Why the world’s largest cruise ship won’t be as crowded as you fear

There’s one thing that can make or break a cruise ship experience, and it’s not dining, entertainment, or cabins. It’s flow. Passenger flow refers to the ability of guests to move through a cruise ship without any hindrances or bottlenecks. And when you’re building the world’s largest cruise ship, like Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, with a capacity of up to 7,600 passengers, paying extra attention to passenger flow becomes crucial.

The assumption of many people who have never sailed on a giant cruise ship is that thousands of people stuck together on a floating megaresort will lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and crowded. They imagine a vacation dominated by queues, claustrophobic spaces, and the inability to find a quiet spot. However, Royal Caribbean’s ship-designing team are experts when it comes to creating a seamless flow for passengers.

To ensure a smooth flow, the team studies other cruise ships, both from Royal Caribbean and its competitors, to identify areas where ships often feel stuffy and tight. They focused on avoiding dead ends and creating easy access between key public areas on Icon of the Seas. Guests can easily move between decks without having to rely on elevators. The ship offers multiple stairways and sliding decks in specific areas to facilitate passenger movement.

One of the notable features of Icon of the Seas is its new elevator system. Instead of getting into any available elevator and selecting a floor, guests use a touchpad to choose their desired floor, and they are directed to one of the 12 elevators in the lobby. The team conducted extensive research and testing to ensure that this new technology would enhance passenger flow. While it may not be intuitive to all guests initially, the team found that it significantly improved flow and ultimately decided to implement it.

To familiarize guests with the new elevator system, Royal Caribbean will have greeters on specific decks during the first day of the cruise. They will explain the system to guests to minimize any confusion. This proactive approach ensures that guests can quickly adapt to the new technology and enjoy a seamless experience throughout their cruise.

In addition to addressing passenger flow, Royal Caribbean also focused on opening up the Royal Promenade, the main thoroughfare of public areas on many of their larger ships. The Promenade often feels like a mall with storefronts and restaurants, and it can be overwhelming for guests. On Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean made several changes to improve the space.

The first change was the installation of the Pearl, a spherical structure in the center of the Promenade that serves as the ship’s structural support. This innovative design replaces the traditional steel skeleton found on most ships, allowing for windows that bring more natural light into the space. This eliminates the dark mall feeling and creates a more open and spacious atmosphere.

Another change was the removal of cabins from above the Royal Promenade. By repurposing the space, Royal Caribbean created a full 360 mezzanine, extending from the front to the stern of the ship. This allows guests to move freely on two levels, with multiple stairways and elevators, without feeling confined by cabins looking down.

Lastly, all facades along the Promenade, except for retail stores, are open. Venues like The Point and Feather pub and Giovanni’s, the Italian restaurant, do not have walls facing the Promenade. This openness allows guests to move freely between walkways and venues without creating bottlenecks at doorways.

In conclusion, passenger flow is a crucial aspect of a cruise ship experience. Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas demonstrates how careful planning and innovative design can create a seamless flow for thousands of passengers. By avoiding dead ends, providing multiple access points, and opening up public areas, the ship ensures that guests can move easily and enjoy their cruise without feeling overwhelmed or crowded.

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