The highly anticipated Icon of the Seas, which is only two months from her January 2024 debut, has already welcomed her first “guest” onboard – a stowaway owl that joined the ship for part of her sea trials.

The bird was humanely captured and delivered to an animal shelter, where it was able to successfully recuperate from the exhausting ordeal of trying out what will be the world’s largest cruise ship.

An owl hitched a ride aboard Icon of the Seas during the ship’s second series of sea trials earlier this month. All cruise ship engineers and crew members know that sea trials can be exhausting, and apparently even more so when one is an owl supervising the work.

Meyer Turku, the shipyard constructing the massive cruise ship, reported the stowaway and how it was helped. The bird was helped to recover for a couple of days, and was successfully released.

“The owl was spotted flying around the deck, and eventually it was caught after tiring itself out. The owl appeared to be in good condition, if somewhat tired,” Meyer Turku said. “One of the tugboats delivering equipment to Icon took the owl and transported it to an animal shelter in Turku.”

The owl was a short-eared owl (Asio flammeus), a common species found throughout much of Europe, including all of Scandinavia. Interestingly, these birds are widespread worldwide, including in North America, parts of South America, the Caribbean, the UK, and northern Asia.

Similarly, Icon of the Seas will soon become known worldwide as she begins her sailings and visits a range of ports for the first time, including many destinations where short-eared owls may be seen.

Owl on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas (Photo Credit: Meyer Turku)

These birds remain in much of their range year-round, but will wander widely as they hunt.

Most likely, the owl that got briefly stranded aboard the cruise ship may have been blown out to sea by rough weather, and took refuge aboard the ship. At 250,800 gross tons, 1,198 feet long, and with 20 total decks, Icon of the Seas would certainly look like an island to a bird that weighs just one pound and measures no more than 17 inches long with a 43-inch wingspan!

Birds are often seen on cruise ships near land, from gulls scavenging for pizza crusts and fries on the open decks to small birds that might hop along deck railings to seabirds flying alongside a ship during a day at sea.

Photo Credit: FWC Florida Fish and Wildlife

In recent months, more exotic birds have been spotted aboard cruise ships, such as the masked booby that took refuge aboard a Disney cruise ship recently during a transatlantic sailing.

The short-eared owl aboard Icon of the Seas isn’t the only owl to have been spotted onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, either. In March 2023, a burrowing owl stowed away on Symphony of the Seas, and in 2010 another burrowing owl was briefly a guest on Oasis of the Seas while the ship was in port.

While Icon of the Seas may not have been prepared to offer the short-eared owl the getaway of a lifetime during her sea trials, the ship will soon be ready to welcome guests from PortMiami on alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas

The 7-night sailings will visit popular ports of call such as Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, and more, including a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay on every voyage.

Icon of the Seas‘ first sailing is scheduled for Saturday, January 27, 2024, and will undoubtedly be met with great fanfare as the vessel officially becomes the world’s largest cruise ship, ushering in a new era of innovation and excitement for Royal Caribbean with brand new neighborhoods, the outstanding AquaDome, the largest waterpark at sea, the thrilling Crown’s Edge ropes course, and so much more for every passenger to enjoy.

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