When Icon of the Seas comes out in January of 2024, it will represent Royal Caribbean’s most extensive commitment to family cruising than ever before. With more than 80% of rooms able to accommodate three or more people, an entire neighborhood devoted to families with kids 6 and younger, and a water park that kids (of all ages) will love, Royal Caribbean has gone all-in on being the cruise line for family vacations.
Even the color scheme on Icon of the Seas speaks to its target audience. Vibrantly colored throughout, every space pops with color, something you’d expect to see in a kid’s club – or in the Surfside kids’ neighborhood – but not necessarily throughout a ship.
“When I saw Icon of the Seas, I thought it screamed family and specifically, in areas, screamed kids,” said Adam Duckworth, president and founder of Travelmation, a Travel Leaders Network affiliate agency. “And as a parent of a two and a half year old, I looked at that ship and I said my child is going to absolutely have a field day on this ship.”
“We’ve fine-tuned our thinking as it relates to who our customer is,” Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, told a small group of trade journalists at an Icon of the Seas reveal event in Miami this past Tuesday. “We’re really focused on family and as you move into Icon, our focus on family is probably at the highest level it’s ever been.”
According to insights picked up over years of doing business, young families with children under 6 vacation all year-round, Bayley said. They don’t have an issue with taking their kids out of pre-K and there’s no time of year that’s better than any other for them.
“We know that every single week, throughout the whole year, we have a significant percentage of young families that sail with Royal Caribbean. It skews on the big Caribbean cruises and it skews on products that are connected to a drive-in home market, but that market is quite powerful,” he said.
Young families also account for a large percent of first-time cruisers that Royal Caribbean brings onboard its ships.
“Young families is a big market and we think it’s an under-served market,” “he added.
According to Duckworth, the importance of families can’t be overstated.
“For us, specifically being a Disney affinity agency with a large conglomerate of families, the family market is so important to us. I don’t ever want to use the term everything, because I think that’s an absolute but it’s very important to our travel advisors every single day.”
Icon of the Seas was built to cater to that market, which is nowhere more evident that with the Surfside neighborhood.
In Surfside, families will find Baby Bay, a wading pool/splash area for the smallest toddlers (swim diapers permitted!), along with Splashaway Bay, for 4-to-6 year olds. There will be pint-sized slides, sprayers and a dumping bucket, all intended to keep kids busy for hours, while the parents can watch from their own pool or the nearby eateries and bar. Are all situated to be within eyesight of the kids’ play areas.
“As parents we want to not only know that our children are safe but that they’re going to have the very best time on a cruise. And nothing warms my heart than when she doesn’t want to stop all day and I know she won’t want stop on the Icon of the Seas, all day long, specifically at Surfside,” Duckworth said.
Targeting Vacation Types
But Royal Caribbean isn’t only targeting young families with Icon of the Seas.
“We’ve realized our family market is vast,” Bayley said, adding that from a marketing perspective everyone is in a family and there are many types of families.
To appeal to more subsets of families, Royal Caribbean looked at types of vacationers, like resort-vacationing families or families that like to visit theme parks, then built a neighborhood on Icon of the Seas to match their needs.
“The beauty of Icon is that its size, scale and the totality of the combination of the neighborhoods and the experiences that we offer fit all of our demographics within what we call the multi-generational family space,” Bayley said.
By having a neighborhood, Chill Island, dedicated to relaxing by or in the water – with three separate pool choices, including a swim-up pool and bar, travel advisors can offer their resort family clients a similar experience on Icon.
Thrill Island does the same for advisors with clients that want theme park adventures – particularly a water park experience.
Advisors with family clients who like the Miami Beach hotel vibe, can point them to The Hideaway, with its sky-high location and suspended infinity pool offering never-ending sea views. And they’ll still get their beach day in with a day at Perfect Day at CocoCay on every sailing.
“It makes it easier for us to be able to promote this ship to a land-preferred client because there are so many elements of land actually on this ship, which brings the land to the ship,” Duckworth told TMR.
“It takes a lot to excite me as a travel advisor,” he added. “I’ve never seen anything like Icon of the Seas… I cannot wait for, not only myself, but our travel agents and my whole family to experience this ship.”