We sailed on the Norwegian Bliss from January 12th – January 18th.
We flew in to Fort Lauderdale and spent the night prior to the cruise. We stayed at the Ocean Sky. The motel seemed like a pretty nice motel however around 1-2 in ... Read More
We sailed on the Norwegian Bliss from January 12th – January 18th.
We flew in to Fort Lauderdale and spent the night prior to the cruise. We stayed at the Ocean Sky. The motel seemed like a pretty nice motel however around 1-2 in the morning it appeared they were shooting an episode of Cops in the hallway. Motel patrons were yelling and slamming doors. I called the front desk and they said the cops were already on the floor. After about 15-20 minutes of yelling and such, it calmed down. I am not sure even without all the drama, that this motel was worth the cost. The room seemed old, almost like a remodeled old hotel that still felt old. Nothing bad, other than the drama, stood out but nothing good did either. I will find another place to stay the next time we are in Fort Lauderdale.
Embarkation started at 12:00 noon and we arrived a little before noon. We were on the ship within 15-20 minutes. It was the quickest I have ever experienced. It appeared they were using two terminals, B and C to board the ship so that may be what helped. Anyway, kudos to Norwegian.
As soon as we boarded we went to one of the touch screen monitors located at many places around the ship to schedule laser tag, go karts and a comedy show. We previously scheduled Havana and Jersey Boys on line before the cruise. These touch screen monitors are located at the top of the stairs on each level. I would strongly suggest you do this as soon as you enter the ship. If you wait, you may find the attraction you want to attend sold out. The monitors are a really nice touch and even allow you to see directions from where you are to any attraction on the ship. Nice job with that Norwegian.
We then went to Margaritaville restaurant to eat. I ordered a hamburger and my wife ordered a fish sandwich. It was at least an hour before we received our food. Several people were seated after we were and received their food before we did. I have no idea what the holdup was because the restaurant seemed to be at about 30% capacity, certainly nowhere near full. I nearly grabbed the waitress and told her to cancel my order. It doesn’t take an hour to cook a hamburger and fish sandwich. I was very disappointed in Margaritaville on the Bliss and would not recommend anyone eat there. The hamburger was not that good and my wife’s sandwich was not good. I later ate a burger in the buffet and in my opinion it was much better than Margaritaville and didn’t cost extra. Throughout the cruise I observed maybe a maximum of 20% capacity at the restaurant. It certainly is not being used by many. I assume the cost is the main driver of that.
We spent the first day just getting to know the ship. This is a really big ship but I liked the way everything was laid out. By day 3 we pretty much knew where everything was at and if we didn’t they had nice placards by each elevator that listed what attractions were on each floor.
We booked laser tag for the first day and it was fun. It is broken down in to two sessions of about 5-10 minutes each. There is a safety video that you must watch and then they break you down in to two teams and give you your weapons. You must wear closed toe and heal shoes. This pretty much excludes flip flops and sandals. We did this twice during the cruise. It is an extra $10 per person per game which I think is too expensive for no longer than the game runs.
We ate in the Garden Café, which is the buffet, on day one and the food was what I would call average. We have been on Carnival and Disney and the food was similar to that. They did do a good job of keeping the tables clean and in fact as soon as you finish with your plate or cup they will collect it quickly so make sure you are really finished or have someone guard your plate if you must leave for a bit! There did seem to be a large variety of food and I would think anyone would be able to find something to eat on the buffet. It is pretty spread out so I didn’t notice any unusually long lines and we were always able to find a seat near the buffet during the cruise.
We spent some time in the observation lounge. I read a lot of positive reviews about it and they were correct. It is a really nice place with a small buffet and bar and tons of comfortable seats, most overlooking the ocean. Some reviewers complained about people sleeping, etc. but I didn’t notice much of this.
One of the things that I read over and over in the Bliss reviews was the staff attitude. Before the cruise I honestly suspected it was the cruiser and how they interacted with the staff. I suspected they were rude to the staff or demanding and the staff responded in kind. I have to say that I am disappointed in how the staff act. For a lack of a better term, they for the most part, seem indifferent. They rarely spoke to us. A good example was bar staff. I would go to a bar, patiently waiting my turn. The bartender would come over and ask what I wanted. No smiles, greetings, etc. I would give them my order and they would ask for my room card (we had the beverage package). That was usually the last words spoken by the staff. They would sit the drinks on the bar, return my card, and walk off. We saw this type of behavior all throughout the staff. At one point I wondered if a lot of the staff didn’t speak very good English so they were reluctant to speak. I consider myself to be polite, always saying “Please” and “Thank you” so I know they were not responding to my demeanor. We noticed this behavior with our room steward as well. He kept the room clean but also seemed indifferent. On other cruise lines the staff would almost always greet you when they passed you in the halls, etc. We did not observe this behavior on the Bliss. As this is our first Norwegian ship I don’t know if this is Norwegian wide or just the Bliss but they defiantly have a problem.
The ”Washy Washy” guys and the people holding up the flyers advertising the main items on the buffet each night were the exception to the indifferent staff. They were also smiling from ear to ear, usually singing and dancing. If you don’t know what the “Washy Washy” people are I will explain it. They have bottles of hand sanitizer and give you some before you enter the buffet. Some of them have become semi-famous, check You Tube.
Another recurring negative that I read in reviews prior to the cruise was about the elevators being slow and packed. We did observe that most elevators seemed quite full and you did have to wait up to 2-3 minutes for one to arrive. Often it would be packed and you couldn’t get on. We ended up using the stairs 75% of the time which was good exercise. My wife has a FitBit and she typically recorded 50 or so flights of stairs a day. The FitBit doesn’t record going down stairs so this was just up! Keep in mind however that this was not always just bypassing the elevators, it might have been climbing stairs for the water slide, going up a floor to a bar and back, etc. but it was a lot of stair climbing. We also walked a lot but that is to be expected on a ship that is 1000’ long. This was no different from any other cruise that I have been on.
On day two we hit the bigger water slide. The bigger one requires tubes and the other one is the one that drops the rider. The line was long and it took us 45 minutes at least to ride it the first time. The second time was maybe 20 minutes. It was fun and I would recommend it. My 13-year-old probably rode this slide 30 times during the cruise.
We also rode the go-karts on day two. It took about 20 minutes from the time we walked up to the time the race started. The go-karts were faster than they looked but it seemed we spent as much time sitting in them on the track as we did driving them. They have the ability to instantly shut down the karts and the first time they did this, I assume they were reprimanding someone, as the staff went to him and talked with him a bit. They started us up again. After not more than one lap we had several cars crash in to each other. This took a bit to straighten up and then we were off again only to be stopped again shortly after for another crash. Overall they were fun but the one time was plenty for the cruise.
On the second night we attended the show Havana. After reading all the negative reviews I almost decided not to attend. I thought the show was good and in fact they received a standing ovation at the end. If the show had a story line, I couldn’t detect it, but I can appreciate all the hard work the performers put in to it.
As far as activities go, there are tons going on all day and evening around the ship. Each night they deliver to your cabin a summary of the next day’s events and other general information. It also tells you what times the restaurants and buffet are open. You can also find this information on the television in your stateroom.
I guess this is a good time to talk about the cabin. We booked a mini-suite with balcony although it should be called a balcony room. That is what it is on other cruise lines. Calling it a “suite” is a stretch. The room itself seems a bit smaller than comparable rooms on Carnival and Disney, the two lines I have cruised with previously, although the bathroom seems larger. Overall the room was adequate with plenty of storage space for 3 people. In addition to the main bed there was a couch that pulled out to a bed. The balcony had two chairs and a small table. The room had a small fridge in it but it was locked. A sign on it stated that the mini-bar was not included in the drink package. I assume the staff could have unlocked it if we wanted to use it for storage but we never asked. When you first come in the room there is a slot for a key card. If you do not put a key card in the slot the lights will turn off after a couple of minutes and it appeared to us that the electrical outlets also turned off, so don’t forget to use the key card. The beds were decent although of the three lines I have cruised with now, they are my least favorite. I was not a big fan of the pillows as I thought they were not firm enough. Overall the room was adequate.
On day three we ate at Los Lobos. The service was very good. Everyone was very nice and pretty much the total opposite of the other staff we encountered. I had the Enchiladas and they were pretty good. We ate outside on the Waterfront and you couldn’t ask for a better view for a meal. The Waterfront was probably my favorite place on the ship.
Prior to boarding the boat, we booked Jersey Boys. I read a bunch of reviews and most were positive. I read one review that said the show had “some” language in it but even network television seems to have some so I wasn’t worried about it. When we arrived in line there were signs saying the show had “authentic New Jersey profane language”. I had my 13-year-old son with me so I was a little concerned. I know he hears this stuff at school but I don’t use language around my kid. Well it did have some language. Other than the normal “D” and “S” words they dropped the F-bomb about 15-20 times throughout the show. The real shame of it is that the language was not needed. I assume they were trying to make the guys and gals from Jersey look “tough” by having them drop F-bombs but being able to cuss doesn’t make you tough and it doesn’t make you look tough. Other than the unnecessary language the show was good. The performers were very talented. I wouldn’t recommend the show because of the language but if hearing the F-bomb dropped doesn’t bother you then you should be okay. I would say it certainly is not for younger ears.
We rode the drop coaster on day 5. It took about 30-45 minutes to get through the line to ride it. They have 3 people manning the coaster. One at top, one at the trap door where they extricate anyone that gets stuck on the slide, and one at the bottom. The guy at the bottom, and maybe the others as well but I couldn’t see them, would leave his post every 10 minutes or so and be gone for 10-15 minutes. During that time the operations would come to a halt. This happened every 10 minutes or so. At first I thought they were going on break but who has a break every 10-15 minutes? I don’t know what they were doing but it tremendously slowed down the operations of the slide and a lot of riders were getting angry and I don’t blame them. The ride itself however was really fun. When you drop its kind of like being propelled from a canon. I made it through the ride and my wife barely did. A lot of people did not, and had to be removed using the trap door which was no big deal. It seemed the majority of people who did not make it were women so I am not sure if it had anything to do with weight or not. I would ride it again if it were not for the long wait. The funniest thing about it was the majority of riders were men. Most of them were probably 40+. I saw several older gentlemen in their 60's plus riding it too. They would come off the slide grinning from ear to ear. My wife said their bodies said they were 65 but their minds told them they were 15! It was fun to see.
On St. Thomas we went to Coral World and Coki Beach. We took a taxi but I don’t recall how much it cost. Coral World is neat but unless you do one of the extra paid attractions there is not a lot to do there. We spent about 30-45 minutes there and then went over to the beach. Coki beach was pretty crowded. We rented a couple of chairs for $5.00 each. They had waitresses and waiters running the beach taking food and drink orders. We bought a bucket of Carib beer which costs $25.00 for 5. I thought that was a little expensive for a beach but I was on vacation so what the heck. We saw lots of small fish swimming in the shallow parts. The changing rooms and bathrooms were nasty. I am sure there are more up and down the beach but the ones on our end were filthy and the toilet and sink didn’t work in one of the two stalls. Overall the beach itself and water was really nice.
On Tortola we went to Smuggler’s Cove and Nigel’s Beach Bar. We took a shared taxi. The cost was $14.00 per person each way. The driver waited at the beach for all of us as it is a good 30-minute ride and over a lot of unimproved roads. At times you wonder just where in the world he is taking you. The beach itself was not overly crowded. Nigel had chairs and umbrellas for rent if needed. Once you enter the water there is a layer of small rocks for about 6-8 feet and a pretty substantial drop from zero to about 3 feet. Once you get past that shelf the beach is mostly soft sand and it drops off pretty gradually. We didn’t observe many fish here but didn’t go far out either. Nigel’s Beach Bar is what you would think a beach bar on an out of the way beach would be. Some 2x4s, pieces of plywood and tarps. Nigel is top notch though. Fast with the drinks and seems to be a really good guy. We had a lot of fun here and I would recommend it, but just be aware that if you have trouble walking you might have some issues navigating the rocky ledge, especially coming back up over it to get out of the water.
On our Bahamas stop we went to the public beach just beside Atlantis. It was a disaster. The beach was incredibly crowded. We purchase two chairs and were placed in front of most of the other chairs. The water was crashing in to our chairs so we had to keep all of our belongings sitting on the chairs. We left after a couple of minutes and went to Atlantis and bought the day pass for the water park. We had a good time there riding the lazy rivers and water slides. The beach is really nice and wasn’t crowded. The water park is huge and spread out.
We carried our luggage off the ship. We have done this for all but our first cruise. Normally you can get off the ship very quickly this way. It took us over an hour to get off the ship. They had a long line of people routed down the center of the ship, in to the casino, and back around to the theater. Finally after passing through the theater we were checked out and got to leave the ship. This was probably the longest disembarkation I have ever experienced and was pretty much the complete opposite of the embarkation.
Over all we had a good cruise. The Bliss is a beautiful ship and I like the way things are laid out. I thought the staff did a really good job of keeping everything clean. Jersey Boys and its language was a big disappointment to me as well as the indifference of the Bliss staff. Other than that, we had a really good time. I might would cruise the Bliss again but our next cruise with probably be another cruise line. I think we are going to try Royal Caribbean next just to compare. Read Less