Royal Caribbean's CEO said its massive new ship was designed for Instagram. I saw 9 things on board that make it a social-media sensation.

  • Royal Caribbean Group's CEO said its new Icon of the Seas was designed to have "Instagrammable moments."

  • Guests' social media posts create "FOMO" that helps drive bookings, he said.

  • I sailed on the new mega-ship in January and saw just how social media-friendly the mega-ship was.

If you've been jealous of all the cruisers sailing on Royal Caribbean's new, wildly popular Icon of the Seas ship, you're not alone.

In fact, Jason Liberty, Royal Caribbean Group's president and CEO, said the new mega-ship was built to do just that: Create a sense of FOMO — or the "fear of missing out."

The company designed Icon to have "Instagrammable moments" that can be shared on social media, creating "incredible FOMO" from the guests' friends and family, Liberty told reporters in January.

This digital attention has, in turn, helped drive Royal Caribbean's bookings. "All of a sudden, we have people who didn't think they were ever a cruiser become a cruiser," he said.

Icon doesn't have to try hard to get attention: At 1,198 feet long and 250,800 gross-tons, it’s already won the title of the world’s largest cruise.

Icon of the Seas' water park and Surfside neighborhood
Icon of the Seas can accommodate up to 9,950 people. Brittany Chang/Business Insider

"We built the biggest, baddest ship on the planet," Liberty said. "That in itself is a crown jewel for marketing."

On board, Royal Caribbean didn’t shy away from flashy, maybe even absurd, design elements.

Icon of the Seas outdoor lounges
Plenty of guests posed in the colorful open-air lounge.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The cruise line invited me on Icon's complimentary preview cruise in late January, a week before its official debut.

During my three nights at sea, I saw the cruise company's CEO's claims of "Instagrammable elements" almost everywhere I looked.

Liberty cited features like the Pearl, a kinetic 3,600-tile structure, as one of Icon’s social media friendly spots.

the pearl in icon of the seas royal promenade
The Pearl, a structure that supports to above decks, is one of the first things guests see when they board the ship.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

It's true: Taking a family photo before the eye-catching structure seemed to top many guests' to-do lists.

But the glittering Pearl is only one of Royal Caribbean's obvious attempts at creating social media fodder.

These were the nine most noticeable ones.

1. Just look nearby: A statue of a peeing dog and another of a person climbing out of a maintenance hole are just a stone’s throw from Pearl.

composite of two statues on Icon of the Seas
The two statues are located in the Royal Promenade near the Pearl.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Tell me these weren't designed to be a photo opp. Wouldn't your kids want to giggle at and pose next to a hind leg-up dog?

2. At this point, we’ve all seen photos of the ship’s colorful waterpark.

water park  on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas
The water park has six slides, including what its operator calls the tallest at sea.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The six-slide park towers atop the ship like a bowl of rainbow spaghetti, an obvious marker of the vessel while it's homeported at Miami's heavily trafficked cruise terminal.

I wouldn't be surprised if it was one of the most photographed amenities on the 20-deck ship.

The waterpark is a visual overload.

water park on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas
Two of the water slides require at least two riders at a time.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The twisting slides hang overhead like bright tree vines while children rapidly zig-zag around the course like their afternoon fun depends on it (it does).

3. Nearby, the ship’s take on a traditional pool deck is filled with photo-worthy amenities.

composite of pool deck on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas
People were lounging around the pool deck at all hours of the day.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The largest pool has in-water loungers, while another has a swim-up bar — perfect for posting poolside photos with a mai tai in hand.

On the drier half of the deck, travelers posed with their friends on the bright hammock-like nests.

4. Thankfully, the most Instagrammable pool is in a no-kid zone.

adult only infinity pool on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas
The infinity pool is manned by a DJ who creates a pool club-like ambiance.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The adult-only suspended infinity pool has beds, in-water loungers, and unobstructed ocean views — perfect for your obligatory "hot dogs or legs" photo.

Even I couldn't resist sneaking a shot of the beach club-like alcove.

5. A few decks below, the Central Park 'neighborhood' is just as photogenic as its New York counterpart.

composite of the Central Park neighborhood
Central Park is five decks tall and has four walls lined with live plants.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The peaceful open-air retreat is glowing with plants and the gentle hum of strolling guests. It felt like I was breathing in the freshest air at sea. Ironically, I was on a mega-ship that would likely damage the environment.

But imagine the perfect shot: You, posing by one of the orchids, holding a glass of Champagne from the adjacent walk-up bubbly bar.

6. Surfside is one giant photo op.

surfside on Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas
The Surfside neighborhood features an arcade, a water playground, and an all-day brunch spot where children eat for free.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Your young children might get FOMO after seeing pictures of the open-air neighborhood.

Just look at the giant flamingo statue, carousel, and small water playground.

composite of surfside on icon of the seas
Surfside was designed for children younger than six years old.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The colorful space — decorated with bright murals and candy-shaped decals — could be a visual feast for travelers curating a colorful Instagram feed.

7. Did your friends on Icon post pictures of a fancy dinner with cocktails and live music? They paid $200 for the shot.

Empire Suppler Club  on Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas
Empire Supper Club features live music and a cocktail pairing.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Icon of the Seas' most expensive restaurant, the $200-per-person Empire Supper Club, has every food influencer's three favorite categories: small plates, decadent cocktails, and a luxurious ambiance.

8. One of the ship’s most 'Instagrammable moments' is the AquaTheater’s unique diving, swimming, and acrobatic show.

Icon of the Seas AquaTheater during a show with suspended performers
Entertainment on the Icon of the Seas includes a nighttime show at its water-based theater.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The adrenaline rush of the nighttime performance, which flexed a waterfall and giant robotic arms, humbled my cruise show-hating ego.

More importantly, the semi-circle theater's lighting was perfect for photos and videos.

9. At night, a steampunk-ified piano and player take residency in a random elevator.

person in an elevator with a piano on Icon of the Seas
A piano player uses one of the ship's many elevators as his stage.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

If you're lucky enough to catch the right elevator, you'll find yourself in the middle of a delightful but cramped performance.

Unfortunately, the show will last as long as your elevator ride, which sounds more fleeting than the annoyance your social media followers will feel when you post way too many Instagram stories and photo dumps from your Icon of the Seas vacation.

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