Norwegian Bliss Cruise Review by SoCalCruisingAddict
- Sail Date: October 2019
- Destination: Mexican Riviera
- Cabin Type: Mid-ship Balcony Stateroom
I’ve been on a lot of ships over the years, with different lines (Carnival, Royal, Princess... and now Norwegian). I’ve been on big ships and on smaller ones. While Carnival isn’t my thing, I’ll always remember “Stan”... one of the waiters in the main dining room. Nicest guy ever. Made my trip. While the food on Royal is consistently bad, I’ll always remember Elvis... an amazing cruise director who made a tiny ship seem larger than life. While Princess can be a bit too bland, I’ll always remember the smiling staff. In fact, the staff on all those ships has always been the highlight. Always smiling. Always cheerful. I’ve learned, long ago, that as feature-rich as a ship might be, it’s the crew that you remember most.
Oh, man. My BFF and I have been DYING to go on the Bliss since it first launched. We watched countless YouTube videos and... were convinced this was the ship to end all ships. My friend had sailed on Norwegian before and raved about the food. So.. we booked a 7-night trip to Mexico.
Just got back and... she was right. The food was solid. We ate in a few of the Specialty places (Teppanyaki, Q, Ocean Blue, and Cagney’s), as well as the others... Manhattan, Taste, Savor. We also ate at The Local quite a bit (great Reuben and chicken wings). Our chef at the Teppanyaki was hilarious (a highlight of the trip) and the food was great (maybe even better than Benihana). Q was a fun spot. Nice brisket and sides. While not a big Country fan, the music was cool; we enjoyed it. We liked the special margarita, too. The lobster at Ocean Blue... oh my. Get it. Worth dining here for this alone. Cagney’s was also excellent, but I think OB is better. Even the food in the main dining areas were consistently good. So, yeah... you’ll enjoy the food on this ship, for sure. No question.
The Bliss is a beautiful ship. Elegant. Modern. You’ll feel like you’re at a 5-star hotel in Vegas. The Observation Lounge, for instance, gave me an Aria vibe (and I love Aria). There’s tons to do, from the go-karts and water slides to “bowling”, miniature golf, the spa, casino, and... all the typical things you’ll find on most ships. The casino is the biggest one I’ve seen (loved the screens at the bar and really appreciated that they set out finger sandwiches late at night).
The shows were terrific (Jersey Boys, Six). A special shout out to Lorna and Dominic in the Manhattan Room for going above and beyond. Lorna had such a great personality and Dominic (supervisor), well... he saved the day after a horrendous experience (more on that in a bit).
I got the Vibe Beach and Thermal Suite passes (go straight to the Social when you board to get the VB pass; $200+). Vibe Beach probably wasn’t worth it only because it was so humid. Thermal Suite... definitely worth it. The bartenders in Vibe Beach were awesome. It was great to have some quiet space, as well (since it is a massively overcrowded ship... as I’ll get to). Their Thermal Suite is far better than anything else at sea (at least on Carnival, Royal, and Princess). In fact, the floor-to-ceiling windows are found all over the ship. It’s incredible, really.
From a design standpoint (excluding the # of staterooms), the Bliss is everything I thought it would be. Such a gorgeous ship. Chaise lounge chairs and leather couches, outdoor bars. In a way, it kind or ruins other ships now. Almost.
I said the food was killer, but I’m afraid the buffet fell short. It’s not that it was bad, per se... but the variety was missing. We were all disappointed, though truth be told... I’m not a buffet guy (if it was like Bacchanal in Vegas, ok... but... my BFF loves them, so... whatever; she hated this one).
Outside of the shows... and a couple decent bands, this ship really needs an entertainer... someone who can do more than just cover, but can reinvent the song and makes it something new (I’m looking at you, Corey... on the Royal Princess; we miss you, pal). They had some piano singers, but... a bit lackluster.
I’ll get to the crowds, next... but if you don’t book your restaurants prior to the cruise (or reserve the go-karts the SECOND you get on the ship; use the screens), good luck finding a spot. With the exception of Food Republic (always available; not a good sign), almost every single restaurant was booked all week. The go-karts were immediately sold out. We couldn’t get into the Cavern Club because... there was no place to sit. We would have loved to have lounged around in the Observation Lounge, but all the chaise loungers were taken.
The bars were cool (especially the outside one at Sugarcane Mojito and Vibe Beach), but they all close pretty early and... too many people. Very disappointing.
Before I get to “The Ugly”, this is more of an observation. There were a TON of kids on the ship... which would have been ok, I suppose... if they didn’t completely swarm it. All day and all night, you’d hear (and see) them running down the halls, the stairs, and even through the casino. Young kids (alone) sitting at The Local bar at 1AM (yeah... 1AM), throwing things at their friends in the atrium. The little kids next to our room (left alone, again) would lean over their balcony to peek into our room... and they could have easily fallen off. There were also teens at Spice H20 (pretty sure it’s “adults only”). We couldn’t believe the staff didn’t intervene. If you are a parent, reading this... please be one. We get that you don’t want to sacrifice your trip, so you want to bring them along... but don’t let your kids go wild on the ship.. or let them stay up into the wee hours of the morning. Don’t mistake the stateroom for a babysitter. Um... ocean outside.
Ok... rant over. Now on to... the really bad stuff.
With the exception of what I said about Lorna and Dominic, the bartenders at the Vibe/etc, (in what was a first... and tremendously shocking)... unfriendly staff was the rule (not the exception. There were five us on the cruise and all five of us agreed that it was universal. You’d rarely see anyone smile. In fact, the opposite... most staff made you feel like you were bothering them (and we are EXTREMELY polite.... always over tipping and thanking people profusely). It was absolutely bewildering. I mentioned Dominic. On our last night, we decided to eat in the Manhattan Room. We ended up at a table with a gentleman I won’t mention by name, but he was rude from the start. We noticed that a couple of the glasses were dirty, so we (politely) asked if he could give us another one. He slammed (yes, slammed) the glass down in front of my BFF. We all looked at each other in amazement, like... “Did that really just happen?” No smile. No greeting. I asked for a glass of wine, but... we all started feeling uneasy about him. Was he going to spit in my wine? I didn’t know (though I felt like he might), so... I quickly canceled the wine. He stared me down, gave a disgusted laugh, and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Now I was convinced. I said no, I’m good... and he kept staring at me... like he wanted to beat the heck out of me. We all knew we were in store for a miserable dining experience, so we told him we lost our appetite (we hadn’t ordered yet) and got up to leave. He just grinned while laughing with another waiter and watched us go. I went straight to Dominic. Dominic asked if we would like another table. We just... we were so disturbed by what had happened (shaking, actually)... that we declined and went down to Taste (or Savor; I forget). We were rattled.
By the way... an interjection. Don’t eat in the Manhattan Room. Eat in Taste/Savor and try to get a window seat. Same menu. Better ambiance. Trust me. So much nicer/intimate.
I don’t know how he did it, but we turned to see Dominic next to our table. He tracked us down. Said he got us a spot at Q, but... we didn’t want to get up and go, again. He asked if we would like a bottle of wine. Point is... he went above and beyond. We’ll always remember him. If you’re reading this, Dominic... thank you, Sir.
From the hostess at Los Lobos who was short with my BFF to, well... almost every single crew encounter... our staff experience was such a negative one. It was like they hated their job. One of the bartenders did open up and... I have a feeling Norwegian isn’t as gracious with the staff as other lines (like being able to use the Wi-Fi to message home)... and I’m sure it doesn’t help that a lot of these passengers are loud, drunk and obnoxious (and I drink). Still, while it’s possible the staff on other ships simply fake it... there was no attempt to do so here. They were not in a good mood.
Now... that leads to my next gripe (and maybe what led to some of the attitude). Passengers on Bliss were ALSO rude, as mentioned. If you’re like me, one of the things you love about cruising are your fellow travelers. Everyone is ALWAYS in a good mood when they’re on a cruise. Greeting each other in hallways and elevators. Just... a relaxed vibe. Not on Bliss. We’d say hi and... nothing. No eye contact. Or.. they’d cut in front of you. We’d see food lying on elevator floors and in stairwells (not only disgusting, but so disrespectful to the staff who have to clean up their mess... like hired help). These were people who were felt entitled. The spa is a great example. There were multiple times where I’d be resting under a “Quiet Zone” sign only to have someone FaceTime their friend with the volume cranked high... or to have people talking like they were in a crowded bar. Hot tub... ok. Quiet Zone area... not ok.
So, rude staff and passengers... no bueno, but is what it is. I chalk it up to WAY too many people (many of them impolite). Everyone is just... overly frustrated (good luck with the elevators, by the way).
If Norwegian is reading this, there are two things you can do, though. First, you need to improve your muster drills. With SO many people crammed into tiny areas to listen, few of us could hear anything (rude people, again) and we certainly couldn’t see. Maybe take a page from the airlines and do a video; force people to watch that and play it everywhere (maybe even in spurts throughout the cruise). Secondly, disembarkation. What a cluster. Everyone was miserable. They had us snake through what felt like the entire ship just to get off, but worse... there was no consistent message from the staff. Some said to wait in the atrium until our color was called. Some said to remain where we were. There were people sitting all over the stairs (pretty sure that’s a fire hazard) and blocking exits on the way out via tiny hallways. It took over an hour to get off the ship. In fact, the disembarkation process, alone, was enough to ruin the trip (and it was our final impression of the Bliss). Old people had to sit down because they couldn’t keep standing. I mean... it would have been comical if it weren’t painful. It smacked of poor planning. Like Norwegian had never done a cruise before. Royal Caribbean has bigger ships with just as many people and their muster drills/disembarkation are smooth.
Would I go on Bliss again? God no. Not unless they’re giving out Haven rooms, in which case... I’d probably live out my entire existence there (well... and the casino/restaurants).
Beautiful ship. Fantastic food. Excellent spa. The go-karts were fun (I got to go the last night... at the last moment), though you’ll have to deal with ignorant jerks who constantly bump and pass (gentlemen... relax; you’re not Mario Andretti; don’t ram kids).
As I said, I’m torn. Princess is probably more my speed, but man... the restaurants on Bliss have kind of ruined it for me. That, and... they have so much to offer. I expect more now. I’ll give Celebrity a shot. Maybe that’s in-between (elegant, good food... but not crowded/rude).
Anyway... hope this was somewhat helpful. I’m done babbling.
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