Icon of the Seas: Royal Caribbean Bets on Huge Candy-Colored Cruise Ship

When the Icon of the Seas sets sail early next year, it will take some time to disappear from the horizon. At 1,198 feet long and a gross tonnage of 250,800, it is hard to miss.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship will have 20 decks packed with more than 20 bars and restaurants, seven pools, nine whirlpools, and six water slides, as well as mini golf, rock climbing and an arcade. It will carry up to 7,960 people — up to 5,610 guests and a crew of 2,350 to pour drinks, turn back covers, swab the decks and keep the vessel on course.

Since Royal Caribbean announced this newest ship last year, it has helped to boost the company’s sales with high demand for advanced bookings.

It has also become an object of fascination (and scorn) on social media.

Some can’t wait to climb aboard, with rooms already selling out for the ship’s first voyage. But others have criticized its size and bright colors, calling it a “monstrosity.” One critic called an artist’s rendering a “Candy Crush version of the dystopian underground world” from science-fiction series “Silo” on Apple TV+.

Some critics even drew comparisons to an ill-fated ocean liner of yesteryear, noting it is five times “larger and heavier than the Titanic,” and about 300 feet longer.

Royal Caribbean bills the older Wonder of the Seas as the “biggest ship in the world.” When the new one is ready, it will be 10 feet longer, heavier and will carry more people, perhaps giving it bragging rights as the world’s largest.

Royal Caribbean said in a statement last month that the Icon of Seas had passed its first round of sea trials, traveling in the open ocean for the first time near Turku, Finland. The ship will have another round of trials later this year ahead of its debut in January, the company said.

Interest in the ship comes as the cruise industry tries to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic, when multiple outbreaks onboard ships led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to chastise the industry and ban cruises.

But now the voyages have resumed and vacationers have returned to the sea, even as the industry still faces health and environmental concerns.

This year, for example, the C.D.C. has recorded 13 norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships, four of them on Royal Caribbean International cruises.

And environmentalists like Marcie Keever, program director of oceans and vessels at Friends of the Earth in Washington, contend that cruise lines “continue to build bigger ships that rely on fossil fuels, dump toxic wastewater into our oceans and burden coastal communities with air, water and garbage pollution.”

Royal Caribbean referred a request for comment on Tuesday seeking more details about the ship to its website. The company said it could not comment about environmental concerns, citing a quiet period required ahead of its next earnings report.

However, the company has touted the effect that the Icon of the Seas is already showing on its bottom line, saying in a statement that advance bookings during the first quarter were ”significantly higher” than the first quarter of 2019.

Jason Liberty, president and chief executive of Royal Caribbean Group, said during an earnings call in May that the Icon of the Seas has been “significantly more booked” for its inaugural season “than any other Royal Caribbean ship launch.”

Michael Bayley, president and chief executive of Royal Caribbean International, said during the call that the ship was “the best performing new product launch we’ve ever had in the history of our business.”

“It’s really driving a huge amount of demand,” Mr. Bayley said.




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