We asked thirteen chefs and food-obsessed executives to debate the most memorable plates on Royal Caribbean's newest ship.
There are dozens of restaurants and bars on Icon of the Seas to try, so how how do you sift through every single one and choose the most essential dishes?
I struggled with trying to sample everything on my short Icon of the Seas preview sailing that the cruise line invited me on in the days before the new ship's maiden voyage.
It occurred to me that it would make sense to go straight to the source and ask some of the chefs, senior staff, and executives for their picks. Some of them had been on Icon for nearly a month, and had gone through preparing the venues for paying customers. As a result, they tried a lot of the food.
I was surprised by the breadth of answers I got. I was initially worried about repetition in answers, but it turned out there are a number of great picks among the list I compiled.
Here's a list of the top dishes and drinks straight from the top of Royal Caribbean.
1. Chilean Sea Bass at Empire Supper Club
Three different people picked the Chilean Sea Bass as their favorite dish, and that caught my attention when I went to eat there.
Empire Supper Club is a brand new concept for Royal Caribbean. The line has never done an intimate dining experience that incorporated entertainment, cuisine, and formality like this, and the finished product is quite impressive.
Among the three entrees you can choose from, the Chilean Sea Bass stands out for how much flavor it has and how tender it is. It's a cliche to say food melts, but this one really does.
Izumi Master Chef Travis Kamiyama, Royal Caribbean International Chief Marketing Officer Kara Wallace, and Royal Caribbean International Senior Director of Fleet Restaurant Operations Dominique Gamba all chose this as their favorite food on Icon of the Seas.
To the best of my knowledge, Royal Caribbean has never served Chilean Sea Bass before at another venue, but it turned out to be a great choice. You can also try the steak or rabbit at Empire Supper Club, but given how highly recommended the Sea Bass is, it's difficult to pass up.
2. Gyros at Aquadome Market
Aquadome Market is another brand new dining concept on Icon of the Seas, and it's Royal Caribbean's first foray into a food hall. And it's complimentary!
I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the Aquadome Market when the cruise line was testing out a bare bones concept at its Innovation Lab in Miami. Even in that form, I was impressed by the food ideas the culinary team came up with.
Paul Fortin, Senior Director of Culinary Operations (and a chef), picked the gyros from the Feta station, as did Thierry Houlbert, Senior Traveling Corporate Pastry Chef.
It's easy to see why the gyros are a great choice. They're freshly made when you order them, it uses fresh ingredients, and it's a satisfying street food dish.
Feta offers pork or chicken gyro meat, as well as falafel. And since it's in the food hall, you can also grab mac and cheese, crepes, and a salad at one of the other stations too.
3. Giant meatball at Giovanni's Italian Kitchen
Royal Caribbean brought back Giovanni's Italian Kitchen to Icon of the Seas, which is the line's preeminent Italian specialty restaurant.
Among the dishes you'll find at Giovanni's, is an aptly named appetizer, the Giant Meatball.
It's doused in Parmesan cheese, surrounded by marinara sauce, stuffed with spinach, and it was the dish that Director, Entertainment & Guest Activities at Royal Caribbean International, Ken Rush picked out immediately.
Like so many dishes at Giovanni's, the meatball is a comfort food and classic dish.
4. Amuse-bouche at Empire Supper Club
Another entry from Empire Supper Club is actually something you won't find listed on the menu.
This new restaurant boasts eight courses, including a very tasty start to the meal.
Royal Caribbean International Assistant Vice President of Guest Experience, Aurora Yera-Rodriguez, chose the amuse-bouche (pronounced ahmooz-boosh).
This is a French term that comes from the combined words amuser (to amuse), and bouche (mouth), and it's a tiny bagel topped with cheese and caviar.
5. Pepperoni pizza at Sorrento's
When I asked Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley his favorite food on Icon of the Seas, I don't think I would have predicted pizza would have been his choice.
Sorrento's is the well-known pizza chain on most of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. Pizza might not be the most impressive food on Icon, but darn if it's not a good eat everytime you have it.
Mr. Bayley (AKA Bada-Bling Bayley) picked the pepperoni pizza specifically, noting it was something he always eats on any cruise.
6. Korean Fried Chicken at Pier 7
Royal Caribbean Vice President Food & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, is responsible for all the dining venues on Icon of the Seas. In fact, he lead all the dining initiatives around the fleet, so he has had his hand in pretty much every aspect of eating on Icon of the Seas.
Mr. D'Souza picked a restaurant from the new family-friendly neighborhood of Surfside.
Pier 7 is the first family-oriented specialty restaurant that is free for kids, and only the adults pay for it.
Mr. D'Souza chose the Korean Fried Chicken as his top dish, and he's become quite the connoisseur of fried chicken during his tenure at Royal Caribbean. You'll find a fried chicken dish at the Mason Jar and Portside BBQ, both of which are new venues that he lead the creation of on other ships.
7. Goat cheese salad at Chops Grille
Chops Grille is on every single Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and its menu is among the most well-known. That might be why Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty picked something from its menu.
His choice was the Goat Cheese salad appetizer, which features a bed of greens topped with a large fried piece of goat cheese.
The crispy goat cheese salad is served with green apples, candied walnuts, cranberries, and balsamic dressing.
It's creamy and delicious, with a tang from the balsamic dressing and sour green apples.
Mr. Liberty also gave an honorable mention to the Penne alla Puttanseca with Salmon from Giovanni's Italian Kitchen as another of his favorite foods on Icon of the Seas.
8. Raviolo at Empire Supper Club
Yet another pick from Empire Supper Club is from Heather Hust Rivera, Royal Caribbean Group Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer.
She chose the Raviolo, which is served towards the beginning of the meal.
Paired with the Staten Island Spritz, the Raviolo is a pasta with a soft egg yolk inside, surrounded by a lovely sauce.
A raviolo is a single, large piece that is served as its own dish, and our team ranked it at the very top of the Empire Supper Club's menu.
9. Tomahawk steak at Chops Grille
On Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean introduced a new sub menu to the Chops Grille menu that offers higher quality cuts of meat to enjoy.
There's waygu beef, Porterhouse, and a Tomahawk steak (among other choices). The extra cost these steaks have serve up the sort of steaks you'd find at a high-end land restaurant.
Sean Treacy is Royal Caribbean International's Senior Vice President, Hotel Operations, and he chose the tomahawk steak specifically.
I tried it out too, and it's a giant cut of meat. It's 32oz and can easily be shared with someone given its size.
What makes a tomahawk steak taste so good is the fat mixes with the elements released from the large bone. The rich flavor is why so many people prefer it.
Speaking of the Iconic cuts, Chef Travis Kamiyama also chose the Waygu Beef from this menu as a favorite of his.
10. Jazzy sass from Lou's Jazz 'n Blues
When I asked Ed Eiswirth for his top recommendation from Icon of the Seas, he went with the cocktail he loves the most.
He went with the Jazzy Sass from the new jazz club, Lou's Jazz 'n Blues.
I've known Mr. Eiswirth for a few years, so I know how much he loves his bourbons and this new cocktail stands out as something unconventional, yet tasty.
His team wanted to come up with drink ideas that went beyond the stereotypical drinks most people associate with a cruise ship. While there's nothing wrong with a pina colada or margarita, they sought to find something else to give passengers an opportunity to discover a new favorite.