I Sailed on Royal Caribbean's Wildly Hyped Icon of the Seas — See What It's Like Traveling on the World's Largest Cruise Ship That Can Carry Nearly 10,000 People Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International's president and CEO, has been touting the new ship as "the best-selling product in the history of our business."
- Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas set sail from Miami on its first official cruise this month.
- The world's largest cruise ship has over 40 restaurants and bars, seven pools, and a water park.
- See what it's like traveling on the 9,950-person floating resort.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Introverts, look away: Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, set sail on January 27, marking a new era in the mega-cruise-ship boom.
The start of Icon's service has been a long time coming for the cruise brand and fans of massive ships. Royal Caribbean and Finland's Meyer Turku shipyard began constructing the behemoth vessel in 2021. A year later, the cruise line saw its largest booking day as reservations opened for the Icon of the Seas in October 2022.
Since then, Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International's president and CEO, has been touting the new ship as "the best-selling product in the history of our business." And for good reason: From its colossal size to its 40+ restaurants and bars, Icon overshadows almost all of its predecessors.
I joined the ship's complimentary, three-night preview sailing on January 20. Take a look at what it's like on the $2 billion floating resort designed to accommodate up to 9,950 people (2,350 crew and 7,600 guests).
Let's start with the classic fan favorite: the pools.
The Icon of the Seas has seven pools, including one that royal Caribbean says is the largest at sea. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
Four of the ship's seven swimming holes are located on Icon's version of a traditional pool deck, Chill Island. It's where travelers can float around a 5,800-square-foot pool and another smaller one with a swim-up bar.
But Chill Island isn't Icon's crème de la crème.
Thrill Island has outdoor activities like a surf simulator. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
With wild outdoor amenities like a water park, lounging by the pool fell low on my to-do list.
Instead, it's Thrill Island – the go-to for all things, well, thrilling.
Crown's Edge is not for travelers with a fear of heights. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
While there, guests can step into a harness to traverse one of the ship's most adrenaline-pumping activities: Crown's Edge. Expect to dangle 154 feet above the ocean when the floor unexpectedly drops from under your feet.
Not interested in spending a few milliseconds wondering if you're about to plunge to your death?
This course puts a cheerfully nautical spin on mini-golf. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
Icon of the Seas' amenities also includes the more peaceful mini-golf course, sports court, rock climbing wall, and surf simulator, all located a few feet next to (and below) Crown's Edge's elevated course.
The neighboring six-slide water park is where guests will find the perfect mix of excitement and fun – without sweaty palms.
The water park has six slides, including what its operator is calling the tallest at sea. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
The over 17,000-square-foot mecca of screaming children (and adults) includes a 46-foot-tall drop slide and what Royal Caribbean says is the first family raft slide on a cruise ship.
The slides' water was heated during my chilly day at sea.
Two of the water slides require at least two riders at a time. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
But learn from my mistake: You'll probably guzzle your body weight in warm water if you attempt to scream during the drops.
If it's not evident yet, the Icon of the Seas was designed to target families — so much so that an entire section of the ship is dedicated to children younger than six.
The Surfside neighborhood features an arcade, a water playground, and an all-day brunch spot where children eat for free. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
Surfside, located about 10 decks below Thrill and Chill Island, is where younger travelers can romp around the water playground, spin around the eclectic carousel, and spend their parents' money at the arcade.
A giant pink flamingo statue grounds this quaint neighborhood, while the unlimited soft serve and churro stands keep families with a sweet tooth coming back.
Amenities like the arcade are pay-to-play. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
The youngest sailors can also wind down with Surfside's bedtime story readings.
Like me, travelers without youngsters may quickly learn to avoid these spaces.
Royal Caribbean says the Icon of the Seas is the first cruise ship to have a suspended infinity pool. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
Fortunately, sections like Hideaway and its suspended infinity pool are kid-free. So is Cloud 17, another pool, and the night-time comedy show.
Central Park, a centerpiece on many of Royal Caribbean's mega ships, isn't adult-only.
Central Park is five decks tall and has four walls lined with live plants. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
However, significantly fewer children frolic around this open-air destination than the rest of the ship.
This neighborhood has no loud activities, slides, or giant flamingos.
Dining venues like Central Park's Park Cafe are complimentary. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
Instead, it's a quiet and contemplative space embellished with over 30,550 live plants, luxury stores, restaurants, and bars.
Central Park also has a live jazz club.
Lou's Jazz 'n Blues is one of several live music venues. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
But compared to the rest of the ship's entertainment line-up, Lou's Jazz 'n Blues likely isn't among the most coveted show venues.
Good luck snagging a seat at the AquaTheater for a showing of the popular "Aqua Action!"
Entertainment on the Icon of the Seas includes a nighttime show at its water-based theater. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
This display of divers, nine-foot-tall robotic arms, synchronized swimmers, and skateboarders replaces the typical (ahem, cringe) cruise song-and-dance show.
No ice skaters are in this performance, though — they're busy with the ship's other ice skating show.
But if you're partial to a marvelous musical moment, the primary (dry) theater also does a savory rendition of "The Wizard of Oz."
"The Wizard of Oz" is accompanied by a 16-piece live orchestra. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
Keep your expectations within reason: Toto is half puppeteer, half puppet-dog. Both are equally expressive.
After a full day of activities and shows, hungry guests have 21 restaurants at their disposal.
Hooked Seafood is one of several specialty restaurants on the new ship. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
However, only about half of Icon of the Seas' restaurants are complimentary. This includes the buffet, Central Park's café, and the five-venue food hall.
Be prepared to pull out your wallet for sushi, lobster, steak, and rabbit.
Specialty meals include raw oysters, lobster tails, and sashimi. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
The most expensive dining venue, Empire Supper Club, costs over $200 per person. Fortunately, you can drink the pain of this price away: A cocktail pairing is included.
Icon offers plenty of other booze and cruise opportunities with 20 on-board bars.
The Central Park neighborhood is home to a small Champagne bar, Bubbles. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
Almost every section of the ship presents opportunities to drink.
At night, the Royal Promenade and its strip of seven watering holes — including karaoke and dueling piano bars — also becomes a do-it-yourself bar crawl.
AquaTheater's neighboring Rye and Bean adds a tea and coffee-powered flair to cocktails, while Surfside's Lemon Post flexes a lemonade stand-inspired drink menu.
One of the Lime and Coconut bars now includes a frozen cocktail menu. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
If you choose to booze it up, the 1,198-foot-long, 250,800-gross-ton giant cruise ship likely won't be the cause of your seasick (hangover) symptoms — I, the self-proclaimed Queen of Motion Sickness, barely felt it move during my three-night sailing.
I frequently retreated to my stateroom to take a break from the overwhelming ship.
My ocean-view balcony cabin had 50 square feet of private outdoor space. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
But ironically, even thinking about the number of cabins can feel overbearing. Icon's 2,805 floating hotel rooms comprise 28 cabin categories, including several new for Royal Caribbean.
But even the cheapest windowless interior cabin can be costly.
The Pearl has about 3,600 moving tiles. Brittany Chang/Business Insider via BI
During its first year in service, the giant vessel will operate year-round seven-night sailings from Miami to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Royal Caribbean's private island Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Icon's least expensive 2024 sailing currently starts at almost $2,590 per person.
At about $370 per person per day, sailing on Royal Caribbean's new product costs as much as some premium cruise lines.
The Icon of the Seas is now operating year-round seven-night cruises from Miami. Brittany Chang/Business Insider
But let's not forget this price also includes admission to a water park, nightly shows, half of the dining options, and the exhaustion that will inevitably come with being overwhelmed by the giant floating resort.