A vessel that’s set to be the world’s biggest cruise ship has completed construction at a shipyard in Finland and has made its first foray into open water for sea trials ahead of likely delivery in October this year.
Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas is a mammoth 365 meters long (nearly 1,200 feet) and will weigh a projected 250,800 tonnes.
When it sets sail on Caribbean waters in January 2024, it will comfortably hold some 5,610 passengers and 2,350 crew. The boat’s piece de resistance will be the world’s largest waterpark at sea. Named Category 6, it’ll feature six record-breaking water slides, but guests who want a more leisurely experience can also relax in the boat’s seven pools and nine whirlpools.
It’s being built at Meyer Turku shipyard, one of Europe’s leading shipbuilders, in Turku, Finland. At an on-site press panel earlier this year, Royal Caribbean International president and chief executive Michael Bayley told media that the vessel was on track to join the Royal Caribbean fleet on October 26, ahead of its 2024 debut.
The current title holder of the world’s largest cruise ship is another vessel in the Royal Caribbean fleet, Wonder of the Seas, which made its inaugural voyage just last year and is a slightly teensier 1,188 feet in length, with a mere 18 decks to explore.
Royal Caribbean International is pitching Icon of the Seas as the cruise line’s evolutionary peak, using the latest technology and building on 50 years of learnings through the company’s history.
“We are positioning it as the ultimate family vacation and when you step back and look at all the energy and time that has gone into creating this ship it is mind-blowing,” Bayley said.
The Icon completed its first set of sea trials on June 22, according to a Royal Caribbean statement.
“During her first set of sea trials, Icon of the Seas travelled hundreds of miles, during which the main engines, hull, brake systems, steering, noise, and vibration levels were all tested,” the statement said. “Everything was done on time as outlined in the schedule, despite her departure being delayed due to wind conditions.”
‘The perfect home base’
The ship promises more than 40 ways to dine, drink and be entertained, many of which are included in the cruise fare. With 20 decks and eight neighbourhoods to explore, the idea is to cater to every type of vacationer, with everything from areas dedicated to young families to adults-only spaces such as Royal Caribbean International’s first duelling pianos bar.
There are 28 different types of accommodations, with more categories for families, more layouts with ocean views and more space for group travellers. The cruise line says it’s the longest timeframe it’s ever dedicated to “designing the perfect home base.”
Icon of the Seas is also Royal Caribbean International’s first ship powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and fuel cell technology, as part of the company’s move to a clean-energy future.
2,600 workers per day
Some 2,600 workers have been grafting on the Icon of the Seas each day. For the sea trials, hundreds of specialists were on board to assess performance over four days.
Royal Caribbean says a second set of sea trials is scheduled for later in 2023.
Buzz about the ship is such that advance sales have been record-breaking. Michael Bayley is reported to have described Icon of the Seas during the company’s quarterly financial results as “literally the best-performing new product launch we’ve ever had.”
Icon of the Seas will sail seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean vacations from Miami all year round. Every sailing will include a visit to Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s award-winning private island destination, as well as its new expansion, Hideaway Beach.