Transatlantic Ship Review
21st April -03rd May 2018.
Norwegian Bliss cruises through the mist at the port of Southampton at 6am. Photo by Dave Jones
Photos of the Norwegian Bliss - https://flic.kr/s/aHsmbCHEP7
Ship Stats from Meyer Werft
4th Breakaway Plus Class
Gross Tonnage - 167,800
Overall Length - 1,082 feet
Beam - 136 feet
Draft - 27 feet
Engine - 23.2 knots
Guests - 3998 - 5200 Total
Staterooms - 2038
Crew - 2100
Cruise Speed 23.2 Knots ( 25+ knots were achieved in sea trails)
Engines - Diesel Electric - 2x MAN B&W 14V48/60CR and 3x MAN B&W 12V48/60CR
Standing outside the port of Southampton since 5:15am waiting with other die hard, ship fanatics for Norwegian Cruise Lines latest offering, she finally cruised through the early morning mist to reveal the giant artwork by Wyland and it doesn't disappoint. Paintings of Humpback Whales and their calves and other marine life depicting what might be seen in her homeport cruise of Alaska.
After a relative painless boarding, we wait for Platinum members to board and thus came the first hurdle, Transatlantic New Ship crossings are like a badge of honour, and have very few first time or new to cruising passengers, so over half of the people waiting got up and started to head for boarding, as she's a large vessel and Southampton is used to large ships, boarding is not really a problem.
After cruising the Atlantic to Miami on the Norwegian Escape we expected a few hic-ups, on the Escape they had installed a new computer system for all the passenger and backroom tech. Before weeks before we cruised we tried to pre-book the shows and some Speciality Dining but it was not available and I put that down to a low capacity and no problems getting seating in the theatres. The Bliss theatre only holds 858 which is very small for such a large ship and personally, I believe this has been a big mistake with the Breakaway Class ships, why? On our 12 day cruise, the 'Jersey Boys' show was put on 3 times; 2 evening and 1 afternoon which gave a total of 2574 guests seeing the show out of a possible 3998. there's going to be a lot of disappointed people on a 7-night cruise where the show needs to be performed for 5 nights. Anyway, I digress we had to spend the first 3 hours or more waiting in queues to prebook the 'Jersey Boys, Havanna, and Happy Hour Prohibition' (which I shall review later in the entertainment section). The cruise technology which is meant to stop the queues 'i-concierge and the touchscreens around the ship, which there are many are not working because it's a new tech for this ship, and won't work until halfway through the voyage; with the shows booked and the meals put off until a later date we head for a well-earned drink.
9 Speciality dining option with a cover charge.
5 Complimentary dining options.
We only tried two Speciality dining options (or A la Carte). The Italian called 'La Cucina' is always a must because I love Italian pasta and their sauces, add some Italian bread and I'm in heaven. We have found the meals sometimes hit or miss but on the Bliss, it was a direct hit, the food was perfectly cooked and there was a very good choice on the menu. The decor is nicely done and it always amuses me when the Philipino waiters/waitress trying hard to be Italian at the start of the evening but after the Antipasta course they have given up, but they get high marks for even trying.
The other A la Carte option we like is the French La Bistro restaurant, we were disappointed that the menu had changed since the last time we visited (July 17), and we even had trouble booking a table, we suspect that the dining options we scaled back due to the cruise only being about 45% full. To find La Bistro you need to head up into the heavens to deck 17 and towards the Go-cart track. A big problem in the restaurant was a constant vibration probably coming from the smokestack which is directly in front of the venue and the stacks coming from under your feet from the engine room. The food and the level of service can't be faulted, as a platinum member, we get a free bottle of wine of our choosing which went down very well. you could tell it was a newly opened it had that new car smell of new carpets and the linin was still crisp. I had a Fillet Beef (Blue) and it was perfect, tender and juicy and is making my mouth water thinking about it as I write. Besides the vibration, the evening was a joy, excellent food, nice wine and great company what more could you ask for?
The Manhattan room on deck 7 and the Taste and Savour Dining room on deck 6, have the same menus, they consist of the everyday options which never change but have some lovely dishes such as steak, pasta, fish and a vegetarian option. on the other side is the Daily menu which as the name suggests changes every day. This might contain a different type of fish which might be a bit more select to Lamb Chops encrusted with a stuffing, all of which is very nice and is cooked to a high standard. we found the Taste and Savour restaurants to have a better service than the Manhatten, and if you tell them you have a show or someplace to be they will rush the service for you so you don't miss whatever it is you have planned.
The Garden Cafe or Canteen as we kept calling it is a paradise for all food lovers, it has everything you could wish for, from the quick and easy Burger / Hotdogs, fries and Pizza, to Chinese and Indian selections ready made or made to order. There was always a carving station with joints of Beef or Lamb or even the thickest sirloin steaks with a wide choice of sauces if required. The Garden Cafe puts on specials throughout the cruise with the biggest display of shrimp I have ever seen, and one afternoon a rumour of Lobster was going around and 'Oh My Word' you could have the two claws, the two halves of the body or the whole thing, and if that did not satisfy you, then go back and have it again. There must have been over a Thousand being boiled and served.At Breakfast, there is something for everyone, from Cereal, American and British Bacon,
American and British Sausages, pancakes, eggs (poached, scrambled, fried, omelettes and so on), my favourite is Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce, yummm. As you can guess there's so much to choose from to start your day. There is plenty of seating as the Cafe wraps all the way around the stern (back) in a giant letter U. At the back of the Cafe, it overlooks the observation lounge which also serves food throughout the day. At night we would go up and get a cup of tea to take back to the room, and sometimes indulge in the best Pizza at sea. All the members of the Garden Cafe work very hard and always have a smile, which sometimes must be hard. They are lighting fast at cleaning away the tables and even the 'Washy Washy Happy Happy ladies have a song to sing at times, a huge thank you to those special crew.
The local restaurant is a smaller version of the O'Sheehan's bar and grill which overlooks the Atrium with the large LCD Screen and small stage, with bar stools going all the way around the horseshoe glass looking downwards to the stage area. The food options are limited to simple good Pub Grub in booths or tables, and the service is very good. I always liked the bar area where they show the latest sports events and you can have a laugh and joke with the bartenders.
Bars and Theater
We didn't have a favourite bar we seemed to follow our ears and stop off at the many areas which had some music playing. Yes, we had our favourite bands such as 'Siglo' (https://youtu.be/XeyoCso4bvI to see a video clip) who played in the 'The Cavern Club' normally reserved for the Beatles tribute band (who are shockingly Bad). They also played in the Atrium under the large LCD screen but have to rein in their normal energy to conform with sound levels. There were almost all styles of music catered for and another was a Lady playing the piano called Tatiana she was very good and sometimes had a backing from a saxophone player who's real job is to play in the 'Jersey Boys'
The Local Bar which overlooks the Atrium was one of our favourites on the Escape but with the alterations from O'Sheeans it seemed smaller and a lot busier, but still a great bar to grab a drink and watch the entertainment in the Atrium.
The Skyline Bar on deck 7 has a huge 6 meter plus LCD screen which shows off all the different Skylines around the world from Hong Kong to Manhattan. This bar has also been reduced in size by almost 60% with slot machines now filling the space where comfy seating once lived.
Bar Q which is a Texas Smokehouse until 8pm and then becomes a live stage for country and western Bar Q (Texas Smokehouse) music, which we were told was very good but I don't really understand what they were singing about, but that's our problem.
The Atrium bar held a wide range of music from Siglo, Tatiana to couples singing from Italy and South America. There were almost seating every night here until Siglo played, for the first time ever on any cruise ship extra seating was brought out to cope with the demand. Like all good things on a ship they have to ruin every night; bang on 9pm with a quiz of some sorts lasting one hour, and then back to the music.
We used to pay a visit to the 'Maltings Whiskey Bar' on deck 8 for a wee tipple or three! A great bar if you know your Malts and with a Cigar Humidor attached a perfect match, but even for us rum/vodka drinkers its still a very comfortable area to spend an hour.
The District Brew House is a must for all beer drinkers with 22 draft brand beers, and 50 different bottled beers, to a few more well known such as Newcastle Brown Ale and Boddingtons. Even if you are not keen on beers with strange names you still can order your tipple of choice. Now there's a strange man playing the piano called Jim Badger who is a cross between a comedian and bar singer, the result is an extremely fun night, old jokes, innuendos and on the odd time a singalong; but beware don't get noticed if you want to leave for whatever the reason. During the day-time, it is a good getaway with comfy seating.
The H2O Zone (adult only area) has a great little bar where you can relax around a large LCD screen on sun loungers and be waited on by bar staff. Besides all the usual cocktails, beers and shorts available there is a wide range of frozen cocktails available, so get ready for a brain freeze. Also in this area, there are two large jacuzzis to bubble away the time. There is a smoking area next to the bar area but this does not affect the area.
I've listed just a few of the bars that are available on and around the Norwegian Bliss, one thing I can guarantee there is something for everyone, including quite areas for a read.
The Theater is another story as I part mentioned just before dining, the Shows that are put on deserve a bigger proper theatre not just a black roofed area with different coloured striplights, with the most uncomfortable seating in any cruise ship we have ever been in. After about an hour into the shows, you can see people shuffling in their seats, they are roughly the same pitch and width of a small airline seat with the addition of cupholders at the end of small armrests it makes moving even for clapping very awkward. The pitch of the theatre is a bit on the shallow side, I'm 6 foot+ and I could feel the people behind me complaining because I restricted their views, the incline needed to be a few degrees higher. On a good note, the sound system is excellent and the stage effects are worthy of any land-based shows.
The Jersey Boys is a Fantastic show and is identical to the Broadway show, the stars of the show give it all they have, the only problem is again the seating and with the show being about 1 hour 40 minutes long it got very uncomfortable, but saying that it is worth seeing.
Havana has it all a love twist, an obvious happy ending, good songs and great sets, its a bit Disney at times but worth watching.
Prohibition Happy Hour (age restrictions apply entrance is 16+ and drinks are 21+) We didn't know what to expect, we knew there were 5 different cocktails to be drunk during the show, I thought it might be a bar with a gangster theme a bit like Broadwalk Empire, but boy was we wrong.
On entrance to the show being held in the 'Social Comedy & Night Club', we were given glass/plastic beads and shown to the seating once seated we had our first cocktail, then the show started. The theme is a madams house with 4 working girls and the hired help, they are all dressed in sexy underwear and perform songs and dance with a bit of tongue in cheek oneliners. The 4 working girls each tell speciality they have if you know what I mean?????
The Beatles star in the Cavern Club a mini mockup of what the venue used to look like without all the smoke bad language and Scousers. I'm not a fan of the 'Fab 4' but I do like some of their hits. These 'Not so Fab 4' are very poor, their Liverpudlian accent leaves a lot to be desired. They might have some of the moves while playing but without the accent, the songs fall a bit flat a bit like the bowl cut wigs they wear. It's a shame really living only 40 minutes away and having worked in the great city of Liverpool I know there are many excellent tribute acts, and any of these would go down a lot better than these wish I was the group.
Shops and the Casino.
The shopping is much the same as on the other breakaway class of ship there's a large watch shop with some very nice brands, which connects to the jewellery shop which caters for all fancy grom bracelets earrings neckless and of cause rings. The Margaritaville store has all you need to survive a Caribbean shore day in a multi-coloured way. The Norwegian DutyFree shop called Tradewinds has a limited amount of alcohol and tobacco, try not to forget any essentials such as suntan lotion, toothpaste or the such as there is a very limited choice and are very pricey. Ship merchandise with the ship's name or picture is as always on NCL virtually non-existent. There are tee-shirts and coats with the 'Wyland' hull design on as well as magnets, hats, towels, but only a ship fridge magnet and model has the image of the ship.
The photo gallery is a large area where you can view the photos taken of you and your party and have them printed or put on a removable device such as a thumb drive or DVD. Ther is also a tech area with the latest midrange of digital SLR cameras, point and shoot cameras, and 360-degree cameras. they also have digital video recorders and binoculars as well as flashcards and mini tripods.
All the shops share common areas along walkways and a large centre island which they take it in turns to sell watches, bracelets and the mandatory buy gold chains by the inch. Sometimes it's like running the gauntlet and should you stop to have a look at an item expect an assistant to appear within a blink of an eye.
The last area to test your sneaking past skills is the 'Park West Art Gallery' almost 100 yards to test your skill at looking at the art pieces while walking and trying not to attract the attention of the gallery's assistants; it's harder than you think.
The Casino covers nearly 70% of deck 7 with a few bars scattered around included one of our favourites the SkyLine bar, which also has a tea, coffee and snacks area hidden to one side of the large LCD screen. There are hundreds of slot machines in the casino and in the corridors and bar area, as well as all the usual types of card tables, roulette table and Craps table. If the tables are quite they will give you lessons on how to play. My favourite thing about the casino is that there is an enclosed smoking area where smokers can puff away to their heart's content and it won't annoy the rest of us.
Spa and thermal area.
The Mandara Spa area is on deck 16 Aft offers all the latest offerings from the world of the Spa. The Spa is the quickest way to lose a few $100 other than the Casino and then get high priced creams and lotions pushed which ruins the whole relaxing effect of the treatment. What I do love is the Thermal Area and I do pay for the cruise long pass which limits the number of people in the area to 120 per cruise. There are steam rooms, dry heat rooms and Aroma steam rooms, there's a salt therapy room which is also called Halotherapy, it helps alleviate respiratory problems, skin ailments, and to strengthen the immune system. An Ice and Snow room which works in conjunction with the heat treatment rooms and helps the circulation, but either wear some type of footwear or like I do place a towel on the floor to protect your feet, be prepared to have the fight to get the towel off the floor. The whirlpool tub and the Hydrotherapy pool is a large area it warms up the body and relaxes the muscles with different water jets to massage all parts of the body.
Go-Carting and Lasser Tag.
As the advert states its the largest race track at sea, but since the only other one is on the Norwegian Joy it's not much to boast about, but it is great fun. You do about 8 laps of the two-level track there's not much chance to overtake but they do move quite quickly. If you want to enhance the excitement then try it at night the race track really comes to life, and there's also fewer racers. As you can see the go-carts are large and with a safety bumper all around, there is also a two-driver option, so if you want to take your child with you then this is an option.
The Lasser Tag is an adventure and a chance to have a laser battle with your friends or family against another team. The objective is to shoot the gun your opponent has and that will make him/her have to go back to the respawn area and recharge the weapon. The course is designed to look like an alien spaceship with life pods and command areas, add the trance music playing in the background it results in some great fun.
The problem it depends on how you look at it before we joined the ship at Southampton there was no mention of cover charges for the above activities, yes it's only $7 and $5 respectfully but they have swapped the ropes course, crazy golf and bowls (which were free to use) and replaced them with an entertainment with a charge, I feel sorry for any family with children who want to have a go a few times per cruise. A solution is if they want to charge then why not give everyone onboard one or two free goes and then charge for any extra races or laser tag but that is only my opinion.
Norwegian Bliss is a stunning ship with large panoramic 2 story views in the Observation lounge perfect for cruising Alaska or the Caribbean. Various artworks around the decks fit perfectly into the overall theme of the ship. The main wall into the Ocean Blue restaurant is a vast wall of white a light blue shades, quite stunning. The most striking piece of art is the 3 deck high LED light which changes colour throughout the day, with the glass backlight staircase working its way around the light makes this a stunning area, and a must for a photo opportunity.
This ship is brimming with tech which by now all the little gremlins will have been worked out, with touch screen help or the Norwegian smartphone app to the smart TV in the stateroom, all the way to the use of large LCD screens to show shows in the atrium to making effects in the theatre.
A big change is the smoking policy and areas, they are discreetly placed throughout the ship and if you weren't looking for them you would notice or smell them. Normally the worst area for non-smokers is the Casino but no more there is a separate area for smokers to play their favourite game of chance without having us moaning around them.
As always a ship even as majestic as this one it is still a big chunk of steel without the crew members giving her her soul and personality. from all the ones you will never see below decks making the ship run smoothly to the forever ingrained voice of 'Washy Washy Happy Happy' in the Garden Cafe. This crew not only worked hard and as I suspect understaffed because of the number of guests, to make our voyage very smooth and extremely enjoyable cruise; our thanks can't be large enough to every one of them.
A big thank you to all the Crew, some of the Garden Cafe working to keep us happy,
Now would I cruise on the Bliss again its got to be 'no' why; she's a stunning ship with great crew and shows, but she was not 50% full and there were problems getting seating in certain areas such as the Atrium and the Cavern Club, on a rainy day the inside space would be nonexistent. A lot of space has been lost because the lifeboats have been moved 4 meters (13 feet) on either side, and there is a lack of natural light coming from the sides of the ship due to the bars and restaurants having the Al Fresco dining; but I might need to sample her on a wonderful Caribbean Cruise, one day.
Photos taken on the Norwegian Bliss - https://flic.kr/s/aHsmbCHEP7 Read Less