Icon of the Seas offers nearly two dozen dining options. So, in the name of research, Heidi and I grabbed our napkins, forks, and knives and settled in to test all the dining on Icon of the Seas.
Now, we are back and share all the delicious details as we rank the Icon of the Seas restaurants from best to worst. Find out what we loved, liked, and what is a complete waste of money to help you make the most of your time and money on this new Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
Complimentary Dining on Icon of the Seas
Being the world’s largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas has several complimentary venues. Some of these will be familiar to loyal Royal cruisers with some enhancements. However, other included dining locales are brand new to the Royal Caribbean fleet. Overall, many of the new restaurants were a big hit, but some didn’t make our cut.
The clear winner for the best complimentary restaurant on Icon of the Seas is the AquaDome Market. Technically, this eatery is 5 separate dining establishments in one. Open most days from 10:30 am to midnight, this quick-service restaurant dishes up perfectly sized, flavorful snacks.
We will not rank order the options, but we were very fond of the gyros at Feta Mediterranean and the chicken teriyaki and ginger beef at GNGR.
Although, you can’t go wrong with one of the sandwiches at Toast and Garden either, like the popular Monte Cristo. Then, there is the bacon mac and cheese; just ask for an extra scoop of buttery breadcrumbs. Not to mention, there are also sweet and delicious crepes like the Strawberry Nutella at Creme de la Crepe.
The quality and variety made the AquaDome Market a regular stop for us during the inaugural cruise.
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Elevating the selections typically found at Café Promenade on Royal Caribbean ships, the new Pearl Café was another homerun for us. Open 24 hours a day, not only the food selections but the café itself received a major update.
Taking a nod from Virgin Voyages, the Pear Café offers quick grab-and-go options, like pre-made Italian sandwiches, fruit cups, and mini salads.
The new steak and cheese breakfast sandwich and the barbecued chicken biscuits were warm and savory options that beat out most sandwich shops on other cruise lines. The dessert case received brand-new options as well like Oreo cupcakes and soft blueberry muffins in the morning.
This is also the place where you can grab Starbucks drinks that are included in the drink package and the Café Select Coffee card. Thus, we stopped here multiple times daily for a caffeine fix and maybe a cookie or sweet treat in the afternoon as well.
While probably not the healthiest, the Surfside Bites takeout window in the new family-centric Surfside neighborhood dishes out some of the best quick service on the ship.
Cruisers of all ages will want to try the popcorn chicken, fries, and pizza toasties. It’s not a calzone; it isn’t a slice of pizza; it is just the perfect handheld snack for big kids like us.
While Royal Caribbean still does not have a dedicated hamburger stand that can compare to Carnival Cruise Line, the freshly made burger I had here was much better than the buffet.
Add a few churros onto your order, and you might think you are dining at a popular Florida theme park. Pro tip: dip the churros in soft serve ice cream for the perfect dessert.
Open most days until 6 pm, it is an ideal spot to grab lunch after a long day catching some sun or trekking ashore.
El Loco Fresh
This casual Tex-Mex restaurant is not new. Like other ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet, El Loco Fresh on Icon of the Seas serves up pre-made burritos, quesadillas, and custom-made beef, chicken, or pork tacos. Add the custom salsa bar and some nachos, and El Loco Fresh is an excellent option for those looking to spice up their casual dining experience.
The food was fresh and well prepared during our cruise. While seating is limited, we could find a table in the shade with a little effort on a busy sea day. Further, right next door is Cantina Fresca. One of the over 15 bars on Icon of the Seas, this venue mixes specialty margaritas and smoky mezcals that pair perfectly with your lunch.
The hours of operation have been updated on Icon of the Seas too. On our cruise, El Loco Fresh was open until 8 pm, making it another option for a casual dinner as well.
Main Dining Room
One venue that didn’t receive much of a makeover on Icon of the Seas was the main dining room. Located on decks 3, 4, and 5, this grand dining room resembles its counterparts on other Royal Caribbean ships.
Icon of the Seas has the new standard main dining room menu. During our sailing, the main dining room offered sea day brunch on Day 2 and breakfast on the remaining days. It also featured sea day lunch on the two other days.
Like most cruise ships, the main dining room boasts a rotating menu with new themes and selections each night of the cruise.
We dined here on three nights and found the service and food to meet our expectations for a Royal Caribbean main dining room.
Even though we had My Time Dining, we sat in the same area and had the same server each night. Our three-course dinners were well-paced, and our waitress remembered our dining preferences after just one visit.
Overall, the food and service in the main dining room rivaled that of ships much smaller than Icon of the Seas.
Any traveler who has sailed on an Oasis-class ship should be familiar with Park Café. Although, on Icon of the Seas, you might not recognize this casual restaurant as it has received a modern, trendy new façade and outdoor seating terrace.
Inside, the menu for breakfast and lunch has not changed. So, when dining on Icon of the Seas, cruisers can enjoy freshly made breakfast sandwiches or custom selections from the bagel bar in the morning. I can’t pass up a carved Royal Kummelweck sandwich in the afternoon, but there’s also other sandwiches and paninis as well as a custom salad bar.
Another excellent addition to the menu are the tapas served in the evenings. Think items like charcuterie board selections, which are available from 6:30 to 8:30 pm daily. These small plates are the ideal accompaniment while sipping cocktails from the Trellis Bar or a glass of champagne from the nearby Bubbles walk-up window in Central Park.
A new concept for Royal Caribbean, Basecamp is a quick service station in Thrill Island. The limited complimentary menu includes pretzel bites, tater tots, and a hot dog. These items are warm and available with no wait so that you can eat and return to all the excitement that the rest of Thrill Island has to offer.
Along with these bite-sized snacks, cruisers can enjoy a rum-based drink at the nearby Basecamp Bar.
The complimentary food is average at best, but the venue also features up-charge items that are much better. We particularly liked the shrimp bao buns, cheese curds, and waffle chicken nuggets.
But, we feel items like these, or the upcharge chicken sandwich and hamburger on the menu, should be included. We likely wouldn’t pay to dine here again given there are many other complimentary offerings around the ship.
Basecamp is open until 8 pm, so grabbing a few bites and a signature cocktail from the nearby bar is an option even after sunset.
Admittedly, we are not huge fans of buffets on any cruise line. That said, the breakfast we had at the Windjammer Marketplace was one of the best morning meals we had all cruise. On Icon of the Seas, there was an omelet station, along with standard side dishes, eggs prepared several ways, pancakes, waffles, and various breakfast pastries.
The Icon of the Seas layout is similar to Wonder of the Seas, with two sides that essentially mirror each other. So, depending on the time of day, one or both sides might be open to handle the crowds.
During other times of day, I popped into the buffet to take a peek at the selections, and overall, they were on par with any contemporary cruise line.
For lunch, there were a variety of salads, cold cuts, grilled items, and other entrees. Additionally, the Windjammer hosted themed nights for dinner, which usually aligned with the main dining room theme.
Yes, there are several places to grab soft-serve ice cream on Icon of the Seas. Along with the Deck 16 location on Chill Island, there’s also a stand on Deck 7 in the Surfside neighborhood. Whether it is a classic twist or just plain vanilla, a free frozen treat is hard to pass up.
Heidi and I differ in our opinion of Sorrento’s pizza. Overall, I think it is edible, but it ranks as one of my least favorite pizzas at sea. It is certainly not on par with Princess Cruises or Virgin Voyages. Heidi has a somewhat more favorable opinion though.
Where we do agree is that Sorrento’s pizza on Icon of the Seas was no different than the rest of the fleet.
This pizza joint was usually open from 11 am to past 2 am, but the chefs churned out the pizzas non-stop to meet the demand. Thus, we never waited long for a hot, fresh slice of pepperoni or cheese.
I guess a slice of pizza is not a bad option after a few drinks, especially since it is one of the only things open late night.
The Surfside Eatery is a family-forward buffet, another new addition to the dining on Icon of the Seas. It is usually open for breakfast and dinner, with lunch available on sea days. We tried out this venue several times to ensure our evaluation was accurate.
For the kids, unique offerings are themed after superheroes or cartoon characters. So, along with animal-shaped chicken nuggets, there are Wonder Woman sliders or Spiderman pizzas. For the parents, options might include grilled fish, chicken, or roasted vegetables.
Cruisers could find breakfast sandwiches with eggs, sausage, and cheese served on a hot dog bun or some ribs and pre-made salads for lunch as well.
In our experience, while a few of the snacks were fine, this venue did not live up to our expectations. Plus, the unique concoctions were even a bit much for me, like a grilled cheese-wrapped hot dog.
Many cruisers did rave about the lasagna bites and taquitos, but we don’t see ourselves returning here in the future. Part of the issue was that the venue was never busy, so the food was just sitting under the warmers all day making it dry and over-cooked.
Dining on Icon of the Seas at the Specialty Restaurants
While there are several new complimentary venues for dining on Icon of the Seas, there are only two new selections in terms of specialty restaurants.
We were fortunate enough to spend 10 days onboard as we sailed on a preview cruise event before boarding the maiden voyage. So, across those 10 days, we also had ample time to sample the up-charge dining.
We highly recommend reserving any of these restaurants pre-cruise, as the most popular venues and dining times fill up quickly.
Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse, Chops Grille, seared up an exquisite dinner during our preview cruise. It is hard to go wrong with classic starters like a crab cake or wedge salad. For the most part, the menu includes all of the same offerings found throughout the fleet.
But when dining on Icon of the Seas, Chops Grille does feature some new cuts. The new iconic cuts are an upcharge, but they include upscale items like a Wagyu filet or a tomahawk steak. My medium-rare filet was succulent and melted in my mouth.
Couple these options with sides like truffle fries, gruyere cheese tater tots, and roasted asparagus; it is a rich and filling dinner. But make sure to save room for dessert with decadent options like the red velvet cake or warm chocolate cake with ice cream.
Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen
This family-friendly Italian restaurant has a new location on Icon of the Seas. Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen is now on the Royal Promenade overlooking The Pearl on Deck 6 starboard side. This restaurant is best shared with friends, so you can order several items to sample this classic Italian-American comfort food. And that is exactly what we did!
One of the signature pizzas here is a must and comes with 8 slices you can share amongst your tablemates. Other notable starters include the stromboli, the meatball, and the calamari. For dinner, pasta is a fan favorite. Whether it is the carbonara or the chicken parmesan, either option will delight.
For dessert, the Go Bananas is perfect for the entire table. Or, the cannoli or tiramisu are good options too. The cannoli is reminiscent of selections found in Boston’s North End.
Izumi Sushi & Hibachi
Izumi is one of the most popular restaurants on any Royal Caribbean ship. The Izumi Sushi and Hibachi on Icon of the Seas is relocated and bigger and better than ever. Now in Central Park, this venue is home to five hibachi tables, including one that can accommodate up to 14 cruisers.
We dined here with a friend for sushi near the end of the cruise. Heidi is not a sushi fan, so luckily, this restaurant offers large plates like Yaki Udon with chicken that are right up her alley. For small plates, options like fried rice, vegetable and shrimp tempura, and pork gyoza dumplings were a hit at our table.
I wasn’t feeling too hungry, so I went with one order of the spicy, crispy tuna roll. It was more than enough, given all the plates the table ordered. Another benefit is that cruisers can order a la carte or opt for the prix fixe menu, which includes four plates for $39.99.
One of the new specialty restaurants, Pier 7 is a casual dining spot in the Surfside neighborhood. To truly test all the dining on Icon of the Seas, we ate at this restaurant twice during our cruise, as it offers a brunch and dinner menu.
The brunch was a bit disappointing. We felt the breakfast items were no better than complimentary selections you could get elsewhere. Heidi’s chicken tenders and fries were overly salty as well. While I liked the Baja fish tacos, at $9 a plate, I felt the side dishes should have been more than fries or tater tots from the nearby Surfside Bites.
Thus, we had a similar sentiment to the Basecamp, that these upcharge food items should really be complimentary. Say similar to breakfast at Johnny Rockets on other ships in the fleet.
However, our tune changed at dinner. The lettuce wraps were a fresh and flavorful starter. The Korean fried chicken was a tangy entrée, and the Buddha Bowl with tuna was one of the better poke bowls I have had at sea. Not to mention, the caramel waffles were a sweet ending to our meal.
So, Pier 7 redeemed itself at dinner. We suspect this new restaurant will go through a few iterations to find the right menu and setup for Icon of the Seas. But, at least for families, one current benefit is that kids under 12 eat free off the menu.
Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade
Buffalo wings, onion ring towers, and a signature burger are all on tap at Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade.
This sports pub at sea is in an odd location on Icon of the Seas. Still, once cruisers find it, they can’t help but grab a drink and perhaps some food to watch the game. This venue was packed during the NFL playoffs occurring during our sailing.
The kitchen at Playmakers was open until 11 pm most nights, with the bar open until midnight. I am more of a Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade fan than Heidi, especially for the wings. Yet, it is true that Norwegian Cruise Line’s The Local offers similar menu items at no additional charge. Still, I think the food is a bit better at Playmakers.
Izumi in the Park
Another addition to Icon of the Seas is a new takeout window in Central Park. Izumi in the Park offers a small selection of pre-made sushi rolls, sashimi, and nigiri. The quality of the spicy tuna roll and salmon lovers roll was on par with the sit-down restaurant.
Though, eating these selections from a plastic container at the metal table and chairs loses some of the Izumi charm. Still, at $10 for eight pieces of sushi, it is a fair value. If you can’t get reservations at the restaurant, or don’t want to waste 2 hours at a specialty dinner, this is the next best thing as the takeout window is open until 10 pm most nights.
For us, a better and tastier value is the bubble cone desserts. The Cookies and Cream option was dripping with cookies, chocolate sauce, and soft serve ice cream in a warm and sweet waffle cone.
For $8 a serving, splitting one of these as a treat one afternoon was worth it and something we would most likely get again.
Trellis Bar Bites
While technically not a specialty restaurant, the cruise line rolled out a new Trellis Bar food menu on Icon of the Seas.
Unfortunately, like other upgraded snacks at venues like Basecamp, the Unlimited Dining Package does not cover these options.
With small hot appetizers like Mac & Cheese Poppers or Crab Cake Fritters, these plates pair well with the cocktails at the bar. So, these might be a good option for those sipping a few glasses of wine while waiting for their 8:30 pm reservation at a specialty restaurant.
We did enjoy the starters, which took about 20 minutes to arrive on a relatively busy night in Central Park.
Prices range from $7 to $12 for snacks, and there is a $16 dry-aged burger from Chops for those looking for something with more substance.
At Thrill Island, cruisers can reward themselves with one of five outrageous milkshakes at Desserted. They range from $14 to $18 for one of the signature milkshakes. Adults can add a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream or Fireball whiskey for an additional charge.
These dessert drinks are not included in the Deluxe Beverage package. This also goes for the basic milkshakes, which are $9 before the 18% gratuity.
We spent over $35 on two milkshakes, and while they look pretty, these frosty concoctions are challenging to consume.
The Oreoasis milkshake was our favorite over the Stranded Burro. It included plenty of cookie pieces along with the vanilla milkshake. However, the toppings are attached to the glass cup, making it messy and cumbersome to drink.
While these drinks were photo-worthy, we don’t think they were worth the hefty up-charge. We’d opt for some free soft serve and churros from Surfside Bites, the make-your-own sundae bar at Surfside Eatery, or an up-charge bubble cone from Izumi in the Park instead.
According to the company’s Chief Product Innovation Officer, there are four restaurant concepts that guests want to see on a Royal Caribbean ship–a steakhouse, Italian, Japanese, and seafood.
So, the cruise line continues with its seafood specialty restaurant, Hooked. On Icon of the Seas, Hooked Seafood is located in the AquaDome neighborhood.
Although, this restaurant is certainly not one of our favorites.
This version on the world’s largest ship looks and feels like other iterations. The menu is essentially the same as well.
We tested this restaurant on at least two past occasions and were not impressed. Therefore, we opted not to dine here on Icon of the Seas. Granted, we are from New England so are accustomed to fresh seafood from some of the best restaurants in the world.
Empire Supper Club
The most exclusive and expensive dining on Icon of the Seas is the Empire Supper Club. The 8-course tasting menu pairs with cocktails and live music for an intimate supper club experience.
Given Heidi’s dining restrictions, and limited ability for menu substitutions, we opted not to dine here. It didn’t help that the price tag is $200 a person.
While we’ve heard mixed reviews about this 2.5-hour dining experience, this venue’s decor certainly gives off a swanky, mid-century New York vibe.
Do you agree with our evaluation of the dining on Icon of the Seas? Do you have plans to sail on this new cruise ship? Drop us an anchor below with your Royal Caribbean food reviews.