Five Highlights From the New Norwegian Bliss

Travel Agent just got the chance to tour the Norwegian Bliss, the newest ship from Norwegian Cruise Line, at its New York debut. The new vessel, the latest in the line’s Breakaway Plus class, incorporates a number of features guests haven’t seen before on Norwegian’s previous ships, as well as other updates to the guest experience. Here are the highlights:

1. The Racetrack: Probably the biggest new feature is the ship’s go kart racetrack, which we got a chance to test drive during the tour. The track spans the top two decks at the ship’s aft. While the racetrack first debuted on the Norwegian Joy, this will be the first time North American cruisers can experience it, as the Joy primarily serves the China market. This track is bigger than the one on the Joy, we were told – it’s being billed as the “longest at sea,” with space to hit speeds up to 30mph, or more when racers use a special, once-per-race “turbo boost” button. While the carts are electric, engine noises are still piped into the helmet for the full race car experience. The cost is $7 per person, which we were told will help to control the size of the line.

2. Laser Tag: Also on the top deck is the ship’s open-air laser tag course. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to peek inside, but we were told that it's open day and night, and that it offers teams of family and friends the chance to do battle in a sci-fi themed arena. Matches last approximately 15 minutes, at a cost of $5 per person.

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3. Oceania-Inspired Cuisine: In addition to a few new restaurants, the ship’s entire menu has received an update in collaboration with Oceania Cruises, a luxury cruise brand owned by the same parent company as Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH). While the ship doesn’t have any of the same restaurants as Oceania, our tour guide said that the luxury brand was able to lend its expertise on menu design and preparation. That allowed Norwegian to develop a method of partially smoking meat – which wouldn’t be practical on a ship at sea – in order to offer barbecue at Q, the ship’s all-new Texas smokehouse restaurant.

4. Bigger Views: With the ship bound for Alaska cruising, giving guests plenty of space to take in the scenery was a priority, our tour guide said. That’s reflected in the ship’s Observation Deck, which is much bigger than previous ships in the Breakaway Plus class. At 20,000 square feet, it wraps around the ship’s bow, and the forward section is capped by 3,500 square feet of windows. For guests of The Haven, the luxury “ship-within-a-ship” area, there’s a special, two-story observation area just above the main observation deck.

5. The Cavern Club: In terms of entertainment, The Cavern Club is a new venue for the cruise line. Aimed at Beatles fans, the venue is modeled after the Liverpool club where the famous band performed frequently in the 1960s. Here guests can take in nightly live performances by a Beatles cover band, with some outdoor seating as well.

Cruise editor Susan J. Young will be sailing on the ship during its inaugural two-day cruise out of Miami. Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for her in-depth report.

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