Embarkation in Manhattan:
Got on the ship in Manhattan. Went ok... but my dad needs a wheelchair. He can’t stand in the lines. They only had one wheelchair person for 4000 passengers. Took hours. More help would be better. They told us getting on that they no longer punch a hole in your card and that you have to buy a $20 pouch lanyard. They say this is because there is a chip in the card. Not so true. I bring small scissors and bore a hole at the top of our cards for our lanyards. They worked just fine.
The Bliss is magnificent. The decor is sophisticated and urban. It was nicely decorated for the holidays. It is huge, so bring comfy walking shoes. Observation lounge. They have this new room on deck 15 that is half of the ship long with floor to ceiling windows. It was designed for Alaska sailings. It is sophisticated and has comfy loungers and sofas and intimate seating areas and was designed for relaxation. It has light food and a bar and was quite comfortable. Unfortunately, children are allowed to run rampant and sing at the top of their lungs in droves. It really dampened my relaxation experience. With all the kid stuff on board that should be frowned upon in that area. One thing I found bizarre was the ships sanitation protocol. Apparently, there was some flu on board so they were at "level 2"... ok. This meant that when they had those sales of all the coverups and hats for $10... they had a roped barrier around them. You could not touch anything. The sales people had to show you things from a distance. Yet you could walk into the gift shop and touch everything in sight. Same with getting your disembarkation luggage tags. Can’t touch. Girl with gloves on is handing them out. Yet.... 200 people are playing trivia 20 feet away in the atrium using the same pencils over and over out of a box. They removed all the salts, peppers and butter dishes and condiments from all the dining rooms yet nothing about the self-serving spoons in the garden cafe! Made no sense to me....
Normal for NCL. Only one thing at a time once per hour all over a mega ship. More things to do would be better, particularity for seniors. Things like meet and greet board or card games, etc., even if self-led. The sad thing was that when they offered things like coloring, the markers were too few and all mostly dried out. Same with the dry erase pens for Pictionary. Only one pen worked. For the cost of one steak in Cagney's they could get a fresh batch of these things per sailing. The activities crew were very good and entertaining and did the best they could with the poor supplies. The shows were better than average for NCL and the theater is very comfortable. I was disappointed there was no white party. Another NCL thing gone from this new ship. Pay to play is up on this ship. There are more things to do but at a price... and it’s not nominal fee. Over $6 to bowl a string. $40 to play deal or no deal.
Balcony state room:
It was new to me on NCL that we had no bathrobes or pool towels in the room. And not a single towel animal all 8 days! I look forward to those little critters every night. I can understand dropping down to say every other night but none?!? Noooo. The room was adequate. No drawers in the room at all so thank goodness I pack collapsible cubes for socks and undies. I will say the sofa is a bit longer on the bliss and will fit an adult as a second or third bed. Yes, same crappy mattresses. I wish NCL could do better than a mere cot to sleep on across the fleet. The screen on the phone in the room was burned out and blank so it made calling for wakeup calls or guest services a bit challenging. No light on the balcony. My dad likes to go to bed early and needs complete quiet and dark. I used to sit on the balcony in peace but could not this time. Too dark. Hmm. If you plan to make coffee in your room in the morning bring your own. The pod bags they offer are undrinkable. Thank goodness I brought a baggie of coffee and filters to make my own pouches for the one cup at a time coffee maker. If you decorate your door bring strong magnets. No tape will stick to the veneer they have on the doors. I put up a lobster flag (we are from Boston) to help dad find the room. One upgrade is 3 American plugs on the dressing counter. That was helpful for phones etc. They now have loud parties on deck that go until after midnight. I like to sleep with the balcony door open to hear the waves. I could not this time as the party was too loud and kept Dad awake. Also, no insulation in walls, if you have noisy neighbors (kids crying, etc.) you will hear them loud and clear. They now lock your refrigerator the last night which was a pain as my dad is elderly and I make coffee in the room. No refrigerator for milk or a snack for him to take medication with. They will leave it open if you request it but need to do so ahead of time. Also, we saved out thanksgiving turkey wish bone to break and make a wish on Christmas eve. It was clean and dry and free of meat or grease. I left it on the upper shelf under the mirror over the dressing counter. Our Stuart threw it away while we were out of the room. He did not ask if this was something we wanted and clearly the dining room was not serving whole turkeys!!! Maybe he didn’t get it, but things left on that skinny counter should be off limits to toss without permission.
Worst of all the other 5 NCL ships have been on. It was mostly rushed and impersonal. We were only offered coffee with dessert 2 nights of 8. Most servers just ran over and said "you ready?" It was like eating at a diner counter. I only encountered one friendly and fun bartender. Most looked like they had nails sticking up thru their shoes there was so much pain on their faces. The ONE fun bartender, Michael was from Indonesia, the rest appeared to be annoyed to be behind the bar at all. Even Le Bistro had poor service. Cagney’s wasn’t bad... still rushed but at least our waitress smiled and the food was better than the main dining rooms. We ate at Le Bistro for Christmas dinner. The waiter with his "you ready?" was my last straw. This is my Christmas dinner! I booked this dinner 3 months in advance! I said something and we were more or less waited on by the dining room manager from then on. He was excellent and ensured our evening was nice. Thank you. Food was just ok again. Le bistro on other NCL ships was far better. Room Stuart’s service has fallen off too. I found all kinds of leftover items and paperwork in our room from previous guests. No personal touches anymore. And once again, there are very few smiles or greetings from the crew. I will say our last night we ate at Ocean Blue and our waiter Adhi was outstanding. He saved our last night’s dinner and the food was very good as well. I noticed more officers walking about than any other NCL I have been on. They were everywhere. I am not sure if they are looking to make them more visible? It may be better to a few less officers and more crew. Maybe the crew will look a little happier?
Just ok in main dining rooms and Garden Café but way too salty. Desserts were the best food offered on the main dining room. Garden cafe was a disaster. No more washy washy person. They don’t say it anymore as you enter and barely pay any attention at all. As annoying as it was, I missed the washy washy guy. We even had a washy washy band in the garden cafe on a prior cruise... lol. The cafe on the bliss is arranged in squares. Stations are all over and its chaos. Every time I was up there, I had to search for a plate as they were never stocked. One shore day most passengers came back at 3pm hungry and we went to the garden cafe. There was NO food! There was an officer saying they were closing at 3pm and about 400 people should go to the Local (formally O'shahans) or to the observation lounge where they just serve snacks and desserts. The Local seats about 200. Not 400! Very poor. Where to people at the pool get a snack or burger? The food station at the pool has been eliminated too. BUT!!! There is a new fancy self-service wine machine in the Garden café. It is very expensive. About $35 a glass and not on the drink package. You can’t get a plate… but you can serve yourself a very expensive glass of wine to go with your burger or pizza.
Only new slots. No old school 25 cent slots my dad likes. Most say a penny but average 50 cent minimum to play. I was not alone in my conclusion that the slots are tight. We usually go up and down all week and ultimately leave about $100 down. That’s fine, we had fun. This cruise, we just lost and lost, night after night on the slots. Tables are what they are in all casinos
We were scheduled to tender to Stirrup Kay on Christmas. This was to be the highlight of the trip for me. We did not get off in Port Canaveral (who cares?) and other than Sandals, who cares about Nassau too? I get it if it is rough for the tenders. But from what I see on cruise critic they pass it over quite a lot. NCL really needs to consider developing a dock if they are going to keep putting the island on the schedule. For us this was the great 8-day cruise to nowhere. It was disappointing to not toast my Mom in Heaven with a Corona beer in a Santa hat on the Beach on Christmas as planned.
Everything that made NCL unique with quirky fun is gone. While there are upgrades in some ways and the ship is beautiful but so many visible corners have been cut. This was the least FUN I have ever had on cruise. Am I crazy to think the pool bars should be fun? They used to be... the bartenders were just miserable looking.
Disembarkation in Manhattan:
Takes a LONG time. I would say half the ship walked their luggage off. I only saw one gangway, a second would help. And note – you have to drag your luggage a LONG way under pier 88 in NY thru pier operations to get out the street. A far longer way than you had to go when dropping it off. My Dad had to stop often as we did not see any assistance for him and getting our luggage out.
Dawn in march:
We are sailing again March 29 from Tampa on the Dawn. Back to a smaller older ship. I am hoping to again see the fun and service that has kept us coming back to NCL. We shall see…
This was the best-looking ship I have ever sailed on yet my least enjoyable cruise in terms of FUN. Everything was beautiful, updated, and very efficient… but it was more like being at a business conferences I have had to attend. Adequate, comfortable, nice looking and NOT MUCH FUN…. My prior sailings on NCL made a greater effort to make week fun and feel somewhat personalized.
included in overall review