Icon of the Seas: Does It Live Up To The Hype?

Icon of the Seas. Photo by Dan Renzi.

South Florida is once again at the center of travel news, with the celebrated launch of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship, Icon of the Seas.

With a capacity for 7,600 guests, Icon is the largest cruise ship in the world (although the company has several even larger ships under construction), and is part of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class fleet, which are very large ships packed with amenities usually found in resorts on land. While some people may choose a cruise based on the ports where the ship stops, these Oasis Class ships are designed more for cruise enthusiasts who have fun while just staying on the ship. Icon became instantly famous from photos of its three-level pool deck, which stretches across the top of the ship, with seven pools, six waterslides, and seemingly countless deck chairs covering every bit of open space.

With all of those waterslides, of course, Icon is designed to entertain families with children, and a large section of the ship — one of the ship’s “neighborhoods,” called Surfside — has playground equipment, shallow swimming pools, and even a milkshake bar to keep kids entertained all day. But Icon is more than a floating water park for kids. This ship is designed to appeal equally to adults, including adults who aren’t traveling with children. Grown-up amenities on Icon include:

The Hideaway, a sexy 18-and-over pool deck, is at the aft (back) of the ship on Deck 8, where the main feature is the infinity pool, hanging in the air. Deck chairs are lined up in tight rows, where guests can lay out and listen to music from the resident pool DJ. The bar at The Hideaway specializes in serving champagne.

Like many of Royal Caribbean’s ships, Icon offers spa services at Vitality Spa, including bathing services and massages solo or for couples. (The sauna and steam room are co-ed, swimsuits must be worn at all times.)

The Empire Supper Club, with only 38 seats, is the hottest reservation on the ship, featuring a prix-fixe menu and live jazz throughout the three-hour meal. Expect to spend $200 per person to enjoy an evening here, or $130 for guests who are already subscribed to the Unlimited Dining Package. The dress code is formal, meaning gentlemen should wear suits, no t-shirts or shorts on anyone, and there are suit jackets available to loan for customers who need to borrow one. All ages are welcome at Empire Supper Club, so there may be kids present, although just getting a reservation will certainly be a challenge.

On the other end of the glamour spectrum, The Lime & Coconut is a bar on Deck 17 in the outdoor pool deck area, that specializes in frozen cocktails, as well as huge mixed drinks served in plastic buckets.

Next to The Lime & Coconut is Swim & Tonic, a pool and swim-up bar, and a collection of in-water lounge chairs to cool off while enjoying some drinks.

Rye & Bean is a bar tucked into a corner up on the top deck, at the forward end of the ship in the giant glass Aquadome. Rye & Bean specializes in coffee-based cocktails and also serves a delicious line of upscale cappuccinos and lattes. This is a great place to relax during the day when Aquadome is quiet — or perhaps catch a glimpse of the lovely performers in the diving show as they practice.

And don’t forget about The Lemon Post, the bar designed to keep parents entertained in the Surfside neighborhood. The Lemon Post has some of the most delicious, refreshing cocktails on the ship, made with Tito’s Vodka and coconut water. Try one, you’ll love it.

For 2024, all of Icon’s itineraries include a stop at Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in The Bahamas. As of February 2024, Coco Cay has a new adults-only area, Hideaway Beach, with a long stretch of sandy beach along the calm waters of a large lagoon. Hideaway Beach requires an additional admission fee, price dependent on the crowd sizes that day, but most of the beach chairs are free to use. Guests can also rent a beach cabana for private food and drink service.

One more helpful hint: most of the suites with bunk beds for children (and they are really cute cabins!) are on Deck 9, towards the aft (back) of the ship. Keep that in mind when booking a room.

To see Dan Renzi’s story in Frommer’s go to https://www.frommers.com/slideshows/848597-icon-of-the-seas-cruise-ship-review-the-pleasures-and-pain-of-earth-s-largest-cruise-ship.

The print version of this story incorrectly listed Rick Karlin as the reporter. We regret the error.


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Corrections: editorial@outsfl.com

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