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The West Coast is finally getting the cruise industry love it deserves, with more next-generation ships slated to sail from California. And Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is one of the brands showing that love.
Not only will the new Norwegian Bliss continue to sail from Los Angeles’ port of San Pedro in 2018 and 2019, but — according to a recent announcement — so, too, will its sister ship, Norwegian Joy, beginning next year. That means NCL’s two latest ships are now seasonally earmarked to sail from the Western seaboard to the Mexican Riviera and the Panama Canal in between runs to Alaska and the Caribbean.
What’s surprising about the news is that Joy was originally built for the Chinese market and is currently customized for a different demographic. To make that ship more closely resemble Bliss for American customers, NCL is planning a $50 million renovation. The updates will include the addition of a Starbucks, as well as other restaurant, bar and entertainment enhancements.
According to NCL, the result will be a pair of “virtually identical” designs with similar features, and significant efforts will be taken to achieve that objective.
At TravelAge West’s recent inaugural Future Leaders in Travel Retreat, Sara Blakeslee, trade marketing manager for NCL, said that several existing staterooms will be removed to expand the ship’s Observation Lounge. She also added that Andy Stuart, president and CEO of the brand, has challenged the team to spot any remaining Chinese characters to ensure they have all been removed for the English-speaking market.However, it’s also worth noting the ships’ differences to understand how to best sell each to the right clients. For instance, Joy does not list any Studio categories for solo travelers, but Bliss does. The former also features Concierge staterooms — which come with concierge service and private dining — while the latter offers Spa staterooms, which have complimentary access to the Thermal Spa Suites.I had the opportunity to tour and experience some of Joy’s features firsthand before it originally launched in China, so I was able to gain a sense of how things will soon compare. When I was onboard, the Observation Lounge was then the Concierge Lounge, and it was, indeed, much smaller, only encompassing the very front of the ship. A look at the original deck plan compared to the new one indicates that two-dozen staterooms will be taken out to have it stretch farther back, as onboard Bliss.The other major difference between Joy and Bliss is that Joy exclusively features the Galaxy Pavilion at the stern. This is a fun interactive gaming center with virtual dark ride simulators as well as physical bumper cars situated inside the ship. Onboard Bliss, however, the space is instead used as a scenic wraparound thermal suite for Mandara Spa. To make up for the lost relaxation area, Joy’s former Noodle Bar will become a fitness center to help expand the existing spa facility.Additionally, onboard Joy, passengers will find American Diner, whereas onboard Bliss, cruisers can enjoy Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea.
Both ships will sport laser tag, waterslides and a race track. The go-kart course is a bit longer onboard Bliss, but I recall Joy’s turns being a bit more challenging. Even without the Galaxy Pavilion, the dedicated youth facilities appear to be more expansive onboard Bliss, which has a video arcade that is not on Joy. Both ships will have a mini-golf course (onboard Joy, it will displace the climbing wall).When it comes to other entertainment and dining, the Joy VIP Casino will make way for the Social Comedy & Night Club — which is onboard Bliss, but on the opposite side of the ship. Karaoke Rooms will change out for a Library & Card Room and Photo Studio. Starbucks will replace Cafe at The Atrium, and Q Texas Smokehouse will replace the Supper Club.Coco’s from Bliss, however, will not come along for the ride onboard Joy, nor will The Bake Shop and Dolce Gelato. The Grand Tea Room will become The District Brew House, and Joy’s Le Bistro will move to the back of the ship to feature Ocean Blue in its current location. Many shops will be removed to highlight The Cavern Club and Sugarcane Mojito Bar as on Bliss. Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant onboard Joy will be entirely removed as a result.Lastly, pool and hot tub configurations will change slightly, and after the renovations, what was The Haven Casino onboard Joy and what is the upper part of the Horizon Lounge onboard Bliss will become The Haven Library.
The DetailsNorwegian Cruise Linewww.ncl.com