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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Norwegian Cruise Line: The Bliss Review

This is going to be very long and detailed.
This was our first cruise as a family and the first NCL cruise for my husband and myself.  It had been more than 20 years since we’d been on one (his was a Carnival and mine was a Royal Caribbean).  I stressed a LOT over the plans and ‘what was going to happen’ since I am stress prone and there wasn’t much information out there.  I am writing this all down to help anyone else with the same sorts of questions or whomever just wants to “know how it is going to go down.”

We arrived in Seattle a day early so we couldn’t take advantage of the shuttle to the ship, but we found one at our hotel we could pay for.  Once arriving at the dock, there was a LOT of people and I was pretty overwhelmed, but everything went fairly smoothly.  We had to dump our big suitcases there with the staff (which I was unaware of).  We did not get our bags until after 8 PM.  We could have gone swimming had we brought our suits or something in our backpacks, so you should plan accordingly. 
We got our keycards right away.  It said ‘soda’ on them as we bought the soda package.  This package was pretty unnecessary, as they have lots of delicious lemonade and juices there for you all the time at the Garden Buffet area and also on the Observation deck.  To get your pop you have to go to any bar and ask for pop.  This is annoying because this is not where you get your food.  Nobody even asked to see our cards for pop either, I’m not suggesting you cheat the system, I’m just saying everyone was very nice and trusting and didn’t make you feel like a underling. 

Back to the keycards.  These are necessary for turning the lights and outlets in your room.  You put them in the slot and then the stuff in the room works-it’s a pretty  nifty idea, and then it also lights up a little thing outside your door that says, “I’m home.”  There are also buttons you can push for ‘do not disturb’ and ‘make up room.’  Very high tech and fancy haha!

We had ordered water packages (three in total) as I have issues drinking tap water (makes me sick).  Turns out, the lemonade and other drinks were from cartons so I didn’t have to worry about getting sick and didn’t really need all that water we ordered.  I have a very sensitive tummy, and I did not get sick one time on board.  This was huge for me!  When you order in restaurants the staff always asks if you have a food allergy to worry about.  This was very nice, although not anything that pertains to us.
Before leaving, I read reviews saying that the food was bad.  Well, I disagree.  The food was really good and really plentiful.  The buffet was excellent-although could be very busy at times, it was sometimes hard to find a seat.  It was also hard to navigate on occasion, this was mostly do to the ‘Buffet Zombies’ I liked to call them.  These are people that are so fixated on their food that they are actually staring at their plates and eating off of them as they are surfing the buffet looking for more food.  It was fairly disgusting and aggravating, and I do not apologize for chucking a few dirty looks (even though they didn’t see them since they were staring at their food).  The food in the Savor and Taste, I do believe had the same menu-not 100% on that but it felt that way. The Manhattan was so nice and fancy I had to double check that it was complimentary. Haha!  I asked the waiter if we could come back or if we only got one chance.  He laughed and said, “you come back tomorrow.”  One of our waiters even did a few magic tricks for us-he was FABULOUS! 

They do push the sanitation on you, you will hear ‘Washy Washy’  as they squirt your hands with antibacterial stuff, some places also have sinks if you prefer to wash your hands the real way as I do. 
Our room was 15768.  This was fairly near the elevator so I was worried about noise.  Honestly, considering how many people were on board (we had a full ship) it wasn’t bad.  I did have my earplugs and slept like a baby.  Not sure I could have slept without them, as we are from the country and only hear owls, raccoons and coyotes at night.  I thought our bed was VERY comfortable, and slept better there than at home!  We had two older kids with us (the extra bed came out of the ceiling-the room steward comes and puts it down for you) and they both slept well also.  The balcony was PERFECT!  I would have liked a lower seated chair like an Adirondack because the railing was right at my eye level so I had to hunker down or stand to view things-and view things you do!  We saw tons of humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, mola mola and dolphins right from our balcony!  The room was far more spacious than I thought it would be with room for our luggage under the bed and lots of room for our toiletries in the bathroom.  Romel was our room steward and he was absolutely fantastic.  Always on the ball and was our super hero when we needed some laundry done ASAP after a dogsled mishap haha! 

The shower gets its very own paragraph.  My 16-year-old daughter was the first to take a shower.  My husband and I could only share a look of confusion as we heard her randomly giggle in there.  When she finally got out I asked her what was so funny.  She told me that I had to take my own shower to find out.  Haha!  Turns out, the shower is REALLY NICE.  I don’t want to spoil your surprise, so skip the rest of this paragraph if you like little surprises.  The shower head is detachable (which I love) and has different settings for rain, massage or rain and massage.  It also has little squirty things that squirt your legs and feet if you want.  We NEVER ran out of hot water and the water got nice and hot.  We are currently redoing our bathroom at home, and this is the kind of system we are going to get now haha!

The Observation Deck was fairly quiet the first day and a half.  Then, people started to realize it existed and then it was completely busy the whole time (unless you are like me and get up at 4 AM).  This is where having a balcony really came in handy.  Plus, viewing from the Observation Deck is nice, but it is not conducive to taking photos with the glare.  Also, if you are kind enough to share a fabulous whale sighting with those around you (fins slapping water and tail flukes) everyone will crowd around you and bounce your chair so your video doesn’t turn out.  It was really lovely in there, and the chairs were so comfortable.  I wish they had a few more of these decks spread around the ship as well as different seating though to seat more folks.  That would have made a huge difference. 

There is an aft viewing deck.  I cannot remember the name of it.  BUT little kids are not allowed there at certain times, which is AWESOME.  There was never anybody in it, probably because it was off the beaten path and looked exclusive.
Let us now talk about the different things to do on board.  You need to book these things as SOON AS YOU BOARD THE SHIP if you haven’t already booked them online (some you actually can’t book online).  Go to Deck 6 right away and book your shows or game things!!! We spoke to people who were bummed as they never got to book them!! Escape Room-we weren’t sure we wanted to do this but are so glad we gave it a try, it was a LOT of fun! Go Carts-these were pretty fun, and if I was a teenage boy I would have totally bought the unlimited pass and spent most of my time there!  Haha!  Laser Tag-I admit, I REALLY got into this.  My son is a Marine and my husband is a Soldier so I was very proud to hear my son say, “Mom, you really got tactical!”  Jergen and the rest of the staff were AMAZINGLY awesome.  They made sure we totally understood the guns so that we could have the best experience possible, and if I could have stayed for the rest of the trip, I may have done just that!  haha!  Havana I could have done without, my whole family went to that and my son refused to go to Jersey Boys after that but my daughter, the ever-dutiful daughter went with because she knew I’d love for her to go.  The three of us LOVED Jersey Boys!  There weren’t enough ping-pong tables.  A few families hogged them all the time so we didn’t even bother trying to play.  The pools were really small, one was warmish one was coolish-so everyone was piled into the warmish one.  The hot tubs were always full.  The water slides were VERY fun.  There is one you go down in tubes (either single or double and the DO WEIGH YOU).  The slide that launches you like a human torpedo has a minimum weight of 99 pounds (which my daughter literally JUST MADE).  I was PETRIFIED to do it as you stand there and the floor drops and  you fall down the slide, but I did try. I was wearing an old lady swim suit (I have upper thigh self confidence issues) and wound up getting stuck.  A little hatch opened up and a man was peering at me.  I asked, “Is it over?”  He said, “For you it is” hahahahaha!  OMG I had to walk the walk of shame as everyone was staring at me bahahah!  I ran (walked briskly since no running is allowed) right back up determined to do it all the way this time.  I was informed that my suit had too much friction-he promised it wasn’t my weight which was 124.  I tucked that bad boy up and went for round two.  Stuck again. Hahaha!  It was so much fun, but I was not meant to complete it.  My daughter had no issues. 

Some other random facts:

Empty chairs around the sundeck and pool area were scarce. There were loads of empty chairs always stacked up but not in use though, which I found a bit obnoxious. 

The arcade was for teens only.  Sad, because I am the air-hockey champion and I’d have loved to play! 

My husband got very seasick on a salmon fishing trip a few months prior to our cruise.  I was petrified he would be ill on the ship.  I bought wrist bands (you can get them in the medical aisle at Walmart) that are for nausea as well as Dramamine, and he did well.  He wore the bands the whole time and needed Dramamine the first day and the second to last day.  He got sleepy but not sick. YEAH!

Book  your excursions through the cruise ship-it is really organized if you do. They will have your tickets in your room when you get there (or give them to you if you buy them on board-but I suggest booking online before you leave as some sell out).  The tickets will have a meeting time and place on them and from there they direct you what to do.  DO NOT STRESS ABOUT THIS-it is very well organized and there are NOT huge swarms of people getting off the ship (EXCEPT IN VICTORIA-I will explain this later).  There are people holding sings with your excursion name out on the dock (or just after) and they take you where you need to go and bring you back.  This is a stress-free thing, so relax.

You really can dress up or down.  We are not dressy up people so that was fabulous.  People really dressed all over the board on the ship-you will feel comfortable with whatever you choose to wear. 

There were a decent amount of little kids-but not too bad.  Some of the ones there though REALLY screamed-amazing how one screaming kid can ruin over a hundred people’s afternoon.  Not sure why you would bring teeny kids on a cruise, but whatever.  There were a decent amount of teens, and honestly, I was expecting to see a lot of bad behavior but I didn’t.  Well done teenagers of the Bliss!  You get two thumbs up from me!

If you want a fun little sign on your door-make a fun magnet to bring with.  I’m so glad I thought to do that, we made up shirts and a sign for our door. 

You may want a lanyard and clear folder thing for your key card if you don’t typically have pockets and don’t want to wear a fanny pack or purse.  We didn’t, but lots of people did. 

I had written up an itinerary at home with the days we would be on board so I could keep it all organized.  They don’t write down your show times or anything, so you need to remember that. 

Bring a REAL watch-the kind you can manually set.  My phone and fitbit got wonky on the time due to being in airplane mode and we went through a time change so I it got confusing at times. 

Everyone had told me it was mostly warmish in Alaska at this time of year.  Ok, so it was pretty stinking cold-and raining.  Haha!  Luckily, our first stop was Ketchikan and they had loads of hoodies and jackets for REALLY CHEAP! 

When you go through the glacier area, be ready to see whales and amazing sights.  Park yourself where you can see so you don’t miss a thing!

Wi-fi- doesn’t always work in port for some reason, and even if you log out it doesn’t always think you logged out.  The woman running it was very accusatory when mentioning this.  I’m not an idiot and know to log out but she accused me of not doing so.  Probably the only rude person on the ship….but in her defense, she is bombarded with people that don’t understand technology so, I sort of can understand. 

Siglo (a band) and Phil (Elvis impersonator) were our favorite entertainers on the ship.  My daughter and I tried to see as much of Siglo as we could!

The gym was nice, my daughter used the treadmills-I would have liked some boxing equipment but I survived.

The track was in a strange location. Nobody respected the track lines and those poor runners were really dodging people. 

The elevators were always busy.  We used the stairs as much as possible, to allow for more room on them for those that needed them. 

Not much wildlife variation on the costal regions.  I was expecting to see moose, elk and other creatures and was amazed at the lack of animals.  It was very interesting and I loved learning about the costal region.

Our excursions:
Ketchikan:  (the town is RIGHT THERE by the dock) Canoe and Rainforest Hike-this was a very nice time.  Our guide was very knowledgeable and it was so fun learning so many things about the forest and the plants.  It was raining on us, they had lots of raingear and we had a blast even though it was pouring.

Juneau: (you need a shuttle to down) Helicopter and Dogsled.  This is a must do.  You go to Mattenhal Glacier, Shaynee was our musher and she actually raced her dogs in the Iditerod.  She was so sweet and gave us lots of really awesome information!  I was scared to get on the  helicopter, my first time, but it was really awesome! Random fact:  Dogs can poop whilst running, unlike horses. hahah!

Skagway:  (a decent walk to town, but totally doable) Bike, hike and float.  The bike ride takes you through a cemetery where you get lots of fun information.  I am SO GLAD we did this tour.  It was raining again, and they provided rain gear if you wanted it.  They don’t explain what you really do on the site, so I was leery.  You get to eat some berries (if they are in season) and learn so many fun facts about the area-I had no idea how cool Skagway was!  The hike was FANTASTIC!  Up a mountain and down to where you float down the river!  The river float was really nice too, as it gives you a nice chance to see eagle nests and take some photos from a different perspective.  Alyssa was very knowledgeable, I plied her with tons of questions and she was able to answer all of them!

Victoria:  If you ask me, this is a BS stop.  It is more of an ‘afterthought’ and I actually feel like it was a complete dud.  First of all, there is hardly any time, and second of all there are very few excursion because Victoria is pretty stupid.  We did the Buchart Gardens and Victoria tour.  WHAT A MESS.  A swarm of people all got off the ship at the same time doing the same excursion.  The bus was so packed that my family couldn’t sit together on the bus ride that never seemed to end.  LOTS of information from the tour guide, but it was BORING. Not his fault, he was great, it is just a boring place haha!  Seriously, it was like an hour and a half on this bus, with a very nice stranger and I just wanted it to end.  It ended in a very lovely garden, but by this time we were so annoyed that we just wanted to be back on the ship and looking for whales off our balcony.  If I had it to do over, we would have stayed on board for sure and just enjoyed the view or pool to ourselves. 

We went with the Port Vallet when leaving the ship. How wonderful that choice was.  They took our luggage the night before (so it is imperative you have a carryon for the items you will use in the morning), they give you your boarding passes and luggage tags for the plane, bring your luggage to the airport and give you stickers to wear so you can feel all fancy with your ‘Port Vallet’ sticker and then you can get off the ship at the earlier time (from 6:45 AM to 8 AM).  Once you get off, there is a desk that you can buy shuttle tickets to the airport-which was very painless.  We got right on a shuttle and were at the airport with plenty (too much time) for our 11:40 flight out.

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