Review of Norwegian Bliss based on its Maiden Voyage - April 21, 2018 12 Day Transatlantic (TA) Cruise
Background: This review is based in part on comparisons with our past experience on 2 Celebrity TA’s, 1 Cunard QM2 TA, 1 Celebrity TP and 2 Celebrity Caribbean Cruises. We have no connection with the travel industry.
At the time of our Bliss TA, starting from Southampton UK on 4/21/18, the ship carried about 2200 passengers - or less than 50 percent of its passenger capacity. Similar to all our other cruises, we had a mid-priced Veranda Mini-Suite room on Deck 10 for which the total cost, including all fees, taxes, mandatory gratuities, ultimate beverage package service charge, etc. was $4053.42. That included an Ultimate Beverage Package (UBP), 250 minutes of internet usage, and $125 of On Board Credit (OBC.)
- The staff is outstanding everywhere, without exception. They lean over backwards to solve problems. I would rate them even higher than our past cruises on other lines.
- The food is very good in the Manhattan room and restaurants using the same menu, such as Savor and Taste. We preferred Taste because it was smaller, quieter and more intimate. The food in the Garden Cafe buffet was also very good.
- The quiet spots in the Deck 15 Observation Lounge are very, very nice, as is the small buffet available there. As the cruise progressed, others discovered this as well and the space began to reach capacity.
- The cabin bathrooms, showers and sinks are wonderful - much better than in the other ships in our comparison.
- The talks on upcoming ports (by Janice Leader) were very detailed and complete, including maps, pictures and history. These were much better than we have seen on other ships which just seem to guide you to jewelry stores.
- The Jersey Boys, Tenors of Rock and Beatles shows were absolutely outstanding. (In contrast, the Havana show team and sets were very good, but they were tied to a completely forgettable musical score.)
- Internet access was good throughout the ship and the speed and delay much better than on the other ships we have been on.
- The Gym is quite good, and open early.
- We enjoyed the short morning Trivia, Origami and food demonstrations in The Atrium. It is also close to Starbucks, whose coffee we preferred to the ships.
Minor Negative Points
- OBC cannot be used for mandatory gratuities as on other lines.
- There are no daytime enrichment talks (on sea days) as opposed to the rich lecture series we have seen on other ships. On our other crossings there were usually 2 morning talks and an afternoon talk or show in the theater on sea days.
- The cabin light scheme, requiring the insertion of our key card before the room lights come on, is cumbersome and unsafe at night. We finally resorted to having one person hold open the cabin door to let in hallway light, while the other person went in to activate the room lights.
- The soap dispensers in the public restrooms are of very poor design. Most people could not figure out how to use them, and by the end of the day many were empty.
- We had numerous billing errors which took several days to sort out.
- Early in the cruise, there was a very noticeable smoke smell on the 8th floor covering the area from the elevators to the Atrium. Smoke was also sucked into the Cavern club when people came in. This got much better as the cruise went on.
- There were no seat covers available in the ladies rooms, as there were on other ships.
- We paid extra for a mini suite, but the available space seemed about the same as a standard Veranda cabin on other ships. Shelf/cabinet space for storage seemed less than on other ships.
- There were no daily world news summary newspapers as on other ships.
- There seemed to be no daily announcements from the bridge giving weather, sea conditions, location and area facts as we have become used to on other lines. The daily event announcements were fairly easy to hear. The art auction announcements were the loudest, most frequent, and most annoying.
Most Important Points
- Even carrying less than 50% of capacity, there was insufficient capacity and excess competition for key events. For example, for evening shows in the main theater (capacity about 870), you needed to line up 30-45 minutes before the show to get a fair seat. At the Cavern Beatles show (which is superb) we arrived 30 minutes early and got standing room only. A few nights later, we arrived 45 minutes early to get a seat. The capacity of that room is only about 250, depending on how many standees can squeeze in.
- The same is true of the better specialty restaurants. There is a very good computerized display in the main hallways that shows dining availability. But if you want to eat at the better restaurants you need to book days in advance or accept a poor time.
- Consider the value of the Ultimate Beverage Package carefully. At its list price, you would have to drink 7 - 8 drinks per day per person to break even. (We chose it is as one of our bundled benefits, so the break-even point might have been lower.) It also added an additional total of $427.20 in mandatory service charges (covering 2 people for 12 days) to our bill. I should have investigated ala-carte pricing or an alternate use of the bundled benefits more closely.
- Consider the useable value of the Specialty Dining Package carefully. You may need to schedule days in advance and may not get in to your desired restaurants.
The Bliss is a beautiful ship with an outstanding staff, and we had a very good cruise.
But we both observed that, even at less than 50% load, there was a competition for resources that we did not like. A cruise should be a relaxing thing and one should not have to worry about lining up early for something. I cannot imagine what this ship would be like at closer to full capacity. Even a major re-thinking of the number of shows and venue sizes leaves the specter of the need for careful advance pre-scheduling for shows and restaurants. This is not like the casual cruising that we have seen on other lines, and the opposite of the promise of Free Style.
Seemed to be same size as Veranda/Balcony class on other ships. Upcharge for Mini-Suite not worth it.
Nice town, easy to walk around. We visited Presidential Garden, about a 30 minute walk from ship.