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CincyJen

My Week Aboard Norwegian Bliss - Nov 24 - Dec 1, 2018

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Good afternoon, Cruise Critic Family!

 

It's only been six days since we left the Norwegian Bliss, and although I'm back to work and still in that post-cruise funk, thought I'd start my full review.  I blogged semi-live during the cruise, but it's time to do a more thorough write-up.  So here we go!  I'll be going day by day.  Thanks for reading!

 

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Cincinnati to Miami - Friday, November 23, 2018

 

Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday.  No presents, no greed, no stress, just a beautiful day with family, food, and football!  This year was a little different, however, because we would celebrate Thanksgiving, but leave the next morning for Miami.  It was wonderful to see family and to cook the traditional dinner and just enjoy one another, but also difficult to not be distracted as the voyage loomed.  We chose to leave Cincinnati the day before the cruise, on Friday, November 23, so as to avoid the vacation disaster from earlier this year when we missed the Norwegian Star out of Los Angeles due to a four-hour flight delay the day of.  Ugh.  Won't be making that mistake again anytime soon.   This was the (insurance-assisted) make-up cruise and we weren't taking any chances.  So, just DH and me, off to Miami on Friday!!

 

We took American Airlines direct from Cincy and arrived around 3:00 pm.  We had booked the Marriott Airport Residence Inn, within the Marriott Airport Complex, and after retrieving our luggage it was so easy to catch the free hotel shuttle. Can't recommend the Marriott Airport Complex and especially the Residence Inn enough!!  Check-in was simple, our room was spacious and lovely, and we walked over to the Courtyard Marriott to enjoy an early dinner and drinks at Champions Sports Bar.  As the sun went down and our excitement mounted, we enjoyed a poolside cocktail and just chatting excitedly.  It's hard to believe this is an airport hotel!  Really helped get us in the mood for the days ahead.

 

 

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Edited by CincyJen
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Embarkation Day! Saturday, November 24, 2018

 

It was tough to sleep Friday.  So excited to see the Bliss!  Still, the Residence Inn Miami Airport was lovely, our room was spacious and comfortable, we watched a movie, and finally feel asleep.  Woke up, went down to the lobby and enjoyed our hotel breakfast, checked out, and ordered an Uber to the Port of Miami.  The Uber arrived maybe 8 minutes after I ordered it!  She was driving a Honda Civic and I felt kind of awful because we had four pieces of luggage (two large pullman cases, two smaller carry-on cases).  We made it work and we were off to the port.

 

It's been many moons since we cruised from Port of Miami.  A lot has changed.  It's such a busy and vibrant port.  We left the hotel at 10:20 am and arrived at the Port at 10:40 am, following one spin-around as the traffic cops made us take another lap.  We were very fortunate to have an Uber driver who knew the Port well.  She was expert at navigating the chaos and we were so grateful and tipped her generously.  Traffic signs guided our driver to the proper terminal, and when she dropped us off, porters took our bags, we tipped them, and in a whirlwind of activity found ourselves joining a short line at Terminal B, waiting to board.  It was fun talking to other excited cruisers!  Minutes later, I'd say around 10:50, they opened the terminal and allowed us inside.  There was an announcement via loudspeaker explaining that Bliss Passengers on odd decks should board at Terminal B (we were on Deck 15 and in the proper spot), while passengers on even decks should board at Terminal C.  The woman checking boarding documents was a bit confused and thought it was the other way around, but we quickly entered the terminal.

 

(As an aside, the Port of Miami can be chaotic and it was difficult to find current information prior to leaving our home.  This was just the second cruise out of Miami for the Bliss; passengers on the prior cruise received an email directing them to the proper terminal, but we did not. It was no big deal!  I'd just like to reassure cruisers that it's not that tricky at all.  They really know what they're doing in Miami and it was far easier than I anticipated.  Feel free to ask any and all questions and I'll attempt to answer them as best I can!)

 

So.... we entered Terminal B, quickly scribbled out our health questionnaires, and joined a short line.  Almost immediately, an NCL employee guided us to the next available agent.  We handed over our boarding documents and passports.  She issued our sail cards.  She pointed us to follow the line to the next room.  We asked when we would be boarding the Bliss.  She told us "We've already begun boarding, but you will be taken to a waiting room and we'll give you a boarding group."  We followed the motioning port agents, and weirdly, before you knew it, we were heading toward a gangway.  I told DH, "I'm pretty sure we're getting on the ship RIGHT NOW!" and before you knew it, up and around the gangway we were, and at 11:16 am (I even wrote it down), we were aboard the Bliss!  So... to summarize... left the hotel at 10:20 am, arrived at the port and handed off our luggage around 10:45 am, on board the Bliss at 11:16 am, and.... ordered our first drink at The Local at 11:23 am!

 

Couldn't be easier.  So happy.  

 

After toasting other passengers and acting as a sort of crazy-excited  Welcome Wagon to the beautiful Norwegian Bliss, we ordered some lunch. I had the Turkey Chili. It tasted a lot better than it looked and really hit the spot. OMG, it's not even 12:30, and we're on board the Bliss, having some beers, and eating some lunch! Honestly, Best, Easiest, Fastest Embarkation ever! 

 

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Edited by CincyJen
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Day 1 - Embarkation Day - Miami - Saturday, November 24, 2018

 

So we're aboard the Bliss and it's about 1:00 pm and all is good. Having some drinks and light lunch at The Local.  Haven't really explored yet. Meeting fellow cruisers and just having a blast.  Starting to relax and get into vacation mode.  All is perfect and good.

 

At some point (way earlier than expected and well before muster) an announcement is made that staterooms are ready and we decide to abandon our prime barstool spot at The Local and check out our Spa Mini-Suite, #15210. On first glance it seemed smallish (they really need to stop calling these cabins "mini-suites" and just be honest that they're really just Deluxe Balcony Cabins, but whatever), but, as the week progressed, we found it perfectly suitable to our needs, and we loved the extra space and especially the wonderful bathroom and shower.  Here are some photos just as we saw it for the first time.  It's only our second Norwegian Cruise Lines cruise but that makes us Bronze Latitudes and we received a bottle of sparkling wine.  Do note some things that set the mini-suite apart from a balcony cabin; the double-sink, the tile backsplash, the (freaking amazing OMG OMG I miss it SO MUCH OMG OMG OMG) shower with body jets.  Also, the Spa Mini-Suite includes upgraded Bvlgari Amenities. That lotion is unbelievable! And I really appreciated the nice, unexpected shower pouf thingy which I enjoyed all week.

 

(ETA: In the second photo, under the desk, is a pull-out stool that doubles as a table for room service; the table-top is removable so I would use the stool to sit on as I put on my makeup daily.  There's plenty of light at the desk-vanity. That's the mini-fridge to the right.  When we arrived it wasn't yet stocked, but when we returned to the cabin after dinner, the mini-bar was set up.)

 

(In the third photo, out of sight under the double-sink on either side are two deep, pull-out drawers for stowing toiletries and curling irons and whatever else you might want to keep there to ensure the bathroom stays nice and neat.  In the center, also out of sight, is a facial tissue container that our cabin steward kept well-stocked.  It was a terrific bathroom!! Loved it so much!)

 

(OMG THAT SHOWER.  In the photo you can't even see the third (!!) set of jets which are at ankle level. Each jet is adjustable, as well.)

 

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Edited by CincyJen
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Day 1 - Embarkation Day - Saturday, November 24, 2018, continued

 

So, here we are!  It's still Day 1, we're in our cabin, we just completed the muster drill (our station was in Savor Restaurant, very easy and quick muster), and at this point it's time for Sail Away!

 

We didn't join the Cruise Critic Roll Call Sail Away event at Sugarcane Mojito Bar, but we're sure it was fabulous.  We were just a little tired, and I wanted to start unpacking, and our balcony afforded a nice view for Sail Away.  So many grand ships were in port this Saturday, and it was fun to watch them all.  We were the last ship to pull off so it was exciting to see them all float by. 

 

First up is the Symphony of the Seas, right in front of us.  Bon Voyage!

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That little guy four ships up is the Carnival Sensation; isn't it amazing how those ships seemed so huge just a short while ago? We also saw the enormous MSC Seaside, the Celebrity Equinox, and the Carnival Glory.  Bon Voyage!!

 

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Edited by CincyJen
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Day 1 - Embarkation Day - Saturday, November 24, 2018, continued

 

Goodbye, Miami!!  It was fun to see people on shore waving at The Bliss. See you next Saturday, Miami!  Such a gorgeous city.

 

After enjoying watching the other massive ships leave Miami, we got changed for our first night dinner, in The Manhattan Room. It was excellent and our service was fantastic.  Didn't take many pictures, but I'll never, ever forget that chocolate-caramel tart dessert.  Oh Mah Gah.  

 

First night cabin turn-down, and that's a wrap on Day 1.  Hope you're enjoying so far!  Please feel free to ask any questions you may have and I'll do my best to answer.

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Edited by CincyJen
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Great review! We leave on 12/29!  Your review is making me more excited!  😀

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2 hours ago, Noelly said:

Great review! We leave on 12/29!  Your review is making me more excited!  😀

A New Year's Cruise!! How wonderful! Can't wait to hear all about it. You must be getting stoked! 

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Following along, thanks! I'll be on the 12/15 sailing and will also be staying in the Marriott airport complex prior - it's great to have the food options close in proximity, which we sorely missed when staying at the Residence Inn Doral location.

 

Great to hear that check-in went smoothly as well. 

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We were on the same cruise! We had SUCH an amazing time. The staff, hospitality, the SHIP! Ahh everything was perfect. Looking forward to reading the rest of your review and seeing your perspectives on things, and reliving through your pictures! Can't believe last week was our last day already!

 

PS - you had a Spa cabin. Were you in the Thermal Spa at all? My fiance and I were in every day between 3 - 7p, so if you were there at that time, we most likely saw you!

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On 12/7/2018 at 9:54 AM, JC5240 said:

We were on the same cruise! We had SUCH an amazing time. The staff, hospitality, the SHIP! Ahh everything was perfect. Looking forward to reading the rest of your review and seeing your perspectives on things, and reliving through your pictures! Can't believe last week was our last day already!

 

PS - you had a Spa cabin. Were you in the Thermal Spa at all? My fiance and I were in every day between 3 - 7p, so if you were there at that time, we most likely saw you!

I imagine we did see each other at some point! We mostly used the Thermal Suite in the mornings and evenings but I'm certain we crossed paths! Wasn't that ship and cruise amazing and wonderful? 

 

More review soon!

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On 12/7/2018 at 9:44 AM, ev98 said:

Following along, thanks! I'll be on the 12/15 sailing and will also be staying in the Marriott airport complex prior - it's great to have the food options close in proximity, which we sorely missed when staying at the Residence Inn Doral location.

 

Great to hear that check-in went smoothly as well. 

That hotel complex is like a not-so-hidden treasure, isn't it? Thanks for reading along, I'll be posting more today. You must be getting SO excited!

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On 12/6/2018 at 8:24 PM, Noelly said:

Great review! We leave on 12/29!  Your review is making me more excited!  😀

 

I'm on that sailing too!

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1 hour ago, CincyJen said:

That hotel complex is like a not-so-hidden treasure, isn't it? Thanks for reading along, I'll be posting more today. You must be getting SO excited!

 

Yeah, I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't get the Residence Inn this time - my wife loves the included microwave popcorn there, but I'm also fairly certain they wanted another hundred bucks for the night over the Courtyard when booking, and that math just doesn't work out. At least the Courtyard properties are a pretty good bet.
 

I've also learned that having easy access to food, especially in the evenings, is the key to domestic bliss. 

 

We are extremely excited! We were on Celebrity Infinity in August, and it just didn't live up to the experiences we've had on the NCL ships. The timing for Bliss just worked out, and it looks like it'll be a packed sailing next week.

Edited by ev98

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4 hours ago, ev98 said:

 

Yeah, I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't get the Residence Inn this time - my wife loves the included microwave popcorn there, but I'm also fairly certain they wanted another hundred bucks for the night over the Courtyard when booking, and that math just doesn't work out. At least the Courtyard properties are a pretty good bet.
 

I've also learned that having easy access to food, especially in the evenings, is the key to domestic bliss. 

 

We are extremely excited! We were on Celebrity Infinity in August, and it just didn't live up to the experiences we've had on the NCL ships. The timing for Bliss just worked out, and it looks like it'll be a packed sailing next week.

That's so interesting to me about the Celebrity Infinity.  If you don't mind, what was it that didn't live up to NCL?  We're always looking at other lines but ever since our NCL Epic Med Cruise just haven't looked back.  We sailed Celebrity many years ago to Bermuda but that was long before the Megaliner Era and there's really no comparison.  

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Day 2 - Day At Sea - Sunday, November 25, 2018

 

Good Morning!  It's our first full day aboard Bliss.

 

There's nothing better than that first morning aboard, right?  Waking up, not really sure of your surroundings, and then realizing you're cruising?  Isn't it fun to hop out of bed that first day and open your curtains to that gorgeous sea view? Squee!

 

We had filled out our Room Service breakfast door-hanger thingy the night before, scheduled for delivery between 6:30 and 7:00 am, and received the knock just before 7:00.  Butter and chocolate croissants, orange juice, and a hot pot of coffee.  I'll be a very disappointed cruiser when they eventually make us pay for these continental room service breakfasts, so enjoy them while you can.  Oh how I love these mornings!  We sat on our balcony, sipped our coffee and took in some deep breaths of fresh sea air.  After taking way-too-long showers in that wonderful mini-suite jetted shower, we dressed and went out to explore. First up, our full breakfast (second breakfast?)!  Decisions, decisions. We settled upon The Local.  I had the Corned Beef Hash with Scrambled Eggs and DH chose the Country Platter.  Such a lovely start to our vacation.  We enjoyed the "new" feeling of The Local over O'Sheehan's, which we had experienced on The Epic.  Our server, Rakesh, was just terrific, and fun.  Ultimate Beverage Package means Mimosas and Bloody Marys in the morning, right?  Rakesh was happy to oblige.

 

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After breakfast, it was time for our much-anticipated Cruise Critic Meetup, hosted by the inimitable shadowmeboy, Matthew, and his beautiful wife Susan.  The Meetup was held in The District Brewhouse and was easily the most well-attended CC Meetup we've ever been to. Many thanks to shadowmeboy for putting it together and for such a great turnout!  We were served passed crudites and champagne and mimosas, and one of the F&B directors in attendance even fetched a Stella Artois for DH!  It was so warm, friendly and informative, attended by many staff members, especially from F&B. (I'm a Food and Beverage professional in real life, so chatting with these F&B cruise pro's was especially interesting to me.)  It also provide our first glimpse of Silas Cook, our Cruise Director, who we absolutely adored throughout the remaining cruise.  He's soooo good at what he does.  Can't compliment him enough.

 

Following our Meet and Greet, it was time for the Cruise Critic Slot Pull, also organized by shadowmeboy!  Oh dear gawd, was this a hoot!  Matthew may correct me but there had to be, what, 25 or so of us?  We had such a blast, and became the center of attention at the Bliss Casino as we yelled and cheered and basically made a ruckus watching each other take their turns.  This event was one of the highlights of our entire cruise, even though we didn't really win anything but happily got our money back.  Met so many fun Cruise Critic members at the Slot Pull who we enjoyed running into the rest of the week.  If there's such an event on your cruise, make sure to attend!

 

After that excitement, here's the way the rest of afternoon-into-early-evening went...

 

 

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It was just a perfect, lazy kind of vacation day at sea.  We wandered the ship, had a nice afternoon in the Thermal Suite, enjoyed doing absolutely nothing, and skipped lunch since we were so full from our breakfast (both breakfasts). 

 

Dinner was at Los Lobos! I had made reservations online before we cruised, but they weren't necessary. The place was weirdly empty that first day at sea (this unusual circumstance did not last, and it was booked up for most of the remaining cruise, so don't be fooled!).  It's a beautiful space, next to Cagney's, and with the A-List Bar between.  The restaurants are located on The Waterfront, and we were given an option to dine al fresco, but chose to stay indoors, and were seated by the window.  So... if you followed my "Semi-Live Blog", you may know already that Los Lobos quickly became our favorite restaurant aboard Bliss, so we were truly getting the cruise off to a perfect start.  This place blew me away.  We love Mexican food anyway; I'd say it's my favorite food, so I was prepared to enjoy it, but I LOVED IT.  Our server was Danilo, and he was fantastic.  We ordered some margaritas, and the table-side guacamole, which cannot be missed.  So fun to watch it being prepared, and it tastes so delicious and fresh. Kudos to Norwegian for this idea, and for Los Lobos in general.  We would end up changing plans just to visit it once more at the end of the cruise.

 

Some photos... the wonderful Tableside Guacamole, DH had the Burritos Rojas, I practically inhaled my Enchiladas Verdes; both served with perfectly prepared beans and rice on the side. For dessert, DH had the Beignets, and I had a Mexican Coffee with tequila and Kahlua. Don't judge me!

 

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Edited by CincyJen
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Day 2 - Day at Sea - Sunday, November 25, 2018, continued

 

Oh, I'm sorry, did I leave you hungry? Here are the rest of the photos! The rice and beans, the Beignets, and the Mexican Coffee! 

 

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OK, look, Cruise Critics, I could write volumes about how much we enjoyed Los Lobos. I won't bore you further, I'd just encourage you to go. It was our unexpected, surprise favorite!!

 

So! After dragging ourselves away from that amazing dinner, it was time for ¡Havana! in the Bliss Theater! We liked this show more than we thought we would. It is what it is, a nice show with nice songs and a nice story and nice dancing. It didn't blow us away, but the performers were terrific, and let me tell you, the ship was rocking mightily that Sunday night and it had to have been a real challenge for them. 

 

After the show, we headed to Skyline Bar (this became our routine; more on Skyline Bar later) for a nightcap and eventually called it a day. That's a wrap on Day 2 aboard the beautiful Norwegian Bliss! Thanks so much for reading.

Edited by CincyJen

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11 hours ago, CincyJen said:

We had filled out our Room Service breakfast door-hanger thingy the night before, scheduled for delivery between 6:30 and 7:00 am, and received the knock just before 7:00.  Butter and chocolate croissants, orange juice, and a hot pot of coffee

How was the coffee? I may give this a try so I don't have to go find coffee then come back to the balcony. Thanks.

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2 hours ago, mtns2sea said:

How was the coffee? I may give this a try so I don't have to go find coffee then come back to the balcony. Thanks.

The coffee was.... fine. It was enough to get us up and going in the mornings and it's fun to sip a hot cup on the balcony wearing the bathrobe! They would bring us a full pot too, good for 4 cups or so. It was the same coffee you'll find in the buffet or Observation Lounge, but delivered right to your room.

 

If you want the good stuff though, Starbucks is the best option. Yes, it's extra, but the cost is no more than at land, and I sprung for a latte or three during the cruise. 😊

Edited by CincyJen

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