Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
JamieLogical

Random Bliss Stuff - We'll Call This a Review

Recommended Posts

2XGis9HsvrV1VF7fohHi-ZZ6hj51ZiqOmF-5eLF5

 

Back in October, I posted my "Not a Full Review" of our October 14th sailing on the Escape. Feedback from folks on that thread suggested I should have gone ahead and called it a review, since I went into a lot of detail. So this time around, I am going to call this a "review".

 

Here's a little background for those of you who haven't followed my other posts on these boards. We have been on four NCL sailings now, our first being in February of 2018 on the Escape. My SO had been on one cruise before years ago, on Princess with his ex-wife for their honeymoon. He convinced me to go on last February's sailing with a friend of his who was celebrating a birthday. I loved every second of that first cruise on the Escape, caught the cruising bug, and have been obsessed with cruising ever since. We have since sailed on the Gem to New England & Canada on June, on the Escape to Bermuda in October (see link above) and now on the Bliss to the Eastern Caribbean.

 

We were scheduled to sail on the Encore's inaugural transatlantic in November 2019, but changes to the itinerary caused us to rethink that plan. Originally, it was scheduled to be an 11-day sailing out of Southampton, England to Miami with a stop in the Azores. The new itinerary is a 9-day sailing from Southampton to New York City, with no port stops. The idea of such a northerly itinerary in November is unappealing to say the least. So we have implemented our impromptu "Plan B". We are now going to be sailing on our first MSC cruise in September on the Seaside to the Western Caribbean. And while we were aboard the Bliss, we transferred our transatlantic booking to the Encore's second sailing out of Miami on December 1st. Unfortunately, this is nearly an identical itinerary to the one we just did on the Bliss (see review below), but the warmer temps and still getting to sail on the Encore when it is nearly brand new make up for that.

 

So, back to the Bliss! I will be breaking this up into several posts so bear with me. I will try to include photos, menus, and dailies throughout. I will try to keep things in a logical, chronological order, but I might throw in some random stuff as it comes back to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We live in balmy Rochester, NY which was experiencing the tail end of polar vortex on the day we left. We flew to Miami on Friday, the 1st. The day before that, the college I work at had actually closed due to extreme wind chills. When we caught the Uber to the airport, it was a whopping 9 degrees. We didn't wear our winter coats, because we didn't want to have to lug them around all week. My SO wore a linen sports coat and I wore a hoodie. Our Uber driver thought we were insane.

 

Flights went pretty smoothly, though we did spend a lot of time taxiing in both Atlanta and Miami. When we arrived in Miami, it was 76 degrees. Quite an improvement! We caught the free shuttle to our hotel (Element) and were checked in after midnight. Finally to bed around 1:00 am?

 

The hotel was fine. The continental breakfast was clearly not equipped to handle the throng of cruisers sailing out that morning. They were out of everything, including clean plates and silverware. My SO ate his pancakes with a spoon! But it was free breakfast, so who can complain. We knew we wouldn't starve to death since we'd be on a cruise ship in a few hours.

 

From our room after breakfast, we saw something leaping from the water in the pond behind the hotel. Say lots of them, consistently. Now idea what they were. Maybe small dolphins? The pond did connect to the ocean via a canal. It was interesting anyway!

 

Finally, we couldn't take waiting around the hotel anymore and we decided we'd rather wait around the cruise terminal, so we summoned an Uber. We got to the terminal right around 10:00, I believe. We handed off our bags to the porter and headed into Terminal B. Check in was SUPER quick. No real line for security or check-in, we maybe waited 2 whole minutes after we completed our little health form? We got boarding group #2 and hung our right near where the door for boarding would be opened.

 

mL8CMrCqeZdFnlKW9RsS_YF59UX_hLQBq7E0G0E9

 

4Npcsn3qKWHBQbRjHHsIiLyaxOzjidEr8BjcHQpl

 

iWdELe76sx16MDym1PBbtiOcWLXoaeNePE9LdAMg

 

 

Edited by JamieLogical

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Inside the terminal, we were able to connect to the ship's wifi and get on the Cruise Norwegian app, but could not find any way to make go-kart or laser tag reservations, which was a bit disappointing.

 

From the gangway we could see the construction on the new terminal. Looks like there is still a lot of work to do. There were some beams sticking out, but no real structure yet. Not sure when it's scheduled to open now.

 

Boarding started just after 11:00 am and Group 2 was called pretty early. As soon as we got on board, we went up a couple of flights of stairs and to one of the touch screens by the elevators to book go-karts and laser tag. They were both listed under "attractions" and though they were listed separately, when you went in to make reservations, it listed times for both, which was a bit confusing and you really had to make sure you made reservations for the right one. We made reservations for go-karts Monday at 2:00 and Friday at 10:00 am. And we made reservations for laser tag Monday at 5:00 and Friday at 11:00 am. We also tried to make reservations for any of the comedy shows, but they were all already listed as stand-by only!

 

After getting that sorted, we went to The Local for lunch, but were told the didn't open until 11:30. At this point it was about 11:20, so we just sat at the bar-top that overlooks the Atrium and waited. They were swamped and service was slow as you would expect with about 50 parties all arriving and ordering at the exact same time, but it was fine. The couple next to us was complaining they'd been denied a booth. Come on people! A booth seats six. You are a party of two. It's embarkation day and about 1000 people are all trying to eat there at once!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After lunch, we headed out to explore the ship. Making all of the obvious comparisons to the Escape. The fact that the buffet was at the front of the ship was actually really disorienting. I hadn't given it much thought before-hand but since our stateroom was closer to the aft elevators, it really was kind of a pain to get to the buffet. We had to either go up to Deck 16 (we were on 13) and walk outside across the pool deck or go down to 6-7-8 walk across to the forward elevators, and then up to 16. On our other cruises so far, our rooms have been closest to the aft elevators and the buffets have been on the rear of the ship.

 

I guess it was worth it to move the buffet if it meant the addition of the Observation Lounge, though. The Observation Lounge was just SO NICE. It was HUGE. It had so many little nooks and crannies with seating, gorgeous views, comfy chaise lounges, a light buffet a lot of the time, and a bar that was open most of the time. It is a fantastic space and definitely the main advantage I think that the Bliss has over the Escape.

 

Our rooms were ready pretty quickly, so we went ahead and dropped our carry-on stuff. We had one of the angled balconies on Deck 13. They really do provide so much extra space. They are about half again as big as a normal balcony and have room for a full lounge chair at the wide end, so we left a note for our room steward to please bring a lounger as well as one extra bath towel per day. We ran into him a little later in the day. His name was Arnel and he was awesome! Our lounger was delivered by that evening and he brought me my extra towel every day. He also did an amazing job cleaning our room twice a day, leaving us cute towel animals, and greeting us by name every time he saw us.

 

Here's a photo of the normal-depth, "shallow" side of the balcony:

s0LaVZmKh30P1e4xkkkSADobT9HinVyP5jI6bcZI

 

Here's a photo of the wider side of the balcony (and my SO's butt!):

1f3-LzTrSdtsfNlJva_xfbCmU_5slGBzFM0AkUL-

 

And here's a photo I took later in the week where you can see the lounger out there:

up9vyeWUaqRGVNOzYcScjoZ4s1Wtxmux2vST8iXP

 

Okay, time for a little break. Will be back later to tell you about our dinner at Q.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for taking the time to provide your experiences on the Bliss.  We will be on the ship in March and reading your review really helps with the remainder of the wait!  Thanks again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So after dropping our stuff and exploring the ship a bit more, it was time for muster. We were in the Observation Lounge when the original announcement went out that muster would begin in 15 minutes. Our muster station was in the Manhattan Room, so we made our way down. It was very odd that they had staff walking around with tablets to scan our cards instead of scanning them as we came through the door. Not sure why they did it that way. Much harder for the staff to keep track of who they'd scanned and who they hadn't. The muster drill itself was pretty standard and uneventful. The staff had a hard time getting people to quiet down to listen to all of the safety instructions, as there were hundreds of people in the room and only one person giving instruction.

 

For sail away we fought our way back up to the Observation Lounge. The time after muster is always the most crowded and frustrating time on any ship, so we tried not to let it get to us. Bliss was docked facing into port, so we had to pull forward down the channel to a turn around area and then get faced the right direction. We got a VERY good look at the MSC Seaside as we sailed past her, which got my SO and I pretty excited for our trip in September. Just as we were getting past the Seaside on our way out of the channel, an announcement was made that there was a medical emergency and that we would be pulling back over to the dock so someone could be transported by ambulance. As we were stopped for that, the Seaside sailed out past us, so they actually got out of the channel first. The medical emergency didn't seem to have any other impact on our schedule.

 

Sorry for the glare and reflections from the windows:

 

ejNi11i38T6jcnv6-7yiGjZRU4KnLxzFt-M5Qaeb

 

9Z1dT_ilObPKbIWsVwmpe-qHi-jpIm0V7LqwXDG1

 

MxkdTOapji2OUSLRDUHWJhe144lYYe5Y551j_AjW

 

2YrmA1vBBggadmxxaK99m0Ea2GZgENrbs9hvAtpK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We had the 3-meal specialty dining package as one of our Free at Sea perks and we had already booked Los Lobos for Sunday, Le Bistro for Thursday, and Ocean Blue for Friday. However, we had planned to try Q a la carte at some point as well. We went ahead and booked it through our TV in our stateroom for Saturday evening.

 

Speaking of which, the interface for managing your account, reservations, etc. on the TVs on the Bliss is new and different than on the Gem and Escape. It looks "cleaner", but I didn't actually find it as intuitive to use. One really nice thing though was that there was a schedule screen that would not only show your upcoming reservations (only those booked on board, not those booked through the website weirdly), but it also showed you where you had eaten throughout the cruise based on our swipes. I had meant to take a picture of that screen at the end of the cruise and then completely forgot about it until I was already home. 😞

 

Okay, so we had read mixed reviews about Q. Mostly, we had incredibly low expectations. But it actually turned out to be really good! When we first got there, there was a party that was trying to match up their reservations with another party, but they didn't know that party's room number, so it was a whole confusing mess. But once we actually got our turn at the hostess stand, we were seated right away. There was only one other party there at the time, so not a very happening place that early I guess?

 

We ordered a couple of their specialty drinks (somehow failed to get a photo of the drink menu). I got some kind of berry julip, i remember that much. Since we were ordering food a la carte, we just ordered their big "Pitmaster Platter" to share. I've lived in Virginia and Tennessee, so I know good barbecue and I was skeptical. The meats were all excellent. I especially loved the sausage. All of the sauces on the table were also good, but the one they had labeled as "Mustard" was really Carolina sauce and the one they had labeled as "Carolina" I would maybe call a "sweet & tangy sauce"? The sides were small, but they weren't that great anyway, so we weren't sad about that. The only major disappointment was the cornbread. It was just downright bad. I only took one bite of it.

 

9kRpNOf2h06RmWgga8TJ1CqxtZjgPhI6GXht_HHz

 

bO2Hc8T0sSv1eL4n3EIKuhjsgBWKPOigTQbkvY1R

 

IqHHs3oByTEEN1BGf8h4cxCwBCNBHAaOKLMCB6nf

 

We ended up skipping dessert since we were pretty full, plus we were paying a la carte. We decided we could always stop up at the Garden Cafe for free dessert later.

 

Our waiter was great and we ended up leaving him like a 50% tip somehow...

Edited by JamieLogical

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I honestly don't remember what we ended up doing after dinner on Saturday night. I am certain I made my donation to the Casino at some point. We definitely went up and checked out the go-kart track. And I think we tried to scope out laser tag as well, but it was closed. I also know we tried to hit up the late night snack at the buffet, as is tradition.

 

This brings me to one of my only gripes about the Bliss. The Garden Cafe. First of all, as I mentioned previously, it's forward location was very disorienting, but that was just the tip of the iceberg (cruise joke!). Here is my myriad list of complaints about the Garden Cafe on the Bliss:

 

  • There is absolutely NO FLOW to the station locations. There are stations running forward to aft, but then there are a whole bunch of little pass-through areas with stations running from port to starboard as well. This might sound great, because more stations means less crowding, right? Nope! Because there was not enough consistent duplication between the stations. For example, you know those little round hash brown patties that everyone loves? Those might be on ONE forward-aft station and ONE starboard-port station, so even if you found all the other stuff you wanted, you'd still have to locate and fight the crowds at one of those specific stations for the hash browns. Sausage gravy I could only ever find on one station. There were several omelette bars, but they were always in the middle of other stations, so invariably, the lines for omelettes and eggs made-to-order would BLOCK the stations for other things, like my precious hash browns. This was a consistent problem at all meals. I am just using breakfast as an example. Another example is desserts. Some of the dessert stations would maybe have 3 options, but then another station would have those same options, but like 3 more. So if you missed the station with ALL the options and grabbed one of the three, then walking out you saw a station with more/better options, you were always so disappointed. The only solution was to walk around to every single station to make sure you wouldn't be full of regrets (along with your food) later.
     
  • No crispy bacon!!!! Speaking of breakfast, one of my absolute favorite things from the buffet on the Escape and the Gem is that they have always had separate trays for "Bacon" and "Crispy Bacon". Why anyone would choose the non-crispy option is a mystery to me, but on the Bliss, it's the ONLY option. I went around to ALL of their stupidly located and oriented stations through the whole Cafe on multiple mornings and not a single tray of crispy bacon in sight!
     
  • Late Night Snack is a complete joke! The usual staples of hot dogs, chili, hamburgers, french fries, and floppy pizza were always available, but they only had nachos ONE night? And they never once had regular potato chips. Not once! Also, they only have two stations open (the pizza station and the burger/hot dog station) in the whole vast sea of empty stations, which mean long lines, jostling, and standing around waiting for items to be restocked. You should have seen the near riot when the tiny, empty pot of chili was replaced near the hot dogs one night! And don't get me started on the cookies. My SO is completely obsessed with NCLs chocolate chip cookies. In all seven nights, they didn't put out regular chocolate chip cookies even once, or if they did, the were quickly all taken and replaced with the lame oatmeal raisin cookies that WERE out every night. I would say about half the time chocolate cookies with chocolate chips were available. One night there were some white chocolate macadamia nut. But, I will say, if you are one of those rare oatmeal raisin lovers, you will LOVE the Bliss!

 

One consistently good thing about the Garden Cafe was the Tastes of India station. On the Escape and Gem, there is a "Tastes of Asia" that has some Indian food. But on the Bliss, Indian food gets it's own station and as always on NCL, the Indian food was consistently delicious.

 

And now here is a photo of me with my floppy pizza. It really is just truly terrible, yet somehow it hits the spot after a night of drinking and gambling:

 

mqlkGtj0gxYo5m_VUQvnUCt4wU0NSpD_hI6dBkhC

Edited by JamieLogical

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice review....still think the Escape is my favorite, especially for warmer weather...

 

Oh yeah, I told them. Prefer my bacon not so crispy...and thick... 🙂

 

Seriously, have fun, and thanks for the Seasode picks, sailing on her this April. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice review so far. You said you were not able to book comedy show reservations upon boarding. Was that a glitch and were you eventually able to reserve the reservations you wanted?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looking forward to trying Q, after your good evaluation.  I, too, have read some unfavorable things about it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Loving your 'random' review and pictures!    We will be on the Bliss in a couple of weeks so very timely for us 🙂

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You'll have the best pizza at sea sonn enough on the Seaside, Jamie .... You'll forget all about your floppy pizza .....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, JamieLogical said:

 

Here's a little background for those of you who haven't followed my other posts

Dear Jamie   Thank You for the review. - We also missed good cookies on the Bliss and loved Indian food.

- Good choice on the Seaside  - sailed her twice and going back in September.  - Pizza  there is great, but not as many dining choices -  book the trio package online to for the sp restaurants.  Also dont miss the spa its awesome - and weekly pass for 2 with 30 min massage for 2 is  312   vs 500 on bliss without massages!   ( its also part of Auerea bookings) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, JamieLogical said:

We also tried to make reservations for any of the comedy shows, but they were all already listed as stand-by only!

 

This is very discouraging to hear.  I enjoy comedy shows, and I'm used to Royal Caribbean where they have two comedy shows in the main theater - one is suitable for all ages, the other is more appropriate for adults and is at a later hour but in a theater that seats 1,000+ you can get a decent population in.  It sounds like NCL restricts comedy acts to the smaller venues, which limits the number of people that can see them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, hallux said:

 

This is very discouraging to hear.  I enjoy comedy shows, and I'm used to Royal Caribbean where they have two comedy shows in the main theater - one is suitable for all ages, the other is more appropriate for adults and is at a later hour but in a theater that seats 1,000+ you can get a decent population in.  It sounds like NCL restricts comedy acts to the smaller venues, which limits the number of people that can see them.

We did the Bliss for two cruises in December and when we were on both weeks they also had the comedy shows one night in the main theatre and no reservations were necessary. Also they did the Beatles show  one night in the main theatre and no reservations were necessary. Maybe it has changed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was on your sailing!! I agree with you on everything. We had a wonderful cruise and the ship décor is beautiful!!!! But I gotta say I loved the Escape better.

 

Boarding was so super easy this sailing!!! We had group 1 and were on in no time.

 

Q... funny but I think those people before you were part of my group lol. When we got to the restaurant they were sitting in there and the hostess mentioned something about it. Still have no clue why they were trying to "steal" our resies!!! lollll. We were shocked there was only 4 tables of other diners while we were there.

Our waitress at Q was fantastic!! The food... we did the pitmaster as well. Sausage was great as were ribs. Brisket super dry. Good size portions. OMG my favorite drink the whole trip was the Smoked peach margarita!! to die for!

 

The garden café... Don't get me started!!!! First.... location. Like you we always travel AFT. It's so nice to hop the elelvator and be right there. I had to listen to my husband the whole week about having to cross the pool deck to get to it. Made for a nicer pool deck but we hated the new location. Very awkward to bring a plate, dessert or coffee back to your room.

 

Oh lord the set up. Terrible!!! whoever came up with that new concept could not have been thinking about flow at all. We had the same problem of "searching" for items, missing stations and generally fighting the crowds who had no idea which way to flow. You literally have to zig zag the whole buffet to find everything. Poor, poor design! And the "late" night snacks were pitiful to say the least. 

 

I know you havnet touched on this but 1 thing we were so disappointed with was the 80's party. It's usually my favorite part of the cruise and held in H20. It was held in 1 of the clubs instead on the Bliss. Way, way too small a venue for all who wanted to attend, tiny dance floor, super hot inside and was only an hour. Oh, and speaking of H20.... for some reason it was smaller on this ship and with no screen. Not a fan of this h20.

 

I'll add a quick review about staff. WONDERFUL!! We were on the Getaway last year and it was the general review by all on these boards the staff was "off". Just bad service everywhere. Really got us scared for this cruise. And we were so very happy to see the NCL great service back. Smiles everywhere!! Washy washy peeps, love em. Our steward was fantastic, servers, bar tenders.... erveryone was AAAA+++!!!

Edited by kayjay76
added to

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • SAIL-AWAY GIVEAWAY - Enter for a chance to win a $3,000 Norwegian Cruise Line Gift Card
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...