From the waterpark, swimming pool and glass roof at sea, to the world’s first open free-fall waterslide onboard a cruise ship, Royal Caribbean International’s first Icon-class vessel is packed with innovations. Icon of the Seas, which will debut in January 2024, will also boast a five-level pool deck, a promenade with over 15 restaurants, 28 suites for families with up to eight people, and a total of eight neighbourhoods for passengers to explore while onboard.
“One of the main design pillars on Icon of the Seas is the unrivalled water views and experiences,” says Sascha Lang, vice president of architectural and design, and newbuild and innovations at Royal Caribbean International. “We wanted to bring our guests back to what surrounds them – the ocean – so with every interaction they have on the ship, there will always be a connection back to the water.”
This is epitomised in the AquaDome, which will sit at the top and front of the ship, with wraparound ocean views and a waterfall as its centrepiece. This neighbourhood will feature a glass roof with seating areas around the edge so guests can sit, eat and look out onto the ocean, and a space for Royal Caribbean’s shows to place at its centre.
“The original concept was ideated and drawn on a napkin by our chairman Richard Fain and it has developed into the standout feature onboard Icon,” says Lang. “We wanted to create a transformational entertainment venue and neighbourhood that gives guests a unique experience throughout the day and night. It’s an evolution of the AquaTheater that was first introduced as part of our Oasis-class ships.”
The AquaDome is the largest single structure of glass and steel ever to be lifted onto a cruise ship. Traditionally, the AquaTheater sits at the back of Oasis-class ships on a lower deck, but Royal Caribbean wanted to make Icon of the Seas different. “Placing it at the front of the ship added further complexity due to impacts on weight and stability,” says Lang. “Fortunately, we have an experienced team with specialised suppliers who could innovate and collaborate successfully to bring our vision to life, a revolutionary feat.”
Icon of the Seas’ neighbourhoods are each designed with specific ‘vacation vibes’ and families in mind, offering everything from waterpark thrills to beachside lounging and live entertainment.
“The variety of options will allow families to maximise their holiday and make memories to share for years to come,” says Lang. “We aim to deliver the perfect holiday for every member of the family, whatever that may look like to them, while wowing guests of all ages with entertainment, hospitality and thrills never seen before at sea or on land.”
Thrill Island – a new Royal Caribbean neighbourhood that has been created especially for Icon of the Seas – will be home to the largest waterpark at sea with six record-breaking slides including the tallest waterslide at sea, Frightening Bolt, and Pressure Drop, the first open free-fall waterslide onboard a cruise ship. The ‘thrill’ neighbourhood will also feature a first-of-its-kind high ropes course called Crown’s Edge that will take guests 154 feet above sea level along the side of the ship.
A new neighbourhood has been designed specifically for families too. “Surfside will be the ultimate stay-all-day family destination with Baby Bay and Splashaway Bay aquapark,” says Lang. “And parents will be able to supervise their children while enjoying views of the open ocean from the Water’s Edge pool.”
This neighbourhood complements the 28 new room categories that have been designed for families of three, four, five, six and more.
“One of our new offerings is the Family Infinite Balcony where a family of up to six can be together but also find that precious ‘me time’,” says Lang. “Tucked away at the other end of the room, children can escape to their own bunk alcove, which will have TVs, beds and a hang-out space. The bathroom will also feature a split design, helping make it a little bit easier for families to get ready for whatever adventures they have in store.”
Families will also be able to book The Surfside Family Suite and Ultimate Family Townhouse, which is a three-storey cabin for up to eight people with a slide, movie room, karaoke, table tennis and private patio with its own entrance to the Surfside neighbourhood. All suites, staterooms and inside public areas have been designed to provide a relaxing atmosphere for guests of all ages through a combination of colour choices and lighting, including custom chandeliers for public areas and table lamps and wall lights for cabins, supplied by Chelsom.
In contrast, Chill Island is designed as a five-level pool deck for guests to relax. This area will feature Royal Bay Pool, the largest pool at sea; The Cove Pool, an outward-facing, infinity-edge pool; Swim & Tonic, a swim-up bar; and Cloud 17, an adults-only retreat with a secluded pool and whirlpool overlooking the whole space.
Other neighbourhoods will include the popular Royal Promenade, which will feature floor-to-ceiling windows and over 15 restaurants, cafes, bars and lounges; The Hideaway that will have a dedicated bar and resident DJ; and The Central Park for guests to dine at.
“Guests will notice that the transition between neighbourhoods is more seamless than ever, giving them a sense of space and wonder,” says Lang, noting that the vessel has been more than five years in the making and is the result of collaboration between designers, industrial engineers, architects and various artistic teams.
“When we set out to create the ship, we simply wanted to make the world’s greatest holiday,” says Lang. “Icon of the Seas represents the ultimate family vacation with its combination of revolutionary experiences and the evolution of signature Royal Caribbean concepts alongside a mix of familiar favourites that are synonymous with our brand.”
This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.