A COMPARISON OF 2 NEW SHIPS: NCL BLISS AND CELEBRITY EDGE
My wife and I accompanied by another couple cruised the NCL Bliss round trip out of Miami January 5-12, 2019. The itinerary was 2 sea days, pier stops at ... Read More
A COMPARISON OF 2 NEW SHIPS: NCL BLISS AND CELEBRITY EDGE
My wife and I accompanied by another couple cruised the NCL Bliss round trip out of Miami January 5-12, 2019. The itinerary was 2 sea days, pier stops at Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas, Tortola BVI, another sea day, a finally a stop at Nassau. Our Cabin was Category MC (Mid-ship Mini-suite with Balcony) located on Deck 10 having 207 sq. ft. and a 32 sq. ft. balcony. Following a 1-night stay at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale, we sailed the Celebrity Edge January 13-20 by ourselves round trip from Port Everglades. The itinerary was a first sea day, pier stops at San Juan, Tortola, and St. Maarten, followed by 2 more sea days. Our cabin was Category 1B Guaranteed (Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom on Deck 6 having 202 sq. ft. space and a 40 sq. ft balcony. Base cabin costs including taxes and port charges were nearly equivalent for both ships.
Much has already been published about these ships individually which doesn’t need repeating here. Listed below are some basic comparative facts to orient the reader:
Basic Information NCL Bliss Celebrity Edge
Year Built Mid 2018 Late 2018
Capacity @ Dbl Occupancy 4004 2918
Tonnage 168,028 129,500
Length, ft 1094 1004
Beam, ft 136 128
Ship Crew 1716 1320
Cruise Critic Rating 4.0 expert/3.5 guest 4.5 Expert/3.0 guest
Our reviews are based on the features we like to use and things we like to do when cruising. So it will not cover all aspects of cruising on these ships. For example, we have cruised 35 times now and have seen all the Caribbean islands, some like those on the above itineraries numerous times. Therefore, there will be no comments about shore excursions.
Overall Impressions of Each Ship
Both ships are beautiful in their own right, and we enjoyed both of them. The Bliss is about a third bigger on a capacity basis but you don’t get that impression when on board. Both the Bliss and the Edge feel like large ships to us. The Bliss is designed more classically with straight-through main deck plans and a central atrium with functions such as Guest Relations, Shore Excursions, Computer Room, Future Cruise Sales around the bottom floor. The Edge has a more contemporary design with the above functions on different decks which are not as easily accessible. The Edge feels like a glitzy hotel more than a cruise ship. It is interesting that the Cruise Critic expert rating for the Edge was higher than that of the Bliss, mainly due to the daring, stepout design. Guests did not share that opinion, and we feel some of the early guests were out of their comfort zone. This should change in time. The main new feature of the Bliss, which is absolutely fabulous to us, is the Exploration Lounge on Deck 15 which was designed to view their Alaskan itineraries. The step-out feature on the Edge is the Eden concept, which is located on decks 3-5 aft. More detail will be provided about these and other new features below.
The Boarding process for the Bliss was satisfactory but not as smooth as for the Edge. With the Bliss after dropping off the luggage and passing through Security, we had to wait for an hour in a crowded room before being allowed to board the ship. A good bit of the delay was caused by the ship having to return to last port of Nassau to drop off a seriously ill passenger. The luggage did not arrive at the cabin until around 6 pm. One of our friends did not get his luggage until around 9 pm. For the Edge went over to the sparkling new Port Everglades terminal 25 around 9:30am and we were on the ship several hours later and had our luggage in our cabin by 1 pm.
NCL offers a neat app where you can communicate with your friends over their WiFi system via phone or text message. Celebrity has a very useful App with your boarding passes, restaurant reservations, and itemized bill.
There was sufficient but not excess room in either case. Both were very narrow passing by the bed. There were no drawers on the Bliss; rather, compartment slots. The TV in the Edge is larger but not movable, so it must be watched in bed. Both rooms have a small sofa, but the Edge sofa is lower and not really usable other than to lay the bed decorative pillows. Both rooms have a safe. The Bliss has a switch to tell the cabin attendant if you do not wish to be disturbed or are out of the room and want it made up. The Edge uses a magnetic card to attach to the outer door surface for this purpose. The Edge also has a master switch to control lighting and temperature as well as a connection box next to the dresser inside which plugs and USB cords are attached. The Edge bed was a king and felt better than the Bliss queen. Bathrooms on both ships are excellent with plenty of space. We had a problem with our balcony on the Edge. Window washer fluid drained through the semicircular porthole at night all over the chairs, table, and floor. A photo is attached. This is a design/maintenance flaw in our opinion.
This is an aspect of cruising that we really enjoy and use so we will spend more time discussing it here. On the Bliss we were provided a 3-meal perk, and we purchased an additional 4-night package before boarding so that we could enjoy these restaurants every night of the cruise with our friends. We could make reservations beforehand for each restaurant. It was more cumbersome on the Edge. We bought a 5-night package but Celebrity does not allow pre-booking before boarding. To us this is a real disadvantage to buying a package. Once on board we made a beeline to the Steakhouse to make reservations for the week. The line was long, and we had to settle for much later times that we prefer, but we did get reservations.
We had dinner twice at Cagney’s steakhouse, twice at the Le Bistro, and one each at Teppenyaki Japanese, BBQ Smokehouse, and the Ocean Blue on Bliss. Also enjoyed a great burger lunch at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. The best restaurant was Cagney’s, followed closely by Le Bistro and Teppenyaki. The latter was a lot of fun with the skill and comedy of the Japanese hibachi master combined with excellent filet and shrimp. The Ocean Blue seafood was a bit of a disappointment, especially taking into account the $12 per person upcharge. All in all , the array of specialty restaurants on Bliss is very good.
The specialty restaurants on Edge kick it up another notch. Their steakhouse was one of the best we’ve eaten at, land or sea. Raw on Five Seafood was outstanding as well. The meal in Eden was remarkably different and really good. Le Petit Chef was entertaining with overhead projections of chefs and food onto the plate and table. The food was very good as well. The Rooftop Garden Grill was a very nice outdoor setting. We went there on the San Juan port day to avoid extremely windy conditions. The food was very good but not memorable like most of the other venues. We tried the Bistro for lunch and were rewarded with an excellent meal.
Both ships have excellent buffet presentations. Quality and range of offerings were very good, perhaps better with the Indian and Oriental stations on Bliss. I went to the buffet each morning with my Yeti cups and brought back coffee, rolls, and occasionally muesli to the cabin. Edge had an outstanding ice cream station next to the buffet, and we rewarded ourselves with 2 scoops each day at lunch. The burger stand on the Edge, called The Mast Grill, was very good as well. Edge offers Hot tea, cappuccinos, and lattes at Café Al Bacio as well as pastries. There is a Starbuck’s in the Atrium on Bliss with is an optional extra.
Theater and Evening Shows
Bliss has a decided advantage in this category. The theater is much bigger and advance reservations are required, guaranteeing a seat and allowing an on-time arrival. The shows were high quality. Havana and especially the Jersey Boys were extremely well done with talented performers.
The Edge theater by comparison was small. If you didn’t get there 30 minutes before showtime, forget about getting a seat. We saw Kaleidoscope and didn’t care for it as much.
Again, a big advantage to Bliss and the Observation Lounge. This covers the front third of the ship on deck 15 with panoramic views forward and to the side. It is nicely furnished with lounge chairs, many reclining, The front has a big bar and a band stage with tables and chairs. We often played bridge there during the afternoon. Cold buffet items are also served here continuously. You can sit and read there in comfort.
There is nothing comparable on Edge. Limited seating on the martini bar area. We like to sit and have cocktails before dinner. The seats fill up around 5 pm. Eden has a wonderful bar as well as a café for breakfast and lunch. Dinner at Eden restaurant is on the lower level. Performers, mostly gymnastic types dressed in Sherwood Forest costumes, mill around and occasionally interact with guests. The whole setting is unique but takes some getting used to.
We like to play bingo on sea days. Bliss has bingo but it’s getting too expensive. $69 for shared cards for 2. Edge has no bingo. Both ships have Trivia. Edge does some games on your hand-held device. Casinos are very nice on both ships. Bliss has a casino smoking room.
The best trained personnel are used for these new ships, so service is very good in both cases. We found our cabin attendant to be better on the Edge.
The Magic Carpet on Edge
This novel feature is only on the Edge and rides on the starboard side with capability to position at levels 2, 5, 14, and 16. Its primary function seems to be a tender disembarkation station from deck 2. Since we had no tender stops on this cruise, we did not see it in action. The night we dined in Raw on 5 in port, it was positioned next to us. Very few guests used it since it was windy. It is designed to serve as a bar or eatery.
The Edge elevators are larger, faster, and more responsive.
Both ships have a WiFi which they offer packages to use. Both offer an unlimited time option for one or more devices. The Edge package costs one-third that of Bliss and is faster.
Upgrading the Classic beverage package to Premium on Celebrity made it comparable to NCL. However, water and cappuccino beverages were extra on Bliss. We enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, and both packages allow a $15 cap. All cocktails are included. Edge offered some notable quality bottles of wines at a big discount for dinner.
Process worked well on Bliss, but we were going to a parked car at Miami to drive to next destination. Customs checkout worked well. They used facial recognition from our passport to check us through. Celebrity offered a first for us: valet luggage handling for $25 a bag. We put out our luggage the night before tagged with airport and flight #. We never saw it again until we reached our final destination of Houston. We highly recommend using this service. We walked off the ship carrying only our handheld bags. It was raining hard when we disembarked Edge at 8 am and we didn’t have to wheel the big luggage to the taxi stand 2 blocks away.
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