As I pulled up to the shipyard in Turku, Finland, and caught my first glance of the under-construction cruise ship everyone’s been waiting for – the Icon of the Seas – it was immediately clear that this enormous vessel would most certainly be living up to her name. Alongside roughly 40 other travel writers, I donned a hard hat and steel-toed boots for a full-day, exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the biggest cruise ship in the world.
As we navigated this active construction site – where upward of 3,000 workers are busy turning Royal Caribbean’s larger-than-life vision into a reality each day – we toured staterooms, restaurants, several of the pools and adventure attractions, the AquaTheater, Central Park and the Bridge, and we were wowed at every turn. Even though she’s currently sitting at roughly 75% completion and is still missing a lot of the eye-catching aesthetics that will be added in the final phase, it’s easy to see why the Icon of the Seas is a monumental feat in an industry constantly pushing the envelope in terms of size, onboard amenities and entertainment, culinary delights and overall guest experience.
When one of the best cruise lines promises a Caribbean cruise of this magnitude, you know it’s going to be in high demand. Cruise aficionados were so excited for the maiden voyage that the first sailing of the Icon of the Seas sold out in less than 24 hours. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of available dates to make your own Icon of the Seas booking for 2024 and 2025. While you truly have to see it to believe it, here’s your sneak peek of what to expect on board the world’s biggest cruise ship.
Just how big is Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas?
The Icon of the Seas is just over 365 metres long. The current record holder for the world’s biggest cruise ship, which will soon be dethroned, is another Royal Caribbean ship: The Wonder of the Seas measures 362 metres. So the brand’s latest vessel will be over three metres longer – and that means plenty of extra space for all its cool, new cruise-ship features.
OK, but how big is 365 metres exactly? Really, really big. To put it into perspective, the Icon of the Seas is 3.3 times the length of a single football field.
This ship also boasts 20 decks (two more than the Wonder of the Seas), and 18 of those are for guests. Finally, she weighs in at a hefty 250,800 gross tons, a measurement used to determine the volume of all enclosed spaces on a vessel (read: total internal capacity). The Wonder of the Seas is “only” 236,857 gross tons. In total, the Icon of the Seas is 6% larger than the Wonder of the Seas.
How many passengers can sail on the Icon of the Seas?
The Icon of the Seas can host a maximum of 7,600 guests per sailing, which is significantly more than the Wonder of the Seas’ capacity of 7,084. There are 2,805 staterooms aboard Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, which is actually a bit less than the Wonder of the Seas’ 2,867.
Aside from passengers, it also takes a lot of crew to run a ship this size. The Icon of the Seas will also hold 2,350 crew members (compared with the Wonder of the Seas’ 2,204-member crew). That means that at full capacity, the Icon of the Seas will be carrying just shy of 10,000 people (9,950 to be exact).
What are the ship’s coolest features?
There’s no ship in the world with as many impressive adventure amenities as the Icon of the Seas – unsurprisingly, the world’s biggest cruise ship has thought of everything a guest could ever desire.
There are plenty of reasons this is going to be everyone’s new favourite cruise, and these ocean liner firsts are among them:
- Swim & Tonic, the cruise line’s first swim-up bar at sea
- Royal Bay, the largest pool at sea, with more than 151,000 litres of water
- Six record-breaking waterslides that make up the largest water park at sea, including the Pressure Drop, the first open free-fall waterslide at sea
- The largest ice-skating arena in the cruise line’s fleet
Not only does the ship have the largest pool at sea, but it also has a lot of options when it comes to taking a dip. There are nine whirlpools on the ship, along with seven pools, including adults-only options, the first suspended infinity pool at sea and a private pool in the Suite Neighbourhood.
COURTESY ROYAL CARIBBEAN
Speaking of Royal Caribbean’s Neighbourhoods, its newest ship has eight distinct neighbourhoods, each a destination in itself. That means you won’t have to schlep your stuff across this enormous ship when you need a drink or a snack. Each area has plenty of food, drinks and entertainment contained within.
Five of these Neighbourhoods are new, including:
- Thrill Island, which holds the water park and Crown’s Edge, a hybrid skywalk, ropes course and thrill ride
- Chill Island, where you’ll find four pools, the swim-up bar and Cloud 17, an adults-only retreat
- Surfside, designed for young families and featuring an arcade, Splashaway Bay, Baby Bay and Social020 for teens
- The Hideaway, a beach club 41 metres above the ocean with views for days
- AquaDome, home of the AquaTheater, an immersive venue featuring a dynamic waterfall and robotics alongside divers and acrobats
Food and drinks
There are plenty of cool restaurants around the world, but what about places to dine while you’re traveling from place to place? You’ll find no shortage of eats and sips aboard this ship.
There are more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges, including fun concepts like the Lemon Post Bar (with sips for grown-ups and kids), Desserted (gourmet milkshakes, including boozy options), a Duelling Pianos bar and Rye & Bean coffee shop. Of course, you’ll find all your Royal Caribbean favourites too, like Sorento’s pizza, Chops Grille steakhouse and the Windjammer Marketplace.
The flagship entertainment is not to be missed: It’s a 90-minute production of The Wizard of Oz in the Royal Theatre, complete with a digitally created tornado that’s sure to wow audiences.