As the founder of Oceania Cruises, Frank Del Rio has been planning cruise ships for North Americans for years. But his first chance deliver such a ship for the Norwegian Cruise Line brand came only with the Norwegian Bliss, and his imprint on the result is evident.

O'Sheehan's, the mid-ship pub restaurant on earlier Breakaway class vessels engineered by former CEO Kevin Sheehan, is now The Local. An A-List Bar has been added to acknowledge Norwegian president Andy Stuart.

And the overall quality of the food is very good, influenced by culinary teams at Norwegian's luxury stable mates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

But one of the main ways the Bliss is different from past Norwegian vessels is in the interior design.

"Art is a big part of what we're thinking about, and not just on the outside of the ships," Stuart said in a presentation to a group of Cruise Planners agents onboard the Miami preview cruise for the Bliss.

Throughout the ship, there are pieces of abstract art on the walls that seasoned observers might associate more with Celebrity Cruises than with Norwegian.

"We have some beautiful art on the ship and I credit Frank Del Rio who has really curated a lot of the art personally and it's spectacular," Stuart said. "There's a pretty hefty art budget on this ship and this is art that a lot of people would have in their homes."

One piece they might not have in their homes is a metal sculpted polar bear that graces the main pool and brings to mind the outsized animal sculptures featured on Royal Caribbean International's Quantum class ships.

Unlike Royal's pink bears and giraffes, however, this is less art for art's sake than a suggestion of the Alaskan territory that the Bliss will be exploring during the summer months, starting in June.

Del Rio's use of abstract art on a mass market ship such as the Bliss works even better, in my view, than it did on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, where it felt a bit self-conscious in its ubiquity.

Here it adds a maturity to Norwegian's exuberant collection of ropes courses, water slides, and electric go-kart racing tracks. 

It is a nice balance, and while there are still parts of the ship where kids rule, there are other parts that are as adult as anything ever drawn up for the Norwegian brand. Call it a fun ship without the capital letters. 

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI