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Royal Caribbean is building the best cruise ship for young families on Icon of the Seas with a new purpose-built area

31 Jan 2023
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean wants to be the preeminent cruise line for families with young children.

Splashaway Bay and Water's Edge

Its next new cruise ship will come in at 250,800 gross tons, with the capacity to carry nearly 10,000 passengers and crew members.

When Icon of the Seas launches in early 2024, she'll be the first cruise ship in the fleet to have an area dedicated to young families.

Surfside is the name of the open air area on the back of Icon of the Seas, which is a brand new neighborhood concept.

Royal Caribbean envisions this area being a focal center for multi-generational families to enjoy time together, including kids, parents and grandparents.

Aiming for the family vacation market

Surfside neighborhood with Water's Edge pool

The cruise line has gone on record already by stating it intends to make Icon of the Seas the very best choice for a family vacation, and not just a cruise vacation either.

"Icon will be the best family vacation in the world," is what Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider said about the plans for this ship.

Surfside bars and restaurants

Royal Caribbean intends to follow up on that bold statement by creating a purpose-built neighborhood for families.

Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO, said that young families are already a major group that sails with the cruise line, "younger families make up quite a large significant proportion of Royal Caribbean guests, and we see that number increasing over time."

"So this is a space that's very much dedicated towards a younger family."

Surfside has something for everyone, not just kids

Surfside family

The concept is not to build the largest kiddie area on a cruise ship, but a place where kids and their parents will want to go and spend time together.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty pointed to consumer research that indicated family time was more than just something exclusively for kids to enjoy, "In going through the research, we knew that families wanted to stay together through the course of the day."

Surfside neighborhood with Water's Edge pool

"In order to be able to do that, we needed to make sure that there were experiences within that neighborhood to bring that to life. And also tailored to the different generations."

To that point, Royal Caribbean designed Surfside to not be a compromise while on vacation. Kids and adults could enjoy time in the space together.

Inside Surfside

A look down the Surfside neighborhood

The new area must have a connection to the water, a variety in food and beverage, and plenty to do.

Royal Caribbean came up with a vibrant design that is reminiscent of a "surfer town that evokes fun and imagination." At the same time, it has to offer a relaxing experience where you can hang out and just be close to the water.

There's pools for adults, pools for kids, restaurants and bars for kids and adults. The idea is there's enough to keep you entertained throughout the day.

Icon of the Seas aft render

To start with, there are three water experiences to choose from, with the idea that families can hang out together:

  • Splashaway Bay: Kids water slides and water features
  • Baby Bay: Water splash area for very young children
  • Water's Edge: The pool pressed up against the glass on the very back of the ship 

Royal Caribbean also wanted to bring a few popular features from the Oasis Class ships, and one of those is the carousel from the Boardwalk neighborhood.

The carousel on Icon of the Seas will be beach-themed and feature 8 new characters.

Playscape on Icon of the Seas

There's also an arcade with over 30 different games to choose from, along with the Playscape area that was first introduced on Wonder of the Seas.

Close to it all

Surfside family

Surfside was also designed to ensure that all the kid activities were close by.

Surfside has 3 entrances, including a slide from Central Park.

Adventure Ocean and the teen club are also located right near Surfside. The idea is everything is connected, so you don't have to leave the space to get to another kid-centric area.

Eating and drinking around Surfside

Pier 7

Another goal of Surfside was to make it easy for everyone to find something to eat and drink while in the neighborhood. This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch.

Royal Caribbean says they've re-imagined the family dining experience and placed those experiences within Surfside.

Surfside Eatery

Next to Splashaway Bay and next to a deep water pool, you have Surfside Bites that's a quick grab and go.

Then there's Surfside Eatery, which is Royal Caribbean's first buffet just families.  You'll find all the family favorites from the Windjammer, but located within Surfside so you don't have to leave the neighborhood.

There's also a new specialty restaurant, Pier 7, which is described as a casual Boardwalk eatery.

Lemon Post Bar

The Lemon Post bar is also a new concept that is the first bar to feature an adult menu and a kids menu. This will serve traditional tropical cocktails, as well as mocktails.

Cabins within Surfside


Royal Caribbean has also come up with new stateroom options in the neighborhood that can cater to families of 3, 4, 5, and 6 people.

Read moreGuide to Icon of the Seas cabins and suites

The idea behind these new cabins is to offer spaces for parents and their kids to have to enjoy. This means staying together, but having space for kids and space for parents.

Surfside family suite

The Surfside Suite is one such cabin, which is a brand new kind of cruise ship stateroom. It has kids nook, where it can be closed off so parents can have privacy while still being able to see what the kids are doing in there.

The Family Infinite Balcony has a kids alcove with beds, TVs, and room to hang out. It also has a split bath so that families can have more flexibility.  The infinite balcony can actually double as a movie theater with its own projector.

Ultimate Family Townhouse

Then there's the Ultimate Family Townhouse, which is 3-stories and can hold up to 8 guests.

It has its own cinema, karaoke, patio, white picket fence, table tennis, and mailbox.

It has slides to move you from decks, as well as direct access to Surfside (no hallway walk required).

Ultimate Family Townhouse

How much does it cost? According to Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley, the average cost of the Ultimate Family Townhouse in 2024 is $75,000 per week.

See more about Surfside

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Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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