Just got off of our 15 night Norwegian Bliss vacation yesterday. We departed Miami on 03/30/2019 and arrived back on 04/14/2019. I have been on a total of seven cruises, and this is my first NCL cruise. This review will be very detailed, for all of those who enjoy details; however, it will not include any pictures. This is also our longest cruise to date.
Please feel free to ask any questions! My cruise history is as follows:
2007 - Carnival Triumph
2008 - Ruby Princess
2010 - Caribbean Princess
2011 - Carnival Miracle
2015 - Carnival Breeze
2017 - Carnival Vista
2019 - Norwegian Bliss
My name is Ryan, and I am currently 39 years old. I was traveling with my Husband, AndyMike who is 33 years old. We reside in Southern California. This is my seventh cruise and his third cruise
Our outgoing flight was a red-eye on 03/26/2019 from LAX to FLL on Jetblue, which arrived early in the morning on 03/27/2019.
THE DAYS BEFORE THE CRUISE:
I arrived in FLL early in the morning on 03/27/2019. I rented a car from Enterprise, which it is quite easy to get to the car rental center from the terminals at FLL. Renting with Enterprise was painless and very quick. The Car Rental Center at FLL is very organized and you shouldn't have a very difficult experience.
We got married in Fort Lauderdale before our cruise. Our wedding was on the sand in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and our wedding reception was at the Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park, FL. Everything exceeded our expectations and it was a wonderful experience. We got married with 50 members of our family and friends. The day after our wedding, but before the cruise 15 of us took a pedal boat by a company called Lagerhead Cycleboats on the waterways of Fort Lauderdale which was awesome.
We stayed at the Doubletree Hollywood Resort which is in Hollywood, FL not too far south of the Fort Lauderdale airport. I recommend this hotel for friendly service, a great hotel pool and a good view if you are on the north rooms of the property.
TRANSPORTATION TO THE PORT:
Although we picked up our Enterprise rental at FLL, we dropped it off at the Doubletree Grand Hotel in Miami, FL at 9am on cruise embarkation morning. We then took an Uber, which was only about $8.00 from that hotel to the port.
This was the easiest and most painless embarkation I have ever experienced. We chose a check-in time of between 9:30AM and 10:00am. We arrived at exactly 9:30am. We queued up and the security lines opened up at about 9:45AM. I would say that we were probably number 20 in the security line. We received boarding group 1 cards and after getting our key cards sat in the terminal to await boarding. We were called to board by 11am.
WHAT WE DID FIRST:
It is important to book some of your most important reservations immediately once you board. The current process is to go to the Social on Deck Six to board those. You can also book from one of the many, many kiosks on almost every deck of the ship. Now, please note --- the kiosks may or may not be working immediately upon boarding, so we did end up going to the social. The lines were really not that bad and everything was booked in about 45 minutes. We booked Go Karts, Laser Tag, Comedy Shows, Happy Hour Prohibition, and got the Vibe Beach Pass all in the social. Please note that we booked the Wifi Package, Thermal Spa, Photo Package, Jersey Boys, Havana and Specialty Restaurant Reservations before we boarded the ship online.
Our perks that came with our reservation was the premium beverage package for two, prepaid gratuities and $50 per port (per stateroom) shore excursion credit).
This was a sold out cruise! Overall, it did not seem that crowded to us. Yes, there were some crowded areas, which I will go into detail with later on in the review; however, overall it did not seem that crowded. I credit the excellent design of the ship.
The ship is beautiful. The ship has only been in service since the second quarter of 2018. The ship is in GREAT CONDITION, as all of our cruises have been.
One of the things that impressed me the most is was the artwork around the ship. There is high quality artwork everywhere on every wall of the ship. This includes all public areas and all guest room hallways. It is beautiful and amazing.
The staff of this ship is simply amazing. Remember, treat people the way you want to be treated. That was our motto and is always our motto. The staff overall was very friendly. I rate them at a 9 out of 10. I would say there were maybe a handful of less than 10 that were pretty miserable. Not bad for over 1700 cruise members. I will talk about some individual staff members in other parts of my review; however, I will talk about the Cruise Director, Silas here. Silas is a wonderful cruise director. He is a very organized cruise director and has a pretty good cruise activities staff. He is very visible on the ship and we usually saw him three of four times a day. He is energetic and has a great personality. Now, as you probably know if you are a frequent cruiser on NCL, most people have the premium beverage package as a perk. Since most people have that, I will point out that there are plenty of bar servers in almost every venue; however, you have to usually ask them for a drink. They are always walking around; however, you should ask them as they will not be asking you. (They don't have to ask since it is included for most people). Of course, if you can't find a server, you just walk up to one of the many bars anywhere on the ship.
Tipping is a personal thing; however, let me take time to remind you that this wonderful hard working staff on these ships work very hard and many of the staff members do not get paid a lot. I encourage you to celebrate and applaud the hard work that they do by tipping appropriately. My personal way of tipping is that I leave the suggested gratuities of Norwegian on my Onboard Account (which I believe is currently about $15.00 per person per day), and I give additional cash gratuities to individual staff members during the middle of my cruise, if I feel that there service is excellent (which this time it was with everyone I gave additional gratuity to). I gave additional gratuities to my favorite restaurant hostess, favorite restaurant server, stateroom steward, and favorite bartenders. 2
Our room was available by 1:15PM which was before the promised time. We went to our room at about 1:45pm, which was after we finished lunch. We were also pleasantly surprised that our luggage was delivered by 4pm. We had room 8116 which was a mini-suite with large balcony on the port side forward. We never heard any noise from above or below our stateroom and it is a very quiet hallway. There are limited rooms on Deck 8 and usually the only people that use this hallway are crew members. The Mini Suites on this ship are essentially the same as the regular balcony staterooms with the exception of the bathroom which is larger. The shower is an improvement from other cruise lines I have been on. It is a glass enclosed shower that is about two times the size of other cruise line showers and it has multiple jets and great water pressure. It also has a double faucet sink. The room itself is a little smaller that other cruise lines I have been on; however, still had ample closet and storage space. The bed was comfortable and the USB ports beside are very nice. The lighting in the room is great. The TV has multiple movie channels available and ship specific channels available. Our balcony was HUGE, almost about 60% of the size of our room. These balconies are completely open to all the rooms above you; however, we did not find this be a problem. These balconies have two small chairs with one small table and two large lounge chairs with a larger table. My only complaint is that the safe was really small and would not fit a laptop or even an Ipad.
Our stateroom steward, Aaron was very nice and kept everything very tidy throughout the stay. There is an electronic do not disturb or make up room indicator outside your door. Your lock is controlled by your keycard. Service is twice daily and towel animals are usually every other day.
The room is so well designed for space and efficiently considering the somewhat small size of cruise cabins. I liked the fact that the doors open outward when you are coming in or exiting the room. The balcony doors are also slide instead of push/pull, which is a great improvement. Just remember, slide your empty luggage under the bed after putting everything away!
We did excursions in each of the ports. On this trip, we booked all excursions on NCL. All of our excursions were of high quality and operated by local tour operators. Debarkation and embarkation at the cruise ports is painless and easy. I couldn't believe how easy it was.
Cartagena, Colombia - Here we did a four hour tour of Cartagena including the walled city which is beautiful. We had about 40 people on this tour and I would rate it is a 8 out of 10.
Panama Canal Day - It is always amazing to cruise the Panama Canal. This was our first time and it is simply an engineering marvel. We went through the new locks, since this is a very large cruise ship. The Norwegian Bliss also opens up the front of Deck 8 (usually only reserved for crew members) on Panama Canal Day for viewing.
Costa Rica - Here we took an excursion which involved ziplining. It was a very fun day; however, we enjoyed ziplining in Dominican Republic a little bit better.
Guatemala - We took an excursion to Antigua in Guatemala, which is a beautiful city in the higher elevations of the country.
Acapulco - Although this was our least favorite port for things to see and do, we still had a beautiful time. The views from the higher elevations of Acapulco rival any of the views we saw during our trip. It was cool to see the Cliff Divers.
Mazatlan - Our second favorite port. This is a beautiful Mexico port and we had a fun excursion of Salsa and Salsa, which included a Salsa Making and a Salsa Dance Class. We had an excellent tour guide and awesome instructors and it was a super fun tour.
Cabo San Lucas - Our favorite port and our favorite excursion. We did the electric bikes which we did a tour on the beach and in the desert. Our tour guide was so much fun. After the bike ride, we got to make our own margaritas (unlimited) and they also provided us with a quesadilla lunch.
I'm going to rate each venue that we ate it, and give my comments. I feel that everyone can find something good to eat on this ship. There are so many great options.
MAIN DINING ROOM: (Taste, Savor and Manhattan Room)
Food 9/10 and Service 9/10.
We ate in the main dining room for dinner 5 of our 15 nights plus lunch on embarkation day and breakfast on debarkation morning. We usually ate in Savor; however, ate once in Taste and once in the Manhattan room. All dining rooms have the same menu.
We never made reservations for the main dining room. We always showed up and got seated immediately or with less than a 5 minute wait.
The service was almost always fantastic and the food was always delicious. We usually ordered two appetizers, one main entree and one dessert and were stuffed. One of my favorite apps was the lobster ravioli.
We found the buffet food to be some of the best buffet food we have ever had on a cruise ship. The buffet is huge and you could always easily find a seat except on some port mornings and at ports where almost everyone came back at the same time. For breakfast, the food is the same most mornings, as breakfast food should be. There are so many omelette and egg stations that you will never wait long in line for these. I believe I counted 9 operating at the same time. Lunch in the buffet had some of the same daily stations and some rotating stations daily. Dinner also rotated. We usually had breakfast and/or lunch in the buffet and then we ate one dinner in the buffet. The buffet has limited stations open during certain periods and after 9:30PM. It closes down at 11:30PM. Juices are available during breakfast, coffee and hot chocolate anytime, and iced tea and lemonade during non-breakfast hours. Also, there is now homemade ice cream available during lunch hours with rotating daily flavors.
Food 10/10 Service 10/10
We had dinner on our first night at the Steakhouse. We had the 7 night ultimate dining package, which we pre-purchased. That means that we got to go to 7 specialty dining restaurants and the only upcharge beyond was a minimal upcharge for Ocean Blue. We had excellent meals at all of the dining venues. I recall having jumbo shrimp and a crab cake here, along with an amazing steak for dinner and a variety of sides. The overall experience was awesome. There are so many amazing choices, that we left very happy.
Food 10/10 Service 8/10
It is possible our server here may have been having a slightly off night, as this is one of the crew members we ran into that didn't provide an over the top wonderful experience. However, the food was amazing.
We had tableside guacamole which we shared. My appetizer was the shrimp quesadilla. I also had a shrimp platter for dinner and a delicious Tres Leches cake for dessert.
Food 10/10 Service 9/10
Tucked away behind a wine bar, this intimate restaurant has excellent food in a casual and classy setting. I don't even recall what I had at this restaurant, but I recall it being excellent.
Q TEXAS SMOKEHOUSE
Food 10/10 Service 10/10
This new concept to NCL was awesome. There was a live band playing during our meal, and the food was amazing. I had a crab cake. I also shared the loaded fries with my hubby and I had the Pitmaster Platter which was a sampling of all of the meats on the menu. The banana pudding was also an excellent dessert choice.
Food 10/10 Service 10/10
This restaurant is on one of the upper decks of the ship. The service at this restaurant is great, and I had an amazing French Onion Soup, a delicious shrimp platter and an amazing cheesecake for dessert.
Food 10/10 Service 10/10
My favorite specialty restaurant. Our server Hazel was one of the best servers we had on the entire trip. She was the most pleasant, kind and sweet person ever. Our meal was just fabulous. I recall that everything I had at this restaurant was simply stunning and full of flavor.
Food 10/10 Service 10/10
What an awesome and entertaining experience. Our chef was spectacular and the food was very filling and so much of it. The garlic rice was superb and I had the shrimp and scallop combo.
Food 8/10 Service 8/10
The Local is the restaurant that is open almost all day every day including late into the night. We had one breakfast, two lunches, and two dinners here. Almost every meal had excellent service, and most of the food was quite delicious. I had prime rib here one night, some good burgers, some good wings and some excellent french toast.
We did not try Food Republic, Margaritaville, Dolce Gelato or Coco's.
Service and Drinks 10/10
There are so many bars on this ship. Some of our favorites included the Sugarcane Mojito Bar, A List Bar, Maltings Whiskey Bar, District Brewhouse and the Observation Lounge Bar. One of the few rather rude crew members we encountered on this ship was in the interior portion of the Sugarcane. I do not recall his name (It was not Bong)
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES
Seriously...if you cannot find something to do on this ship, it is your own dam fault! Read your Freestyle Daily. There is so much to do each day. There is an awesome activities staff onboard this ship, that is always present everywhere you go. Wow! Get involved people!
MAIN POOL DECK and WATERSLIDES:
The Main Pool Deck on Deck 16 can get a little crowded on days of beautiful weather; however, you may have trouble finding a chair right by the pool. Don't believe the people who tell you that you cannot find a deck chair. There are plenty of deck chairs, if you expand your horizons a iittle bit. Try Deck 17, 18 and 19 where there are almost always plenty of pool chairs.
I tried one of the two waterslides (the calmer one). You ride down in a tube and it was so much fun. I did not try the Ocean Loops which is the one that swings out on the side of the ship. Yes, a lot of people do get stuck; however, there is always a staff member to get you out where you end up getting stuck, if it happens.
Make reservations. We tried it twice, once in the daytime and once at night. We had an amazing time. You usually get a generous 5 to 7 minutes of riding time on each race. There are usually up to 10 people at one time. There were a few annoying people during our second time (usually the unlimited pass people); however, it was still a blast. The go karts go quite fast, and some of the turns are fun and difficult to navigate. They will slow everyone down if you start bumping or running into people.
Wow! This was awesome. We wish we did it more than once. It is up on Deck 19 near the front of the ship and open in the evening. I believe the charge was about $10.00. Each time you get two rounds of 5 minutes, and you play on a team against one other team. It is a fun time had by all.
SPA AND GYM
We had the thermal spa pass, which can be purchased online prior to your cruise. The thermal spa on this ship is great. There are some relaxing loungers, ceramic heated beds, a thalassotherapy pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, salt room and snow room. It is so relaxing and you could usually find a place during most hours to relax. It is open only to the people who purchase the pass or are located in spa rooms.
We only tried the gym once, and it is well equipped with all of the latest machines and weights.
The casino is lovely and large on this ship. It takes up a good portion of the center of Deck 7. The entire casino is non-smoking, except for a small enclosed room near the aft/center of the casino which is reserved for smoking players. We had a great time and spent some money on this ship. No big wins; however, we had a great time and don't expect to win in casinos; however, it is a pleasure when we do.
MAIN PRODUCTION SHOWS:
On this cruise, there were three main production shows. I attended the shows called Havana, Jersey Boys and Uptown. We rated Havana as a 7/10. We thought the wardrobe/costumes were amazing; however, we didn't necessarily enjoy the lack of a story line. Jersey Boys was a 10/10. Just such a great production. It is the full length of nearly full length show at 1 hour and 45 minutes. For this longer cruise, they also had a group called Uptown, which was a group that we gave a 10/10.
In the main theater, we also found that they had shows from a hypnotist (we rated as 6/10), a comedy juggler (we rated as a 10/10) and a comedy magician (which we missed)
We watched three comedy shows, all of which we had reservations for. Two of the in the social which were the 10pm adult shows, both excellent. We also watched one the second to last night with three comedians in the main theater. We thought one of the two comedians was awesome in that show.
A lot of activities and events occurred in the atrium. Yes, the atrium can get crowded and I do wish it was bigger or there was an alternative venue for many of the events in this area. I truly do believe that the criticism of this area is deserved and I wish there was a better way of handling this. The activities including Trivia, Newlywed/Not so Newlywed Game, and so much more took place here.
ART GALLERY AND AUCTIONS:
The art crew on this ship is excellent, and we attended about three of the art auctions. We ended up purchasing three pieces of art on this ship, and we thoroughly enjoyed all of the events.
There are plenty of events that happen (usually nightly) in this area. Unfortunately, we only got to attend one event in this area, which was the 80's party and that was very fun.
This is fun and reservations will fill up fast; however, it is complimentary. If you never experienced this, it is fun and you should try it.
The excellent job with live music continues throughout this ship. There are top quality options almost all day long. During the day, the music is primarily centered on the pool deck area; however, by late afternoon and late into the night you got live music in the main atrium, Observation Lounge, Sugarcane Mojito Bar and the District Brewhouse.
What a beautiful place. This takes up a large portion of Deck 15 and is simply beautiful. There is always a seat for everyone, and there are light snack options available through the breakfast and lunch hours. Don't miss the sunsets in the O Lounge.
THINGS THAT WE MISS:
Being that all of my prior cruises have been on Carnival or Princess, there is one thing that I miss more than anything else. Piano Bar. I understand that some NCL ships have them; however, I missed having a piano bar on the Bliss. There was some piano players; however, not the same as having a sing along piano bar.
I'm sure I missed some things; however, I hope this gives you a starting point about some of the options available on this great ship.
PLEASE ASK QUESTIONS if you would like to know anything else. Read Less