Undoubtedly, if someone has been a reference in innovation in the world of cruises, it has been Royal Caribbean. And their vision towards the future is very interesting. Far from settling for spectacular ships like the Oasis class, originally launched in 2009 and which others are trying to imitate today, Royal revealed to us a few months ago the next generation of ships, which begins with a name with a lot of strength: Icon of the Seas.
Actually, I wouldn't define this new class as a great revolution but rather as a step forward in what we've seen on ships like the Wonder of the Seas, redefining some concepts, keeping those that worked and completely changing others in new directions. In addition, we have recently known new details such as dining options, leisure, and entertainment.
A water park on the sea
One of the first things that catches your attention when you see the ship is the number of pools, slides, and outdoor activities it has. In part, it is quite logical considering that this cruise will make itineraries through the Caribbean, and it is quite reminiscent of the private vacation island Perfect Day at Coco Cay where Royal's ships stop to offer a large water park experience. Even so, something I like about the Icon is that it has areas for every experience and for every guest, from the most adventurous to those looking to relax.
We start with Thrill Island. This is the most exciting area and features the largest water park on the sea, with 6 slides including the first open free fall slide at sea; a double slide to challenge your companions; and the water slide with the highest drop at sea, with a 14-meter descent. In addition, a new activity leaves you literally hanging over the sea, 47m high. Other fleet classics such as the wave simulator, climbing wall or mini-golf circuit complete the neighborhood.
If you're looking for something smoother but equally lively, your favorite place will be Chill Island. Here Royal continues to break records with the Royal Bay Pool, the largest pool at sea. We also find a bar inside the pool, the Swim & Tonic; Cloud 17, an exclusive retreat for adults; and several terraces to relax and swim all day long.
Finally, if you are looking for disconnection and total relaxation, you have The Hideaway, at the stern of the ship. This area is inspired by a beach club and consists of a multi-level solarium, hot tubs, an exclusive bar, and its main attraction, which, again, sets a record: the first infinity pool suspended over the sea.
Surfside: the family neighborhood
If you have been on ships like the Wonder of the Seas or any other in the Oasis class, you will know the Boardwalk, that open area aft inspired by maritime piers. Well, the Icon maintains the concept of the structure but changes its focus and what we will find in it, and that is how we come to the new Surfside. This new neighborhood is aimed at families with children of all ages and teenagers. It features a new carousel, a more colorful design, access to children's clubs and dedicated restaurants. That includes a new buffet for families, a bar with cocktails and mocktails, and some spots for quick treats. At the aft end, there is a water park for the little ones and, perhaps you are wondering, does this ship no longer have the spectacular aquatic amphitheater?
AquaDome: the most amazing spot onboard
Well, the AquaTheater has disappeared from the stern, but it has been transformed into a new place called AquaDome, located at the highest point of the bow. This new space merges the concept of a solarium and an aquatic amphitheater under a huge glass dome that seems almost impossible. Although it apparently looks like the dome of the Wonder of the Seas, if you look at the images, it occupies several decks and its dimensions are monstrously large.
Inside, we find the pool and the stands for aquatic shows, and it is worth noting that the location is not the only new thing here. The roof allows for better control of the effects, and the new circular waterfall will be the protagonist, along with new robotic arms and the latest technology in light and sound, adding a new layer to the shows that will be even more exciting.
Around the amphitheater, we find a new area called Overlook. The elevated lounge, known as The Overlook, is a place that takes nightlife to another level. From its enveloping windows, you can enjoy panoramic views of the sea and aquatic shows during the day and night. Additionally, in the Overlook Pods, groups of friends can relax with a drink, play classic board games, and enjoy live music. The spaces are designed to be comfortable and cozy, with seating and tables that allow for easy conversation and a relaxed atmosphere.
Finally, the new Rye & Bean café is the perfect place to enjoy a wide variety of drinks ranging from classic coffee to espresso cocktails. It is a cozy environment that offers sea views from its infinity view during the day and at night, it transforms into a lively bar with a view of the AquaTheater, where customers can enjoy exciting shows while savoring their favorite drink.
In addition to AquaDome, there are other spaces for shows such as the main theater or the new AbsoluteZero ice rink, even more spectacular than the previous ones. Both are located on the lower decks of the ship.
Classics that evolve
There are areas that work so well that it would be a shame to lose them by trying to innovate without a sense. This is the case of neighborhoods like the Royal Promenade or Central Park. However, Royal has not settled for copying and pasting what we already knew, but has given them a twist to make them places that maintain their essence but become even more interesting.
On the one hand, Central Park has more trees and plants than ever, and adds new leisure and dining options. One of them is Lou's Jazz 'n Blues, a new outdoor space with live soul and jazz concerts. Also added is Bubbles, a new bar specializing in champagne where glasses of mimosa and prosecco are served among others, morning, afternoon, and night; and the already known Trellis Bar which is even bigger.
The Royal Promenade still dominates the ship's interior space with multiple decks, but adds glass panels top to bottom on both sides to allow natural light to pass through and provide spectacular panoramic views of the sea. Additionally, the total space is even larger and includes more than 15 bars and restaurants and new immersive experiences like a large sphere called The Pearl, of which we still don't know many details.
What we do know is that the classics are back, like the Latin disco Boleros, Spotlight Karaoke, or Schooner Bar, as well as new activities, among which the piano duel stands out. This is Royal Caribbean's first piano duel bar and offers a battle between two talented pianists who accept song requests to energetically perform the audience's favorite tunes. I have experienced this on other cruise lines and it's a perfect plan for a lively and fun yet peaceful night.
An experience for every occasion
Royal Caribbean is known for offering a wide variety of cabins on its cruises, and this time is no exception. In its current fleet, they offer up to 28 different types of cabins to meet the needs and preferences of each of its passengers.
Among the types of cabins offered on a Royal Caribbean cruise, luxury suites stand out especially. These suites have a wide variety of amenities and benefits, such as access to the Suite Neighborhood, which are three luxury decks exclusively dedicated to suite passengers. On these decks, passengers can enjoy a series of exclusive services, such as a personal butler, private pools and jacuzzis, haute cuisine restaurants, exclusive bars, and private relaxation areas.
An icon on the seas
In short, each of the details that we are learning about the Icon of the Seas reaffirms its willingness to become an icon and a reference. In fact, a few weeks ago, the construction of the second Icon class ship began, which will be incorporated into the growing fleet in a few years.