First impressions are critical, especially when a new resort endeavoring to be all things to all guests opens its doors. This is all the more true when a floating resort ramps up into a competitive market. The first thing passengers see as they board the Norwegian Bliss is the mast adorned with a mural by Wyland, an artist famous for his larger-than-life depictions of the Pacific Ocean and its marine life. His murals can be found around the globe (especially in California, his home state) in public spaces that attract large crowds.
The mural is emblematic of the ship’s objectives to be both an ultimate crowd pleaser and also something custom designed for the boat. With other past successes in luxury cruising to live up to, Norwegian Cruise Lines’ brass knew they had to put careful thought into the newest endeavor to assure it could achieve that balancing act of upscale sophistication and carefree childhood resort fun.
Based on a preview cruise over Memorial Day Weekend, this Bliss is poised to live up to its promise. The 20-deck ship, which can accommodate up to 4,000 passengers, houses 2,043 staterooms, including 20 spa mini-suites, 26 suites/villas and 24 courtyard penthouses inside The Haven, the ship’s ultra-premium product. While a concierge tends to the desires of those booked within The Haven, the public areas of the ship have a delightfully luxuriant ambiance. The Observation Deck on the 15th deck is sumptuously outfitted with 180-degree panoramic views, opulent ocean-inspired interior design and lighter snacks for those not wanting to partake in a full sit-down meal or full-on buffet.
Children will feel like they’ve hit the jackpot when mixing with others their age on Deck 5, outfitted with updated renditions of the award-winning Splash Academy (ages 3–12) and Guppies (infants to toddlers), offering hands-on programs with an educational slant, as well as teen club Entourage and the Video Arcade allowing teens to be teens in a cool, safe space.
A vibrant mix of activities on the outdoor decks, meanwhile, allows everybody to indulge their inner child. The eye-catching Aqua Park slides (including one designed for younger thrill-seekers) are accessible to all guests free of charge. For an extra charge, adrenaline-fueled older kids and parents can fulfill the need for speed on the two-level Race Track and Laser Tag (both the first of their kind on a North American-based ship).
The main dining rooms, Manhattan Room, Taste and Savor, are ideally suited for meals with the entire family, while the casual The Garden Buffet offers a clean and modern spin on the cruise ship buffet enlivened with several world cuisines (Indian dishes were standouts). The newest addition to the extra charge Specialty Restaurants is the new smokehouse joint Q (appetizers were the strong suit during the preview — excellent soup, chili fries and onion rings), which becomes a country music club by night. Other venues with kid-friendly items include Los Lobos and its contemporary Mexican fare, sweets and gelato at Coco’s, and the familiar foods and beach-y ambiance of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at Sea.
When the kids are settled into daytime activities or bed for the night, adult family members won’t want to miss the exquisite trappings of the Mandara Spa (including its circuit of hot saunas and snow room) and high-end dining experiences of Le Bistro, Cagney’s Steakhouse and Le Cucina.
The Norwegian Bliss will be incorporated into the following itineraries for 2018–2019: five-day Pacific Coastal from Vancouver; seven-day Alaska Highlights from Seattle; seven-day Eastern Caribbean from Miami; seven- and eight-day Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles; seven- and eight-day Bahamas and Florida from New York; 12-day Southern Caribbean from New York; 14-day Panama Canal from Los Angeles; 15-day Panama Canal from Miami; and 14-day Western Caribbean or Southern Caribbean itineraries from New York. For more on the itineraries, visit ncl.com.