Are you contemplating a vacation and wondering how one of the new mega cruise ships stack up? We have a quick overview that we hope you find helpful. Although I would consider myself a seasoned cruiser, this was our first adventure on what we would call a mega ship. As a family we have spent many vacations on the high seas with Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
On this specific trip, we were fortunate enough to be traveling with friends including two other families. The ages of our party were varied and included six adults, three teenagers and one child.
Here is feedback from our traveling party that we felt everyone should know about traveling on the Norwegian Bliss to Alaska.
The Ship is Stunning
From the moment you catch a glimpse of the Norwegian Bliss you feel the “Grandness” of the ship. With 20 levels there are many floors to explore, lounges and bars to enjoy, restaurants to taste and activities to experience.
It took our group three days to truly see the entire ship. Take your time and enjoy this floating grand hotel.
The Price is Right
When heading to Alaska, price often plays a lot in the decision. The price point of the Norwegian Bliss allowed us to have a balcony room on deck 13 and enjoy two amazing shore excursions at the same price it would have cost us for the cruise only on other cruise lines.
Be sure to evaluate your budget and activities when deciding on the best cruise line for your family.
Take Advantage of Fun Family Experiences
With activities, such as laser tag and a racetrack, the Norwegian Bliss allows for some fun family time experiences.
The chocolate fountain at Coco’s will get everyone smiling.
Specialty Restaurants are Worth It
For families who truly enjoy their food, the specialty restaurants allow you to have some wonderful dining experiences.
Teppenyaki, Los Lobos and Cagney’s were among our favorites. Reservations are necessary. If you travel in July the weather is still beautiful enough to enjoy outdoor dining in the mid-afternoon.
See Jersey Boys
Jersey Boys is a show worth seeing. Although you need reservations for the show, we highly recommend not missing this great evening experience! The show was well-performed and kept the attention of all age groups. Warning: there is a lot of profanity used in the show.
Enjoy Your Downtime
One thing about cruising is that you do not have to be on the go every moment.
The ship’s library often has a number of board games you can borrow to take back to play in your room or at other locations on the ship. Our family often finds a lounge and sets up a great game of cards, Yahtzee or Monopoly. It is a wonderful time to spend as a family, regroup, discuss the day and have a little relaxing fun. The Norwegian Bliss has a special area called the observation lounge and if you are fortunate to score a table in this location it is the perfect spot for a little downtime.
Preparing for Your Cruise
Mega ships are very large so embarkation and disembarkation can take a long time with many passengers. It can be confusing at times to be sure you are in the right place at the right time and not everyone onboard follows the set procedures. Our best advice is to take a deep breath and go with the flow. Nothing is critical!
With often four to five cruise ships in any given port in Alaska, each ship has a different schedule. The Norwegian Bliss has short visit times in the ports. We often only had four to five hours to experience the culture, food and atmosphere of these majestic ports. When evaluating a cruise ship for a port heavy itinerary, be sure to look at your arrival and departure times in addition to the locations to make sure you are getting enough time in your ports of interest.
You need reservations for most activities and dining onboard. Some options are available with online reservations so be sure to make these ahead of time. When we first boarded the ship, we went directly to the social club where they were taking reservations for the racetrack, laser tag, shows and other activities. These were reservations that we were not able to make using the online reservation system prior to boarding. This can take up to an hour and you are only able to make one reservation per activity. After that you must make additional reservations using the digital board around the ship. Our kids were able to do the racetrack twice and laser tag once due to limited reservation times.
Reservations were needed for all specialty restaurants, however, these can be made prior to getting on board using Norwegian’s website. We were able to walk into Food Republic and Q and get a reservation quickly. Remember that all specialty restaurants have an additional charge to eat there. Some are a la carte and some have a flat cover charge. The only restaurant reservation not needed was for Taste, Savor and The Local Bar and Grill (all complimentary venues).
Norwegian’s Freestyle Dining philosophy is that you can eat in a different place each night. Because of this, the restaurants’ menus do not change daily. They are the same every single day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you are looking for something different then you should plan to go someplace different. Keep this is mind as you decide whether you want to add a dining package.
The Manhattan Room did have a small area on their menu that changed nightly. All the restaurants, including the specialty restaurants, have the same menu for children 12 and under. Anyone can order off the adult menu at the complementary locations, but if they want to order off the adult menu at a specialty location, they pay the full adult price.
The Manhattan Room
When we were on the Norwegian Breakaway even though the menu was limited in the Manhattan Room, it was a unique dining room. It was large and every night it had some sort of entertainment. It had the feeling of a 1920’s supper club. My husband and I enjoyed a few dances on the dance floor while waiting for our dinner. We were excited to experience this wonderful dining room again and especially as a free choice. On the Norwegian Bliss there is no entertainment although there is still a small stage. Keep that in mind if you have enjoyed the Manhattan Room on another ship.
Much of what is on the Freestyle Daily has an additional cost or upcharge or is trying to sell you something. Whether it’s art, family fun, shopping events, blackjack tournaments or how to solve back pain, everything has a charge. Be sure to keep that in mind when choosing your cruise endeavor.
The price is kept low on Norwegian Cruise Line, but be sure to include money in the budget for all the extra expenses.
Group activities, such as trivia and trip discussions, usually take place in the small lobby area mid-ship 6 and 7. Seats in this area are difficult to come by and overcrowding is a reality so be sure to come early and get your spot so you will be able to hear and participate in the activity.
Large ships with lots of passengers can sometimes feel overcrowded. A popular location, such as the observation lounge on the Norwegian Bliss, is a good example. We rarely visited this area except for snacks and drinks. Instead we found a great spot, District Brew House, that was rarely crowded. It provided beautiful views with floor to ceiling windows and a quiet atmosphere during the day because the bar didn’t often get hopping till the evening. If you are feeling overcrowded then take a walk and look for one of the more undiscovered gems around the ship. You can bring food and snacks with you and enjoy another location.
Find the Right Ship for Your Family
Alaska is amazing no matter what ship you take. It is a location that should be on everyone’s bucket list. The views and experiences for a trip like this are what you make of it and it can be a once in a lifetime adventure. The trip was wonderful and we would do it again in a second. The Norwegian Bliss was a spectacular ship and we truly enjoyed all it had to offer.
The most important thing is to find the right ship for your family. It may be a mega ship such as the Norwegian Bliss because of the great price and unique experiences onboard or you may find another cruise line offers options that are a better fit for your family. Let us at Magical Memory Planners help you weigh the differences among the options to help you find the best experience for your family.
Contact Carla to book your vacation!