Posted October 19, 2023
By VALERIA PALLADINO
Seven times the Vatican city’s population all in one cruise. She’s the real swimming city.
Just imagine how many eggs they will need.
The Icon of the Seas has a maximum capacity of 7,600 passengers.
It will hold almost 10,000 people including staff and crew members. (That is more than 500,000 eggs per week!)
After a two-year shutdown, Royal Caribbean International, formerly Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, is back in the game, bringing several new cruises to the public and one is breaking records.
The Icon of The Seas is the largest cruise ever built, measuring 1,198 feet long. And let me tell you, the ship itself is not the only record break Royal Caribbean has planned. On Jan. 27, 2024, the Icon will be making its first official sail.
The number of sales is higher now than before the pandemic. But despite the high prices, something about the Icon of the Seas seems to be capturing people’s attention.
Christopher Sowers, manager of Integrated Marketing and E-Commerce, said that demand is strong.
“Prices are highest they’ve been in years and yet consumers continue to buy,” Sowers stated. “There was pent up demand for consumers who were not able to travel throughout COVID. Household savings increased to the highest point ever and thus they had more money and were more willing to spend it on travel due to COVID.”
Rodrigo Arenas, Customer Relationship Management Specialist of International Marketing at Royal Caribbean, said that not only have sales increased, but during this time they have re-directioned their operation methods as well.
“We’re currently trending better than 2019 (prior to COVID-19) in sales which is a great sign and I also think it’s important to point out that the whole business has changed, pandemic allowed business to consumer efforts to grow significantly vs the traditional business to business approach.”
Sowers agreed there were noteworthy differences throughout markets post COVID.
“There was also a significant shift in the channel of choice for consumers as more and more began booking through the web vs travel agents.”
Arenas believes the shutdown increased the people’s desire to travel. Royal Caribbean was able to bounce back in a timely manner.
“My personal opinion is that most people were just tired of not being able to travel and once restrictions got lifted across the world, they just all went for it and that’s why the tourism sector got back on their feet relatively quickly,” he said.
The logistics of carrying a ship this size is crazy to even think about.
Matthew Johnson, senior manager International Marketing Strategy at Royal Caribbean, explained that what may seem like a simple mistake costs them real money.
“Logistics are the single most important factor when it comes to our cruises as it encompasses everything the guest will experience while onboard our ships including health and safety. Sailings follow set itineraries typically departing and returning from the same port with stops at ports in between,” he stated.
“The time while in any of these ports provides a short window up to hours that the task of provisioning must be orchestrated in perfect clockwork. If ships departures become delayed for any reason, ports add hefty fees which can quickly cost the company up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Johnson mentioned that even if guests do not realize, “logistics are at the heart of their experience onboard.”
The staff-to-guest ratio is another important aspect, as it guarantees client satisfaction.
“Everything needs to be planned and have a process such as ensuring there will be a minimum of three crew members for every guest that sails.
“This planning ensures our guests have happy vacations because it will allow them to have minimum wait times for drinks to be served in our lounges and bars or food being brought to them in our restaurants.”
Health and safety are crucial aspects to consider, much more so when there’s this quantity of people involved.
“The technology introduced aboard or ships in recent years due to global health concerns has been game changing in providing the best possible protection of our guests while onboard,” Johnson said.
As an example, he mentioned how handwashing stations were once few and far between but are now commonplace in the restaurants like the everyday go-to Windjammer Café.
About the Icon of the Seas
So, what is inside this gigantic ship?
The largest water park at sea, 15 nightlife options, seven pools, 20 dining options, an aquadome (a water entertainment center), an ice arena, eight neighborhoods, a central park, a royal promenade, some “islands” and several lounge areas. To summarize.
Royal Caribbean markets itself as a family-oriented brand, meaning, there’s an option for everyone. And while a water park may sound like a kids’ option, it’s open to all ages. Six slides to choose from, all with a view directly to the sea. The first pressure drop you’ll find on a cruise. And, if you’re not scared yet, there’s the tallest water slide at sea, a 46-foot drop. Not so PG.
On to the next challenge, “Crowns Edge” is described as a rope course combined with a skywalk and a thrill ride. This one will have you on the edge, staring at the ocean, quite literally. Interesting for both the players and the watchers.
The golf course at “Thrill Island” is one of the many family-friendly options promoting adventure, as the name suggests. Parents can enjoy quality time while entertaining their children with games and healthy competitions. The point is to play your way out. You are in a jungle. lost. Playing like your life depends on it because your exit does.
Another family targeted attraction is surfside, another one of the neighborhoods. It’s designed specifically for children, parents, and grandparents. The concept is, there is enough in it for every member to be entertained. It includes water attractions, pools, a carousel, an arcade, and many food options. Everything is close by and connected.
At the surfside neighborhood there’s special cabins intended for family stays. Groups of 3-6 people can choose to stay here, an area designed to give space and privacy to both the children and the parents. Inside it, there is a kid’s nook. which can be closed off, so parents can have their alone time while still watching over them. Not for spying reasons, just safety.
The family townhouse is a three-story option for larger families. This house includes its own cinema, karaoke, patio, and even table tennis. As a transportation method between decks, there’s slides, as well as direct access to Surfside. It’s a family’s dream, one that costs about $75,000 per week.
For adult fun, the Icon has not forgotten about nightlife. There are all types of options like a dueling pianos bar, a classics and jazz pop bar, late night bars, outdoors bars, walkup champagne bars, the overlook, the bar where you see everything the captain does, as well as some of the classic Royal Caribbean nightlife favorites, such as karaoke bars, music halls, sports bars, and stand-up comedy.
The Aqua Dome has the slogan of tranquil by day and a vibrant “hotspot” at night. An aqua-theater experience but indoors. One of the main attractions. Even from the outside, it stands out. But you won’t realize the true size until you step in. An enormous full dome. The concept here is, as it gets later, darker, there’s more activities coming up and it starts to get less serene. Inside it, the tallest waterfall on board runs through the night.
Entertainment is a big factor in Royal Caribbean Cruises.
“Icon of the Seas will deliver first class entertainment and as part of this includes getting the best entertainers in the world to perform,” said Johnson. “As an example, we partner with many current and former Olympic athletes to come on our ships to entertain guests in performing in aquatic diving shows or even are amazing ice-skating shows such as Absolute Zero on Icon of Seas with digital projections on the ice.”
While this sounds like a memorable experience- the one thing most people are concerned about is pricing. This new, enormous, innovative ship costs more than any other of Royal Caribbeans’ and it is one of the most expensive ones to build.
Prices for the Icon of the Seas start at around $2,000 per person and this does not cover any other costs, since it is not all-inclusive. Suites can go up to $7,000 per person.
Arenas said that both pricing and the number of competitors that there are in the cruise are the biggest setbacks they have had so far. “It’s an interesting picture when you take a look at Disney’s new ship, Carnival or even Celebrity Cruises that’s pushing hard for the all-included feature messaging.”
As for pre-sales the interior and outside view rooms are already sold out for the first voyage. There’s balcony rooms and royal suites still available, the two more expensive rooms.
Arenas said that it’s funny to see the different trends throughout the international markets. “Latin American countries have this ‘last minute’ tradition when booking vacations, so their booking period (two to three months) is way shorter than European markets for example (six to nine months). And overall, we see a difference on onboard spend as well as which pre-cruise products consumers are most interested by market.”
But there is still some time left until the Icon makes its first trip. So, if you’re a big family, or even a smaller one, you’d better start saving up.