The hull of Norwegian Bliss designed by marine artist Wyland

Norwegian Cruise Line's next new cruise ship, Norwegian Bliss, is only a few months from launching, and the cruise line hosted a select group of international journalists for a sneak peek at the shipyard. Bliss is being built at Meyer-Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Cruise Critic was there to check out the ship.

The Hull

Norwegian Cruise Line is famous for its hull art, and since the debut of Norwegian Breakaway in 2013, it has been commissioning artists to design the imagery on the hulls. Marine artist Wyland was tapped to design the hull art for Norwegian Bliss, which will sail in Alaska this spring. Wyland was on hand to tour the ship -- and provide some "touchups" with a brush. The hull, which features bigger-than-life images of marine life (dolphins, rays and whales), is virtually complete. Fun fact: While Wyland created the design, he didn't do the actual painting. Instead, shipyard workers applied the paint to sections in essentially a "paint-by-numbers" fashion. "I think they did a fantastic job of getting the art I created up onto the ship," Wyland said. The artist joked the ship "is my ship." His signature is on the hull, after all.

Something(s) New

While the outside of the ship looks almost ready, there's still a lot of dust flying inside. (Don't worry! It's typical that a ship looks like it will never be ready, even a couple months from sailing.) One of the pieces that's really coming together is Norwegian Bliss' two-level go-kart track, which will be the biggest at sea. Sister ship Norwegian Joy, which sails in China, also has a go-kart track, but it's significantly smaller.

Norwegian Bliss will be the first ship in the fleet to have a completely sealed off casino for smokers. It's adjacent to the main casino, which will be a nonsmoking.

The 6-7-8 Atrium Chandelier on Norwegian Bliss

Familiar Features

Norwegian Bliss has some of the blockbuster features its fleetmates have, including the District Brewhouse, waterslides, Teppanyaki and a large casino. It also has a multistory atrium, called 6-7-8, which is topped by a gorgeous signature chandelier. (If you've sailed one of the Breakaway Plus Class ships, you've probably taken a picture of the crystal and LED light centerpiece.) On Bliss, the chandelier is slowly taking shape, and workers are climbing scaffolding to install it, piece by piece.

Souvenirs on display from the Norwegian Encore steel cutting

Up Next

At the end of our tour, we had the opportunity to see steel cut for the next (and final) Breakaway Plus Class ship, Norwegian Encore. The ship will debut in late 2019 and will sail from Miami. But there's no slowdown in sight for Norwegian, which is embarking on "Project Leonardo", for which firm orders are on the books for four 3,300-passenger ships. The first one will come out in 2022, with another coming out each year until 2025. Norwegian has an option for two more Leonardo ships, potentially extending the new builds through 2027.

--By Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor