February 16, 2019
If your idea of a cruise is sunning by the pool all day than you should look for another ship. The pool and surrounding area is very small for a ship this size. There are some small areas that you ... Read More
February 16, 2019
If your idea of a cruise is sunning by the pool all day than you should look for another ship. The pool and surrounding area is very small for a ship this size. There are some small areas that you could seek out to catch the sun that are away from the pool and rousing music but you better get there early.
However, this ship has so much more to offer than a swimming pool. We chose the Bliss for our three children and their families because of the many options for children. Our grandchildren range from 13 months to 18 years and there was something for all of them. The youngest was able to run around in the Guppies room and play without hearing the words “don’t touch”. Parents must be in attendance here. The 4 year old enjoyed the Splash Academy with its many activities. This is a no parent zone where you drop your child off and pick them up at a desired time. You are given a list of activities throughout the day so you can choose what your child might be interested in. They even have evening hours so parents can enjoy a show or a quiet meal. They issue pagers to the parents in case a problem should arise.
Another area for these ages is the Kids Splash Park. This has water guns, waterfall, buckets that fill and dump, even a mini water slide. Also in this area is a swimming pool, 5’7” deep, just for the younger set. They provide foam flotation vests in three sizes.
As far as food, all venues have a selection of kid friendly foods, mac’n cheese, hot dogs, chicken fingers, etc. Even room service has peanut and jelly sandwiches. Milk, lemonade, and juices are available all the time along with soft serve ice cream. High chairs are available in all dining venues.
One thing that should be noted is the portable crib. We were assured when we booked that the crib would fit in a standard balcony room. Well, it did but you can’t get around it. In order for the parents to get to the bathroom, they had to crawl over the sleeping 4 yr. old on the couch. A family room would be a better choice. Unfortunately, I don’t think they have those with an adjoining room. The adjoining room was nice so when the children were sleeping, the parents could hang out in our room.
We had three teens in our group who tend to be introverts but ended up participating in many activities. The Entourage is the teen club which is open all day for activities and video games. They even have late night hours where they can interact with other teens in a safe environment. No parents are allowed here. The race track and laser tag were a big hit along with the hot tubs and water slides. One slide is a fast moving vertical drop and the other is tamer where you go through on an inner tube. Other activities they enjoyed were, silent disco, escape room, video arcade room (arcade and bowling alley also in The Local) comedy show (the kid friendly one) and age appropriate movies in the theater or on the big screen by the pool. Board games can be found in the library which also had tables to play on. The Local (open 24/7) was a favorite hangout for burgers and fries or wings and of course the buffet had something for everyone. One teen discovered he loved the Indian cuisine.
And then we had our 18 year old. There was a meet and greet at night in the H20 for the 18 to 25 set. She enjoyed the dancing, tried her luck in the casino and even sampled some beer and wine with a waiver signed by her parents. Of course she could go to all the adult shows and activities. She felt very grown up.
At first the parents were hesitant to let the children go off on their own but after a day or two, they felt comfortable with it as long as they checked in once in a while. (The texting app was a life saver for all of us to keep in touch.) This left the adults free to enjoy a mountain of activities. If you are bored on this ship you are not trying very hard. There is a large screen in the atrium where they have games and activities during the day. This high energy area has comfortable chairs and a bar. Another area where they have music and games is the pool area. Here are two bars and the buffet. H20 on the back of the ship has hot tubs and is an adult only area along with The Vibe where your lounge chair is reserved for a fee. There are food demonstrations, educational talks, bingo, port information, wine/beer/whiskey tastings, etc. So much, it was hard to fit it all in. Because there was so much to do, the ship never felt crowded except in the pool area. Even the elevators were not a problem after the first day.
That was just during the day. At night you had two Broadway shows and a musical, comedy shows (three different comedians) in The Social, line dancing in Q’s, Beatles music (3 different shows and a combined one on Friday) in the Cavern Club. There are family friendly activities in addition to adult only. Yes, most of it is reservations only which is an inconvenience but there are standby lines and if you can’t get in, there is plenty more to do. There is music in many of the bars and adult movies in the theater or on the screen by the pool. The hot tubs are open until 10:00pm.
OK, you are tired of the music and high energy activities and you just want peace and quiet. The Boardwalk has couches and overstuffed chairs. All you hear is the ocean. Or, there is the Observation Lounge. This place is amazing. It is beautifully decorated with couches and padded lounges and is very quiet. It is on the bow of the ship on deck 15 so has wonderful views. You can read or just sit and enjoy the view. Beware, the ocean is mesmerizing and many people can be found sleeping. It has its own bar and a light buffet with a continental breakfast and salads and sandwiches for lunch. In the evening there is piano music.
Dining can be almost stressful because of all the choices. The buffet always has a little of everything with different specials every night. There are two complete buffet areas. Each has stations for drinks, salads, dessert, specialty and hot items so you don’t have to stand in a long line to get the one thing you want. They are designed to minimize as much contamination as possible. Seating is around these stations in tables, booths and high tops. All seats have a wonderful view and there is some seating outside. There is soft serve and hard ice cream, milk, tea, coffee, lemonade and a kiwi strawberry drink. They do have hours for breakfast, lunch and dinner with about an hour in between when they are shut down for the change over.
If you hit the buffet when it is closed you can go to The Local which never closes. Here you sit and order from a limited menu. I would call this comfort food. Turkey pot pie, burgers/hotdogs, wings, mac’n cheese, grilled cheese, fish and chips, etc. They have a prime rib special that is excellent.
There are three main dining rooms that also have certain hours for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner is a 2 hour affair but breakfast and lunch has faster service. Taste and Savor are small, more intimate venues right across from each other with a bar in between. You do not need reservations but if there is a wait at one, chances are good you can sit right down in the other. If you like a larger venue The Manhattan is for you. All have the same menu coming out of the same kitchen but different every night. All of this is complimentary.
If that wasn’t enough for you, they have specialty dining which most have an ala carte charge for. This is nice because you only pay for what you want. For instance, you could drop in for some sushi at The Republic, or dessert at Le Bistro. We have eaten at three of these. Q”s is BBQ with country music. We can vouch for the deep fried okra, ribs and brisket. You receive small cups of potato salad, beans and coleslaw as sides. The Italian and French restaurants were good with the French being our favorite. The Dover Sole and rack of lamb were excellent. The Italian was just OK with the appetizers of calamari and shrimp ravioli better than the entrees.
Japanese, seafood and Mexican are other choices. Margaritaville was probably the least used venue. The bake shop, chocolate shop and gelato were good for snacks. And of course Starbucks cups could be found everywhere on the ship. Again, there are so many options that none of them seemed crowded.
We had five balcony rooms on deck 14, port side. Two sets were adjoining. The beds were setup with either two twins or pushed together as one. The third person slept on the couch and the fourth had a bed folding down out of the ceiling over the couch with a ladder which the room steward needed to lower every night or you could leave it setup all the time. The bedding was kept in drawers under the couch. We really appreciated the couch as a comfortable place to sit while watching TV or just relaxing. The storage space was ample. We found that the cloth folding boxes you can purchase at a dollar store came in handy for socks etc. as there are no drawers, just shelves. There was plenty of room under the bed for suitcases. The TV has the NCL channel where you can book entertainment, check your account or get the schedule of daily activities. It also has the major news channels and movies including G rated family movies.
One awkward area was the closet. It was so close to the bed that you could hardly reach anything off the floor. They also had those annoying wooden hangers that in order to remove them you have to guide the top thru this little hole. So, if that bothers you as much as it does me, bring your own hangers.
In order for the lights to work you were expected to put your cruise card in the slot by the door. We found that a used gift card or motel key card could be used instead. All outlets were connected so if you wanted to charge something while you were out, you needed to leave that motel card in so you could use your cruise card for other things. Lighting was very good. There were bright lights overhead and next to the bed. There were also reading lights next to the bed and USB ports. There was soft lighting around the headboard we used at night when we watched TV. We did find a soft nightlight came in handy for finding your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The only electrical outlets were across from the couch next to the coffee pot. This would have been sufficient except that three of us used C-pap machines that needed to be plugged in next to our beds at night. We had to jump extension cords moving around in the room. There should be an outlet next to the bed.
The bathroom was the largest and best designed that we have ever had on a cruise ship. You could actually bend over in the shower. It had a hand held shower head and shampoo and shower jell dispensers. There was a hand soap and Kleenex dispenser by the sink and they supplied a small tube of body lotion. There was storage under the sink and shelves along the wall.
The fridge was a problem. It was full of liquor, pop and water for a fee, not included in the drink package. It was so full my daughter could not get the babies milk in there. Why would you put liquor in a room with kids? Our room steward put up a fuss about taking it out so we just put everything in a bag and stuck it under the bed. The mini bar should be an option, not forced on you and should be removed upon request.
There are lights outside your door that you can indicate “do not disturb”, “make up room” or “at home” for your room steward. With the exception of the closet, it was a very well designed room.
The service in all the dining, activities, and entertainment venues were excellent. Everyone was cheerful , helpful and seemed to enjoyed their job. There were a couple areas where communication could have been better. The texting app was very confusing and took some time and lots of questions until one of us figured it out and taught the rest. I pre-purchased the WiFi package but couldn’t get on so I went to guest services and there was someone standing there helping to do just that. She explained it and handed me an instruction sheet but it was for purchasing a package, so I ended up buying another package to get on. I never did figure out how to use the internet café computers. They keep asking you to buy minutes. WiFi worked best in the common areas. I used up 20 minutes trying to connect to the server from our room.
Port information was another area where communication could have been better. The announcement in the morning might have been made but not everyone hears those in their room. You have to be in a common area or hallway to hear. The fact that we needed picture ID in St. Thomas was not known until we got to the gang plank, then you had to go back to your room for it. It should have been put in the Dailies along with taxi and weather information.
Embarkation went smoothly but communication was poor. After we were given our cruise card we were on our own to figure out what came next. There should have been personnel along the way explaining about the holding area. We were given a card with a number on it but no explanation as to what it was for. Disembarkation was worse. We were given a color which they called when it was time for us to leave the ship. We left at that time and everyone spilled outside with no direction. Come to find out the people who were to use a taxi or other transportation were to go one way, transfers to Ft. Lauderdale airport another and Miami airport another. No one told us a thing. We had to search out a person in a yellow vest to find where to go. Oh yes, there was not a bus in sight. There must have been a couple hundred people standing in the sun for 45 min. before a bus showed up. We should never have been instructed to leave the ship until they had transportation ready. At the very least have a shaded area for us to wait. Also, at no time did anyone ask us if we had a prepaid transfer.
There were a few problem areas on the Bliss. The Guest Services and Excursion desk is right next to the big screen and stage for activities and music. There is always something going on and is very loud. So loud that you cannot be heard at these two desks. One person in our group had to be taken into an office to be heard in order to settle a credit card problem. Another area is the casino. It takes up about 1/3 of Deck 7 and you have to walk right thru it to get to the elevators. Even though it has a smoking room it all smells of cigarette smoke. Another thing that does not make sense is the sliding doors. They have them in certain areas to conserve energy. This would be great if they were motion activated so as not to spread germs but they are not. You have to press an area on the wall to activate them.
My husband and I are loyal Princess customers and have been on 14 cruises with them so we could not help but compare to NCL. We liked our cabin better on the Bliss along with the food and entertainment. The Bliss was much more family friendly with more activities and food options for kids. Service was very good too but they need to work on their communications. Princess is much better with communications. Even though we are not new to cruising, many times we were confused how things worked on the Bliss. Most of the Princess ships have two pools, one inside and one out. Both are larger than the one on the Bliss. We have noticed that Princess has been falling behind in the food and entertainment areas. Service has lost a lot lately too. There seems to be a lot of staff that appear to rather be somewhere else on Princess ships. We would love to sail again with NCL. Read Less