Go-karts, laser tag and The Beatles at sea – the latest ship from NCL is simply magnificent, says Cruise International Editor Liz Jarvis
The moment you first glimpse the spectacular blue and white ocean-themed livery on the hull of Norwegian Bliss, designed by marine-life artist Wyland, you know this ship is going to be something really special.
From the go-kart track on the top deck, to the Cavern Club with its crowd-rousing performances by an impressive incarnation of the Fab Four (Hey Jude will have you up and singing along, guaranteed), this ship takes all the best elements of Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet and presents them in one incredible, awe-inspiring and irresistible package.
Restaurants include Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea, with its Mexican-inspired dishes, burgers and excellent margaritas; the outstanding Los Lobos, again Mexican; the Texas Smokehouse or ‘Q’; Cagney’s Steakhouse and Ocean Blue, with both inside and al fresco dining; the buffet, the Garden Café; Taste and Savor; Teppanyaki; The Local, a stylish bar serving American-style lunches; as well as the ever popular Manhattan Room. There are also bars galore so guests on the Premium All-Inclusive package have plenty of options, including the new A-List Bar; Sugarcane Mojito Bar which has inside and outside seating; the Atrium Bar; and The District Brew House, which offers 24 beers on tap and 50 kinds of bottled beers, including ones from Seattle-based breweries. There’s even a Starbucks.
One of the biggest onboard attractions is the go-karts racetrack, which is nearly 1,000ft long. It’s exhilarating. Sound effects in the speakers make the karts sound like F1 cars so you think you’re going faster than you are (although they do actually go up to 30mph). It’s worth queuing for (and the $5 charge). There’s also open-air laser tag, themed as a space station, and the superb Aqua Park with its kids’ splash area and waterslides.
Also for families, as well as the Splash Academy kids’ clubs for ages three to 12, is the largest Guppies playroom in the Norwegian fleet (offering sensory-play activities for ages 6 months to just under three). Teens have their own club and can come and go as they like.
For adult escapism, the Mandara Spa is a sophisticated space with no shortage of heated stone loungers in its Thermal Suite as well a snowroom, saunas, steamroom, salt room and heated ‘vitality’ whirlpool.
One of the highlights is the art on board – there are some exceptional pieces, making this ship feel a little more upmarket than its sister ships. Staterooms have typical NCL glamour, with cream, cobalt, indigo and walnut decor, and good-sized bathrooms. There is also a two-deck area for solo travellers, with an attractive communal space and small but perfectly formed cabins.
This ship makes the most of its incredible size with two Observation Lounges, including a two-storey one in luxury enclave, The Haven, both ideal for viewing wildlife and scenery.
Norwegian Bliss is the penultimate ship in NCL’s ‘Breakaway Plus’ class; next we’ll be seeing the ‘Leonardo’ class, a slightly smaller range of vessels. But it is magnificent, a triumph of innovative design and first-class German engineering.
The seven-night Alaska Highlights cruise on a round trip from Seattle calling at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria (British Columbia) starts from £1,069pp, including the Premium All-Inclusive package, but not including flights (0333 241 2319; ncl.com)