We are in our early 50’s, aren’t married and have no kids, we have been on more than 50 previous cruises on 6 different cruise lines, most of which to the Caribbean. We’ve cruised with NCL before but not for more than 15 years. We ... Read More
We are in our early 50’s, aren’t married and have no kids, we have been on more than 50 previous cruises on 6 different cruise lines, most of which to the Caribbean. We’ve cruised with NCL before but not for more than 15 years. We chose this cruise to check out the new ship and because a Pacific Coastal is a nice change of pace from a Caribbean itinerary.
We chose to fly in the day of sailing to reduce time away from home and avoid the expense of a hotel in Vancouver. We normally fly to the embarkation port a day prior to sailing in case of travel delays, but since sail away was scheduled for overnight and the first port was Victoria, we decided the risk was minimal and flew in the day of sailing. Our flight landed just before 1PM in Vancouver. My plan was to take the train from the airport to the port, but since it was raining, we decided to hop on a transfer. After finding our luggage and exiting the baggage area we easily found the NCL desk and asked about the transfer. They took our name and room number, so they could charge the transfer to our onboard account, they also took our checked bag and transported to the ship separately. Then sent us out to the pick-up area where we waited only about ten minutes before a bus arrived. Because of traffic the ride to the ship took almost an hour. The only complaint about the transfer was that the bus smelled horribly of stale cigarette smoke. At least we didn’t get wet since we boarded and exited the bus under cover.
There was no waiting to check in, just a lot of walking. First through security then upstairs to check in then back downstairs to board the ship. We arrived right when the muster drill was starting, so we went directly to our muster station, The Local Bar and Grill, to participate.
After the drill I wanted a drink, but out of all the bars on board I could find only 2 open and they were 4 deep with people, so I gave up and went to the room. We were in room 11100. This was a room with a window all the way in the front of the ship. I booked it because I thought it might be a little bigger than most and I think it was but only by the storage and bench area right under the window. The room was much narrower than I’m used to, there was only about 3-4 inches between the end of the bed and the wall. The shower was a nice sized glass enclosure with no clinging curtain, it would’ve been nice to have a shaving step in the shower. The ship is very long with only two elevator banks, it is a very long walk between this room and the forward elevator bank. I recommend a room closer to the elevators. And a word about the elevators, they were very slow. There was almost always a long wait for an elevator and often they would open but were already full. They really need to work on some logic to improve the elevator service.
Our bags were already at our room when we arrived, so I decided to unpack while he went to see if the pool bar was open to get some drinks. When booking the room with a window we received the drink package and 3-night dining package. One nice thing about the drink package on NCL that is different from others I’ve experienced is that they will give you two drinks with one card, perhaps since both in the room are required to have the package. After unpacking we spent some time at the pool bar even though it was raining and cool it was less crowded than the couple bars open inside.
The first night we ate at La Cucina. We chose to eat outside because this inside was hot and noisy. They offered blankets if you were cold, I’m not sure why they didn’t turn on the heaters in the ceiling. The food was mostly good, my salad and veal were good, but my tortellini seemed like from pasta from Costco. He had gnocchi with pesto and that was his favorite of the night. Service was very slow. Since we wouldn’t sail until overnight we had the Vancouver skyline as our view, nice. After dinner we had a drink at the atrium bar before heading to the room, it had been a long day.
Since we left Vancouver later than scheduled, we wouldn’t arrive in Victoria until late morning. We had nothing planned for Victoria and thought we’d walk into town if the weather was nice. Again, the day was cloudy and wet, so we opted to stay on board today and explore the ship. Much of our route between Vancouver and Victoria straddled the international boarder, so for much of the way we were charged tax on our drinks. I’m puzzled about this, some cruise lines charge tax some don’t. Another puzzle, like many land and sea based venues NCL has discontinued the use of plastic straws, but then why do they use disposable plastic cups at the pool bar? Plastic cups contain much more material than plastic straws. We had breakfast in the buffet. I loved how they had about a dozen or more omelet stations set up during breakfast. Very fast and easy service. Today we stayed on board and took some pictures around the ship, spent some more time at the pool bar, read and napped. I also had lunch in the buffet, there was a nice variety of offerings including fish sticks and mac and cheese.
Tonight, we ate at Q’s Texas Smokehouse. I started with the chopped salad, very tasty, then I tried the beef brisket which I found to be dry. He had the sampler and the best thing there was the sausage with cheese and jalapenos, super tasty. Again, after dinner went to the atrium bar for after dinner drinks and watched the atrium activities.
This morning I ate breakfast in the buffet again. This time I found the eggs benedict, is was very good, eggs not over cooked or under cooked and the muffin wasn’t hard and dried out like often happens. Our first sea day and the weather is starting to dry out, it isn’t raining any more but at time it’s very foggy. Up on the pool deck you can be above the fog, then you look out the side window but can’t see the water because of the fog. We did some more ship exploring. We watched some folks try the drop water slide to see who could make it all the way through without having to exit in the trap door. We did not try this, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it. We stopped in at Margaritaville for a margarita that was good but didn’t spend any money on food. We also stopped in at District Brew House, I had a nice stout he had a cider.
Tonight, we ate at Cagney’s. We both had rib eyes that were very tasty and also enjoyed the au gratin potatoes. After dinner we had reservations for the go karts. I’m glad we tried them, although I don’t think I would do them again. Since the track is so narrow, they turn into bumper cars rather than go karts and you come off battered. Also, since they are back by the stacks and exhaust from the ship, we came off filthy and drenched. It wasn’t raining but there was so much moisture coming out of the stacks that the track was wet with standing water it was as good as raining.
The next morning, we were in San Francisco. Today was a clear sunny day. I had purchased tickets to tour Alcatraz while we were there. I booked for 1PM which I thought would be plenty of time to get off the ship, but we barely made it. Since this was our first US port we have to go through customs, which turned into a fiasco. All passengers had to go through customs and couldn’t return to the ship until all had been cleared. We had a schedule that went by deck, we were group 4. They started about 8AM, our group wasn’t called until 11:10AM and we weren’t off the ship and through customs until about 12:30!We made it to the Alcatraz ferry with only about 10-15 minutes to spare. We spent a couple hours on the island exploring, then decided to just go back to the ship rather than wandering around on shore.
We decided to try The Local for a late lunch. We started with artichoke dip, pretzels and I had a salad that would’ve been better with less lettuce and more other ingredients. Then I had a Rachel that was very good, and he had a burger that was cooked to his liking. Since I wasn’t up yet when we sailed in, I was waiting on the pool deck until we left and then was disappointed to see the fog rolling in right before sail away. It was so foggy we could barely see the bridge.
We didn’t have any dinner reservations and just ate in the buffet. The pizza in the buffet is really good. Tonight, we had reservations for Jersey Boys late show. I thought they did a very good job on this show, I’ve seen the Broadway touring version several times and couldn’t figure out what they might’ve cut, it also seemed to move at a faster pace. I think it ran about one hour forty minutes.
Eggs benedict in the buffet again for our last sea day. Today was warmer and sunnier than before, we even sat in loungers by the pool for a while it was so nice. We stopped by the store for a few souvenirs. Tonight, we ate at Los Lobos. We each had some kind of enchilada mine with green sauce his with red. We both enjoyed them. Our dining package was used up, so we paid for this, I think it was about $25 including the auto tip.
Since we only had the one suitcase, we decided to carry it off. It seemed like they expected us to debark before they started calling luggage tags, so we left when they called our floor, but I suspect we might still be there if we had waited for an elevator, so he carried the suitcase down to leave the ship. I had booked a car to bring us to LAX, we were off the ship and out of the terminal early so I called, and our ride came to get us early. It was Friday morning, so the traffic was bad our driver took us on many surface streets to avoid the traffic jams. We arrived at the airport too early to check in so had to wait a bit, but that’s much better than being late. We had time for lunch before boarding the plane. Our flight home was on time and uneventful.
This was a nice return to NCL for us, hopefully we will sail with them again soon. I would consider NCL for itineraries that we are familiar with the ports so that we wouldn’t want a ship excursion. For our two ports I found the excursion sold by NCL to be significantly higher priced than the same excursion on the other cruise lines we frequent. I hope they find a way to make the Bliss elevators more efficient. Maybe there just aren’t enough elevators for the number of people on board. We enjoyed the food options and found the staff to be very friendly and efficient. Read Less