We were recently invited to Royal Caribbean’s headquarters at Port Miami to experience something that is rarely open to public guests: their Innovation Lab. This expansive space is where the company’s innovators flex their creative muscles in a collaborative process. The marriage of technology and creativity is guarded within these walls — and not everything makes it from conceptualization to becoming a part of the cruise experience.
By Carly Caramanna
On our visit, we witnessed a mobile ice cream machine that looked remarkably like a jet pack. The team commented it has only produced one perfect ice cream cone, so we won’t hold our breath. But that’s the exciting thing about Innovation Lab — it’s a judgment-free zone where creative masterminds can experiment with ease.
What is coming to fruition? The visit was all timed around the company’s announcement of the upcoming Icon of the Seas ship and its amenity-loaded, over-the-top features including the largest water park at sea.
Thrill Island, one of the ship’s new neighborhoods, will be home to Category 6. The water park will feature six recording-breaking slides: Pressure Drop and its 66-degree incline make it the industry’s first open free-fall slide; the 46-foot-tall Frightening Bolt, the tallest drop slide at sea; Storm Surge and Hurricane Hunter, the first family raft slides at sea with four riders per raft; and Storm Chasers, cruising’s first mat-racing duo. For the ultimate thrill seeker, Crown’s Edge is part skywalk, part ropes course, and part thrill ride that swings guests 154 feet above the ocean.
“Thrill Island is a purpose-built, thrill neighborhood that has the most amazing water slides the world has ever seen,” Jay Schneider, chief product innovation officer, shared with Attractions Magazine. “We say ‘Icon’ is the best of every vacation. We haven’t cut corners. We haven’t compromised in creating the best experience for everyone. It is an adrenaline-pumping thrill.”
It doesn’t end there; in addition to Thrill Island, there will be the first suspended infinity pool at sea, the brand’s first swim-up bar, and a family friendly water playground, Surfside. Specifically designed with the young family in mind, Surfside is a place where parents and children can both enjoy their day. The neighborhood features a water’s edge pool, Splashaway Bay, and a bar and dining options.
On our visit to the Innovation Lab, we were able to preview some of Surfside’s features, including its ocean-themed carousel. The whimsically designed attraction will allow younger guests to ride on the back of a colorful pineapple or whale.
“With each new ship, we raise the bar in the travel industry while enhancing what our guests know and love,” said Jason Liberty, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group. “From the moment they step on board, every experience is specifically designed to give them the best vacation anywhere on land and at sea. With Icon of the Seas, we’ve taken this to a new level and made the ultimate family vacation.”
Icon of the Seas is poised to be the culmination of 50 years of innovation — it’s a delicate balance of catering to the regular cruiser and the new-to-cruising crowd, of which Liberty shared they are actively targeting.
“We talk a lot about tradition, evolution, and revolution,” adds Schneider. “There’s a lot of tradition built into this ship. That is in venues and experiences that our guests will be able to do that they really love. Evolution is taking the things that they love to the next level. Revolution is things that they have never seen before.”
Debuting in 2024, the ship will sail seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean vacations from Miami year-round. Vacationers can begin booking Icon of the Seas on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. With special early access on Monday, Oct. 24 for Crown & Anchor loyalty members. We recommend booking through MEI-Travel.