Norwegian Bliss impresses gay cruise experts

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We had an amazing time on our most recent cruise. Part of this was the destination: if you haven’t been to the Mexican Riviera yet, we highly recommend you rectify that ASAP. Part of the reason for the cruise’s wonderful vibe lay in the fact that it was an LGBTQ community sailing. Naturally, part of the credit for our wonderful experience lies in the fact that we sailed aboard Norwegian Bliss.
Observation Lounge

Although we agree that larger is better when comes to certain things, mega-ships don’t usually float our boat. At 4,004 passengers double occupancy, this vessel is mammoth, but the designers made some clever decisions to minimize the crowds.

A prime example is the Observation Lounge on deck 15 forward. The expansive views provide a breathtaking vista. Although very popular with passengers, this space never felt crowded or too noisy, offering ample relatively private spaces to relax and enjoy the sea and sky. Light meals are available at three stations, making this a wonderful spot to escape the busy buffet, or eat a bit lighter. (Yeah, like we did that! At our age, the immediate pleasures of food and drink tend to have more influence than the delayed gratification of dieting.)

Come LGBT cocktail hour, the gays literally took over the observation lounge bar and the place was jumping!  Cruise director Silas showed up several times, a plus since he’s definitely “easy on the eyes.”  We counted over 50 “family” members there on many nights. The bar staff was friendly and efficient, with never a long wait for drinks.  Thanks to Norwegian for listing the event consistently in the ship newsletter!

Dining

We dined at two of Bliss’ smaller complimentary dining rooms, Taste and Savor. We found the food and service excellent at both places.  The same goes for Manhattan, the largest of the ship’s three complimentary dining areas. All three spaces boast pleasant decor.

Norwegian’s specialty restaurants also demonstrate their food service strength. At Los Lobos we experienced food that exceeded even the fine Mexican fare we enjoy here in the American southwest.  Be sure to include Los Lobos in your dining plans.

We’ve always loved the steakhouse Cagney’s. Our most recent meal there once again featured delightful food, a warm ambiance, and excellent service.  At La Cucina, my carbonara tasted even better than the same dish I had in Rome. The Haven Restaurant is a peaceful space with expansive views. We enjoyed our seared scallops at this venue — perfectly cooked, flavorful,  and elegantly presented.

The beverage package spirits were of high quality, even when ordering well drinks. The wines on the package were far better than we’d experienced on other ships. (The package usually carries a high price tag –$86/day —  but for our group it was included in the fare, thanks to our stellar travel agent Adam Martindale.)

The Waterfront

The Waterfront, along with the Observation Lounge, helps define the unique vibe aboard Bliss. Wrapping around most of deck 8, the Waterfront provides an excellent space for people watching, walking, enjoying the sea, or just relaxing with a book or for a nap.

There is plenty of relaxing open seating with lounge chairs and sofas outside on the deck. These are features that we’ve missed on ships for years. We had plenty of time to hang out, avoid the wind, and still be outside to enjoy the whales spouting.  Many of the specialty restaurants have outside seating with wonderful views on the waterfront. Bravo to Bliss’ designers for creating a beautiful space that capitalizes on the sea, giving passengers an experience of ocean cruising at its best.

The gym
On my initial walk-through aboard Bliss, I was surprised by the small size of the ship’s gym. I dreaded the prospect of long wait times when I came to work out there. Oddly enough, it was never crowded during my daily visits.  Did you notice I said daily? I’m well on my way to the MMOB gold star for fitness! Believe me, it was only a coincidence that I planned my visits for the times when Bliss entertainment staff happened to work out to keep their well-defined muscles supple for those stage shows.
Pool deck

Like the gym, this area appeared too small at first glance, especially since the kid’s pool adjoins the adult pool. However, the water slides, race track, laser tag and many other activities seem divert much of the crowd from the poll area. The late-night poolside parties provided an unbelievable level of intensity and energy. Mark and I commented several times that these parties rivaled gay cruises in terms of energy, if not eye candy.

Entertainment

This trip didn’t knock MSC from their spot as our personal favorite cruise line for entertainment.  However, Norwegian now holds a solid second place for us. Their shows have improved by a large margin since our last Norwegian Cruise.  Jersey Boys was not a severely truncated show, but rather full-length and well done.  Havana offers color, energy, and terrific music. Set on the last night before Prohibition went into effect, the 5-woman show of the same name offered raucous, bawdy entertainment. Plus, the show’s $18 admission price includes five speakeasy-style drinks. Yes, that’s five drinks. Don’t attend with your grandmother — unless she can hold her liquor and tells great stories when she gets tipsy!

Accommodations

We booked a category BD on floor 12 midship. The room had a large bathroom, with good storage space and a nice big shower. At 6’3’’ I had to scrunch quite a bit to see myself in the mirror.

The room felt unusually narrow and cramped. The only two drawers were under the couch at floor level.  We found it difficult to access the balcony because the bed blocked most of the sliding glass door.

The ship hallways in the cabin areas were quite narrow,. The main complaint we heard from our fellow passengers was that the elevators were just not adequate for a ship this size at full capacity.

Our travel agent and group organizer Adam had inside studio room. His space was actually nicely designed with a flat screen broadcasting a live feed of the view from the deck. Norwegian does a great job of accommodating the solo traveler, since there is no single supplement for the studio rooms, of which there are many.

Bliss Staff

We felt relieved to interact with staff members who seemed genuine and authentic in their friendliness. On some past Norwegian voyages, staffers besieged passengers with a relentless “Washy-washy, happy-happy” message as cruisers enter the buffet.

Photo © Mark den Hartog | MeetMeOnboard

We found Bliss staff members gracious and hard-working, with the usual Norwegian hospitality all the way around.  One moving moment came when our LGBTQ contingent sang “Happy Birthday” to one of the women tending bar, bringing her to tears. It felt like the least we could do for her and symbolically for the rest of the NCL staff.