Royal Caribbean has set a new standard with Icon of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, boasting a plethora of innovations, enhancements, and tweaks. Sailing on this magnificent vessel reveals a host of standout features that contribute to an unparalleled cruising experience.
Notable Highlights and Innovations
1. Unprecedented Feeling of Spaciousness
From the moment one steps onboard Icon of the Seas, it's evident that the ship is designed to provide an uncrowded and spacious atmosphere. Despite not being at maximum capacity during the inaugural sailing, the ship has consistently felt remarkably uncrowded. This is especially notable in traditionally busy areas like the pool deck and Royal Promenade. The strategic layout, coupled with a myriad of entertainment options, ensures a comfortable and enjoyable experience for passengers.
2. Exceptional Complimentary Restaurants
Royal Caribbean has successfully integrated fantastic complimentary dining options into the cruise fare. In addition to the traditional Main Dining Room, Sorrento's Pizza, and Windjammer, new venues like Aquadome Market and Surfside neighborhood offer diverse and delectable culinary experiences. These venues provide a delightful alternative to specialty restaurants, showcasing the cruise line's commitment to culinary excellence.
3. Expansive Open Spaces
The Royal Promenade, stretching seamlessly across the ship, breaks away from the typical cruise ship design, resembling a shopping mall. The removal of Promenade-facing cabins contributes to the open and spacious feel of this neighborhood. Chill Island, serving as the de-facto pool deck, further enhances the open space concept, offering ample seating in both shaded and sunny areas.
4. Empire Supper Club - A Culinary Gem
Empire Supper Club, the ship's most expensive specialty restaurant, stands out as a culinary gem. Addressing the drawbacks of similar venues, this intimate dining experience ensures individual tables, cocktail pairings instead of wine, and superb entertainment. While a splurge at $200 per person, the exceptional food, and unique experience make it a worthwhile celebration during the cruise.
5. Abundance of Power Outlets
Icon of the Seas addresses a common traveler concern with an abundance of electrical and USB outlets. The ship boasts more outlets than any other Royal Caribbean cruise ship, ensuring passengers can easily keep their devices charged throughout their journey. This thoughtful addition is particularly beneficial for families, eliminating the need to compete for charging spots.
6. Destination Elevators Enhance Efficiency
A seemingly small but impactful innovation, the destination elevators significantly reduce wait times. Passengers indicate their desired floor on a panel, and the system directs them to a designated elevator. This novel approach efficiently moves passengers without the need for traditional buttons inside the elevator. The result is a noticeably faster and smoother elevator experience.
7. Surfside Restaurants - An Overlooked Culinary Delight
Surfside, often perceived as primarily for kids, surprises with its culinary offerings. The complimentary Surfside Eatery and Surfside Bites offer diverse and appealing menu options, making them a must-try regardless of age. Additionally, Pier 7, a new specialty restaurant in the area, provides a varied menu for both parents and children, adding a layer of culinary sophistication.
8. The Wizard of Oz Show - Unparalleled Entertainment
Icon of the Seas presents The Wizard of Oz show as a standout entertainment feature. With top-notch production values, including impressive sets, costumes, and special effects, the show rivals performances found in major cities. Despite limitations on inaugural cruise show availability, The Wizard of Oz exemplifies Royal Caribbean's commitment to exceptional onboard entertainment.
Room for Improvement
While Icon of the Seas impresses on multiple fronts, a few aspects warrant consideration for improvement.
1. Staggered Royal Promenade Entertainment
The attempt to infuse more energy into the Royal Promenade by opening up venues may have resulted in less time to enjoy the varied musical acts. The timing and scheduling of performances may need refinement to ensure optimal passenger experience during prime hours.
2. Cramped Suite Lounge
The shared space of the Suite Lounge and Coastal Kitchen, while functional, feels cramped and limited in seating. Considering the significance of these areas for suite guests, an expansion or reconfiguration could enhance the overall comfort and experience.
3. Baskets Instead of Drawers
Aesthetic preferences come into play with the use of baskets instead of drawers in many standard cabins. While functional, baskets make contents visible, potentially leading to privacy concerns. A reevaluation of storage options may address this concern and enhance cabin aesthetics.
In conclusion, Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas sets a new standard for cruise ship experiences with its innovations, spacious design, exceptional dining options, and top-tier entertainment. While a few areas may benefit from refinement, the overall impression is one of marvel and delight, making it a remarkable addition to the cruising world.