Co-operative Travel’s Ryan McVinnie was lucky enough to experience the maiden voyage of the 9th largest cruise ship in the world: the NCL Bliss. Now that the ship has completed its first journey, it will be revealing the magical sights of Alaska and the tropical paradise of the Caribbean to its guests.
It’s fair to say that Ryan was blown away by his 2-night cruise from Germany to Southampton, so let’s hear from the man himself about his top 5 NCL Bliss cruise highlights…
Ryan’s bliss-ful experience
I spent two nights on the NCL Bliss, the newest cruise ship to join the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) fleet, and which can carry just over 4,000 guests. During my cruise, the ship was around half-full, but because of its size it never felt busy or cramped.
I knew from the start that I’ wouldn’t have the time to do everything I’d have liked in just two days, but I’d do another cruise on the Bliss in a heartbeat! It’s going to be hard to pick out my top 5 highlights, but here goes…
The “freestyle” experience
NCL promotes the idea of “freestyle cruising”, meaning that it’s your cruise, done your way. That’s why travelling on the Bliss is all about having your own unique experiences, and it really shows.
Unlike on some cruise lines like P&O, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean, with NCL there are no set times to eat, and you just turn up whenever you’re ready. You can also get dressed up if you want, but if you’d prefer to just wear a nice shirt with a pair of jeans, there’s no issue with that either. The whole cruise feels so laid-back, and it’s easy to arrange reservations from the TVs in the rooms or from the screens scattered about the ship.
The Cavern Club
The Bliss has its very own version of Liverpool’s legendary Cavern Club, where you can spend a special night with The Beatles.
It’s difficult to choose my favourite memory from the cruise, because there are so many. One of my best was visiting the Cavern Club, though, where the Beatles tribute act who played were absolutely brilliant. The club is like a cabaret lounge with a bar and a small dance floor, and the atmosphere in there is fantastic.
The bands will have you singing and dancing through the evening.
The food I tried was out of this world.
I ate in a number of places on board but I wish I’d had the time to sample more – especially the smokehouse, which sounded amazing. There are three complimentary restaurants on the Bliss, but the choice of places to eat is enormous. The Manhattan Room is the largest, but the two smaller venues – Taste and Savour – offer separate menus and are well worth visiting.
On my first night I ate at Cagney’s, the steakhouse, and then we tried the teppanyaki place, which was delicious. You’ll also find places serving seafood, Italian/Tuscan cuisine, French dining, zingy Mexican food, and even an eatery from the hugely popular American chain Margaritaville.
I definitely recommend the Local, which is the ship’s 24hr pub. It’s perfect for an American-style breakfast, or for serving a freshly-made cheeseburger and fries after a night on the dancefloor. Trust me: I’ve tried and tested it!
The choice of places to eat is fantastic, and even on a two-week cruise you would never get bored of the dining options. In lots of the restaurants there is even access to the promenade decks, so if you fancy eating al fresco, you can.
I couldn’t fault the staff. They were fantastic, and always seemed really happy to see us. The service across the whole ship was incredible, from the waiting staff, to the bar staff, to the room attendants, and to the entertainers including the comedians, bands, and DJs.
The Bliss even has a theatre cast performing the only version of the blockbuster musical Jersey Boys currently on the seas, plus an interactive show called the Happy Hour Prohibition that whips the audience back to the year 1919. Just don’t forget to book your tickets as early as possible, because they tend to sell out fast.
The range of things to do
The size of the ship allows for so many activities and so much entertainment that it’s practically a small town, but on the water.
To give you an idea of how huge the ship is, on the Bliss you’ll find the largest F1-style race track at sea, an intense laser tag experience, and an aqua park which has flume rides for both kids and grownups. To go on one of the flumes you have to stand on a trap door that drops out underneath you, and the slide itself actually takes you off the ship.
There’s also an award-winning casino, plenty of shopping opportunities, kids clubs for different age brackets up to 17, a spa centre with loads of treatments to pamper yourself with, and themed parties to suit everyone.
Bliss will probably prove most popular with families, but I was impressed by the facilities for sole travellers. There are 87 studio rooms, which are inside cabins but have a virtual screen of the outside view. While single occupants are obviously welcome to explore and enjoy the whole ship, there’s also a lounge designed exclusively for single travellers to meet other people who are travelling solo, too.
- Passenger capacity: 4,004, including double occupancy
- Crew: 1,716
- Overall length: 303.1m/994ft
- Cruise speed: 23.2 knots
- Number of decks: 20
Intrigued by the Bliss? Want to know more? Get in touch with us and speak to Ryan now, to find out why you should travel the seas with NCL.