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5 things that surprised me on Icon of the Seas

16 Feb 2024
Jenna DeLaurentis

No matter how much research you do beforehand, there will always be a few surprises once you board a cruise ship, and this was certainly the case on my recent Icon of the Seas cruise.

Icon of the Seas side by side image

Royal Caribbean’s newest and largest cruise ship was at the forefront of the cruise line’s marketing ever since its official announcement in fall 2022. After over a year of writing about the new vessel, I assumed I would not have any surprises once onboard. After all, what could surprise me when I, presumably, already knew everything about the ship?

Needless to say, despite my thorough research, I still found myself encountering surprises once onboard Icon of the Seas. Most of these surprises were positive, like the variety of global cuisine available to try throughout the ship, but others were negative, such as the curious choice of color scheme in my cabin.

Here are the 5 things that surprised me on Icon of the Seas.

I thought the ship would feel huge, so I was surprised that it felt somewhat similar to the size of an Oasis Class ship


As the new biggest cruise ship in the world, I expected Icon of the Seas to feel drastically bigger than older Royal Caribbean ships.

Most of Icon of the Seas’ marketing revolved around the ship being the world’s biggest, and offering the ultimate vacation experience for families. This marketing led myself, and many other cruise fans, to picture the ship to be significantly larger than other ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet.

Related: See how Royal Caribbean ships stack up by size (2024)

Yet when I saw a picture of Icon of the Seas docked next to Wonder of the Seas, an Oasis Class ship, at Perfect Day at CocoCay, I realized the two ships weren’t drastically different in size. And when I got onboard myself a few days later, I felt much less overwhelmed with the ship’s size than I initially thought I would be.

Central Park on Icon of the Seas

Icon of the Seas does not feel small by any means, and it does feel larger than Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships, but not by much. The ship never felt unmanageable, and there appeared to be more than enough distinct areas around the vessel that no particular venue ever felt too crowded.

The impressive passenger flow of the vessel from neighborhood to neighborhood and new destination elevators made getting around the ship a breeze. While I can understand some cruisers being put off by the size of Icon of the Seas, it really doesn’t feel that much different from ships like Wonder of the Seas when you’re onboard.

I was surprised by the light-colored furniture in my cabin, and I’m not sure this will hold up well over time

Although I enjoyed my comfortable balcony cabin on Icon of the Seas, I found the choice of furnishings to be… risky, to say the least.

If you’ve sailed on older cruise ships before, you’ve likely seen wear and tear on the furniture in your cruise cabin. While Royal Caribbean keeps their cabins in relatively good condition—even on the oldest ships—you may occasionally notice stains on couches, chairs, and other soft surfaces in the room.

Related: The 5 best cabin locations on a cruise ship

Stains are best concealed on dark-colored furniture, so I was surprised by the light tan couch in my Icon of the Seas cabin. All it takes is one spill or mishap to stain these furnishings, instantly lowering the cabin’s condition.

Spacious Infinite Central Park Balcony Cabin king bed on Icon of the Seas

At the risk of embarrassing myself, I’ll admit I accidentally spilled a small amount of chocolate mousse I brought back from Pearl Cafe on the carpet in my cabin. I panicked when I saw the splatters of brown stain all over the floor, and it took a lot of stressful scrubbing to remove the stain.

While I (fortunately) got the stain out, I can’t imagine what this carpet and furniture will look like in a few years. I generally prefer the look of lighter-colored wood and decor, but it’s probably not the smartest option for a cruise ship cabin.

I was surprised and pleased by the new global cuisine options onboard, a huge improvement from older ships

Buddha bowl

Royal Caribbean has upped its game with international cuisine options on Icon of the Seas, and I was happy to see it.

Whenever I read my coworkers’ articles about Virgin Voyages’ Korean BBQ restaurant or Norwegian Cruise Line's food hall on our sister site, I felt a sting of jealousy about these diverse dining options.

Because I usually sail on Royal Caribbean, I find myself dining at the same types of restaurants over and over again, whether Italian, Japanese, or a standard American steakhouse.

Therefore, I was surprised to see the variety of dining venues that launched on Icon of the Seas. Most notably, the new AquaDome Market is home to five varied food stalls, which offer everything from Mediterranean wraps to Chinese noodle bowls and Nutella crepes.


Related: I ate at every new restaurant on Icon of the Seas and here's how I would rank them

Outside of the AquaDome market were Baja fish tacos at Pier 7, curry chicken sandwiches at Pearl Cafe, and expanded to-go items at Izumi in the Park. Old favorites are found onboard, too, from the all-you-can-eat Mexican food at El Loco Fresh to hand-tossed pizzas at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen.

Whether a complimentary falafel and hummus pita for lunch or extra-cost Korean bibimbap bowl for dinner, I appreciated just how many options were available on Icon of the Seas. I’m still holding out for a Thai restaurant on Royal Caribbean (I can dream, right?), but the new options available easily satisfied my culinary cravings.

I was surprised Royal Caribbean didn't put The Mason Jar on Icon of the Seas

Brunch at Mason Jar

Icon of the Seas has a whopping 20+ dining venues onboard, but one restaurant I’m surprised didn’t make the cut is The Mason Jar.

The Mason Jar is one of Royal Caribbean’s newer specialty dining venues that first launched in 2022 on Wonder of the Seas. The restaurant serves dishes from around the American South, with brunch and dinner options including crab beignets, chicken and waffles, and the classic po’boy.

Related: The Mason Jar Southern food restaurant review on Wonder of the Seas

Adjacent to the restaurant is The Mason Jar Bar, which offers southern-inspired cocktails and a live band.

The Mason Jar Bar

Currently, Wonder of the Seas is the only ship in the fleet to feature the venue. Given its popularity on that ship, I initially assumed Royal Caribbean would add it to Icon of the Seas as well.

I could easily see The Mason Jar replacing a venue like Hooked Seafood, which is found in the ship’s AquaDome neighborhood. At the same time, though, perhaps adding more live music to the ship was not necessary, given the amount of new venues like Lou’s Jazz n’ Blues and Dueling Pianos.

Nonetheless, I’m still thinking about the restaurant’s decadent red velvet pancakes I ate two years ago, and I wish this venue could have been onboard Icon of the Seas.

I was surprised by the amount of new bars and cocktails available, and the live music was spectacular

1400 Lobby Bar

Because Icon of the Seas is the first ship in the Icon Class, I expected there to be a few new bars and lounges onboard, but I was surprised by the amount of new venues that launched on the vessel.

1400 Lobby Bar was one of my favorites on the ship, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, elegant decor, and outdoor seating. The bar’s central location in the Royal Promenade makes it a convenient hangout space, and the lack of live music at the bar means you can better hold a conversation with your travel party.

One of the bar’s signature cocktails, The Fourteen Hundred, combines Casamigos Blanco tequila, Italicus liqueur, pearl shimmer syrup, and lemon sour, and it’s topped with a citrus bubble that pops when you take your first sip.

Related: I tried the new cocktails on Icon of the Seas

cocktail 1400 lobby bar

Additionally, two intriguing music venues launched on the vessel: Dueling Pianos in the Royal Promenade and Lou’s Jazz n’ Blues in Central Park. Not only do these venues provide stellar musical performances, but they also come with a host of new cocktails.

Guests can listen to live jazz music while sipping on a B-Flat Negroni, which combines Hendrick’s gin, Suze liqueur, and dry vermouth. Or, for those cheering on the pianists at Dueling Pianos, they can try the signature cocktail, Snap, Crackle, Pop! This sweet beverage combines gin with lime juice, simple syrup, grenadine, and pineapple juice with a bag of Pop Rocks, making the drink literally “pop” in your mouth!

Dueling Pianos

I found the new bar concepts to be a nice change of pace for Royal Caribbean, and I especially appreciated having more innovative bar concepts on the Royal Promenade. On Oasis Class ships, for instance, the robotic Bionic Bar takes up a large space in the Promenade.

While watching robotic bartenders craft a drink is interesting the first time you try it, I have never found this venue appealing for a regular hangout space. Somewhere like Dueling Pianos or the 1400 Lobby Bar, on the other hand, makes for a much more aesthetic and entertaining space.

Have you sailed on Icon of the Seas? If so, what surprised you about your time onboard? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Jenna DeLaurentis enjoys exploring new ports of call around the world on a cruise ship, learning about new cultures, discovering beautiful landscapes, and trying diverse cuisine. She loves to get active while at port, whether cycling through mountains in the Caribbean or scuba diving under the sea.

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