Royal Caribbean’s : Icon of the Seas

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There is more information on-line about UFO’s than there is about Royal Caribbean’s next class of ship, Project ‘Icon’.

Now alien flying-saucers might not even exist, but the first ‘Icon’ ship definitely will, in 2022. The first steel will be cut late THIS year (2019).

There was a time in the past, when a cruise line would announce the construction of a new ship and within a few weeks, we would have the renderings to look at and most of the details about the new design.

Today the cruise lines are so much more secretive. The details are kept under wraps for months, even years. Then they are slowly leaked to the media, drip by drip, as the construction nears completion. We may not get the full specification of the new vessels until just before the ship enters service. If fact booking may well open before all of the public rooms and on-board facilities are fully revealed.

For a very impatient person like me, this is VERY annoying.

What makes it even more annoying is that Royal Caribbean have designed some of the most breathtaking ship afloat. I feel like a child who wants to have his Christmas present is September, rather than wait until December.

I appreciate that big mass-market ships are not every cruisers ‘cup of tea’, but RCI have certainly pushed the boundaries in terms of on-board facilities and size. The ‘Oasis’ class, for example, is a remarkable design.

Royal Caribbean first announced ‘Project Icon’ in October 2016. It’s now 2019 and we know nothing more than we did in 2016. For example: we still have no idea what the ship will look like or anything about the facilities on-board. Even people in the cruise industry, have probably forgotten that that the ship is even coming!

What We Do Know:

RCI signed a memorandum of understanding with shipbuilder Meyer Turku in 2016 for the new class of vessel under the project name “Icon.” Two vessels will be delivered in the second quarters of 2022 and 2024. The first with keel laying is planned for October 2019.

Royal Caribbean later filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for “Icon of the Seas”.

‘Icon’ is the first new ship class announced by RCI since Celebrity Cruises’ new ‘Edge’ class, which debuts later in 2018. (Also shrouded in much secrecy, for months.)

Icon will carry 5,000 passengers and will be around 200,000 gross tonnes. This suggests that the 5,000 passenger figure look like a lower-berth statistic.

Icon will be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and will introduce the use of fuel cell technology, as used in spacecraft. These innovations will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Icon: Low greenhouse gas emissions.

RCI expect to also be able to operate using conventional maritime fuel as a well, for ports without the necessary LNG infrastructure in place.

RCI began testing fuel cell technology on an existing Oasis-class ship in 2017, and will also run progressively larger fuel cell projects on new Quantum-class vessels.

In contrast, the ‘Quantum’ class is approximately 168,00 gt., carrying 4,905 passengers – all berths. The Oasis class is around 227,000 gt carrying 6, 780 – all berths. Icon will sit in-between the two, in terms of gross tonnage.

200,000 gt should give RCI plenty of room for innovative public rooms and facilities.

Oasis generated her ‘wow’ factor with amazing public spaces such as Central Park and the Aqua-Theatre. In contrast, the Quantum class used technology to generate much of her ‘wow’ factor by using technology such as the North Star (observation pod) I-Fly (Freefall experience) and the ‘Bionic Bar’ (robot arms mixing/serving drinks). I wonder where Ikon’s ‘Wow’ will be?

ABB fuel cell being piloted on a RCI ships. (Courtesy ABB)

Interestingly, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley confirmed in early 2019 that the cruise line is looking at bringing the Infinite Veranda idea form the Celebrity ‘Edge’ class over to Royal Caribbean. However some commentators and passengers have been critical of this design of cabin.

New Tonnage v Old Tonnage

However, the arrival of these new ships may well see the departure of RCI’s older tonnage.

Majesty has now been in the fleet for 26 years, Grandeur 22 years, Enchantment and Rhapsody 21 years and Vision 20 years. Although the life expectancy of a cruise ship can be 30+ years, in 4-6 years time, when the two ‘Icons’ arrive, RCI’s older tonnage will look even smaller and even more dated.

Of course RCI could revitalise these older ships, but I suspect that there day will have come. They are likely to have some second-had value with smaller lines, such as Marella etc. who could operate them for a decade or more.

Malcolm