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What the World’s Largest Cruise Ship Is “Really” Like,“ ”from a Passenger Aboard Its First Voyage (Exclusive)

The massive and much-hyped ship embarks on its maiden voyage from Port Miami on Jan. 27, but PEOPLE got a first look during the preview sailing

<p>Royal Caribbean</p>

Royal Caribbean

Calling all cruisers! Royal Caribbean’s shiny new ship, Icon of the Seas, is finally ready to make its official debut.

PEOPLE got a first look at the world’s largest cruise ship on a preview sailing ahead of its official maiden voyage on Jan. 27, and spent days exploring the vessel to see if it’s really the perfect combination of “thrill and chill” like the cruise line says. After experiencing a trip on the floating mini city (really, it has eight neighborhoods including a Central Park!), we can confirm that Icon has everything cruise lovers could want in a vacation and then some.

Here’s everything to know about the record-breaking Icon of the Seas, including what you can only learn by sailing on it.

The Basics

The ship will depart from Port Miami next week for its first seven-night sailing and head for a number of destinations throughout the Eastern and Western Caribbean.

Ports will include Puerto Costa Maya in Mexico, Roatan in Honduras, Cozumel in Mexico, Basseterre in St. Kitts & Nevis, Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas, and Royal Caribbean's private island retreat Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas.

Prices for both trips currently range from $3,600 all the way up to $100,000 per week depending on the route and type of accommodation.

The Superlatives

Icon of the Seas is breaking records in more ways than one. It boasts the world’s largest water park at sea (Category 6) and pool at sea (Royal Bay). It's also just slightly longer than and holds a higher passenger and crew capacity than Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, which formerly had the title of largest cruise ship in the world.

After completing a round of sea trials in June 2023 and naming soccer star Lionel Messi its official Icon in December, the ship is finally ready to start bringing cruisers on a larger-than-life vacation through the Caribbean. 

<p>Royal Caribbean</p> Lionel Messi was named the ship's official 'Icon.'

Royal Caribbean

Lionel Messi was named the ship's official 'Icon.'

It’s Basically a Floating City

Cruisers can spend hours exploring each of the eight neighborhoods aboard the ship that all strive to create a unique travel experience based on specific vacation styles. The open-air Central Park is a lush oasis that surrounds passengers with four live plant walls and offers a number of restaurants and bars to dine at — including a walk-up champagne bar and an eight-course dining experience at Empire Supper Club. Guests can even let loose and sway along to live music at Lou’s Jazz ‘n Blues.

The Royal Promenade boasts stunning ocean views through the cruise line’s first floor-to-ceiling window feature equipped with connected decks. The neighborhood also offers more than 15 dining options (the ship in total offers over 40 ways to dine and drink) that can be enjoyed by families and solo adult passengers alike. Additional restaurants, bars and cafes can be found at the AquaDome which has a 55-foot waterfall display as well as panoramic views of the ocean.

For those looking to lounge by the pool and relax, The Hideaway offers a suspended infinity pool overlooking the sparkling sea, while Chill Island features the most expansive pool at sea at 5,813 sq. ft. The neighborhood also includes a swim-up bar, Swim & Tonic, where cruisers can enjoy refreshing frozen drinks while wading in the water. However, because the ship can hold up to 7,600 guests at max capacity, the bar gets packed pretty quickly so you'll need to claim your spot early.

<p>Royal Caribbean</p> 'Icon of the Seas' boasts the largest waterpark at sea.

Royal Caribbean

'Icon of the Seas' boasts the largest waterpark at sea.

For adventurers and families, Thrill Island and Surfside are the spots to be. Thrill Island is where Category 6, is located, along with additional daring excursions like the free-fall Pressure Drop slide, FlowRider surf simulator and rock climbing at Adrenaline Peak. Thrill-seeking cruisers can also challenge themselves at Crown’s Edge where they’ll be suspended 154 feet above sea level.

Meanwhile at Surfside, Royal Caribbean’s first-ever neighborhood designed specifically for families, parents and kids can enjoy their own mini adventures through the beach-themed carousel, family festival and more fun-filled activities. Parents can even have a chance to unwind at the Water’s Edge pool while they watch their kids play in the nearby Splashaway Bay or Baby Bay.

Last but not least, at the Suite Neighborhood, guests can experience the multilevel sundeck at The Grove, enjoy the luxurious private pool and eat at the two-deck Coastal Kitchen.

<p>Royal Caribbean</p> A look at the various pools and Category 6 waterpark on the ship.

Royal Caribbean

A look at the various pools and Category 6 waterpark on the ship.

Accommodations for All Kinds

With 2,805 staterooms and more than 28 different types of rooms, Icon of the Seas offers a unique way of cruise living. Guests can soak in the views in Royal Caribbean’s first-ever Infinite Balcony Room that can fit up to four people. The room’s private terrace allows cruisers to escape for a while and breathe in the fresh, salty air.

Surfside Family Suites accommodate families of four and are conveniently located in the heart of Surfside making it easy for kids to jump straight into the action. They offer a private balcony that overlooks the neighborhood so families can always have a glimpse of the fun.

To take a family getaway above and beyond, cruisers can consider booking the 2,523 sq. ft. Ultimate Family Townhouse that accommodates up to eight people. The three-story space boasts an indoor slide, a wraparound balcony with a whirlpool, an outdoor patio with table tennis and direct access to Surfside.

This accommodation is so packed with activities and extra space that it costs $100,000 for the whole seven-night sailing and it's already booked through the next year.

Another noteworthy suite is the two-level Icon Loft which is priced at approximately $64,000 for a week. It includes a private hot tub, a wraparound balcony, a piano and primary bedroom with a freestanding bathtub. Both the Icon Loft and Ultimate Family Townhouse offer complimentary specialty restaurants, special beverage packages and unlimited wifi.

Meanwhile, all Sea Class rooms require guests to purchase separate wifi packages.

The least expensive stateroom on Icon of the Seas is the Interior Plus which costs about $3,600 a week.

<p>Royal Caribbean</p> The Ultimate Family Townhouse features and indoor slide and three levels of luxury living.

Royal Caribbean

The Ultimate Family Townhouse features and indoor slide and three levels of luxury living.

Entertainment

The option to enjoy live entertainment is always a plus on any vacation, especially if you’re looking to escape some of the chaos happening throughout the 20 decks on board. A good place to start would be the first rendition of The Wizard of Oz at sea in the Royal Theater. The production is similar to a Broadway-level show, from cast members floating over the audience to fake snow falling from the ceiling and more spectacular special effects in between.

To see the first cast of robots perform the unimaginable, guests can head to the AquaTheater at the AquaDome to see performances that blend together theatrical and live-action movie experiences.

If a show isn’t the vibe for the night, cruisers should head over to Boleros bar and lounge to hear Travesia bring Latin rhythms to life. Afterwards, the Adult Comedy LIVE! show located in The Attic is a good place to laugh the night away.

<p>Royal Caribbean</p> Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas is now offering an adults-only Hideaway Beach.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas is now offering an adults-only Hideaway Beach.

A Mini Paradise Awaits at CocoCay and the New Hideaway Beach

It wouldn’t be a Royal Caribbean cruise without a Perfect Day at CocoCay stop. The company’s private Bahamas island retreat promises to keep the adventure going at Thrill Waterpark with 14 slides to ride.

The island is also offering a new addition for adults only called Hideaway Beach — its first-ever private escape where grownups can admire the stunning white sand and turquoise waters without any interruptions.

While the new addition does imitate a relaxing beach club feel with free-flowing drinks and snacks to enjoy all day long, it also presents a similar issue to Swim & Tonic in that it gets packed really quickly. Be prepared to walk to the other side of the cove and spend a few minutes looking for a lounge chair before you can sit back and relax.

A Few More Things to Keep in Mind

Although this is the largest cruise ship in the world, cruisers should expect to feel the boat moving from time to time. Depending on the weather, it can rock to the point that guests may lose their balance, and it's definitely more intense towards the front of the ship. For those who get seasick easily, it's best to book a stateroom towards the middle of the ship where less movement is felt.

This truly is a massive ship. It has a gross tonnage of 250,800 which is about five times more than the Titanic at 46,328, according to CNN. It also takes approximately six minutes to walk from one end of the ship to the other — and that's without stopping to chat with the incredibly friendly crew members on board.

And for the ultimate cruise nerds, Icon's Captain Henrik Loy told preview guests that the ship can reach a speed of about 24 knots (28 mph) during an exclusive tour of the vessel's bridge. The ship was cruising at about 11 knots (13 mph) during this sailing, and the captain added that the max speed is very fast and not needed for this type of trip.

Icon of the Seas Is Just the Beginning

Also during the preview sailing, Royal Caribbean shared an exclusive look ahead at the next epic adventure they have up their sleeve. Star of the Seas will become the newest ship to join the cruise line's Icon Class when it makes its debut in August 2025. While it won't be the next largest cruise ship in the world, it will still aim to create an epic vacation on board through its accommodations, dining, entertainment and more.

The company also confirmed that an unnamed Icon 3 ship is currently in the works, but the timing and name of the ship has not yet been announced.

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Read the original article on People.