Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest and most ambitious ship to date, Norwegian Bliss, is an interesting balancing act. With planned sailings in Alaska and the Caribbean and cabin options that range from very affordable to ultra-luxe, the ship works hard to meet the demands of a varied audience. The result is a smartly designed ship that provides both family-focused thrills and expansive spaces for relaxation and scenery-gazing. Here’s our review.
What We Love
The Interior Design: Mega-ships that carry thousands of passengers often look like unwieldy behemoths from the outside, but this one makes up for it with attractive and comfortable interiors. The restaurants and bars — notably the seafood restaurant Ocean Blue and Mexican restaurant Los Lobos — feel stylishly themed without a hint of gaudiness. Even the buffet, Garden Cafe, has minimalist, modern furniture and fabrics in bright patterns. The thermal spa channels a clean-lined Nordic vibe with rows of loungers (some heated) around a series of pools, saunas, and steam rooms. Be sure to check out the (literally) sparkling “spa salt room” where you can experience halotherapy, a relaxation treatment where the air is infused with salt.
The Observation Lounge: Among the most dramatic — and beautiful — spots on Bliss is this one. With floor-to-ceiling windows, bars that serve drinks and snacks, and seating in configurations that will suit any size group, this inviting space seems tailor-made for gazing up at Alaska’s glaciers. We love the velvet-aphostered, window-facing loungers that are situated throughout the area.
The Haven: This exclusive enclave of cabins for those in search of a truly high-end experience exists on other ships, but the concept feels like it’s reached a new height here. Impeccably designed, and with a number of private amenities — an observation lounge, sun deck, pool, and restaurant — the Haven feels a world apart from the rest of the ship.
Food Republic: This restaurant isn’t new to Bliss — you’ll also find it onboard Norwegian Escape — but it still delivers as some of the best food we've tried at sea. It’s small-bites/global fusion concept (with iPad ordering, natch) focuses on dumplings, skewers, and other chopstick-friendly fare. The miso black cod skewer, tuna and truffle “pizza,” pastrami and sauerkraut dumplings are excellent. You can also enjoy a selection of dishes from Food Republic at the equally enjoyable District Brew Pub, which serves craft beers on tap in a fun, casual environment. Both of these venues are considered specialty dining and items are priced a la carte. Expect Food Republic items to cost between $4 and $8, while District Brew Pub charges an extra $7 to $10 per beer or cocktail.
Best Known For
Race Track and Laser Tag: Electric go-kart racing and an impressive laser tag complex feature prominently on this ship, and are among the marquee kid-friendly amenities here. The go-karts allow you to race a friend at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour over two decks, while laser tag lets you challenge a larger group to an open-air game set amidst a galactic backdrop. Some games will even be played in the evening, adding to the effect. Each item will have an extra charge onboard — $7 per person for the go-karts and $5 per person for laser tag.
Manhattan Room: Norwegian prides itself on its “freestyle” dining program, meaning that cruisers have a variety of choices, rather than a single main dining room or buffet, when it comes to included dining. We had an especially good experience in the New York-themed Manhattan Room, where steaks were cooked perfectly to order, white tablecloths were immaculate, and service was attentive without being imposing. The experience felt upscale without being stuffy — an feat for a meal that doesn’t cost an extra penny.
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Who It's Best For
Families will enjoy Norwegian Bliss. This is especially true for multi-generational families that have a variety of lodging and entertainment needs between them. If grandma and grandpa want a plush suite, mom and dad want some quiet time at the spa, and the kids want to spend the afternoon in the pool, all will find what they need here.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
A ship that tries to be many things to many people risks falling between many stools, and this one does in a few instances. The ship's barbecue specialty restaurant doesn’t live up to the hype, and the touted water slide that’s cantilevered over the edge of the ship was experiencing significant technical problems — hopefully just early-days growing pains — when we were onboard.
by: Laura Motta
Laura Motta is the director of publishing for ShermansTravel.
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Norwegian Bliss at a Glance
- Line: Norwegian Cruise Line
- Number of Passengers: 4000
- Ship Size: Mega
- Launch Date: 2018