Cruising has become a big deal in Seattle, and it doesn’t get much bigger than the Norwegian Bliss, the largest Norwegian Cruise Line ship that can hold up to 4,004 guests and 1,716 crew members (which comes to about 1 crew member for every 2 and 1/3 people on the ship). During the 7-day summer cruises, the ship begins and ends at the Seattle port with stops at Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Victoria, B.C.
I got a chance to come on board the Bliss last summer and is it a sight for sore eyes! They started our two-hour tour literally at the top in what they call Haven. It is considered a luxury enclave where high-rolling guests board early ahead of the regular guests. It is sort of a ship within a ship with its own private pool, spa suite (with a steam bath, vitality pool and over 50 specialty treatments), dining service and concierge service. The luxury suites come with personal butlers ready to answer your every whim. In addition to the master suite, living room, dining room and private deck areas, many also include separate bedrooms, activity rooms and bathrooms for the kids. Those who stay in Haven never have to leave the private area of the ship unless they desire to.
While Haven is out of reach for most of us, Norwegian Cruise Line surprisingly offers a variety of different options for singles, couples and families. Sure, having a state room that looks out over the sea is amazing, but I can tell you, even without a window, there isn’t a “bad” room onboard and with so much to do, you won’t be spending much time in your room anyway.
As we toured the hallways, it became apparent just how big this ship is and how easy it would be to get lost. Fortunately, NCL thought ahead. The carpet features a school of fish all heading one direction. You simply follow the fish to your room and when you leave your room, follow them again to reach the main activity areas.
One of the best things about a cruise ship is how much is included. Meals, activities and Broadway shows are all complimentary. Now, not everything with your vacation upfront, (there are plenty of ways to spend your money with upgrades and special activities) but you’d be surprised how being budget-conscious isn’t impossible.
While you might desire laying out in the sun all day, you might be the only one as there is SO much to do. Perhaps the most exciting thing on the ship is its Aqua Park. The activities here include a double-loop waterslide that passengers board while standing up (the bottom is dropped underneath them) and are shot over the side of the ship and back on board again. You’ll also find the Aqua Racer tandem racing waterslide, a children’s splash area, two pools and a few hot tubs thrown in for good measure. The area also features a giant video screen that airs current sporting events on land during the day and movies at night.
Racing enthusiasts will not be able to wait to get behind the wheel of the two-level, open-air race track. At 1000 feet, it’s the largest as sea. (There is an extra charge of $9.95 to drive.) The ship also features a mini golf course, a bowling alley, an art gallery, a gym, a spa and casinos. Laser tag battles can be found here as well for $9.95 extra per game.
At night, most of the shows playing on the ship are free and include the Broadway show, “Jersey Boys” (the Tony award-winning musical about and featuring the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons), “Havana!” (1950s Cuba in its vibrant heyday), a Beatle cover band and a standup comedy show. The show, “Happy Hour Prohibition-The Musical” will set you back an extra $29.95. It’s set in world famous Madam Lulu’s New Orleans speakeasy where tantalizing madams will regale you with tales of bootleggers.
Grab a Fork
There are lots of food options on the Bliss as well with plenty of complimentary dining rooms with menus that change daily. These include the Garden Café a buffet with multiple dining stations serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was treated to lunch here and options go way beyond your local buffet back home. Other choices include the Savor Main Dining Room which has been described as “balancing classic favorites with unique new dishes” with an extensive menu of deliciously fresh flavors.
The Taste Main Dining Room also serves a wide variety of cuisine including the chef’s signature dishes and wine recommendations. Over at The Local, the dressed down pub is open 24 hours a day serving favorites like chicken pot pie, fish and chips and prime rib.
Upgrade dining options include La Cucina Italian Restaurant, the Texas smokehouse Q, Cagney’s Steakhouse, the Los Lobos Contemporary Mexican Restaurant and the chocolate lovers’ paradise, Coco’s. If being away from a Starbucks makes you sweat – you’ll be glad to know that there is one full-sized one on board too as well as a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea bar and restaurant. Other choices include The Cellars (A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar), The District Brew House, The A-List Bar and the Sugarcane Mojito Bar.
Separate and Then Regroup
One of the best things Disney did was create a cruise line where kids and parents could have fun together or separately. That same idea is shared aboard The Bliss too. Here, the ship features three FREE kids programs that are staffed by certified-trained staff members all…day…long. The “Guppies” is designed for those age 6 months to 3 years old socializing with others with simple activities with hosted activities and a playroom offering simple activities from building blocks to painting with edible paints.
The Splash Academy youth program geared for those ages 3-12 with themed activities, parties, sports and more every day and the Entourage welcomes teens ages 13-17 with their own “no parents allowed” area with activities including basketball games, theater classes, video game competitions, pool parties or just hanging out in a cool, relaxed environment.
The ship even offers late night babysitting (for an additional charge) so you can have a romantic night out.
Learn more about the Norwegian Bliss and other cruises here.
(All photos by the author)