(12 p.m. EDT) -- Norwegian Joy, the first cruise ship built for the Chinese market by Norwegian Cruise Line, will have several features that are brand new for the line, as well as some favorites.
The 3,900-passenger ship, slated to homeport in Shanghai and Tianjin (Beijing), will arrive in summer 2017. Built at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, the ship also bears the Chinese name Xi Yue Hao, and will have the characters featured on its hull. The line considers the vessel a sister ship to 4,200-passenger Norwegian Escape, although it has fewer staterooms; the ship also has expanded casino and shopping areas.
- A two-level competitive racetrack on the top deck, the first at sea. Ten passengers will be able to race each other in electric carts over a course (approximately five-to-six minutes) and have photos taken at the end.
- An open-air laser tag course, also on the top deck. The racetrack and laser tag course will occupy the same area that the ropes course does on Escape, Breakaway and Getaway.
- Norwegian's signature ship-within-a-ship concept, The Haven, on Decks 17, 18 and 19. Similar to other ships, the Haven will have butler service, a dedicated concierge, priority access to specialty dining and entertainment, a private restaurant and an enclosed courtyard. There are slightly fewer suites in Joy's Haven, 74 as opposed to 95 on Escape. On Joy, the Haven will also include a brand-new Observation Deck with the same view that ship officers experience from the bridge, as well as gourmet canapes and premium beverages.
- A new accommodations category called Concierge Level. Although this category is not as luxurious as the Haven, passengers in this category will have larger balcony cabins, as well as a new interior suite class with two bedrooms and a simulated balcony; access to a concierge, and an exclusive Concierge Lounge with a private bar and refreshments. The Concierge Level will be located on Decks 14 and 15, and have the same forward views as the Haven.
- A new area for games and virtual reality simulators on Deck 16 called the Galaxy Pavilion. This technology-heavy space will include hover craft bumper cars, a state-of-the-art racing simulator, three interactive dark ride simulators (where you appear to be riding roller coaster rides in the dark), Star Wars battle pods video game, six Xbox console stations and Oculus, a virtual reality game. The ship will also have karaoke rooms.
- Two multi-story waterslides. The Double Aqua Loop free fall slide has two loops, one that extends over the side of the ship and one that is see-through. The Aqua Racer slide allows passengers to race side-by-side on inner tubes for more than 360 feet.
- An open-air Serenity Park on the top deck, with greenery, a soothing pool and chaise lounges. Norwegian bills the park as the perfect spot to practice tai chi or yoga.
- An upscale shopping venue, the largest in Norwegian's fleet. The line says the store will feature high-end international brands, a move that's sure to appeal to brand-conscious cruisers.
- More family-friendly suites and rooms with connecting doors than on previous Norwegian ships, to appeal to the Chinese tendency to travel with multiple generations. Unlike other Norwegian Cruise Line ships built recently, Norwegian Joy will not have single cabins.
- Twenty-nine restaurants, including a Korean barbecue and a Japanese shabu shabu establishment. There will also be a formal tea room. Further details on dining, including which places will carry a surcharge, are still to come, the line said.
In its release, the line said that the ship was built to fuse "a western cruise vacation with the comforts and preferences that Chinese guests expect." The ship will be marketed exclusively to the Chinese, with sales primarily through authorized travel partners, the line said. The main language of Joy will be Mandarin.
Curious? Join Cruise Critic's readers, who are already discussing Norwegian Joy on the Norwegian Cruise Line forum.
--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor