Royal Caribbean is home to the very biggest cruise ships in the world, and they don’t come bigger than Utopia of the Seas or Icon of the Seas.
These two ships are absolutely breathtaking, and packed with amazing features that will entertain families, couples, solo travellers – anyone, really – for hours and hours. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to see everything these ships have to offer on a single cruise.
But how do they compare, and which is the better ship? Let’s take a look.
Which is the biggest?
Icon of the Seas is around 6% bigger than Utopia of the Seas in terms of gross tonnage (internal volume). Icon has two extra passenger decks, and a higher capacity too.
Icon of the Seas bigger in every aspect – capacity, length, passenger decks etc. So it all adds up. While Royal Caribbean likes to build bigger and better ships, Utopia of the Seas isn’t designed to be the biggest, but instead the ultimate sign-off to the Oasis Class, the previous biggest ship class in the world.
Because Icon of the Seas launches first, this means that Utopia of the Seas will be the only Oasis-class ship to not be the biggest ship in the world when she launches.
|Feature||Icon of the Seas||Utopia of the Seas|
|Gross tonnage (GT)||250,800||236,857|
|Maximum guest capacity||7,600||6,988|
The Oasis Class, which Utopia of the Seas belongs to, was the first class of ship for Royal Caribbean to introduce the concept of neighborhoods. These are districts of the ship that are themed, and have certain features grouped together.
Icon of the Seas will also have neighborhoods – in fact, both Icon and Utopia have 8 – but they’re different. There are some that are shared though, so let’s look at those first:
1. Central Park
Central Park is a really cool feature that’s unique to Royal Caribbean ships – a real, living park packed with live trees and shrubs right in the heart of the ship. It’s an open-air area with a selection of dining venues and bars, as well as some live entertainment too.
Icon of the Seas does have an ‘enhanced’ Central Park which is described as being “lusher and livelier”
2. Royal Promenade
The Royal Promenade is a central part of the ship which is home to a number of shops, bars, restaurants and more. It’s one of the main hubs of the ship. Icon’s does have a bit of a twist compared to Utopia, with floor-to-ceiling ocean views.
3. Suite Neighborhood
The Suite Neighborhood is part of the ship that is reserved for suite guests – the name sort of gives it away. It’s a relaxed space with its own pool, terrace and dining options, creating a calm space for guests in suites who want to avoid the bustle of the rest of the ship.
Then these are the five neighborhoods you’ll find on Utopia of the Seas (and other Oasis-class ships), but not on Icon of the Seas:
The Boardwalk is designed to be similar to the classic boardwalks that you’d find in many oceanfront towns. It has an arcade, a sports bar, and a candy store. The Boardwalk is a really popular space on Royal Caribbean ships, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Utopia is the last ship to get it.
2. Entertainment Place
Entertainment Place is the home of the live entertainment on the ship, including the theatre and the comedy club. It’s also where you’ll find the casino and the ice skating rink.
3. Pool & Sports Zone
Guess what happens in this neighborhood? Yes, this is where you’ll find Utopia of the Seas’ swimming pools, hot tubs, and sports court.
4. Youth Zone
The Youth Zone is the dedicated space for the kids club and teens club, and it’s also where you’ll find another arcade.
5. Vitality Spa & Fitness
This neighborhood is where you’ll find the spa and salon on the ship, along with a fitness center – if walking all over this amazing ship isn’t enough exercise for one cruise!
And then there are five neighborhoods that are debuting on Icon of the Seas, but that won’t then be found on Utopia of the Seas:
The impressive dome structure at the top of Icon of the Seas is a fantastic venue. During the day it’s a peaceful oasis with its own waterfall, while at night it becomes a much more vibrant location, with various bars and restaurants to enjoy.
It’s also where you’ll find the enhanced version of the AquaTheater, with more technology incorporated into shows than you’ll find on Utopia of the Seas.
2. Chill Island
Chill Island is the neighborhood that’s home to four of the seven pools on Icon of the Seas. It’s a relaxing spot, with a swim-up bar, an adults-only pool, and four Lime & Coconut bars.
One of the most exciting debutant neighborhoods on the ship, Surfside is aimed at young families, with a whole host of exciting attractions and dining venues. It’s where you’ll find the Splashaway Bay and Baby Bay splash areas, the kids’ and teens’ clubs, an arcade, a carousel and loads more.
4. The Hideaway
The Hideaway couldn’t be more different from Surfside. Located higher up the ship in a quiet corner, it’s aimed at adults who want a tranquil escape. It has a multilevel sun terrace with whirlpools and a bar, and the first suspended infinity pool at sea.
5. Thrill Island
Thrill Island is the home of the waterpark and the Crown’s Edge attraction. There are six brand new waterslides to try here, and plenty of other exciting activities.
Staterooms and Suites
On both the Utopia of the Seas and the Icon of the Seas, you have a huge wealth of accommodation choices available. These range from the cheapest inside cabins, right up to incredible multi-storey suites that cost upwards of £20,000 per person per week.
Utopia of the Seas actually has more guest staterooms than Icon of the Seas, but Icon has a higher maximum capacity. That’s because it has more family rooms and suites, and so it’s able to host around 600 more guests.
Ultimate Family Accommodations
One of the best accommodation options on both the Utopia of the Seas and Icon of the Seas is the Ultimate Family option.
On Utopia, that’s the Ultimate Family Suite, and it’s a two-storey room with a load of fun features, including games for the kids to play, a huge balcony area, and a slide from the bedroom down into the living area.
Icon of the Seas has the Ultimate Family Townhouse, which adds an extra storey. It still has the slide, but it also now has a scenic little outdoor space with a white picket fence that leads right out onto the Surfside neighborhood.
Unique Staterooms to Icon of the Seas
There are a number of staterooms that will be available on Icon of the Seas but not on Utopia of the Seas. These include:
- Inside Plus – a redesigned Inside stateroom with a full dividing wall between the bedroom and bathroom for extra privacy
- Surfside Family Suites – new suites located near the pool areas, with alcoves just for the kids to enjoy
- Panoramic Ocean View rooms situated inside the AquaDome
- Family Infinity Balcony staterooms to sleep families of three, four, five and more
I have a full guide to suites on Icon of the Seas here.
There are some incredible options for dining on both Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas.
However, we don’t yet know the full list of restaurants that Utopia of the Seas will offer – only a selection that have been confirmed. So a full side-by-side comparison isn’t yet possible.
However, let’s take a look at some of the restaurants that feature on both ships:
- Main Dining Room
- Windjammer Buffet
- Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
- Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar
- Chops Grille
- Hooked Seafood
Utopia of the Seas Restaurants
While we don’t know a huge amount of detail about the Utopia of the Seas restaurants yet, here are some that you’ll find on the ship that aren’t on Icon of the Seas:
The Mason Jar Southern Restaurant and Bar
This lively venue offers a real taste of the South, including Bayou staple foods and some incredible BBQ food. You’ll enjoy fantastic homely food whilst relaxing with live country music. There are some incredible brunch options too.
TBC – Immersive Train Dining Experience
We don’t even know the name of this restaurant yet, but we do know that it will be making its debut on Utopia of the Seas. Guests can expect an immersive experience where they will feel like they’re on a scenic train journey while they dine.
Icon of the Seas Restaurants
Here are some of the Icon of the Seas restaurants that you won’t find on Utopia of the Seas:
Empire Supper Club
The Empire Supper Club is being described as a “super premium dining experience”, so expect a super premium cover charge. It has a 1920s New York vibe and will offer 8-course dinners with curated cocktails and specially selected music.
The AquaDome Market is a food hall with a number of different food options that are new to Royal Caribbean. Creme de la Crepe will offer a range of savoury and sweet crepe options, while GNGR is a relaxed Asian-inspired venue.
Toast and Garden offers a selection of sandwich options, and Mac’s is a venue themed all around mac-and-cheese, with lots of variants including pepperoni pizza mac, and creole mac.
The Surfside Eatery is a second buffet restaurant on the ship, this time tailored to families. It has lots of simple food options and, of course, an ice cream machine.
There’s also Surfside Bites, a pick-up window offering snacks like fries, popcorn chicken, donut holes and more.
Pier 7 is a speciality restaurant aimed at young families, offering an “all-day brunch” experience. While it will have a cover charge, there are a selection of “Kids Eat Free” options including grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, chicken tenders and more.
Base Camp is situated in Thrill Island and offers fast-food style casual food options for those on the go. Smash burgers, crispy shrimp bao buns, fried cheese curds and more will be offered here.
Pearl Cafe is a cafe restaurant that serves handcrafted sandwiches, bakery desserts and speciality coffees.
Bars, Lounges, Activities and Entertainment
With Utopia of the Seas still under construction, a lot of the information about the bars, lounges, and entertainment onboard is still under wraps.
So, comparing her to Icon of the Seas isn’t easy.
There will be some shared features, including waterparks, the AquaTheater, the Lime and Coconut Bars, and all the features you would expect from a Royal Caribbean cruise – live shows, kids clubs, arcades, casinos, and so much more.
We do know that Icon of the Seas will feature more waterslides (six, compared to Utopia’s three) and that they will all be brand-new, record-setting slides.
It will also have an improved AquaTheater inside the AquaDome, with robotic arms and more screens.
Once we know more about Utopia of the Seas and the various features she will have onboard, we can do more of a direct comparison. But expect Utopia to be similar to Wonder of the Seas.
Read more: Icon of the Seas Vs Wonder of the Seas
A major difference between the two ships is the itineraries being offered.
Firstly, the home ports – these aren’t drastically different, with both sailing from Florida. Icon of the Seas sails from Miami, while Utopia of the Seas will sail from Port Canaveral.
Both Miami and Orlando airports are easy to reach, but if you wanted to craft the ideal family break and include a trip to either Walt Disney World or Universal Studios before or after you sailed, then Utopia of the Seas would be more convenient.
As for the actual itineraries, Utopia is aimed at short cruises of either three or four nights only. It’s meant to be a ship for the ‘Ultimate Weekend’. Cruises all visit Perfect Day at CocoCay, the cruise line’s private island.
Icon of the Seas, meanwhile, only offers 7-night cruises. There’s a choice of Western and Eastern Caribbean sailings, including ports in Mexico, Honduras, St Maarten, the Dominican Republic and more. Most (but not all) cruises also call at Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Cost to Build
One of the biggest potential differences in the two ships is the cost to build them. Utopia of the Seas cost around $1.35 billion, similar to her sister ship Wonder of the Seas. While costs have risen since Wonder was built, savings can be made because the ship is so similar in design.
Icon of the Seas may end up being a lot more expensive – while a final figure has yet to be revealed, it’s anticipated that she could have cost as much as $2 billion. Some estimates have the figure lower, and close to the amount that Utopia of the Seas will cost. But Icon has a lot of new features, and they take a lot of designing.
One feature that the ships will share is their fuel type. Icon of the Seas is the first ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet to use Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), instead of older diesel fuels that were much more polluting. Utopia of the Seas will also use LNG, becoming the first Oasis-class ship to be adapted for this fuel type.
Which Is The Best?
There is no simple answer when it comes to which is best between Utopia of the Seas and Icon of the Seas.
Despite the many similarities between the two ships, they’re being pitched quite differently. Icon of the Seas is designed to be the ultimate family ship, with more family accommodation options, improved dining options for kids, and neighborhoods like Surfside that are specifically tailored to younger families.
Whereas Utopia of the Seas is designed for the ‘World’s Biggest Weekend’, so more for action-packed breaks for families and adults alike.
In reality, many of the experiences are shared. Icon has more new features, since a lot of what Utopia of the Seas offers has been seen before on Wonder of the Seas and other Oasis-class ships.
But just because Icon is bigger and newer, that doesn’t mean she’s better. Both are incredible, and so unless you specifically want to experience something like Surfside or one of the new restaurants on Icon of the Seas, I’d suggest checking the itineraries and dates and choosing your cruise based on those.
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