I stayed in the cheapest, smallest cabin on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas for $210 per night. Look inside my 142-square-foot room.

29 Nov 2023
Calista Kiper

What is it like to stay in the cheapest stateroom on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas?

Enchantment of the Seas inside room

I just got back from sailing on a 7-Night Mediterranean cruise, starting in Athens, Greece, and ending in Barcelona, Spain.

Enchantment of the Seas is an older, smaller Vision Class ship, first launched in 1996.

Enchantment was the last Royal Caribbean cruise ship to be lengthened, which is when they cut the ship in half and inserted a new section in the middle. It added 151 new cabins.

She now has 1142 staterooms, with a capacity for 2252 passengers and 852 crew members.

For my cruise, I paid a total of $1471, or $210 per night. With two people on the cruise, we would have split this into $105, but I was taking a solo trip and had to suck up the extra fees because of the single supplement fee solo cruisers have to pay.

The cheapest cabins on Enchantment can be obtained through the guarantee cabin process.

By choosing a guarantee stateroom, you can gain a cheaper price in exchange for the cruise line assigning a cabin to you.

I was assigned a small, windowless inside stateroom spanning just 142 square feet.

Read moreAll about Vision Class cruise ships

When I arrived onboard, I saw that my stateroom was in a very low position on the ship’s 11 decks, located down on deck 2.

While this left me in close proximity to my Main Dining Room table on deck 4, I had to use the elevator for almost everything else. 

When I opened the door on embarkation day, I was greeted with a small, clean room. 

One concern with a windowless cabin is a lack of light, since the cabin itself does not have any natural light. As someone who loves lots of light around me, I found that this cabin was well-lit from the room's lighting fixtures.

The stateroom's closet was located at the very front, to the right of the door. It held six shelves and ample hangers, as well as enough floor space for me to leave my suitcases inside the closet for the length of the cruise.

Opposite the closet, I found the door to the bathroom.

It was small, with an even smaller tube-shaped shower. Despite the small size of the shower, I appreciated the rounded glass door and hot, heavy water pressure.

The sink and toilet also remained high-quality for the length of my stay, and I appreciated all the mirrors located above the bathroom sink.

I find that the bathrooms on Royal Caribbean ships really lack counter space next to the sink, so you have to get creative with using shelves, bags, and nearby hooks.

Thankfully, there's always lots of cabinet space located behind the mirrors and shelves underneath the bathroom sink.

After the bathroom, I faced the stateroom's combination desk/vanity. This wide desk features many drawers for storage, a mirror, bright vanity lighting, and to the left, even more shelves and storage. 

In the shelves to the right, I stored my books. I also stored my IDs, valuables, and electronics in the small safe provided.

One thing that I did find strange was that the room was missing the mini fridge cooler located inside most Royal Caribbean staterooms. I found an empty cabinet where this appliance would usually be located. 

Opposite the vanity sat a small, comfortable armchair and the TV above it. 

Although the TV may look like it's at a strange angle, you could still view it from this armchair by adjusting the metal arms to which it was mounted. These adjustable arms ensure that you can turn the TV and still see it from almost everywhere in the stateroom. 

Like most of Royal Caribbean's older ships, this TV was a simple device with a few free channels included. Since I could not stream to it, I mostly used my laptop to watch TV shows or to head up to movie showings on other decks.

Besides this armchair was the large stateroom bed. Since I was traveling alone, I chose to keep the beds joined together. As a solo traveler, this meant the bed felt luxuriously large. 

Two lamps, with shelves underneath them, were on either side of the bed. Although I kept looking throughout the cruise, I never found any electricity ports near the bed, so I had to keep charging my phone at the outlet on the desk. 

On day one, my stateroom attendant introduced himself and offered a few times he could clean the room daily. I chose evening service, so he could come each day when I went to eat dinner at the Main Dining Room.

I loved that he would leave behind these small towel animals each night—every day he left a new type of towel creature! 

For the most part, I found that the ship was high-quality despite its age. The linens stayed clean and fresh, and all the amenities worked perfectly.

The small stateroom even reminded me of the room I stayed on when I cruised on the new, huge Wonder of the Seas.

However, the wear and tear began to show as I stayed throughout my cruise.

This lamp fell apart when I tried to turn it off, and I could never push the bottom piece back in. 

I also noticed that the cabin had fewer artwork and decorations than newer ships I've cruised on. 

On one of my long treks taking the elevator up to the Windjammer, the elevator itself broke down, leaving me stuff inside for a few moments. After this glitch, the elevator was shut down for the day and only reopened when it was fully repaired. 

Despite the wear and tear on this older ship, this cabin was no smaller than any of the other cheap, guarantee staterooms I've stayed in before.

And there are benefits to sailing on a smaller ship: the service was quicker and more attentive. When I ordered room service to this stateroom, staff would answer my call right away, and bring the food within 30 minutes. 

Enchantment of the Seas takes you back to the basics. 

First time cruise tips for Royal Caribbean

28 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

If you're brand new to a Royal Caribbean cruise, we have some special tips that will make your first cruise much better.

Symphony of the Seas turning

There's no shortage of Royal Caribbean tips, but when you're new to the cruise line, there's a different approach you need to take because some aspects of the experience may be completely different than you expect.

Whether it's your first cruise or your fiftieth, you want it all to go well and have a great time.  Using tried-and-true advice, you can arm yourself with the proper strategy to have a wonderful vacation.

Here's our best advice for someone who is taking their first cruise on Royal Caribbean.

1. Double check you have the right travel documents

An easy rookie mistake to avoid is ensure you have the right travel documents for your cruise.

In order to go on any cruise, you need certain documentation and depending on your nationality, where you're sailing from and to, as well as your itinerary, there could be different requirements.

If everyone sailing has a passport, that's the ideal situation.  Royal Caribbean recommends cruising with a passport that will not expire in less than six months for any cruise, and we agree. Passports are the simplest and best document you can have to cruise.

If you're planning a European, Australian, or Asian cruise, you're going to need a passport for everyone, no matter what.

However, there are some cruises where you could cruise without a passport.

If you're an American citizen sailing on a cruise ship that departs and returns to the same U.S. city, then you can cruise with a birth certificate and state issued identification.

Read moreDo you need a passport for a cruise?

2. Download the Royal Caribbean app and check-in with it

RC app

You really should download and install the Royal Caribbean app before your cruise begins.

The app is a powerful tool that makes the entire experience so much easier, and you're effectively doing yourself a disservice by not getting it.

Get the app and install it while you're at home, and then 30 days before your cruise is scheduled to begin, do the online check-in.

You'll want to check-in exactly 30 days early because that's when the earliest check-in times are available, and most people want to get onboard as early as possible.  If you wait, you'll end up with a check-in time in the afternoon.

Read more30 cruise ship embarkation day do's and don'ts

3. Bring a carry-on bag for embarkation day


Plan to have a small carry-on bag to bring with you around the ship on the first day.

When you arrive at the cruise terminal, porters will greet you and take your luggage to be checked and delivered to your cabin onboard the ship. It's a great service, and you should totally take advantage of it.  There's no cost, but a small tip is expected.

In the time between when you drop off your luggage with the porters and the time it gets delivered, you're going to probably need a few items, such as:

  • Travel documents
  • Cash
  • Hat
  • Sun glasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Medication
  • Phone charger

Read more15 things to pack in your cruise carry-on

There could be more items, but it's a good idea to invest in a small carry-on bag, such as a backpack, small rolling suitcase, or other bag.

4. Pre-book shows, add-ons, and shore excursions

Aquadome on Icon of the Seas

If there's a mantra about planning a great Royal Caribbean cruise, it's to plan as much as possible before the cruise begins.

Royal Caribbean makes a great deal of options available to reserve in the months leading up to your cruise, and doing so could save you money and time.

About 30 days before your cruise, shows will be bookable for Royal Caribbean's biggest ships.  If you're sailing on an Oasis, Quantum, or Icon Class cruise ship, you'll be able to pre-book entertainment.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean ship classes ultimate guide

AquaTheater show on Wonder of the Seas

If you're sailing on any other class of ship, you won't be able to pre-book shows and that's because there's no need.

You can book shows in the Royal Caribbean app or through the Cruise Planner website on Royal Caribbean's homepage.

Show reservations are complimentary, so you should make a reservation. Keep in mind reservations will go very quickly, so it's likely shows will sell out. If you don't get into a show, not to worry. Standby lines will be available and if you arrive early, you'll probably be able to make it into the show.

Soda cup

Speaking of pre-booking, you ought to pre-book extra cost add-ons to save money. Royal Caribbean has an array of possible things to buy for your cruise, including drink packages, specialty dining packages, WiFi packages, spa treatments, and shore excursions.

To be clear, you will pay more if you wait to book these items onboard the ship.  So if you know you want them, book them before the cruise.

A common question is if it's worth it to buy them, and the answer it depends on the person.  Beverage packages and dining packages can absolutely save you money, provided you take advantage of them to make it worthwhile.

In terms of picking a shore excursion, you will want to research the ports of call you are visiting to make plans now.

You will want to have a plan for what to do in these ports in advance, rather than trying to wing and it and risking missing out.

In nearly all cases, you'll be in port for around six or eight hours, so picking a tour or a plan to hit up one or three spots is a good idea.

Kids on an Alaska cruise

Organized tours are the most popular way to visit any port of call. Royal Caribbean offers its own set of shore excursions you can purchase from the website or the app, but you could also plan to do something on your own.

There are pros and cons to booking a tour with the cruise line or through a third-party. Do your research and have a plan so you can have a really fun day in port.

Read moreTop 10 cruise ship shore excursion mistakes to avoid

5. Book your cruise as early as possible for the best price

Wonder of the Seas

Want to save the most money possible on a Royal Caribbean cruise? Book your cruise as early as you can.

Generally speaking, the best price for a Royal Caribbean cruise is when you book as many months in advance as possible.  This is because as cruise ship cabins get booked up, the amount of available cabins drops and prices go up.

Ideally, you'll book your cruise as soon as Royal Caribbean puts the sailing on sale.  Yes, that's two years or more in advance.

By booking that far in advance, not only will you get a low fare, but you can get the exact cabin category you want.  The cheapest cabins and the most expensive suites are the first types of rooms to be sold out and they are both highly desirable.

Read moreThe 5 best cabin locations on a cruise ship

6. Avoid bringing any prohibited items

Clothing steamer iron

There are things you can bring on an airplane that you can't bring on a cruise ship, many that would surprise you.

Packing for a cruise involves a lot of things that you'll need, but there are a few items you shouldn't bother packing because if you do, Royal Caribbean will confiscated them.

This includes:

  • Firearms, ammunition, handcuffs, pepper spray, night sticks
  • Coffee makers, clothing irons, travel steamers, electric kettles and hot plates
  • Candles, incense, flammable liquids and explosives (including lighter fluid and fireworks), hookahs and water hookah pipes
  • Power strip and surge protectors
  • Dangerous Chemicals, including bleach and paint
  • Drugs (including medically prescribed marijuana)
  • Beer or liquors
Voyager of the Seas oceanview cabin

Some of these may seem self-explanatory, but the appliances and candles are the most commonly confiscated items because people don't realize they aren't allowed due to being a fire hazard.

Don't even bother trying, all bags go through a screening machine and they will see them and take it.

Read moreWhat can you not bring on a cruise

7. Fly to your cruise port a day or two early

Airplane in the clouds

The single costliest mistake you could make is flying to your cruise port the same day the cruise is scheduled to set sail.

Since Royal Caribbean cruises depart in the afternoon, a lot of newbies will think to book a flight that arrives in the morning on the same day of the cruise.  This is such a dangerous decision, because even a minor delay could prevent you from being able to board the ship.

Read moreThe costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

New York as seen from Bayonne

What you want to do instead is book a flight at least one day before embarkation day so that you can protect yourself against any travel delays. Plus, you'll have more time to explore the city you're in and start your vacation a little bit earlier.

If you are traveling overseas for a cruise, we advise flying in at least two days early not only because of travel delays but to acclimate yourself to the local time and jet lag. Starting your international cruise without feeling exhausted is so important given how port intensive it tends to be.

8. Plan to bring your own soda and wine

Wine brought onboard

Royal Caribbean won't let you bring beer or liquor on your cruise, but you can bring a limited amount of wine and soft drinks.

Royal Caribbean allows one bottle of wine (or champagne) per adult in the cabin to be brought onboard on embarkation day. In addition, you can bring up to 12 standard cans, bottles or cartons of nonalcoholic drinks.

Bringing your own drinks can save a lot of money on a bar tab.

Read more: Royal Caribbean drink prices

9. Do the signature activities on the first day

Icon of the Seas water park

There's a good chance you picked a cruise ship because of the fun attractions available onboard, but so did everyone else too.

Activities like the Flowrider surf simulator, water slides, bumper cars, and sky diving simulators are just some of the top must-dos, so the best time to try any of them is on the first day of the cruise.

Embarkation day is busy, and most people are still finding their way around the ship.  Heck, some might be oblivious these are options to do until later in the cruise.  The water-based activities are perfect for embarkation day because most people packed their swimsuit in their checked luggage.

Grab lunch and then hit up these signature attractions on day one.

10. Keep your phone in airplane mode

Woman using iphone

If you want to avoid a giant cell phone bill due to thousands of dollars in cell phone charges when you get home, make one simple change to your phone after boarding.

Cruise ships have a cell phone antenna on them, but they're out of network. When a phone is outside of its normal cellular network, and you try to use a cell phone for calls, data, or texting on someone else's network, you incur crazy high rates.

Many cellular plans (even international plans) do not include calls, texts, or data on cruise ships and they will charge you extremely high roaming rates for such services that will show up weeks later on your phone bill.

The easy way to prevent this from ever happening to you is to put your phone into airplane mode.

If you want to stay connected on your cruise, you can buy a WiFi package, which will let you make FaceTime calls and stream videos over Wi-Fi without using phone data.

11. You can re-price your cruise and add-ons

We talked about how important it is to book your cruise fare and add-ons early to lock in a good price, but what happens if there's a price drop later?

Anyone can cancel and rebook a Cruise Planner purchase at any time before the cruise begins.  That way, if the drink package or shore excursion price goes down, you can easily cancel and reprice it.

What if your cruise fare goes down? Many people hesitate to book early because they worry about missing out on a better deal later on.

If you're a resident of certain countries (such as the United States or Canada), you can get your fare reduced to match the lower price up until the final payment date.

12. Use a travel agent to book your cruise

There are many ways to book a Royal Caribbean cruise, but using a travel agent is the best choice.

There are so many decisions to make when booking a cruise as a first timer that you're much better off using an experienced travel agent to help.

A good travel agent will charge nothing extra for their services, and get a sense of your interests, needs, and travel style to help guide you through the booking process, as well as answer questions and deal with problems later on.

In addition, travel agents could spot special discounts or deals you might not find on your own, such as group rates or nabbing extra onboard credit.

Read moreWhy first-time cruisers should use a Royal Caribbean travel agent

I visited Royal Caribbean's next Perfect Day private destination: here's what to expect

28 Nov 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

Following the massive success of Royal Caribbean's first private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, the cruise line is planning to launch a second Perfect Day location in the South Pacific.

Perfect Day at Lelepa is set to launch in the coming years, although no official opening date has been set.  The private destination will be constructed on Lelepa Island in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.

During my recent South Pacific cruise itinerary, I jumped on the opportunity to visit Lelepa Island when my ship docked in nearby Port Vila. Although Perfect Day at Lelepa is not yet open—it hasn’t even begun construction—visiting the island gave me a first hand look at what this unique destination may offer cruisers.

From out-of-this-world snorkeling to gorgeous beaches and friendly locals, here are the main insights I gained from my day ashore that you should look forward to.

Like Perfect Day at CocoCay, Perfect Day at Lelepa will be a private destination exclusively for Royal Caribbean cruise passengers

Perfect Day at CocoCay is one of Royal Caribbean’s most popular cruise ports. The private island, located just 140 miles from Miami, features a waterpark, freshwater pool, exclusive beach club, and multiple beaches. Over two million cruise passengers visit the destination each year.

Related: 41 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, tricks, and secrets

Given the popularity of the first Perfect Day destination, Royal Caribbean announced a second Perfect Day destination, Perfect Day at Lelepa, in 2019. Unlike Perfect Day at CocoCay, which offers thrilling activities like water slides and jet skis, Perfect Day at Lelepa will place more of a focus on the ecological beauty and diverse culture of Vanuatu.

The island will also be the first private cruise destination in the world to achieve carbon neutrality.

According to locals, construction has not yet started for Perfect Day at Lelepa

Following the 2019 announcement of Perfect Day at Lelepa, the cruise line planned to open the destination sometime in 2022. These plans, however, were quickly derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Royal Caribbean has not released any new updates about Perfect Day at Lelepa since March 2022, when a few artist renderings were released about what the destination could look like. 

The company’s silence has many loyal cruisers wondering what the current status is with the destination. This is what I was most curious to find out as well.

As soon as my ship docked in Port Vila, I hopped in a taxi for a 30 minute ride to the western side of Efate Island, from where I would board a small boat to Lelepa Island and start my day tour with Lelepa Island Day Tours.

During our short five minute boat ride from Efate to Lelepa Island, I asked the boat’s captain about the private destination, and whether or not construction had begun.

He pointed to the far north side of the island to indicate where the destination would be located, and told me that construction had not yet begun. 

It’s unclear whether the infrastructure and buildings for the Perfect Day at Lelepa are being constructed elsewhere and will be transported to the island at a later date. That being said, if there’s one thing I learned during my time on the island, it’s that the opening date still appears to be very far away.

Lelepa Island’s coastline is dotted with beaches

Unfortunately my day tour to Lelepa Island was unable to visit the part of the island that will become Perfect Day at Lelepa. My tour guide explained that they used to bring visitors to that area of the island, but cannot do so anymore due to the agreement with Royal Caribbean.

Even so, I was able to catch a glimpse of what will become one of the island’s main beaches. While I only saw the beach from a distance, it appeared to be longer than other beaches around the island.

Of the beaches I visited during my day ashore, though, most of the beaches weren’t made of fine sand. Rather, they were composed of small pieces of coral.

While not as comfortable as the soft sand somewhere like Perfect Day at CocoCay, the crystal clear, refreshing water will certainly make visiting Lelepa a perfect beach day for visitors.

Snorkeling opportunities at Perfect Day at Lelepa will be far better than those at Perfect Day at CocoCay

Perfect Day at CocoCay is a popular snorkeling spot on any Caribbean cruise, but Perfect Day at Lelepa easily blows the Bahamian island away.

During my visit to Lelepa, I had the opportunity to snorkel amongst some of the most colorful and abundant coral I’ve ever seen. From the moment I put my head under the water, I was left speechless with the variety of marine life in front of me.

As our tour guide put it, “People say the snorkeling here is even better than the Great Barrier Reef.” I have to agree.

If there’s one thing to be excited about with the launch of Perfect Day at Lelepa, it’s the snorkeling opportunities. Bringing your own snorkeling gear ashore is a must. Like at Perfect Day at CocoCay, it’s possible that snorkeling and scuba diving tours may be offered at an additional cost.

The island also offers the ability to visit a large cave as well as a local village

Outside of the beaches, Lelepa Island offers a few more activities for visitors. Of course, it’s unclear whether these options will be offered to guests at Perfect Day at Lelepa, but it’s possible they could become shore excursions.

The first is a visit to Fele’s Cave, an 114 foot high cave with rock drawings up to 3000 years old. These cave paintings show animals, geographic shapes, and a human representation of Chief Roi Mata, a powerful chief of Vanuatu who was believed to have ruled in the 16th century.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we approached Fele’s Cave during my visit to Lelepa Island, but I was stunned by the cave’s size and the spiritual history it represented for thousands of years.

We also made a visit to Natapao, the main village on Lelepa Island.

One of the most unique aspects of visiting a destination like Vanuatu is experiencing the unique cultures of Melanesia. Visiting the local village was a way to learn more about the local way of life on the island and purchase souvenirs that support the town's economy.

For those looking to experience the island outside of just the beach, these two options make an excellent choice.

Like any new project, locals have mixed feelings about the private destination, but overall thoughts remain positive

Although Royal Caribbean’s marketing puts forth the image that Perfect Day at Lelepa is a remote island, the reality is that Lelepa Island is located just across from Port Vila, the most populous city in Vanuatu.

Despite the island’s proximity to the main economic hub in Vanuatu, though, life remains relatively traditional for the 600 residents calling Lelepa home. With no access to freshwater, locals must visit Efate Island—where Port Vila is located—daily to collect water, and all electricity is provided via generators and solar power.

It goes without saying that a project as monumental as Perfect Day at Lelepa will likely change the lives of many on Lelepa Island. Most locals I spoke with seemed to be in favor of the private destination, as it will provide a significant source of economic generation for the island. Some, however, are of course worried about how it may affect the current way of life.

The island is sure to be successful with the Australian cruise market, but those in North America should also consider a visit

It's likely Perfect Day at Lelepa will quickly become a major selling point for cruisers based in Australia. South Pacific itineraries remain extremely popular in the region, offering a tropical getaway to islands primarily in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Itineraries depart from both Sydney and Brisbane, Australia.

The benefit of visiting one of Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day locations over a traditional cruise port is the private atmosphere. Only Royal Caribbean cruise passengers will be permitted at Perfect Day at Lelepa.

Plus, even though some excursions may be offered at an extra cost, there will be no charge to visit Perfect Day at Lelepa, as it will be included in guests’ cruise fares.

Despite the fact that I could not visit the future destination’s exact location up close, traveling to Lelepa Island gave me an idea of what to expect once Perfect Day at Lelepa launches.

The most spectacular part of my day was the snorkeling—it was the most magnificent coral I’ve ever seen. Aside from exploring underwater, the beaches and pristine nature of Lelepa Island are sure to impress the estimated 800,000 passengers to visit the destination each year.

For more updates on Perfect Day at Lelepa, be sure to subscribe to the Royal Caribbean Blog newsletter and follow our Facebook page so you can be notified as soon as Royal Caribbean releases new information about this exciting new destination.

Royal Caribbean takes delivery of the new world’s largest cruise ship

27 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

It's been seven years in the making, but the world’s biggest cruise ship is making its debut.

Icon of the Seas delivery

Measuring a staggering 1,198 feet, Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas was delivered today at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland and is on schedule for her maiden voyage from Miami, Florida to the Caribbean on January 27, 2024.

Delivery of the ship signifies transfer of ownership of a new cruise ship.

The 20-deck cruise ship has a maximum capacity for 7,600 guests and 2,350 crew members.

Icon of the Seas is delivered

Delivery photo for Icon of the Seas


Executives from Royal Caribbean took delivery of the ship at a ceremony at the shipyard.

Construction took over 900 days, and the momentous occasion was met with celebration by both the shipyard and the cruise line.

Delivery photo for Icon of the Seas

In attendance at the celebration were more than 1,200 crew members and workers, Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley, and Meyer Turku CEO Tim Meyer.

Mr. Liberty shared his thoughts on the significance of the delivery, "Today, we are celebrating more than a new ship; it’s also the celebration of the culmination of more than 50 years of innovation and dreaming at Royal Caribbean to create the ultimate vacation experience."

"Delivering Icon of the Seas represents all that can be accomplished with strong partnerships and a commitment to delivering memorable vacations responsibly, and we thank Meyer Turku and an incredible village of skilled partners for joining us on this journey. The memories millions of families and vacationers will make on Icon will be our greatest accomplishment yet."

Executives at Icon of the Seas delivery

Mr. Bayley also shared why Icon of the Seas will be a big deal for the cruise line for many years to come, "Welcoming Icon of the Seas to the Royal Caribbean family is a remarkable accomplishment years in the making for thousands of innovators, engineers, architects and designers

"Seven years ago, we had an ambitious idea to create the first vacation truly made for every type of family and adventurer; now, it’s in our hands, and in this final stretch, we’ll bring it all to life for the biggest debut in our history in January 2024."

Icon of the Seas is now on her way to Cadiz, Spain, where it will receive its finishing touches before heading to its year-round home in Miami.

A long journey

Royal Caribbean placed the order for Icon of the Seas in October 2016, but conceptual work for it likely went even further back.

The cruise line has referred to Icon as a "white paper" ship, meaning they started with a blank slate in terms of ideas for this ship.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer Jay Schneider described the design process for a new ship as, "never ending."

Icon of the Seas construction aerial photo from October 2022

"You go through a great design process. We've got in our new build organization excellent architects and designers, with partners in the yard who really are focused on the kind of nautical marine side of some of the innovation that we're trying to do."

The ship was originally scheduled for delivery in early 2022, but that was pushed back due to delays brought about by the global health crisis.

Royal Caribbean wasn't alone in facing disruptions in those years, as the entire cruise industry was shutdown for almost two years. Nonetheless, work on Icon of the Seas continued and while the original delivery date may have been pushed back, the revised date held firm and there were no other issues.

While the global health crisis may have been a hindrance, it didn't stop the process according to Mr. Schneider, "The pandemic didn't stop the work. It slowed it a bit and created certain challenges."

Innovations aplenty

A look down the Surfside neighborhood

Icon of the Seas is two months away from beginning her first cruise, and the ship is primed with lots for families to enjoy.

The ship will begin operating 7-night cruises from Miami, Florida to the Caribbean in late January.

Icon of the Seas comprises eight neighborhoods, one of which is specifically designed for families with young children.  Royal Caribbean is doubling down on the family vacation market, not only trying to attract families that cruise other lines, but land vacationers who never considered a cruise vacation.

Cruise line executives have spoken on how they believe Icon of the Seas will go after the land vacation market that typically goes to a theme park or resort in Orlando, Florida.

Hidewaway aerial

The ship will have new types of cabins, a water park, new neighborhoods, and plenty of activities inbetween. It will also offer a bigger array of dining venues, bars and deck-top attractions than any cruise vessel ever built.

You'll find more than 40 restaurants and bars, industry-leading entertainment across the cruise line’s four signature stages and more.

Ultimate Family Townhouse

There's 28 different kinds of cabins, including the new three-level Ultimate Family Townhouse. The townhouse comes at a hefty price, with families paying $80,000 for a week to stay in it.

A floating city

Icon of the Seas in shipyard

Not only is she big, but Royal Caribbean is loading her up with all sorts of new offerings.

There are 8 neighborhoods (one more than the Oasis Class ships), with three of the neighborhoods being an all new concept.

Thrill Island water park render on Icon of the Seas
  • AquaDome is at the front of the ship, offering 220-degree views and a 55-foot waterfall
  • Suite Neighborhood has a Mediterranean restaurant and two-floor sundeck
  • Central Park is a five deck open-air park that has living plant walls
  • Chill Island has four pools and a swim-up bar
  • Thrill Island is where you'll find the Category 6 waterpark, FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing wall, mini-golf course and more.
  • Surfside neighborhood designed for young families
  • Royal Promenade shopping and entertainment district
  • The Hideaway at he back of the ship offering 180-degree views and an infinity pool

Icon is also the cruise line’s first ship that can be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), a transitional fuel. The dual-fuel engines will work alongside a lineup of energy efficiency initiatives and industry-leading environmental programs on board, like the first waste-to-energy plant at sea. Twenty-four percent more energy efficient than the standards required for ships being designed today, the cruise line’s most sustainable ship yet will mark the next step in parent company Royal Caribbean Group's journey to introduce a net-zero cruise ship by 2035.

When will Icon of the Seas sail?


Now that Icon of the Seas is part of the Royal Caribbean fleet, preparations are underway to make sure she is ready to welcome the first guests.

The inaugural sailing will take place on January 27, 2024 from Miami, Florida when Icon of the Seas will sail to the Eastern Caribbean and Royal Caribbean’s private islands of Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas.

She'll be based in South Florida though at least April 2026. By then, however, they'll be another Icon Class ship, Star of the Seas, in service, although it's currently unknown where she will sail from. 

The ship isn't quite ready to welcome passengers onboard.  While construction is complete, the ship needs to be supplied, staffed up, and filled with various amenities to finish the ship.

I took my first Celebrity Cruise on a new ship. We had a great time, but I missed Royal Caribbean's entertainment

27 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

After taking more than 70 Royal Caribbean cruises, I thought it was time to try a cruise on sister-brand Celebrity Cruises.

Celebrity Apex docked in St. Thomas

Over the last few years, I think Celebrity has raised its notoriety among the cruise industry and its eye-catching Edge Class cruise ships have gotten a lot of people to reconsider booking a Celebrity cruise, myself included.

As someone who loves to cruise on Royal Caribbean, trying a different cruise line seemed a bit strange. I enjoy Royal Caribbean, and there's a reason why I love to cruise over and over with this line.  But at the same time, I was curious what the experience would be like to cruise on Celebrity.  

Unlike other cruise lines out there, Celebrity is within the same corporate umbrella as Royal Caribbean International, so it felt less strange to go on another cruise line.

Read moreWho owns Royal Caribbean?

After talking about it for a long time, I booked my family on Celebrity Apex for a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Matt on Apex

I picked Apex because I wanted a new ship, and the Edge Class has gotten so much attention that I felt it would be a great first step forward to try Celebrity.

I was never concerned about having a bad time onboard, but I was curious just how much I would enjoy the experience.  Would it feel exactly like Royal Caribbean? Would I fall in love and never want to go back? What would my kids think of it all?

Pre-cruise and embarkation

Apex in Fort Lauderdale

Everything leading up to the cruise and the check-in process for a Celebrity Cruise felt pretty much the same as Royal Caribbean.

Both lines use the same backend for its app.  While there are two different apps, they look and work exactly the same but with a different color scheme.

I did a status match in the months leading up to the cruise with my Crown and Anchor Society status.  Both lines will honor your status on either line, with Diamond, Diamond Plus or Pinnacle Club members getting Elite status in the Captain's Club.  This is one tier below their upper most loyalty level.

Having Elite status in Captain's Club didn't really get me much value on my cruise, but it was nice to have it, just in case.

Celebrity cruise terminal

Celebrity Apex sails from Port Everglades and the cruise line has its own cruise terminal.  It's a beautiful building, and set up efficiently.  Certainly in-step with any of Royal Caribbean's newer terminals.

Infinite balcony cabin

Infinite Balcony

In looking at which cabin to book, we went with a cabin category I never would have booked if not for a great deal on it.

Thanks to my friends at MEI Travel, they had a special agency rate on Concierge Class infinite veranda cabins that made it just as cheap to book those rooms as a standard veranda.

It can be a little confusing to understand what Concierge Class gets you, as the name seems to imply you get a higher level of service. Celebrity has sub classes of cabins that get special benefits, including the Concierge Class and Aqua Class.

Infinite Balcony

In short, Concierge class gets you an infinite veranda cabin with some additional benefits. The actual cabin is very similar to a normal veranda, but there are some extra perks included.

Concierge Class cards

The main perks of Concierge Class are:

  • Priority Embarkation and Debarkation
  • Embarkation day lunch
  • Priority Dining Time in main dining room
  • Canapes and sparkling wine on request
  • Upgraded pillow menu
  • Concierge Service
  • Destination Seminar
  • Umbrella and binoculars during the cruise in your cabin
  • Complimentary shoe-shining service
  • Extra hairdryer in the stateroom
  • Upgraded Hansgrohe rainfall showerhead
  • Embossed keyholder and tote bag
Concierge Class benefits

That sound impressive, but most of these perks will likely go unused.  The best benefits are the embarkation day lunch, concierge service, canapes and champagne, and priority embarkation.


Because everyone cruises differently, how useful all of this is can vary and we barely used any of the benefits.  The canapes were not the sort of food I liked, and I don't drink champagne.

Concierge Club

The concierge team was very friendly and welcoming, and did assist with any issues we had, but we didn't have many problems for them. We booked a standard dining time every night pre-cruise, so priority times in the dining room didn't help.  And the rest of the benefits either went unused or didn't factor much into the experience. 

I think next time I wouldn't book Concierge Class if it cost more than a regular cabin. 

Infinite Verandah on Celebrity Apex

When I told others I was cruising on Celebrity, so many complained about the infinite veranda concept, because they said it ends up just being a big window that sucks all of your air conditioning out instead of being a balcony experience.

As for our cabin itself, I really wanted to love the infinite balcony design.  Unfortunately, they were right.

The infinite veranda is a great cabin, with plenty of space for two people. The balcony sitting area means you get more space to use inside the room when the balcony isn't "open". 

Infinite veranda view

The problem is you have to weigh whether would you rather have the veranda open and be able to look out and enjoy the breeze, or air conditioning in your cabin for the next hour.  On a Caribbean itinerary where the humidity is quite high, this is a much more difficult conundrum.

As soon as you open the verandah, the air conditioning turns off, the cold air escapes outside and everything in your room fogs up almost immediately.

No air conditioning

If it's not hot or humid out, then this works quite well.  But in Puerto Rico, it was disappointing.

Infinite balcony

So we just kept our infinite veranda closed for the cruise and we managed to have a good time nonetheless. It was nice having views of the ocean, and the extra space provided by the balcony sitting area was nice to have.

I loved how big the cabin felt, especially the bathroom. The shower was extra large, and there was lots of vanity space.

Plus and enhanced feel

Celebrity Apex centrum

Celebrity's tag line is they embody "modern luxury" and it manifested itself in Apex's look and feel.

Coming from Royal Caribbean, you'll quickly notice drinks served in glasses and buffet plates that aren't made out of plastic. Chairs everywhere have extra padding, drinks are poured freely instead of using jiggers, and the entire experience feels more premium.

It's subtle, but I enjoyed having a more plush feel to it all, in the same way a luxury sedan feels compared to contemporary sedan.

Oceanview Cafe

There are a few areas this really stands out, such as the Oceanview Cafe buffet, the Cafe al Bacio, and the pool deck.

Oceanview Cafe is your standard cruise ship buffet, but the variety of food was quite impressive. There were panini stations, a freshly grilled meat station, more made-to-order cooking stations than I've ever seen, and overall more choices.


Cafe al Bacio is the coffee shop that not only has a variety of coffees you can order by waiting your turn, but there's tables and chairs you can sit at and get waiter service to take your order.

If you can imagine a Royal Caribbean pool deck with the Solarium's furniture throughout the pool deck, that's essentially what Apex's pool deck is like.

I never went on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and wished for these sort of changes, but I certainly welcomed them on Celebrity.

Really good food, especially if you're a foodie

Food on Celebrity

One aspect of Celebrity a lot of readers told me about was Celebrity's food game.

In short, you're going to find a wider variety of foods at any of the restaurants that go beyond what I might expect to find on Royal Caribbean.

I found a lot of these extra choices to lean heavily into the adventurous palate. If you aren't a picky eater, I think you'll find a lot more to consider on a cruise beyond a beef dish, a pasta, a chicken, or some vegetables. 

Fine Cut Steakhouse

It really shines with Celebrity's specialty restaurants, and even I was surprised to find duck leg confit, a tomahawk steak cut, roasted trout.

Of course, this assumes you actually would order these items, or you'd stick to similar fare that you'd find on Royal Caribbean.

In my opinion, it's better to have too many options than not enough. So I liked that it wasn't "more of the same" with the food choices.

French Onion Soup

We ate most nights in the Main Dining Room, which was very akin to the Main Dining Room on Royal Caribbean before its latest menu changes.

There are four dining rooms on Celebrity Apex and each serves the same menu, along with a subset of special dishes unique to that restaurant.

Main Dining Room menu on Celebrity Apex

Our waiters gave us a secondary menu that had a copy of what those special items are in the other restaurants, in case we wanted to order off of them. 

Moreover, the waiters were willing to substitute items and order things off the menu. When I asked about an Indian curry dish option, the head waiter arranged to have it every night I would dine there. When my youngest daughter just wanted pasta while dining at Rooftop Garden, our waiter ran downstairs to the Main Dining Room to get it.

Main Dining Room on Apex

Speaking of the menu, it's worth noting that Celebrity still has a Main Dining Room menu that has a classics section, where a subset of the evening menu never changes.  This means you can get escargot, French onion soup, and a grilled chicken of every night of the cruise in addition to the rotating options.

Not as much to do onboard as Royal Caribbean

Atrium on Apex

If there was one area of my first Celebrity cruise that made me wish I was back on Royal Caribbean the most, it was the daily activities.

There were activities, shows, and events offered, but far fewer than on Royal Caribbean. There were maybe one or two trivia sessions per day, and at night the offerings really slowed down. 

I'm not a party animal or someone that goes from activity to activity on my cruises, but Apex skewed heavily towards a "let's sit down and relax" vibe.  That's perfectly fine, but it made me realize how much I missed having a pub singer, Schooner Bar player, trivia host, or multiple shows to see.

Matt in Eden

The ship had a silent disco, DJ music, and other typical entertainment of the sort, but there were far fewer sessions.  Many of the instrumentalists would play "coffee house" versions of the songs, which kept the pace slower.

Every cruise line has a stereotype about it, and Celebrity's has historically been that it caters to an older crowd than on Royal Caribbean.  I can see some of the truth in how it's a bit tamer in terms of the ship's energy level.

Show on Celebrity Apex

That isn't to say there isn't anything happening onboard. You'll find events in the Royal Caribbean app, but there just isn't as much as on Royal Caribbean.

I can keep myself entertained in the daytime, but I love things to do after dinner and I was disappointed in the lack of options.  We ended up in bed by 10pm on most nights because there just wasn't a lot happening.

Non-smoking casino was wonderful

Casino on Celebrity Apex

Win or lose in the casino, the fact the casino on Celebrity Apex was 100% smoke free was fantastic.

On Royal Caribbean's ships, smoking is allowed in the casino, and it tends to become the indoor smoking lounge just as much as a place to gamble and smoke at the same time.

The fact smoking is allowed in Royal Caribbean's casinos doesn't stop me from going, but it was nice a nice change to have the casino smoke-free.

Considering the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates just 11.5% of Americans smoked in 2021, it's clear Celebrity has moved towards embracing 88% that don't smoke.

I'm not here to start a debate about the virtues of smoking, just point out the casino on Celebrity Apex was non-smoking and I really enjoyed it.

Always Included was disappointing


When Celebrity Cruises announced they would offer a cruise fare that bundled WiFi, drinks, and gratuities, I thought it was a godsend. In reality, not so much.

We booked the Always Included fare, which at the time included basic WiFi, drink package, and gratuities. The line has since removed gratuities from this option.

The wifi that's included is abysmally slow and useful for texting and not much else. For my kids, it's fine because they could use a break from the real internet.  But for anyone else, it stinks.

Wifi cost

Compounding the problem is how much Celebrity charges for their wifi packages compared to Royal Caribbean. To upgrade my WiFi package, I would have to pay an additional $230.93 for one device or $412.93 for two devices. That's on top of the cost of the Always Included package.

Receipt on Celebrity

The classic beverage package adults receive with Always Included is fine, assuming you drink pretty basic options.  I found it very limiting, and worse were the prices the cruise line charges for drinks if you don't have a drink package.

As a Pinnacle Club member in Crown and Anchor Society, I missed my daily complimentary drink vouchers and how nice it was to have that perk. 

Celebrity has a happy hour for its top tier members, but it's only two hours and has a very limited drink menu.

More hits and misses

Pool deck on Apex

Here's more of what I liked and didn't like about  my first Celebrity cruise, in addition to what I mentioned already.

What I liked

Magic Carpet

Magic Carpet: Essentially a bar that moves up and down the side of the ship, I liked the breeze, views, and seating.

Cafe al Bacio: The coffee house I always wanted on a cruise ship.

Theater on Celebrity Apex

Theater with a protruding stage: The theater's stage and digital screen behind it were beautiful and really made the audience feel part of the show.

If Royal Caribbean is going to stop paying for musicals that need a traditional stage, this is something new ships should start borrowing.

Ship size & layout: Apex is 1,004 feet long, which makes it slightly longer than a Radiance Class ship but smaller than a Voyager Class ship.

It was easy to get around, and nearly all the public venues not at a pool were between decks 3, 4, and 5.  It made getting around and between venues very easy and quick.

What I didn't like

Drink on Apex

Bar service was nearly non-existent: In most bars or lounges, it was very difficult to sit down in a chair and get a drink because no waiters ever came by.

On Royal Caribbean, if you sit at a bar, you'll be inundated by waiters coming to take your order.  On Apex, it was the opposite. 

It might have just been our sailing and some bad luck, but other guests I spoke with on the ship reported a similar experience.

Elite Perks: I status matched from Royal Caribbean to Celebrity and being at the second-highest tier didn't really get me much.

In practical terms, there was no reason to really use the benefits provided:

  • Access to exclusive daily coffee house-style breakfast and Evening Cocktail Hour
  • 30% off Wi-Fi package or Wi-Fi upgrade
  • 15% off Drink Package or upgrade to Premium pre-cruise
  • Complimentary access to Persian Garden (on one port day)
  • One complimentary bag of laundry (wash, dry, fold) on every sailing

I did use the WiFi discount, but I did not find as much value as what I might get with Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean News Round-Up: November 26, 2023

26 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday and Happy Thanksgiving weekend! I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday with family and friends! There is a lot of Royal Caribbean news to share this week.

Our team has taken a lot of shore excursions over the years, and we've stumbled across a few in the Caribbean that are definite tourist traps.

Senor Frogs in Nassau, Bahamas

There's nothing wrong with a tourist-friendly spot, but some places are just a waste of time because they go so far over the line of being overpriced and underwhelming.

The problem with these sorts of places is you're likely to feel like you wasted your time and could have gone somewhere else better.

Royal Caribbean News

Video: 3 Nights Onboard The World's Biggest Cruise Ships

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Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — 3 Nights Onboard The World's Biggest Cruise Ships — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Review: Florida's Brightline Train For Taking a Cruise

Brightline train in the station

I took the new highspeed train that goes between Orlando and Miami to get to my cruise.

While not cheap, Brightline provides a convenient and fast way to get between Central Florida and South Florida without having to deal with the hassle of flying or boredom of driving.

The new train has a lot of conveniences, and makes the transit a lot easier than driving.

Which deck is best on a cruise ship?

Does it matter which deck you pick for your cabin on a cruise?

When choosing the best deck on a cruise ship, you have to weigh several factors to find the perfect choice for you.

If you are traveling with kids, have mobility issues, like to party at the pool, or are sailing to Alaska, the choice of the best deck could vary considerably.

How much cash should you bring on a cruise?

Cash on cruise ship

Before you get on a cruise, how much money should you bring with you?

While Royal Caribbean is a cashless ship for most transactions, there are still quite a few good reasons to have cash with you.

Both onboard and off the ship, having at least some cash will make things easier for you.

Icon of the Seas vs Titanic

Icon of the Seas vs Titanic

How much bigger and different is the newest cruise ship in the world versus the most well-known?

Icon of the Seas is about to become the biggest cruise ship in the world, but a lot of people compare cruise ships to Titanic.

From size, to pricing, to activities onboard, here's how different Icon of the Seas is to Titanic.

After sailing Royal Caribbean's mega ships, I tried a small ship and here's what I liked about it

25 Nov 2023
Calista Kiper

In the world of cruising, bigger isn’t always better.

Many cruisers are familiar with the grandeur and scale of Royal Caribbean’s exciting mega-ships. 

I personally experienced luxury cruises on some of those colossal vessels, such as the Wonder of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas

After cruises on the bigger Oasis and Freedom Class ships, it was time for me to try a cruise on a smaller ship.

I sailed on Radiance of the Seas, a Radiance Class ship.

While not the smallest Royal Caribbean has to offer, the ship only has 13 decks and a capacity of 2,500 guests. 

The contrast from the larger ships was stark. The experience opened my eyes to the potential charm and advantages of a smaller cruise adventure. 

I found that, although there are disadvantages to a smaller ship, this type of cruise can also offer a refreshing change of pace.

In this article, I’ll share my insights into the unique aspects that set small Royal Caribbean ships apart from their larger counterparts. 

1. The ship had a more defined, intimate culture

One of the most significant differences of sailing on a small ship was the sense of a more defined, intimate ship culture that permeated the experience.

While on the ship, I noticed crew members acting closely and calling one another by name, even over ship announcements. 

The ship’s captain, Captain Marek, also brought a much more personal touch to the sailing. I saw him walk around the ship, taking pictures with guests. He even performed one night, singing songs in the Centrum. 

I also attended the Captain’s Q&A, which is present on other Royal Caribbean ships, but felt more personal with a smaller group.

While some of this is dependent on Captain Marek’s sociable and kind personality, I’m sure that piloting a smaller ship helps him spread that friendly energy and create a more intimate ship community.

Personal touches like these make the ship a warm, welcoming atmosphere and allow guests to feel like more than just passengers—they feel like part of a close-knit cruising community.

2. The atmosphere felt quiet and calm

One difference that became very apparent once I stopped onboard was the sense of calm and serenity around the vessel. Unlike some of the larger, bustling ships, Radiance of the Seas felt like a much more tranquil and laid-back place.

There were so few crowds and noise everywhere onboard that my introverted spirit began to soar.

Especially at night, I could walk around a completely quiet ship. Most cruisers clustered at the bars or in the nightclub, leaving the majority of the ship tranquil.

For example, my friend and I would walk around the upper decks to look at the stars outdoors. Sometimes we would travel the whole deck without seeing anyone else!

This was a stark contrast to my cruises on larger ships, especially on Wonder of the Seas, where I could barely find a quiet place, much less one with no people around. 

If getting some peace and quiet is a concern for your future cruises, I highly recommend sailing on a smaller ship.

The absence of crowds and noise made it easier to unwind and enjoy the breathtaking views of the open sea without the noise and distractions found on larger ships.

Read more: 10 reasons why I didn't want to go on a cruise, but glad I gave it a try

3. Staff was more attentive, providing a personalized experience 

While Royal Caribbean has always impressed me with the quality of guest care, I could tell that the smaller scale of the ship allowed staff to be even more attentive to the needs of each guest.

From the dining room to the room service, the crew members went above and beyond to ensure a comfortable cruise experience. 

I noticed that crew members would recognize and greet me again after seeing me on the deck.

When we ordered room service breakfast, staff would call us before delivering to make sure we were ready to receive it. 

This attention to detail made sure my needs were always anticipated and met. I felt that the smaller ship lent itself to more genuine hospitality from crew members and created an environment where passengers’ individual needs could be even more prioritized. 

4. I navigated the ship with ease

Navigating Royal Caribbean’s mega-ships had felt like a daunting task. The larger ships, such as Wonder of the Seas, have multiple neighborhoods and many decks, making you feel like you’re traversing a small town.

I’m not the best with directions, so took me about 3-4 days to get comfortable navigating the larger ships. It was hard to even remember which end was the fore and which was the aft!

On the smaller cruise ship, however, the layout was more straightforward and compact, making it easy for me to find my way around. With fewer decks and a more compact design, I felt comfortable traversing Radiance of the Seas by Day 2 of the cruise.

This saved us time when it came to getting lost and deciphering maps and allowed us to spend more time enjoying the amenities and activities onboard.

We didn’t have to rely on crowded, slow elevators for the whole of the cruise, as well. I was comfortable taking the stairs for much more of this cruise due to the ship’s smaller size. 

5. There was no need to make reservations

On my larger cruise ship experiences, I had to be on the lookout for events and venues that could fill up quickly or require a reservation.

We had to move fast when it came to dining reservations and show up early to find a seat in the shows.

Unlike on mega-ships, where availability was limited, my smaller cruise offered a hassle-free experience. There was no need for me to plan ahead, as I found I could simply show up to whatever activity or event I wanted and find plenty of spots available. 

These events, such as comedy shows, Zumba classes, or groups on the pool deck, felt more intimate and connected with much fewer people present.

6. Seating was more easily available 

One common struggle on larger ships is finding a vacant seat, especially in popular dining areas like the Windjammer buffet. 

On the smaller ship, I found that many more seating options were available. In the Windjammer, I could enjoy meals without the stress of searching for a table.

And the bars had hardly any lines, whereas I would have had to wait for several minutes on a larger ship.

This contrast added comfort to the already-relaxed atmosphere onboard.

Of course, this difference has two sides: on one hand, the smaller ship has fewer people aboard, meaning that more seating was available in some areas. 

However, on the other hand, the smaller ship meant smaller areas, so I did find fewer seats available in places like the pool deck.

7. Provides the unique experience of sailing out of small ports


Choosing a smaller ship opens up the possibility of disembarking from smaller ports.

In the case of my Radiance of the Seas cruise, this meant we could sail out of Tampa.

This smaller port allowed for a more convenient, streamlined departure experience. 

The ship could also sail directly under the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the gateway to Tampa Bay. Radiance of the Seas clears the bridge with just 6 feet of leeway, so it is an incredible opportunity to watch the small ship navigate.

We could also sail right up to our ports of call at Costa Maya and Cozumel, meaning no extra tender ships were required. 

Icon of the Seas size comparison

24 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

Icon of the Seas will become the biggest cruise ship in the world when she launches in 2024, but how does that stack up against other ships?


When Royal Caribbean announced it would build a new class of cruise ship, the Icon Class wasn't set to be the biggest in the world.  But those plans changed along the way, and Icon of the Seas will overtake the Oasis Class ships for rank of the biggest ships.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President and Chief Product Innovation Officer said it wasn't their intention to build a giant ship, it just organically happened, "We didn’t start with the world’s largest ship. The ship was actually smaller in its initial design. But as we went through the creative journey, we did more research with our guests, and we found that this is what they want."

That might lead you to wonder how much bigger will Icon of the Seas be, and how does she rank compared to other Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

Read moreSee how Royal Caribbean ships stack up by size

How big is Icon of the Seas?

Icon of the Seas in shipyard

Icon of the Seas is indeed really big.   The new ship measures 1,198 feet long with 250,800 gross tonnage and is capable of carrying 7,600 guests and 2,350 crew members. The ship is encompasses 20 decks, has seven pools, and six waterslides that make up an entire waterpark.

If you were to stand Icon of the Seas up on its end, it would be taller than the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas and the Chrysler Building in New York City.

Star of the Seas concept art

Icon of the Seas is divided into 8 neighborhoods, which are distinct areas of the ship meant to make it easier to navigate.

  • AquaDome is at the front of the ship, offering 220-degree views and a 55-foot waterfall
  • Suite Neighborhood has a Mediterranean restaurant and two-floor sundeck
  • Central Park is a five deck open-air park that has living plant walls
  • Chill Island has four pools and a swim-up bar
  • Thrill Island is where you'll find the Category 6 waterpark, FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing wall, mini-golf course and more.
  • Surfside neighborhood designed for young families
  • Royal Promenade shopping and entertainment district
  • The Hideaway at he back of the ship offering 180-degree views and an infinity pool
Hideaway concept art

There are over 2,800 staterooms on Icon of the Seas, as well as over 40 bars and restaurants onboard (23 of them are completely new to Royal Caribbean).

Is Icon of the Seas the biggest cruise ship in the world?

Thrill Island water park render on Icon of the Seas

Icon of the Seas will become the biggest cruise ship in the world, overtaking Wonder of the Seas by gross tonnage, passenger capacity, and length. 

It's unlikely any other cruise ship will overtake Icon of the Seas, until Star of the Seas debuts in 2025.

Royal Caribbean hasn't confirmed that Star of the Seas will be bigger than icon, but it's been Royal Caribbean's tradition to build slightly bigger ships than the previous one in the class.

How much bigger is Icon of the Seas compared to other ships?

Wonder of the Seas aerial photo

Let's look at Icon of the Seas' specs to see how she measures up to Royal Caribbean's other big ships.

Gross tonnage

  1. Icon of the Seas: 250,800
  2. Utopia of the Seas: 236,860
  3. Wonder of the Seas: 236,857


  1. Icon of the Seas: 1,198
  2. Utopia of the Seas: 1,188
  3. Wonder of the Seas: 1,188

Total decks

  1. Icon of the Seas: 20
  2. Utopia of the Seas: 18
  3. Wonder of the Seas: 18

Maximum passengers

  1. Icon of the Seas: 7,600
  2. Wonder of the Seas: 6,988
  3. Symphony of the Seas: 6,680

Crew capacity

  1. Icon of the Seas: 2,350
  2. Utopia of the Seas: 2,300
  3. Wonder of the Seas: 1,551
Carnival Celebration

How about other cruise lines? Here's how Icon of the Seas compares to the biggest cruise ships of the major cruise lines.

Gross tonnage

  1. Icon of the Seas: 250,800
  2. MSC World Europa: 215,863
  3. Carnival Jubilee: 183,521


  1. Icon of the Seas: 1,198
  2. Carnival Jubilee: 1,130
  3. MSC World Europa: 1,093

Total decks

  1. MSC World Europa: 22
  2. Icon of the Seas: 20
  3. Carnival Jubilee: 18

Maximum passengers

  1. Icon of the Seas: 7,600
  2. MSC World Europa: 6,762
  3. Carnival Jubilee: 6,631

Crew capacity

  1. Icon of the Seas: 2,350
  2. MSC World Europa: 2,138
  3. Carnival Celebration: 1,735
Hidewaway aerial

It can be confusing how to measure a cruise ship, because gross tonnage is a nonlinear measure of a ship's overall internal volume.

What this means in layman's terms is that cruise ships are measured by volume and not weight.  This is because their designs can vary greatly, so it makes more sense to measure a ship in this manner.

At 250,800 tons, Icon of the Seas will measure 6% bigger than Utopia of the Seas, which amounts to a difference of 13,940 GT. 


As you can see, the difference in size between Icon and the Oasis Class ships isn't enormous, but it's enough to call it the biggest cruise ship in the world.

When Royal Caribbean set out to design Icon of the Seas, they didn't have a particular tonnage in mind.  According to Mr. Schneider, they had a completely different goal in mind, "We’ve been working on Icon since 2016–2017, if you go back to our original memo that starts off a new class of ship. Typically, that process is about aspiration. It doesn’t detail things like we want a ship that weighs 250,000 tons."

Family-Festival Icon

"Instead, it’s aspirational and rooted in what we would say as a headline. This ship’s headline is: this is the best family vacation on the planet."

And in case you're wondering, Icon of the Seas is about 5 times bigger than Titanic.

All the new features are a bigger difference maker

Thrill Island

While Icon of the Seas might not be substantially larger than Utopia of the Seas or Wonder of the Seas, what Royal Caribbean is adding to Icon is more notable.

Royal Caribbean wants this ship to offer more for families to see and do with additional attractions and amenities that the line hopes will attract customers away from land resorts.

Surfside family suite

The cruise ship's water park, family neighborhood, and staterooms designed for families with five and six passengers are at the heart of this drive.

So far, the demand for a cruise ship this big and with this much to do for families has been a mega hit for the cruise line. It's broken sales records and forced the company to release more sailings earlier than planned in order to meet demand for new bookings.

Caribbean tourist traps to avoid on a cruise

23 Nov 2023
Allie Hubers

One of the biggest draws to taking a cruise is having the opportunity to visit beautiful destinations around the world. If you cruise often with Royal Caribbean, you’ll likely find yourself sailing frequently to the Caribbean (as the namesake suggests). On the flip side, one downside of cruising is that the destinations you visit could be quite touristy, especially if it’s a busy cruise port.

There is a fine line between being a tourist and getting roped into a tourist trap. By definition, a tourist trap aims to attract tourists and their money by offering overpriced experiences, services, souvenirs, food or entertainment.

Most often, tourist traps feel like a waste of your time and money. These are usually crowded with other tourists who were roped into the same overrated experience. In the end, you’ll feel disappointed and conned by tourist traps - and unfortunately, there are plenty of tourist traps to avoid in the Caribbean.

When taking a cruise, you have the option to book an excursion through the cruise line or explore independently. While there are some choices better than others, no one wants to feel like they were scammed by a tourist trap. 

Here is our list of tourist traps to avoid in the Caribbean.

Señor Frogs

If there is one bar you should avoid throughout your Caribbean cruises, it’s Señor Frogs. These bars are conveniently located right next to the cruise port where you disembark the ship. Señor Frogs has mastered the art of the tourist trap thanks to its strategic placement at each cruise port. 

Unfortunately, Señor Frogs is a huge tourist trap around the Caribbean - regardless of which port you’re docked in.

Most are roped into Señor Frogs by the party ambiance, along with fun drinks, loud music and vibrant decor. The promise of a party vibe is the biggest selling point. What you’ll find is a crowded bar with overpriced drinks and mediocre food. Unsurprisingly, Señor Frogs serves low-quality alcohol with the hopes of getting tourists drunk enough that they’ll continue purchasing overpriced drinks. 

Señor Frogs also relies on gimmicky marketing, balloon animals and crazy hats to rope in cruise ship passengers. Honestly, you’re probably better off purchasing drinks in port elsewhere or even onboard your cruise. There are plenty of other great bars to party at throughout the Caribbean with authentic cuisine and reasonably priced drinks. 

Costa Maya Port

One of the absolute worst tourist traps in the Caribbean can be found at the Costa Maya cruise port. If you walk off your cruise in Costa Maya, you’ll find yourself navigating a maze of shops with sellers hounding you to come into their shops. 

After walking through some initial shops, you’ll reach the main center of the cruise port, which is surrounded by even more shops. In fact, you cannot simply exit the Costa Maya cruise port without wandering through the maze of shops. You’ll need to turn on blinders to exit the port area without going into any shops. 

If your ship is docked with other cruise ships in port at the same time, you can expect the port area to become extremely congested. 

The cruise port of Costa Maya also features a large pool, which is free to use. However, you’ll be approached to visit nearby shops and bars during your time there. You can also find animal encounters, such as swimming with dolphins, in the Costa Maya port area. As you can imagine, this experience is also a tourist trap and will cost you hundreds of dollars.

Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas

One of the most popular Caribbean destinations in the world is the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas. This massive resort is ocean-themed and located on Paradise Island and spans across 171 acres. Essentially, the resort is famous for being famous.

If your cruise ship docks in Nassau, you’ll see many excursions to Atlantis offered. As such, prices to visit Atlantis for cruise ship passengers have skyrocketed in recent years. Considering you won’t have more than a few hours at the resort when visiting on a cruise ship, it’s tough to justify the price.

For example, Royal Caribbean offers a shore excursion to Atlantis to swim with dolphins and visit the waterpark for $465 per person! This only includes 6 hours at the resort, costing you about $77 per hour for each person to visit Atlantis.

While this is not a traditional tourist trap, the cost to visit Atlantis for only 6 hours is astronomical. Your time and money is better spent at a different resort in Nassau.

Diamond’s International

Similar to Señor Frogs, the strategic placement for Diamond’s International at every Caribbean port should be a red flag. While purchasing affordable jewelry in the Caribbean is a common practice, Diamond’s International is one tourist trap you should rethink visiting. 

To start, Diamond’s International is likely receiving a financial kickback from the cruise lines. This is why you will see many advertisements throughout your cruise encouraging you to step inside to look at the jewelry. Diamond’s International also offers cruisers a free charm to get you in the door as a marketing tactic. You can collect the charms - which are cheaply made - throughout Diamond’s International locations with a punch card. 

Although some might have good experiences, many consider Diamond’s International to be a tourist trap. Be sure to do your due diligence with research if you choose to shop inside these stores during your cruise. 

Hell in Grand Cayman

Perhaps the poster child for tourist traps, you’ll find "Hell" in Grand Cayman. This interesting rock formation is made from limestone rocks eaten away by algae, giving it a volcanic appearance. Legend has it that the name "Hell” evolved long ago from an early British Commissioner touring the island, who apparently exclaimed the formation reminded him of what hell must look like. 

Regardless, Hell in Grand Cayman is a tourist trap. The small rock formation might be interesting, but the entire appeal comes from the notion that you can say, “I went to hell!”

The country built an entire attraction around the rock formation with platforms and shops to visit. Even on the Grand Cayman Department of Tourism website, it states, “In the Cayman Islands, tourists can go to Hell. This uniquely named attraction is located in the district of West Bay on Grand Cayman.”

Many tours will stop at Hell in Grand Cayman, but it’s certainly not a site that you need to go out of your way to visit.

Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica

Located in Ocho Rios, Dunn’s River Falls has been a top attraction for visitors and cruisers alike. Dunn’s River Falls is a large waterfall that allows you to climb around thanks to its naturally terraced rocks. There are natural pools of water with the river ending at the beach with views of the sea. 

While it seems like a great place to visit, you’ll be surrounded by tons of tourists and other cruisers. The Dunn’s River Falls has been around for many years, but the attraction is now littered with tourists everywhere. If you’re taking an excursion through the cruise line, you can expect dozens of other tours visiting at the same time. You even need to form a human chain to navigate the falls with your guide to ensure your group stays together. 

There’s no chance you’ll get a decent picture on the falls without hundreds of other tourists in the background. As with any tourist trap, you’ll have to navigate a gift shop and market.

Key West Southernmost Point

While Key West does not have as much cruise ship traffic as other destinations, the island is the southernmost point in the continental United States. If you make your way to the southern side of the island, you’ll find the famous monument stating, “Southernmost Point Continental U.S.A."

This tourist trap might not be soliciting your money, but it is wasting your time. There is always a line to take pictures with this monument sign. Because Key West is usually hot and humid, you can expect to be drenched in sweat waiting in line. When visiting this tourist trap back in February, I was frustrated to see so many people cutting around the line to take pictures with the sign. 

If you’re near the sign and there is no line for a picture, it is a fun memory to have. However, it’s not really worth your time to wait in a long line to snap a picture with it.  

Honorable Mention: Maho Beach in St. Maarten

While this might be controversial, some could argue that Maho Beach in St. Maarten is a tourist trap. The St. Maarten airport is located on the edge of the island with a strip of beach right at the end of the runway. As such, you can sit on the beach and watch the planes land incredibly close to the ground. 

Maho Beach is certainly unique, as it's best known as the "Airport Beach." For most cruisers, this would be a one-and-done kind of experience. The beach itself is nothing special and somewhat small, so it gets crowded quickly. There is one bar nearby that has food and drinks available, but that also becomes quite busy as the day goes on.

However, if you are an aviation geek (like my husband) then this is a worthwhile experience. My husband had Maho Beach on his bucket list for many years and absolutely loved visiting. You can track when the most exciting planes are landing to ensure your time is worthwhile. However, the others in our group (who were not aviation geeks) were underwhelmed and ready to leave after an hour or two. 

Honorable Mention: Stingray City in Grand Cayman

Another popular stop in Grand Cayman is Stingray City, which is an area filled with shallow sandbars. Visitors can take a quick 25-minute boat ride to swim, pet and interact with stingrays. The area has become known as "Stingray City" and many excursions will take cruisers out to the sandbar to interact with the stingrays.

In my opinion, this is a one-and-done type of experience. Stingray City can become very crowded with the boats on the sandbar, which can create a hectic experience. Not to mention, stingrays can be dangerous if you accidentally touch them the wrong way or happen to step on one in the sand. 

Some find Stingray City to be underwhelming and overcrowded. This means you won’t get much time with the rays, as other boats will be competing for time with the animals too. 

Caribbean tourist traps to avoid on a cruise

I took the Brightline train from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale for my cruise. Here's what it was like

22 Nov 2023
Matt Hochberg

Getting to your next cruise in Florida could be a lot easier now.

Matt on Brightline train

Brightline opened up regular high-speed train service between Orlando and South Florida, with stops at the two major cruise ports. This means you could get to Miami or Fort Lauderdale with ease from the Central Florida region. Of course, residents of South Florida could do the reverse and take the train up to Orlando for a Port Canaveral departure.

The train service offers a much needed alternative to boring car rides and short flights that require a great ordeal of trouble to get through the airport.

Departing from Orlando International Airport, it's a convenient way to get between Orlando and Miami, with stops along the way. There's talk of expanding the route to Tampa as well.

Brightline train car

For my cruise from Port Everglades, I took my family on the Brightline to try it out myself.

Departure from Orlando

Brightline train in the station

I live in the Orlando area, so we booked tickets on the train to take us down to Fort Lauderdale for the evening prior to our cruise beginning.

This was actually my fourth time on the train, but first with a lot of luggage and my family.  And this was the first time I was taking the train for the purposes of going on a cruise.

Booking tickets is quite simple via the Brightline website or app and very similar to booking an airplane ticket.

There's two types of fares: Smart and Premium.

Smart is essentially coach, while Premium is described as first class.  With Premium, more amenities are included. The starting price is $99 per person for Smart, and $149 per person for Premium.

Premium seats

Smart seats get complimentary WiFi, leather seats, and power outlets at each seat. 

Premium gets you all of that, plus lounge access, complimentary food and drinks, and extra space with each seat.

Drink service

We took a car service to the Brightline station at the airport, and were dropped off in front of the building. The reason I did this was because the first time I took the train, parking in the Orlando airport was limited and confusing. There is not good signage where to park for train, as the parking garage is shared with the airport.

Unfortunately, we arrived too late to have our luggage loaded onto the train for us.  Evidently you need to be there at least 30 minutes before departure.

Brightline station escalator

I had purchased Premium tickets for this trip, which included 1 piece of luggage per person. Checked bags for Smart guests would have been $25 each.

After going through a security checkpoint where we sent our belongings through a bag scanning machine, we headed to the Premium Lounge.

Premium Lounge

The Premium Lounge is a designated area to wait in for guests that bought Premium tickets.  

You not only have reserved seating, but also have access to complimentary soft drinks, water, snacks, fruit, vegetables, cookies, and even self-serve beer.

Premium Lounge
Premium Lounge

If you don't have a Premium ticket, there is seating around the waiting area, along with a bar and places to buy snacks or a souvenir.

Boarding doesn't begin until a few minutes before the train is scheduled to depart. About 10 or 15 minutes before the departure time, the doors are opened for guests to board.

Unfortunately on the day we departed, the incoming train was delayed about 15 minutes. 

Brightline station

Once onboard the train, Premium guests are in the first car and everyone else in the other cars. You pick a seat when you book the train and find your seat in the proper car once onboard.

Seats on the Brightline train

Each seat has multiple power outlets, and the WiFi was plenty fast, although occasionally it would drop out in rural areas. It would return to service quite quickly.

Power outlet

Being in Premium, you're given complimentary snacks and beverages to start once the train departs. It's very similar to first class on a domestic airline: beers, wines, cocktails and choice of chips, chocolate, nuts, and more.

The first three times I took the train for business, I had no issues and it went very smooth with everything on time.  On the train I took for my cruise, the incoming train was delayed and then about 10 minutes after leaving the station, we had to stop on the tracks for about 15 minutes due to let an incoming train pass.

Once we got going, the train really got up to speed. It's capable of doing speeds as high as 125 mph in the stretch between Orlando and the east coast of Florida. It slows down a bit for other parts of the trip, but the company says the train averages 69 mph.

For our meal service, it was a choice of a vegetarian caprese sandwich or an Italian sandwich. 

Lunch on Brightline
Sandwich on Brightline

The food was fine, and since it was included in my Premium fare, I certainly didn't mind at least picking at it and having something to eat until we got to our hotel.

The train makes just a few stops between Orlando and Miami: West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and Aventura.

Pricey, but with wonderful convenience

Fort Lauderdale brightline station

In thinking who is Brightline good for, it's really about weighing convenience over price.

Brightline tickets aren't cheap, but they probably will cost less than an airplane ticket.  More importantly, a train ride has significantly less hassle than the door-to-door airport and airplane experience.

I'm not sure a Brightline train ride is as ideal as replacement for a short plane ride as I think it's meant to be a compelling alternative to driving.

Seat on Brightline train

The drive between Orlando and South Florida is across a very rural part of the state with little to see.  Like all highways, it gets boring quickly and you always have to factor in traffic, weather, or animal crossings that could make the trip much longer.

Having done the drive dozens of times, it's so much easier to take the train and not have to contend with traffic or weather delays.  Plus, I can be more productive during the journey.

The experience from station to station is exemplary. Terminals are bright, new, and easy to navigate. Having grown up with Metro North trains in Connecticut and New York that had drab trains and seemingly ancient and dirty stations, the Brightline experience was remarkably more enjoyable.

Drink on Brightline

I wish the train staff would come around more often to pick up trash.  You're given a sanitary wipe, drinks, snacks, and food, but they would rarely come around to collect trash. Most passengers started using unused seats as somewhere to stash their trash.

I also didn't love how short of a window there is to board.  When they open up the boarding process, you have just a few minutes to get onboard. No time for a bathroom break or to deviate. I wish the train had more time in the station for guests to get situated in their seats.  It wasn't a problem, it just felt rushed.

Bottom line


Without a doubt, I'm a Brightline customer for the foreseeable future because I despised the tedious and boring nature of driving the same route.

It's not a cheap way to go, but Brightline offers pleasant conveniences that make up the difference.

If your goal is to find the cheapest way not to drive to South Florida, Brightline isn't going to be it.  But if your goal is to easily go to your cruise across Florida, it's a heck of a lot easier than flying.

As some that does not want to deal with the long drive and unknown factors that come with traffic or weather, I've found my family's preferred way to go to Miami for a cruise.