When it comes to cruising, perhaps the biggest story (pun intended) is the pending arrival of Icon of the Seas. The new ship from Royal Caribbean begins sailing near the start of 2024, but it’s much more than just another new vessel. It promises to be a transformation in what’s possible aboard a cruise ship.
From being literally the largest cruise ship in the world to having a complete waterpark on the ship and more, Icon of the Seas is set to do things never seen before at sea.
But our analysis shows that the cost to sail on the new ship is significantly higher than other ships — more than 80% higher on average over the course of 2024 than the fleet’s current newest ship Wonder of the Seas.
Icon of the Seas: Different Than Anything Else Out There
For years Royal Caribbean has been a leader in not just building the biggest cruise ships (currently all five of the largest cruise ships on the planet belong to the brand) but also offering the most groundbreaking things to do and see aboard a ship.
Icon of the Seas promises to take that to another level. Set to arrive to the fleet in late 2023 and start sailing with passengers in 2024, Icon of the Seas will come in at more than 250,000 gross tons, making it the largest cruise ship in the world. It will take over that title from Wonder of the Seas, launched in 2022, which measures 235,600 gross tons.
All told, the ship will carry 5,610 passengers at double occupancy in its 2,805 staterooms. It will also feature 20 total decks and top out at just a shade under 1,200 feet long (1,198 feet to be exact.)
But this isn’t just a bigger cruise ship. Royal Caribbean executives have called it a “white paper” ship, meaning it essentially started a design from a blank sheet of paper. While it does share features of the Oasis-class of ships, such as the middle split that leaves the center of the ship open, there’s much that’s completely new or past features re-imagined.
There will be seven pools, including Swim & Tonic, the first swim-up bar on Royal Caribbean. Royal Bay will be the largest pool at sea. Icon will feature eight different neighborhoods, including Surfside, the first neighborhood to revolve around families with younger kids (including their own pool area with Splashaway Bay).
One of the most distinguishing features is the new AquaDome at the front of the ship. Here is where the aquatic shows will be (complete with 55-foot waterfall), along with sweeping views and lounge area during the day. Central Park get an update, with more greenery than what’s on Oasis-class ships. And Royal Caribbean has announced a new line up of venues, entailing everything from dueling piano bars to an English pub with darts (Point & Feather) to karaoke and comedy clubs.
Perhaps the most eye-catching feature, however, is a neighborhood known as Thrill Island. Sitting atop the aft of the ship, it is complete with Category 6, a six-slide waterpark that will be the largest at sea. There’s also the basketball court, Flowrider, and climbing wall. And a new feature is Crown’s Edge, a ropes course that takes you out over the edge of the ship, where the floor will give way and send you ziplining out over the water, hundreds of feet up.
In other words, if you’ve sailed Royal Caribbean’s largest ships before, then you have some hint of what’s coming… but it will still be unlike anything you’ve experienced.
The only question is if you’re willing to pony up the money to experience it all.
Cruise Fares 80%+ Over the Next Newest Ship
It’s not unusual to see higher prices for new ships. Cruise lines are able to charge a premium for the newest ships as the buzz surrounding a new ship creates more demand.
What’s noteworthy, however, is how much more Royal Caribbean is charging for cruises aboard Icon of the Seas, especially compared to its current newest ship, Wonder of the Seas.
We checked prices for all of 2024 aboard Icon of the Seas, which sails weekly throughout the year from Miami. And to give you a sense of excitement around the new ship, even though it won’t begin sailing for more than six months, several of its first voyages aren’t showing (presumably due to being sold out). Other trips are seeing sell outs in specific cabin categories.
In our search, we looked at each available sailing shown on the Royal Caribbean website for 2024. Among these cruises, which are all seven days in length — the lowest-priced interior cabin had an average per person fare of $1,884. That comes out to about $270 per day:
There's no arguing for a mass-market line like Royal Caribbean, that's a significant cost. But compared to another new ship in the fleet, the difference is stark.
Like Icon of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas sails week-long journeys throughout 2024. The ship homeports in Port Canaveral in 2024, providing similar itineraries to Icon of the Seas, which is based just a few hours south in Miami.
Wonder of the Seas is notable in that at this time it is the current newest -- and largest -- ship from Royal Caribbean. It first began sailing in March 2022. But while it also offers much of the cruise line's latest and greatest amenities, it costs significantly less to sail than Icon.
Pricing interior cabins for 2024 (to compare apples to apples, we left off weeks where Icon of the Seas showed no sailings available), Wonder of the Seas has an average price on 7-day cruises of just $1,034 per person. That comes out to less than $150 per night.
Compared, cruises aboard Icon of the Seas run $850 more on average over the course of the year than those on Wonder of the Seas, or about 82% more.
Still Strong Demand Despite Higher Prices
If you think the price difference between the two new ships seems substantial, you aren't alone. However, at least right now it appears cruisers don't mind paying more, and frankly, are excited to sail the groundbreaking ship.
In October 2022, Royal Caribbean announced it saw its single-largest booking day in its history when Icon of the Sea began taking reservations.
“The enthusiasm and excitement for Icon are undeniable in more ways than one,” Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, said at that time. “The incredible response we have received from our loyal guests, vacationers new to cruising, crew members and travel partners continues to come in, and this is just the beginning."
That mark didn't last long. On Black Friday 2022, the cruise line broke its single-day booking record again, thanks in part to Icon.
Cruzely spoke to multiple people booked for trips aboard the new ship. Worries about the cost of the cruise didn't seem to worry these cruisers much.
"We love Royal Caribbean so we want to stay with the same line, but we've been on the Oasis-class ships many times so this new ship will be a great experience," said Stanley Wang, of Ontario, Canada. "It is quite a bit more expensive for the cruise itself, but we were expecting that due to the size of the ship and since it is brand new."
Another told us that he noted the higher cost, but said it didn't deter him from booking -- especially with so much to experience onboard.
"With so much to see and do on the ship, I know my son, who will be 12, will have a lot of fun things to keep busy with," said Gordon Gibbons of Massachusetts.
"The cost, well… everything seems expensive these days. But, it’s a brand-new ship and the world's largest. That’s a really unique aspect to this vacation. And life is short; make family memories now because you never know what life might hand you each day."
More on Icon of the Seas:
- Guide to Thrill Island's Category 6 Waterpark on Icon of the Seas
- Icon of the Seas: What to Know About Royal Caribbean's New Ship (Read Before Booking)
- Icon of the Seas' $75,000 Cabin Already 55% Booked... A Year Before it Sails!