The Norwegian Bliss began her life at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany on October 28, 2016. NCL took delivery of their newest Breakaway Plus ship in April 2018 and a month and a half later, she ... Read More
The Norwegian Bliss began her life at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany on October 28, 2016. NCL took delivery of their newest Breakaway Plus ship in April 2018 and a month and a half later, she christened on May 30, 2018 in Seattle by Godfather Elvis Duran. We were ready and excited to be on her maiden voyage to Alaska and the glaciers on June 2, 2018. Our live post with Freestyle Dailies, restaurant menus, shore excursions, and ship photos can be found at https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2641186.
Dawes Glacier, Alaska
Victoria, British Columbia
TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION
On the morning of the cruise, we dropped off our rental car at a downtown office, a few blocks from the port. Although there were several ships in port that day, our car rental shuttle was filled with guests heading to the brand new Norwegian Bliss. Our driver was great, taking us several blocks beyond the traffic jams trying to get down to the harbor. As we approached the terminal, it did not appear that any of the $50 million in terminal refurbishments had been spent on the drop-off/pick-up area. Our driver expertly got us close to the curb (not easy at the Bell Street terminal) and got our bags on the curb for us.
Several weeks before our cruise, NCL had snail mailed luggage tags and a letter warning us of the potential of drop off congestion at the port. We were specifically warned that only union workers could handle luggage, and that there could be lines for people without pre-tagged bags. There were few porters on the curb. Instead, there were “bag check” tents sent up with the union port workers sitting behind tables accepting luggage. After dropping off our bags, we walked around the outside of the terminal checking out the Bliss before joining the line to get into the terminal.
Security was fast and efficient. Check-in was very small with limited waiting room seating. We had provided credit card information during on-line check-in, so the check-in process was simply scanning passports, which were used for the ship’s security photos also (vs. the webcam photos) and getting our keys. The agents ran out of boarding group number cards and the “checkers” at the doors to the gangway could not figure out what to do with Platinum priority boarders.
We were in cabin 15782, a M9 Spa Mini-Suite. The cabin was conveniently located just down the hall from forward elevator lobby and the Observation Lounge, so it was easy to stop by for a snack or a drink on the way to/from our cabin. BUT, the designers of the Bliss kinda forgot that the Spa has been moved to the rear of the ship (not the front like on other Breakaway-class ships). Normally the spa rooms are located near the stairwell leading up to the Thermal Suite. On the Bliss (and now the Encore), the spa rooms are at the opposite end of the ship.
Spa mini-suites are a regular mini suite room. We always get a mini suite on Breakaway-class ships for the larger bathrooms and oversized waterfall shower with jets. Since the room is a spa room, it came with Bvlgari amenities (used in the Haven suites). The balcony was tiny with barely enough space for 2 chairs and a very small table, which is typical for NCL’s Breakaway-class ships.
Capacity: 4004 guests
Max Capacity: 4992
This Sailing: 4700 guests (a full house!)
Manhattan Room seats 560
Taste/Savor seats: 566
Garden Café sets 840
The Local seats 199
Observation Lounge seats 215
Margaritaville seats 140
Food Republic seats 90
Q seats 214
Ocean Blue seats 106
Los Lobos seats 170
Cagney’s seats 142
Tappanyaki seats 104
Le Bistro seats 84
La Cucina seats 154
Bliss Theater seats 876
Casino has 25 tables and 310 slots
Number of Staterooms
Haven Owners Suites: 2
Haven 2 Bedroom: 24
Haven Courtyard: 24
Haven Aft: 14
Haven Forward: 10
Haven Spa: 6
Spa Mini Suites: 20
Mini Suites: 288
Spa Balcony: 28
Ocean View: 111
Humidor Cigar Lounge
Spice H20 (starboard)
Casino (for active players)
Haven Deck 19
Garden Café – Always a great selection of ethic foods and specials of the day. The forward portion of the buffet seating shares the 2-story forward-facing picture windows with the Observation Lounge (that’s where we went to sit and eat daily). Beautiful 270 degree views of Alaska. Not to be missed! Watch the dailies to see what the specials of the day are in the Garden Café and The Local. There is outside seating (which is normally less crowded) for the buffet. There are heaters in the ceilings keeping the outside seating area nice and toasty.
Food Republic – Offers a great variety of Asian and worldwide small plates. The ship features the new menu (post separation of NCL from the Pubbelly Boys). The restaurant has limited lunch hours, so get there right at opening to get a window seat and to get your orders in first.
The Local – Offers 24 hours dining. NCL has tried to create a same-but-different pub-grub menu to distance themselves from O’Sheehan’s and the Kevin Sheehan era. Always full and very popular. The Local offers nightly specials (watch the Freestyle Daily) and a great place to grab a bite to eat and look down on the goings on in the Atrium.
Cagney’s – We always love a good steak, and Cagney’s is the place to get it. Great atmosphere, sometime can get a little loud. Outside seating was available, but most people avoid the chilly evenings on our June cruise. The seven layer cake is our favorite dessert.
Ocean Blue – What a change. The menu has been totally revamped compared to other ships in the fleet. Lobsters and king crab legs have disappeared from the menu, and there is a full page of oyster dishes. It kinda combines the features of the Raw Bar from the Breakaway/Getaway with Ocean Blue. The food was good, but disappointing since the menu was so different. The closest lobster dish was a lobster pot pie (what poor way to treat a top-of-the-line seafood product).
Teppanyaki – Always a great entertainment experience. Our chef ensured that everyone had a wonderful dining experience and perfectly cooked food (more than anyone could eat). Juggling eggs, flying food, all part of the Teppan dining experience. The show alone is worth the price.
Los Lobos – We had the pleasure of having dinner at Los Lobos twice. Lost Lobos replaces Moderno on the Bliss’ sister ship and can be used as a Platinum dinner choice. We started with fresh guacamole made tableside by the waiters. A wide assortment of appetizers, salads, tacos and enchiladas. Generous portions for appetizers and all with wonderful flavors and textures. Entrees are equally good. Followed by some unique desserts. Great Service and great food.
Q – The BBQ was wonderful. Nice flavors and textures (for being prepared on a cruise ship). Q replaces the Supper Club, Illusionarium, and Cirque on the Bliss’ sister ships and can be used as a Platinum dinner choice. The live country music was obnoxiously loud for dinner entertainment. Even when shouting at the top of our voices, it was hard to communicate with the waiters. Loud music is o.k. once the restaurant switches to a showroom after dinner service, but they need to turn down the volume while people are eating.
Margaritaville – We were not willing to pay the cover charge for dinner. We did buzz through to look at the complimentary express buffet serve there each morning. Basically a [small] subset of food 1 deck down I the main buffet. The seating area is not heated, so it can be chilly in the morning.
Observation Lounge – has 3 serving areas with a light breakfast, lunch, and tea time. We just liked stopping by for a quick snack while we enjoyed the magnificent views of Alaska.
Jersey Boys – A Broadway show the chronical the life of Frankie Valli as they formed the group The Four Seasons. A must see (maybe 2 or 3 times). Complimentary. Book a seat at the Bliss Theater Box Office.
¡Havana! – Brings the lively dance and music of 1950 Cuba to the stage. We were expecting more of a high energy Burn the Floor-like dance show. Havana kinda dragged on through a loose story line. It was o.k., but not exactly what we were expecting. Complimentary. Book a seat at the Bliss Theater Box Office.
Canvas by U – If you love a little wine (bring your own – it helps the creativity) and painting, you can create a master piece onboard. 4 sessions where held on this cruise. The sessions are very popular and sell out quickly with a long waiting list. $35 per session. Book a seat at the Bliss Theater Box Office on embarkation day.
Levity Comedy – A good comedy show is always a cruise ship must see. Great cruise-ship humor and the early show was family appropriate. Late shows 18+. Just stay away from the front row of the show room. Also, show up early, there are a lot of “bad” seats on the show room. Complimentary. Book a seat at the Bliss Theater Box Office.
Escape the Big Top – Ever wanted to try an escape room. Solve the puzzles to come up with a magic phrase to break the spell of a deranged magician. You are assigned to a group of 8-10 people (you can bring your own group) and work together to escape in 45 minutes. The session ends when someone solves the mystery, or you hit the 45 minute time limit. Complimentary. Book a seat at the Bliss Theater Box Office – sells out fast!
The Cavern Club – Enjoy the music of the Beatles played by a tribute band. Get there early for a seat, the room fills fast and is standing room only by show time. Complimentary.
Thermal Suite – A wonderful, adult only, hideaway. We spent a couple of hours a day in the saunas, steam room, salt bath, snow room, jacuzzi, and the wonderful hydro therapy pool. Hot stone loungers were a wonderful way to destress after a busy day touristing. Spa tours and weekly passes are sold in the Spa on embarkation day.
Service was top notch. This was the first cruise where the passenger count brought the ship up near maximum. And the crew handled it wonderfully. We are always impressed on how friendly and welcoming the crew on NCL ships are compared to other cruise lines. They are helpful, friendly and go out of their way to make a wonderful cruise experience.
PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS
Ketchikan – Nature Sanctuary, Eagle Center and Totems. We like this tour because it is a easy walk through the rain forest with a naturalist. Lots of beautiful hemlock, spruce and cedar trees. Once you get through the forest, you get up onto a boardwalk through the Eagle Creek estuary. June was early in the season and we missed the salmon running (and the bears that come to lunch). There were a lot of eagles up in the trees. And one bear rummaging through the forest. At the end of the walk, there is a visit to the Raptor Center where we saw rescue eagle and hawk.
Juneau - Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Explorer Cruise. This was the highlight of the entire cruise. Just as the ship is getting to leave port, you jump on the tour boat for a private tour of the glaciers. Warm inside cabin with picture windows all around. Ample outside space for those once-in-a-lifetime photos. The crew did an excellent job looking out for wildlife. We did stopped three time to do some humpback whale watching along the way. We pulled up close to the shore to watch a bear feeding on dandelions (salmon not running yet). Lots of seals on ice flows. And then we were out in the ice fields, up close to the Dawes glacier. The Bliss had to stay back about 5 miles due to the heavy ice in the water. The ice did not bother us, we just maneuvered up to the glacier for some spectacular views and live calving of huge pieces of ice.
Skagway – Yukon Territory Scenic Drive. You can’t come to Alaska without learning about the gold rush and the origins of the cruise ship ports. This is a land tour talking you up the White Pass Trail on the Klondike Highway through the Yukon Territory. Beautiful scenery with continual narration on what it was like to make this crossing during the gold rush. As the tour continues, we crossed into Canada and continue to Spirit Lake for a light buffet lunch of soups, sandwiches, and home baked pies. Lots of beautiful scenery and photo stops. Our minibus was able to make a couple of stops to watch bears along side of the road, feeding on dandelions and berries.
Victoria – Victoria Highlights. The ship arrives late into Victoria, so we decided to do a quick city tour. This was very enjoyable, taking you for a ride through the city to see all of its top sites.
The ship highly encourages the use of the Port Valet which picks up your bags on the last night of the cruise and takes them to the airport and checks them in for you. Disembarkation was disorganized chaos. The shore workers took way too long to offload luggage into the baggage hall (i.e., long after the published availability schedule). That just backed up people in the ship waiting to disembark. Bell Street terminal has always been a nightmare to get in/out of due to the limited space on the curb and having a fully loaded megaship in port for the first time stressed thing until they broke.
We caught the NCL transfer to the airport which, once the bags finally came out, was quick and efficient. The one downside (compared to a taxi) is that they drop you at the bus terminal which is at one end of the terminal. You have to get you and your bags up and down the terminal to your airlines check-in counter.
We were elated to be on the maiden voyage of the Norwegian Bliss to Alaska. The ship is beautiful with the right features for cruising Alaska. The crew did an excellent job and created many fond vacation memories. A Must Do cruise! Read Less