One week ago yesterday we returned from a seven day sailing aboard Norwegian’s newest ship, the Bliss. This sailing was the National Conference for our organization, and like last year’s voyage on the Harmony of the Seas, I don’t feel like we can accurately review everything about the ship since we were in sessions during the day and cocktail parties at night, as those kept us from experiencing some of the normal things you get to on a regular non-work sailing, but I certainly want to recount the things we did experience.
Before we get there, let’s talk about the itinerary. We were originally set to visit Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas, but mother nature had other ideas. Hours in to our sailing, while we were attending our first cocktail party on the evening we departed, the captain came over the PA to let everyone know that the storms closing in on our target area meant a complete change of schedule. To avoid the area and keep the ship and passengers safe, our stops were now San Francisco, San Diego, and Ensenada. Here’s my post of the itinerary change, along with a shot from NOAA of what the storms looked like at the time:
This is the first time we’ve experienced an itinerary change first-hand, so as agents it was good to see for ourselves how things played out. I completely empathize with those who were upset that the warm beach vacation they expected was gone, and that we were headed for a first stop where the high would be in the 60s, I really do, but I thank Norwegian for keeping us safe. The storm was not of their making obviously, and with limited options for ports, they gave us the best choices available. I know there are still people who are upset over this, mad at the line, etc, but personally I’m satisfied with the way they handled it. I understand if people are upset that there was no indication before boarding that Norwegian was even considering a change, but frankly, they had little time to evaluate the situation. Willa formed early on the morning of our departure, so direction, timing and future strength were pretty uncertain, and Vicente hadn’t formed much earlier (the day before) and was a lot further south. Most of us would have been on our way or at the port by the time either of these really became a threat to our itinerary, so an early warning to passengers when it was pretty uncertain whether either would impact us would have been an impossible call, and one I don’t envy them having to make. In my eyes, Norwegian did the right thing, and while they weren’t the stops anyone anticipated, they still gave us ports to go off and have fun in without the threat of sailing into heavy storms. I’m not here making excuses for Norwegian, I’m stating fact. They made the call, and we as passengers could either be upset and let it negatively impact our week, or we could accept it and choose to have fun. We chose the latter. Jen and I actually got a good laugh out of the change, as we’d been in San Francisco on vacation the month before, and had spent the 3 days leading up to the cruise in San Diego visiting our daughter, and would spend the 3 days after the cruise back there doing the same.
The itinerary change aside, we still had work to do. Our headquarters team did an amazing job getting everything rescheduled so that most (if not all) of our sessions were still held, in some cases at different times or on different days. I’m sure none of that is of interest to those reading this, so I’ll get moving on an actual review of the Bliss.
First up, the ship! The design is similar to the Escape (which we sailed 3 years ago), and as such, is just as beautiful. Even though it’s part of the same Breakaway-Plus class Escape is, the Bliss fixed a number of the things I took issue with on the Escape, as listed in that older post. Examples:
- Movement of the ship was so much better. Maybe something was wrong with the stabilizers when we sailed Escape, but as mentioned in that review, movement/rocking in even calm seas was noticeable. In less than perfect seas, it was negatively impacting me, and I never get seasick. I was really happy to see the Bliss had no more movement than any other large ship we’ve been on.
- I never felt like there was a lack of bar staff, as most of the time I was able to walk up and get a mudslide whenever I wanted without much of a wait, if any.
- Margaritaville never had the waits we saw on the Escape when I walked by, or the day we ate there. Granted, when we were on the Escape it was free, which changed shortly after that sailing. I’ll talk more about the charge and experience in my restaurant post coming up after this one.
- I was probably a little harsh on the main theater last time, but on the Bliss, I really had no issues with it. Good sight lines all around, and while the cup holders are still small (and I assume still don’t fit the soda cups), they fit everything else we threw at it; bar glasses, plastic bar cups, etc.
- Outside space, especially around the main pool, is more plentiful. Here are comparison of shots I took of the main pool area on the Escape and Bliss to illustrate what I mean (Escape on the left):
My number one complaint from last time, the smell of smoke in the atrium due to the casino allowing smoking in an open area, has mostly been addressed, too, and I couldn’t be happier to see it. Did I still smell smoke? Yes, but only on the floor the casino was on, and nowhere near as bad as on the Escape. How has Norwegian accomplished this? By putting smoking gamblers in a box, literally. As mentioned on Norwegian’s blog, those who wish to smoke while gambling must do so in a separate room, complete with more than 100 machines and 6 table games. Some of that smell has made it out, but it’s far better and much more contained than it was on the Escape. Kudos, Norwegian!
Let’s move on to our cabin. Much like last time, we went with a standard balcony cabin, this time on deck 11 (11732, specifically). It was a pretty standard room with plenty of space to move around, and ample storage. Honestly, neither of us have anything negative to say about our cabin. Take a 360 degree look around both the room and balcony:
Now before we get to the fun stuff, like go-karts and water slides, let’s talk about the staff. I’m sure they were told that there were going to be a thousand travel agents, along with executives from NCL and other lines onboard, but even so, they were awesome all week. Again, we didn’t get to interact with them as much as we would normally, but when we did, we always got smiles, a “how’s your day”, and all out good attitudes from them. I walked around one my own a bit without anything identifying that I was part of the group, and there was no change in attitude. Additional little things, like the always-happy attitude on the guys at the buffet doors ensuring people were sanitizing (the “washy washy” guys) and the girls walking around Taste and Savor at breakfast handing out additional little treats while brightening your day with a song were awesome touches. If you were on the ship and don’t know what I’m referring to, you missed out! Fortunately, some friends of ours managed to get it on video!
Really, the only crew issue I encoutered was at Margaritaville, but we’ll talk about that in my upcoming food post.
Next up on page 2, the good stuff; go-karts, waterslides, and shows!