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After spending three fast-paced days on Icon of the Seas, I found there were several things about the ship that surprised me.   And no, they weren’t anything to do with the size of the ship.

Photo credit: Cruise Fever

I was an invited guest on Icon of the Seas and was able to attend the Naming Ceremony with soccer legend Lionel Messi as the “Icon of the Icon”.   The inaugural sailing for Icon is this Saturday.

After the excitement of the ceremony and festivities I was really able to explore the ship deck by deck and get a certain vibe from the vessel.

Anyone who has heard of this ship already knows it’s the largest cruise ship in the world.  That was no surprise.  Although, it didn’t feel any bigger than any of the other Oasis-class vessels I’ve sailed on.  In fact, it felt a little smaller and more intimate than the previous largest ship class in the world.

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More on this later.

Here are the elements of Icon of the Seas that surprised me the most.  And I think upcoming Royal Caribbean passengers will agree on most points.

1. The seamless navigation and flow

I was amazed at how well-connected various neighborhoods and spaces were on the ship.  Navigating from neighborhood to neighborhood was simple and flowed easily.

For instance, I’m writing this from Central Park on the ship right now.  And if I wanted to head down to the iconic Pearl on the Royal Promenade just a couple decks below, there is a set of elegant stairs with access right in the middle of the park.

View of the ocean from seats on Central Park on Icon of the Seas

There is even a large, curved wall of glass in Central Park that allows passengers to see the outside of the pearl, but more importantly they can see the ocean itself.  This was never possible in Central Park on any other Royal Caribbean ship.

The connection to the sea from even interior parts of the vessel is very apparent throughout Icon.

From the Surfside neighborhood there is a set of stairs going up to Central Park and going down to the Royal Promenade, all clearly marked and easy to navigate.

Even after a day of walking around the ship I found it very easy to get from point A to point B with less tine and effort than even smaller ships with the cruise line.

2. The vibrant colors of the ship

Photo credit: Cruise Fever

Royal Caribbean broke out the color palette with Icon of the Seas.  You don’t have to look around very long before you see pops of color that are bold, bright, and sometimes pastel.  This is most noticeable on the pool decks, where everything from the bright blue and green loungers to the interior curves of the walls are splashed with colors that remind you of vacation in the Caribbean and Bahamas.

The artwork, décor, and overall vibe is one of color.   From the onboard cabanas, wicker chairs, bamboo plated walls, and shutters along the interior facing cabins, there are hues aplenty.

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3. How unlike an Oasis-class ship this is

I know this is an entirely new ship class.  But ever since the idea of Icon of the Seas was introduced it led to comparisons to the successful Oasis-class vessels.   And in terms of size, it’s much more comparable to Oasis than any other class.

But I was surprised at just how different this ship is from Oasis.  The Royal Promenade and its iconic Pearl, the completely redesigned ice-skating rink at Absolute Zero, the entirely transformed and family-friendly Surfside, and the contrasts of Thrill Island and Chill Island make Icon of the Seas a completely new cruise ship for certain.

And sometimes the changes were subtle, like how the huge sports court was moved above a casual dining venue at Basecamp to open up the areas below a lot more.  And how Cloud 17 is an extra deck above the busier pool deck while still having easy access to the largest water park at sea.

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Of course, a concept like The Hideaway are completely new.  The aft-facing infinity pool with it’s cozy daybeds and great views is going to be a very popular spot.  Add in the fact that the entire space is adult-only, has padded loungers and two large hot tubs, and this space will be an attractive allure for guests over 18.

But the biggest difference is the incredible AquaDome and Overlook at the front of the ship.  There is no solarium on the ship, but The Overlook quickly became my favorite spot on the ship which I will talk about in the last point.  By the way, I absolutely loved the AquaDome Market with its variety of foods and floor to ceiling windows.  If you’re in the mood for crepes, macaroni and cheese, Asian food, or a panini, this is the place to be.

4. The quality of entertainment

By calling this a surprise I don’t mean it as a slight.  What I mean is that the attention to detail, level of technology and craftsmanship that go into each production – it all exceeded my expectations.

The production of the Wizard of Oz was spectacular in its quality of acting, props, and tech.  But the cherry on top is the live orchestra of 16+ instrumentalists that add so much to the whole production.  Hearing Dorothy sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with live strings in the Royal Theater is not something you want to miss.

AquaTheater on Icon of the Seas. Photo credit: Cruise Fever

I also attended an ice-skating show at Absolute Zero that was absolutely stunning in its lighting, effects, and talent of the performers.   And having guest star and juggler extraordinaire Viktor Kee was just the icing on the cake.

On the last night of the 3-day sailing I was able to attend a show in the AquaDome.   Needless to say, it was the most unique performance I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship.  This was just a sneak peek of the shows to come on the ship as this sailing was pre-inaugural, but I think cruise passengers are going to really love the AquaTheater shows in this space.

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Once again, the quality of the technology and performance was unparalleled at sea.   The usage of light projecting onto the canvas of the dome and robots to add lighting effects, and powerful water fountains, along with talented divers, made it a very entertaining experience.  The backless seats of the AquaDome worked out since most people were on the edge of their seats anyway.

5. How beautiful and relaxing many spaces were

The Overlook inside the AquaDome on Icon of the Seas. Photo credit: Cruise Fever

Sometimes we get lost in the statistics of a ship.  And while Icon of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world, it’s also one of the most beautiful.  The Overlook is one of the most stunning, relaxing, and calming spaces I’ve seen on a ship.  Much like a solarium, the entire area is sun-soaked, but the seating is so cozy and inviting as there are numerous spots to nestle in and enjoy the view from the peaceful quietness.

I can see myself spending hours in this area on a sea day.  Pictures don’t do it justice.   But it’s conveniently located right next to the Rye and Bean which as some great coffee options that I enjoyed during the sailing.  And the AquaDome Market is right next to it as well, which was often less busy than the Windjammer buffet area.

Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Another beautiful spot was the Pearl Café.   You can find this dining and beverage venue at the top of the steps of the Pearl.  There is a huge window that overlooks the ocean and plenty of plush couches and chairs to take in the view.   A lovely artwork piece of a Humpback whale hangs over the area, and it’s just a wonderful spot to charge your phone, meet with family and friends, or just enjoy the ocean.

And if you want another beautiful space to enjoy from the Pearl Café, you can just walk up the steps right into the heart of Central Park.  As I mentioned in the first point, everything on this ship is connected so seamlessly that it makes navigating a 250,800 gross ton vessel a breeze.

We will be posting many more pictures, videos, and articles on Icon of the Seas in the coming days and weeks.  We posted a lot of pictures from our social media accounts this past week, so check them out if you’d like to get up to speed as well.

See Icon of the Seas images and videos on X (formerly Twitter) here.

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