World’s Largest Cruise Ship Icon of the Seas Begins Final Trials
The world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas, began her final sea trials on Sunday, October 29, departing the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland. The sea trials, the second for the massive cruise ship, are one of the final steps before delivery which is expected in November. The cruise ship is scheduled to begin revenue service on January 27, 2024, which the cruise line is highlighting is just 90 days away.
Departure for the sea trials into the Baltic from Turku, Finland was delayed by weather with the ship sailing shortly after 6:00 a.m. local time and according to media reports, she will be at sea for up to 10 days. Aboard are hundreds of technicians as well as representatives from the shipyard and the cruise line as the ship demonstrates her performance preparing for acceptance. She will be undergoing maneuvering tests as well as a speed test and additional adjustments to the engines as they test the propulsion and seaworthiness of the cruise ship. They will again be measuring for vibration and noise while the engineering systems are demonstrated.
In the month leading up to the trials, the Icon of the Seas has completed other key steps toward her completion. About 10 days ago she underwent an inclining test while at the dock on October 17. According to executives from the shipyard, they were calculating the coordinates of her center of gravity and her lightship weight used in the stability calculations. Also, at the beginning of October, LNG supplier Gasum completed the first LNG bunkering for the cruise ship with its bunker vessel Kairos (7,500 cbm capacity) positioned alongside at the yard.
The current tests come approximately four months after the Icon of the Seas underwent her first sea trials in June. With 450 specialists aboard, they tested the main engines and steering of the cruise ship as well as making the first measurements for noise and vibration.
Completion of the first 250,800 gross ton cruise ship will mark a key step in a project that was announced seven years ago. Royal Caribbean International ordered the first two ships of the Icon class in October 2016 followed by an order for a third vessel signed in June 2019. Early reports had said the ship would be around 200,000 gross tons, but the completed design will be approximately six percent larger than the company’s current largest cruise ship, the Wonder of the Seas. Royal Caribbean has held the title of the world’s largest cruise ship for more than a decade since introducing the Oasis of the Seas in 2009, while the later ships of the class have grown to Wonder of the Seas’ current measure of 236,857 gross tons.
The Icon of the Sea is 1,198 feet in length with 20 passenger decks and 2,805 staterooms for passengers. Her passenger capacity will be a maximum of 7,600 with an additional 2,350 crew aboard. She has a broad range of amenities for her passengers including more than 20 different locations for food as well as seven pools and six waterslides as part of the largest waterpark at sea. Among what the cruise line calls neighborhoods is an area devoted to families and children and the new signature space a geodesic dome above the bridge called the Aquadome. It will be a venue for water shows, entertainment, food, a bar, and a lounge space that features a 220-degree view as well as a 55-foot waterfall.
Technologically, the cruise ship is all the first for the line and the second for the group using LNG as its primary fuel. It has six LNG-powered engines that provide 67,500 kW of energy. Among the other systems incorporated into the design are fuel cells, a waste heat recovery system, air lubrication for the underwater hull, and shore power connections.
Receiving her first shipment of LNG with the bunker vessel alongside, the Aquadome over the bridge is also illuminated (Meyer Turku)
Royal Caribbean has developed a buzz around the ship as she counts down towards her first revenue cruise from Miami sailing to the Caribbean. The company reported a year ago that they had the cruise line’s single largest booking day and highest volume booking week in the brand’s 53-year history when they began accepting reservations for the Icon of the Seas. Based on the strong demand they also opened booking ahead of schedule for the 2025-2026 cruises on the ship. She will be followed by a sister ship, recently named Star of the Seas, which will launch in the summer of 2025, and a third unnamed ship due in 2026.
The trials and pending delivery also mark a milestone for the Meyer Turku yard. The yard has been one of the pioneers in building LNG-fueled cruise ships and remains busy with reports of 6,000 people currently working in the yard. Building in the dry dock behind the Icon of the Seas is TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 7 (111,500 gross tons) which is due for delivery by June 2024 for her maiden voyage. Observers have also noted the first blocks for Star of the Seas arriving at the shipyard with the second Royal Caribbean ship due to begin assembly when Mein Schiff 7 is floated from the dry dock. Speaking with the Finnish media, CEO Tim Meyer expressed confidence with the cruise industry continuing its rebound that future cruise ship orders are also expected.