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Norwegian Bliss to debut in Seattle for 2018 Alaska season

At 167,800gt, Norwegian Bliss will become the largest cruise ship in Alaska
It's official: Norwegian Cruise Line is calling its 2018 newbuild Norwegian Bliss and will base the ship in Seattle for its inaugural Alaska season after a positioning voyage through the Panama Canal's new locks.

Bliss will sail from Pier 66 where a $30m upgrade is going to vastly expand check-in space, add a VIP lounge and two new passenger boarding bridges.

'Norwegian was the first cruise line to begin cruising to Alaska from Seattle in 2000 and it’s only fitting that we bring our newest ship, Norwegian Bliss, directly to this incredible location,' said Norwegian president and ceo Andy Stuart.

The long-rumored deployment was confirmed Thursday in a ceremony at Pier 66 by Stuart, alongside Port of Seattle ceo Ted Fick and Port of Seattle Commission president John Creighton.

The third ship in the line’s Breakaway-Plus class, Norwegian Bliss will have undisclosed features that optimize it for Alaska. The 167,800gt ship will also become the largest passenger vessel in the region, outsizing Royal Caribbean International's 138,000gt Explorer of the Seas which sailed to the Great Land this year.

Under construction at Meyer Werft, Norwegian Bliss is scheduled for delivery in spring 2018. After a trans-Atlantic cruise and a Panama Canal transit through the new locks, the ship will sail north along the US West Coast, reaching Seattle for the start of the summer season.

Weekly Inside Passage cruises will call at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, BC, along with scenic glacier cruising.

Marine life artist Wyland has been commissioned to design the hull artwork for Norwegian Bliss. Known for his iconic whale murals, marine life paintings and sculptures, Wyland raises awareness about the importance of conservation. His design for the hull of Norwegian Bliss will be revealed later this month.

The expansion and upgrades of Pier 66 spring from 2015's historic 15-year agreement between Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and the Port of Seattle. Collectively they will invest $30m to expand the check-in space by 300% to more than 150,000 square feet and add a VIP lounge with expansive views of Elliott Bay. Two new elevated passenger boarding bridges will be installed, too.

The 15-year lease gives priority to NCLH ships, including those of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and provides passenger volume guarantees estimated to bring $73m to the port.

'As we cross the one million passenger [movements] mark next year, having the largest vessel scheduled on the West Coast for the 2018 cruise season shows real commitment by Norwegian Cruise Line to invest in Seattle,' Port Commission president Creighton said. 'Larger cruise vessels like the Norwegian Blissmean more passengers, bringing more revenue and jobs to our region.'