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I was on the Panama Canal cruise in May 2018 as the ship was being moved over to the Pacific side of the world in order to do Alaska cruises this summer. This was my sixth cruise with Norwegian, and my 44th cruise overall. Even though I've done more cruises with Carnival than any other cruise line, in recent years I've come to think of Norwegian as my cruise line of choice. It really seems to be the best fit for me, for numerous reasons which I'll try to expand on here. I was really impressed with the design of the Norwegian Bliss, and noticed numerous improvements over her sisters... Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, and Norwegian Breakaway. The most important improvement was the addition of the observation lounge at the front of the ship, and moving the buffet up to the front of the ship, too. This provides two fantastic indoor spaces where you can sit and enjoy great views ahead of the ship. We spent a LOT of time at these areas at the front of the ship, enjoying drinks, food, and fantastic views, without dealing with wind or any other kind of weather. The way NCL put a variety of comfortable seating in the observation lounge was absolutely brilliant. There is everything from chairs to couches and even super-comfortable loungers. Whoever designed the observation lounge hit a grand slam home run with this one. My only suggestion for future NCL ships would be to add a staircase at the very front of the ship, between the observation lounge and the buffet dining area. We frequently could not find an available table anywhere in the entire buffet restaurant and had to either settle for a table outside near the pool or down one level in the observation lounge. A staircase at the very front of the ship, connecting the observation lounge and the buffet restaurant, would lessen the seating shortage at the buffet restaurant. Another great improvement over the previous generation of ships was the addition of the go-kart racetrack, which really was a lot of fun. Some people complain about the $7 charge to ride the go-karts, and cite it as an example of nickel-and-diming by NCL. But I completely disagree, and understand that the small fee is necessary to prevent huge long lines that would occur if the go-kart were available at no extra charge. If I were in charge, I think the fee might be $5 instead of $7, and there would be no fee for Haven guests. Speaking of The Haven, even though I wasn't staying in The Haven on this particular cruise, I did get a tour... and I like the changes they've made over the previous generation of ships. The two-level lounge with views forward is a brilliant improvement. There were also some really nice improvements made to The Haven Sun Deck, including an improved arrangement for loungers and daybeds, and a really cool set of bar stools that looks over the bow of the ship and has spectacular views. I love the waterslides on Norwegian Bliss. There's only one vertical-drop waterslide, compared to two on the previous generation of ships... but one is enough... and there is a really cool waterslide where you sit on an inner tube and get a very gentle but fun ride that won't scare anyone, but everyone will enjoy. The vertical-drop waterslide is only for thrill seekers... it will scare the heck out of you, but it's also a lot of fun. Of all 44 cruises I've been on, the food and dining on Norwegian Bliss was the best match for my tastes. I've never enjoyed cruise ship food more than I did during this cruise. Not only was the buffet excellent, especially the breakfasts, which were the best I've ever had on a cruise ship... but I also enjoyed several good dinners in the Manhattan Room (one of several main dining rooms onboard, at no extra charge)... as well as the wide variety of specialty restaurants, including a couple of new ones that the previous generation of ships did not have. The best new specialty restaurant was Q, which is the Texas smokehouse. I loved the food I had at Q, and I hope this restaurant finds its way on to other NCL ships. Fantastic idea, perfectly executed. Well done, NCL! When I first heard they eliminated the Brazilian steakhouse in favor of a whole new restaurant idea, I was disappointed. I used to love the Brazilian steakhouses on the previous generation of ships. But Q was even better. I also enjoyed my meal at Los Lobos, the new Mexican food concept. Mexican food is so popular in California, where I live, that I'm glad to see NCL is starting to embrace it. They do need to take it even further, though... adding a Mexican station in their buffet at every lunch and dinner. I don't think NCL fully understands the popularity of Mexican food, but Los Lobos is a good step in the right direction. I also had good meals in La Cucina, Cagneys, and Margaritaville. Be aware that Cagneys is the most popular and that it's nearly impossible to get a reservation there unless you make your reservation from home, before the cruise. If you expect to just board the ship and then make a reservation at Cagneys, you will be disappointed. I love the idea of Margaritaville, but I think NCL needs to make a few adjustments. The extra fee they charge to eat there is WAY too high, and therefore the restaurant is under utilized. In other words, there are an awful lot of empty tables... which is a big waste, considering how overcrowded the buffet is. I know that it would not work to have no additional charge at Margaritaville... it would get too crowded... but they need to lower the extra charge significantly until they find the price point that will fill those seats at Margaritaville. Right now, it's just a waste of potential that there are so many empty seats there. Something that really surprised me during our cruise was how good the Internet connection was for downloading and uploading files. I create videos for YouTube, and normally I have to wait until I'm home to upload cruise videos... because the upload speeds on most cruise ships are dismally slow. But on Norwegian Bliss, I was uploading gigantic video files in a matter of a couple of minutes. I had never seen anything like that, even on Royal Caribbean, which uses an entirely different (and superior) kind of satellite network than all the other cruise lines do. Royal Caribbean's use of the O3B network gives them very low ping times, which means very little latency in the Internet connection, which means that when you use the Internet it feels very fast and responsive to your clicks. The system Norwegian uses doesn't offer the low latency and responsiveness that Royal Caribbean's system uses, but what it does offer is extremely fast upload and download speeds. So as you click things, it doesn't really respond that quickly to your clicks, but once you start it doing a big upload or download, that occurs extremely fast. That's great for someone like me who uploads and downloads big files. However, in order to take advantage of that, I did have to purchase the most expensive Internet plan that NCL offered, which cost $30 per day. Other lower priced plans are available, but they are limited to having access to only certain sites. For example, on the lower priced plans you CAN post to Facebook and Instagram, but not to YouTube. Also, the speeds are throttled... so even though NCL's network has tons of bandwidth, you don't get full advantage of it on the lower priced plans. On the $30 per day plan, I was quite impressed, though! So, if you absolutely need high speed Internet during your vacation, for some business reason, the $30 per day plan is the one that offers the super fast speeds needed for video conferencing and video uploads. Another thing that really impressed me about this cruise was how experienced and competent the crew was. NCL must have cherry picked their best crew members from the rest of their fleet to staff this new ship. These folks all seemed to really know what they were doing, even though this ship had just come out of the shipyard. Earlier this year, I did a cruise on the MSC Seaside, and at the time of my cruise the MSC Seaside staff had already had something like 6 or 7 previous cruises to work out some of the kinks in the learning curve... yet I still witnessed numerous examples of things that the crew just was not good at yet, and needed more time to learn and improve upon. On Norwegian Bliss, there had basically only been one previous cruise... the transatlantic... before our Panama Canal cruise. Yet this crew was impressive in how well they did everything. If I hadn't known it was really only their second cruise on this ship, I never would have known it from the crew's behavior. They seemed to know exactly what they were doing, and they performed extremely well. After 44 cruises, I can tell when things are going well and when they are not, and this crew did everything very well. Bravo! Embarkation was among the many smooth operations I witnessed... and I was absolutely FLABBERGASTED by how smooth the self assist disembarkation went. I had never seen any disembarkation go that smoothly in all of my cruises. The only reason I can think of to explain how that happened was that perhaps, since it was a 15-day cruise and a much older-than-usual group of passengers, there must have been far fewer passengers doing self assist disembarkation than usual, and more requiring the full service disembarkation. Because when we walked off the ship with all of our luggage, it was completely un-crowded and we made the quickest disembarkation we have ever made from a cruise ship. Entertainment was also excellent on the ship. I like the shows and all the music they had. I already mentioned that cruise I did a few months earlier on the MSC Seaside. Entertainment on that ship was a joke. I hated the entertainment on that ship. It was SO much better on Norwegian Bliss. Where MSC seemed to be trying to do their entertainment the cheapest way possible, it sure looked to me like Norwegian spent a ton of money on the various musical acts and other entertainers for this ship. There was such a large variety of entertainment acts... a little something for everyone... even something you almost never see on a cruise ship... a country music band. Not a cover band from the Phillipines trying to sing country songs with an accent... a genuine American country music band that was actually pretty darned good. And there was a cover band from the Phillipines, and a soul/Motown group, and a female headliner performing with the ship's band, and a female singer/comedian that was kind of like Weird Al on estrogen, and a Beatles tribute band, and a full-length broadway-style show about the Four Seasons, and more. It was impressive... how much money and effort NCL put in to entertainment on this ship. The comparison to what I saw on MSC Seaside made me laugh... NCL did such a better job at keeping me entertained! If you ever happen to do a Panama canal cruise, be sure to spend a lot of time looking in the water when the ship is off the coast of the southern portion of Mexico. I'm not talking about the Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta part of Mexico... I'm talking about the area much further south, such as near Acapulco, and even farther south than that. When your ship is in that area, keep an eye on the water. You will see an incredible amount of sea life such as turtles and sting rays... much more than you'll ever see on a Caribbean cruise or even a Mexican Riviera cruise. For the entire day we cruised off the coast off southern Mexico, we spent time on our balcony looking at the water, and we literally saw hundreds of green sea turtles. If you've sailed on previous NCL ships, you will notice that they've continued with their tradition of building an excellent thermal suite within the spa. It's one of my favorite features on NCL ships, and I always try to book a spa cabin or a Haven Spa Suite so that I'll have full access to the thermal suite at no additional charge. On the previous generation of NCL ships, the thermal suite was at the front of the ship. On this new ship, it's at the aft end, with a beautiful view of what's behind the ship. For this particular cruise, since it was 15-days and also since it was a brand new ship, the price of a Haven Spa Suite was just out of my reach... so I booked a spa mini suite instead. I can definitely recommend it! A mini suite gives you a much large bathroom and shower than you get in a regular balcony cabin... and the difference between a cramped shower and a shower roomy enough for two people makes a huge difference to me in how much I enjoy my overall cruise experience. I hate starting the day with a shower in a tiny, cramped shower! If you can afford a Haven Spa Suite, you really should go that way, though! They've made the Haven Spa Suites much bigger on this ship than they were on the previous generation. So, I give Norwegian Bliss my highest recommendation! This is the cruise ship you should sail on, if you want to see what the state-of-the-art looks like in cruise ship design. Since it's the newest ship in the fleet, NCL is charging the highest prices for the privilege of cruising on this ship. I thought it was worth it, but if money is tight for you, you may want to consider Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, or Norwegian Breakaway instead.

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Norwegian Bliss Cruise Review by Spaniel Lover

11 people found this helpful
Trip Details
I was on the Panama Canal cruise in May 2018 as the ship was being moved over to the Pacific side of the world in order to do Alaska cruises this summer.

This was my sixth cruise with Norwegian, and my 44th cruise overall. Even though I've done more cruises with Carnival than any other cruise line, in recent years I've come to think of Norwegian as my cruise line of choice. It really seems to be the best fit for me, for numerous reasons which I'll try to expand on here.

I was really impressed with the design of the Norwegian Bliss, and noticed numerous improvements over her sisters... Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, and Norwegian Breakaway.

The most important improvement was the addition of the observation lounge at the front of the ship, and moving the buffet up to the front of the ship, too. This provides two fantastic indoor spaces where you can sit and enjoy great views ahead of the ship. We spent a LOT of time at these areas at the front of the ship, enjoying drinks, food, and fantastic views, without dealing with wind or any other kind of weather. The way NCL put a variety of comfortable seating in the observation lounge was absolutely brilliant. There is everything from chairs to couches and even super-comfortable loungers. Whoever designed the observation lounge hit a grand slam home run with this one.

My only suggestion for future NCL ships would be to add a staircase at the very front of the ship, between the observation lounge and the buffet dining area. We frequently could not find an available table anywhere in the entire buffet restaurant and had to either settle for a table outside near the pool or down one level in the observation lounge. A staircase at the very front of the ship, connecting the observation lounge and the buffet restaurant, would lessen the seating shortage at the buffet restaurant.

Another great improvement over the previous generation of ships was the addition of the go-kart racetrack, which really was a lot of fun. Some people complain about the $7 charge to ride the go-karts, and cite it as an example of nickel-and-diming by NCL. But I completely disagree, and understand that the small fee is necessary to prevent huge long lines that would occur if the go-kart were available at no extra charge. If I were in charge, I think the fee might be $5 instead of $7, and there would be no fee for Haven guests.

Speaking of The Haven, even though I wasn't staying in The Haven on this particular cruise, I did get a tour... and I like the changes they've made over the previous generation of ships. The two-level lounge with views forward is a brilliant improvement. There were also some really nice improvements made to The Haven Sun Deck, including an improved arrangement for loungers and daybeds, and a really cool set of bar stools that looks over the bow of the ship and has spectacular views.

I love the waterslides on Norwegian Bliss. There's only one vertical-drop waterslide, compared to two on the previous generation of ships... but one is enough... and there is a really cool waterslide where you sit on an inner tube and get a very gentle but fun ride that won't scare anyone, but everyone will enjoy. The vertical-drop waterslide is only for thrill seekers... it will scare the heck out of you, but it's also a lot of fun.

Of all 44 cruises I've been on, the food and dining on Norwegian Bliss was the best match for my tastes. I've never enjoyed cruise ship food more than I did during this cruise. Not only was the buffet excellent, especially the breakfasts, which were the best I've ever had on a cruise ship... but I also enjoyed several good dinners in the Manhattan Room (one of several main dining rooms onboard, at no extra charge)... as well as the wide variety of specialty restaurants, including a couple of new ones that the previous generation of ships did not have.

The best new specialty restaurant was Q, which is the Texas smokehouse. I loved the food I had at Q, and I hope this restaurant finds its way on to other NCL ships. Fantastic idea, perfectly executed. Well done, NCL! When I first heard they eliminated the Brazilian steakhouse in favor of a whole new restaurant idea, I was disappointed. I used to love the Brazilian steakhouses on the previous generation of ships. But Q was even better.

I also enjoyed my meal at Los Lobos, the new Mexican food concept. Mexican food is so popular in California, where I live, that I'm glad to see NCL is starting to embrace it. They do need to take it even further, though... adding a Mexican station in their buffet at every lunch and dinner. I don't think NCL fully understands the popularity of Mexican food, but Los Lobos is a good step in the right direction.

I also had good meals in La Cucina, Cagneys, and Margaritaville. Be aware that Cagneys is the most popular and that it's nearly impossible to get a reservation there unless you make your reservation from home, before the cruise. If you expect to just board the ship and then make a reservation at Cagneys, you will be disappointed.

I love the idea of Margaritaville, but I think NCL needs to make a few adjustments. The extra fee they charge to eat there is WAY too high, and therefore the restaurant is under utilized. In other words, there are an awful lot of empty tables... which is a big waste, considering how overcrowded the buffet is. I know that it would not work to have no additional charge at Margaritaville... it would get too crowded... but they need to lower the extra charge significantly until they find the price point that will fill those seats at Margaritaville. Right now, it's just a waste of potential that there are so many empty seats there.

Something that really surprised me during our cruise was how good the Internet connection was for downloading and uploading files. I create videos for YouTube, and normally I have to wait until I'm home to upload cruise videos... because the upload speeds on most cruise ships are dismally slow. But on Norwegian Bliss, I was uploading gigantic video files in a matter of a couple of minutes. I had never seen anything like that, even on Royal Caribbean, which uses an entirely different (and superior) kind of satellite network than all the other cruise lines do. Royal Caribbean's use of the O3B network gives them very low ping times, which means very little latency in the Internet connection, which means that when you use the Internet it feels very fast and responsive to your clicks. The system Norwegian uses doesn't offer the low latency and responsiveness that Royal Caribbean's system uses, but what it does offer is extremely fast upload and download speeds. So as you click things, it doesn't really respond that quickly to your clicks, but once you start it doing a big upload or download, that occurs extremely fast. That's great for someone like me who uploads and downloads big files. However, in order to take advantage of that, I did have to purchase the most expensive Internet plan that NCL offered, which cost $30 per day. Other lower priced plans are available, but they are limited to having access to only certain sites. For example, on the lower priced plans you CAN post to Facebook and Instagram, but not to YouTube. Also, the speeds are throttled... so even though NCL's network has tons of bandwidth, you don't get full advantage of it on the lower priced plans. On the $30 per day plan, I was quite impressed, though! So, if you absolutely need high speed Internet during your vacation, for some business reason, the $30 per day plan is the one that offers the super fast speeds needed for video conferencing and video uploads.

Another thing that really impressed me about this cruise was how experienced and competent the crew was. NCL must have cherry picked their best crew members from the rest of their fleet to staff this new ship. These folks all seemed to really know what they were doing, even though this ship had just come out of the shipyard. Earlier this year, I did a cruise on the MSC Seaside, and at the time of my cruise the MSC Seaside staff had already had something like 6 or 7 previous cruises to work out some of the kinks in the learning curve... yet I still witnessed numerous examples of things that the crew just was not good at yet, and needed more time to learn and improve upon. On Norwegian Bliss, there had basically only been one previous cruise... the transatlantic... before our Panama Canal cruise. Yet this crew was impressive in how well they did everything. If I hadn't known it was really only their second cruise on this ship, I never would have known it from the crew's behavior. They seemed to know exactly what they were doing, and they performed extremely well. After 44 cruises, I can tell when things are going well and when they are not, and this crew did everything very well. Bravo! Embarkation was among the many smooth operations I witnessed... and I was absolutely FLABBERGASTED by how smooth the self assist disembarkation went. I had never seen any disembarkation go that smoothly in all of my cruises. The only reason I can think of to explain how that happened was that perhaps, since it was a 15-day cruise and a much older-than-usual group of passengers, there must have been far fewer passengers doing self assist disembarkation than usual, and more requiring the full service disembarkation. Because when we walked off the ship with all of our luggage, it was completely un-crowded and we made the quickest disembarkation we have ever made from a cruise ship.

Entertainment was also excellent on the ship. I like the shows and all the music they had. I already mentioned that cruise I did a few months earlier on the MSC Seaside. Entertainment on that ship was a joke. I hated the entertainment on that ship. It was SO much better on Norwegian Bliss. Where MSC seemed to be trying to do their entertainment the cheapest way possible, it sure looked to me like Norwegian spent a ton of money on the various musical acts and other entertainers for this ship. There was such a large variety of entertainment acts... a little something for everyone... even something you almost never see on a cruise ship... a country music band. Not a cover band from the Phillipines trying to sing country songs with an accent... a genuine American country music band that was actually pretty darned good. And there was a cover band from the Phillipines, and a soul/Motown group, and a female headliner performing with the ship's band, and a female singer/comedian that was kind of like Weird Al on estrogen, and a Beatles tribute band, and a full-length broadway-style show about the Four Seasons, and more. It was impressive... how much money and effort NCL put in to entertainment on this ship. The comparison to what I saw on MSC Seaside made me laugh... NCL did such a better job at keeping me entertained!

If you ever happen to do a Panama canal cruise, be sure to spend a lot of time looking in the water when the ship is off the coast of the southern portion of Mexico. I'm not talking about the Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta part of Mexico... I'm talking about the area much further south, such as near Acapulco, and even farther south than that. When your ship is in that area, keep an eye on the water. You will see an incredible amount of sea life such as turtles and sting rays... much more than you'll ever see on a Caribbean cruise or even a Mexican Riviera cruise. For the entire day we cruised off the coast off southern Mexico, we spent time on our balcony looking at the water, and we literally saw hundreds of green sea turtles.

If you've sailed on previous NCL ships, you will notice that they've continued with their tradition of building an excellent thermal suite within the spa. It's one of my favorite features on NCL ships, and I always try to book a spa cabin or a Haven Spa Suite so that I'll have full access to the thermal suite at no additional charge. On the previous generation of NCL ships, the thermal suite was at the front of the ship. On this new ship, it's at the aft end, with a beautiful view of what's behind the ship.

For this particular cruise, since it was 15-days and also since it was a brand new ship, the price of a Haven Spa Suite was just out of my reach... so I booked a spa mini suite instead. I can definitely recommend it! A mini suite gives you a much large bathroom and shower than you get in a regular balcony cabin... and the difference between a cramped shower and a shower roomy enough for two people makes a huge difference to me in how much I enjoy my overall cruise experience. I hate starting the day with a shower in a tiny, cramped shower! If you can afford a Haven Spa Suite, you really should go that way, though! They've made the Haven Spa Suites much bigger on this ship than they were on the previous generation.

So, I give Norwegian Bliss my highest recommendation! This is the cruise ship you should sail on, if you want to see what the state-of-the-art looks like in cruise ship design. Since it's the newest ship in the fleet, NCL is charging the highest prices for the privilege of cruising on this ship. I thought it was worth it, but if money is tight for you, you may want to consider Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway, or Norwegian Breakaway instead.
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Cabin Review

Spa Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin M9 15210
I loved having access to the thermal suite within the spa, at no additional charge. I also loved that the mini suite offers a much larger bathroom than a regular balcony cabin has. You have double sinks instead of a single sink, and instead of a small, cramped shower, you have a shower big enough for two people to share.
Deck 15 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins