Cruise Ships

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

Last Updated on October 17, 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.
Update September 22, 2022 – We got new information about cabins and the AquaTheater from Royal Caribbean’s teaser video
Update October 17, 2022 Final teaser trailers shows a new kids splash areas at the rear of the ship where the AquaTheater used to be

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.

Update 9/22/22 – “Making an Icon” video series Part 2

We got some brand-new details from the newest video from Royal Caribbean.

Icon of the Seas will be longer than Wonder of the Seas

icon of the seas length
The video states the Icon of the Seas is currently 1,197 feet long

It’s been hotly debated as to whether Icon of the Seas will be the largest ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. Early rumors stated it would be smaller than Oasis-class ships, but conflicting reports have leaked. However, in the video, Royal Caribbean at least confirmed it will be their longest ship ever. It’ll be at least 1,197 ft. That’s 10 feet longer than Wonder of the Seas. We still don’t know the passenger count or total gross tonnage, but overall, while it may be bigger, the size isn’t going to be significantly different with this ship. 

Icons of the Seas will have Infinite Verandas 

Looking at the video, we can see Royal Caribbean is taking inspiration from its sister cruise line, Celebrity, by adding Infinite Verandas. Celebrity debuted this cabin type when they introduced the Celebrity Edge in 2018. 

celebrity edge infinite veranda
Infinite Veranda on Celebrity Edge

Rather than a traditional balcony, these cabins have large floor-to-ceiling windows. With the push of a button, the top panel can slide down, giving a quasi-balcony experience. The benefit of these rooms is it provides more space in the cabin itself.

That being said, the design is polarizing. Some cruisers say they lack the feel of a traditional balcony. If you’re someone who enjoys laying in the sun on your balcony, it just won’t be the same on this ship.

infinite veranda on icon of the seas
With Celebrity’s Infinite Veranda design on Icon of the Seas (it’ll likely have a different name due to trademarks)

This video shows footage of the team in a mockup of an infinite veranda cabin. The addition of these types of cabins has been widely speculated based on the photos taken at the Meyer Turku shipyard, and this confirms it. 

infinite balcony sliding down
The top window panel slides down to reveal a balcony-like experience

You can see footage of the top panel dropping down to turn it into a “balcony.” Looking at the video, it seems like the infinite verandas will be on the balconies facing the inside (on Oasis-class ships, these are Central Park and Boardwalk Balconies). Of course, the feature won’t likely be called “Infinite Veranda” as that is trademarked by Celebrity. 

inside of icon of the seas
In looks like the interior facing cabins will have infinite verandas instead of traditional balconies.

Not all balconies will be infinite-style, though. Icon of the Seas will also have traditional balconies, as seen later in the video.

traditional balcony of icon of the seas
Traditional-style balcony on Icon of the Seas (although it looks to be a suite sized balcony)

Cabin design

We get a glimpse of several cabin types during the design phase. While this is obviously early in the design process, it gives us an idea of what they’re going for. 

cabin design on icon of the seas
The closets have been moved to the bathroom wall rather than straddling the bed/couch

In this cabin, we can see one of the designs. It looks like, for this cabin, they’re moving away from having two separate closets on either side of the couch/bed. It’s a shame, as it’s one of the best features on the Quantum and Oasis-class ships; two people can each be in a closet at once. Here, the closets are right next to each other, built into the bathroom wall. Perhaps this is to help reduce some of the loud sounds coming from people flushing the toilets. You’ll also notice the almost steam-punk looking light fixtures on either side of the bed.

alternate cabin design
This unique design looks to have the bed facing a window or balcony

We also get a glimpse of this unique cabin setup. It’s hard to tell what kind of cabin this could be. It seems too small to be a suite. The bed facing the room’s far wall probably means that side is a window or balcony. Could it be the interior facing the infinite veranda?

Central Park-like area

central park render of icon of the seas
The 3-D models here shows what will likely serve the same function as Central Park

In the video, we see the designers using 3-D technology to walk virtually through the ship. In this scene, they’re in an area that looks very much like Central Park on the Oasis-class ships. You’ll see the familiar glass dome that lets natural light down from the area to the promenade. However, the space looks a bit more modern and contemporary than the more classic design of the Oasis-class Central Park neighborhoods. Will it have the same name?

Infinity pools

infinity pool construction on icon of the seas
The white, circular area at the bottom seems to be half of a rear infinity pool

One of the biggest complaints about Oasis-class ships is they lack connection with the ocean. Here, we get some hints on how the Icon of the Seas might remedy that. Looking closely at the aft of the ship, we see what seems to be the makings of a large infinity pool. This is the area that the Aqua Theater typically occupies on Oasis-class ships. Aft-facing infinity pools are quite common on the newer ships from other cruise lines like the Norwegian Prima and Carnival Mardi Gras, so it’s nice to see Royal Caribbean following suit. 

The Pearl

the pearl in warehouse
The Pearl is huge, spanning 4 or 5 decks

One of the first big teases from Royal Caribbean was the large sphere-shaped object that was installed mid-ship. During a press event, Royal Caribbean CEO let it slip that it’s called “The Pearl,” but we’re still not 100% certain what it will be. However, in the close-ups of it, we see that it lights up and has articulating panels installed on it. It also looks huge. 

articulating pieces on pearl on icon of the seas
The pieces of the white metal are mounted on articulating arms. We can’t tell if this will be used on the inside or outside of The Pearl

New AquaTheater / Solarium confirmation 

Another widely speculated theory is that the ship will have a new area at the front that combines the AquaTheater and Solarium. While there’s been nothing official, Royal Caribbean has trademarked the name “AquaDome,” and it does seem to fit that description. 

the dome construction on icon of the seas
The new dome that will be on the Icon of the Seas is a super-sized version of the Solarium found on Wonder of the Seas

In the video, we saw the colossal dome superstructure being built, and we know it will be placed on the front of the ship. We also see stadium-like seating featured in the area, so the AquaTheather/Solarium theory is pretty much confirmed. It makes sense, on Oasis-class ships, AquaTheater shows are frequently cancelled due to inclimate weather conditions. Having an enclosed space could help reduce that risk.

stadium seating on icon of the seas
You can see the start of built-in stadium seating at the top front of the ship

Several times during the video, we saw close-ups of falling water colored with LED lights. This fixture is likely going to be part of the experience. Unlike the AquaTheater on Oasis-class ships, the AquaDome will be completely enclosed, so these fixtures can be suspended from the ceiling and used in parts of the shows. 

suspended water effects
Fixtures like these will likely be installed in the AquaDome for performances

The AquaDome seems to be very similar to The Dome, which Princess cruises just announced last week. It’s a shame Royal Caribbean delayed the release of information about Icon of the Seas, and Princess got to show it off first. 

Update 10/17/22 – Kids splash area in rear of ship

Today, Royal Caribbean announced they’ll be giving the full details of Icon of Seas on October 20. From this video, we were able to grab this glimpse of the new area at the aft of the ship. On Oasis-class ships, this area is where the Aqua Theater is. For Icon of the Seas, the AquaTheater has been moved to the Solarium area, freeing up this space for something else.

It was thought that this area would become a relaxing infinity pool offering relaxing views of the ship’s wake. The video shows that this will actually be a huge kids splash area. It’s nearly the entire width of the ship, so it’s bigger than any other kid’s area at sea.

icon of the seas splash area
The kids splash area is where the AquaTheather is on Oasis-class ships

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 on October 20th!

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Randy Young

Randy Young is the founder and editor-in-chief at Cruise Spotlight. He has been in marketing for 19 years and has been cruising for just as long. Over the years, he's worked with products like TVs, copiers, light bulbs, and EV chargers, but cruising has always been his passion. There's nothing Randy likes more than the first couple of hours on a ship, exploring every nook and cranny and seeing how it's different from everything else out there. He's known for providing detailed and analytical coverage of cruising to help cruisers get a comprehensive picture of a ship's offerings.