Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

I spent a week on the world's largest cruise ship, the free food was the best of any Royal Caribbean ship

14 May 2024
Calista Kiper

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas is the world's largest cruise ship and has 27 places to eat.

Food on Icon of the Seas

More than half are included with your cruise fare, including a giant dining room, buffet, pizzeria, and taco bar.

On top of that, there are 12 spots which cost extra. These range from sushi bar, to steakhouse, to classic Italian.

I recently spent a week on Icon of the Seas, and tried to eat as many different dishes as I could in that time.

Because I'm always looking for a budget-friendly cruise, I also challenged myself to only eat at complimentary venues on this cruise.

Even with limiting myself to free dining, there were more options onboard than I had the chance to try on my 7-day cruise.

I thought the food onboard was the best of any Royal Caribbean ship I've tried before.

Of course, food is subjective, and different people have their own opinions when it comes to dining.  From my perspective, here's how I'd rate each venue I dined at.

Read more: Icon of the Seas restaurant and dining guide

Main Dining Room

Royal Caribbean's Main Dining Room is the complimentary, sit-down dining venue on all ships. It serves 6,000 guests in a three and a half hour time frame for dinner alone.

Dinner is the most popular meal to attend in the Main Dining Room, and I elected to dine there with the traditional dining option. This means we had a the same table assignment, dinner time, and waiters every night of the cruise.

The Main Dining Room has a set menu for its four-course dinners that varies for every day of the cruise.

Because of that, I was familiar with most of the meals and could compare them to the ones I've tasted on other Royal Caribbean ships.

We started with a selection of tasty bread buns and ordered an appetizer from the menu.

The appetizers were tasty, and the portion sizes were pretty large.

The main course was about equal to the ones I've tried on other ships, but it did come a lot faster and warmer than I'm used to. The speed of service and temperature of the food was a big improvement.

I also saw a lot more vegan options available in the Main Dining Room. 

I usually order vegan ice cream for dessert, but on previous ships, they've only had a few flavors available (mostly chocolate and vanilla). 

On Icon, however, they had unique vegan flavors of ice cream, like chocolate praline crunch.


  • The meals were fast and hot
  • There's no work involved; waiters do it all


  • Dinner lasts at least an hour
  • It's a more formal setting


Windjammer on Icon of the Seas

The Windjammer on Icon felt vastly improved compared to other ships I've been on. It seemed to have an endless choice of dishes available, and was huge.

The complimentary buffet was open for three meals a day, every day.

Whether you enjoy waffles, hamburgers, salads, curry, roast beef, fruit, or grilled vegetables, there's something for everyone to try a taste of.

I also thought that the meals were of much higher quality than on other ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet.

Windjammer curry

One thing I always look for is Asian food, and I loved this Windjammer's selection of Asian food—from Indian curries to Chinese sweet and sour chicken.

My only complaint was that, while some of it was flavorful, none of the food was very spicy. However, I understand that they have to appeal to a wider audience.

On the last day of the cruise, they also laid out a delicious charcuterie spread of fruits, olives, meats, and cheeses.


  • A variety of high-quality food
  • Freedom to self-serve and go back for more


  • There's the potential to spread germs
  • The food isn't very spicy 

Read more: 12 reasons to eat at the buffet instead of the dining room on your cruise

AquaDome Market


The AquaDome Market is an entirely new venue on Icon of the Seas, and I think they did an amazing job with it.

Located at the entrance to the ship's AquaDome, this dining location is a complimentary food hall—the first of its kind on a Royal Caribbean ship.

It features unique dishes at five distinct stalls: crépes, Asian food, mac and cheese, Mediterranean food, and sandwiches and salads.

I thought all of the food here was awesome, from the sweet crépes to Mediterranean bowls with chickpeas, to bacon mac and cheese.

The AquaDome Market was also conveniently open in the late afternoons when the Windjammer is usually closed and guests might be searching for a late lunch or snack.

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

Food from Aquadome


  • Strong variety of dishes
  • Easy to split into a small snack or create a full meal


  • Not all of the food stalls will be open at the same time

Pearl Cafe

Pearl Cafe

The Pearl Cafe is complimentary and located near the Pearl over the Royal Promenade, quickly became my favorite venue on board.

Because it's open all through the day and even late at night, the Pearl Cafe is a great, quick stop for coffee, snacks, drinks, or desserts.

Icon of the Seas upgraded the cafe with a wider variety of snacks and juices. I loved walking up to the open fridges and just picking out a snack.

I especially kept coming back for the portable containers of hummus, ranch, and vegetables; the perfect quick bite for me to sit down and eat or take back to my room.


  • Quick, easy place to grab a snack
  • Open at all hours and has a fun view of the Promenade


  • A lot of plastic is used, so not very environmentally friendly
  • You usually won't find non-dairy milk here

Park Cafe


The Park Cafe is somewhat of a hidden gem onboard Icon, and I heard about it from a crew member at the Pearl Cafe.

He recommended eating at the complimentary venue for breakfast, and I am so glad I took his advice.

Located in the beautiful, sunny Central Park, the Park Cafe is a free venue that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner—including the popular Kummelweck sandwiches!

I tried both breakfast and lunch at this location and thought the food was pretty regular.

However, there were a lot of choices available (especially if you like pastries for breakfast or sandwiches for lunch) and Central Park is the perfect location for a meal.


  • Beautiful atmosphere and location, sometimes with live music!
  • Lots of complimentary food and snacks


  • Most of the food here wasn't stellar
  • There weren't many gluten-free options

Read more: The 10 Essential Dishes to Eat on Icon of the Seas

El Loco Fresh

El Loco Fresh quesadillas

El Loco Fresh is Royal Caribbean's venue for Mexican cuisine, and it's also included in your cruise fare.

They serve grab-and-go food like burritos, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and salsa.

I loved the bright, fun decorations of this venue, and the easy access to the pool decks onboard.

However, my travel buddy and I thought the food was nothing special.

While I love Mexican food at home, the selections I tried at this venue were tasteless and chewy.

Perhaps I made a mistake in grabbing the pre-made packs of food and should have built my own meal instead, where I would have the ability to add all the sauces and seasoning I desired.


  • Easy access from the pool decks
  • Hot grab-and-go food


  • The pre-made food wasn't very flavorful 
  • Only a small selection of dishes available


Sorrento's on Icon

Sorrento's pizza is a Royal Caribbean staple.

This free pizza place is the perfect late-night stop when you need a bite to eat or are craving something warm and cheesy.

Although this venue is fun and convenient, I'm of the opinion that there's nothing special about the pizza itself.

The crust is thin, and the top develops a layer of oil.

I was riding in the elevator one night when I saw a boy holding a plate covered with napkins. 

When we asked why he had napkins over his food, he took them off to reveal a few slices of Sorrento's pizza.

"The pizza's too oily, so I'm tryna get it off," he said.

Sure enough, three of the napkins were soaked through with oil.

Sorrentos on Icon

For the record, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley went on record to say his favorite food on Icon of the Seas was a slice of pepperoni pizza from Sorrento's.


  • Open late into the night
  • Endless, yummy pizza


  • Can have long lines at certain times
  • The pizza is very oily 

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

Get our newsletter

Stay up-to-date with cruise news & advice

    We never share your information with third parties and will protect it in accordance with our Privacy Policy