Norwegian Bliss Expert Review
Line: Norwegian Cruise Line
Routes: Norwegian Bliss will sail seasonally from Seattle to Alaska and spend winters in the Caribbean sailing from Miami.
Families, singles, couples
Cruisers looking for an intimate, small-ship experience
- Q Texas Smokehouse
- Jersey Boys
- Happy Hour Prohibition
- Laser Tag
- Observation Lounge
Specifically designed with Alaska in mind, the Norwegian Bliss appeals to a multi-generational crowd. Go-Karts, waterslides, and laser tag will keep the young (and young at heart) happy while the seriously stunning observation lounge and the jukebox musical Jersey Boys are a hit with those looking for something a bit quieter and more traditional.
“Elegant” and “soothing” probably aren’t the words that come to mind when picturing a ship with Go-Karts racing around the top, and yet that’s the overall impression that Bliss delivers. A decision was clearly made to put an emphasis on public spaces not only where appearance is concerned, but in terms of sheer numbers as you’ll find a variety of relaxing public areas throughout the ship. The dominant colors are calming shades of blue and grey, giving it the feel of an upscale hotel. None of which is to say that the ship feels “stuffy” in any way, but rather that the overall vibe is a soothing one. As with other recent Norwegian ships, Bliss has the popular Waterfront area with numerous dining, drinking, and relaxation options, all of which can be enjoyed while taking in the fresh air and ocean views.
Bliss does action just as well as it does relaxation. If you put the pedal to the metal, the Go-Karts (which cost $7 for an 8-lap run) are surprisingly fast, making them great for adrenaline junkies. Laser tag is a blast (especially at night) and can bring out just about anyone’s competitive spirit. Those looking for more “traditional” cruise activities will find the Freestyle Daily chock full of Bingo games, slots tournaments, port lectures, and the like. There’s also a jogging path and gym which includes an impressive spinning room, as well as a spa offering everything from manicures to massages.
One major improvement onboard Bliss compared to some of the other recent Norwegian builds is the decision to include an enclosed smoking area in the casino. This massively reduces the pervasive odor of smoke in the 678 Ocean Place area which was a serious issue on some previous builds.
The ship truly comes alive at night thanks to a heady combination of shows and parties. The “big ticket” aboard Norwegian Bliss is a slightly shortened version of the Broadway show Jersey Boys, featuring the songs (and charting the rise) of The Four Seasons. Another big-stage presentation is the line’s original musical production Havana, which chronicles a particularly eventful night in the lives of the staff of a Cuban nightclub in the 1950s.
On a much smaller scale — but an enormous amount of fun — is Happy Hour Prohibition, a rollicking musical set in a New Orleans speakeasy. Staying true to its setting, the show is a little bit flirty, a little bit sexy, and a whole lot of fun. Tickets cost $19.95, and come with five period cocktails. It’s held in the ship’s Social Club, a venue which also hosts comedy acts in the early part of the evening before morphing into a dance club at night. If dance club music isn’t your thing, be sure to try the “silent disco”, where guests don headphones that offer four different musical selections.
The Cavern Club, a recreation of the famed Liverpool nightspot, hosts a Beatles tribute band who, over the course of a sailing, work their way through different periods of the group’s collective songbook. Get to these shows early, as it’s a pretty small space and fills up quickly. If you can’t get a seat, you can still grab a table outside on the Waterfront, where they pipe out the music and a TV screen shows the action taking place on the stage inside.
The main dining rooms on Bliss are standard for Norwegian’s mega ships. Taste and Savor sit across from one another with the strategically-located Mixx bar between them, making it easy for waiting parties to order a pre-dinner cocktail. Of course, the real standout is the Manhattan Room. On each of the ships on which it’s featured, this has felt more like a specialty restaurant than a complimentary main dining room, and the same holds true here. While it serves the same menu as the other two MDRs, the Manhattan Room features beautiful supper club-style theming and, on most nights, live music.
The extensive Garden Cafe buffet has a large number of vegetarian selections and a more interesting than usual variety of seating options, with barstools and countertops pleasantly breaking up the space. You’ll also find a wine dispenser in the buffet, although it is not included in the popular Ultimate Beverage Package.
In the Observation Lounge, there are numerous food options including two mini buffets and a salad bar. The specialty restaurants (read: for fee) include Norwegian’s biggest fleetwide hits: Cagney’s, the line’s signature steakhouse, as well as Ocean Blue (high-end seafood), Le Bistro (French), and La Cucina (standard Italian fare, although elevated by the presence of the Cellars wine bar, with its 100-plus offerings).
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville features a decent selection of burgers, nachos and the like, but at $14.95 per person, you can easily find a better option. Los Lobos serves up modern Mexican cuisine that rivals any found on land (be sure to order the guacamole, which is prepared tableside). Food Republic offers a surprisingly wide variety of small plates ranging from sushi to lamb, all perfect for sharing. And new to Norwegian is the Q smokehouse, with Texas-style barbecue so good and so authentic it’s almost tough to believe it’s being served on a cruise ship. Bring your appetite to the smokehouse because this a la carte restaurant has pretty big portions.
If you’re craving something sweet at the end of the day — or in the middle of the day, we’re not here to judge—, head to Coco’s chocolate shop, where just looking at some of the tasty treats available might add a few pounds to your waistline. A lot of the concoctions are great for sharing, and we’re practically begging Norwegian to consider selling smaller portions of several of the supersized desserts.
Splurge and get the Snickers Bar Milkshake at Coco’s Chocolate Shop. Made with milk chocolate gelato, Snickers Bars, candied walnuts, marshmallow, and topped with a giant rainbow lollipop, you’ll want to share this one.
Staterooms are done in the same combo of earthy greys and ocean-like blues found throughout the ship. The beloved-by-solo travelers studio cabins received an upgrade including a virtual window and several connecting studios, designed for single friends who travel together but don’t want to actually share a room.
The only real noticeable difference between the balcony and mini-suite categories is the bathroom which, in the latter, features far more room, a double sink, and a positively huge shower with multiple water jets. The decor in spa staterooms is slightly different with an eye toward tranquility, and they include access to the thermal section of the Mandara Spa. As on many other Norwegian ships, staterooms in the exclusive Haven area have access to a private bar and dining area, a pool, and lounging deck, as well as a completely separate two-story forward-facing Horizon Lounge and other amenities. As with any ship, it’s a good idea to check the deck plans to make sure that no matter what category of stateroom you wind up selecting, you pick a room that isn’t directly above or below a club, theater, or another venue which might result in a less-than-relaxing stay.
Kids & Teens:
Aside from the aforementioned racetrack and laser tag, both of which will prove popular with the kids (although it’s important to note they must be 48-inches or taller to ride the go-karts), Norwegian Bliss has the usual variety of youth-centric activities. The pool deck features not only the big, showy slides, but a wildly fun aqua park outfitted with a climbing net and waterfall for the younger kids. Various organized activities take place in Guppies for the youngest cruisers, Splash Academy for pre-teens, and Entourage designed with the teen scene in mind. Guppies is overseen by an “Early Years Coordinator” who supervises parent/child activities such as painting, while even teens who think themselves too cool for school tend to bond with like-minded peers over video games and special events.