Juneau, AK (KINY) - The Norwegian Bliss made its second stop in Ketchikan on Monday and Juneau this morning, hosting community dignitaries for an onboard tour and informational session.
News of the North had the privilege of touring the ship alongside members of the Coast Guard, Juneau Police, the City Mayor, the Port Director, and other organization members throughout Juneau.
Onboard, the over 4,000 passengers can drive go-karts on a two story racetrack, play laser tag in an alien spaceship, and slide down a water slide that hangs over the edge of the ship, as well as enjoy award-winning Broadway shows in the 800 seat theater. This is just to name a few of the various activities spread throughout the ship as there is also casino games, tons of unique restaurants, a water park, and several viewing areas.
The ship also removed nearly 140 rooms to make room for an observation deck at the front of the ship in which passengers are sure to enjoy their Alaskan sights. Prices for a one-week Alaska trip in mid-July range from $2,800 per couple for an inside cabin to more than $11,000 for the company’s exclusive Haven suites. The Haven suites are on the private 17th floor and feature a 24 hour personal concierge and butler service.
The massive ship, twenty decks high and 1,082 feet long, docks in Ketchikan every Monday, and the Captain had some enlightening words about maneuvering through Southeast Alaska waters, as well as reminiscing about the Bliss’ time transiting the Panama Canal. Unveiled by Norwegian Cruise Line in April, the 168,028-ton vessel is the ninth largest cruise ship ever built and by far the biggest to attempt a transit of the Panama Canal.
Economically, the Norwegian Bliss will bring an estimated 80,000 visitors this season into Alaska. These passengers will spend about 60 million dollars in Alaska's cities. The ship itself cost 1.1 billion dollars, as was built with Alaska being a prime destination for tourists, something that John Binkley the President of Cruise Lines International Association Alaska (CLIAA) saw as a statement of investment in the belief that Alaska is worth the tremendous effort and spending.
A plaque each were given out to Mayor Ken Koelsch, Steven White, Liz Perry, Carl Uchytil, Mike Satre, and Drew Green to commemorate the start of the Norwegian Bliss being a part of Alaska's cruise ship economy. Each of these leaders also presented gifts to the Captain.
We were able to speak with the Captain of the Bliss shortly after this presentation. Captain Steven Bengtsson talked to us first about some of the challenges of piloting such a large vessel.
"For me, as a Captain, the biggest challenge is to bring a ship of this size into Alaska. As one of the pilots put it, navigation often in inclement weather, reduced visibility, strong tidal currents, narrow passages, and hard bottoms." He also mentioned that the tremendous surface area of the ship, makes it susceptible to harsh winds.
We also asked the Captain to relay some of his favorite parts of the ship.
"Our Haven area, which is the higher end, first class area, is a beautiful area and has its own pool, observation lounge, restaurant, and it's a very tranquil and beautiful environment up there."
The Captain also explained to us some of the appeals of being on the Bliss, rather than a smaller luxury cruise. "After 8:30pm in the evening, it's quiet on the smaller ships, whereas here you can enjoy the exclusivity. If you the hype and variety of entertainment and dining, it's just outside the doors. This is a feature we have on most of our ships, but of course on the big ships it has been taken to another level. So that is a unique offering compared to our competition." There is at least one restaurant that is open 24 hours a day, so those looking for a meal can grab something at any time.
We were also told that the ship provisions for one week, which it can gather in the homeport of Seattle in about an eight hour period. Roughly 24,000 meals are served each day. A lot of the waste is dropped off either in Vancouver or Prince Rupert and about 60% of that waste is sorted, compressed, and recycled.
Local officials on the tour noted that this was the beginning of decidedly larger cruise ships coming to Alaska, while the ship’s Captain noted that the Bliss was sold out for the season.
For more information on the Norwegian Bliss look towards their official website.