When Norwegian Cruise Lines debuted the first racetrack at sea with go-karts, it made big news. Even now a few years later, the speedways continue to be one of the more popular attractions on a cruise ship. They are also a perfect example of the kind of strides that today’s ships are making in entertainment while at sea.
If you’re about to sail on a Norwegian ship with one of the tracks, then you’re likely interested in some more details about the go-kart and what you can expect. We recently tried the racetrack at sea for ourselves and here is everything you need to know…
Go-kart Tracks Are Available on the Bliss and Joy
Will your ship have the racetrack? As of now, only two ships have the tracks at sea: Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy. These are NCL’s largest and newest ships. Given the popularity of the track, we could envision future ships being built with the track or older ships being refurbished to add the speedway. For now, however, only those lucky cruisers on these newer ships get to enjoy the experience.
The Laps Take About 30 Seconds
As you’d expect on a racetrack on a ship, the course isn’t that long. It only takes about 30 seconds to make a lap. That said, the layout is well-designed. In a compact space the track packs a lot in, including a ton of corners, twists and turns. It’s also a double-decker track, with a hill climb right at the start and a downhill section at the end to bring you back to the start/finish line.
One-Seaters and Two-Seaters Are Available
Want to drive with a smaller child? Or maybe you just want to share the experience with someone? You don’t have to drive alone. While most riders decide to drive a single cart, you can ride with two people in a double go-kart.
The Carts Are Electric with Gas Engine Sounds
With cruise ships trying to more “green” you might be wondering about fuel for the go-karts. They are actually electric and don’t emit exhaust as they zoom around the track. To help add to the ambiance, there are engine noises emitted by the cars to make them sounds like they are real race cars. It’s a little funny at first but really does make it feel like you are going faster.
Rides Cost $15 Per Person (Unlimited Passes Are Available)
If there is one bad thing about the racetrack on Norwegian, it’s that the activity isn’t free. In fact, it can be a bit pricey. While prices can change at anytime, as we go to press you’ll pay $15 per person for your turn on the track. Want to go three times during your trip? That’s $45. There are unlimited passes available that allow you to go the entire length of your trip. We’ve seen prices quoted around $200 for a week-long cruise.
Be Dressed for Racing
Due to safety concerns, you need to be dress appropriately to race the cars. That means closed-toe shoes. As well, you don’t want to wear anything loose or baggy that might catch on the wheels, such as a scarf or an open jacket. Also be sure to leave your bags in the room or with someone watching your race. There are no lockers available to store your bags while you drive.
There Are Height Requirements
If you want to drive alone, then you need to be at least 55 inches tall (4′ 7″). The good news is that there aren’t age requirements. As long as you are tall enough, you can drive. Note that some websites showing the minimum height of 48 inches, but on the ship it was in fact listed as 55 inches to drive alone. Smaller riders can go with larger drivers to also enjoy the track.
Reservations Are Highly Recommended
The racetrack is by far one of the most popular parts of the ship. While your cruise may be different, we’d highly suggest making some reservations for your spot the instant you get on the ship. You can reserve a spot via your stateroom television. You could also try to reserve during days in port when many people are off the ship (if the track is open during this time).
You May Not Go Fast… But It Feels Fast
We’ll be honest, you don’t go that fast in absolute terms in the carts. We’ve seen reports of up to 30-40 mph, but having raced on the ship firsthand, that’s not the case. We’d estimate you go more 10-15 mph. While that may not sound fast, given how low to the ground you drive and the number of curves, it really feels much faster. There are definite times when you have to let off the gas to make a corner cleanly. Bottom line, you won’t be disappointed with the speed.
Rides Last About 10 Minutes
The rides go by pretty quick. If you’re waiting in line, that’s a good thing. If you’re racing, you want it to last forever. We’d estimate that a turn takes about 10 minutes long. For $15, that’s not very long, but it is still a fun time. To be honest, racing any longer than that and the minimum wait would be unbearable.
A Helmet and Helmet Sock Are Provided For You
When you ride, you must wear a helmet. A helmet with a visor is provided to you, as is a helmet sock. The sock fits over your head like a thin ski mask. They are only worn once and then washed for the next person. This helps to keep things cleaner instead of people’s bare heads touching the actual helmet.
The Power Is Controlled by the Staff
You might be hoping you get a face car when you race. The speed of the cars is actually dependent on the staff. In fact, when you first start on the track you’ll be disappointed with the speed out of the gates and climbing the hill. It’s not until all the cars are on the track that the power is turned up and you can really start to drive quickly. As well, if there are any incidents on the track or when it’s time to pit at the end of the race, your speed will be cut.
The “Turbo” Button Doesn’t Do Anything
On the car’s steering wheel there is a beautiful button that says it’s a turbo boost. Don’t get your hopes up. We were told by the staff that it actually doesn’t do anything. We also tested it personally and there was no extra boost provided by it.
Getting Stuck Behind People Is an Issue
If there is one complaint about the racetrack on Norwegian, it’s that you can get stuck behind slow drivers. Given the turns and the width of the track, finding a spot to pass can be tough. If someone is going slow around the track, you could be going at a turtle’s pace behind them until things open up for passing.
Racing Is a Lot of Fun… You Should Do It at Least Once
It’s understandable if you don’t want to spend the extra money to take a ride on the carts. For instance, a family of four would spend $60 for about 10 minutes of entertainment. That’s a steep price to pay. Still, after having done the carts ourselves, we suggest that everyone take at least one turn. During our cruise it turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire trip and something we’ll remember for a long time.
Have more questions about racing on Norwegian ships? Let us know in the comments below.