The engine roars as I slam the accelerator to the floor and swerve round the bend, glancing up just in time to spot the coast of Holland appear on the horizon.

I’m at the wheel of a racing car go-kart and, believe it or not, I’m actually speeding around the top of a cruise ship in the middle of the North Sea.

It’s not the most obvious activity you’d associate with cruising, but it’s indisputably the most fun and something you can only do with Norwegian Cruise Line.

The racetrack on NCL’s newest ship, Norwegian Prima, is the biggest and best yet, weaving across three decks and stretching more than a quarter of a mile, twisting around and passing through the funnel with drivers reaching speeds topping 30mph.

There are other thrills on this new ship too. Daredevils can hurtle down The Drop, billed as the world’s first freefall dry slide where I plummet 10-storeys (though it’s not as scary as it sounds) or The Rush twin dry slides where intrepid guests race each other to the bottom.

My runaway favourite is The Wave, NCL’s first tidal wave waterslide, where I perch on an innertube and am swept along for a splashing few seconds that pass in a flash.

But there’s more to Norwegian Prima than a clutch of adrenaline-fuelled diversions – good though they are.

This is NCL’s first new category of ship in nearly a decade – hailed as a game-changer for the line – and the first of six Prima vessels, with the second, Norwegian Viva, following next summer.

After debuting at a glitzy ceremony in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, where it was named by godmother, global popstar Katy Perry, it is clear Norwegian Prima is a class apart from its sister ships.

There’s a more upscale ambience thanks to its sophisticated décor in a palate of understated shades, complemented by a multi-million dollar collection of carefully-curated artworks.

The exclusive Haven deck area – NCL’s “ship within a ship” – has been remodelled and sets impressive new standards with the largest selection of suites and a breath-taking infinity pool that takes centre-stage on the private outdoor deck at the back of the ship.

Aside from here, this ship feels more spacious generally with flowing public areas and outdoor spaces that include Ocean Boulevard which wraps around the ship like a promenade deck.

Here you’ll find al fresco dining at some of Prima’s restaurants and gorgeous lounging areas with hanging birdcage-style chairs, opulent Balinese daybeds and alluring infinity pools. There’s even an outdoor sculpture park with a collection of statuesque creations crying out for social media selfies.

The Vibe Beach Club, which is also on some other NCL ships, occupies a sheltered area towards the aft and is an idyllic spot to chill with dual infinity hot tubs, plush sunbeds and a dedicated bar, but it comes at a price with week-long passes costing from $229.

There are other areas to relax in around this ship, though there is only one main pool, which could get crowded when all 3,100 guests are onboard.

But when it comes to wining and dining, NCL is known for its diverse choice and it doesn’t disappoint with nearly 20 bars and lounges, plus 14 cafes and restaurants.

New dining spots include Mediterranean seafood speciality Palomar and contemporary-style sushi house Nama, but I dive into the innovative new Indulge Food Hall to try out the assorted stands serving tasty small plates, from noodles and curries to tapas and tostadas. Among the speciality restaurants are established NCL favourites such as Cagney’s Steakhouse and teppanyaki (now called Hasuki), but on Prima they are more upmarket, with French eaterie Le Bistro feeling incredibly swanky with three jaw-dropping chandeliers, said to have cost $75,000 each.

Even the two main restaurants – The Commodore Room and Hudson’s – perfectly reflect the strong sense of elegance running through this ship with classic décor and stylish ambience that gives them the feel of a speciality venue.

Another innovative draw is the multi-purpose theatre which transforms into a nightclub, making it ideal for the pumping disco vibe of the enjoyable Donna Summer Musical, as it then converts into iconic Manhattan nightspot Studio 54.

A lively run of gameshows, talented tribute bands in Syd Norman’s Pour House, and comedy acts in the Improv at Sea bar ensure action-packed late nights, while the Mandara Spa, a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of indulgence, is the perfect place to recover.

Day passes cost a hefty $99, but after spending an afternoon alternating between the warm waters of the salt and vitality pools, and dipping into a myriad of hot and steamy thermal suites (including the first charcoal sauna at sea), I’m won over as I relish Norwegian Prima’s consummate balance between chills and thrills.

Sara Macefield
Sara Macefield is an award-winning travel journalist of more than 20 years standing, and has spent the last decade writing about the cruise industry – exploring the world's oceans and rivers on ships of all sizes. Having notched up more than 100 cruises, her most memorable trips have been to Alaska with its superb wildlife, and sailing along Burma’s remote Chindwin River to villages far off the tourist track. She writes regularly for The Times and Daily Telegraph and has written for the Daily Mail, The Guardian, Daily Express and Woman & Home Magazine.

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