What We Know About Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas

Last Updated on August 18, 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 August 18, 2022 – Royal Caribbean the first video in a series dedicated to the ship called “Making an Icon.” See details below.
Update June 27, 2022 – Royal Caribbean CEO said we should expect more details on Icon of the Seas at an event in September.

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. 

ultimate abyss thrill slide on boardwalk
Oasis-class ships have a split down the middle to accommodate two outdoor neighborhoods

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. 

North Star pod at Sunset
The North Star Pod is a signature feature on Quantum-class ships. Will it show up on Icon of the Seas?

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 (ie. The Pearl)

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:

Update 8/18/22 – “Making an Icon” video series

Royal Caribbean released the first episode of the “Making an Icon” video series. This series will take us through the planning and construction of the ship. 

So what’d we learn in the first video? It’s incredible how an almost 8-minute video can say so little. Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean is still keeping tight-lipped, and there were no reveals and virtually no new information in the first episode. 

One thing they did mention is the five pillars of design. 

  • Unrivaled water experiences
  • Adrenaline pumping thrills
  • Ultimate family vacation
  • Sensational entertainment
  • Celebration of food and beverage

These pillars give us an idea of where Royal Caribbean is going. First, you’ll notice that “high-end” and “luxury experience” aren’t mentioned anywhere here. That means Royal Caribbean isn’t going the route of Norwegian Cruise Line, who really went for a much more upscale feel on their newest ship, the Prima. 

We also see the first is “unrivaled water experiences,” which can relate to the ocean itself and the onboard facilities. One of the biggest complaints about the Oasis-class ships is that they feel more like floating hotels than cruise ships. It sounds like they’ll be focusing on it. Eagle-eyed sleuths who are dissecting photos from the shipyard have already spotted what seems to be an exterior-promenade area complete with an infinity pool.

The video has a ton of marketing speak and fancy-sounding words. If it were any other cruise line, we’d be quick to write it off as over-hype, but Royal Caribbean completely reinvented the cruise industry when they debuted the Oasis of the Seas in 2009. It’s very possible they’re going to do it again with Icon of the Seas.

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. 

FlowRider on the Navigator of the Seas
Since FlowRider is a signature attraction on all Royal Caribbean ships, it’s likely it’ll be on Icon of the Seas

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

On the President’s cruise in late-June, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley indicated that more information on Icon of the Seas will be released at an event in September. The late date is surprising considering that that ship’s construction is progressing quickly and many pictures are being released from the shipyard.

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Randy Young

Randy Young has been in marketing for 18 years and has been cruising for just as long. He founded Cruise Spotlight in 2020 to merge his passions and to help people better understand all aspects of a cruise vacation.