News of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas imminent launch in January has set the internet on fire. Cruisers are hotly debating whether a ship this size should ever have been built.

Main points of the debate. She’s too huge to cruise. And too big to port. Or, if you are an Icon supporter, she is saving the equivalent of five medium-sized cruise ships. That’s the number that might be needed to carry her extraordinary payload of almost 10,000 passengers and crew.

The public are calling her a giant wedding cake or fun fair on the seas. One site couldn’t resist the headline: What happens if Icon of the Seas hits an Iceberg?

She is five times as big as the Titanic, the unsinkable vessel famed for hitting an iceberg in 1912.

She will certainly be the largest cruise vessel in the world. And she will sail down the launch ramp in January, carrying 7,600 passengers at maximum capacity and 2,350 crew. But for how long?

Icon of the Seas
Icon of the Seas pool deck

She has 20 decks, over 40 bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys.

She is a marine marvel.

And Icon of the Seas is so big that to assist passenger maintenance, she is divided into eight different “neighbourhoods”.  She has the world’s largest pool at sea. In fact, she has a pool for every day of the week.

Of course, the rides are spectacular and scary. She has the tallest drop-slide on the waves. Frightening Bolt” is 14mt tall and will carry riders for 86m.

There are 28 different categories of cabin and suite, including the “Ultimate Family Townhouse”. This comprises a three-story retreat that will sleep up to eight people.

Icon of the Seas
Icon of the Seas family townhouse

But amid all the hype, the world is divided. At a time when the industry is working hard to meet new environmental targets by 2050, is Icon the vessel we need right now?

Cruise Passenger readers are also split. Don Chisholm posted on our Facebook page: “Monstrosity of the seas!”

Traci Mcfarlane, on the other hand, had a different idea. “Get packin for next year girls. Let’s find you a couple of Icons.”

There is a famous picture of the Titanic in front of Wonder of the Seas, then the world’s largest ship.

But she weighed in with a mere 6,988 passengers. And that was just last year!

Purists rage that the ship looks “like a Barbie dreamhouse on steroids”, as the London Daily Telegraph put it.

But there is a market for what is ultimately and biggest floating fun fair on the seas. Royal Caribbean reports brisk bookings from excited families.

The line’s president, Michael Bayley, is unapologetic.

“We are positioning it as the ultimate family vacation. When you step back and look at all the energy and time that has gone into creating this ship it is mind-blowing,” he says.

Given the ship’s monstrous size, it’s safe to say no luxury has been overlooked. Icon of the Seas claims to offer passengers more than 40 ways to dine, drink and be entertained.

The Royal Bay Pool in the ship’s so-called “Chill Island” is the largest pool at sea.

The three-level Dining Room on Icon of the Seas features Royal Caribbean’s signature recipes of rotating flavours from around the world.

Special occasions get the VIP treatment at Celebration Table, the new 12-seat private experience.

There is an award-winning youth program for kids of 6 months to 12 years old, Adventure Ocean. And that’s the big draw card.

As more and more multigenerational families set sail, cruise ships really do offer the best value for large groups. This is where vessels like Icon of the Seas come into their own.

Icon of the Seas

Her family rooms – where up to eight siblings can stay and play together while mum and dad entertain on a vast private balcony – are terrific.

Her activities will mean youngsters can disappear into supervised clubs while adults do their own thing.

And all come together at the end of the day over dinner at a merry-go-round of different dining venues.

Only some ports will be up for consideration for this vessel.  And she will spend a lot of time at sea or docking at Royal Caribbean’s private islands.

So effectively, she is a floating resort with the bonus that she’ll take you to some exotic destinations.

And with cruise ships offering strong value. Especially against the high price of air travel and hotels, she will almost certainly be a success.

So big may be beautiful after all!

New ways to dine out

Icon of the Seas
Icon of the Seas atrium

Across the newly revealed venues, there are 40-plus ways to dine, drink, and be entertained. Grownups are in for all-new experiences and favorites from end to end and even day to night.

Serving up brand firsts are venues all about the tunes, like Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues in Central Park and Dueling Pianos in Royal Promenade, and spots to grab a drink and mingle before a show like the Rye & Bean coffee bar in AquaDome and the Bubbles champagne bar in Central Park.

When it comes to favorites, from Trellis Bar and its first menu of bites to more ways to play in Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, every place has a sense of new – whether it’s a new look and location or signature cocktails exclusive to Icon.

“We’ve set out to introduce a new kind of vacation in every sense and taken a blank slate to create an unparalleled blend of ways vacationers can celebrate and make memories whatever their mood, vibe, and style,” says Linken D’Souza, vice president, food and beverage, Royal Caribbean International.

“From all-new venues and bolder favourites to new iconic drinks on every menu, zero-proof cocktails and twists to classics, there’s something for everyone to make the most of their nights out on Icon of the Seas.

Icon Hot Spots

  • Dueling Pianos – In Royal Caribbean’s first dueling pianos bar, it’s the battle of the baby grands. At the hands of two talented pianists, they take song requests to bring high-energy performances of crowd-favorite hits to the Royal Promenade.
  • Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues – The new spot fills the open-air Central Park with live performances of soulful classics and jazz-pop tunes. And the space invites music lovers to take it all in from indoors or as they stroll by the thousands of real plants during Jazz in the Park.
  • Rye & Bean – Matching the transformational experiences in the AquaDome, this new coffee shop offers everything from classic cups of joe to espresso cocktails. It’s a cozy morning hangout with endless ocean views by day and a buzzing bar with views of deck-defying entertainment in the AquaTheater by night.
  • The Overlook and Overlook Pods – The elevated lounge and first-of-their-kind nooks at sea take nights out and hangouts to another level. The wraparound windows in the AquaDome bring the ocean center stage during the day. And at night, the cruise line’s marquee aqua shows are just a few steps away. The next-level pods are where friends can lounge with a drink, play classic boardgames and kick back to live music, too.
  • Returning favorites include The Attic, inspired by Manhattan’s dark and intimate comedy clubs with adults-only live shows, and Music Hall, to rock out to the house tribute band.

Hot Spots for an Unforgettable Ambiance

  • 1400 Lobby Bar – The new meetup spot – inspired by the history of shipbuilding – is where vacationers can start to make memories as soon as they board, with a mix of daytime and evening sips developed with renowned mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim, who’s worked with James Beard Award-winning chefs, Bellagio and more. The venue’s also the first to open the vibrant Royal Promenade to the outdoors with an ocean-facing terrace.
  • Bubbles – It’s three cheers at the new walkup champagne window in Central Park, where glasses of mimosas, prosecco, Bellini and even bottles of bubbly are on tap morning, noon and night.
  • Returning favorites include a larger Trellis Bar in Central Park, with a new look and a debut menu of bites; Boleros, the lively club that brings the heat with Latin flavor; and the signature Schooner Bar, where pianists set the tone for pre-dinner drinks and nightcaps.                                                                  

Hot Spots for More Ways to Play

  • Point & Feather – The neighborhood English pub on Royal Promenade has a new open layout, games – and tournaments – of darts and sips joining the signature lineup of pints and the live guitarist at the center of it all.
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade – The returning favorite, serving up gameday bar fare and ice-cold beers, is where vacationers can catch their home teams on dozens of screens and play arcade and tabletop games.
  • Spotlight Karaoke – Aspiring singers take the stage in front of the crowd or in a private room with their friends and family at this fan-favorite karaoke spot on Royal Promenade.