The Norwegian Bliss: See its Clubs, Private Pools, and (Yes) Racecars
The Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest Breakaway Plus-class vessel, debuted in spring of 2018. The ship adds a new set of active pursuits to NCL’s formula of multiple dining venues with eat-when-you-want seatings. Passengers can challenge each other to laser tag, racecars on a track (more on that twist later), and zipping down a waterslide that loops over the sea. Although the laser and racing competitions also appear on Norwegian Joy (launched in 2017, that ship targets the Asian market), Bliss is NCL’s first North America-based vessel to throw down the tag and track gauntlets.
The third of four planned Breakaway Plus vessels, Bliss, at 168,028 tons, outweighs Joy as well as Escape (see that ship, inside and out, in this slideshow). While the Breakaway and Breakaway Plus vessels are similar, the Plus ships are longer, weigh more, and offer an expanded range of activities.
Bliss’s available voyages: 7-day Alaska from Seattle; 5-day Pacific Coastal from Vancouver; 7- to 8-day Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles; 14-day Panama Canal from Los Angeles; 15-day Panama Canal from Miami; 7- day Caribbean from Miami; 7- to 8-day Bahamas and Florida from New York; and 12- to 14-day Caribbean from New York.
Passengers: 4,004 at double occupancy (4,903 at full capacity)
Maiden voyage: April 2018 from Southampton, England, to New York City
How big is it? 168,028 gross registered tons, 1,094 feet long, 136 feet wide, 27 feet draft
Decks: 20 (11 with cabins)
Speed: 23.2 knots cruising
Booking: 866/234-7350; www.ncl.com
Stretching over two decks, Ocean Loops swirls riders over the edge of the ship before depositing them on the deck below. Those who can keep their eyes open will get a fleeting glimpse of the deep blue sea beneath them. On Aqua Racer, the ship's other water slide, passengers on two tracks race each other as they glide down on inner tubes.
Chaise longues line the pool deck. As always on megaships, plan to arrive early—very early—to claim a spot. Located in the heart of the action, the pool deck offers prime views of the water slides.
Young cruisers cool off at the Kids’ Aqua Park. They can target each other with water cannons and sprays, get doused by a water bucket, and glide down a mini slide. Warning: This popular place can get packed.
Bliss features The Waterfront, the popular, open-air promenade that’s a staple of Breakaway- and Breakaway Plus-class vessels. Dotted with cushioned seating areas and wide enough for deck strollers, the boardwalk-like expanse also provides outdoor seating for Cavern Club, Maltings Whiskey Bar, Dolce Gelato, La Cucina for Mexican food, Los Lobos, and seafood restaurant Ocean Blue. Dining al fresco delivers the pleasures of sea breezes and sunsets.
A wine bar developed by Napa County's Michael Mondavi Family brand, the Cellars serves reds and whites crafted by the noted winemaker, as well as vintages from around the world. Pair a glass with a light bite from nearby La Cucina or join the Tasting Table presided over by a master sommelier who details the finer points of sniffing and sipping.
One of three main dining venues, the Manhattan Room, seating 512, conjures a swanky, if oversized, New York City supper club with its Art Deco lines and two-story atrium. Sit in the center section to enjoy sweeping sea views from two-deck-high windows.
Q, a smokehouse and dance venue, debuts on Bliss. Chow down on chicken, ribs, and brisket smoked Texas-style, over hickory, oak, and pecan wood, and served with pinto beans and corn on the cob. Afterward, stay for the live music, a mix of contemporary, pop, and country. Feel free to break into a lively two-step—it's more common as drinks flow. Prices are à la carte, meaning they're not included in the cruise fare.
Along with wraps, treatments, and massages, the onboard spa contains a salt bath room like this one. Breathing in the briny air is supposed to improve the respiratory system as well as overall health, according to spa aficionados.
There's also a snow room. First, guests raise their body temperatures in the sauna, then they enter an area like this one, on the Escape, to cool down rapidly. The quick change from hot to cold is thought to improve circulation and overall health.
On a big cruise ship, it can be hard to find a safe and clean space to play with little ones. Guppies Playroom solves that problem. Designed for babies, toddlers, and their parents, the room has space for crawlers, including age-appropriate toys. An Early Years Coordinator leads sessions of creative play.
Splash Academy keeps cruisers ages 3 to 12 engaged. An inviting space of blue, green, orange, and red, the room divides into different areas. At The Turtles, preschoolers 3 to 5 years old, paint, listen to stories, and learn to act like tigers as part of Circus School—learning circus skills has long been a part of NCL's children’s programs. Seals, 6- to 9-year-olds, try juggling and plate-spinning, plus go on scavenger hunts and challenge each other at video games. Dolphins, ages 10 to12, master stilt walking, play sports, and morph into spies on intrigue-laden theme nights.
At Entourage, the teen center, kids from 13 to 17 meet and hang out, free from adults. Facilitated by a counselor who acts more like a buddy, teens choose their own activities, from video game challenges to circus juggling, movie watching, or simply chilling. Foosball and billiards help break the ice, too. Entourage also hosts themed dances in the evenings—again, just for teens.
Themed like an abandoned space station, the ship's open-air laser tag course comes with plenty of places to seek cover. Crouch under a ledge or go flat against an archway before popping up to tag the enemy. Passengers can play at night, when shadows make it more difficult to spot a rival sniper.
Bliss’s two-level race track, at 1,000 feet in length, is the longest at sea, about 40% longer than the track on NCL’s Joy. Helmets and racing harnesses help keep drivers safe in the Ferrari-red electric vehicles, while piped-in engine vrooms add verisimilitude. Drivers can imagine themselves careening through a street course in Monaco or Le Mans, even if these Formula Ones are actually go-karts with a top speed around 30 mph. What might be scarier than the quick curves: no minimum age for drivers, just a minimum height of 48 inches, which happens to be the average size of a 7-year-old boy.
Bliss has 1,088 staterooms with their own balconies—that's a large share of the total cabins. Each unit ranges from 216 to 425 sq. ft. (20 to 39.5 sq. m) and sleeps two to four people.
The ship's 82 studios are for solo travelers. At just 99 sq. ft. (9.2 sq. m), the compact interior cabins come with access to the Studio Lounge, a sanctum for the exclusive use of passengers in this room category, where vacationers can watch a big-screen TV and meet other solo travelers.
For those who can afford more space than available in a standard cabin, consider the Haven penthouses. Along with a balcony, the aft- or forward-facing staterooms come with king-size beds, a dining table for four, and seating areas. Penthouses range from 414 to 667 sq. ft. (39.5 to 62 sq. m).
The Haven Courtyard is another place reserved just for those staying in the premium Haven staterooms. The interior area features lounge chairs, two whirlpools, a retractable roof that lets in light, and a pool for the exclusive use of Haven guests.
From Deck 15’s Observation Lounge, the view is expansive. The 20,000-sq.-ft. (1858-sq.-m) lounge, which is larger than those on other Breakaway Plus vessels, features floor-to-ceiling windows that offer 180 degrees of ocean vistas. Guests in Haven staterooms can relax in a similar Observation Lounge that is exclusive to Haven passengers.