Icon of the Seas: Oversized, Overhyped, and Overpriced

We love inaugural sailings! This is our third upon Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, which is also the largest cruise ship in the world. It’s great to see the decor before it’s been worn down, and we love to share our findings with our extensive YouTube audience. But at nearly $8,000 for a non-suite balcony room, did we find Icon of the Seas oversized, overhyped, and overpriced? Watch Tim and Felicia’s video overview on YouTube, or keep reading to learn what we found.

Hear Tim and Felicia’s honest thoughts on the largest cruise ship in the world, Icon of the Seas

We were pleased there were no delays and Icon of the Seas’ inaugural sailing happened as planned on January 27, 2024. Unlike our last inaugural sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, there were no delays caused by staffing issues during the pandemic of 2020. Unfortunately, there were some entertainment hiccups during the inaugural. Royal Caribbean’s entertainment honcho was aboard and witnessed the malfunction personally. We happened to be on the promenade when he snuck off the ship on day 5 at St. Thomas. We’ll cover the Ws and Ls shortly.


New to Royal Caribbean ships but tested and proven on RCI’s sister company Celebrity Cruises, Icon of the Seas introduced the Infinite Balcony Stateroom as an option for Royal Caribbean passengers. Far from infinite but with considerably more square footage than a typical balcony stateroom, the Infinite Balcony Stateroom offers the balcony area inside the room, under air conditioning. This provides a relatively spacious sitting area great for enjoying ocean views, getting some work done, or enjoying a room service meal. With windows from floor to ceiling, a switch on the wall allows the top window to lower, similar to a power window in an automobile. It’s important to know the air conditioning switches off automatically as soon as the window is lowered any distance. On a cool day, this provides a wonderful ocean breeze. On hot days, this may not be useful since rooms can take some time to cool down.

Felicia takes a tour of her Infinite Balcony Stateroom on Icon of the Seas

Our room, 11182, was on deck 11 forward. The room was usually very quiet absent rough seas, which caused a terrible creaking noise in the walls and ceiling that prevented Felicia from having a restful night sleep. There was very little engine noise or vibration on this LNG (liquid natural gas) powered ship, and the stabilizers did a wonderful job calming the movement from the 15-foot seas we sailed through on Day 5.


With over 20 dining options including traditional complimentary dining options like an ornate three-story main dining room and the Windjammer buffet, there are food options for every taste preference.

We attended the main dining room only once. It’s the typical gaudy, New York-inspired decor with tables that are a little too close to neighbors you really didn’t want to share your dinner with. The table next to us was an obnoxious blogger who couldn’t help sharing his overtly negative opinions on everything. The dining room was sparsely occupied on the night we attended, but when you ask to move, staff and guests get terribly confused, so you just don’t. Felicia’s chicken parmesan seemed rubbery and uninviting. Tim’s beef lasagna was seasoned perfectly and very tasty. We left before dessert and never returned. We were surprised there was a main dining room at all, considering many new cruise ships now offer alternative dining options.

The Official Icon of the Seas Salty Ship Tour!

Greeted by Mr. Washy Washy, a spunky Filipino who really shouldn’t ever sing anything at all, the Windjammer Marketplace was as reliable and inviting as always. A wide variety of just about anything served hot and rotated appropriately, the seating is ample with much better spacing than the main dining room. There is a gluten-free station in the rear of the Windjammer that saw very little action. It also housed a stir fry station which is one of Tim’s favorite dining options. Hours are limited, with breakfast lasting from a late 7 AM to 11 AM, lunch from 11:30 until 3, and dinner from 5:30 until a very early 9 PM, extremely unfortunate for those who caught a late show in the theater.

Other complimentary options include Sorrento’s Pizza, a great choice for those who aren’t gluten or lactose intolerant, open from 11:30 AM until 2 AM. The pizza selections are limited, and we were disappointed to find there were no light bites or sandwich options as there are on Oasis-class ships. Those have moved to the Pearl Café. Originally hailing from the Philadelphia area with a lot of time spent in New York City, I can tell you MSC Cruise’s pizza offerings have more selection, better crust, and better taste. Pizza is the one food MSC does better than any other cruise line.

Sorrento's Pizza
Sorrentos was pizza-only on Icon of the Seas.

The Pearl Café is a new venue that offers tapas including small sandwiches and boxed salads, some of which is located at Sorrentos on other ships. Located on the second level of the promenade on deck 6 and sitting directly behind Icon of the Seas’ Death Star – oops, I meant PEARL, the café is open 24 hours. You can grab a bagged sandwich, salad, or dessert treat anytime of the day or night. There’s also a Starbucks coffee station at the Pearl for an additional fee, or Royal’s now improved complimentary coffee and decaf along with water, ice, and juices around the back of the cafe. The Pearl Café offers stunning two-story views of the ocean during the day and has 110V and USB ports under some of the extensive seating in the area. It was one of our favorite places to hang out on sea days.

the pearl Café
Visit the Pearl Café for 24-hour tapas, desserts, and complimentary (or paid) coffee

El Loco Fresh on deck 15, open from 3 PM until 8 PM, comes over from Oasis-class ships, offering limited Mexican favorites including burritos, carnitas, quesadillas and more. The flour tortilla wrapping the beef burrito I sampled was so tough I literally had to saw it open. I ditched it and scooped up some grilled chicken, loaded it with hot sauce from their vast selection, added some salsa, and enjoyed a wonderful late Mexican lunch. There’s a bar adjacent to Loco Fresh serving your favorite tequilas and Mexican beers, most included in the drink package.

Base Camp on deck 16 is a newb to Royal Caribbean. Offering complimentary light bites including soft pretzel bites and hot dogs, some items are free, while others aren’t. It looked like pretzels were free, unless you wanted cheese dip, which was $2 extra. We were a little confused with pricing at this venue, so we skipped away and giggled like small schoolchildren.

Park Café in Central Park on deck 8 also comes over from the Oasis-class. Opening at 7 AM, this is one of our favorite places to grab a quick bagel or breakfast sandwich. They offer a nice selection of salads and sandwiches during most of the day, winding down at 8:30 PM. Try the roast beef sandy. It’s rather epic.

We avoided eating at most boogie-eater areas in the Surfside area on deck 7 aft, but there’s the Surfside Eatery that’s great for little appetites. We saw chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza, and – gulp, BROCCOLI, favorites for picky little eaters.

Complimenting the new Aquadome sphere-shaped thing on deck 15 forward on Icon of the Seas we’ll talk about in a minute, there’s an odd grouping of high school-like takeaway food stations in an area called Aquadome Market. The five complimentary offerings include crêpes, a ridiculous selection of macaroni and cheese, some Mediterranean offerings, interesting sandwiches, and sadly underwhelming Chinese food. I was extremely disappointed that crêpes weren’t available until 10:30 AM, way past my tolerance zone for breakfast. Seating can be very limited with some overflowing into the Aquadome area. It was intolerably hot in this area during our sailing discouraging our return. Let us know if this improves.

If you’re in a suite, you’ll get complimentary access to Coastal Kitchen, a private dining area for snobs.

There are tons of paid dining options we didn’t sample during our $8,000 cruise including:

  • Chops Steakhouse
  • Izumi Hibachi and Sushi
  • Celebration Table
  • Empire Supper Club
  • Hooked Seafood
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen
  • Chef’s Table
  • Pier 7

There are also somewhere between 15 to 20 bars onboard (depending on what you define as a “bar”) with various themes for those who want to get their drink on. The only bar open before 10 AM was in the Windjammer, for those who need that information. Some of the more prominent locations include:

  • Playmakers Sports Bar on 6 aft, offering a full bar, pool tables, and paid bar food (think wings and things)
  • Schooner Bar, where most Pinnacle Peggies and Pinnacle Petes hang out to nap – I mean for trivia, on Deck 6
  • Bolero’s, a strange, orphaned, lonely concept on the upper promenade across from Schooner that really should be a Mexican restaurant
  • Dueling Pianos, on the second level of the promenade, rarely open but spillover crowded when live music is there
  • Lou’s Jazz and Blues in Central Park on deck 8 replaces Vintages Wine Bar on Oasis featuring, well, jazz and blues
  • Rye & Bean is a coffee and infused drink bar behind the Aquadome on deck 15, great for espresso martinis I guess
  • 1400 Lobby Bar on the promenade across from the Pearl, offering very cool designer drinks
  • Bubbles offers champagney drinks in Central Park, right next to Park Cafe
  • The Trellis bar in Central Park seems to have people who never, ever leave their bar seats
  • The Lemon Post bar in kiddieland, so you can drink yourself into oblivion while wondering why you wanted children in the first place
  • The Overlook replaces the Solarium and Viking Lounge bars, located behind the Aquadome and offers a beautifully non-humid chill place to hang and drink 
  • The Windjammer Marketplace bar, the only bar we found that was open before 10 AM
  • Swim and Tonic, a swim-up bar with a pool that was wayyyy too cold on our January sailing
  • 4 Lime and Coconut bars around the pool deck area, great for freezy-freeze drinks
  • And there’s a full bar with limited hours in the Karaoke room too.

Lots of people ask to see the official iconic Cruise Compass for the hours and locations of the restaurants and bars. Yes, they’re still being printed and delivered to staterooms. Here’s a copy of ours from the inaugural sailing. Note that hours or details may change down the road.

Icon of the Seas Cruise Compass
Icon of the Seas Cruise Compass

Our favorite bar was the Point and Feather, a rehash of Oasis’ English pub called Cask & Clipper, or whatever two random Englishy names the Food and Beverage director comes up with (and no one remembers) when naming cruise ship pubs. Plenty of seating, service was quick, pours were generous, and Death Star people watching from the promenade can’t be beat.


Entertainment is where so many cruise ships thrive in the spotlight, or die in dark corners. Given the hoopla surrounding the launch of the largest cruise ship in the universe, any reasonable person might think the entertainment would be mind blowing. We’re talking Hamilton on the main theater stage. A pirate or mermaid show in the all new Aquadome. A washed up 80s band like Air Supply or ZZ Top in the music venue. And something like Disney versus Tanya Harding on ice. So many missed opportunities. Apparently, Royal Caribbean no longer needs to justify charging twice as much as MSC Cruises citing entertainment as a reason, because Royal loyals seem to be a little too easy to please.

Icon of the Seas jewel of entertainment beyond any doubt is the Wizard of Oz theater show. It sadly crashed and burned roughly ten minutes into its first paid cruise performance due to some undisclosed technical malfunction. The Cruise Director offered a sorry reference to Broadway shows just sending you home in this situation, and a replacement show was offered on a later day. We saw the second performance which was flawless. The cast, crew, effects, and technical aspects were all perfect in this rendition and we enjoyed the show tremendously. Royal won’t let you book a show twice on its app or at the show desk, but you can wait on standby.

Sadly, again, Royal Caribbean ship designers have not figured out how Disney, MSC, NCL, and even CARNIVAL use steel girders to omit most poles in their similarly sized theaters. Icon’s Royal Theater has several seats with terribly obscured views. We were terribly disappointed this fix wasn’t instituted in Icon class ships.

The Wizard of Oz theater show was spectacular

The ice show in Icon’s ice theater, Absolute Zero, was adequate as all Royal ice shows tend to be. Starburst: Elemental Beauty was well executed by talented skaters supported by excellent technicians. The story is a little lacking, but most ice shows are difficult to follow. The one thing that could stand improvement was the announcer. In real life, Tim Cruise is a former cruise director and talent agent, and remarked “the announcer seemed slightly dull and listless and left a lot of excitement on the table.” Those were some seriously big words, and especially for Tim. The other issue with the Absolute Zero ice theater is its main entrance is located through a swag store and then through the Playmakers Sports Bar, which resulted in long lines and distracting crowds through both of those venues before and after ice showtimes.

Starburst: Elemental Beauty

On to the Aquadome, a rehash of the Oasis-class Aqua Theater. To be honest, we weren’t a fan of the aqua shows, and this isn’t much different. We were happy that the Aquadome is at least indoors. We heard somewhere there was a pirate show in the making, but no one could give us an ETA on its completion. For now, they’re basically duplicating what we saw on Wonder of the Seas in a confusing show of aquatic fountains, lights, and some dancing called Aqua Action. I would have called it Fountains and Flashlights.

It goes something like this. Play with lots of lights, shoot some water spouts, shoot more lights, bring some people out, run a little, jump, dive, sit and bounce on slack lines, dance around, and repeat everything five or six times. The kids sitting to my right were yawning and bounced early into the show. Royal loyal Peggy Pinnacle thought it was the best thing she’s seen since last Thursday’s convalescent home show featuring that bad Roy Orbison impersonator for the third time that week. Personally, we’re really hoping the pirate thing comes to life quickly. Otherwise, I’d drain the pool and bring dueling pianos up here for a much larger audience.

Aquadome Fun With Flashlights and Fountains

The acapella group MO5AIC (yes, that’s a 5 where the S goes) did a few shows in the main theater. Two of its performers were exceptionally talented, but sadly the other three fail to fit neatly into the group’s harmony. While most their covers of pop and jazz hits were impressive considering there are no real instruments, some rock classics were given an R and B-ish shakedown that sometimes resulted in a very loud and unpleasant cacophony. Sadly, there’s a reason many groups resort to playing on cruise ships when their five minutes is over.

There was a rock group called Phoenix from Las Vegas who played the new Music Hall venue. Several people were disappointed this group didn’t play shows until sometimes midnight, way past the typical Classic Rocker’s bedtime in 2024.

There were jugglers, comedians, puppeteers, and the usual cast of cruise entertainers as well. There is a lot to see and do on Icon, and it’s difficult to catch everything. Here’s entertainment information from our sailing’s Cruise Compass. Obviously, performers, dates, and times will be different on subsequent sailings.


There are countless things to do on cruises. And Icon of the Seas is no different. But how much bingo, trivia, or casino games can you play before you’re bored or broke? It’s no secret Tim hates sea days. Here’s a sample Cruise Compass from a typical Icon sea day.


It’s expensive, but attainable if you get a group rate from your local cruise-centric travel agent ten or more months out.

It’s big, but not all that much bigger than any Oasis class ship.

The food, entertainment, activities, and rooms are all pretty similar to any modern cruise ship.

Is it beautiful? As beautiful as a ginormous 7,500 person hotel on a floating barge can be, I guess.

Would the world end if you waited until the second Icon-class ship is released and the prices hopefully drop a bit? Probably not. For us, we’re going back to MSC and Norwegian for a while as the dust settles. We’ll be on Utopia of the Seas this July since it’s sailing from our home port. We hope Utopia offers some well needed Oasis-class updates, especially in the theater. We’ll report back here.

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