Your next cruise to Alaska could be on a ship with a race track on its top deck.
Norwegian Cruise Line on Sunday revealed that its soon-to-debut, Alaska-bound Norwegian Bliss would feature a two-deck-high racing course where passengers compete against each other in electric go-carts — a first for a vessel based in North America.
Located at the back of the 4,000-passenger ship, the track will be a longer version of a similar course that debuted in April on Norwegian's 3,850-passenger Norwegian Joy. Joy was custom-built for the Chinese market and sails year-round in Asia.
"The feedback (from the attraction on Joy) has been outstanding," Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Andy Stuart told USA TODAY. "It's packed all day long. People absolutely love it."
Speaking in advance of Norwegian's announcement, which took place at the Virtuoso Travel Week conference in Las Vegas, Stuart said the track on Bliss would be 40% longer than the one on Joy.
"We've managed to utilize the same space more efficiently," Stuart said. "It's going to be an even better experience, I think."
Stuart also revealed Bliss will have an open-air laser tag course on its top deck, another feature that first debuted on Joy.
Other deck-top features announced for Bliss include an Aqua Park with two multi-story water slides. One of the slides will have a loop that extends over the side of the ship and a second, see-through loop that stretches down to the deck below. The other slide will be a tandem attraction where passengers race side-by-side on inner tubes for more than 360 feet. It'll include a translucent section that provides views out to the ocean.
The Bliss pool deck will be opened up a bit as compared to some recent Norwegian vessels by recessing its two pools away from the center of the area, Stuart told USA TODAY. There also will be more deck-top hot tubs that are cantilevered over the side of the ship, he said.
Bliss also will have a watery fun zone for smaller kids on its top deck filled with splash pads, water cannons, tipping buckets and slides.
Norwegian on Sunday also unveiled the dining options that will be on Bliss. They include a modern Texas barbecue eatery called Q that will feature live pop country music — a new concept for the line. It'll serve brisket, ribs, chicken and sausages smoked over hickory, oak and pecan woods.
"We're always looking for trends in dining, and we're definitely seeing the barbecue concept growing in popularity," Stuart said.
Stuart said the barbecue venue would be a bit more upscale than traditional barbecue eateries of old, in keeping with emerging trends.
Bliss also will have an upscale, modern Mexican restaurant called Los Lobos — a concept that first debuted in 2016 on Norwegian Dawn. It'll fill a space that houses a Brazilian churrascaria restaurant on several other Norwegian ships with similar designs.
"It's been a big hit on Dawn," Stuart said of the Los Lobos restaurant.
Next to Los Lobos will be a new drinks concept called The A-List Bar. Serving handcrafted cocktails, wines and premium spirits, it's a subtle homage to Stuart, a 30-year veteran of the company whose ties to the letter A go beyond his first initial. Stuart's wife also has a name that starts with the letter A as do both of his kids, in what is becoming a family tradition.
Norwegian has a history of naming ship-board venues after top executives. Several ships in its fleet feature an O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill, named after former CEO Kevin Sheehan.
Bliss also will be the first Norwegian ship with a full-service Starbucks store on board. Until now, Royal Caribbean has been the only cruise line with full-service Starbucks stores on vessels. The first Starbucks at sea debuted in 2010 on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.
Another new-for-Norwegian venue will be Coco's, a chocolate-themed dessert outlet serving handmade pralines, truffles, crepes and other treats paired with fine coffees and teas.
In addition to the new venues, Bliss will feature many of the signature eateries and bars that are staples of the Norwegian fleet, including a Cagney's steakhouse, French restaurant Le Bistro and Italian restaurant La Cucina. There also will be versions of familiar Norwegian food venues Ocean Blue, Food Republic and Teppanyaki as well as the Norwegian craft beer outlet District Brew House.
"The big picture is we've really worked hard to bring the best of Norwegian's favorites into Bliss while combining (them) with a number of exclusive firsts," Stuart said.
Scheduled to debut in April, Bliss will spend its inaugural summer season sailing in Alaska before moving to the Caribbean for the winter. It'll sail out of Miami after the move.
At 167,800 tons, Bliss will rank among the ten largest cruise vessels in the world. On order from Germany's Meyer Werft shipyard, it'll be the third ship in Norwegian's Breakaway-Plus class. It follows Norwegian Escape, which debuted in 2015, and the recently unveiled Joy.
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