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Sneak peek: Inside Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, the most important cruise ship ever

Editor’s be aware: TPG’s Gene Sloan accepted a free journey to the shipyard in Finland constructing Icon of the Seas with the intention to get an early have a look at the vessel. The opinions expressed beneath are solely his and weren’t topic to evaluate by the road.

In terms of constructing essentially the most superb megaresorts at sea, Royal Caribbean lately is mainly simply competing with itself.

It is a robust assertion, for positive. I am guessing that many Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line followers will quibble with it. But it surely’s what saved swirling by my head Wednesday throughout a sneak peek on the line’s subsequent new ship, Icon of the Seas.

At 250,800 gross tons, the much-awaited, 20-deck-high vessel would be the largest cruise ship on the earth when it debuts in 2024. Nonetheless, it isn’t simply its big dimension — about 6% larger than the subsequent largest cruise ship — that can set it aside.

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What grew to become clear to me on Wednesday as Tim Klauda, Royal Caribbean’s vice chairman for product improvement, took me deck-by-deck by the partly-finished vessel at a shipyard in Finland, was that it will additionally don’t have any rival within the cruise world in relation to the breadth and depth of its choices, significantly for households.

From an unprecedently large water park at its high with six waterslides to essentially the most progressive inside promenade of eating places, bars and outlets ever on a cruise vessel (simply wait till you see the hovering glass wall that bathes the area with pure mild), there’s simply by no means been something fairly like what you are going to see on Icon of the Seas — and I say that as somebody who has sailed on practically each main cruise ship afloat.

Briefly, Icon of the Seas, the primary of an all-new class of vessels for Royal Caribbean, shall be, palms down, the last word megaresort at sea. And consequently, it will be the ship that lastly tops Royal Caribbean’s massively profitable Oasis-class vessels to reign supreme on the earth of big cruise ships.

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That is notable, because the Oasis-class ships have dominated the world of megaresorts at sea for practically 15 years. Different strains have tried to match what the Oasis-class vessels supply with new ships through the years and have fallen brief — although a couple of have come shut.

To place it one other means, within the nice sport of cruise ship design one-upmanship that has raged among the many largest cruise strains for many years, evidently solely Royal Caribbean lately can high Royal Caribbean.

It is as if the opposite main strains proper now aren’t even on the enjoying discipline.

The highest decks of Icon of the Seas taking form on the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

With seven months of development to go earlier than Icon of the Seas is able to sail, there may be a lot nonetheless unfinished on the vessel.

As is typical at this stage of development of a brand new ship, the outside of Icon of the Seas and the framing for its inside areas is generally full, however a lot of ending work stays. Some areas stay little greater than empty shells.

That mentioned, the epic nature of what’s to come back was clearly seen as Klauda took me and a number of other different cruise writers across the vessel on Wednesday amid a cacophony of hammering, welding and sanding.

The tour got here because the ship was tied up at a moist dock on the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, the place the practically $2 billion ship has been below development for practically two years. Greater than 2,500 shipyard employees had been on board working on the time.

Listed below are among the most notable parts of Icon of the Seas that I noticed in the course of the tour that lead me to assume it will turn into the brand new king of big-ship cruising.

A surprising ‘thrill’ deck

Whereas nonetheless removed from accomplished, the highest deck of Icon of the Seas already is shaping up as a sight to behold, largely as a result of it has a water park the likes of which you’ve got by no means seen on a cruise ship.

We’re speaking six separate water slides — none of them small.

Solely about 20% of the most important slides had been in place as we walked across the space, however the large towers from which the slides will descend basically had been completed, and the sheer dimension of the footprint for the park was beautiful. There aren’t many resorts on land the place you can see one thing like this.

The primary items of six big waterslides deliberate for Icon of the Seas already are in place. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

Referred to as Class 6, the water park’s thrills will embody an open free-fall slide, the tallest drop slide at sea, household raft slides that accommodate 4 riders without delay and two mat-racing slides.

It mainly takes up the entire again third of the ship’s high deck, together with such further signature Royal Caribbean amusements as a FlowRider browsing simulator, a miniature golf course known as Misplaced Dunes, a mountain climbing wall and a sports activities courtroom.

The brown towers above are being put in to assist parts of the six waterslides deliberate for Icon of the Seas. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY
An artist’s drawing of what the Class 6 water park space will appear to be upon completion. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

As well as, I noticed the makings of a ropes course-style attraction primarily based round a large model of the ship’s crown-and-anchor brand (which was in place however wrapped up so it did not get dinged throughout the remainder of development).

I additionally strolled by a big informal eating space not removed from the waterslides known as Basecamp, the place you can seize your breath after careening down one of many slides with quickie snacks and drinks.

Collectively, the entire space shall be often called Thrill Island, and that just about sums up what it will be.

And a powerful ‘chill’ space, too

Balancing the fun zone that’s Thrill Island, the middle a part of the ship’s high is dedicated to chilling within the type of kicking again in lounge chairs, scorching tubs and swimming pools.

In terms of the latter, what struck me most in the course of the tour was the large dimension of the principle Royal Bay Pool. It appeared to run half the size of the ship. Whereas nonetheless within the roughed-in stage, its big dimension as in comparison with what you sometimes see atop cruise ships, was noticeable (Royal Caribbean claims that is the most important pool ever constructed on a cruise ship, and we do not doubt them).

Associated: Every part you’ll want to find out about reserving an Icon of the Seas cruise

The Royal Bay Pool was simply certainly one of three swimming pools taking form within the space, which shall be known as Chill Island. The others included a pool with a swim-up bar known as Swim and Tonic — a primary for Royal Caribbean.

It’s going to additionally characteristic a lot of lounge chairs, cabanas (for an additional cost), scorching tubs and a multistory Lime and Coconut Bar (a Royal Caribbean signature).

The AquaDome

The AquaDome is a kind of crazily formidable sights that Royal Caribbean does on its ships sometimes that simply makes your jaw drop. If you happen to’ve seen the North Star rides on the road’s Quantum-class ships, you understand what I am speaking about. However the AquaDome is on an excellent larger scale than the North Star rides.

It is mainly a large glass dome — and we imply big — plopped onto the entrance of the ship that enshrouds an aqua theater of the kind discovered in the back of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships. There are additionally eating and ingesting venues and even some enclosed-within-the-dome cabins.


Earlier than I noticed it in particular person, I actually did not get the dimensions of what it will be. You seemingly will not, both, till you see it.

It is a glass dome to high all glass domes. We’re informed it was so huge and heavy (363 tons) that there actually wasn’t any shipyard crane on the earth that might carry it into place atop the ship besides the enormous crane on the Meyer Turku shipyard, which itself is a marvel.

Once you’re standing below it, you are trying up 4 or 5 tales to its high.

The aqua theater itself shall be certainly one of Icon of the Seas’ marquee sights, with exhibits that mix diving and aerial performers, dancing fountains and different high-tech options.

The hovering Aqua Theater is totally enclosed throughout the bigger Aquadome area. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY
An artist’s drawing of the Aqua Theater that shall be throughout the AquaDome. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

The area additionally will appeal to passengers all through the day and evening with its eating and ingesting venues and comfy seating areas. A model of the Hooked Seafood restaurant discovered on another Royal Caribbean ships shall be among the many choices.

Even larger household focus

Royal Caribbean already is arguably the last word household cruise line. However as I noticed this week, Icon of the Seas will take its household focus to even larger heights.

Along with the water park talked about above, which could have your teenagers and tweens squealing with delight, Icon of the Seas is loaded with such family-friendly sights as Surfside — a complete themed part of the ship (Royal Caribbean calls them neighborhoods) devoted to younger households.

In an open-air area in the back of the vessel that’s roughly the place the New Jersey shore-themed Boardwalk space is discovered on the road’s Oasis-class ships, Surfside is an all-day play space for households with youngsters ages 6 and below (although everyone seems to be welcome).

The centerpiece of this zone shall be a watery splash park for youths and adults known as Splashaway Bay (and an adjoining Child Bay for junior cruisers), in addition to the Water’s Edge pool for grownups. All had been simply beginning to come collectively throughout my go to.

The Surfside kiddie zone on Icon of the Seas nonetheless is generally lined in scaffolding. The round basis within the foreground shall be dwelling to a pool-themed carousel. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY
An artist’s drawing of how the Surfside neighborhood will look upon completion. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Colourful deck chairs will line the area so mother and father can lounge with their ft up or soak within the pool whereas sustaining sightlines to their enjoying youngsters. It will even have a carousel, similar to the Boardwalk areas on Oasis-class ships.

As well as, Surfside will home family-friendly eating venues and bars serving exclusive-to-Surfside “mommy and me” drinks. Youngsters can order the nonalcoholic variations of their mother and father’ tropical cocktails.

Stairs from the zone will take you and your youngsters straight to the Journey Ocean youngsters membership, one deck beneath (in addition to the Playmakers Sports activities Bar and Arcade).

Icon of the Seas can even supply extra family-friendly high-occupancy cabins than ever for a Royal Caribbean ship, together with some rooms that may accommodate as much as eight folks.

The family-friendly cabins will embody a brand new class of Household Infinite Balcony cabins that may sleep as much as six folks, with an alcove that includes higher and decrease beds for youths, a separate sleeping space for grown-ups, a dwelling space and cut up rest room (bathroom and sink in a single room and bathe and sink within the different).

The primary sleeping space of the Household Infinite Balcony cabin. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

The ship can even be dwelling to what could be the most epic household lodging on the earth, on land or sea: A 1,772-square-foot Final Household Townhouse that shall be three decks excessive and sleep as much as eight folks.

Alas, we did not get to see the Final Household Townhouse. However amongst its promoting factors shall be an in-suite slide, movie-viewing room, karaoke machine and a “yard” with a pingpong desk, out of doors seating and a white picket fence main on to the Surfside space.

The Royal Promenade

Like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-, Freedom- and Voyager-class ships, Icon of the Seas could have an indoor, mall-like area with eateries, bars and outlets known as the Royal Promenade operating by the center of its inside. Nonetheless, it is a Royal Promenade in contrast to any you’ve got seen earlier than.

The sport-changing innovation right here, which is tough to understand from the deck plans of the vessel that the road has launched, is that the area now’s linked to the ocean in a means it is by no means been earlier than.

This new connectivity is because of a large, four-deck-high glass wall that strains one aspect of the Promenade, permitting mild to spill into the area.

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The glass wall will certainly be one of many ship’s nice options. I do know I will be standing alongside it gazing out on the immensity of the ocean typically once I’m on board the vessel.

Nonetheless, it is also a marvel of engineering, as it’s situated at a structurally vital a part of the ship’s sidewall that — ever because the Titanic cut up in half round its center in 1912 earlier than sinking — most naval architects have been loath to pierce with a large span of glass.

The naval architects that labored on Icon of the Seas obtained round the issue of structural integrity by the intelligent insertion of structural metal in an enormous round artwork set up/round stairway known as The Pearl that’s situated simply steps away.

To the untrained eye, it is simply an uncommon focus for the world that’ll supply a show-like expertise at occasions with sound and high-tech transferring wall screens. However in actuality, it is holding the ship collectively.

An enormous glass wall (presently largely lined in a protecting coating) will carry mild into the Icon of the Seas’ Royal Promenade. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

We obtained a no-photos-allowed sneak peek contained in the round area for a really brief snippet of the sound and transferring wall expertise that passengers can count on. All we will say is — we won’t wait to see extra.

Along with The Pearl, the primary degree of The Royal Promenade will characteristic Sorrento’s Pizza, Starbucks, the ship’s karaoke bar (known as Highlight Karaoke) and its pub (to be known as the Level and Feather). One deck up, a second-story to the Royal Promenade shall be dwelling to such Royal Caribbean signatures as Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, the nautical-themed Schooner Bar and Boleros (a bar and lounge for Latin music and dancing). Notably, you can circle the second story of the Royal Promenade fully, one thing you’ll be able to’t do on different Royal Caribbean ships. That is one other notable improve.

Surrounding the Royal Promenade are lots of Icon of the Seas’ leisure venues. The ship’s essential Royal Theater is ahead of the promenade. The ship’s ice skating rink, which is newly named Absolute Zero and has a brand new oval design, is aft. The Music Corridor and On line casino Royale is one deck beneath, and an escape room, Diamond Membership elite lounge and comedy membership are close by.

Backside line

Royal Caribbean has dominated the world of large megaresorts at sea for practically 15 years, ever since its first Oasis-class vessel debuted.

Roughly 40% larger than some other ship at sea after they first arrived on the scene, the Oasis-class ships are nonetheless the most important and most amenity-filled cruise vessels on the earth.

Nonetheless, they will quickly have a brand new rival within the type of Icon of the Seas, the primary of a brand new collection of even larger, extra amenity-filled Royal Caribbean vessels.

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