My husband and I cruised to Alaska, from Seattle, the first week of September 2018. We (well, I) splurged and booked a room in the Haven section (floor 17). This review will address both Haven and overall experience, but my rating scores ... Read More
My husband and I cruised to Alaska, from Seattle, the first week of September 2018. We (well, I) splurged and booked a room in the Haven section (floor 17). This review will address both Haven and overall experience, but my rating scores will be for Haven which did offer a priority for activities. Before the details, the most significant areas of opportunity for NCL Bliss:
- Water, Seltzer, Coffee/Tea water is not included in the Unlimited Drink Package
- Haven Suites are all toward the front of the boat leading to feeling a lot of movement
- Buffet area (Garden Cafe) is overcrowded for every meal; overflow is sent to Observation lounge that doesn't have tables
- Go-Cart track/Laser Tag have a cost associated and require a reservation. Go Cart track 'trianing' and wait time - with a reservation - was 50 minutes. After finally getting on the track, operators intentionally slow people down because so many guests are inexperienced / poor drivers. Ruins the experience for everyone.
- Elevators really do take a very long time and the amount of disabled patrons with their scooters take up space.
- Ports & Ship push jewelry, watches, and terrible artwork 24/7
Now to the detailed review:
The Haven pricing is steep, even without the 'Spa' room option. The decor is beautiful, the bed is very comfortable, the amenities are great (high end soaps, the most comfortable bathrobe in existence, fresh flower arrangements, full-size bathtub). The lighting around the room and in the ceiling really is beautiful and, while our balcony size was standard, there were wicker-type chairs with comfortable padding. The butler & room steward were also wonderful, but I'm assuming this may be somewhat unique because we were in the Haven; bigger tips. The dedicated 'front desk' for Haven, while a great notion, was always lined up with people or - there was no one there at all. The Haven bar also was very slow and always had enough people to add to the slowness.
The Haven restaurant upstairs was beautiful with huge windows. White linen tablecloths; very formal feeling. Service, while nice, was incredibly slow for every meal - and the same is true for every restaurant on the ship. The food was good - not high-end dining good, but good. Chicken was salty, food delivered at different times, charging extra for Coffee and Juice (even with purchased of the Unlimited Drink package). It felt a bit too formal for every meal, but was quiet and nice to be there without dealing with a crowd of people. The buffet area, Garden Cafe, really had a ton of food options so while you would have to deal with seating issues, the food was generally pretty good. The paid restaurants were subpar. We ate at "Q" BBQ, Cagney's Steakhouse, and Teppanyaki. Q BBQ's food was terrible and was the place we experienced the slowest service (while it was nearly empty at 6:00 p.m.). Cagney's also had very poor service and the food was sub par - don't expect a Morton's or Ruth Chris, it's more Longhorn. Teppanyaki, while slow, offered the best food.
The Haven offers their own observation lounge with large windows, luxury seating, an upstairs 'library' type area and small snack area. I'm still astounded that a designer signed off on this area - the carpet patterns reflect off of the slanted windows making it impossible to take a nice photo. In addition, the metal window frames are large and block line of sight for anyone that is 5'2 to 5'8 - really poor design for an 'observation area'.
The rest of the ship, while designed beautifully, didn't seem designed for Alaska cruising contrary to their marketing. The pool deck was awesome, yet even in 60F weather w/ wind, it wasn't practical. Outside seating for the restaurants also seemed odd and weren't use throughout our stay. The atrium, which was toward the center of the ship, was always overcrowded with insufficient seating.
The entertainment was ok, nothing spectacular. We saw Jersey Boys & Havana - both were nice, but the waiter/bar service before the show was poor. There are no hand rails for the stairs, so older people that would get up during the show struggled to get up the stairs. The staff entertainment was poor - the cruise director was annoying, his 'sidekick' was also bizarre. The other activity leads were cocky, made rude comments to guests and just made it feel like they couldn't wait to be done with their day. The Mandarin Spa - I scheduled a 75 minute standard Swedish massage. No bathrobe offered, a thin sheet to cover, they referred to me by my middle name the entire time, and a masseuse that was unskilled. When needing to shower to remove oil from session, she became angry and challenged me; wouldn't offer me a robe or guide me to the locker area to shower, dress, etc. I've been to many spas, please save your money and research a spa in one of the ports and spend your money there. The gym - actually - was fantastic. Really big and plenty of equipment. I wish I could give a rating for the gym alone - 5 stars.
The ports: Ketchikan - Juneau - Skagway - Victoria; they were beautiful, but the time in port for most were short with Victoria being the most ridiculous 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Do not book excursions through the ship; they tend to be about 20% more. If you can, book in advance through TripAdvisor or went you get off the ship. The port stores have been inundated with terrible jewelry shops, try to avoid and explore on your own if you can. Victoria, while it had a really beautiful downtown, required a paid shuttle ($13pp/round trip) if you weren't up to walking for 30 minutes from the dock. A shame that with all of the money spent you still had to pay for this.
Overall, our trip to Alaska was a once in a lifetime adventure and the views of the mountain, glaciers, and wildlife were like looking at a magazine. We took full advantage of every port, met some amazing Alaskans, explored the ship, and dodged the constant flood of marketing material left in our stateroom every evening. The Haven, while comfortable and beautiful, wasn't worth the premium price. If you're a bit older and wealthy, the Haven & the Bliss will be ok for you and you'll have a great time. If you're younger and are budgeting to spend $8k on a vacation, don't spend it on a cruise. Read Less