Since the first renderings of the vessel were released just a couple of weeks ago, the buzz surrounding Royal Caribbean’s new Icon of the Seas has been unparalleled. In fact, despite the ship not even sailing with passengers until 2024, the company has already seen huge demand for bookings.
In fact, Royal Caribbean Group says that it saw a single-day record for bookings when the ship opened for sale in late October.
“The ship opened for sale about a week ago, and the market response was nothing short of remarkable,” said Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty on an earnings call with investors. “On the first day of bookings, we far surpassed our previous single-day booking record for the brand and the company overall. And it wasn’t even close.”
But it’s an interesting anecdote shared by one person on that call that makes us wonder if Icon of the Seas may lead to a sea change in the vacation market.
What’s Different About Icon of the Seas
First, for those that missed the big reveal, Icon of the Seas is taking what’s possible on a cruise ship to another level.
The new vessel will take over as the largest cruise ship in the world when it makes its debut in early 2024 (a crown that Royal Caribbean already holds with Wonder of the Seas).
It features a full waterpark with six different slides, the largest pool at sea, a new AquaDome for lounging and performances, a new neighborhood for families, and more. (You can read the full details of what’s been revealed on the ship here.)
In short, the cruise line, which is well-known for being family friendly and having lots to do, is setting that bar even higher. In fact, it actually blurs the line of what you can do at a land-based resort and what you can on a cruise ship.
That’s entirely on purpose. The cruise line has admitted that it has its sights on competing with the ultimate family vacation spot — Orlando — with Icon of the Seas:
“The Icon product along with Perfect Day [at CocoCay], with the kind of experiences we’re offering with the kind of new accommodations we have on Icon, and the experiences we have for young families, older families, of course couples and singles… is really squarely standing shoulder to shoulder with Orlando and those kinds of destinations,” said Royal Caribbean International President Michael Bayley on the conference call.
“What we’ve seen with Icon in the first week, and it’s continued now into the second week, there’s a huge amount of demand for that product.”
Already Replacing a Disney Trip for Some Travelers?
To be sure, between what looks like a theme park aboard a cruise ship with the new renderings of Icon of the Seas combined with the recent revamp of CocoCay (which has everything from its own waterpark to beaches to an exclusive beach club to an enormous pool), the push that Royal Caribbean is making into being a top choice for families looking to vacation is obvious.
But could it actually compete with arguably the biggest family destination on the planet — Disney World?
Well, one anecdote shared during Royal Caribbean’s earnings call pointed out that for at least one family, Icon of the Seas beat out Disney.
It’s not clear exactly who the person who joined the executives on the earnings call to share this story was, but they had an interesting experience when traveling recently.
“It was a random traveler behind me saying they were thinking about going to Disney, but [they’re] going to book their family on the Icon. Seems to speak to some market share gains there. It’s a one-off conversation, but part of a broader theme,” the person shared on the conference call.
To be clear, Icon of the Seas isn’t going to put a destination like Disney World or Orlando out of business. But for families looking for a vacation, the new features on the ship do make the experience more comparable.
And for at least one family, Icon of the Seas seems to have won out.