How Royal Caribbean’s Giant Icon of the Seas Became a Reality

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Royal Caribbean has always pushed the boundaries of cruise ship design and technology. Still, with the introduction of Icon of the Seas, they have taken a giant leap into the future. 

With the world’s largest cruise ship scheduled for her maiden voyage in January 2024, this marvel of modern engineering is not just a floating luxury resort. Icon of the Seas is an important showcase of using innovation and state-of-the-art technologies in building the blueprint of what is possible in ship design today.

Technology Powering The Cruise Experience

At an impressive length of 1198 feet, or 365 meters, and at 250,800 gross tons, Icon of the Seas is the largest cruise ship ever constructed. In fact, the vessel approaches some of the largest ships ever constructed.

This colossal structure has 20 decks, 2,805 staterooms, and can accommodate up to 5,610 guests along with a 2,350-member international crew.

Built at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland, the construction of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas involved a substantial workforce, with about 2,600 people working on the ship every day since June 2021, when the first steel was cut.

Watch a video below of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas from its first steel being cut all the way to its delivery:

But it’s not just the size that makes Icon of the Seas a game-changer; it’s the technology behind it. One of the most significant improvements over older vessels is the ship’s propulsion system. The six dual-fuel engines are all powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and can also run on traditional fuels if needed. 

LNG is a cleaner-burning fuel, significantly reducing emissions compared to traditional marine fuels. However, several companies are now using LNG, and the fuel itself is widely established these days. It’s the use of fuel cells that truly marks a step forward. 

Approximately 10% of the ship’s hotel operations, including air conditioning and elevators, will be powered by one kilowatt of fuel cells while the ship is docked. Fuel cells generate energy through a chemical process that combines hydrogen and oxygen, with water being the only byproduct, thereby offering a low-carbon solution. If successful, subsequent ships are expected to have enhanced fuel cell capabilities.

Icon of the Seas LNG Installation
Credit: Royal Caribbean

Icon of the Seas is also shore-power-ready and uses AI-based technology to enhance the vessel’s sailing routes to maximize efficiency. She employs an air lubrication system that reduces drag and has a cleaning robot that removes slime and growths on the hull to ensure Icon can operate at maximum efficiency at all times. 

Innovative Design and Guest Experience

Every aspect of Icon of the Seas is designed with the guest experience in mind. The ship features eight unique neighborhoods, including AquaDome, Central Park, Chill Island, Royal Promenade, Surfside, and more.

She also has the first-of-its-kind suspended infinity pool, the largest pool at sea, six waterslides, including the tallest at sea, and the first open freefall slide.

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas During Sea Trials
Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas During Sea Trials

These aquatic attractions, alongside nine whirlpools, ensure that guests have a variety of water-based activities to choose from. However, it also creates a problem for Royal. The amount of wastewater that is produced from the huge variety of water features, as well as the bars, restaurants, and the nearly 8000 people onboard is vast.

Icon of the Seas‘ wastewater treatment plant is capable of treating each drop of water above regulatory standards, ensuring that water after treatment is in pristine condition. On top of that, more than 93% of the water used onboard is produced by the vessel using a reverse osmosis and desalination plant.

Sustainability at the Forefront

Royal Caribbean’s focus on sustainability is evident in the ship’s energy-efficient technologies and waste management systems. 

The inclusion of Microwave-Assisted Pyrolysis (MAP) and Micro Auto Gasification (MAG) systems is a revolutionary step in waste management. These systems convert waste generated onboard, including food waste, into gas, which can be used as an energy source while producing biochar as a byproduct, a soil nutrient.

Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas

A key outcome of this is that 90% of the waste produced on the ship never reaches landfills. Interestingly, when compared to the waste guests would typically generate at home, the amount produced while they are on board is significantly less.

Read Also: How Long Does It Take to Build a Cruise Ship?

Icon of the Seas is not just the world’s biggest cruise ship. She represents a significant leap in cruise ship technology, focusing on sustainability, safety, and environmental responsibility, and has become a symbol of the future of cruising.

The giant ship’s first regular guest sailing, an inaugural cruise, will depart Miami, Florida, on January 27, 2024. The first official voyage will be a seven-night Caribbean itinerary, including a call to Royal Caribbean’s private island Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas. The vessel will sail year-round on seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.

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