Cruises aren’t exactly enjoying the best reputation in 2023. They were already perceived as pollutant-belching floating skyscrapers that flood port towns around the world with naive tourists, but their pandemic-era image fully devolved into disease-ridden crucibles with no easy escape. So when cheerful renderings of the Icon of the Seas—billed as the world’s largest cruise ship at five times the size of the Titanic—circulated online, they sparked impassioned responses on every side. Some immediately snapped up tickets, imagining sun-soaked afternoons carousing in the liner’s massive wave pools; others scorned it as a “monstrosity,” a “pile of decadence,” and “human lasagne,” likening it to the hellish paintings of Hieronymus Bosch.
Icon of the Seas is the latest feat of Royal Caribbean, the Miami-based cruise line behind the already-massive Wonder of the Seas, which holds the current record for the world’s largest cruise ship. Unlike its predecessor, which it surpasses in size by six percent, Icon will be capped with a tangle of record-breaking water slides and an abundance of amenities like a surf simulator, mini golf course, rock climbing wall, and rope course that suspends daredevils 155 feet above the ocean. Those needing a nightcap can pick from 40 restaurants, bars, and nightlife venues, including an adults-only swim-up bar and a grab-and-go sushi station.
To put it simply, there’s a lot going on. Some psychologists blame the knee-jerk scorn on lingering post-pandemic anxieties about personal space, but others are saying the renderings aren’t doing the ship any justice. “It almost gives the impression of a short, over-tall, stacked vessel that is on choppy seas,” Tom Davis, a psychology professor at the University of Alabama, told CNN. “This may be a trick of perspective, as the actual vessel is apparently three to four times longer than the idea I get by looking downward at the rendering.” Askew visuals didn’t deter buzz for the 7,600-passenger ship’s maiden voyage from Miami to the Caribbean. That sold out within a few hours, prompting Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley to crown Icon as the “best-selling product in the history of our business.”