It’s the largest cruise ship the world has ever seen, and next year it will make history when it sets off from Florida to the Caribbean.
The magnificent Icon of the Seas cost an estimated £1.5 billion to build, stands 20 decks high and weighs a staggering 250,800 gross tonnes – five times the size of the Titanic.
Royal Caribbean’s magnificent ship features the world’s largest water park at sea, as well as the largest swim-up bar where guests can enjoy luxurious champagne or handcrafted cocktails.
It also features the world’s first floating infinity pool at sea with floating sun loungers and stunning sea views from eight floors.
For families, there are seven additional pools, a kid-friendly aqua park, nine hot tubs, a mini golf course, an ice rink, an arcade, and 40 bars and restaurants, including a karaoke bar.
Adventure seekers can enjoy a surfing simulator, a zip line 154 feet above the sea, a climbing wall and an obstacle course.
Icon, which measures 1,198ft and has 2,805 cottages, has a total of eight neighborhoods – one of which will set you back £60,000 a week.
The exclusive Suite Neighborhood spans four decks and features the finest cabins, a private swimming pool, garden and a two-level Coastal Kitchen restaurant.
The first seven-night itinerary begins January 7 in Miami and travels through Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis, continuing to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and Perfect Day in CocoCay, Bahamas, before returning to the United States
Construction was announced in 2016 and the first steel cut took place in 2021.
Over 3,000 engineers and workers spent thousands of painstaking hours preparing Icon of the Seas. It used 12,000 km of on-board cable and enough wiring to circumnavigate the world twice.
TV presenter Daniel Ashville, 41, looked behind the scenes of construction in Finland with his National Geographic show “Building Impossible”.
He told The Sun: “When I heard about it I asked myself: How are they going to do this? I tried to tear it down myself. If they build this big structure, are they going to build it on site?”
“Where will they build it and if not, how will they lift it without damage?” My mind was in overdrive. When I landed there I had a lot of questions.”
“Every single one of them was answered and every answer sparked a new question.”
Installing the AcquaDome, one of its most striking features, was one of the most challenging elements of the construction.
It is described as a “calm oasis” during the day and a “lively hotspot” at night. Guests can enjoy 360-degree ocean views and marvel at the 55-foot waterfall that cascades onto a stage.
It houses restaurants, bars and the Aqua Theater, where the cruise line’s shows are performed.
Constructed of steel and 600 glass panels, the AquaDome is 82 feet tall and 164 feet wide. The installation process required hours of careful planning.
It had to be lifted onto the ship using a huge 1,200-tonne gantry crane and moved carefully but quickly, with engineers wary that a strong gust of wind could cause the glass structure to break.
Daniel, who witnessed the exciting moment, said: “Every second felt like an hour. I looked at it and could see it rising and it took me forever to get back up.”
“But when it stood on the gantry crane and started moving, it really started.
“I am 1.80 m tall and have long legs. I couldn’t keep up when it actually started moving. And it slowed down significantly as we started putting it in place.”
“It was like every second you were on the edge, but at the same time you’re excited and trying to stay calm. You don’t want to be the person jumping up and down when everyone is trying to concentrate.” You have to stay focused and get your work done.
“The main advantage was the wind – none of us had the wind under control. If we had picked up the wind above a certain point as we lifted it, it would no longer have been safe.”
“There were people constantly monitoring the wind and there were censors at all the lifting points. We lifted and I could feel a gust of wind on my face and you could see the markings and it was like we were fine. The word was tolerance. We are within tolerance.”
The structural failure would have spelled disaster for the project as it was one of the most expensive parts.
Daniel said: “I don’t know exactly how much it cost but I know it was a lot of zeros. I don’t think my calculator has enough keys to figure out the amount of money it could have cost.”
Daniel revealed that the dry dock where the ship was built had to be expanded to accommodate it as the design was too large to fit.
He said: “I thought they could have just done it [the ship] smaller, but they didn’t want it smaller. It had to be the largest shipyard in Finland with the largest ship, the largest steel-glass and steel structure and the largest crane.”
It was a race against time to complete the structure in time for the first expedition – postponing was never an option.
Daniel said: “The project was progressing but it was very controlled and the teams on site were very professional… everything was planned impeccably.”
“When there were challenges, the people there were competent enough to work on site and find solutions almost immediately.”
The ship is powered by liquefied natural gas, which powers six engines and produces 67,500 kW (90,520 hp).
When news of its construction broke, many social media users were quick to compare it to the ill-fated Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage on April 14, 1912.
Both ships were groundbreaking for their time, and one of the most frequently asked questions online was whether the Icon of the Seas could ever suffer a similar fate – but Daniel doesn’t think that’s a fair comparison.
“My understanding of the size of the Titanic is that it is much larger and built completely differently,” he says.
“Modern engineers learn from the mistakes of the past. And they applied that to the design.”
“They are doing everything they can to prevent something like this from happening. I saw the thickness of the steel and saw 500 welders working hard day and night.”
“I walked through the different sections of the ship. If the worst were to happen, everyone would have a way to get out safely. They have life rafts, they have lifeboats and everything they need.”
“So maybe we’re not comparing Icon of the Seas to something that’s on the bottom of the ocean.”
Building Impossible with Daniel Ashville airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. starting in September 14 on National Geographic.