Back when the Norwegian Joy was first announced, I was bummed to find out it was purpose-built for China. Why? Because it had go-karts! Racing karts at sea sounded like a blast. That disappointment was erased during last year’s conference when we found out we’d be sailing the Bliss this year! I was so excited I even challenged Norwegian’s CEO, Andy Stuart, to a race:
No response ever came, and frankly it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as even though he had planned to join us, and tried hard to line things up after the itinerary change, he was unable to make it on board during conference. Maybe some day :).
We already knew we’d have a block of time to race on the karts, as our group had the track to ourselves on Wednesday night from 9-11pm for a Make-A-Wish fundraiser. For $20/pp, you got to race against your fellow agents. As soon as we boarded, Jen and I also booked a time during normal kart hours, at 6pm that same day, so we ended up racing twice on the 24th, which was fine by me! Normal pricing for these is $9.95/run, or $29.99 for an unlimited day pass. If you want to race, book the day you board, as you can’t book ahead of time, and I’ve heard that on a normal sailing spots can fill up fast.
When you arrive for your racing time, you’re lined up just outside the track for basic instructions, and to find out what number car you have. Rule #1, no bumping. They take it very seriously, which I understand because (among other reasons) it’s not easy to repair broken karts at sea. They will stop all karts on track to yell at people if you break this rule, as we found out on my first run, and were told that if they have to do it twice, they’ll pull the offender off track early. They apparently have remote control of these things, as ours all shut down near the second hairpin so the person upstairs could yell at someone who kept bumping other karts. Anyway, once everyone’s ready, they give you a headsock, send you to your kart, then ensure that you get belted in properly and that your helmet is secure.
The race starts with a slow warm-up lap where they limit your speed and allow everyone to get an idea of how the track is laid out. They claimed they weren’t going to let us go until we completed that pace lap, but in both of our races, they turned up the wick half way around, and we were off! Once running at full speed, you get 8 laps to race. I made the mistake of treating the first race as an actual race, which you really can’t do if you want to have fun. I let slower drivers frustrate me, and when another driver mis-braked and put me in the wall coming to start finish (with no repercussions since no one saw), I got a bit ticked. Combine that with the annoyance of the timing/scoring being wrong at the end (I was scored as 7th when I actually finished 3rd), and the first race wasn’t as much fun as I expected, but only because I had the wrong attitude. I quickly realized that this is all about fun, and with drivers of varying levels on track, just go out there and enjoy it. I should note that timing/scoring was wrong on run 2 as well (I finished 2nd but was scored 5th), but at that point, I was having too much fun to care. I’d have been happy to spend the whole week on those things! Feel free to check out the video from my sunset run!
Tip: If you want to record your run, have a camera that straps to your chest. No hand-helds or head straps/mounts allowed. Once I found this out, I actually stopped in a camera shop in San Francisco and picked up a Chesty for my GoPro, which worked like a champ.
Second in fun to the go-karts were the water slides! On the Escape I never got a chance to do the AquaLoop, but we did the AquaRacer and loved it, so I was excited to give both of the slides on the Bliss a try, and I wasn’t disappointed!
First up was OceanLoops, the slide where you start by dropping almost straight down. I admit to being nervous, the idea of the floor dropping out on me was a bit scary, but my fears subsided after a run on this one! You start by getting wet in a shower at the bottom of the stairs, and once up top, they load you standing up into the launch tube. There wasn’t really any instruction given, which is my only complaint. I wasn’t sure what to do with my hands, and after watching me try different positions, he finally signaled that I needed to cross them over my chest. Once in place, I leaned back and waited for the bottom to fall out. Once it did, I flew through the entire series of tubes and made it all the way to the end, something a lot of people couldn’t say. I saw more than one person, Jen included, not make it past the big first turn, and size/weight didn’t seem to be a factor. When that happens, you slide back down to a waiting escape hatch where someone else lets you out. Not me, though, I made it all the way! A little tip we overheard, you have to lay totally flat against the tube, not even lifting your head, if you want to have a shot at making it all the way. Here’s a look at my run on this, as shot by Jen, since you can’t take a camera on this one:
Our next stop was the AquaRacer. We did it in individual tubes this time, but they let you go down two at a time anyway. This one’s more relaxed for those not comfortable with the initial drop on OceanLoops, and is fun as well! I was sure due to me weighing more than Jen that I was going to catch up with and mow her down at some point, but it didn’t happen, as you can see:
We really enjoyed the slides, and had it been warmer earlier in the trip, I might have snuck out of sessions to get more time in on them. Shh, don’t tell Jen!
Finally, let’s talk about the shows. On the Escape we encountered all sorts of issues with the shows. Rescheduling / all out cancellation in some cases due to cast illness, and bad food/service in the paid show, Brat Pack. On the Bliss, we had none of those problems. We saw Havana early on in the sailing, which I was just “meh” about. It was fine, but sound levelling made it difficult to understand what was being said/sung, and if I haven’t mentioned it before, I don’t really like musicals. We’d intended on seeing Jersey Boys, as we had it booked for the 26th, but at the last-minute got an invite to Los Lobos to eat with a few others in the industry, and eagerly took them up on it. We did get to see the first 30 minutes of the show before we headed to dinner, and were both really enjoying it! While it’s technically a musical, it tells a clear story all the way through, and because it was an entertaining one, I can overlook that 😉
The pièce de résistance, however, came later that night when we saw “Happy Hour Prohibition – The Musical”. This show does cost extra, but in my opinion, was worth every penny. Again, I don’t really like musicals, this is the exception. It’s set in Madam Lulu’s New Orleans speakeasy the night before prohibition starts, and tells the story of bootleggers, and gives you plenty of period music to enjoy. You do have to be 21 to see this, as it includes the following 5 period cocktails delivered throughout the show: Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned, HHP Mint Julep, Whiskey Sour, and Sea Captain. Here are the recipes, straight from the small program available on your table at the show:
Every single one of those was delicious, with the Moscow Mule being both of our favorites. Jen’s not much into mixed drinks like this normally, so I was shocked when she drank every one of them. As they bring you new ones, they remove your old cups/glasses, and I thought she was going to cry (or kill the server) when he took her Moscow Mule before she was done.
The show itself was outstanding. It’s important to point out that the girls are kinda scantily clad throughout it, since this speakeasy was effectively a brothel. They also involve a number of people in the crowd at various points in the show, bringing them up on stage, and talking to them as they sit in their chairs. If that’s not your thing, this show may not be for you. Me? I had absolute blast, and would go again in a heartbeat. The cast was very good, the drinks were amazing, and it was an all-around fun time. It’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen on a ship!
That about covers things for my initial post. As you may have gathered, we had a great week on the Bliss for which I’d like to thank everyone at Norwegian for! I would love to sail this ship again when we’re not working, especially if we can take our daughter with us. As part of our conference each year, we do a Make-A-Wish silent auction, and one of the two things we bid on this time around was a 7 day Norwegian cruise, which I fully intended to include Bayley on, but no such luck in winning, we were outbid at the last minute. Oh well, we’ll get to it one of these days, those deals on the Joy’s alaska sailings are getting harder and harder to pass up!
In my next post, I’ll take a closer look at the food, with a focus on the specialty restaurants we ate at. As with our specialty meals on the Escape, none of the ones we ate at on Bliss disappointed, and I can’t wait to cover them! If this post inspired you to look at booking a sailing on the Bliss, give us a call, shoot us an email, or message us on Facebook, we’d love to help!