Norwegian Bliss Cruise Review by hurley7
- Sail Date: July 2018
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Aft-facing Balcony Stateroom
Pre-cruise - Traveled to Seattle (SEATAC) the afternoon before departure and used the light rail rather than UBER/taxi to get downtown. (Some people might have difficulty with the long walk to the train from the luggage pick up area.) This only cost $6, so was a very easy way to get into town. Train was almost full, but still room for my husband and I and 4 small/medium suitcases. Not many people get on between the airport and downtown Seattle so shouldn’t be a problem even if it is almost full when you board the train. Got off the train at Westlake for a short walk to the Mayflower Park Hotel. ($215) Great service at the hotel and great location. Just a few blocks walk to the Public Market, a lot of restaurants and shopping nearby and access to the monorail.
They offer $10/pp? shuttle to the pier. (NCL had given us an option of a "check-in" time, so I selected 9:30 to 10:00 a.m. Should have realized that regardless of what NCL said, there was no way that I would be getting on the ship any earlier than the typical 11:30 - 12:00 time frame.) Because of this, we skipped the shuttle - the earliest they offered was 11:00 a.m.? and we took a cab. Only would have been a few dollars, but the traffic line to drop us off was jammed because of the trucks loaded with ship's supplies trying to turn into port. I believe had we arrived at our usual 11:00 a.m. time, these trucks would not have caused as much of a problem, but am not sure about this. We ended up getting out of the cab 1 block north and walking the last block to the Terminal.
Terminal - different than anything we had experienced. NCL reps didn't seem to be very organized (maybe still too focused on getting people off the ship.) Looked around for porters (there are none!) and asked three NCL staff where to drop off luggage. Finally got a straight answer and was directed to the far south end of the terminal (perhaps where our taxi driver would have dropped us off?) You walk a short distance and take your luggage up to the door yourself and hand it directly to the staff loading the carts to be put on the ship. This might be a Seattle Port issue and not an NCL issue, but much prefer dropping my bags right at curbside as in my other cruises. 9:30 a.m. - Once inside the terminal, check-in was extremely quick, but we were then sent to a waiting room to sit for two hours. Was assigned Group 5, even though we were some of the first people there. (Probably, Haven, Suites, Latitudes Higher level, and Handicap groups ahead of us.) Boarding started for our group at 11:30 a.m. and we were on the ship in minutes.
Handicap room (assigned to us randomly) 9924 was huge with a big balcony. Room steward was great, just one of those types that you never saw. I missed interacting with him, but he kept the room clean and responded to all of my notes. You get pool towels in the room - can check out blankets on the pool deck to use on your balcony.
First Day – First experience with staff members that didn’t have the correct information. Unfortunately, not the last. Asked 3 or 4 staff members where we could sign up for the Race Track and Laser Tag. Was given incorrect information several times and finally found our way to one of the Kiosks located near the elevators. A few "seasoned" travelers standing there with lists in hand, booking their activities for the week. We had booked specialty restaurants and main shows online almost 90 days before, but you had to book the Comedy Shows, Laser Tag, and Race Track at the Kiosks. Talked to quite a few disappointed families on board that did not know to book the minute they boarded and to board early. By sail away, most, if not all of the reservations for the week were full.
Make this a priority, especially if your kids are looking forward to those activities.
The Garden Cafe (Buffet) was a madhouse, as expected on embarkation day, ate at “The Local” - great food all week and good choice when other venues are crowded.
Talked to several large groups/families - they had problems all week and were never able to find a seat in the Garden Cafe. Had to eat all of their meals in the dining room due to no tables being available, and no seating for larger groups. This was one area where I think NCL is overwhelmed by the number of people on the ship. RCCL (ALLURE) always seemed to be able to find a seat.
Entertainment - Did not book the Comedy Shows right away. After the opening night preview show, where they presented a short preview of each comedian and show, we tried to book the Comedy Shows, but it was too late. The Comedy Shows always had a huge "standby" line and we never were able to get into those - think the venue might be too small for the number of people on the ship. Though the Main Theater is only one level, the "standby" lines in the main theater seemed to always be able to accommodate people because of "no shows." Enjoyed "Jersey Boys" but "Havana" was only so-so, a lot of people left early. (Very comfortable seating in the theater!)
Cavern Club - VERY POPULAR - "Siglo" group plays covers, and was actually better than the Beatles impersonators. Unfortunately - very small venue - standing room only for every show and uncomfortably crowded. Don't know how early you would have to get there to enjoy the music - maybe an hour? Hope that NCL moves these to a larger location or expands the venue if possible.
Typical Cruise Director run game shows, etc. People seemed to enjoy these quite a bit. This did crowd the Atrium area quite a bit. Deal or No Deal, etc. Played the "Escape" game one day - Teams of 10 people, 45 minutes, was a lot of fun. You solve puzzles to figure out a solution to the game. This was held in the "Q" restaurant - large venue, rarely full for the country music band, maybe they should move the Cavern Club in here.
Ports - Always smooth disembarkation at the ports - NCL does a great job with this.
Shore Excursions -
Ketchikan - Rib Boat - very rough ride - more than expected because of the sea conditions - (take that into consideration if you choose this.) Tour operator threw fish to some eagles and they dived down right next to the boat. Very exciting. Didn't realize that eagles were going to become as common as pigeons by the end of the trip. ha ha Didn't see any other wildlife, but still had fun and enjoyed the scenery. Thought the prices were better at this port than the others, but very little time to shop/sightsee because of the excursions and short port times.
Juneau - Mendenhall Glacier Canoe - great excursion, approx. a 16 person canoe, paddled to the Mendenhall Glacier and a waterfall. A lot of work, but worth it. Plan to get wet. They have you paddle right near the base of the waterfall - what a rush! Tracy Arm Fiord Cruise - best excursion I've ever done. $249 and worth every penny. You leave the ship as it is leaving port and then rejoin the ship at the glacier later in the evening. You are able to go places that the ship doesn't go, AND get extremely close to the glacier. Saw whales, seals, otters, and was up close and personal to the glacier to see it calving.
Skagway - Chilcoot Eagle Preserve Float - paid as much for this as for the Tracy Arm cruise and it was my least favorite. 45 minute ferry ride, 20 minute van ride, for a short time on the river, then another van ride and ferry ride back to the ship. Saw eagles, but nothing else. (We were too early for the salmon, and hence the bears) Too much travel for too little time on the river.
Victoria - Whale Watching - great excursion - saw a lot of orcas up close.
Guest Services - Had a very hard time communicating with them - on other ships, usually staffed by people that speak very clearly and are good communicators - not the case here. Very strong accents, hard to understand and several people traveling with us given wrong information about luggage, disembarkation, etc. Similar to what we experienced when we first got on the ship. I know they sent their "best" to man this new ship, so this was very confusing to me.
Also given wrong information about access to the bow – was told by three crew members to use deck 8 doors forward, but this is only open on Juneau/Glacier cruising.
Specialty Restaurants - Had the Dining Package - picked Teppanyaki - great experience with our table chef and very good food. Other tables did not seem to be enjoying as much; Cagney's - good meal, not fantastic; Cucina's - good meal, not fantastic. Not the tip-top service that I would have expected at these, but still good service except for getting drinks refilled.
Main Dining Rooms - good food at all three - a notch up from NCCL in my opinion. Service was a notch down. I guess I miss the rapport with the same waiter every night. Did enjoy being able to walk in anytime that we wanted. Drink service was poor at ALL restaurants, including specialty, if you were not drinking alcohol. Almost never asked if we wanted more water, tea, etc.
Casino - GREAT having a non-smoking casino AND my husband won a cruise! Slots seemed a little "looser" than RCCL. VERY FEW waiters offering drink service.
Race Track - I posted a "warning" about this on the NCL boards - too much to post here.
Laser Tag - Staff seemed disorganized and it took 45 minutes to check in, but really enjoyed the session, even though it was only 2 - 5 minute? sessions.
Safety/Cleanliness - Haven't been on RCCL in two years, but NCL sure seems to have taken the cleanliness/hand washing to a whole new level. Never have been sprayed with sanitizer as much as I have on this ship. Also the safety drill was extremely thorough - a step up from RCCL in my opinion.
Photography – Compared to RCCL, VERY FEW photographers roaming around the ship and bothering you to take your picture. This was a plus for me, but might not be for others that enjoy the photo ops.
Disembarkation - Did the Self-Carry because our flight was too early to take advantage of the Luggage Valet. Off the ship in minutes. Was told that we our flight was too early to book the bus transportation to the airport, but were offered this for $20 each as soon as we disembarked and took advantage of this.
Overall - Spent more than we ever have on another cruise, both for the fare and excursions, but that might be Alaska and not just NCL. A lot of kids onboard, probably because of the waterslides, race track, and laser tag, but unfortunately for them, not very many opportunities to use these venues. Didn't experience as many problems as others with the overcrowding because we stayed on our AFT Balcony a lot. Felt that the Bliss wasn’t really worth the extra money, but still a great trip - will visit Alaska again (maybe a little later when the salmon are running and more opportunity to see bears, etc.. My opinion, NCL has the advantage in dining whenever you want to, and a little better food, but RCCL is better at handling large groups of people onboard, and seems like a "friendlier" cruise overall. Will be cruising NCL on the Escape for our free cruise in November and it will be interesting to compare experiences. Will probably give NCL another try for an interesting itinerary.
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