Biggest cruise ship in world arrives in Miami

Icon of the Seas, biggest cruise ship in the world, pictured on river next to Bike Lane sign

Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas has arrived in Miami. It dwarfed the skyline – it’s said to be the biggest cruise ship in the world with its seven pools, nine whirlpools and six waterslides – and was welcomed with much fanfare. At 365m in length (250,800 GT), it takes 2,350 crew members to look after the 5,610 guests over the 18 decks they’re allowed on (it has 20 decks in total).

The ocean liner was originally scheduled for delivery in early 2022, but the covid pandemic created delays.

Icon of the Seas aims to be eco-friendly

It’s one of three Icon Class being built by Finland’s Meyer Turku, for Royal Caribbean. The cruise ships in this class will be a similar size to those previously delivered but all three luxury liners feature completely new propulsion technology – an eco-friendly LNG drive system aimed at significantly reducing emissions. Cruise liners often come under fire for having less than friendly environmental credentials.

“We were the first to incorporate an LNG tank on a car ferry (on the outer deck of Viking Grace) and later among the first to incorporate an LNG tank inside a car ferry (Tallink Megastar),” says Meyer Turku.

“Each ship that sets sail out of our shipyard helps the Finnish maritime industry move forward in technological development and sustainability. We participate in both Finnish and international projects that aim to develop sustainability in the maritime and shipbuilding industries. We also work closely together with various parties in the Finnish maritime cluster as well as research and educational institutes.

“The scope of our shipbuilding projects is immense. The value of the delivery of a single ship is up to one percent of all of Finland’s annual export, and the impact on economy and employment is significant.”

Royal Caribbean accepted delivery of the 1,198-foot Icon of the Seas in November 2023 (pictured entering Miami).

rear view of Icon of the Seas biggest cruise liner in world sailing into Miami

It’s second (and final round of sea trials) took place the month before, testing everything from the waterslides and pools to the first waste-to-energy plant at sea, and the engines’ top speeds.

The first round, in June 2023, completed technical tests on its engines, propellers, and hull among other factors.

Installing Icon of the Seas aquadome was nerve-wrecking

All that took place after ‘long, nerve-wrecking hours at the shipyard’, especially when it came to installing the Aquadome (seemingly originally sketched onto a napkin by chairman of the cruise liners board, Richard Fain). The dome consists of over 1,500 triangular glass and aluminium panels and with a total area of over 3,000 square kilometres. It was hoisted ‘very slowly’ into place in November 2022.

“When hoisting such a massive assembly, safety at all stages must be the number one priority in planning the operation. This affected not only hoisting arrangements but also the schedule, route and wind limits. The Aquadome was lifted very slowly, minding all the scaffoldings crowding the interior of the massive glass dome,” says Meyer Turku. “Lowering the dome was also an extremely high-precision effort to get the massive glass dome in its final place at the bow.

Glass dome for cruise ship being lowered into place onto Icon of the Seas

“The challenge was to ensure that the large glass dome withstands hull deflection and ship vibration excitation. For instance, the prow incorporates five large fore propellers generating a total of over 30,000 horsepower. The glass dome is also required to withstand a category 4 tropical hurricane. A solution was devised where the dome is rigidly fixed to the hull at the base while the rest is flexibly supported.

“It was decided that the glass dome would be assembled from twelve modules before hoisting it onboard. Because the glass dome achieves its final rigidity only when mounted to the ship’s structures, planning the hoisting operation was likewise started early on. The hoisting efforts required, for instance, new hoisting wire ropes, a custom-made lifting beam and a large load-bearing 3D grid.

“The hoisting itself was quite successful, and the dome made for a great match with the hull structures. Designing, constructing and installing the assembly was an exceptionally demanding project, but a tight cooperation with the glass supplier and shipyard planning and production departments ensured a highly successful outcome.”

The finished liner is described by Royal Caribbean as an ‘all-encompassing lineup of experiences that combines the best of every vacation’.

Side view of biggest cruise liner in the world Icon of the Seas

It’s got a beach retreat, a resort escape and a theme park adventure. It’s designed around eight ‘neighbourhoods’, like one designed for families with young children. There’s a Crown’s Edge experience 154 feet above the ocean, and a suspended infinity pool.

All ship images courtesy of Royal Carribbean’s footage. Aquadome installation courtesy of Meyer Turku.

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