Royal Caribbean will launch two new cruise ships in 2024, and that might tempt you to book one of the first sailings.
Icon of the Seas will launch in January 2024 and offer 7-night Caribbean cruises. Icon is the first in the Icon Class of ships, and she's being set up as a game changer within the cruise industry.
At 250,800 tons, Icon will be the biggest cruise ship ever built, and will offer more activities on its pool deck than any other ship in history. A water park, sun decks, adults-only pool, sunset view pools and more are coming to Icon.
Not to be overshadowed, Utopia of the Seas will start sailing in July 2024 and while she is the sixth in the Oasis Class, she has a few innovations and new additions coming as well.
Utopia will be the first new Royal Caribbean cruise ship to start off with short 3- and 4-night cruises.
Utopia will have a new tiki bar experience, new dining experiences, immersive dining, and an open deck filled with plenty of activities.
If these new ships sound incredible, you're not alone. Lots of people are taking notice of what Royal Caribbean has in store and there is a sense of FOMO ("fear of missing out") circulating to experience these ships.
Should you book a cruise on a brand new Royal Caribbean ship, such as Icon or Utopia?
Depending on your flexibility and preferences, being on a new ship when it first starts sailing could be a really good or bad idea.
Why you should book a brand-new cruise ship
Being first is important to you
Among the cruise fan community, there's definitely a badge of honor to be first.
After years of hype and teases, cruise fans not only want to sail on new cruise ships, but want to beat their friends to seeing it first.
There's definite bragging rights to saying you were on a maiden voyage of a particular ship. In the same way someone might wax poetically about having been to a concert of famous band, cruisers love to point out they were there when a new ship launched.
Certainly the first public sailing is more enticing for anyone that feels strongly about getting on a ship first. Similar to how someone might want to see a movie on opening night, getting on a ship first means you can see everything before anyone else. Less spoilers to contend with later, and a way to feel like "you were there".
After all, how great is it to be able to say, "I was on the maiden voyage"?
You love latest and greatest
Every new Royal Caribbean cruise ship introduces something new or different, and if you love innovation, a new ship might be for you.
Even though Utopia of the Seas is the last in the Oasis Class, she will still have new entertainment, and even a brand new innovative and immersive dining experience never before seen.
New ships are a look at what Royal Caribbean has been working on for years, and many of these offerings were secretive for months or years leading up to the ship's launch.
It's impressive to see new concepts that Royal Caribbean has, and in many cases, they re-define our expectations. Some cruisers will go on a new ship and then look at older ships with contempt because they don't stack up to the new level of cruising set forth by a new ship.
You like a party
Without a doubt, a new cruise ship is a reason to celebrate and the first sailing of a new ship is a giant party.
When Royal Caribbean launches a new cruise ship, it's sort of like an iPhone launch or opening day of a baseball game. There's a lot of excitement and pomp and circumstance surrounding the ship's launch.
You'll find nearly all of Royal Caribbean's top executives onboard to oversee and celebrate the launch.
Likewise, cruise fans that cruise the most flock to new ship launches because it's an opportunity to see friends. Think high school reunion meets birthday party.
Royal Caribbean usually includes extra events on the first sailing of a new ship, along with swag.
The best crew members
When Royal Caribbean launches a new cruise ship, they look to bring in the top rated crew members to help get the ship going.
Any new cruise ship is a challenge to get up and running, because routines need to be set up and systems will need tweaking.
Some crew members relish this challenge, and it gets competitive among crew to get a transfer to a new ship.
Just like how guests like to point out they were there first, many crew members wear it as a badge of honor to help launch a ship.
Because these crew members are the best the cruise line has to offer, you get superior service onboard.
Port stops are a local event
When a brand new cruise ship pulls into a port of call, it's a celebration in and of itself.
Each port is a new stop for a ship on an inaugural cruise so often its arrival becomes a local event. Sometimes it's a small ceremony, and other times there is a big party on the pier and guests are invited too.
It's kind of neat to see the party atmosphere surrounding a new ship spill over to the places you visit.
There's no wear and tear
One of the most common concerns I hear from readers is if a particular ship feels old or dated, and there's no such concern with a new ship.
A new cruise ship has no wear and tear. Every aspect of the ship is still in never-been-used, pristine condition.
Beds are new, decorations are contemporary, and menus reflect trends we are still seeing today.
Why you shouldn't book a brand-new cruise ship
You want everything ready and working for your cruise
New cruise ships aren't always totally complete when they launch.
The ship is functional and perfectly safe to sail on, but not every feature or offering may be ready for the first sailing.
There's a lot of pressure to get a new ship out and sailing on time, and sometimes there could be a venue or show not quite ready for the first sailing. This is especially true today, as supply chain issues are still difficult to manage.
Most commonly, the full lineup of shows may not be ready for the first sailing. In some cases, the shows may be performed, but only partially while the cast learns the full lineup.
As an example, Effectors wasn't ready for many months after Wonder of the Seas launched.
Oh, and the price for early sailings is the same whether or not everything is 100% or not.
If you'd be disappointed not to be able to experience every single feature promoted with a new ship because it's not ready yet, a new ship might be worth skipping.
You don't want to pay top dollar
Without a doubt, a cruise on a brand new ship will cost more than other ships.
You'll pay a premium for sailing on a new ship compared to older ships, and sometimes the price gap can be substantial.
Even prices for add-ons, like a drink package or cabana at Perfect Day at CocoCay, will cost more on a new ship.
In speaking with Wall Street analysts, Royal Caribbean has talked about how well Icon of the Seas is selling and at higher prices.
In short, you'll pay more for a cruise if you want to get on a new ship. Especially, if it's the first sailing.
You don't like big ships
New or not, if you are not a fan of big cruise ships, then you can probably skip Icon or Utopia too.
Royal Caribbean has steadily been building bigger ships, and some people prefer smaller ships.
There could be a delay
Something else to keep in mind with any new cruise ship is plans can change.
Cruise ship construction is well-thought out, but there's plenty of examples of new ship launches being pushed back.
While there's no reason to believe Icon or Utopia of the Seas will be delayed, we've seen ship launches delayed over the years.