Is there a ship to suit all ages, all tastes and all pockets? Well there is now: Norwegian Bliss, the new flagship for Norwegian Cruise Line. At 168,028 gross tonnage, 994 feet long and 20 decks high, the ship is large by any standards; but what is it like to be a passenger?
The sun is setting in a large fiery ball as we gently slide away from our berth in Bremerhaven. Thousands of well-wishers throng the docks walk ways, cheering, waving their flags, over the terminals loud speakers come the voice of a large choir singing ‘Going Home Across the Sea’, a happy yet emotional experience. Gradually the voices and singing become a drift on the breeze as we make our way past cargo and container ships into the main channel, gathering speed and onwards to the open sea and our next port of call, Southampton.
I occupy mini suite 15762, a balcony stateroom mid ships on deck 15. King size bed with bedside lamps incorporating individual swivel reading lights and USB ports. Large dressing table unit housing three US and a EU style electrical sockets, powerful hand held hair dryer, spacious wardrobes fronted with sliding doors, individual coffee maker, large settee, flat screen tv, mini bar the list is endless. A clear glass fronted balcony comes with 2 chairs and a table, ideal for those days at sea or for a pre-dinner drink. Moving to the bathroom, a surprise, it’s spacious, sporting a large oblong basin with individual mixer taps, glass walk in shower, one of the largest I have seen at sea with an unusual shower head, not just the normal adjustable type, but with jets at various angles and heights that can massage whilst you are showering. Plus the shampoo, shower gel and skin moisturiser are all there. It seems that every need has been catered for.
This is a ship with many enthralling features. For the young and even the young at heart there is the largest race track at sea, 984 feet long, where you can drive the course at your own speed, (up to 43mph) and enjoy the thrill. Step into the future with Laser Tag, or search an abandoned space ship for lost Human Colonisers. At the Aqua Water Park, children will play happily for hours: the cascading water, tube slides, water cannons and tipping buckets make this a child’s dream. Travel the Ocean Loops, transparent tube taking you 11 feet over the ships side, 159 feet above the ocean – not for the faint-hearted! For younger children there is an area on deck 5 split into different age categories with the supervision of trained staff to ensure they are in good hands.
For those who enjoy large ship travel but not the large ship activities there is The Haven, an area on decks 16 and 17 at the front of the ship. Beautifully appointed suites of varying styles and sizes attended by 24 hour butler service. Relax in the Horizon Lounge complete with private bar affording panoramic views, and enjoy your own Horizon Restaurant for fine dining and unique signature dishes, everywhere furnished in light pastel colours and coverings adding to the exclusiveness. Outside, the pol, private sun bathing areas, thick padded loungers, parasols to protect you from the sun, and much more to make this tranquillity at sea.
With 27 dining options there is a good chance that the old saying of ‘Coming on as a passenger and going off as cargo’ will come true. The Manhattan Restaurant is the largest and operates an open dining system between 5.30pm and 9.30pm. When it comes to speciality restaurants this ship has them all, Italian, French, Mexican and Japanese but then there are the restaurants of Ocean Blue with their seafood, Cagney’s with the most delicious steaks and many more. This is a ship where you won’t go hungry as there is something for everyone. My last night was spent in Le Bistro where the extensive menu was difficult to choose from. Finally, I narrowed the starters down to two, it was decision time, Escargots or French Onion Soup, the soup won followed by the most tender Filet De Boeuf Aux Cinq Poivres with a mix of Ice Cream to finish but no room for a choice of cheeses. A memorable meal for all the right reasons and washed down with an unlimited supply of French Rose wine. If anyone should feel hungry between lunch and afternoon tea there 5 venues open until 3.30/3.45pm and for the insomniacs there is The Local bar & Grill open 24/7. The Garden Café buffet has a choice that will satisfy the most discerning passenger both for choice, quality and selection. Try the fresh made Sushi, something different from the normal buffet choice.
For something different, try The Waterfront: 440 yards of open promenade incorporating the restaurants of Ocean Blue, La Cucina, Cagney’s, this is Alfresco Dining with a difference. Dolce Vita Ice Cream Parlour, Maltings Whiskey Bar and the Cavern Club also enjoy this location to the delight of passengers.
Bliss has entertainment for everyone. The Bliss Theatre, an 825 seat auditorium, is packed to overflowing as the Jersey Boys entertain with the now famous story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, a story that has long been a favourite on Broadway and London’s West End has now come to Norwegian Bliss. A superb performance with a standing ovation as the curtain comes down. On other nights Bliss Theatre features the musical ‘Havana’, a production written and choreographed especially for Norwegian Bliss. Be enthralled by the music, dance and culture of Cuba set in the ‘Palace of Lights’, with wonderful costumes and lighting creating the atmosphere. The musical, Happy Hour Prohibition, takes place in the Comedy Club whilst in the Cavern Club an excellent tribute band perform Beatlemania Live! The Early Years. Professional performances from dedicated musicians. Here is something for everyone and for those that just want to sit and relax with a drink and background music the comfortable lounges await.
The Observation Lounge at the front of the ship is a favourite. Windows two decks high affor vistas not available on other ships, with the glass extending to the sides to give 180 degree views out across the ocean. Furnished with comfortable large chairs and settees, the lounge creates a wonderful relaxed atmosphere. A circular bar manned by smiling happy staff eager to serve and please make this the place to be, perfect for meeting friends for that quiet drink and chat.
With cabins fitted to the highest standard incorporating the latest technology, numerous dining venues, lounges, places of entertainment, innovations new to cruise ship and so much more, this is a ship that in reality would take several days to explore fully and really appreciate. What is apparent, is that it has something for everyone and should appeal to the young and not so young equally. Was there anything I didn’t like? Well actually there was: saying goodbye to the ship at Southampton.