Norwegian Bliss is a beautiful vessel with a refined feel you don't normally expect to find on such a megaship. Its most striking feature is the 20,000-square-foot Observation Lounge, which dominates the entire forward section of the ship on Deck 15. Originally designed to serve as a focal point for cruisers during its Alaska sailings (so far Bliss will spend every summer in Alaska and was designed with Alaskan sailing requirements in mind), its sole purpose so far is to serve as a space for cruisers to read, chat with new friends and even fall asleep (we saw plenty of napping cruisers here all day long). No games, lectures or seminars are held here. It doesn't transform into a nighttime disco. There's no stage for a small band to play. It's simply a refined indoor haven of calm, and we've never seen anything quite like it on a mainstream ship.
In fact, there's a lot about Norwegian Bliss that's unexpected. It feels like a big ship that's taken on the trappings of one that's smaller and more upscale.
Don't let pictures of the go-karts and water slides fool you. Consider the refined choice of fabrics and color schemes in cabins and public spaces, the excellent service and top-notch food in the restaurants, the range of educational activities during the day (language classes, guest lectures). And, family-friendly features seem less visible (the one exception being the kids splash zone on Deck 16).
In these areas, the ship more closely resembles something you'd find in one of Norwegian Cruise Line's sister upscale and luxury brands (Oceania Cruises or Regent Seven Seas Cruises) than a fleetmate. It's an evolution that the line began with Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy, which serves the Asian market.
But Norwegian Bliss can only mimic a small upscale vessel to a certain extent. At 4,004 passengers at double occupancy, it is a big ship, with a robust selection of dining venues, top-deck fun and enjoyable nighttime entertainment -- particularly The Beatles cover band in The Cavern and the full-scale productions of the Broadway hit musicals "Jersey Boys" and "Six".
We loved the combination of upscale and mainstream; it gave us the perfect mix of high-energy fun (laser tag and go-karts!) but plenty of spots for quiet relaxation without having to go to an adults-only solarium, which we often find too hot or too stuffy.
But we're not sure the mix works for everyone, especially families. We can't figure out what a family with small kids or teenagers would do in the evening. Will they want to see a show about a 1960s-era band?
With that said, there is one family-friendly comedy show most nights, a hypnotist displays her talents once per cruise and laser tag and go-karts run till late. But both of those cost extra money -- not necessarily surprising on a line that pioneered extra-fee specialty dining -- so how many times are parents going to let their kids loose on the "rides"?
Overall, we enjoyed our transatlantic sailing on Norwegian Bliss and we think it can only get better once it gets to Alaska and the Caribbean, where the destination will play a bigger part in the overall experience. While we do wish there were a fewer extra charges (especially for the laser tag, which was our favorite top deck activity), there is still lots to keep you busy. And, a few hours luxuriating in a good book on a comfy chair in the Observation Lounge can't be beat.
Meals in three main dining rooms, as well as at The Local pub and the Garden Cafe buffet; also Continental room service breakfast
Main theater entertainment
Most daily activities, unless otherwise noted
Onboard fitness center (excluding most scheduled fitness classes)
Use of water slides, the sports court and mini-golf
Splash Academy Kids programming, except for late-night and mealtime supervision
Daily gratuities ($15 per person, per day for anyone staying in a standard stateroom; $18 per person, per day for those staying in The Haven, or any suite or Concierge cabin)
All drinks except water, tea (including iced tea), coffee and select juices from the buffet
Most specialty dining
An auto-gratuity of 20 percent on beverage, spa and salon purchases, as well as all specialty dining reservations
A $9.95 room service fee (waived for suite guests and continental breakfast orders)
Spa and salon treatments and services
Most fitness classes
Entry to the spa's thermal suite
Use of the ship's go-kart race track and laser tag arena
Activities including alcohol tastings, select arts and crafts classes, bingo and the Deal or No Deal gameshow
Late-night programming and mealtime supervision at the Splash Academy kids club
Wi-Fi access and packages
Photos and artwork
You'll find an international mix on Norwegian Bliss, which we expect to continue during its seasons spent sailing in Alaska. Though the line has traditionally drawn a lot of families, Bliss might be less appealing to families than other Norwegian ships, due to the larger number of for-fee activities, adult entertainment and Deck 5 kids' club location. Only time will tell how families respond but so far there are plenty of families with members under 21-years-old already booked for Alaska and the Caribbean.
Daytime: Norwegian Cruise Line maintains a casual atmosphere onboard and this is reflected in its dress code. During the day, casual is the name of the game, with swimsuits, shorts and tees the norm in warm-weather destinations, and warmer clothing more common in Alaska.
Evening: There's not much of a formal dress code at night either; we did see shorts in the three main dining rooms. But two of the specialty restaurants (Ocean Blue and Le Bistro) do require long pants, a collared shirt and closed shoes. Generally speaking, dark jeans or khakis and collared shirts are the norm for the men, while women don blouses with slacks or skirts, or sundresses. (Bring a cardigan or a wrap for when the A/C is too high.) Norwegian doesn't have formal nights, but passengers are urged to dress up for the line's Norwegian's Night Out, held once per cruise on weeklong sailings. You'll rarely see a tux or gown, but suits and cocktail dresses are not unheard of.
Not permitted: Tank tops and baseball caps are prohibited in the main dining room and specialty restaurants. Shoes must be worn in all dining venues at all times.
For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Norwegian Cruise Line.
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