Original itinerary was 6-Nights Vancouver-Seattle-Victoria-at sea-San Francisco-at sea-Los Angeles, but we ended up staying in Vancouver for two nights, two days in Victoria, then at sea skipping Seattle-San Francisco-at sea-Los Angeles. If we had known we couldn't even board the ship until after 7:00 pm on the embarkation, and would be staying in Vancouver for two nights, we could have saved three nights pre-boarding hotel bookings trying to adjust our flight for afternoon boarding.
Embarkation at Vancouver Terminal went relatively smooth this time, compare to the last two times, because we didn't even get there until 8:30 pm, and there were no other ships boarding at the same time. First we were told to stand in a very long winding line in the terminal hallway, but when we asked for wheelchair assistance, we were told to go to wheelchair check-in line inside the door, which was very short. From there, check-in and boarding went very quickly and smoothly.
We were traveling with 97-year old mother on wheelchair, but I also needed wheelchair assistance to board, because of my spinal stenosis-intermittent coasting problem. I can push mother on wheelchair on flat ground for a short distance eg., getting around the ship, but not on slopes. Stooped posture holding on to wheelchair, walker, shopping cart etc., lessens the pressure on my spine and makes easier for me to walk. All three of us have Latitude Platinum status, but that doesn't seem to help much getting extra help at check in no matter where we are.
When we boarded NCL Jewel on September 17, 2018 for 19-Day Transpacific to Yokohama from the same terminal, a woman who was in charge of the terminal wheelchair service refused to assign us an additional wheelchair and assistance to push mother's wheelchair to board. We were finally able to board after running into a NCL wheelchair assistance crew member who recognized us from previous May 2018 Yokohama-Vancouver crossing. That was the most distressing embarkation experience for us in the last decade. Well, maybe another distressful and confusing embarkation at Long Beach/Los Angeles.
We took NCL Sun's 5-Day Pacific Costal Vancouver to Los Angeles cruise in 2014, and visited Vancouver, Victoria, Astoria, and Seattle, so we did not do any sightseeing on this trip. We knew our friends in Victoria, Seattle and San Francisco couldn't meet us on the days of visits, so we didn't even go ashore. The highlights of our 2014 cruise were a visit to Astoria, a very charming town with welcoming town folks, lunch at a local restaurant and Colombia River Maritime Museum in town, and a tour of Fort Clatsop/Lewis & Clark National Park.
On this cruise we had dinner at Le Bistro twice, Cagney's once, Los Lobos once and Food Republic once. We wanted to try Q Texas Smokehouse and Ocean Blue, but didn't have enough days. Le Bistro dining room is much smaller, probably 1/3 of the older ships', and too many tables are crammed in. We usually book and eat at Le Bistro on first and last night on board, but this time we had to wait for 1/2 hour the last night, even we had a reservation. Rack of Lamb, Asparagus Salad with Duck, creme brulee and cheese selection were excellent, much better than the last three cruises on Jewel. Porterhouse Steak at Cagney's was also excellent, but huge. Side dishes were very good as well. Actually this was the first time we liked the Cagney's food after a while. Guacamole made at the table was excellent at Los Lobos, but otherwise we can't remember how other items were. I am not sure if prices were justifiable for what were offered on the menu.
In any case it's very difficult to get a table at most specialty restaurants, so it's better to plan ahead and make reservations. We wanted to try La Cucina, to see food and menu had been improved, but couldn't get in.
Moderno had been one of our favorite restaurants on NCL, along with Le Bistro, but it has been removed from Bliss and other newer ships. We miss the menu and quality food offered at Moderno.
Food Republic seems to be an update of Chin Chin, sushi and noodle bar, featuring ethnic fusion menu on tablet. First we went for lunch, and then went back for dinner, so we must have enjoyed what we ordered. We had potstickers, tempura shrimp roll of sort, "Yakisoba" (not what one would expect at all), bakalava with passion fruit sauce, and lemon tea. They ddid not have any green or jasmine tea on entire ship entire cruise.
About Yakisoba, "Yaki" means grilled or fried, and "soba" means noodles in Japanese. it is supposed to be panfried, sometimes deep fried, noodles, never in deep sauce/broth/soup, but that of Food Republic was more of an Italian pasta with mushrooms, soaking in a cream sauce. It was good as was, but it WAS NOT anything like what we call Yakisoba. They had Ramen and Pat Thai, too, but we dared not try. Chin Chin never did/do Asian noodles right either.
I wonder why it is so difficult to have some experts, for example, in Japanese, Chinese, Thai food etc., to start with, and now and then, to develop more or less authentic recipes, before offering such "experimental mock Asian" foods on board. After all, Indian curry dishes have been staples of maritime for centuries, and most cruise ships seem to do pretty decent jobs on them.
We only had room service breakfast once on this trip, because the cabin is not set up for it, and had our breakfast and lunch at the Deck 15 Observation Lounge to avoid crowd and hustle. They only had limited menu eg., continental + some fruit, yogurt, oatmeal/porridge, granola for breakfast; salad, soup du jour, canapes/open face, and carrozza/pizza types for lunch, but it was more than enough for us.
We didn't have the chance to eat at main dining rooms, Savor, Taste and Manhattan, or at Garden Cafe buffet on this trip, except for the last breakfast on the Disembarkation Day at Taste. We had our usual, half and half OJ and tomato juice, coffee, one hardboiled egg, wholewheat toast with peanut butter, hash brown and link sausage, and watermelon slices for mother; half and half OJ and tomato juice, yogurt, coffee, All Bran, two over-hard and link sausage for myself. Everything came out as we ordered, service was efficient, and we enjoyed our last meal aboard and relaxed before disembarkation.
We went to see "Jersey Boys" and "Six", and were very pleased we did. Both performances were excellent, well produced and executed, and both troops were amazingly talented and skilled. Probably they were the best shows we've seen onboard. I don't know how they can stage such impressive productions at sea. Highly recommended.
Over all service was good, but I believe smaller ships can offer more or less intimate and personal service we had in the past.
If you are traveling on a wheelchair wider than 22”-23”, and want to access the cabin sitting in your chair, do not accept booking in Portside cabins #5134, #5132, and Starboard #5735 on Bliss and ships with the same deck plans. The post in front of the cabin door prevents wheelchair access, and your chair/scooter will not go through the doorway to start with.
Port side Mid-ship Oceanview with Large Picture Window cabin #5134 on Bliss was close to the elevators and convenient that way. However it was much smaller than the cabins on older ships like Star, Sun or Jewel, and the cabin door width does not allow wheelchair access like the ones on previously mentioned ships. Closet is much smaller, and shelves and storage nooks are fewer and narrow, not as convenient and useful. There was no desk/table/sitting area/room to have a simple room service breakfast like on older ships.
On the other hand, small bedside reading light and double electrical/USB outlet right at the headboard wall were much appreciated improvement and convenience. Shower stall looks brighter and roomy with clear panels. However, they still do not have showerchairs that small enough to fit into the shower. We borrowed a small balcony table, again, instead of a showerchair.
When we booked we were told Handicap cabins were no longer available in our cabin category, but the assigned port side cabin #5134 was accessible with wheelchair. When we boarded we found out that #5134 was not only accessible with wheelchair but also there was a large post right in front of our cabin door and in between our neighbor's cabin# 5132, which made it impossible to push the chair close to the door. See attached photo.
We had to park the chair outside the post in the hallway to get in and out the chair. It was not only inconvenient, because our 97-year old mother had to get out of the chair every time we were getting in and out of the cabin, we held up the traffic in the hallway, because the post inhibited to use neither wheelchair nor walker, and fellow passengers had to wait until mother moved away in snail pace and we could remove the wheelchair from the hallway. The second time we held up our neighbors in cabin #5132 at the post, and we made our apology, the wife responded, "It's not your fault. They never should have put you folks in that cabin."
I explained the situation and filed a complaint at the Guest Service Desk right away, and asked the young man to find us another cabin accessible with wheelchair as guaranteed. He said he filed a report and promised that we would hear from the management that night via phone or letter. No call, no letter the first night.
Next day, I contacted the desk and went through the whole drill all over again. No call, no letter, again. Nada, another day.
Meanwhile, I found out from our cabin steward that all the cabin doors were the same width, except for the Handicap cabins and Heaven suites. Why wasn't I told that when I filed the complaint and requested to move us to another cabin, or when we booked the cabin to start with?
To make the long story short, we never heard back from the Guest Services Manager during the entire 6-night cruise. On the last night I wrote a note of complaint for not even being acknowledged for 6 days and dropped it in the "Dear XXX" box, but never heard from them.
I think it is rude, and must say it is humiliating to be totally ignored by Guest Services Management about a complaint filed this way--no acknowledgement, no explanation, no apology.