Cruising is the perfect family vacation as it allows us to have both family time and for our teens to have more “freedom” for activities they enjoy.
The Bliss is a large ship, but it is designed to provide more private spaces. Here are some highlights:
EMBARKING/DISEMBARKING were very easy. We went to the dock earlier than our assigned time and were allowed to board. We disembark on our own, so were off the ship in a matter of minutes at the end of the cruise. We took the NCL shuttle to the airport (book this in advance).
BALCONY CABIN was very spacious for four people, including two teen boys. The space is well designed. We put the coffee service on the top shelf of the closet to give us more countertop space. There is plenty of storage space in the room (even under the coach/convertible bed). I read about bringing heavy-duty magnetic hooks for the walls and am glad I did. Everyone had a hook for their cardkey lanyards and we used them in the bathroom for our toiletry kit and by the balcony door for our binoculars.
FOOD We enjoyed the Garden Café (buffet style) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The variety is astonishing and the quality is excellent. One observation: There are no crab legs offered at any of the buffets (odd for an Alaskan Cruise). Favorites on the buffet: Prime rib, Indian cuisine, Asian Noodle bowls, fresh fruit all the time and the salad bar selections. We went for one dinner at Cagney’s Steak house and the NY Strip Steak and Petit Filet Mignon were outstanding. Friends we were with enjoyed several meals at The Local (no charge, but not a buffet). One of our friends was in a single cabin and she had access to a “Singles Lounge” which was a delightful, quiet space with excellent coffee (expresso, cappuccino, etc.) and snacks. This was a perfect place to get away from the crowds.
OBSERVATION LOUGE on deck 15 was my favorite location on the ship. Designed for Alaska, the floor to ceiling windows and comfortable couches and lounge chairs allow you to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors no matter the weather/temperature. There are groupings of chairs and sofas that give the space a more intimate (less crowded?) feel. A buffet is set up with a limited, but still excellent, selection for breakfast and lunch.
TEENAGERS have access to many activities onboard. Ours enrolled in Entourage (the high school teen club) first thing when we got onboard…and we didn’t see much more of them after that except to sleep and go on excursions. Our boys LOVED Entourage’s activities and met some kids there from around the world they are still in touch with through social media. We had thought the race track and laser tag would be the big draws for them and even considered getting the unlimited race track pass – SO GLAD WE DIDN’T The weather when we were at sea kept both the race track and laser tag facilities closed so our kids didn’t use them at all. Our boys used the arcade and abided by our daily limit with no problem ($10). There is an unlimited pass for the arcade too, but we didn’t get that either.
ENTERTAINMENT was great. Jersey Boys is wonderful – book before you get onboard. We didn’t and were lucky they added an extra show! A delightful surprise was the Liverpool Beatles (tribute band) that played at The Cavern Lounge several night – each show was different (they “age” through the years and play the music from each “era”).
EXCURSIONS were booked mostly through Viator or directly with the tour operator (not NCL) and we were very happy with our selections.
Juneau we did Whale Watch and Mendenhall Glacier Combo with Juneau Tours. First part of our tour was a short hike to see the Mendenhall Glacier and then we boarded a 45-person catamaran for whale watching. We were able to get very close (much closer than on a boat with 250 people) and saw many whales. After our tour we went for crab legs at Tracy’s Crab Shack (delicious) – it is right by the Tram parking lot.
Skagway we had planned a helicopter/dogsled tour directly with Temsco (I had done this excursion in July, 2018 and it is AMAZING. It is expensive and TOTALLY WORTH IT!). Unfortunately, our travel in 2019 was in August and the weather had been too warm and the dogsled camp had be shutdown early. We found other excursions: I took our boys on the Chilkoot Trail Hike and Float Tour (arranged through Viator) and everyone had a great time. We spotted close to 30 Bald Eagles. You should be a good walker for the hike (there is some incline, not much, and the path is well worn and narrow at times, but the guide will help those we need it). My husband and our friends booked a 4x4 tour in the Takhanuk Forest and they really enjoyed the experience and the vistas. Another set of friends booked a bus tour to the Yukon and LOVED it. Their photos of the trip are amazing. Finally, we went to Jewell Gardens to do glassblowing (we arranged this directly with them) and it was a wonderful experience. Best of all, they shipped our creations home so we didn’t have to carry them the rest of the way on the cruise! There is really something for everyone out of Skagway. I will be the one person who will tell you that I don’t think the Yukon train trip is worthwhile. It is too long, too repetitive (a lot of trees) and too much sitting. We had a long day in Skagway so some of us went to the Skagway Brewery for lunch and enjoyed more crab legs and a basket of battered halibut and fish. Try the Spruce Tip Beer!
Ketchikan we had planned to go to the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary (arranged through Viator), but the weather prevented us from docking. Full refund from the tour operator. Having been to Ketchikan before I had hoped to go back to Ketchikan Youth Initiatives (632 Park Avenue) were they sell locally made art - paintings, hangings, birdhouses with Alaska license plate roofs, etc. When you go to Ketchikan, this place is worth a stop for a less touristy gift/memento AND you are supporting the local youth activities. Last time I was in Ketchikan I walked to the Native Culture Museum and the Totem Pole Museum ($6 each or a pass for both for $10). Easy walk, saw bald eagles in the trees, walked by the salmon ladders…this is how I found the Ketchikan Youth Initiative. ALSO, the Ketchikan Fire Department had a vending machine of t-shirts ($25 with a credit card) – BEST souvenir I got my son in 2018 – again, less touristy and it supports the local FD. Unless you have very young children, I would give the Lumberjack Show a pass.
Victoria was supposed to be a very late and short time in port (8 p.m. to midnight) and there weren’t shore excursions offered. Once we were onboard we saw NCL had a trip to Butchart Gardens (this is a MUST SEE in Victoria) and quickly booked it even knowing we would only see the gardens illuminated by lights. However, because we missed Ketchikan they arrived early and NCL extended our tour to include highlights of Victoria and we were able to see the garden in daylight (so much better!). If gardens aren’t your thing (though even our boys were impressed), NCL had a “Bites and Sights” excursion that might be of interest. Note the cruise ships are quite far from the things you will want to do in the city and you will need a cab or other form of transportation to get where you want to go in Victoria. Next time I would like the opportunity to explore Chinatown – it looked fascinating as we drove through on our highlights tour.
This was an amazing vacation for our entire family and we will definitely cruise with NCL again. The Bliss is our teens' favorite ship.
BALCONY CABIN was very spacious for four people, including two teen boys. Queen-size bed by the balcony was comfortable and the boys slept on the convertable bunk beds. The space is well designed. We put the coffee service on the top shelf of the closet to give us more countertop space. There is plenty of storage space in the room (even under the coach/convertable bed). I read about bringing heavy-duty magnetic hooks for the walls and am glad I did. Everyone had a hook for their cardkey lanyards and we used them in the bathroom for our toiletry kit and by the balcony door for our binoculars.
We spent the day before boarding the Bliss going to the Space Needle, seeing the Chihuly Glass Museum and Gardens and wandering around Seattle's Pike's Place Market. Highly recommend all of the above!
First part of our tour was a short hike to see the Mendenhall Glacier and then we boarded a 45-person catamaran for whale watching. We were able to get very close (much closer than on a boat with 250 people) and saw many whales. After our tour we went for crab legs at Tracys Crab Shack (delicious) & it is right by the Tram parking lot.View All 971 Mendenhall Glacier Reviews
First part of our tour was a short hike to see the Mendenhall Glacier and then we boarded a 45-person catamaran for whale watching. We were able to get very close (much closer than on a boat with 250 people) and saw many whales. After our tour we went for crab legs at Tracy Crab Shack (delicious) it is right by the Tram parking lot.View All 906 Whale Watching Reviews
Fun to drive, beautiful vistas!
Did this tour July 2018 and it is AMAZING and totally worth the expense!! I was reluctant to do it at first but it was the highlight of my trip last year. Sooooo, I wanted by family to have the experience this year. Unfortunately, our cruise this year was in August and the summer was do hot that the dogsled camp had to close early and our tour was cancelled.View All 163 Dog Sledding Reviews
Take the SMART bus to get there, Jewell Gardens will drive you back to the ship. Gardens are simple, but pretty. There is a lovely gift store. Glass blowing was fun - we did the design and were greatly aided by the professional who was our guide. Best of all, our ornaments were sent home for us so we didn't have to carry them on the ship.View All 29 Glass Blowing Reviews
Gorgeous views. Van driver was very entertaining and informative.
I did this excursion with two teen boys and all of us had a great time. We spotted close to 30 Bald Eagles. You should be a good walker for the hike (there is some incline, not much, and the path is well worn and narrow at times, but the guide will help those we need it).View All undefined undefined Reviews
The gardens are BEAUTIFUL and a must see when you are in VIctoria. Even our teenage boys liked this excursion.View All 308 Butchart Gardens Reviews
Our day in port was cancelled due to weather
This is not a port where you leave the ship. Instead you stay onboard and the ship rotates completely to give everyone a view of the glacier. We stayed on our balcony, away from the crowds on deck, and enjoyed the view!