It’s always a delight to travel on a brand new cruise ship for a pre-inaugural cruise. Staying in a cabin that absolutely no one has stayed in before. Last week we were invited on board the latest Norwegian Cruise Line ship, Norwegian Bliss. The cruise started in Bremerhaven near the Meyer-Werft Papenburg yards where Norwegian Bliss was constructed (October 2016-April 2018) – travelling to Southampton over 2 days.
The ship is a modest 168,000 GRT and can hold around 4,000 passengers looked after by 1,700 well-trained crew. Norwegian Bliss, which is the final Breakaway Plus class ship, is sister to Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy and shares a number of their features. These include the Aqua Park, Go Karts and laser tag as well as some high-end eateries such as Cagney’s steakhouse and Food Republic. The Bliss is actually a bona fide work-of-art as the hull art design was produced by famed marine wildlife artist Wyland. The hull features a cacophony of whales, dolphins, rays, yellow fin tuna, seagulls and turtles that help to highlight the ships environmental credentials.
Norwegian Bliss is a ship that has a homely feel. Where you can instantly be at your ease and relax. A favourite area was the Observation Lounge. This is the largest at sea, with a cocktail bar and large amounts of comfortable seating.
If you feel like getting away from the crowds, the Studio Lounge on Deck 12-13 is a great quiet place to read a book, make a coffee in complete seclusion and just chill out. This is a social space for use by the single berth studio staterooms, so you could also make some new friends here. The Atrium is fantastic. Here you can have a drink at the Atrium Bar, visit the shopping centre, sit and listen to piano music (or even rock music depending upon the time of day). Even better, the Atrium has loads of space for people to chat and mingle.
On Deck 20-19 is the Go Kart track, which is brilliant. It runs electric cars that can achieve 30 miles an hour.
Also, on deck 20-19 you can go on the waterslides. These look great, with one of the Aqua Racers having an almost vertical drop start!
You then step down to the Pool Deck with its fantastic Aqua Park, two pools and dual cantilevered hot tubs.
Moving forward on Deck 19 you can also play outdoor laser tag!
Deck 19 aft offers various sun deck areas. Some are public and others are by keycard access only for Haven passengers (portside). There are cabanas, hot tubs and an extensive bar area to get your all inclusive cool drinks. The Horizon Observation Lounge is a two-storey forward-facing lounge located on Decks 17 and 18. This lounge is served by an exclusive bar. It features panoramic views from two-deck high floor-to-ceiling windows and is reserved for Haven passengers. The Haven Restaurant, and The Haven Outdoor Restaurant are located forward on the starboard side. A very impressive Haven Courtyard is situated on Deck 17 with its exclusive secluded pool and hot tub.
On Deck 17 there are some fabulous places to eat. These include the French Le Bistro, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (a great stop for a grownup lunch) and Spice H2O for some spicy seafood, great sushi and cool cocktails. Continuing down to Deck 16 there’s the children’s Aqua Park, the Waves Bar, the fitness centre, Mandara Spa and the beauty salon/barbers shop.
You will find yourself on Deck 16 a lot as it also houses the Garden Café. This is where the majority of passengers take breakfast and lunch. There is a mass of indoor and outdoor seating in a variety of styles. It can be a bit busy at peak times and is especially frustrating when other passengers ‘reserve’ tables by leaving a pair of sunglasses on it! On Deck 15 you will find our favourite hangout, the Observation Lounge and cocktail bar.
The Heart of Bliss
On every ship there is a beating heart where all the action is, and Bliss is no exception. For Norwegian Bliss the action is on the middle of Decks 6, 7 and 8 and is centred around the Atrium. Here you can find a variety of great bars, clubs, eateries and shops. Also, there is the great Atrium Bar. Other venues and eateries include a full-sized Starbucks, for all your gourmet coffee including a good flat white.
There is also the Cavern Club, to provide a homage to the Beatles and great rock music. The District Brewhouse is the place to go to try some of the 27 draft beers on board. Food Republic, if you can get in, provides a fabulous relaxed dining venue for lunch. Here you can also indulge in whisky, wine and cigars in several purpose designed lounges. Further down, there is the Mojito Bar and also two main dining areas, Cagney’s Steakhouse and Los Lobos.
Following on from there you will find ‘dessert central’ represented by the Bake Shop (for cupcakes, macaroons and more) and also Dolce Gelato for ice cream. If you fancy a glass of champagne, the A-list Bar on Deck 8 should be your first call.
The Next Step
Deck 6 is home to the casino. The casino on Norwegian Bliss is fabulously large. It has a huge number of gaming machines, black jack tables and also a private VIP area for exclusive gaming action. Also on this deck is the theatre with several exclusive shows such as Havana and The Jersey Boys. Some of the main dining areas, such as the Manhattan Rooms, are here too.
The kid’s clubs (Splash Academy) are exclusively on Deck 5 – and they have a huge area. The Guppies (for ages 6 months to 3 years) have an exclusive area, and then the other three kid’s clubs (Turtles [3-5], Seals [6-9], Dolphins [10-12]) have an interchangeable area with games, video games and loads of space for drama, science and creative activities.
This only leaves the teens; they have Entourage, their own exclusive club and the video arcade.
We will discuss these clubs in more detail in separate posts.
When you board a cruise ship you quickly get a feel of the atmosphere and the vibe of the ship. Norwegian Bliss, which to us is not as brightly decorated as some ships we’ve been on, had a very comfortable feel. This was supported by a very knowledgeable and polite crew along with very comfortable and spacious staterooms. Bliss has some major wow factors that will provide success in the US market. These include the largest go kart track at sea, the laser tag gallery, the huge well-appointed casino and the atrium of the ship leading to the shopping area and a number of intimate clubs and bars.
Over the coming days we will publish more detailed posts about some key highlights, including all the kids clubs. However, in the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about Norwegian Bliss – who will be based in Seattle for Alaskan cruises during the summer and will run winter itineraries to the Bahamas and Caribbean – please take a look at their website here.