(11:40 a.m. EDT) -- Beginning spring 2019, Norwegian Joy -- Norwegian Cruise Line's China-based Breakaway-Plus class ship -- will join fleetmate Norwegian Bliss in offering cruises to Alaska. The line revealed the move today, along with a slew of other adjustments to its previously announced 2019 and 2020 itineraries.
Norwegian Joy will homeport in Seattle and sail seven-night Alaska cruises -- the same itineraries as 4,200-passenger Norwegian Bliss, which launched in April 2018 as the line's first ship purpose-built for Alaska. (Norwegian Joy also will offer Mexican Riviera and Panama Canal itineraries in winter 2019/2020.) Joy is the line's second-newest ship after Bliss; it debuted March 2017 and has since been cruising out of Shanghai.
"Bliss has been an enormous success for us," Norwegian's President and CEO Andy Stuart told Cruise Critic. "It's the first time we've put a new ship in Alaska, and it's clear that there was a tremendous amount of pent-up demand both for the destination and for a new ship in the destination."
Prior to its arrival in Seattle, Norwegian Joy will undergo an extensive $50 million refurbishment to make it more like Norwegian Bliss. (Norwegian Joy initially was designed specifically for Chinese cruisers, and includes a handful of features geared toward that market.) Stuart said Joy essentially will share all the same features as Bliss, with the exception of the Galaxy Pavilion, a state-of-the-art gaming area with hovercraft bumper cars, a Star Wars battle pods video game and virtual reality rides, among other features.
Another change to Joy will be the entertainment, specifically the main theater shows. Norwegian has long been known to offer some of the best entertainment at sea -- most recently earning top cruise line for the Best Nightlife in Cruise Critic's 2017 Editors' Picks Awards. Norwegian Bliss' headlining show is its production of Broadway's "Jersey Boys."
"We're not ready to talk about [the entertainment on Norwegian Joy] yet. I'd love to see 'Hamilton'; on the ship, but that's not happening," Stuart added, laughing.
Outside Alaska, the line continues to increase its cruise offerings in Europe. Norwegian Pearl -- the ship Norwegian Joy will replace in Alaska -- will reposition to Amsterdam, becoming the line's sixth ship in the region. Details of its itineraries have yet to be revealed, but we do know the ship will offer pre- and post-cruise packages, giving cruisers more time to explore on land.
"We're seeing a very strong European market, so the idea of Joy going to Alaska and displacing Pearl to Europe -- we felt very confident given the strength of both of those markets," Stuart said.
Other newly revealed deployments include Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Jade moving to Australia, New Zealand and Asia for the winter 2019/2020 season, as well as Norwegian Spirit moving to China in summer 2020.
As for the line's highly anticipated Norwegian Encore, due in fall 2019, it's still slated to sail the Eastern Caribbean during its inaugural season. Stuart tells us the new ship's future itineraries will be revealed before the end of this year.
--By Gina Kramer, Editor