Sport and Outdoors

The Norwegian Joy lets you race a go-kart on the high seas

Live your dreams of becoming an F1 pro racer as you sail away to China.

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When you're a girl growing up in a family of boys, you're pretty much stuck with the games your brothers want to play. My brothers and I were into racing games. We'd play games from the Asphalt series and dream of being world-class racers as we drifted along virtual tracks.

While none of us became pro-racers, we always thought it'd be cool to be able to drive a racecar. And it seems the folks behind the Norwegian Joy cruise liner have heard our wishes.

This year, the Norwegian Cruise Line brought a two-level go-kart race track onto the high seas for passengers sailing on the ship. So when it made a stopover in Singapore en route to China on May 20, I knew I had to hop on board. Sure, I was there for work. But I couldn't pass up the chance to "enjoy the Joy," as the onboard staff put it.

I love the water and I enjoy driving once a while, but I haven't been on the road in a long time. So I was thrilled at the opportunity to get behind the wheel and take to the seas, even though the ship was docked.

It was sweltering that afternoon -- typical Singapore weather. But the go-karts weren't parked in the sun, so thankfully I didn't have to worry about frying my butt as I took a seat and strapped myself in. My face didn't fare so well, though. I had to wear a balaclava under my helmet, which ruined my makeup.

The makers of these go-karts are geniuses. The karts run on electricity but speakers at the bottom pumped in gasoline engine sound effects. They sounded so convincing that I could almost believe I was in a real racecar -- even if only for a few minutes. And to make it even more realistic, there was a "boost" button that let me accelerate for three seconds, just like in a real F1 race.

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Congestion can be a serious problem on this track.

Aloysius Low/CNET

The first round was painfully slow, puncturing my fantasies of hurtling down the tracks. But that was just to familiarise us with the route -- and it turned out to be an essential part of the process. A practice run mean that fewer drivers end up crashing into the sides as they make (unsuccessful) turns.

As we moved into the second and third rounds, we started picking up speed and that's when the thrills began. The less experienced drivers eventually ran into problems with the tighter turns and caused some congestion, but it cleared up pretty quickly with the help of a staff member.

And these aren't bumper cars -- you definitely want to avoid reckless drivers. My colleague Aloysius, who was on the track as well, learned that the hard way when he got caught in congestion. Someone rammed his go-kart from behind and the impact was enough to give him a slight neck injury.

If you want to try these go-karts out for yourself, get yourself a ticket to Shanghai or Tianjin in China, where the ship's home ports are. The Norwegian Joy is due to pick up its first passengers from June 28.

Designed with the Chinese market in mind, the ship exterior was painted with Chinese emblems. Onboard you can play casino games that are popular in China, such as Baccarat. But it's also fitted with other exhilarating games for thrill-seekers, including a virtual-reality experience that puts you in the middle of a sea of zombies.

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