Hello everyone, My wife just returned from our first cruise on NCL. We had a wonderful week on the NCL Bliss and are glad we tried NCL. What follows is our thoughts on the cruise.
DISCLAIMER: Admittedly My wife and I are RCCL fans. Our first choice is always Celebrity but we also have sailed several times on RCI ships. I’ve been intrigued by the NCL Breakaway class ever since it debuted several years ago and wanted to try it. We finally did it this year. The views are from the perspective of a grumpy horizontally challenged, bald fifty something, with no kids. Admittedly, my views may be biased. I naturally do a periodic comparison with our experiences on RCCL ships, so feel free to take my observations with a grain of salt.
We sailed on the Bliss on February 2-9, 2019. Overall we really enjoyed NCL Bliss. She is a great ship with many outdoor venues that appealed to us. However, while I would sail on NCL again if the the itinerary, ship, timing and price was right (Alaska??), I think I’ve scratched my NCL itch for now and it’s time to go back to where we belong....Celebrity. I’ll go into more detail below but to best summarize our view of the overall cruise experience I’d say it was a 3 beers (🍺🍺🍺) out of 5. We found it a bit too noisy and crowded for our liking (ironically there was not a lot of kids on this cruise). The overall flow in most of the public areas just didn’t suit us. That and the legendary “nickel and diming” stuff and NCL’s failure to address the finer details greatly lessened our overall NCL experience.
Embarkation 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺. One of the highlights of the cruise. Very easy and quick check in. Not too crowded. I liked the “assigned group card” boarding process.
Disembarkation 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺. Another highlight. We left the ship around 0930. I loved clearing border entry check (facial recognition) on board while leaving the ship. Once we were off, getting our luggage and catching a cab was a breeze.
Itinerary 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺. I really liked the E. Caribbean Itinerary (Tortola, St Thomas and Nassau). We like sea days and the three port itinerary with a mid afternoon departure really made it feel like we had 4 days at sea.
OVERALL SHIP CRUISE EXPERIENCE 🍺🍺🍺
The Bliss 🍺🍺🍺. Overall like the open air spaces and their access/connection with the ocean. So many of the big new ships (like RCI’s Oasis class) have plenty of open outdoor space but block the views and access to the ocean with lifeboats, walls and water slides. But that’s not the case with the Bliss, plenty of space to sit and enjoy the ocean views. The furnishings and decor were for the most part pleasing and comfortable. We had smooth sailing and felt very little ship movement. The outside lounging areas on deck 8 were our main areas to retreat to at night. Unfortunately, a huge bad thing is that there were many areas of the ship that are regularly crowded and noisy.
The Waterfront 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺 This was our favorite feature of ship. NCL really did this well and clearly outshines RCI and Celebrity. I wish the RCI Oasis class ships had evening outdoor sea view venues like the Bliss. I love the return to the open outdoor promenade deck. The Waterfront restaurants, bars and lounging al fresco areas were great! It was a wonderful place to escape the noise and crowds in the other public areas of the ship, especially at night after dinner. I wish there was maybe one or two more bars out there towards the back of the ship.
Spice H20 🍺🍺🍺🍺 This is where I spent the majority of the time on the ship. It was a great adults only retreat with beautiful views and a great bar staff. It reminded me a great deal of Celebrity’s Sunset Bar (but not as nice). The covered bar area was great, there was plenty of sports on TV, beer and sea breezes. The big knock for me were the stationary bar stools. They are far too close to the bar for a big fat guy like me. I hit my knee countless times...annoying. Also It did get over crowded at times during the day with lounge chairs. It was another nice evening outdoor venue if you were looking for music, dancing and overall good time.
Observation Deck 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺 A great venue. My wife’s favorite. A great place to escape and get a cocktail, snack and great views. Perfect for an Alaska or other bad weather cruise. Also a great spot to grab an early morning cup of coffee.
Bars 🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺 I really liked the variety of bars and lounge spaces on the Bliss. Wine, Scotch, Mojito, Cavern Club, H2O, Observation Lounge are just a few examples. I think NCL overall has done a great job.....except for the Jimmy Buffet venue. That’s a head scratcher.
Specialty Restaurants 🍺🍺🍺 🍺. We had the 3 night dining package. La Cucina, Teppanyaki and Cagney’s. Cagney’s was fabulous. I think I had one of the best steaks I’ve ever had on a cruise ship. The service was excellent. La Cucina and Teppanyaki were both solid choices. Good food and good service, but not as good as Cagney’s. We also did a fourth night at “Food Republic”. This was probably my least favorite. The food and concept was good, but the service was not great and the “electronic menu” system was overly complicated and did not work.
The Local 🍺🍺 1/2. Sooo much promise yet doesn’t deliver. Overall disappointed. To me this venue is not a pub or a sports bar. It’s just a restaurant venue with a few TVs and a bar over on the side. The Casino Bar, Outdoor Cavern Club Bar and H2O are much better spots to watch sports. Had wings the first day and they were great! But the breakfast on the third morning was just “so-so.” Trying to be a food venue and a bar venue just doesn’t work smoothly in my mind. It ended up being a crowded noisy central meeting point for most guests. I never went back after the third morning breakfast.
Buffet 🍺🍺🍺 1/2. We ate breakfast and lunch most days. Great selections and usually didn’t have problems finding at table. We especially enjoyed the outdoor seating. The main disappointment was the inconsistent times that they opened for breakfast. Some mornings it was 0700 and others it was 0730. It caused a lot of confusion among the passengers.
MDR. 🍺🍺 1/2. We ate at Savor twice. The food was “okay” (not great), but service was very disappointing. The timing of food service was rarely coordinated (my wife finished her first course before mine was delivered). Also crowded and noisy for the space.
Pool deck areas (decks 16&17) 🍺🍺 Probably the most disappointing asepct of the ship for us. The flow on both decks was the worst I’ve experienced on sea days. Crowded and loungers moved everywhere. It was almost impossible to get from one end of the ship to another. The pool area is too small and desperately needs a third pool and extra deck space. The water slides and that race track are the culprits and an annoyance for my purposes. Thank goodness for the H2O retreat
The running track is a joke, and for the most part useless, even in the mornings.
Elevators 🍺. Wow! Awful. poorly positioned and crowded at almost all times of the day. The waiting areas for an elevator made the experience even worse.
Public bathrooms 🍺. The good news is there are a lot of them. The bad news is most of them are too small and have one or two undersized stalls. The smallest stalls I ever experienced on a cruise ship (old or new). Most of the bathrooms did not have automatic door openers and they wanted guest to use paper towels to open the heavy steel doors. Yet most of the paper towels dispensers didn’t work or were always empty. Seems like an area, NCL intentionally cut corners on to me.
Cabins 🍺🍺🍺🍺. #14160, Mini Suite. I thought the NCL Bliss cabins were great, well thought out and had a few nice touches. The bathroom had a lot of space for a cabin this size. With the exception of the unmarked main light switches and absence of a night light in the bathroom the electronics were well done. Plenty of outlets and USB Ports. The bed was disappointing for my taste (too firm and uncomfortable), but my wife liked it.
Entertainment 🍺🍺🍺. This rating may admittedly be unfair. Didn’t do much here and we skipped Jersey Boys. The pool band wasn’t the best I’ve heard. I think the lead singer was having a bad cruise.
SHIP GUEST AMENITIES AND SERVICES 🍺🍺 1/2
Internet 🍺🍺 Overall a huge disappointment. Here NCL woefully is far behind RCCL. The value for the price paid is ridiculous. I got the premium high speed package and felt it was a ripoff. Sporadic streaming and almost not ability to do live video. Also iMessage quit working halfway through the cruise and the IT staff just blaimed in on Apple. For normal email, social media and surfing, it was fine. BUT NOT WORTH THE HIGH PRICES. All of the different pacakges offered by NCL are really overpriced for the service provided.
NCL ship App 🍺🍺 1/2. “Meh.” Without going into too much detail I like RCI/X’s Apps better. NCL’s was harder to set up at the start and the features were less refined that RCCL’s. I did like having access to my onboard account. But the App went weird halfway through the cruise. I think this is the culprit of the iMessage issue above, but the NCL IT experts blamed Apple.
Beverage Package 🍺. Probably my biggest example to provide of NCL’s cost cutting and nickel and diming. One of the highest per day prices for the “Ultimate Beverage Package” (UDP) (ours was included in the original booking) and delivers the least as far as I’m concerned. The biggest shock and ripoff is the fact that water and sodas are not included in the “Ultimate” package. So unlike RCCL, one is left to getting a soda or tap water in a plastic disposable cup from a bartender. Additionally on the booze side, most of the premium liquors that are included in RCCL packages are outside the pricing that would make them included in the NCL package. So the choices are fewer in the NCL package.
Overall Bar Experience 🍺🍺🍺 1/2. Most of the Bar and Lounge venues were great. There is a wide variety. The bartenders were all great (🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺). Fantastic speedy service and fun to get to know. We especially enjoyed the bartenders at H2O (Bryant from “south philly,” “Idaho” and Sam) that really made my afternoons in H2O fun. The bad thing about the outdoor bar service is NCL’s policy of using plastic disposable cups for mixed drinks. It greatly lessened the experience, when they should have been using Acrylic glassware. (Also sticking this comment here, the disposable coffee cups are a joke. You have to ask for them and the are small Dixie cup type cups. Bring and insulated travel mug for hot and cold beverages)
Room Steward 🍺🍺🍺🍺. Was okay. Started off great, but I was disappointed when he clearly became less attentive as the cruise went on, especially the last 24 hours.
So, Let me sum-up. No doubt in my mind Bliss is a wonderful ship and we had a great cruise. Depending on the cruising wants and needs of the individual I would recommend sailing on the Bliss (or a Breakaway class ship). I really like NCL’s ship design of bringing the outdoor promenade experience to life. I wish RCI would incorporate these types of venues in their new ships and go back to a fully open Promenade deck. To me the Waterfront and the H2O areas are the main attractions of the Breakaway class ships. But then there are the NCL detractors: cutting corners, crowds, pool deck organization/flow, noise and most of all those elevators!
As older DINKS we are not huge fans of “family oriented venues.” We want outdoor spaces to enjoy drinks, warm weather and the ocean. The focus of NCL on on placing family venues like watersides and a racetrack in a manner that interupts peaceful enjoyment in the upper open deck areas is something that will likely prevent us from doing more regular NCL cruises. For us NCL will just be an option to look at for future cruises, but our first choice will continue to be Celebrity.