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World's biggest cruise ship undergoes checks before first-ever Miami voyage

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(CNN) - The world's largest cruise ship has been spotted in the Caribbean ahead of its highly anticipated inaugural voyage later this month.

Royal Caribbean's 1,198-foot Icon of the Seas, due to set sail from Port Miami on January 27, arrived in Ponce, Puerto Rico for "regulatory inspections" earlier this week.

"Oh look who just arrived early this morning into the port in Ponce, Puerto Rico!" Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, wrote in a Facebook post shared on Tuesday. "Next few days lots of regulatory inspections, loading and off loading equipment, yard workers going home, more crew arriving along with a very special crew member."

The enormous 20-deck vessel, which has capacity for up to 5,610 guests and 2,350 crew members, will arrive in Miami on January 9, according to Bayley, who added that preparations were "going well."

Icon of the Seas was officially handed over to Royal Caribbean at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, on November 27, 2023.

The ship, which took 900 days to build, is now preparing to welcome passengers for its maiden voyage, a seven-day trip around the Caribbean.

It will offer year-round Eastern or Western Caribbean adventures with the likes of St. Maarten, Mexico, St. Thomas, and Royal Caribbean's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas, on the itinerary.

Those on board will be able to enjoy a host of exciting features, including the world's largest waterpark at sea, eight neighborhoods, and 40 or so different bars and dining options.

Highly anticipated launch

The Hideaway will be home to the world's first suspended infinity pool at sea, while Chill Island will hold four of the ship's seven pools and an adults-only zone. Thrill Island will feature a ropes course/thrill ride that allows guests to swing 154 feet above the ocean, as well as a FlowRider wave simulator and a mini golf course.

"Today, we are celebrating more than a new ship; it's also the celebration of the culmination of more than 50 years of innovation and dreaming at Royal Caribbean to create the ultimate vacation experience," said Royal Caribbean Group President and CEO Jason Liberty during a ceremony at the shipyard in November.

The latest sighting of the ship comes after Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi was named as its official icon.

According to a statement from the cruise company, Messi, who was named Time Magazine's Athlete of the Year for 2023, will participate in the naming celebration for the vessel later this month.

Icon of the Seas has attracted a lot of attention since it was revealed in October 2022, and not all of it has been positive.

'Incredible reaction'
Last July, a colorful image of its stern section went viral, with some users branding it a "monstrosity," and a "pile of decadence."

However, experts later suggested that this reaction wasn't particularly unusual.

"Images of Royal Caribbean's ships have often elicited strong responses," said cruise expert Stewart Chiron last August. "The negative responses to Icon of the Seas are evidently from non-cruisers. The current image is quite colorful and depicts a ship with lots of options. The positive responses far outweigh the others."

When contacted by CNN at the time, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson did not comment on the feedback to the image but stressed that Icon of the Seas had received an "incredible reaction," which had led to the highest volume booking week in the company's history.

Icon of the Seas takes the "world's largest cruise ship" title from Wonder of the Seas, another vessel in the Royal Caribbean fleet, which measures 1,188 feet in length and holds 18 decks.

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