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Mastering your Icon of the Seas cruise with the best tips

30 Jan 2024
Matt Hochberg

I've spent over a week on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas and it's an impressive cruise ship, but there are some important things you'll want to do to maximize it all.

Top tips to maximize your time on Icon of the Seas

Royal Caribbean calls Icon of the Seas a "white paper ship", because it was designed from scratch to incorporate the line's best ideas. Suffice to say, I've heard so many great things from other passengers on how impressed they are. Destination elevators, an expansive pool deck neighborhood, more for the kids than ever, and new entertainment venues are just some of the early wins.

I got to thinking how could someone going on Icon truly get the most out of their vacation.  I thought about the ways anyone could save time, money, and their sanity, by embracing a few easy tips to have a better cruise.

Icon is a giant ship, but don't let its size overwhelm you. There's easy ways to make it all work.

Get to know the neighborhoods


Understanding the layout of Icon of the Seas is probably the first thing you should figure out.

Icon borrows the neighborhood concept from the Oasis Class cruise ships, but it's far from a copy-and-paste job. The layout is notably different, and you may find yourself early on trying to figure out which area has which venue.

Hooked is in the AquaDome, the Music Hall is below the Royal Promenade, and Surfside can be accessed from a few decks.

Thrill Island

Neighborhoods have served two purposes.  First, it provides easy navigation aids.  Second, it helps spread passengers out.

Read more: Is the world's largest cruise ship crowded? Not as much as you might fear

At the risk of making a shameless plug, we put together a walkthrough video tour that you can watch to easily get a sense of where everything is before the cruise begins.  While deck maps are also available, I think they are not as intuitive to understanding layout and flow.

The Pearl

Once you get on Icon of the Seas, be sure to walk around a lot on the first day so you can get your bearings.

One thing you'll notice is how inviting each neighborhood is, and how you might be drawn in immediately to one area and realize you haven't made it to a different neighborhood yet. Royal Caribbean wanted the ship to offer something for everyone, and I found I would wander into one area and hang out there longer than I anticipated.

You may find yourself drawn into an a lounge, pool, or activity and spend more time there than you anticipated because it's just that endearing. 

You can use the Royal Caribbean app for much more on Icon


Royal Caribbean has introduced new app features first just for Icon of the Seas, so be sure to take advantage of them (so be sure to download the app before the cruise).

In addition to the repertoire of useful functionality, the Royal Caribbean app has new features that you can now use:

Express Boarding pass

Express Boarding

Guests who check-in ahead of time and scan their documents get to go through the “Express Boarding” and breeze through the cruise terminal in minutes

Faster WiFi access

Once shipboard, guests can connect directly to WiFi and their Internet plans through the app (rather than going into their phone settings or dealing with a captive portal).

AI Help

Guests can now get help from a chatbot or chat with a Guest Services agent through the Royal Caribbean app.

The Guest Services team now has a Virtual Queueing system to schedule and manage guest visits.


Dinner reservations

Guests receive push notifications when their tables are ready for main dining, helping reduce the pre-dinner crowds.

Easier photo purchases

And guests can view and purchase photos directly through the app, instead of having to visit and crowd around kiosks.

Pre-book your shows whenever possible

Wizard of Oz

Royal Caribbean allows guests to book tickets to their shows in the weeks leading up to their cruise and this is not just a good idea, it's a must-do.

The hottest ticket on Icon of the Seas are the top shows: Aqua Action, Wizard of Oz, and Starburst. Even the comedy shows are tough to book too.

Theoretically, Royal Caribbean puts its tickets to book 30 days before the cruise from the Cruise Planner website. For at least the first few sailings, the cruise line has needed more time to get its reservations open.

ice show on Icon of the Seas

Regardless of when they're available, book shows to ensure you get in easily.

There will also be tickets made available on the ship. There's a box office you can visit to get reservations on embarkation day, so that's a good back-up option.

Arrive very early for standby shows

Wizard of Oz
Photo by Beci Mahnken

If you don't get a ticket, don't fret, you can still likely get in the show but you'll need to be an early bird.

There is a standby line for each show, and the key is to get in the standby line early. I would recommend getting in line at least 30-45 minutes before the listed start time to be able to be among the first to enter the theater once they admit standby line guests in.

Even if you have a ticket, I'd still recommend getting to the show early.  Seating is limited in many venues, especially the AquaTheater.  Remember, your ticket assures you of a seat, but not necessarily the best seat. So arrive early.

Don't overlook the great included food options

Pearl Cafe on Icon of the Seas

It's so tempting to book specialty restaurants, but the restaurants included with your fare are not bad at all on Icon.

Pearl Cafe has replaced Cafe Promenade, and it offers grab-and-go snacks 24 hours a day. It's a significant upgrade in terms of food quality and selection.


Perhaps the best complimentary restaurant to come out of Royal Caribbean in at least a decade is the Aquadome Market.

This is Royal Caribbean's first food hall, and it is really good. You have the choice of Greek, mac and cheese, crepes, Asian, or salads. It's all freshly made, and it's the kind of food you'll want to go back again to get more.

Greek pita

Surfside might be the new neighborhood for young families, but don't skip the restaurants here. There's two included restaurants that serve up a lot of comfort food: Surfside Bites and Surfside Eatery.  

Of course, you could also grab a slice of pizza at Sorrento's, which was Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley's favorite food on Icon.

There are outlets in so many public venues

Pearl Cafe on Icon

Whether you want to keep your laptop, iPhone, or any electronic device powered up, it's easier on Icon.

There are so many more outlets in public venues than ever before.  On older ships, it's a miracle if you can find a single electric plug to use around the ship because ships were not designed with USB or 120V outlets in mind.

Around Icon, there are lots of outlets you can use.  As more people work remotely from cruise ships (thank you Starlink internet), there's more of a need to have power.  Plus, sometimes you just want to keep your phone going because you used a lot of battery already listening to music.

Pearl Cafe in particular has a ton of outlets, as does the Overlook in the Aquadome.  Most bars have plugs as well that you can use.

Book your cruise early for the best price

Icon of the Seas in Miami with fireworks

If Icon of the Seas sounds like a fantastic cruise ship to sail on, you will want to book it as early as possible.

Cruise prices are dynamic, but as rooms get booked up, inventory drops and prices go up. Demand for Icon of the Seas is so strong right now that you cannot expect a price drop.

Icon of the Seas in Miami

Your best strategy for getting a good price on Icon is to book early, like right now.  The earlier you book, you can lock in the price.

The cruise industry is experiencing unparalleled demand, and you'll see that in the prices.  Icon is a premium ship with premium pricing, so booking early is your best plan (rather than waiting for a last-minute deal).

Read more: 15 ways to get a deal on a cruise

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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