I chose to sail on the NCL Bliss because it is Norwegian's newest, largest ship. Usually, newer means better. But the design of this ship and the crew of the Bliss proved they are truly "not ready for prime time."
The NCL Bliss is indeed a beautiful ship. MANY facets of the ship were fantastic, from the relaxing observation lounge on deck 15 to the overall ship decor, which is chic and contemporary. The designers did a great job creating a comfortable experience.
However, so many other important elements of the ship's design are lacking. The most obvious issue was that this massive ship only has forward and aft elevator banks, with none in the center. How did the architects think over 6.200 passengers and crew were supposed to navigate about such a massive ship with so few elevators? I noticed hundreds of people congregating near the elevators all throughout the days of my 7 day cruise. So many passengers gave way to "crowd-think" mentality, which meant becoming rude and somewhat aggressive in their fight for elevators. Otherwise, they were forced to walk many floors of stairs to reach their desired floors. Couldn't NCL executives anticipate this dynamic might occur on such a large ship?
Also, the communications system onboard the NCL Bliss was awkward. Sure, NCL has a telephone APP for passengers to use onboard to help them schedule daily activities, and the same activities are also shown on the in-cabin TV screen and printed in the daily newsletter, but NONE OF THEM ARE IN SYNC! For instance, the NCL phone app is supposed to load activities at least 24 hours ahead of time, but it often didn't display them even a few hours ahead. And the in-cabin TV app was also inaccurate at times. In all, I found the best strategy was to just take along the PRINTED guide provided to my cabin and maintain my actual calendar on my own personal phone calendar. SMH.
The in-cabin screen also displayed the Mazatlan port stop as a "sea day" for the entire length of the cruise. I pointed this error out to the Guest Services desk, but they only kicked the can down the road and made it clear they couldn't be bothered. SMH.
As for my cabin, it was designed comfortably and with a soothing blue/brown color scheme. Exactly what I anticipated on the NCL Bliss. I was pleased with the individual reading spotlights placed on either side of the bed along with the corresponding USB input jacks for charging electronic devices. Very convenient.
My room steward couldn't be worse! I asked for one special item to be placed in my room which, on ALL 40 previous cruises with various cruise lines has never been a problem. But this steward had to be asked numerous times a still failed to provide. So, I escalated the matter. And again...and again...and again...SEVEN times! It took three days until the simple item was delivered -- a small plastic ice bucket. How hard is that?!
When I activated the "do not disturb" sign on my door, the room steward constantly ignored it. He was always calling and knocking and bothering me about silly things. I finally had to raise my voice to him and remind him that "do not disturb" means JUST THAT! On many occasions, I was not feeling well and just wanted to relax.
Overall, my dining experience on the NCL Bliss was subpar compared to other cruise lines. I ALWAYS dined in the reservations-only Manhattan room and in the same section. But the experience was poorly executed by NCL.
As for the service, even though guests are required to reserve their tables in the Manhattan room, NCL subjects them to standing in not one, but two separate hostess lines to be seated. I've never stood in two lines at ANY restaurant in America where I had made previous reservations, just to be seated. What was the sense in that?
There were other key issues where the waitstaff messed things up. First, EVERY TIME I had just sat down, the waiter or waitress INSTANTANEOUSLY pounced on me for my order! I had to remind them that I had barely sat down and needed a few moments to receive my water and study the menu. But they never listened. Second, upon being seated at the same time and at almost the same table with the same waitstaff, they NEVER remembered my preferences (e.g.: that I NEVER eat bread during meals or that I ALWAYS prefer lemon slices with my water). I mean, the waiters only served a few tables simultaneously, so how could they not remember certain key details like those? And I found myself always having to BEG for water. Finally, even before I was finished with my plates, the waitstaff constantly attempted to remove the plates! Who does that? In all, I found the NCL Bliss waitstaff to be grossly inexperienced and undertrained.
As for the food, it was obviously prepared in a huge galley with little quality control. First, EVERY salad I received was served in a warm bowl or plate, causing the greens to wilt before reaching the table, Any chef worth his salt knows that salads should ALWAYS be served chilled and in chilled bowls/plates. So, I often sent them back in order to have them prepared fresh. Second, most of the entrees were either flavorless or served barely warm, or both. It's clear the NCL Bliss chefs don't taste their food for quality control. Once again, I sent back items until I found a replacement that was appetizing. Third, I addressed my concerns with the Maitre'd and he said he would "deal with" the issues. But nothing happened. Business as usual on the Bliss. They must figure it they ignore problems, they go away.
Finally, as for daily activities, I was surprised at how far NCL would go to make money. MANY of the scheduled activities, like craft hour, required passengers to pay fees to partake. The nickel-and-diming on the NCL Bliss was record-breaking, I found. But I attended the "comedy shows" and a stage production called "Six."
The comedy shows were a joke, if you'll excuse the pun. During the first show I attended, it was considered a "family-friendly" performance. There were over 10 children in the room under the age of 12. The comedian decided to focus his entire show on those children and reveled the audience with inappropriate "jokes" about a) male penises, b) public urination on others' faces, c) homosexuality/homophobia and d) how much he hates the current president of the United States. How were these topics humorous to 12 year-olds? When I decided to attend the "18+" comedy show on the last evening of the cruise, nearly every sentence was wrapped around the f-bomb or kinky sex topics. SMH. What ever happened to truly funny comedy that doesn't require offensive topics or cursing to be humorous? Clearly, NCL needs to do a better job at screening its "comedians."
I also attended a show called "Six." It was a pre-Broadway release show about the six man-hating, feminist former ex-wives of England's King Henry 8th. The show storyline made no sense, in my opinion. The vocals were "pitchy" at best, so it was clear that these performers were not the best NCL could find. But the costumes were flashy.
As for port experiences, I only chose to visit Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan. In Cabo, I took an NCL sponsored "Luxury Day Sail & Snorkel" cruise. The 50-foot vessel motored around the Bay for three hours and stopped for some snorkeling. Only at the very end, for about 15 minutes, did the crew raise the sails. That experience was my best experience during my Mexican Riviera cruise. In Mazatlan, I chose to take a shore excursion provided by a private tour operator. It was comprehensive and included lunch. Very enjoyable, as well.
Overall, I found the NCL Bliss to be a beautiful ship, but it has many design, service, management and flow problems. I would recommend it to first-time cruisers, but maybe not experienced cruisers. This was only my second time sailing with NCL, and after this cruise it will be my last. NCL as a company is just too difficult to deal with, from its pre-sailing customer "no-service" to its onboard experience.
The cabin was of average size, with a blue/brown color scheme. The bed (two twins pushed together) was not very comfortable, as NCL installs some kind of device between the mattresses to form one bed. This device made my back sore every night.
The technology in the cabin was first-rate, which included individual reading lamp spotlights on either side of the bed, USB charging ports on either side of the bed and a state-of-the-art Samsung LCD television. Unfortunately, the telephone only had a 2.5 foot cord, so it couldn't be brought over to the bedside for easier use.
Cabo San Lucas Luxury Day Sail & Snorkel, with lunch. Very relaxing.View All 52 City Tour Reviews
Enjoyable, comprehensive tour of Mazatlan, with lunch.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Comprehensive your of Mazatlan area, with lunch.View All 66 City Tour Reviews
Relaxing 4 hour sailboat ride in the Cabo Bay. But we never raised an actual sail until the last 15 minutes of the trip.View All undefined undefined Reviews