caribbean

Star power: Spotlight on Icon of the Seas

Author: Jack Carter

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Curious as to what life is like on the world's largest cruise ship? World of Cruising reveals all as Royal Caribbean International’s ambitious Icon of the Seas makes its maiden voyage

When Icon of the Seas sailed into Port Miami in Florida for the first time on January 10, residents of the Magic City couldn’t help but take notice.

It was first thing in the morning and Royal Caribbean International announced its arrival with fireboat salutes, banner planes and an onshore welcome party at Pérez Art Museum nearby.

Royal Caribbean’s CEO, Michael Bayley, said: “We were unapologetic. We had US$100k worth of speakers on board. We woke Miami up.”

Indeed, there’s nothing apologetic about Icon of the Seas. The inaugural ship in the line’s new Icon series boasts 2,805 staterooms (cabins), 15 entertainment areas and 20 restaurant concepts plus a glut of extravagant features such as the first suspended infinity pool at sea.

A cruise ship of this size might have you questioning whether it’s the right one for you. Will your teenagers enjoy it? What kind of entertainment is there? And does the ship actually have a golden retriever called Rover on board? Read on, as we answer all that and more.

Absolutely. There are plenty of room categories to choose from, and around 80 per cent can host up to five guests – more than double the amount on other Royal Caribbean ships.

A total of 1,815 balcony cabins, 535 interior cabins, 276 ocean view rooms and 179 suites are spread across the ship’s 18 passenger decks, a portion of which can be joined together. Larger rooms such as the Surfside Family Suite and Family Infinite Ocean View Balcony offer bunkbeds and sofa beds, while split bathrooms and generous storage ensure things aren’t cramped.

Looking for something extra special? With space for eight guests, the three-storey Ultimate Family Townhouse is the ship’s largest style of accommodation – so even gran can come along.

There’s a mini cinema room, musical staircase and a private entrance to the ship’s family neighbourhood, Surfside. You’ll have to move fast though: it’s already fully booked for 2024.

Accommodation onboard Icon of the Seas elates. Credit: Royal Caribbean

With capacity for 7,600 passengers, a lot of thought went into ensuring guests can flow seamlessly around the ship.

There are wide thoroughfares and a smart lift system, inspired by Manhattan skyscrapers and tested with a mock lift lobby, built in a warehouse before construction of the ship began.

Each floor has 24 express lifts – 12 at the front and 12 at the back – which guests are directed to upon entering their floor via built-in screens the size of iPads.

Each lift is pre-programmed before you step inside, and guests are grouped with other passengers going to similar areas of the ship. So if you want to travel from the main dining room on floor three, you can make it in time for sunset on the top deck without stopping half a dozen times on your way up.

While there are plenty of ways to treat your tribe on board, you’ll still be kept occupied even if you’re travelling without children.

A plethora of bars open during the day include Swim & Tonic, the line’s first swim-up bar at sea, and Lime & Coconut in Cloud 17, an adults-only hangout.

Order a G&T by the pool in the Chill Island neighbourhood, or mix with likeminded travellers in one of the ship’s cantilevered whirlpools.

Then there’s The Hideaway, a beach club concept with a multi-level sun deck and infinity pool suspended 41m above the ocean. You can also enjoy the same concept on Perfect Day at CocoCay, a resort in the Bahamas that’s exclusive to Royal Caribbean guests. With swim-up bars, a beach, lagoon and back-to-back DJ sets, imagine Ibiza in the Caribbean and you’ve got the picture.

Surfside is the ship’s family neighbourhood. Credit: Royal Caribbean

Icon of the Seas is Royal Caribbean’s first ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), a transitional fuel that’s been endorsed by the cruise industry for its ability to cut some greenhouse gas emissions. However, the jury is still out on LNG, with environmentalists saying that more research needs to be done to track its long-term impact on the environment.

It’s not the only measure being taken to reduce Icon of the Seas’ carbon footprint, however. For example, the ship includes the first waste-to energy system at sea. Royal Caribbean’s vice president and head of environmental social governance, Nick Rose, said: “A microwave assisted paralysis (MAP) machine allows us to convert waste into useable energy via steam”.

Royal Caribbean states that Icon is its most eco-friendly ship to date, coming in at 24 per cent more energy efficient than required standards for today’s large vessels.

Surfside is the ship’s family neighbourhood. Credit: Royal Caribbean

Returning Royal Caribbean passengers will notice some exclusive features, including a giddy array of new night-time hangouts. Dueling Pianos sees two pianists go head-to-head in a nightly battle of baby grands, with sing-alongs and crowd banter complementing the bar’s line-up of inventive cocktails.

The Overlook, with its iridescent lighting and futuristic foliage, is a great spot for a sunset tipple thanks to the enormous wraparound windows overlooking the ship’s nose. And if you wondered if the rumours about the line’s first ‘chief dog officer’ were true, Rover and her chief of staff Alison will be on board reporting for duty.

Royal Caribbean International’s Western Caribbean & Perfect Day seven-night cruise aboard Icon of the Seas, return from Miami via Roatan (Honduras), Puerto Costa Maya (Mexico) and Perfect Day at CocoCay (Bahamas), departs on April 13, 2024, from £2,012 per person.

Royal Caribbean International’s Eastern Caribbean & Perfect Day from Miami 10-night cruise aboard Icon of the Seas, return from Miami via St Kitts, St Thomas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, departs on January 9, 2025, from £3,099 per person including flights.

World of Cruising's Jack Carter was one of the first journalists onboard Icon of the Seas

Great for:
Parents of multigenerational families who have little ones with energy to burn and teenagers looking for an adrenaline rush.

Don’t miss: The suspended infinity pool at The Hideaway is the ultimate spot in whichto enjoy golden hour.

Best bar & restaurant: Izumi in the Park clinches it thanks to its sashimi, best enjoyed with a tokkuri vessel of warm sake on the side.

Value for money? Guests will have to pay upwards of £1,500 to sail on Royal Caribbean’s first Icon class ship, though the majority of restaurants and attractions are included in the price.

Saving the planet: Icon includes the first waste-to energy system at sea.

Rating: 5/5

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