Article By JASON LEPPERT for Travel Age West
Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) next new ship — Icon of the Seas — was announced half a decade ago, and yet, very few concrete details are known about the vessel, coming in fall 2023. The line continues to tease the ship with construction updates and videos, from which we can glean some information — and more is expected soon.
“Five years ago, we began dreaming of Icon of the Seas, and now the next phase of this iconic adventure is beginning,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of RCI, in a press release. “As this game-changing ship takes shape, the excitement from travelers, travel advisors and our partners continues to build. Later this year, we’ll reveal the lineup of firsts and favorites that will set a new standard for vacations come fall 2023.”
Size and Sister Ships
Ship construction began in June 2021, and its keel was first laid in April 2022 at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. The vessel is part of the Icon Class, which will consist of at least three sister ships, each of which will reportedly measure in at 200,000 gross tons, and carry around 5,600 guests. This makes the vessels larger than Royal Caribbean’s existing Quantum Class, but smaller than its biggest Oasis Class.
The second and third vessels are expected to launch behind the first Icon, in 2025 and 2026, respectively.
An Environmentally Friendly Ship
The Icon Class of ships will also be the fleet’s most environmentally friendly. They will be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is considered the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Icon of the Seas will sport two fuel tanks, touted by the line as the largest in the cruise industry.
“We made our commitment to making clean power at sea a reality — and soon the norm — when Icon Class was first announced in 2016, and we’re excited to see construction underway on what will truly be a ship unlike any other,” Bayley said. “Our decades of work in ocean conservation, energy efficiency and continuous improvement will be evident all throughout Icon.”
In an effort to eventually make Royal Caribbean emissions-free, Icon will also employ cold ironing, or the ability to use shore power without running the engines. As a result of such combined green features, the line anticipates virtually no sulfur dioxides or particulates, plus a sizable reduction in nitrogen oxides.
Developing the New Ship
In the first episode in a series of behind-the-scenes videos from the line — called “Making an Icon: Envisioning an Iconic Vacation” — Yael Steinhart, the line’s director of product innovation, lists five pillars that have been the foundation of Icon’s development, together promising a mix of guest-favorite features and never-before-seen offerings.
Unrivaled water experiences, adrenaline-pumping thrills, the ultimate family vacation, sensational entertainment and the celebration of food and beverage will work in concert, drawing from the best of all kinds of travel experiences, including city getaways, beach retreats, all-inclusive resorts and amusement parks.
“Simply put, Icon will be the best family vacation in the world,” said Jay Schneider, chief product innovation officer for RCI, in the video.
Guest surveys are further driving the crafting of Icon, helping the line to understand exactly which features clients want to be repeated, and to get a sense of the new things they hope to see, as well.
“Everything — every ship, every experience — starts with the guest,” said Tim Klauda, vice president of product development at RCI.
What Is the Sphere on Icon of the Seas?
One such innovation that has been photographed but not yet detailed is a massive orb structure that will be perched on the ship. The mysterious 175-metric-ton sphere is 46 feet tall, 50 feet in diameter and appears to encircle terraced steps, which could support theater seating. If that’s the case, it may end up being some sort of projection dome servicing a massive onboard planetarium (similar to that on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 or Viking’s Viking Orion or an IMAX-style venue (such as on Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista), or a unique hybrid of the two.
“A big part of the innovation for Icon has been walking the ship through the guests’ lens,” said Jennifer Goswami, senior manager of product development for RCI. “We want guests to walk up to the ship and just have this moment of ‘I can’t believe that’s where I’m going.’”