15 Los Angeles to Panama Canal & Central America Norwegian Bliss Cruise Reviews

Things that were done right: 1. Staff from the top to the bottom were great. Friendly, fun, and helpful 2. Embarkation was smooth as butter. Wouldn't change a thing! 3. Loved the modern (but not ultra-modern) decor. 4. ... Read More
Things that were done right: 1. Staff from the top to the bottom were great. Friendly, fun, and helpful 2. Embarkation was smooth as butter. Wouldn't change a thing! 3. Loved the modern (but not ultra-modern) decor. 4. Always felt safe on the ship 5. Stateroom (balcony) was just right. Not too small and the bathroom was excellent. 6. Leaving and returning to ship on ports days was smooth 7. Atmosphere on the ship was calm and relaxing. No one lost their s***. 8. Easy to navigate ship because of signage. 9. Waterfront deck on deck 8 was my favourite location. Things that needed improvement: 1. Food at complimentary restaurants was average and rarely changed. The same menu day in and day out for the most part. Nothing excited me in the buffet. 2. There needs to be a snack joint on the ship other than the local that serves things like pizza, fries, donuts, coffee, etc during the transition times when restaurants are closed. 3. Inconsistent restaurant scheduling. All restaurants need to have a FIXED opening time to avoid confusion. The buffet should always open at 6:30 for breakfast and not flip flop depending on port/sea days. 4. The gym should be open 5 AM as many would like to get that done with early and to avoid larger crowds. 5. Internet access using the 250 minute plan was confusing for many (you have to logon and logoff). Sometimes, it said you were logged off and it continued to use minutes. I lost 98 minutes because of this. :( 6. I can't hear the Captain or Cruise director over the PA system in public areas. They need to increase volume or change the speaker system. 7. Inconsistent meal quality in the main dining room. Some meals were simply not good. When ordering a steak, the usually undercooked the meat. 8. Debarkation (at least in NY) was slow and tedious. Better to self-assist walk off and get a cab to the airport. 9. More strictly enforce hand washing at the buffet to avoid spread of GI infection (which happened on this sailing). 10. Some shore excursions were simply bus tours to shopping areas and not really historical/cultural as advertised (Cartagena/Santa Marta) 11. The Bliss theatre seating wasn't very comfortable as it slopes downwatd. The ambience is akin to a local movie theatre in the nineties. Could be more glamourous. 12. I would love to have people speak about the history/culture of every port we visit in a lecture style format 13. The go-karts were too regulated. You couldn't really get up to speed for long periods of time without the staff slowing us remotely. Only 10 minutes of racing and 20 minutes of prep. 14. Fabric on Atrium seats needs replacement. Obvious wear and tear for such a new ship. 15. This is difficult to change, but there is no open air forward facing deck for standard passengers. Only Haven guests get that. The observation lounge in nice but nothing beats being out in the open. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
21 nights of pampering, relaxing, and just unwinding from the daily grind. The Bliss (Haven) is THE PERFECT way to do this. Plenty to do onboard. Stateroom was big enough (even for 3 weeks) so we didn’t get in each other’s way. ... Read More
21 nights of pampering, relaxing, and just unwinding from the daily grind. The Bliss (Haven) is THE PERFECT way to do this. Plenty to do onboard. Stateroom was big enough (even for 3 weeks) so we didn’t get in each other’s way. Specialty dining is always good (as are the main dining rooms) But the menus have changed since our last cruise so we probably bought more nights than we needed to. Smooth sailing, excellent staff (how do they remember all those new names?? ), good food and “adult libations”. The demographics of the passengers were not party animals, only a few kids...I didn’t think about it when booking... but now I’ve seen the light Most of the excursions were good (Cabo was a clear exception to that with the Lands end boat cruise... not worth doing) and some were most excellent (Aruba the Sunset Cruise... that had me finding my happy place Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We used NCL air/hotel arrangements and also transfers with great satisfaction. The Bliss is a very big ship, the biggest of NCL and also very recent, 2017. Very modern and luxurious it offers a lot of outdoor activities, as much for ... Read More
We used NCL air/hotel arrangements and also transfers with great satisfaction. The Bliss is a very big ship, the biggest of NCL and also very recent, 2017. Very modern and luxurious it offers a lot of outdoor activities, as much for children as for adults. The big-production shows were Broadway's quality. The food in all the restaurants was very good, even at the buffet, with a lot of delicious choices. Our account and reservations can be accessed directly from our TV and cell phone. The staff is always polite and helpful. The "Free Style" is very appreciated... no need for suit or tie, everywhere! On the other hand, big ships also means that it does not go under all bridges ... we had to pass under the bridge of Americas and also under the Broolkyn Bridge at low tide, that is to say 11PM and 3AM ... so saw nothing or almost nothing. The recent construction may also be responsable for lots of noises: in the Atlantic, with slightly rough waters, we heard creaks on the stairways and especially banging in our cabin, enough to prevent us from sleeping. Comedy shows where numerous, but with a very local humor, not international, so for non-US citizens, it is hard to follow. As for the restaurants, there are many, but we had to book in advance if we wanted to eat at a reasonable time, just like for the Jersey Boys and Six shows. And all these reservations, restaurants, shows and excursions, that we can do ourselves on TV, cell or tablet, they are not accessible on all these platforms ... some reservations appear only on one platform. There is no synchronization, which has forced us to recheck everything with guest services ... Overall, by bringing earplugs, making reservations before or very early in the cruise and using only the TV to check your account and book, you make a memorable cruise. We came back rested and very satisfied. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
I chose this cruise for its length and itinerary. Week long cruises are just not long enough for me now that I'm retired and can cruise longer. I cruise solo a lot and NCL usually has the best solo prices, although I do not sail in ... Read More
I chose this cruise for its length and itinerary. Week long cruises are just not long enough for me now that I'm retired and can cruise longer. I cruise solo a lot and NCL usually has the best solo prices, although I do not sail in the solo cabins as I like a balcony. How about some solo balconies NCL? Embarkation: Embarkation went smoothly since I am Platinum Plus. Ship: The Bliss is a beautiful ship! The Observation Lounge is wonderful. It's so nice to have drinks and food available right in the lounge. Another nice area is the Waterfront with comfy seating outside. Spice H2O is another outdoor area for adults only. I love the libraries on ships and this ship did have one, however, there were also tables for games here as well which means it got noisy sometimes. I wish ships would have a separate room for people to play games. Lots of people like to play cards, mah jong, etc and have no where to play. Cabin: I was in cabin #10274 which was in a great location not too far from the aft elevators. The thing I liked most about my cabin was my coffee pot! There's nothing like a cup of coffee on the balcony in the morning. There were a few things I didn't like about the cabin. Why can't they have a CHAIR at the desk instead of a dreadfully uncomfortable stool? There also should be drawers in the desk. My bed was right next to the closet which makes it very difficult to get anything out of the closet. The room configuration on the Jewel class balcony rooms is much more user friendly. Dining: There was quite a large group of solos on this cruise. We were given a section of Savor, one of the MDRs, for dinner every night. We could go right to our section and bypass any lines. I also had 9 specialty dinners. My best dinner was at Ocean Blue. We had the best waiter! The food at Le Bistro and Cagney's was great as well. Dinner in La Cucina was good, but I was not allowed to order the T-bone steak with my Platinum Plus free dining coupon even though it was within the allowable price range. I thought the Platinum Plus free dining coupon was a reward for my loyal patronage of NCL, but to put such a ridiculous restriction on it made me feel like I wasn't valued for my patronage at all. I also had dinner at Q which was good and a lot of fun. My favorite place for breakfast and lunch was the Local. I think the food here is great. It sure beats fighting the crowds at the buffet (which I went to only once). I loved the carrot cake! Everything I had there was very good and the service was very good, too. Entertainment: NCL excels when it comes to entertainment. Jersey Boys was a WOW! It was an awesome show. I loved the Beatles group. Six was a great show, but maybe more for the girls than the guys. There were some great entertainers in the crew talent show. When do they find the time to rehearse? The entertainers in the various lounges were good as well. Service: I found the crew to be helpful and friendly. Ports: There were quite a few ports on his cruise so I won't cover all of them. I think my favorite was Puerto Quetzal. I took the NCL tour to Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old town is quite lovely with its colonial buildings and cobbled streets. Our tour included lunch in an old monastery which is now a hotel. Debarkation: What a mess! There just aren't enough Immigration agents to handle 4000 passengers. Overview: I loved this cruise! I loved the ship! I could do it again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
Wanted to see the new Panama Canal - Crossing was great. I was impressed at the way this large ship could dock in port so easily. The sailing was very smooth and would be a great way for people afraid of getting sea sick to ... Read More
Wanted to see the new Panama Canal - Crossing was great. I was impressed at the way this large ship could dock in port so easily. The sailing was very smooth and would be a great way for people afraid of getting sea sick to start cruising, as there was very little rocking of the ship at all. The buffet dining set up was very efficient and streamlined and was easy to get to and there was never much waiting time. The elevators at front and back of ship made it easy to get arount the ship.. The dining rooms were nice but we had to ask for shared dining for four nights before we had someone to share with and we shared with that person only because we asked her to share with us. She was also at a table seated alone when we asked her to join us. On other nights we would stand around the entrance to the restaurants and ask other couples to share our table. We were on a Norwegian cruise to the Carribean in Nov 2018 and the staff on that ship were the greatest people for asking about sharing and making a real effort to join people at tables. It's nice to have someone different to talk to at meals and we met some great people and made some new friends but most of it was through our own offorts. The entertainment was very good . Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We were on a 21 day cruise from LA to Manhattan. Jersey Boys was the best show I have ever seen on the water so that is definitely worth seeing. Our balcony room was clean and comfortable. We got a bunch of the Free at Sea items. The ... Read More
We were on a 21 day cruise from LA to Manhattan. Jersey Boys was the best show I have ever seen on the water so that is definitely worth seeing. Our balcony room was clean and comfortable. We got a bunch of the Free at Sea items. The free drinks really cost $19.80 per person per day but it was still worth it given we drank more than 2 drinks a day. The specialty restaurants were good but I was very disappointed that even at Ocean Blue (their Seafood Restaurant) lobster was a $25 up-charge. I was on Royal Caribbean in January 2019 and the entire ship had free lobster in the main dining room. It felt like a slap in the face the NCL charged $25 in the specialty restaurant and lobster was never available in the main dining rooms. We were with another couple and it was disappointing that our waiters rarely knew who order what. The 24/7 "Local" restaurant was very nice, good food, even Buffalo Chicken wings. I wish I had known I could get a bag of laundry washed during the cruise for $20, I would have packed a lot less. I wish I would have known that the flights booked by NCL for me would not be known until about 30 days before the cruise and that even though we booked with people leaving from the same airport, that we would be on different flights. There were major issues with the transfer from LAX to the ship, it was very stressful, in the end NCL made it right. The price of the cruise dropped $200 per person after we booked, I specifically booked via NCL and was told they would honor any price drop ONCE. That was not the case, instead of giving us $400, we were given a $100 on board credit. I assumed we would be able to text each other and the other couple for free while on the ship. Nope, that is an up-charge on NCL. In the end we didn't bother. The 250 free minutes of WiFi was nice other than the WiFi on the ship was very slow ( Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
I booked this trip at the last minute because 1) The Panama Canal was on my list and 2) I had an unexpected long opening in my calendar. First Norwegian cruise for me. Generally lovely ship except for the disappointingly small and only ... Read More
I booked this trip at the last minute because 1) The Panama Canal was on my list and 2) I had an unexpected long opening in my calendar. First Norwegian cruise for me. Generally lovely ship except for the disappointingly small and only pool for non-Haven guests. Staff were generally very accommodating, curiously though, the entertainment staff and cruise director had an "attitude" I did not appreciate. Stateroom was comfy. Steward was terrific! Beverages are way overpriced (captive audience). Food was OK. Recommend eating at Taste and Savory whenever able - food is cooked to order rather than eating in "The Bay of Pigs" (main buffet style dining facility which gets a little old on long trip and is not the best at enforcing guest hand hygiene). With the exception of a few shows (hypnotist, Jersey Boys), I did not care for most of the evening entertainment - just not my style. Sound systems in the smaller venues were very loud, inhibiting ability to talk w/ other guests. However, when ship's captain needed to make an announcement, we could NOT hear these well in the common areas. Shore excursions were mixed - I had low expectations so was OK. Lecturer on Panama Canal was helpful; very limited other educational opps on this trip. While my review is critical, I paid a discounted fare because I booked so late and had a great time. I would travel w/ Norwegian again. Enjoy!!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We chose this ship because of the itinerary, going thru the Panama Canal. Also we were attracted to the ports, but were disappointed that the first port (Puerta Vallarta) was changed to Ensenada. Ensenada has nothing to see or do, except ... Read More
We chose this ship because of the itinerary, going thru the Panama Canal. Also we were attracted to the ports, but were disappointed that the first port (Puerta Vallarta) was changed to Ensenada. Ensenada has nothing to see or do, except walk the streets and be pestered by vendors. Very disappointed that several of the FREE shows, including The Jersey Boys and the comedians, required tickets! This was not clearly communicated and we ended up getting tickets to the final show of Jersey Boys at 10:30 on night before disembarking! The theater on this ship only seats 800 people, and there were 4000 guests on the ship. Only four shows by The Jersey Boys..... so do the math. 800 guests could NOT see the show!! Poor planning! Hopefully this is improved for future entertainment. The complimentary restaurants were great, but all had the same menu!? Don’t know if this is the norm on Norwegian but no point in visiting all of them except for the decor. Finally internet service was horrible! We purchased the “unlimited” internet because my husband needs to keep in touch with his research lab. Three days of NO service and on other days, connections were extremely slow.....3-5 minutes to send a two-sentence email. Trying to connect to any web sites was almost a joke. With all the free time on sea days, was excited to work on family geneology but Could not do any research on common genealogy sites such as Ancestry or Fsmily Search. The ship is beautiful and had great staff. Stateroom was very comfortable. Loved the buffet! I do wish some cruises would offer other activities on sea days rather than just jewelry sales or art auctions. How about interesting lectures on a variety of topics, or free movies, Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Experiencing the Panama Canal with NCL seemed like a great idea, since NCL is my favored cruise line and the Canal was on my bucket list. My groups experience was mixed. This new ship is beautiful. Gone are the garish days of purple ... Read More
Experiencing the Panama Canal with NCL seemed like a great idea, since NCL is my favored cruise line and the Canal was on my bucket list. My groups experience was mixed. This new ship is beautiful. Gone are the garish days of purple and red; now is a feeling of sophistication. Most of the regular NCL line up of restaurants and bars is present, built in a purposeful way rather than looking like an add-on. Plus the addition of an observation deck was a plus for this cruise as the weather wasn’t always great. This new ship is “tender”. My sailing-captain friend used this term to describe how you could feel the waves. We liked that it felt like you were on the o unlike most large ships. We did notice that most of the specialty restaurants were mostly empty, especially Jimmy Buffet and Food Republic. Perhaps this is because NCL now does al la cart pricing for all but two of their Specialty restaurants. Some pricing isn’t a small up-charge from the cost of free meal (i.e. which are included in the fare). This is a large boat with lots of people, while you can usually find a spot to hide-out, some parts of the ship couldn’t handle the crowd, e.g. the theater, the buffet. Also by day 10 I was definitely feeling that the need to get-away. This was a 2 week itinerary. NCL changed the Mexico ports twice. And, time was very limited in a couple of the ports. The good: • There are new eating options. The BBQ place was tasty (we ate there twice (though the al la cart cost was over $50 for just me). Always like Teppanyaki, also went there twice. The chefs there were very entertaining. • Continue to like the Studios. This allows me to have my own cabin without a single supplement. The common area is beautiful. • Experiencing the canal. This was fascinating and beautiful, though it was very difficult to see through the crowd. • The new Observation Lounge is a great place to hang out during the day. They even offer food if you want a break from the buffet. What is up with people sleeping on all the couches though? • Breakfast in the dining rooms was tasty. They varied the menus each day. In the buffet area, there were lots of egg stations. • The service in dining rooms was outstanding (though sometimes slow in Manhattan). They accommodated all our various “custom” requests and acknowledged us on our return visits. The not-so-good: • In most of the restaurants, there were food warmth issues. All food from the Local pub was lukewarm. Even at Cagneys, some of the sides were not well heated. Why are all dips, dressings and sauces watery? Why did Ocean Blue smell so badly? Most of the fish we had in other places had a fishy taste (which has not been my experience on other ships). And, Food Republic was a huge disappointment, having the oddest sushi I have ever eaten. Everything there seemed pre-prepared and reheated. Finally, what happened to serving lobster? The shrimp served as part of my surf and turf at Cagneys was sad. • As with most large ships, the availability of elevators was not sufficient. It seemed at time that some were not running, i.e. staying on one floor (15 or 16). There were lots of scooters, which would fill an elevator. • All the bartenders, but a few, were very cranky and unhappy. There were no smiles, thank you or any other chatter. In week two, I started asking him or her if they were happy to be on the ship. I miss the days when we used to sign a ticket and set the tip. • The drink package is more limited than other cruise lines. It doesn’t include water, espresso or other specialty drinks. It was odd that I could drink vodka for free but had to buy bottled water for my cabin. • Shows were sold out on first day. Clearly the large crowd was not accommodated. • Although touted as having lots of on-board shopping options, there was no boutique with suits, sandals, shirts, etc. However there were lots of unpurchased watches and jewelry. • The time in Columbia was very short. Because of a broken down shuttle we only got to spend three hours there. Having already been to Mexico ports, this was an important stop. • While the race cars were fun, they seemed out of place and weren’t available most of the time. Plus the staff seemed overly cautious in taking control of all the cars several times during the race. I think the real estate could have been used as more outdoor or pool space which was tight on sea days. • CAUTION! When using a computer in the Internet Café, I was logged into someone else’s email account. The security of these workstations needs to be improved, e.g. it needs to clear pages, cache and cookies when you log out. And sadly, the Internet is still not great. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
The ship is beautiful. Overall, we had a wonderful time. I was very happy to see that smoking areas have been reduced and that smoking is now contained in the casino. On past cruises, I would not spend any time in the casino due to the ... Read More
The ship is beautiful. Overall, we had a wonderful time. I was very happy to see that smoking areas have been reduced and that smoking is now contained in the casino. On past cruises, I would not spend any time in the casino due to the smoking. I was also happy to see that the Waterfront was also non-smoking. On a previous cruise on the Getaway, I was not able to enjoy this area due to the permitted smoking. I had a spa balcony and did make use of the thermal suite. It was wonderful. However, NCL should put a policy in place regarding use of the heated beds. There were guests that reserved these loungers for nearly the entire day. A limit of 30 minutes would allow more guests to enjoy this feature. I really enjoyed all of the entertainment, especially Beatlemania, Jersey Boys, and Prohibition the Muscial. Havana, however, needs work. The food was very good. We also ate in Q, Cagney’s and Teppanyaki. My husband has allergeries and the chef in Teppanyaki did a wonderful job in handling his food. However, the desserts in the buffet were lacking good flavor for the most part. The looped water slide needs a redesign. Many people including myself got stuck. We weren’t able to enjoy the race track. Although we had closed toe and full back shoes, we were not permitted to ride because the shoes had some cut outs (Merrill water shoes). The requirements were for closed toes shoes which they were. This was disappointing, as we did not have any other shoes that could be worn on the attraction. The multiple port changes were disappointing. The excursions offered in Ensenada were not interesting. The excursion we were most looking forward to in Costa Rica (waterfall trek and zip lining was cancelled prior to even leaving home. There was not a suitable explanation. We spent considerable time at Spice H2O. The staff was terrific. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We are a working couple in our early 60s. We have sailed NCL at least a dozen times (we are Platinum). We’ve sailed other cruise lines as well. Our first cruise ever was on NCL in the early 1990’s and over the years we thought the ... Read More
We are a working couple in our early 60s. We have sailed NCL at least a dozen times (we are Platinum). We’ve sailed other cruise lines as well. Our first cruise ever was on NCL in the early 1990’s and over the years we thought the product had become stale but NCL is back and in a big way, but there are things they still need to work on. This was our first cruise on one of their new Breakaway class ships. The Bliss is considered Breakaway-Plus (not exactly sure what that means). She holds almost 5000 passengers. We had 4200 fellow passengers on our sailing with a variety of ages and nationalities and very few children. Here’s a breakdown of our cruise with grades. >Pre-Booking through Cruise Planner – B Like most cruise lines, NCL offers to book excursions before the sail date. However, what was available before embarkation was not a complete list. In fact, a couple of ports were showing only a single or no excursions. This influenced the “Free at Sea” options we chose, which probably cost us $ because we did not go with the shore excursion option. We chose the dining and the 250-minutes of internet options. Granted it was a re-positioning cruise so ports were a new itinerary, but NCL should be more on the ball with this. Plus the ports changed multiple times up until a few weeks before the sailing. >Doubletree Hotel at the Port – A We chose to go a day early and stayed at the Doubletree at the port, which is one of the closest hotels and set in a marina, resort-like area. Very nice. We used points, but did it early. Good thing we did because the hotel sold out the night we were there. >Embarkation – A- Fast and easy. Arrived after the early crush (around 1:30). No lines. They didn’t take our pictures for the on-boarding but rather scanned in our passport photos. Only negative is the industrial setting of the port, not exactly attractive. And it is too easy to get lost driving to the port or head to the wrong one (Long Beach). Which we did. >Cabin – C We had an aft-facing balcony on the 14th deck. Typical configuration with two choices; bed by balcony or couch by balcony (we had the later). My husband described cabin as functional but small. One asset was the many ports for charging electronics. Actual USB ports were by each bedside and at the desk. Balcony was over-sized but the deepest (biggest) aft balconies were lower on deck 12. You could easily fit lounge chairs on the balcony we had. If you want them, ask the room steward. The cabin was tight for storage space. If it wasn’t for the two big drawers under the couch, we would have had significant problems with storage. Bathroom was tiny, but shower was a little larger than typically found on cruise ships. The room had creaking around top of balcony door especially at higher speeds which actually woke me up several nights. This room was smaller than we usually go for, but we wanted the aft, and it was this room or the Haven suites $$$. The flat screen TV was an LG. Another post had indicated you could connect wirelessly to the TV from an iPad. We couldn’t find this option and any extra video ports were disabled. Fortunately, the optical-out for sound worked which my husband used for his hearing aid device (ComPilot). There were several free movie channels plus pay-per-view movies. There was no guide to the free movie schedule so we had to get a printout from guest services. Worked fine until several confusing time changes and NCL neglected to shift the movie schedule. NCL really needs to work on this and publish the schedule in the daily planner, through their app, or online. Unfortunately, we discovered NCL has ruined the aft cabin experience with this ship layout. Disturbing our sleep were disco-style parties that went on until well after midnight three decks above us on deck 17. This is the new Spice H2O NCL is using, and retrofitting on some ships. It serves as an outdoor disco. Problem is it uses massive stadium speakers bolted to the deck and the noise travels through several decks and also comes through balcony doors. SERIOUS design flaw. Between us were two decks, usually a safe bet, with cabins on deck 15 and the spa on deck 16. The music was blasted in this open air venue at the aft of the ship. I can only imagine how bad it was for the cabins above us on deck 15. The over-amplification of the bass caused some adjacent drinking glasses in our cabin to shimmy and clink together. My husband went up one night to try to get the DJ to turn it down and the DJ tried to defend the volume. My husband said when he got up there it was so loud it was uncomfortable. On the next to last night of the cruise we were awakened at quarter to one by the LOUD vibrating bass coming from the multi-speaker towers as well as other speakers on the multiple tall poles. This time it was a private function that went on until 2 a.m. We complained to Guest Services, but they really were unable to influence the DJ to turn it down. Found out later it was a CREW party! So much for passenger consideration! The next morning we got a call from Guest Services offering us a substantial amount of on-board credit as a “good will gesture, not compensation” for the inconvenience. Must be some legal thing. That is when we found out that the private function was the second CREW PARTY in the last seven months so they were really partying. I asked if the lower decks complained (e.g. deck 12) and the Guest Services guy said not so much but mostly the upper decks which tells me we were not the only ones complaining. Because of this I would not recommend an aft cabin on any NCL ship with Spice H2O. It is no longer sufficient to check that there is nothing noisy on the deck above you. NCL has full control to fix this by adjusting volume, but until they do I would avoid an aft location. >Food We had a total of six specialty restaurant meals. Most specialty restaurants on the Bliss have outside, café-style seating on the Promenade deck. We ate outside when we could. Really liked that. We really did not have problems making reservations, but we also like to eat earlier (5-5:30) so we beat the rush. Plenty of choices. >>Main dining rooms Savoy and Taste – A- This is one area that really stood out as a major improvement from our previous NCL cruises. I usually ordered fish dishes and all were very good to excellent. Service was adequate to excellent. We didn’t try the Manhattan room but was told that was the busiest of the three main dining venues. But also the noisiest, so we avoided it. Also tried the Savoy dining room for lunch one time. Had an excellent grouper sandwich. >>Garden Cafe – A- Great selection and nicely prepared food. As is typical, finding a seat was tough at peak times. Indian and Asian food stations were very good. They even had Middle Eastern food. They also had hard ice cream with a few of the more unique flavors rotated daily. Good traffic flow patterns and lots of space and stations so no real waiting to get your food most times. One complaint is that it took at least two go-rounds in the painfully slow toasters to get your bread/English muffins/bagels even lightly toasted. But they had multiple omelet stations and lines were very bearable. Secret for a quiet breakfast is to either get cold items (muffins, cereal, yogurt, juice, coffee) on the deck below in the Observation Lounge or get your hot items in the Garden Cafe and take them to the Observation Lounge. The Observation Lounge is huge and quiet Note: the aft cabins are a LONG walk to the Garden Cafe, probably close to a football field. >>Le Bistro – B Ate there twice. First time service was outstanding and second time not so much. Waitress seemed impatient and somewhat condescending with our questions when placing our order but seemed to have lightened up over time. Do try the highly recommended lamb chops. One of the best meals for the entire cruise. Wish they had a non-fru-fru salad on the menu but they did get me one as a special request. Husband had the onion soup and thought it was fabulous. Husband had foie gras and said it was first rate, as good as he has had in France. Wine steward was really good and made great recommendations. Very knowledgeable and down to earth. >>La Cucina – C Ate there very early in the cruise. Ordered steaks that were somewhat dry and I saw the waiter wipe his runny nose with the back of his hand which is not only gross but unacceptable. I’d be grossed out if the cashier at Macy’s did this when buying a shirt. Did mention this to a manager of a different specialty restaurant but we couldn’t remember the name of the waiter. I would think they could figure it out from our reservation. >>Los Lobos – A- Fabulous service - hands down best service on ship. My complaint was that they marinated their meats before grilling them, giving them a more stewed taste rather than a charred grill taste. So Carne Asada was not to my liking but it’s all relative. And the portions were huge...too much food. They make guacamole at the table and used two big avocados and then added tomatoes, onions, etc...which made for a mountain of guacamole. Very good though. The upbeat and attentive waitress brought us stuff to taste and drink in addition to what we ordered. I couldn’t eat more than a third of the food before me at best. We sat outside on a lovely evening so overall a really nice experience. >>Cagney’s – B I ordered the prime rib and a HUGE slab of meat was before me. Almost grossed me out. And it fell apart like bar-b-que which is not how I am used to eating prime rib. Didn’t have a nice roasted flavor either. I felt horrible about wasting so much food but barely ate any of it. My husband had the filet which he said was perfect. >>“Q” – A Our cabin neighbors loved it and thought the smoked chicken was the best ever. They were in a Haven suite and thought that was the best food on board. However a couple we met on an excursion thought it was a poor excuse for bar-b-que which turned off my husband, but I still I wanted to try it. My husband grew up in Texas and he does his own smoking of meats with fancy man-cave smokers. In addition our cabin neighbors said the place has a C/W band that added to their dining experience. My better half finally relented and we tried it late in the cruise and am so glad we did. The smoked meats, especially the brisket, were outstanding. The brisket had a smoky flavor, was tender and melted in your mouth. It had the characteristic red ring that a true smoked brisket has when properly prepared. We spoke to the manager and they do indeed have a smoker on board and use oak and mesquite woods for 6 hrs at 225 degrees and then finish in a warm oven, so the chef knows what she/he is doing. If you love good Texas style bar-b-que, don’t miss this place. Only negative was that there are no windows or outdoor seating so place feels somewhat like a cave. >>Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville – Not Rated We did not eat at this outdoor hamburger eatery on the pool deck, and rarely saw others there. Made us wonder about the food turnover. >>Oceanaire – Not Rated. We considered eating at the Oceanaire (it is an up-charge from the dining plan) but decided not. While it serves all manner of fish, its forte is oysters which neither of us are fans of. We opted to get fish in other restaurants and avoid the up-charge. >Entertainment - Bands and singers were outstanding – A- The “lounge” pianist and singer was great (Suzanne?). Familiar Strangers was a great band with a super talented lead singer. The Latin duo was also great. Tried to see the British Beatles Band but the volume was way too loud, which seemed to be a constant in a lot of ship venues. There is a comedy club that seemed to feature different comedians every night. Some required reservations. We didn’t sit in in any of these. >Theater – C This ship holds Almost 5000 guests and the theater seats 800. Do the math. If you want to see a show you need to arrive 45-60 minutes early or you won’t get it a seat. Literally. You can make reservations for some shows but arrive early or you won't get the seat you hoped for. Music in theater is very, very over amplified. Totally unnecessary – unless you’re trying to drown out bad singing. Drowns out singers and actually uncomfortably loud. I heard this complaint from other passengers as well. Saw “Havana” which was OK, but my husband could not hear the singing due to the over amplification. Also saw “Jersey Boys” which was pretty good, and better than “Havana”. But NCL has a problem on this ship with too much loudness (see Spice H2O and Beatles above) and needs to fire the sound engineer, and find another cruise director if this continues with passengers complaining, like on our cruise. >Ports >>Ensenada - B Did a winery tour. Did you know that there are over 200 wineries in that area? I didn’t. We took a bus to one of the oldest big wineries (L.A. Cetto) and got to sample some of their whites (pretty good) and reds (dreadful). The winery had a nice “Day of the Dead” altar. We stopped at a much smaller winery just for tastings. Their reds were even worse. We drove through some beautiful countryside. However, you did see the telltale signs of an improvised third world country though. >>Mazatlan – B- Mazatlan sits in one of the most crime-ridden Mexican states so we opted to simply walk around the old town. This was really easy to do and the town sets it up very well by painting a red stripe on the road guiding folks to the old town. The whole old town is only about a mile square. Nice feel. At the end we walked over to the tower to watch cliff divers, and then back to the ship. >>Guatemala- C+ The ship stopped at Guatemala City but everything to see is at least an hour bus ride away. (There is nothing except a tourist market by the cruise port.) There is a UNESCO city most go to, but we weren’t on this cruise to visit historical sites and did not want to suffer an hour bus ride each way. We’ve done these before and hate these bus rides so opted out. I stayed on board and my husband went on shore to the tourist market by the port. There was a lot there and he picked up a bag of coffee. Lots of vendors with similar stuff. Otherwise nothing special. >>Panama Canal-B+ We had cruised half way through the Panama Canal years ago in an aft cabin and loved it. On that cruise we were able to carry on a conversation with the guy working the “mule”. This influenced our cabin location on the Bliss. We did not realize until we were on board that the Bliss goes through the NEW locks that don’t use “mules”. We were told this was only the second time for the Bliss and that the Bliss was so far the only cruise ship to use the new locks. Technically, the new locks are a marvel but the experience was not as interesting as the old locks to us. There were no stops and the start was O-dark thirty. (On the half-way transit, we were able to disembark in Panama and the market adjacent to the port was incredible). It was a different experience traveling from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and fortunately the weather was overcast so we did not bake in the sun. There are a couple of bridges we went under and we went by the prison that had once held Noriega. NCL had arranged for a guest speaker who was an expert on the Panama Canal and he gave several talks. Unfortunately, his lectures were plodding and he kept talking about how great he was. At the end of one lecture, he made egotistical comments about himself and the sung ALL the verses to “It’s Hard to be Humble” acapella. Ugh... >>Costa Rica - B Did a coffee plantation tour. Beautiful drive up through the mountains of this volcanic country. Reminded me of the Hawai’ian islands. Tour was outstanding and Costa Ricans view their coffee with passion. Felt like I was on a winery tour with tastings. The guide even instructed us on how to sample the coffees by rolling it around in our mouth, noticing the color and scent. Like wine. We stopped for lunch at a buffet type place with not very good food and more than enough time in a big somewhat cheesy souvenir shop. While there, they also did a short presentation on a hydraulic power station that was very old. They did a demo and had antique woodworking equipment being run via belts. Hard to see, hear and understand the guide here but mildly interesting. Crowded with lots of tour buses hitting this stop. Money exchanged was in dollars, and right across the street where my husband went to get a local beer they only accepted local money, so obviously a this lunch/shopping stop was a tourist trap. >>Cartagena – D- Busy, crowded, hot, humid and unrelentingly aggressive street vendors that required almost constant comments of “No thank you” from me. My husband just started saying no with a very stern voice. However there is a really nice park with a zoo, gift shop and restaurant right where you catch boats to get over to the Walled City. The park is a five minute walk from the ship. I would definitely recommend the park and it’s free admission. The actual boat ride over to the Walled City takes about 10 minutes but loading and unloading takes a while. We walked around the Walled City but it really wasn’t enjoyable for me (weather and vendors) so I took an earlier boat back and spent time in the park with the zoo. My husband stayed in Cartagena and did the Inquisition museum tour ($8) which he felt was totally not worth it. Only a few replicas and was really disappointed. >Debarkation – D Long lines to leave the ship for the terminal to retrieve luggage. One of our three suitcases was not with the other two. With the help of a NCL staffer, we found it misplaced on the other side of the big terminal after a half hour of looking. Not sure why our yellow-tagged bag was with the green-tagged ones. Had to go through customs and finally made it outside to catch the shuttle to the rental car pick-up location. The first shuttle was full so waited about a half hour for the next one. The Miami port terminal, thankfully, is being renovated and enlarged. When it was built, cruise ships had about 2000 passengers and now they can have 5000 to 6000. This terminal cannot handle the increasing number of passengers. Got to the rental car place and loads of people were waiting outside for both Budget and Avis as they didn’t have enough cars. We were early so they would not even consider giving us a car until our reservation time. When our reservation time rolled around, they still didn’t have a full-sized car as reserved so they ended up giving us a small SUV. When we turned it in at the drop off near our home, we saw a sneaky upgrade charge we were not told about and thankfully the agent refunded it. In all our years renting cars for work and vacations, we’ve never been subjected to an upgrade charge when the type of car we reserved was not available and they had to substitute. >Tips 1. Have breakfast in the Observation Lounge forward on deck 16. No hot food (except some hot cereals) but nice choices including the BEST mango and strawberry yogurt ever. Coffee/tea, cereal, pastries, juices etc... Peaceful, comfortable and nice view anywhere you sit. 2. Download the NCL app. Use the app to make reservations for tours, restaurants, shows... Made restaurant reservations during the life boat drill! They are still developing the app so you can’t see everything on your phone that you can on TV staterooms such as the navigation map, but you can see what is going on at that moment. 3. Got the WiFi pkg but not sure we needed it as could easily check e-mails and text messages in ports of call. However, NCL offers a $9.95 per cruise per device setup where you can call and text each other’s phones on board. Do this! You can be anywhere on the ship and still reach your significant other or kids. 4. Husband has a hearing aid device (Compilot) that he connected with fiber optics to the back of the TV in the cabin so that it could communicate directly with his hearing aids. So he could watch TV with the sound muted and I could sleep if he watched TV in bed. 5. Many of the specialty restaurants have outdoor seating. Highly recommended. 6. We didn’t find out about the Vibe option until late in cruise. The Vibe is a separate outdoor setting with padded lounge chairs that is quiet and capacity controlled. I think it’s well worth the extra charge and will jump on it for my next NCL cruise (not all their ships have this option but I think it’s on most of the Breakaway class ships). This can only be booked once on board and is first-come, first-serve, unless you are in a Haven suite. By the way, the Haven folks also have another separate area. 7. Do the slides by the pool. They’re fun and seem safe. One is a platform drop with two loops. You are in a standing position for this one and are dropped. The other is an inner tube sluice through tubes. If you’re a lightweight you may get stuck in the stand-up one where one loop goes against gravity. Crew said this most often happens with folks wearing tee shirts. Some folks had to be “rescued” which was no big whoop. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Beautiful ship,staff awesome, great food. Panama Canal on our bucket list and it was as good as we expected. Captain said we would pass Bridge of America a 3:15 am, but they went through at 2:45am and most people missed it. Our other ports ... Read More
Beautiful ship,staff awesome, great food. Panama Canal on our bucket list and it was as good as we expected. Captain said we would pass Bridge of America a 3:15 am, but they went through at 2:45am and most people missed it. Our other ports were mostly disappointing, most excursions were 90 minutes from the port. Our Itinerary was changed three times. First Puerta Viarta to Carbo St. Lucas,then to Ensenada. Then they changed Manzanillo to Mazatlan. Our excursion in Mazatlan, an ATV beach adventure didn't start until dusk. We were too late to see the sunset or swim at the beach. We felt very rushed and frankly ,it was dangerous riding along the beach in unfamiliar territory with only our ATV headlights.Jersey Boys and Beatlemania great shows.With so many people(4000) it was difficult, if not impossible, to see all the shows we wanted. , This was our first NCL cruise and while we would use this line again,we would opt for a smaller ship. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
NCL Bliss - Panama Canal - November 2018 - 14 Days We recently returned from a cruise aboard the NCL Bliss traveling to Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama Canal & Cartagena, Columbia. We enjoyed the cruise a lot. This being a ... Read More
NCL Bliss - Panama Canal - November 2018 - 14 Days We recently returned from a cruise aboard the NCL Bliss traveling to Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama Canal & Cartagena, Columbia. We enjoyed the cruise a lot. This being a two week cruise at the beginning of November there were probably only 20 kids on the ship in total and the average traveler age was probably 60. These factors did influence our experience significantly. There were some highlights and there were some disappointments. About us: We are mid 50's, have cruises 40+ times, were traveling with a group of 14, ages ranging from 50 to 85. Had never sailed on NCL. We booked a spa balcony stateroom, our rate included the unlimited beverage package and a dining package (we dined 9 nights in dining rooms with an additional cost(Specialty Dining), with a prepaid package for 8 of those nights) Dining Venues used: Manhattan, Savor, Taste, Tepannyaki, La Cucina, Le Bistro, Ocean Blue, Q, The Local, Garden Café, Los Lobos, Food Republic, Cagneys, Coco's, Margaritaville, Starbuck, The Bake Shop, and Dolce Gelato. Activities and entertainment we participated in: Cart track, both water slides, pools, spa thermal suite, massage, bowling, Jersey Boys, Havana, Happy Hour Prohibition, Beetles show, Comedy Social, and the Cavern Club. Highlights: Service was fantastic everywhere. There were times the front desk staff seemed uniformed about ports and times but other than that service around the ship was excellent, friendly and personable. Dining was excellent. This was influenced by our decision to eat as many meal as we did in the Specialty dining venues. Our experience in the main dining room, (Manhattan, Savor and Taste) were hit or miss. Breakfast was good in Savor and Taste but sometimes very slow. Service in the main dining rooms was okay, one night GREAT! Food has very mediocre most nights in the main dining rooms. Our best meals were in #1 Le Bistro, #2 La Cucina, #3 Cagneys (We did do Cagneys and La Cucina twice) We were disappointed with Ocean Blue, didn't think it warranted the extra cost. Coco's - we went for the staff and the fantastic treats! So friendly and so good! The entertainment - both the Jersey Boys and Havana we two of the best productions I have seen on a cruise ship and with 40+ cruises we have seen a lot of shows. Great energy, production, vocals! The ship is beautiful! Doesn't feel like a ship but more like a luxury resort. There are so many smaller venues that it makes it feel now so big. This is a BIG ship with 4000+ guests but spreads out the crowds fairly well, with a few exceptions. We were always able to find several deck chairs together but the decks were often full. The spa thermal suite is beautiful and a great place to relax! There is a therapy pool, hot tub, snow room, salt room, steam room, two saunas, heated lounges, showers, locker rooms with views of the ships wake, padded lounge chairs. The space is coed and is generally full of folks but never had an issue finding a place. Some folks do drop the things on a heated lounger and then go to other spaces. That did make it difficult to find available heated loungers at times. There are signs that give a max time for the loungers but folks seem to ignore that. Overall a fantastic venue. Our room included access to the venue and a location on the ship that is close which we did enjoy. Not sure I would pay for this this way in the future. Would probably purchase a regular balcony stateroom and then pay for the weekly pass to the thermal suite. There are, however, a limited number of passes available each week so you'd have to book that early on embarkation do to ensure you could get a pass. Could have been handled better: The Garden Café - the ships buffet does become very crowded. They have done a great job of spreading out the serving stations and there were seldom lines at the serving stations. But, getting a table was always difficult! The staff was fantastic at clearing table and were very efficient in getting tables turned! It didn't help that we were often looking for seats for 6 or 8 at a time. It seldom happened that we could find two tables together. Most of the time we split up into 4's and sat where we could find a seat. It seems peak hours could be supplemented by offering a full breakfast buffet in Margaritaville or another venue. There were light breakfast items served in Margaritaville and in the Observation Lounge but some further way to lighten the load in the Garden Café at peak hours would be really helpful. Another time that was horrible was on embarkation day lunch. Two other lunch options identified at the gangway could have minimized the horrible experience that that first meal was. Ports: Our ports were changed twice from the time we first booked our cruise. The last change eliminated Cabo San Lucas and replaced it with Ensenada. This change, the second change, was made right after final payments were required and therefore cancelation would require a penalty. The cruise line did provide a $100 ship board credit for the change, but those that have been to Ensenada know that it is not a port that should be on a 14 day itinerary where many passengers have paid in excess of $3500 per person. We made the best of it and found a San Diego company that took us wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe and had a fantastic time. The stop was then further challenged by the port call times. We were in port from 8:00am to 3:00 pm. However, that day was the day of time change due to daylight savings time and the ship choose not to change the time forward. Therefore our port time was 7:00am to 2:00pm in Ensenada. What is there to do at 7:00 am in Ensenada? Nothing! That felt a bit like smoke and mirrors. We only had one port where we were in port during a normal 8 hour window. Mazatlan, we were in port from 12:00 to 7:00pm. However, because you have make reservations for shows and dining in advance, made before the schedule change, the evening hours conflicted with a show. So we had 4 hours for that port. Costa Rica we docked in an industrial port that required a 35 minute shuttle ride to get to town. Holland America got to dock in town. With the changes to ports, the port times, and port locations, it didn't seem like NCL had the clout to get the preferred locations, ports or times or they hadn't don't the planning necessary early enough to do so. I would not do another NCL cruise to an itinerary where they weren't working a regular schedule. This in essence was a repositioning cruise for the ship, moving from summer in Alaska to winter in the Caribbean. These were port that, for this ship, they would only be visiting twice a year and they didn't have the on the ground infrastructure to accommodate a ship of this size. This could also be seen in the excursion offerings they had. Overall they were very limited and lacked in depth of experience. We sailed on Celebrity earlier this year from Chile through the Canal to Florida and the excursion offerings were much more extensive and interesting. As a result of this we booked all but one excursion on our own with private tour operators in the ports. But, if you were not comfortable doing this the ports would not have been a very good experience. Panama Canal Schedule: We asked three days before our canal crossing what the schedule would be and the front desk staff was very uninformed. He told us that we were scheduled to arrive at the canal between 3:00am and 6:00am. When I asked if we would be entering the locks or going through the first set of locks in the dark he said we could be but not to worry because the entire crossing would be a large part of the day. This was disappointing since the cruise lines itinerary indicated it would be daylight crossing. We asked again the night before and the front desk was still very vague. We were again told we would arrive at the Bridge of the Americas at around 3:00 am but they were unclear when we would enter the first lock. With the size of the ship we had to cross under the Bridge of the Americas at low tide which I understand that cruise line cannot control but will 4000+ passenger that paid for a panama canal cruise you would think they would have more definitive information. We ended up crossing under the Bridge of the Americas at 2:40am. I did make it out on deck just prior to passing under the bridge and it looked like there was only about 15 ft to spare. We had one member of our group that needed a place to sit to watch the crossing so I went to the observation lounge to sit in a seat for him until we starting entering the first lock. At 2:50 am there was a full row of people already at the windows, many of which spent the night in a chair to get a good seat. At 5:00 am, still dark, we moved forward toward the first set of locks. I called other members of our group and the one showed up for his seat at 5:30 and the rest of us headed to the bow of the ship to watch. The canal crossing was very interesting. Given the size of the ship we transited through the new panama canal locks. By the time we entered the third lock in the pacific side set of locks the crowd had thinned out and from that time on you could find a place at a rail or anywhere around the ship. We watched from the stern on deck 8, the rail on deck 7, the rail on deck 19, the bow, the waterfront on deck 8 and the observation lounge. There was narration that was happening during the day but there where many of the deck areas where you couldn’t hear the narration. Margaritaville: This is fantastic venue but few people ate there. The most I saw during our cruise was three tables at one time. We ate here once and the food was good but didn't feel like it was worth $14.95 per person more than a meal in the buffet, the local or the dining rooms. One of us had a burger and one fish and chips. The food was good and the setting is nice but I think it just costs too much. I bet they would grow their business exponentially if they lowered the price to $7.95 Reservations: Reservations are required to soooo many things on this ship. I was very proactive and made dining and show reservations as soon as they were available in advance of our cruise. That was very difficult with a group of 14!!!! Finally got help from some in the groups department which was greatly appreciated. Even with reservations if you wanted good seats you needed to show up for shows an hour in advance. There were always standby line available and usually folks in those lines got in but you would sit in the back or have to look around a pole. I think a key reason we had a great time on this cruise is that we knew what could about what to expect or we were willing to be flexible with those things we couldn't arrange in advance. There are a lot of opportunities to spend extra money on this ship, gelato, bowling, go carts, shows (Happy Hour Prohibition, included drinks), Starbucks, chocolates, cookies..... but we knew that and did the things we wanted to...the moto was "We're on Vacation!" This is beautiful ship with more things to do and experience that you can do in a week or even two weeks. They have put together a fantastic staff that is eager to serve and are so gracious. I did say a few times, and I have 4 kids that are now in their 20's, I'm not sure I would want to be on the ship during a normal peak travel week with 1000 kids on board. You'd wait in line for the water slides, and the ice cream machine in the buffet, you'd have a hard time getting a reservation for the go carts and laser tag and the buffet would be even more congested. I liked being the Kid on the ship! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
I chose this cruise as I had never been right through the Panama Canal & I wanted to experience NCL's latest ship. Leading up to the cruise we had a very active roll call which led to some of us meeting up the night before the ... Read More
I chose this cruise as I had never been right through the Panama Canal & I wanted to experience NCL's latest ship. Leading up to the cruise we had a very active roll call which led to some of us meeting up the night before the cruise at the San Pedro FIsh Market where we had a nice meal & got to know each other a bit. Some of us stayed at the Vagabond Hotel which was fine & very close to a McDonalds & a Taco place in case you couldn't get a seat for the free breakfast in the little room at the hotel. I took the free shuttle from the hotel at 10:30 & being platinum got onboard quite quickly. One thing is I didn't see where to get the boarding picture taken so couldn't do that. I did head for the space where they were signing people up for the cars, restaurants & shows. My Jersey Boys' reservation had been changed from Nov 14 to the 16th at 10:30 which wasn't going to work for me. I also booked Prohibition. I was finished early enough to meet the others at the MDR for lunch. I had my first of many tomato soup appetizers as I really love it. BTW the lunch menu is the same every day. Food: I found the meals onboard to be yummy! I tried most of the pay venues & really enjoyed them. The guac at Los Lobos was to die for! Our chef at Teppanyaki was very entertaining & the food good & plentiful. I had a lot of lunches & 1 breakfast at the Local & found the staff there to be very friendly & efficient & the food good too. I also stopped by for a late night snack of chicken wings, yum! It was a great place to sit & watch the big screen, in my case the Panama Canal passage, away from the chaos of the Observation Lounge or at the bow of the ship. Most mornings I ate at the MDR where I was "happy to share" so met lots of people. Entertainment: is great on NCL ships!! This was no different. I enjoyed Prohibition even though I'm not a drinker. I was okay with I Havana & loved Jersey Boys, which I'd seen before in Toronto & will see again there in March. The game shows are fun too but it's exasperating trying to get seating in the Atrium!! The comedians the first week I liked better than the ones at the end as I don't like the audience providing the laughs or demeaning remarks about other cruise lines which actually all performers did. I took part in the Progressive trivia which was run by Morne, a fun guy. We came in 3rd so that was nice. SIlas, the CD & Jacky his assistant were very good. I sometimes watched their morning show. The music in the Atrium by "Familiar Strangers" was very good. The Dancing with the Stars show is always a hoot & if you can't get a seat in the Atrium you can watch it on tv later. That reminds me the Panama Canal lecturer was good & also could be watched live on tv rather than trying to find a seat in the theatre. I watched for free a documentary I had wanted to see, called "Three Identical Strangers", a story of triplets separated at birth for a study!! It was so fascinating I watched it 3 times! I also paid to watch a movie called "Pick of the Litter" about training guide dogs Cabin: I had a studio cabin as usual but this one is different than those on the other new ships. The bed is a bit smaller which is fine as it gives more space to walk in & the addition of the virtual window is amazing!! So nice to see what's going on outside for a change! The solo host Rod arranged solo dinners but a bit too late (8:30) for my taste. He also reserved us great seats in the theater for shows, in front of the Haven ones! He took the group to other venues & had a schedule printed up for us to keep. The Lounge was beautiful & quite large but pretty noisy when the whole group was there. The coffee machine was great as usual & I think we had the only cookies available on the ship!! Excursions: There weren't a lot of them posted early as this cruise had 3 itinerary changes!! This led to my biggest problem on the cruise. We received a letter saying all cabins would receive $100 OBC for the disruption & when we boarded many studio people had only received $50. I went to Guest services twice about it, Stephanie, sort of the solo's leader, went to bat for me plus I emailed my TA & finally received the extra $50 during week 2. This begging for what was due me left a bad taste in my mouth but thankfully it was resolved. Don't know who came through for me in the end but if it was you Johnny, thanks! The only excursion I booked though NCL was the Easy Antigua one in Guatemala which was the only one I believe went there. It was an interesting place & the drive there long but interesting. We saw the effects of the volcano that had erupted in May killing 170 & making a mess of the countryside & the roads. We also were late getting back to the ship so I was glad to have done an NCL tour. In Ensenada I had booked through Ship Mate (SEG) for the 1st time & all went well. It was a lovely tour of 2 wineries with tasty nibbles & wine tastings & the drive there was beautiful. Mazatlan ~ here I took another SEG tour "Highlights with Lunch" which was really good too. During the free time in the city centre I got lost but the traffic policeman was helpful in me finding my van again. In the park I met a couple who had lived in a nearby city to me so it was nice to chat with them. On the bus I met another lovely couple who I ran into several times on the ship. The Cathedral there is beautiful & the market interesting. What do they do with all those chicken feet?!! The lunch by the water was yummy. In Costa Rica I joined a group formed through a CC member with Gio Tours & it was lovely too. We did the 8 in 1 tour but actually only did 7 things as traffic was bad that day, a Sunday, so skipped the tour of Puntarenas in order to be back onboard well in advance of sailing. Our guide was great as was the included meal. In beautiful Cartagena, a place I love & was there for the 3rd time, I finally got to tour with Dora the Explorer! It was a great tour that began at La Popa, a place I hadn't been the other times & offered a fantastic view of the City. It is SO HOT & humid there but the scenery is so lovely & the little zoo at the port cute. The Bliss itself is beautiful, quite like the Getaway, Breakaway, Epic etc but with the addition of the lovely Observation Lounge where there are 3 little buffet stations available, lovely seating with amazing views & some piano entertainment at night. The day of the crossing was terrible I heard but other than that it seems quite a nice, quiet spot & I imagine it's lovely for Alaska. The Cruise Critic Meet & Greet was well attended over, 200 people I believe, & the officers were well represented, we had nibbles, drinks & a band! Oh there were also 2 cakes!! It's always nice to meet people you've chatted with before the cruise. Nice job arranging that Stephanie! The group also had a slot pull & we played LCR on sea days, lots of fun!! Anyhow that's about all I remember. It was a lovely cruise & I'm so happy to have done it. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We decided to try the Bliss for our first Panama cruise and are happy that we did. Some of the major key factors were that it leaves from where we live and it’s brand new. From the moment you get on the ship ( check in staff at the pier ... Read More
We decided to try the Bliss for our first Panama cruise and are happy that we did. Some of the major key factors were that it leaves from where we live and it’s brand new. From the moment you get on the ship ( check in staff at the pier was a joke ) you are in awe. She is definitely huge and beautiful. There is much to see on her. Many great photo opportunities. Our balcony on the 13th floor was perfect. Your normal balcony. Room steward Marion was excellent but we did hardly see him. The gym was a little small for the amount of us that do visit it. Visited the salon for a haircut avd had massages and a facial book that I later cancelled due to the high tension sell on unwanted products. The observation deck was nice but yes as you have read on reviews there are many folks that treat it as if they were camping. We usually just passed through it and saw what we wanted to see from our balcony. Front desk staff when we did encounter them were friendly and helpful as everyone throughout the ship was. Extremely friendly and always smiling. We took most of our meals at Savor and hostess May, server Aida and Mark were surpurb!!! Allan at the Mix bar was outstanding also. The food was pretty much food throughout just a few dishes being a little on the salty side. Pool deck area was nice and enjoyable as well as the slides and the go karts. We did not do the laser tag as I did not care for the theme of it. The entertainment was a hit or a miss. The live bands were fine. Show Havana was terrible. Talent was there but the show had no theme and was just blah. Jersey boys was ok but a little to long for me. Now the comedy was some of the worst I have seen on the open seas. I felt bad for them as the jokes were not even a tad funny. Almost everyone had the same blank is this suppose to be a joke look on there face as I did. We really did enjoy the cruise and had a great time but the reason it is not a 5 star rating is due to the lackluster itinerary. The itinerary had changed 2x by the time we got on and apparently 2 other times from the first booking. And a few of the ports that we had were terrible. Guatemala took the crown as being the worst port ever . Ncl had really dropped the ball on this one. From the long wait time to get on a bus to be taken to a shopping compound to that place having nothing at all. Other than that we will sail with Ncl again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Norwegian Bliss Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.5 3.9
Entertainment 4.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.5 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.5
Service 4.5 4.0
Value For Money 3.5 3.5

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