I've been on a ton of cruises in my life, but this was my first NCL experience (Feb. 23 out of NYC.) Due to the hype of the Bliss, I had high expectations - perhaps that was my problem, but honestly, shouldn't they be high? Clearly, I was highly disappointed with this cruise experience as a whole, but I want to preface my review by saying, I'm not a complainer, I'm not a "negative Nancy." I've literally never written a review like this in my life, but I felt like I HAD to after this experience. Both my husband and I came to the conclusion about mid-way through this cruise that we would not be cruising again anytime soon, and certainly not with Norwegian. Here are just some of the issues we had: WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE, and not nearly enough things for them to do. Yes, we sailed from NYC in February, we knew it would be cold. Everyone who signed up for this cruise knew it would be cold, as did the company and the staff. We all knew what we were in for, but what I did not expect is that every single outdoor activity would be shut down due to "cold weather" until we made it down to Florida. I walked up to the water slides every single day and they were never open - until, of course, we were in port and we had excursions so we couldn't use them. I bought VIBE beach passes (more on that later) and thank god, the hot tub up there was open, but it wasn't even close to warm enough. I have a hot tub, and I would guess the temperature was about 10 degrees below what a hot tub should be set at. Also, the hot tub in the Vibe was about half the size of other hot tubs on the ship. There were a lot of days at sea on this ship and with the outdoor activities pretty much useless, the interior ship areas were incredibly packed at all times. I've been on a lot of "big ships" but never felt so claustrophobic as I did on this ship. NCL really need to revaluate indoor activities to keep people occupied on these cold season cruises.
• Total and utter lack of service! First off... Where were my towel animals?! Why is that not a thing on Bliss?? There was a serious, serious service issue on this ship. This was my first cruise where I was offended at the level of service. I mean, if anything you can expect when cruising, it's usually being treated really well by the staff. Not on this cruise. Every staff member seemed overworked and just wanted to get the job done, with no interest in pleasing guests. I HATE buffet food, so I usually try to eat my meals in restaurants, but NCL clearly knows those require more staff. They do a real slick job at setting weird dining times in an attempt to funnel people to the buffet. (Also, there were huge advertisements everywhere about the buffet. It's a buffet. Give it a rest.) Towards the end of the cruise, there was so many drinks/food on menus that said "Out of Stock." Really? How do you not plan for these things? At dinnertime, in the main (not paid) dining rooms, service was absolutely abysmal. Here's how a meal would typically go:
- We'd sit down and wait at least 10 minutes until anyone even acknowledged us.
- By then, we already knew what we wanted to drink and eat, but the wait staff would refuse to take drink and food orders at the same time. So we'd put in our drink order and then wait another 10 minutes or more until they came back for our food order.
- At least 15-20 minutes would go by until our drinks and appetizers would arrive.
- One of two situations would occur: Mid-appetizer our main meal would show up, so our table would be completely jam packed with plates because there was a clear timing issue on food prep OR we would eat our appetizers and then wait another hour for our entrees to show up.
- Want refills? Good luck. If the wait staff weren't actively delivering something to our table, it was like they disappeared. We never saw them, much less them stop by to ask how things were. We were constantly just flagging random people down to tell them we needed something.
As an experienced cruiser, this was completely unacceptable. Also, can I mention that NCL doesn't do lobster nights in the main dining rooms?! I asked a waiter one night when lobster night would be and he said, "We don't do that, you have to go to the paid seafood restaurant if you want that." So much for fine dining! As far as the specialty restaurants go, I'll say this - the ONLY restaurant worth paying for is Food Republic. The food was amazing albeit overpriced. The smokehouse and the Mexican place were mediocre at best. Definitely NOT worth any additional dollar NCL tries to squeeze out of you.
• Speaking of $$$, I've never felt more nickel and dimed in my life. Yeah, I get it, cruise lines want to make money, but this cruise wasn't cheap, and yet, I feel like everything we wanted to do was more and more money. I've never felt truly ripped off for money on a cruise like this, EVERYTHING had an up-charge. I paid $200 for an internet package and then I get onboard and I still get a $10 charge for signing up for the app's messenger service. I'm diabetic and one night at 4 am I woke up with low blood sugar. In a panic, I opened the mini bar and drank a soda to raise my levels. Guess how much that cost? $7! For a can of soda! One morning I went to Coco's to have a crepe. A CREPE! Basically a pancake with some fruit. It cost $6. I asked them for a coffee and they told me they didn't have coffee but I could pay for a Starbucks latte - boom, another $7. HOW DO YOU NOT HAVE FREE COFFEE? Did I mention I also had the beverage package? Of course, Starbucks isn't included in that. (Eye roll)
• Entertainment, or lack thereof. So, I paid extra money to go to the Prohibition show and look, it was a fun and entertaining show, I'll give them that. We got 5 drinks which was, apparently, the reason there was a charge to go to the show. But again, I had the drink package! If the cost was to cover drinks, then beverage package holders shouldn't be paying to go to this show. The show was good, but it's not worth paying MORE money to see. My husband loves the Beatles, but did we get to see a Beatles show? NOPE! Arguably the most popular show on the ship doesn't take reservations and people literally started lining up outside the Cavern 2 hours before showtime. Sorry, but I am not standing in line for TWO HOURS to see some guys dress up like the Beatles. Freaking craziness. Also, please please stop scheduling main shows at 10:30 at night. I go to bed by 10:30. Another thing I was shocked by? No prizes for the cruise trivia. Every other cruise trivia I had played the winners got something small and kitschy for their win. On NCL? Don't even expect a round of applause. Now, let's talk about the spa... It's okay. RCCL still wins on spas from any cruise I've been on, but Bliss did have some nice options so I bought a day pass on the last sea day. I cannot express my HORROR of sitting in the aqua therapy pool and watching people walk around taking photos of strangers trying to enjoy a spa. YOU DO NOT TAKE PICTURES IN A SPA - EVER! Why were NCL staff not stopping this?? Also, there's only so many lounger chairs in the spa, especially the heated ones. When I arrived, all I saw was empty chairs with people's crap thrown on them to "save" seats. There are lockers in the spa, sooo, shouldn't your stuff be in a locker and not taking up space someone else could be using? Seriously, I felt like I was on the pool deck, fighting for lounge chairs, but, I paid for this?! The Go-Karts were cool, I'll give them that, but did I realize I was on a cruise ship while on them? No. A cool feature, but definitely not necessary, just something for NCL to brag about having. And honestly, the space it takes up could be used for something better. My last entertainment complaint was about an activity I very much looked forward to, "Scategories." First off, I was by myself and of course, couldn't find an empty seat anywhere. (Refer back to bullet point #1.) I ended up standing against a column only to hear the rule "Minimum 2 people to play." WHAT?! Since when was Scategories a team event? I couldn't believe I couldn't play because I came by myself. I mean, even if I did bring my husband, we couldn't have sat down, so what's the point?
• "Great" Stirrup Cay? Hmmm... I'd rethink that name, NCL. All I kept hearing about was all the cool things coming in the future. Probably not a good thing to tell someone who is there NOW and basically has an island with nothing to do on it. So my family and I booked a "large" cabana that fits 8 people; we had 7. About a week before the cruise I got an email saying we were upgraded to a Lagoon Villa on Silver Cove - cool, an upgrade! Not so fast... The villa we were "upgraded" to was the smallest one they offer, for 6 people. Listen NCL, if you're going to upgrade people, at least make sure the upgrade is at least the same size as the original purchase. If we had paid for this outright, it would have been well over $800 for the day. I'm telling you right now, if I paid $800 for this, I would have been super pissed. We were told we would be "right next to a bar", awesome. But of course, the bar we were next to wasn't a normal bar. It was a Moet champagne bar and none of the drinks were within the $15 beverage package limit. There was ONE server who walked around to every single villa to take drink orders and it was at least 45 minutes-1 hour in between visits. They promised "snacks" in the villa and we were given a small bowl of Tostito chips and some generic canned salsa, everything else was (of course) an up-charge. Now, I do have to say, the lagoon itself is absolutely utterly beautiful and we were lucky to be able to float around in the calm waters - I will give you that. When we were leaving we were lucky we had "priority tendering." The line to get on the tenders was more than a mile long. I talked to a few people who said the regular tendering process was the most unorganized and frustrating thing of the entire cruise.
• Bliss ain't no "Flagship." Like I said, my husband and I have cruised a lot, on many different cruise ships. It's 2020 and when you look at competitor's newest and biggest ships it's seriously impressive. Bliss is not. At all. Honestly, this was probably the least impressive ship I've ever been on. This was my first and definitely my last Norwegian experience. If this is the best they've got, then it's clear why NCL is not the leading cruise company out there. I would not recommend this ship to anyone.
• The Good. This is going to be a short list, but I still need to mention some positives and why I gave this cruise 2 stars instead of one. Mojito bar? Awesome drinks and awesome bartender. Nestor Ramirez, you sir are a star. Vibe Beach Club - Ridiculously expensive, but honestly, having a hot tub and a bar that was "exclusive" to a small group with no children was 100% worth it. I wish I remembered his name correctly but the bartender, pronounced "One-gee" from China was amazing. We paid $170 per stateroom for Priority Access for embarking and disembarking (yup, another up- charge) but it was 100% worth it.
So, that's what I got. I had a few of my fellow cruisers read this review before I posted it to make sure I wasn't being too judgey; they all agreed with my assessment. All I can say is, there are better options out there, don't waste your money here.
I've had a mini-suite on RCCL before and was very impressed with the size, layout, and general amenities afforded to us. I did NOT get that impression on Bliss. Also, I have no idea how these categories work. I was traveling with family and we had 3 rooms on the 14th floor, all close to one another. My cousin paid for a regular balcony stateroom, I had a mini suite, and my parent's had a higher category mini suite which they paid more for. Each one of us had the EXACT same room!