An Insider’s Guide To Family Cruises Onboard Icon Of The Seas

This New Cruise Ship Is Loaded With Features That Cater To Families Traveling Together. Here’s How To Plan The Perfect Family Getaway Onboard.

By Amanda Mesa | Published on August 8, 2023


When it comes to planning my family’s yearly getaway, I like to keep things as simple and stress-free as possible. An easy way to do that is to book a cruise — it eliminates the hassle of coordinating logistics, having to unpack multiple times, planning out activities for the different ages and preferences in my party and worrying about there being enough food options to please the picky eaters in my group. What’s more, there are so many free activities, experiences and dining options included in the price of cruise fare that it often ends up being the most cost-effective vacation for my siblings, parents and grandparents. 

So, when I find out about a new cruise ship that promises to offer even more cruise attractions for kids, onboard restaurants and record-breaking features sure to wow even the most seasoned travelers, I start doing my homework immediately. I’m talking about Icon of the Seas, the newest ship by Royal Caribbean and the largest in the world. It offers a staggering number of cool activities and experiences designed to facilitate family bonding — like the largest waterpark at sea, a neighborhood filled with attractions and eats curated just for families, more than 20 crave-worthy restaurants, an always-buzzing karaoke spot and daily programming geared toward kids, grandparents and every age in between. 

And the fun doesn't stop there. This ship also offers reimagined versions of classic Royal Caribbean favorites like the award-winning Adventure Ocean®️ childcare program, a cool teen hangout called Social 020, a FlowRider®️* surf simulator and new and improved rock-climbing zone called Adrenaline PeakSM. Whether you’re in the mood for a putt-putt contest on the mini-golf green or a relaxing, sun-soaked day by one of the ship’s seven — yes, seven — incredible pools, it seems like there will never a dull moment onboard. Keep reading to learn more about some of the many family-friendly experiences that await onboard the world’s largest ship yet. 

1. Up The Adrenaline At The Largest Waterpark At Sea

One of the highlights for families cruising onboard Icon of the Seas is the ship’s onboard waterpark. It’s called Category 6, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship before. This giant thrill zone is home to six waterslides engineered to unlock max adrenaline, including the tallest drop waterslide at sea, the first open freefall slide at sea, the first mat racing duo ever to sail and two new raft slides built to accommodate entire families. The best part? Admission to Category 6 is free for all guests sailing onboard Icon of the Seas, and anyone who meets the height requirements — which range from 48 to 52 inches depending on the slide or ride — can get in on all the pulse-pounding action. 

2. Test Your Family’s Tolerance For Heights At Adrenaline Peak℠

Another pretty exciting feature onboard Icon of the Seas is Adrenaline Peak, a reimagined version of the popular rock-climbing wall you’ll find on most Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Located in the ship’s Thrill Island neighborhood, Adrenaline Peak is a craggy course designed to test your limits as you race your friends or relatives to the summit. There are five lanes, letting climbers go head to head with others in their group. And you can choose your difficulty level, working your way up from easy to advanced climbs at your own pace. The reward for getting all the way to the top is a jaw-dropping view of the surrounding sea and sights — and bragging rights, of course.

3. Explore The Family-Friendly Surfside℠ Neighborhood

Icon of the Seas is home to several different neighborhoods, each with their own attractions and atmosphere. The one best suited for families and family-friendly cruises is Surfside, where you’ll find a slew of cruise activities for families, teens and little ones. Cruising with a baby or toddler? Check out Splashaway BaySM, an aqua park with sized-down attractions perfect for the ship’s smallest fun-seekers. You can also spend some time soaking up the sun at Water’s Edge Pool, known for its endless ocean views. Surfside is where you’ll find the Adventure Ocean youth program and Social 020 teen space, both complimentary for guests. There’s even a spot called The Lemon PostSM that serves up tasty sips for all ages.

4. Savor More Than 20 Ways To Elevate Family Meals

As a former food writer, I can confidently say that Icon of the Seas goes above and beyond when it comes to cruise dining options. With more than 20 world-class restaurants onboard, it has one of the most expansive food scenes I’ve ever seen on a ship — music to the ears of anyone who has ever had to plan a vacation with picky eaters in tow. From casual grab-and-go eateries to elevated fine dining that’s perfect for special occasion dinners, you’ll find a little bit of everything onboard. Like authentic Old World-inspired suppers served family-style at Giovanni’sSM Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar. New England-style classics — including Maryland crab cakes and Maine lobster rolls — at Hooked SeafoodSM. Surfside EaterySM, an expansive and laid-back buffet that’s open during breakfast, lunch and dinner, and plenty more. 

5. Unwind In The Sunshine At Seven Unique Pools

One of my favorite aspects about Icon of the Seas is that the cruise ship boasts a pool for every day of the week — literally. For parents traveling with kids, there’s The CoveSM Pool and the Royal BaySM Pools. With over 40,000 gallons of water, the latter is the largest pool at sea and offers plenty of room for groups of all sizes. Guests looking to enjoy a little bit of grown-up time while their kiddos or younger relatives have a blast at Adventure Ocean will love Cloud 17SM, a tranquil, oasis tucked away on the top deck with gorgeous ocean views and private access to The Lime & Coconut®️ bar. And those are just three of the seven pools onboard.

6. Unleash Your Inner Pop Star At Spotlight℠ Karaoke

My family loves a great karaoke session — it’s a favorite way for all of us to let loose, and it’s been a staple on some of our best family vacations. Which is why I love the fact that Icon of the Seas has a Spotlight Karaoke right on the Royal Promenade that’s big enough to accommodate over a hundred raving fans and amateur crooners. You can hit the main stage and sing your heart out for the entire audience or reserve a private room for you and your fam if you prefer a more intimate performance with your loved ones. The song catalogue here is impressive — you’ll be able to rock out to everything from disco to hip hop to rock and roll. And with so much available space around the main stage, there’s not need to worry about arriving early to grab seats.

7. Choose From Stateroom Designed Specifically For Families

Part of planning a fun vacation for the whole family is ensuring you have accommodations that are comfortable for everyone in your group. This is another area where Icon of the Seas really shines. It’s the first cruise ship I’ve seen that has so many stateroom categories designed specifically for families — including balcony staterooms with bunk rooms and views of either the ocean or one of the ship’s bustling neighborhoods, as well as family-friendly suites with split bathrooms and easy access to the Surfside neighborhood (where you’ll find most of the ship’s cruise attractions for kids). 

Of course, nothing compares to the Ultimate Family Townhouse, a sprawling three-level hideaway that’s totally worth the splurge. The first of its kind, this impressive suite — if you can call it that — dazzles with hidden nooks little ones will love, a cinema room complete with a working popcorn machine, a slide that plunges into the living room, a wraparound terrace and a private patio just steps from all the fun Surfside has to offer. What’s more, families that book this onboard wonderland enjoy Royal Suite Class Star status, unlocking all kinds of exclusive perks like a personal Royal Genie and priority access across the ship.

Whether you’re traveling with little ones, teens or adult siblings and relatives, you’re in for an unforgettable family cruise onboard Icon of the Seas. Find an itinerary that sparks your wanderlust here, and get ready for a family escape unlike any other. 

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