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Icon of the Seas, biggest cruise ship ever built, arrives in Florida for first sailings

by Staff

The biggest cruise ship ever built is finally in position for its first sailings with paying passengers.

Royal Caribbean’s massive, 20-deck-high Icon of the Seas arrived in Miami on Wednesday after undergoing regulatory inspections in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The long-awaited vessel, which is aimed at the family cruise market in a way we haven’t seen before, will be based year-round at the port of Miami for seven-night sailings to the Caribbean. Fares for the voyages start at $1,707 per person, not including taxes and fees — an inordinately high price for a mass-market cruise ship that speaks to the strong demand for the vessel.

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Icon of the Seas’ first sailing with paying passengers — a seven-night voyage to the Eastern Caribbean — is scheduled for Jan. 27. But TPG will get an early glimpse at the ship Thursday at an event in Miami (stay tuned for our first photos from inside the vessel).

A multiperson team from TPG will also be reporting live from a three-night Icon of the Seas preview sailing for media and travel agents scheduled for Jan. 20.

Biggest cruise ship ever built

At 250,800 tons, Icon of the Seas is the first in a new series of ships at Royal Caribbean that will be bigger than anything seen before.

The giant vessel is, notably, more than 6% bigger than the current size leader among cruise ships, Royal Caribbean’s 1-year-old Wonder of the Seas. It’s able to hold up to 7,600 passengers — a new record for a passenger ship.

Add in 2,350 crew members, and Icon of the Seas could sail at times with nearly 10,000 people on board — also a new record.

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Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas pulls into Miami for the first time. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Icon of the Seas was built over nearly three years at the sprawling Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland — one of the only shipyards in the world big enough to construct a vessel of Icon of the Seas’ size.

Related: Peek inside Icon of the Seas under construction

Weekly sailings to the Caribbean

While the first sailing of Icon of the Seas with paying passengers is an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, the vessel will operate voyages to the Western Caribbean, too.

The ship will rotate among four different itineraries across the Eastern and Western Caribbean that visit such destinations as St. Thomas; St. Maarten (the Dutch side of the island of St. Martin); Roatan, Honduras; and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.

Every sailing of Icon of the Seas also will include a stop at Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Cruising fans are particularly excited about the arrival of Icon of the Seas as it will mark the first time in 15 years that a cruise line has launched a new class of ship that will eclipse all others in size and amenities. The last time that happened was in 2009 when Royal Caribbean unveiled its much-ballyhooed Oasis Class of vessels.

Related: Royal Caribbean just took delivery of a ship that can hold 10,000 people

The Oasis Class included the previous size leader in the cruise world, Wonder of the Seas.

Icon of the Seas size and features

Icon of the Seas boasts 18 passenger decks — two more than Wonder of the Seas. There also are two crew-only decks at the bottom of the ship, giving it a total of 20 decks.

Icon of the Seas also is longer than Wonder of the Seas, by a tad. It measures 1,198 feet long — 10 feet longer than Wonder of the Seas.

Still, the ship’s biggest difference may be in the number of passengers it holds. Its maximum capacity of 7,600 is about 7% higher than Wonder of the Seas’ maximum capacity of 7,084 passengers.

The bigger passenger capacity is in part due to the ship’s greater focus on family travelers. Icon of the Seas was built with a lot more cabins that have plenty of extra bunks to accommodate families with many children. It also has more amenities geared to families, including a new-for-the-line outdoor “neighborhood” called Surfside, dedicated to families with young children.

Related: TPG’s ultimate guide to Icon of the Seas

Surfside, notably, features splash areas for babies and kids, pools and lounge spaces for parents, family-friendly eateries and shops, and a bar with “mommy and me” matching mocktails for kids and cocktails for grownups.

Icon of the Seas also features the largest water park ever built on a cruise ship, with a record six decktop waterslides. In addition, it’ll have a record seven pools, including what Royal Caribbean is billing as the first suspended infinity pool at sea.

In all, the ship offers eight neighborhoods, as Royal Caribbean calls the distinct areas of its bigger ships themed around specific activities. Five of the neighborhoods are new to Icon: the Surfside area mentioned above; Thrill Island, which is home to the ship’s waterslides; Chill Island, which encompasses the ship’s pools complex; the AquaDome, a massive, glass-enclosed area at the top of the ship housing its AquaTheater; and The Hideaway, a pool retreat with a beach vibe.

Three neighborhoods — the plant-lined Central Park, the indoor Royal Promenade and the Suite Neighborhood — are returning from the line’s last series of giant ships, the five-vessel Oasis Class.

The eight areas feature more than 40 restaurants, bars and lounges, including entertainment across four stages. There are 2,805 cabins on the ship spread across 28 types of accommodations.

Icon of the Seas is just the first of three sister ships Royal Caribbean has on order for delivery by 2026 that will make up its new Icon Class. The line also has one more Oasis Class ship, Utopia of the Seas, on order for delivery later this year.

The arrival of the Icon Class is one of the biggest stories in the cruise world in more than a decade — on a scale with the debut of the Oasis Class in 2009.

Royal Caribbean’s first Oasis Class ship, Oasis of the Seas, began sailing in 2009. The line added additional Oasis Class vessels in 2010, 2016, 2018 and 2021, with each of the vessels being a little bigger than the last.

Ranging from 226,838 to 235,600 tons, the five Oasis Class ships are, in turn, more than 10% bigger than any other cruise vessels afloat.

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