Wanting an Alaskan cruise for a family with two six year olds, I chose the Norwegian Bliss sailing from Seattle on June 9, 2019. This was my first cruise on a mega ship and my third cruise to Alaska. The experience was more like living in a budget hotel attached to a shopping mall. There were plenty of activities but most were impossible to book and we had difficulty making restaurant reservations for a party of six. The staff were efficient but indifferent. The itinerary was strange because of the short stays that were either early morning or late in the day except for Skagway. Though no one has confirmed it, I suspect that the sheer number of cruise ships in these ports in the summer has led to assigned time slots preventing several thousand people at a time from overwhelming them.
There were high spots and some good shore excursions. The day cruising Glacier Bay with park rangers aboard narrating was exceptional. We saw whales and glaciers and enjoyed lots of excellent Alaska seafood. There were plenty of opportunities for quality family time. Alaska is still magnificent. All in all, though, the shipboard experience did not enhance this trip and I would opt for a smaller ship with less whistles and bells were I to do it again.
The Ship: The ship itself is newer and very large. It has a two story atrium that has a huge screen and seating on the first floor and a restaurant with bar seating around the edge of the atrium above. It is used for movies, trivia, music and any number of other activities. We found this to be an unpleasant area and avoided it whenever possible. It was very loud and folding chairs were added to the stationary seating for large events. Unfortunately, there are only two elevator banks so that elevators were difficult to get on more often than not and were usually crowded. There were parts of the ship we never saw until debarkation, so take a ship tour if you opt for this ship. We thought the exterior walkway on deck eight with outdoor seating for the many restaurants and bars was a real plus - just not good enough weather to use it most of the time.
Our Cabin: Our cabin is discussed at length below. It was below average in size and storage and required us to move furniture to access the closet and obtain drawer space. The nightstands are literally six inches wide.
Dining: As a party of six, we opted for free dining whenever possible and made reservations in advance when we could. Wait times did not seem long, food was fine, and service was excellent in both Manhattan and Taste dining rooms. We ate one night in the Mexican specialty restaurant and the bill for the six of us was over $150, excluding drinks. Most of the bars are in high traffic areas and the only one we really liked was in the Explorer's Lounge. The buffet was spacious with lots of seating and a variety of choices and the food was good quality. We had room service continental breakfast daily and it was always on time and exactly what we ordered.
Entertainment and Activities: We largely avoided the group activities because of the crowds and cost. Our six year old boy absolutely loved Kids Club and we could barely drag him away. Both children loved the water slides and pool and used them often. The Glacier Bay cruise was exceptionally good with narration by a ranger who boarded the ship. We were grateful for a balcony cabin for that.
Service: Service was efficient but largely indifferent. This is the first cruise ever for me (of 30+) where the stateroom attendant never introduced herself. According to the TV display, her name was "Larry." She did as good a job as she could but it is hard to tuck in flat sheets when the space you have to work in is less than six inches.
Ports and Shore Excursions: Were it not for the ports and shore excursions, I would have rated this experience as below average. We did whale watching and a glacier experience in Juneau, the Lumberjack show and crab feast in Ketchikan and spent a day wandering in Skagway. Alaska is stunning. There were plenty of things for kids to do and good dining and shopping.
Of my three Alaska cruises, I would rate this one the lowest because of the shipboard experience and limited time in ports.
The cabin was smaller than many and seriously lacked storage. The only drawers were under the couch/day bed and were filled with extra bedding. Two of us occupied this cabin and opted for twin beds. With the beds separated, the couch was moved so close to the small closet that it was nearly impossible to access the hanging area. There was no table and the narrow counter area barely accommodated the amenities.
We initially rearranged things by shoving the couch away from the closet up against the six inch wide nightstands and stashing the bedding on a closet shelf so we could use the drawers and this made the cabin manageable.
These cabins are not well insulated for sound. We could hear neighbors talking and once asked them to lower the volume on their television.
We appreciated that the cabin had a coffee maker and mini fridge (barely usable because of the mini bar items stocked there). The bathroom was larger than many and had a nice glass enclosed shower stall.
The rest of the family occupied an interior stateroom on deck 11. With the bunk beds opened and one large bed in the middle, there was barely room to walk.
There is so much to do in Seattle that shore excursions aren’t necessary. We love this city.
We saw lots of whales and had a thoroughly excellent excursion.
We really enjoyed the narration from the ranger who came on board. Rangers were also in the Explorers Lounge but the crowds there stopped us from participating. This was one time we were very happy for a balcony.
We did the Lumberjack show and crab feast. The show was really good for the children and we enjoyed it as well. The crab was fresh, hot and plentiful. The problem was that we were only in port from 7 am to 1 pm and the crowds trying to get back aboard were huge.View All 333 Lumberjack Show Reviews
We spent several hours just walking and enjoying this lovely small town.