Last Updated on May 24, 2022
The Icons of the Seas has to be the most anticipated launch for Royal Caribbean in over a decade. Scheduled to debut in Fall 2023, it’ll be the first new class of ship for Royal Caribbean since the Quantum of the Seas debuted in 2014. We’ve pieced together what we know so far from the hints and tidbits of information Royal Caribbean has released.
Update May 24, 2022 – Royal Caribbean released some footage of a new sphere shaped venue. See below.
Will Icon of the Seas be revolutionary or evolutionary?
It’s safe to say Royal Caribbean completely changed the cruise industry when they first debuted their Oasis of the Seas in 2009. They leapfrogged the largest ships in the world at that time with more gross tons and passengers than any other ship sailing. They also introduced a new split-hull design with a neighborhood system to manage the large crowds was a spectacular success. Oasis-class ships saw many other firsts like an AquaTheater at the back of the ship, the Central Park area with over 10,000 living plants, the 10-story Ultimate Abyss dry-thrill slide, and more. Since then, other cruise lines have attempted to copy many of these signature concepts.
Royal Caribbean’s next class of ships, the Quantum-class, were more evolutionary than revolutionary. For this class, they appeared to fine-tune and improve aspects of the cruise experience based on their older ships. While these ships saw many firsts like a large indoor sports area called Seaplex, a fully enclosed Solarium, and the NorthStar viewing platform, they weren’t as ground-breaking as the Oasis-class ships were.
Will the Icon of the Seas be an evolution or revolution? We’re on the edge of our seats waiting to find out.
What we know about Icon of the Seas
Very little has been publically confirmed about the ship. So far, Royal Caribbean has stated the following either at events or press releases:
- Icon of the Seas will debut in Fall 2023.
- It will run on liquefied natural gas (LNG), a cleaner-burning fossil fuel.
- The ship will support shore power connection and waste heat recovery to reduce its carbon footprint.
- The keel-laying ceremony, which marks the beginning of construction at the shipyard, occurred on April 5, 2022.
- The Icon of the Seas will be the first of three Icon-class ships that Royal Caribbean will build, with the other two sailing in Fall 2025 and Fall 2026
- The ship will have some sailings from Southampton, UK.
- In an address to TTG Media, Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley stated, “I promise you will bring Icon of the seas into Southampton. The UK will be the first country and market that we will bring this incredible ship into [when it launches] in ’23.”
- This ship will sail the Caribbean.
- At a press event, Bayley stated that the ship would be coming to the Caribbean.
- Itineraries will go on sale 12 to 18 months before the ship’s first cruise. That means we should be getting more details in the next couple of months.
- This ship will hold approximately 5,600 guests, according to SEC filings. That’d be 100 less than their current newest ship, Wonder of the Seas.
Update 5/24/22 – The Mysterious Sphere
Royal Caribbean released some footage of a new, sphere shaped-venue being installed on the Icon of the Seas. Pictures of this structure first started circulating in late 2021, but the construction crews just installed the piece on the ship.
Royal Caribbean isn’t telling us what the venue is just yet, but they have given us some key information we didn’t have before. The sphere is 46 feet tall and 50 feet in diameter. That means it’ll be roughly 4 decks tall and, likely, 1/3 of the ship’s width. It has 578 aluminum panels on the exterior and 9 miles of power and lighting cables. Looking at the structure, it seems like it’ll be off of the Royal Promenade (or Esplanade or whatever they call it on this ship).
What could this space be? Our bet is an immersive theater, like the MGM Sphere in Las Vegas. The aluminum panels on the outside would be the perfect base/heat sync for LED lighting on the outside. All those miles of cable can also be used for equipment, lighting, and projection on the inside to create out-of-this-world shows using immersive video experiences.
See the video below:
Some additional hunches and safe bets
It’s widely speculated that the Icon of the Seas will have a new version of the AquaTheater found on the Oasis-class ships. Royal Caribbean’s VP of Nick Weir has hinted the original plans weren’t supposed to have an AquaTheater, but he pushed to include one. The story goes that the structure at the rear of the ship had been locked in at that point, so the theater had to be adapted and put in a new place. In addition, Royal Caribbean trademarked “AquaDome” in 2011, which could mean they’re looking for an interior, dome-like space for these performances. Having these shows indoors would be immensely helpful as Aquatheater shows are frequently canceled due to weather issues.
It’s almost a given that at least one FlowRider will be on board the Icon of the Seas since nearly every other ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet has one. The same goes for the climbing wall. Both of these are really Royal Caribbean signatures at this point. Typically, an ice skating rink would also be a given, as they’re on most Royal Caribbean ships, but their Quantum-class ships changed it out for the SeaPlex.
One major thing we still don’t know is if this new class of ship will embrace outdoor spaces. One of the few complaints about Royal Caribbean’s latest ships is how interior-focused they are. As a result, it can feel like you’re in a mega-hotel rather than a ship on the ocean.
Carnival and Norwegian’s newest classes of ships both added significant outdoor space on the lower decks, offering extra pools, dining, and walkways at the promenade level. Will Royal Caribbean go that route or stick to its traditional design?
Answers will come in time
Based on the timelines we’ve been given, we should hear much more about Icon of the Seas in the next two months.
If you want to stay up-to-date on Icon of the Seas and other new cruise ships, sign up for our monthly newsletter.
CruiseSpotlight is an Amazon Associate. We may earn a commission when you click links to retailers and purchase goods.