Whether you’re an experienced cruiser or a first-timer, you’ve probably heard of Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Icon of the Seas. Dubbed “The World’s Largest Cruise Ship” and aimed at delivering “the world's best family vacation,” this revolutionary liner is garnering plenty of attention for its truly iconic offerings.
In advance of its highly anticipated inaugural cruise, we were able to explore the ship during its pre-inaugural preview sailings, and we’re sharing everything you need to know (along with plenty of insider photos!) to help you plan.
Picture this: Twenty stories, more than 50 dining experiences, seven pools, over 2,800 staterooms and a capacity of 5,610 guests (plus staff!). Add to this an expansive two-level shopping promenade and a reimagined Central Park (complete with 30,000 living plants and trees), and you'll very quickly forget you’re on a boat once you board the Icon of the Seas. The ship itself is 1,198 feet long and 250,800 GT (gross tonnage; or the internal volume), making it over five times as large as the Titanic (which was 46,328 GT).
In fact, Icon of the Seas is so big that it’s broken up into eight different "neighborhoods." It has just started sailing and will depart from Port Miami in Miami with seven-day cruises through the Eastern Caribbean or the Western Caribbean. Regardless of which trip you take, you’ll stop at Royal Caribbean’s award-winning private island, “Perfect Day at CocoCay.”
What’s so special about the Icon of the Seas?
It turns out that bigger really is better. Not only is it the biggest cruise ship in the world, but it’s also home to many “biggests” and “firsts” at sea. It has the largest water park at sea (including the first family raft slide), the first (and only) suspended infinity pool at sea and the biggest swim-up bar at sea — plus, there are six thrilling water slides and a 50-foot-tall waterfall. It even has the first dog at sea — a golden retriever named Rover who lives on board to bring joy to guests and the crew.
And while family fun is front and center on Icon of the Seas, it is thoughtfully designed to cater to every type of traveler. There’s something for every age group and trip preference, and it does a great job of separating these offerings into distinct neighborhoods (e.g., adult-only travelers and families with young kids can have little to no interaction with one another if they choose). From a variety of new room choices to seemingly endless dining and entertainment options, the offerings of the Icon of the Seas have raised the bar for cruise vacations.
A significant aspect in which Icon stands out from other cruise ships is in its having a whopping 28 different room types. Many staterooms are similar to those on other large ships and sleep from two to four people, but there are a variety of more spacious rooms available to make your stay more comfortable, especially if you’re traveling as a family.
Rooms are outfitted with tons of USB-A ports and electrical outlets in all the right places (and some even with USB-C ports by the vanity). Our team was impressed with the amount of storage in every room, including drawers and multiple closets (complete with a good number of hangers) and nooks to stash your things. Royal Caribbean has even made sure the space under the beds is perfectly sized for tucking away carry-on luggage. Rooms come in two categories, Staterooms and Suites, and below are the most common types for each class:
Staterooms are the more affordable way to experience the ship. They come in various sizes and each is outfitted with a mini beverage fridge, but no other food or beverage amenities. All come with basic bathroom amenities, meaning standard bar soap and a shower with a single wall-mounted dispenser with hair and body wash but no conditioner lotion. “I’m not a regular cruiser, so I was very surprised to discover there wasn’t any conditioner in the room — and I regretted not bringing my own,” said one guest. (Of course, there’s an easy solution: If you stay in a stateroom, consider yourself warned and bring some!) Here’s what else you should know before choosing your stateroom.
It’s the smallest class and has no windows, but it’s also the cheapest way to experience the ship’s grandeur. This type of room is not recommended for anyone who is prone to feeling claustrophobic.
You get a window, but not fresh air from a balcony.
These rooms have an outdoor balcony that faces an interior neighborhood (such as Central Park or Surfside).
Ocean View Balcony
As the name implies, this room’s exterior balcony gives you views of the ocean while the ship is sailing.
Ocean View Infinite Balcony
Unlike a regular balcony room with a separate outdoor space, this type of room has a large window that opens wide enough to feel like a balcony. When the window is open, you feel exactly as if you’re on a balcony, but you gain valuable interior living space when the window is closed.
Family Ocean View Infinite Balcony
Giving families more space to spread out, these have a bed and a pullout sofa in the main area, along with a separate nook with bunk beds. They are designed for groups of four to six people. The main living and sleeping area feels very comfortable and spacious (like a regular hotel room), but the kids’ nook is smaller in person than it appears in photos. One standout plus: the split bathroom, one part with a toilet and a sink, the other with a sink and a shower. It’s a huge bonus and almost feels like two full bathrooms instead of one divided into two. The kids’ nook can also come in handy as a changing room for everyone, thanks to its curtain “door.”
For more space, added in-room amenities in Icon’s suites such as a Lavazza espresso coffee machine and soft drinks, luxury bathroom amenities from Malin+Goetz (including conditioner and lotion), plush bathrobes and access to other exclusive offerings deliver a more elevated ship experience. These rooms are available in three classes:
Rooms in this category include Junior Suites, which give you a bit more space than regular staterooms and can sleep up to four on a pullout sofa. You get access to the suite-exclusive Coastal Kitchen restaurant (for dinner only).
You get everything in Sea Class as well as concierge service, full access to the suite-exclusive neighborhood and priority boarding and departure. A variety of suites are available that sleep up to four or five, many of which are newly available on Icon. The most common suite in this class is the Surfside Family Suite, which we got to experience with two adults and two children during our preview. Although the shared pullout sofa bed was on the smaller side, it was great to have the separate space for kids and all the perks that came with the suite class.
This top tier includes everything in Sky Class along with premium seats for entertainment, complimentary dining packages and more. You even get a “genie” – i.e., a personal concierge. Only nine suites in this class are available, including seven Icon Lofts, one Royal Loft and one Ultimate Family Townhouse, a three-level paradise that even has an in-suite slide, gaming area, movie room, patio and more. It can cost over $80,000 for a week — and it is already sold out for all of 2024.
Neighborhoods and activities
The Icon is so big that it’s broken up into eight distinct neighborhoods:
Located at the back of the ship, this is the home of all of the action and adventure on board. Its Category 6 waterpark has six large water slides, including ones with big drops, zero-gravity suspensions and even the first family raft slide at sea. There’s also the Crown’s Edge, a daring adventure course that leaves you dangling 154 feet above the ocean. (Just note that there's an added fee for Crown’s Edge.)
Other highlights include the Adrenaline Peak rock climbing wall, the Flowrider surf simulator, the Lost Dunes mini golf course and a sports court.
This is where you can find four of the seven pools, which are spread out over three separate decks. It is home to Swim & Tonic, the biggest swim-up bar at sea (and the first for Royal Caribbean) as well as Royal Bay Pool, the largest pool at sea.
Designed as a family-friendly area (especially for younger kids), this neighborhood is intended to be used as a spot where families can spend their entire day. There’s a carousel (with whimsical motifs instead of horses), a dry climbing area, a splash park (including smaller water slides) and an arcade.
There’s also a lounge area for grown-ups to hang out near their kids. The kids’ club and kid-friendly dining options are also located in this area.
This is a breathtaking indoor space at the front of the ship. During the day it’s meant to be a “tranquil oasis” with ocean views and a picturesque waterfall. At night, it’s a buzzing hot spot with restaurants, bars and entertainment in the AquaTheater.
An adults-only area at the back of the ship, it has the first suspended infinity pool at sea, offering stunning views of the water and beach club vibes.
Located in the middle of the ship, this is the indoor entry point when passengers embark, and it serves as a central hub. You’ll find many of the restaurants in this area as well as shops, guest services, a shore excursions desk and more. There’s a Royal Promenade on many Royal Caribbean ships, but it’s elevated on the Icon thanks to The Pearl, a massive orb structure that’s just as functional in the ship’s architecture as it is a piece of art.
An open-air area in the middle of the ship, this neighborhood features trees and living plant walls that make you feel as if you’re in an actual park while at sea. There are Central Parks on other Royal Caribbean ships too, and like the others, this one has several restaurants and bars.
For guests staying in the Sky and Star Class suites, this area is toward the front of the ship (near the AquaDome) and offers amenities like a private pool, a sun deck, a lounge, a restaurant and more.
As on other Royal Caribbean ships, there’s also an ice-skating rink (which converts into a laser tag arena), a spa, a fitness center and more activities available, including an escape room.
The Icon has over 20 places to eat and boasts more than 50 dining experiences, some of which are included in the main charge and others of which cost extra. There’s a three-floor main dining room and a buffet (the Windjammer) available at no charge.
Other complimentary options include the Aquadome Market (the first ever food hall on a Royal Caribbean ship), Sorrento’s (a pizza place), El Loco Fresh (Mexican fare), Park Café (a deli), Surfside Eatery (a kid-friendly buffet) and more. “We loved the grab-and-go and serve-yourself options at El Loco Fresh,” said one guest. “I could eat those quesadillas all day long.” In the main buffet, the Indian counter was also exceptionally delicious.
Then there are specialty restaurants you have to pay for such as Chops Grille (a steakhouse with out-of-this world crab cakes), Giovanni’s (Italian), Izumi (hibachi and sushi) and Hooked (seafood). For fancier options, there’s the Empire Supper Club (with an extravagant eight-course menu with a ritzy New York theme) and Celebration Table (a VIP experience for 12 people).
There are plenty of other places to grab snacks (including ice cream!) throughout the day as well as quick-service spots (Izumi in the Park has out-of-this-world bubble waffle creations) and even a Starbucks on board the ship. For a great place to start your morning, the Pearl Cafe is a comfortable and centrally located cafe on Deck 6. Head over to the Vitality Spa on Deck 14 for juices and smoothies.
Entertainment and nightlife
Royal Caribbean stands out from other cruise lines for its shows, and the Icon takes it to another level. It has The Wizard of Oz as a Broadway-style show and Aqua Action, which features water-based stunts in its signature AquaTheater. There’s also an ice skating show called Starburst: Elemental Beauty and live music (including rock, blues and a DJ), dueling pianos, karaoke and comedy shows. All shows are included as part of the cruise.
Beyond the shows, there are a casino (called Casino Royale) and plenty of bars, from sports bars to more swanky venues.
The Icon of the Seas is sailing from and to Miami and currently offers two itineraries:
7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise to Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas
7-night Western Caribbean cruise to Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico; Cozumel, Mexico and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas
Both itineraries include stops at Royal Caribbean’s private island, CocoCay (which previously won a Good Housekeeping Family Travel Award). It offers water parks, beaches, pools and more – and the best part is that it's all just steps from the ship. For the other stops, you can book shore excursions directly through Royal Caribbean.
A 7-day sailing on the Icon of the Seas typically costs around $2,000 per person.
However, you can often find promotions from Royal Caribbean, and we even discovered some options in 2025 that let you book for around $1,000 per person. The pricing varies based on room type, dates and availability, but Icon is considered more of a luxury cruise than a budget option. That said, the price covers much of the food, amenities and experiences throughout your week-long vacation.
Bottom line: Is sailing on Icon of the Seas worth it?
Yes. While it's certainly not for everyone because of its size and price, we were impressed by the innovation this cruise delivers. The highlights compared with other cruises were the family-friendly room layouts, the next-level activities and the design of the neighborhoods.
For instance, on other Royal Caribbean ships you'll find the carousel for kids located next to the sports bar and in the same neighborhood as the AquaTheater, which gets congested around showtimes. With this new layout, there’s less overlap and it’s easier to navigate the experiences.
Meet Your Icon of the Seas Guides
Lexie Sachs is the executive director of strategy and operations at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she oversees travel content ranging from the best luggage to Good Housekeeping’s Family Travel Awards. Lexie has been on eight cruise ships from a range of cruise lines (including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival) and has sailed through Alaska, the U.S. East coast, the Caribbean, Bermuda, South America and Europe. She attended a preview sailing on the Icon of the Seas with her husband and two daughters.
Laurie Jennings is the Good Housekeeping Institute’s general manager and lead consumer tester across categories like travel, home, automotive and more. This was Laurie’s first overnight cruise experience. Her multigenerational group included her mother, a seasoned cruiser (who raved, “Everything about this ship is perfect! It will blow you away,”) as well as her daughter, 9, and her nephew, 11. During her sailing, Laurie visited all 28 room classes as well as every neighborhood and restaurant available for viewing.
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