Although a day was nowhere near enough time to cover every inch of Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, we did our best. The ship is the first of the Icon Class, and there are two more coming, including Star of the Seas, which is debuts in summer 2025. Because Icon of the Seas is a new class, there are lots of venues, spaces and attractions that are brand-new to Royal Caribbean -- and cruising overall.
Here are photos of the new spaces that you'll find on Icon of the Seas.
As soon as you walk into Icon of the Seas, you realize that the Royal Promenade -- Royal Caribbean's signature atrium -- has changed significantly on this class.
First, the Pearl. The glass art installation, which has more than 3,000 panels that move kinetically with light and can change colors, is a jaw dropper. You notice it immediately when you arrive, and it's designed to be a focal point for the equivalent of Icon of the Seas' town square. (Remember, at more than 10,000 capacity counting passengers and crew, the ship is as large as a small city!)
But The Pearl is more than just a dramatic artwork. Besides anchoring the Royal Promenade, it opens the space and brings in light from the three-story bank of windows behind it.
While many love the Royal Promenade on other ships, it has often been criticized from those who dislike its mall-like feel and the fact that it lacks windows. The Pearl solves that problem on Icon of the Seas.
Behind the Pearl goes beyond what its simple name suggests. There's seating near the windows, while a glass sculpture of a giant whale floats above. It's a natural place to come for a morning coffee, meet up with your cruise companions or bring your computer/phone if you need to work. (All Royal Caribbean ships have Starlink for fast internet.)
The Pearl Cafe is a new complimentary venue open 24 hours. When Royal Caribbean surveyed guests on what changes they'd like to see on ships, people had two requests, food-wise, said Linken D'Souza, Royal Caribbean's vice president of food and beverage: They wanted more places for grab-and-go food and more places that were free.
You'll pay for specialty coffee at the Pearl Cafe, but all the bites, which rotate during each mealtime, are free -- and they are tasty!
The pastries are fresh and enticing, and the mushroom biryani sandwich I had at lunch was delicious. I anticipate this being a popular choice. It's a more relaxing and coffee-shop style alternative to the Windjammer buffet.
If you fell into the camp that felt that the Royal Promenade seemed like a crowded mall, you'll be happy with the Icon of the Seas version. It's much airier and wider, for a few reasons.
One, the line decided to remove the rooms that overlook the Royal Promenade, said Jay Schneider, Royal Caribbean's chief product innovation officer. "By removing staterooms, we've actually gotten to a point where, in certain places, it feels very expansive," he told us.
And second, all of the venues in the Royal Promenade are open to the outside, as opposed to being closed off. It gives the immense corridor a more homey feeling and also creates buzz.
We wondered if having so many open venues would make the spaces too noisy, with sounds from one bar bleeding into the next. Schneider said that the ship would solve those issues by staggering programming -- making sure that competing bands aren't playing at Bolero's and the Schooner Bar, for example, which are right across from each other.
New venues on the Royal Promenade include Dueling Pianos, a piano bar that's bound to be a lot of fun. This space is more enclosed, which gives it more of a destination nightclub feel.
The Point & Feather is the newest pub for the Royal Caribbean fleet. As with most venues, it's open to the Royal Promenade in a way that's new for the line.
Royal lovers might notice that the Royal Promenade on Icon doesn't have the signature classic car that you see on other ships. What it does have: a statue of a dog lifting its leg that's bound to make kids laugh.
BTW, Icon of the Seas is the first Royal Caribbean ship to have its own real dog onboard. As Cruise Critic reported, Rover -- a female Golden retriever -- is a full-time crew member who lives onboard to bring joy and a sense of home to the crew (an idea that came from Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley himself).
She was specially trained for the job of being an onboard ambassador by a company that trains dogs for movies and other productions. She celebrated her six-month birthday in mid-January and has a handler, Chief of Staff Alison Hubble, who has a longer contract so she can be with Rover longer.
I got to meet Rover during our tour, and as a dog owner myself, I'm impressed with how well behaved she was for a puppy. She ran right up to me and seemed to enjoy all the massive hugs she was getting from fans. She's going to be a selfie star!
With Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean didn't set out to build the biggest ship in the world, Schneider said. Instead, the line wanted to create "the ultimate family vacation" with enough features for Millennial families and their kids to compete with land resorts.
To that end, a huge back portion of the ship has been turned into Surfside, a neighborhood specifically built for younger kids and their parents.
Decked out in candy colors and flanked on one end by a giant pink flamingo standing near a colorful striped doughnut, the space is large enough, with enough features, that a family with young children could stay here all day.
The Carousel is a staple of the Boardwalk on Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships, and there's one in Surfside. Instead of standard horsies, the standing figures are beach themed, to reinforce that Southern California vibe.
The Splashaway Bay waterpark anchors the fun area toward the back of the ship. It has all of the features that families might know from other Royal Caribbean kids pool areas: mini slides, fountains to run through and a dump bucket.
It's a smart idea to put Splashaway Bay at the back of the ship and in its own neighborhood away from the main pools, as this means families with the littlest kids won't have to worry about toddlers being elbowed aside by older children.
Another smart idea in Surfside: Loungers right next to Splashaway Bay ,where parents can hang out while their kids play.
For the extreme little ones, there's also a Baby Bay area. The Surfside Family Suites -- including the fabulous Ultimate Family Townhouse -- surround the neighborhood, too. If you book here, you can have a very self-contained experience on a megaship.
There wasn't any water in the Water's Edge pool during our tour. But this pool at the back of the ship, where parents can hang out while their kids play, will have some of the best ocean views onboard. This pool will have loungers within the water, for that resort feel, and there are sundecks on either side.
Of course, if there's an in-water pool lounger, chances are good that there's a bar nearby. The Lemon Post is a new Royal Caribbean venue that has been called "the mommy and me bar," where parents and kids can get matching cocktails and mocktails. If that doesn't scream Millennial parenting, I don't know what does.
The menu for the Lemon Post is super cute, with one side listing the cocktails and the other having the mocktails. While the drinks don't actually match (boo!), the mocktails sound super refreshing and even more delicious than those with alcohol, TBH, although on a very hot day, the Slice of Life would probably be giving us life.
Remember that one of Icon of the Seas' tenets is that every neighborhood has a complimentary eatery, a specialty restaurant and a bar. In Surfside, the Surfside Eatery fulfills the free option, in a clever way -- it's a buffet almost entirely made of kids' foods!
I love this concept, and think that families will love the opportunity to bypass the Windjammer in favor of a more family-focused space with all the chicken tenders you care to eat.
Another smart move: Pier 7 is Royal Caribbean's first specialty restaurant just for families. The concept is Southern California beach food -- think fish tacos, shrimp tostados and burgers, as well as breakfast all day. The venue has a la carte prices for adults, ranging from $6 to $19, and will be free for children under 12.
Originally Pier 7 was just going to be a breakfast and lunch venue, but D'Souza was so pleased with how the menu items turned out, it's going to be open for dinner too.
The Pearl isn't the only sphere on Icon of the Seas. The AquaDome, at the front of the ship on Deck 15, is also an enclosed circular area that just happens to be the ship's largest glass and steel structure. The space does double duty, serving as a Solarium of sorts -- although not adults only, as on other Royal Caribbean ships -- for relaxing during the day and as a nightlife area with shows in the AquaTheater.
(BTW, we're noticing a trend within 2024's new ships: Domes are having a moment in the cruise world. While Icon has The Pearl and the AquaDome, Sun Princess -- the newest ship from Princess Cruises debuting in February 2024 -- also has a focus on circular spaces. As seen at the Fincantieri shipyard in December, Sun Princess has an enclosed area called The Dome at the top of the ship, as well as a Sphere to bring extra light into its Piazza.)
On our tour, we weren't able to see the mesmerizing 55-foot waterfall that will dominate the AquaTheater space. We have heard that the aqua shows the cast will put on will be spectacular. Having the AquaTheater enclosed in the AquaDome also means that winds and other weather factors that affected shows in the AquaTheaters on the Oasis-class ships won't be an issue.
The Overlook -- a space that we instantly fell in love with -- is directly behind the AquaTheater. You are drawn to the expansive views from the glass here.
There's also a bar and quirky seating.
The elevated Overlook Pods are very cool, and we predict there will be a rush to get these circular banquettes. (We're somewhat amazed that they are first come, first serve -- and do not have a fee).
The Rye & Bean is a new bar on one side of The Overlook. It serves specialty coffee drinks, both alcoholic and non -- this is the place for espresso martinis.
The AquaDome Market is the complimentary dining area in the neighborhood, and it's a doozy, essentially serving as Royal Caribbean's first food hall.
We didn't sample the food here because we didn't have room for second breakfast, but we heard good reviews of the crepes from Creme de la Crepe. Personally, we're all about the various Mac and Cheese combos, and would make a no-elevator vow just to try them.
Hooked Seafood returns to Icon of the Seas as the AquaDome's specialty restaurant.
All in all, the AquaDome is supposed to have a tranquil vibe on a ship that's very kid-friendly. That being said, Schneider told us that the belly flop contests may take place in the AquaTheater so we're not sure how quiet it will end up being. Time will tell.
Because Central Park cuts a divide in the middle of the ship, there's no real Lido Deck in the traditional cruise ship sense. Instead, like Oasis-class ships, the sun and fun pool areas are split, although both sides are considered to be part of the same neighborhood: Chill Island.
On one side of Chill Island is the Royal Bay Pool, the largest pool at sea. We believe them, but the pool doesn't look as large in person, especially because there was no water in it when we toured.
Schneider told us that most pools and hot tubs on Icon of the Seas, with the exception of the Royal Bay Pool, are meant to be up against the glass, facing outward.
Remember that Icon of the Seas is, first and foremost, a ship for families. So it's not surprising that even in Chill Island, the colors and vibe are upbeat and kid friendly, rather than adult sophisticated.
In fact, Icon of the Seas is so kid-friendly that the line decided to open up Cloud 17, a pool and sundeck near Lime & the Coconut, to families. (The Hideaway in Thrill Island is the new place for adults to hang out without kids.)
The new Swim & Tonic bar, where all alcoholic drinks are made with tonic, will stay adults only, by its very nature.
It's the first swim-up bar on Royal Caribbean, or any ocean-going ship that we can think of...
....(although AmaWaterways has swim-up bars on some of its river ships, believe it or not.)
We predict that Swim & Tonic will be popular.
The complimentary restaurant option within Chill Island is Royal Caribbean staple El Loco Fresh.
Known for burritos, quesadillas and tacos, along with a great salsa bar, El Loco Fresh also features a margarita bar, Cantina Fresca.
It's hard to know until the ship has paying passengers whether Chill Island is large enough to handle the crowds. Maybe it was the gray and rainy weather, but we had a hard time imaging how the space would be used and if it would be adequate during our tour. We look forward to Cruise Critic editors trying it out in a few weeks.
What's a family friendly resort without waterslides?
On Icon of the Seas, you're spoiled for choice within Thrill Island, which takes up the entire back of the ship's top decks. The Category 6 Waterpark -- named not only for its six slides, but as a play on hurricanes -- is the largest at sea -- and it looks like it.
When you walk through Thrill Island for the first time, it's hard to tell which slide is which; it's a maze of tubes and rushing water.
We'll nominate the orange Frightening Bolt to produce the most screams. The tallest drop slide at sea has a 46-foot drop.
We're equally skeptical of the yellow Pressure Drop, the first open free-fall waterslide at sea. We went on a similar free fall slide at Royal Caribbean's private Island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, and we're still traumatized. No thank you (but your kids will love it).
The Category 6 waterpark has several raft slides, including a few that families can go on together. The pink Hurricane Hunter is the first family raft slide at sea, with four people being able to go together. Expect to get drenched; you go through two water curtains on this one.
If dry thrills are more your thing, you're going to want to sign up for Crown's Edge, an aerial obstacle course featuring a zipline that suspends you 154 feet above the ocean. The Crown's Edge carries an extra fee of $89,99 and kids have to weigh at least 44 pounds (the entrance sign notes that anyone susceptible to panic attacks should stay far far away).
Far tamer, but still super cool, the Lost Dunes mini golf course is as elaborate as one you'd find on land. While it doesn't have some of the bells and whistles that we saw on rival ships Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva, Lost Dunes has an advantage, in that it's free.
The dining area in Thrill Island is called Basecamp, and it has a mix of complimentary and a la carte items. Hot dogs and pretzels with cheese sauce are free, but you'll have to pay for the more elaborate snacks like shrimp bao buns. There's a bar at Basecamp too, for adults who want a place to hang while their kids explore the waterpark.
Desserted is an extra fee venue within Thrill Island where you can get elaborate milkshakes with tons of toppings. Adults can add shots of vanilla vodka or Bailey's to the mix.
fRight under Thrill Island, The Hideaway is Icon of the Seas' adults-only pool and sundeck. While it's for adults, don't expect this area to be quiet; as you can see, it's directly under the Category 6 waterpark, and a few decks above Surfside.
Still, The Hideaway has a nice chunk of real estate. For adults who hate sharing a hot tub with teenagers, the Hideaway whirlpools will be a nice oasis.
There's also plenty of sun loungers. Again, a perfect spot for parents to relax while their kids get their kicks at Category 6.
The Hideaway has a full bar too.
Central Park has been a beloved feature of Oasis-class ships, so it's no wonder that it's part of the Icon Class, too. There are a few cool changes that solidify the leafy neighborhood as a quieter area on an otherwise frenetic ship, suitable for date night.
For one, there's actually a way to see the ocean from Central Park, although it's not necessarily obvious. A glass atrium that shows The Pearl is part of Central Park now, which does bring in some light at ground level -- a first.
In terms of Central Park venues, Lou's Jazz 'n Blues is a new bar that is self-explanatory in its mission.
The interior looks to have just enough funky touches, like that tin ceiling, to make the venue look fun, as opposed to stuffy.
Izumi's Teppanayki and Sushi Bar has been relocated to Central Park -- and on Icon, it has a takeout window! The extra-fee venue Izumi on the Park will have rolls and other Japanese street food snacks to go. We love this concept.
(Royal Caribbean steakhouse standards Chops Grille is across the park from Izumi, right behind the Trellis wine bar.)
Another to-go concept: Bubbles champagne bar (the blue-green storefront in the picture above). More of a streetside window than a bar, Bubbles is where you buy bottles or glasses of Champagne, sparkling wine and prosecco to go.
I'm interested to see how this concept does, considering that Champagne bars on cruise ships are often empty. Maybe to go is exactly what people want? D'Souza told us that he'll be reinventing Royal Caribbean's wine program next year, with more and better selections. Cheers to that!)
Speaking of high end, Central Park is also home to Icon of the Seas' big ticket restaurant: the Empire Supper Club. Meant to evoke a classic New York steakhouse, the Empire Supper Club includes a show with your eight-course meal, which will last three hours and cost $200 per person. The courses are paired with cocktails devised by "the modern mixologist" Tony Abou-Ganim.
Before you freak out at the price tag, relax: D'Souza knows the experience isn't for everyone; in fact, the venue only seats 38 and there will be only one seating a night. In a survey, the line determined that most people who sail Royal Caribbean want to be in and out in less than an hour. To that end, the main dining room and other venues are working to get people through their meals in an average of 70 minutes.
As foodies, we hope we snag a seating to see what the fuss is about.
The complimentary venue for Central Park is the Park Cafe, a Royal Caribbean staple.
The restaurant has outdoor seating, and a nice grab-and-go counter.
And of course, Park Cafe is also home to the Royal Kummelweck, the line's signature roast beef sandwich. It's insanely popular; we've seen lines for the Kummelweck stretch out the door at lunchtime.
Royal Caribbean has been moving toward doing more for its suite guests and making the space more of a ship-within-a-ship concept.
Wonder of the Seas -- the last biggest ship in the world -- debuted a suite-only sundeck. On Icon, The Grove has been expanded to two decks.
There's no water in the pool above yet, but it's a nice size for a suites-only enclave. There's also a hot tub on the other side.
The Grove has a large al fresco Mediterranean restaurant where suite guests can eat their meals poolside. Because The Grove is open to suite guests, you can certainly expect to find families in the space.
Coastal Kitchen has been the suites-only restaurant on several ships. On Icon of the Seas, it's two decks -- and the already excellent menu has been elevated. Suite guests will be able to order lobster, in some form, every day of their cruise, D'Souza said.
Icon of the Seas' Coastal Kitchen also has some of the best seats in the house for AquaDome people and show watching. If you look at the photo above, you can see the primo tables that overlook the AquaDome. People at those tables won't even have to leave the dinner table to watch the aqua shows.
Now that's a perk we love.
As the most expensive suite offered by Royal Caribbean, the Ultimate Family Townhouse has everything to keep parents and kids entertained.
It includes an in-suite slide, a movie room and a spacious dining area with an interactive table that has games for the whole family.
The high-ceilinged living room comes complete with colorful couches, loungers and a TV.