“Are you going on the new ship,” the Uber driver asked as we headed to Miami port. After seven years in the making, Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, not just the world’s biggest ship but the one that has got everyone talking. Even Uber drivers. It has finally set sail with its first passengers.

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas’ vital statistics are impressive – 250,800 gross tonnage, 20 decks, 2350 crew, up to 7600 passengers. And, its longer than three football pitches. If you stood it on end it would eclipse the Sydney Tower.

Royal Caribbean has been building the world’s biggest ships for many years. Wonder of the Seas, launched in 2022, held the title until Icon knocked it off the top spot. But this is the first major redesign and the result is amazing.

The Royal Promenade, a horizontal ‘street’ that cuts through the centre of both ships, has bars and cafés on two levels. It makes it look and feel much bigger. Elsewhere, despite being packed with things to see and do – seven pools, six waterslides and more than 40 places to eat, drink and lounge. Everywhere on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas feels very spacious. That said, when the ship is full, queues in the self-service, for the waterslides and to get on and off are inevitable.

The Pearl on the Royal Promenade
The Pearl on the Royal Promenade.

Who needs a gym?

By the end of day one, I had walked from one end of the ship to the other several times. I had climbed several flights of stairs and still not seen everything. There is a gym with treadmills, bikes, step machines, weights and more. But frankly, with all that exercise walking around, who needs it!

I was particularly keen to see some of the cabins. Mine has a panoramic window that opens half way from the top down. It has a view of Central Park, which has live trees, which in itself is fine. The problem is that I can see into the cabins on the other side of the park. And this means they can see into mine. I prefer more privacy and also find the music from the bars in Central Park intrusive (it was still playing after midnight).

The good news is that there are a crazy number of other cabin categories to choose from. Everything from the traditional view over the ocean with or without a balcony to rooms overlooking Surfside, cabins with no windows at all and seriously swanky suites.

You can’t get lost on Royal Caribbeans Icon of the Seas

Despite its size, I’ve found it doesn’t take long to find your way around Icon. If in Central Park, you’re around the middle of the ship, with Surfside aquaparks one end and cabins the other. If you’re looking up at a tangle of waterslides, you’re in Thrill Island and if you come across a curtain of water. Welcome to the AquaDome at the front of the ship.

One of several new features on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, the dome is a place to chill by day and thrill by night. Daring divers plunge head first into a tiny pool of water that in an instant can be transformed into a stage. Other firsts on board include a swim-up bar and duelling pianos. While those with a head for heights can harness up and Zipline around the side of the ship, 154ft above the ocean.

Looking up at the tangle of waterslides
Looking up at the tangle of waterslides.

A family vacation

Royal Caribbean makes great play of the fact that Icon of the Seas is the ultimate family vacation. It certainly caters for all ages, with Surfside for the mums and dads with young kids and Thrill Island spot on for older children and teens after an adrenalin hit and plenty of pools (and a spa) where parents can relax. Cabins have also been designed with families in mind, with plenty of rooms for three, four or even eight people.

But you don’t need children to enjoy this ship. A week in one of the two–storey Loft Suites coupled with time to relax by the pools and evenings out at the upscale Empire Supper Club, Chops Grille and Hooked Seafood restaurants is a perfect holiday for young couples looking for a treat.

My cabin with a view across Central Park
My cabin with a view across Central Park.

The bottom line

Icon of the Seas is packed with more restaurants and activities than most hotels. So why get off on the port days? In case you want to, it is sailing from Miami to St Maarten, Cozumel, St Thomas, St Kitts and Honduras in the Caribbean. It will also call into Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas.

A cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is priced from AU$3036 per person for seven nights.

For more details about Icon, vacationers can visit Royal Caribbean’s website.