If you want to meet me on the Norwegian Bliss, I’ll be on Deck 15.
On a ship with 20 restaurants and 13 bars, my favorite spot on the Bliss was the observation lounge. Situated forward and high above the sea, the lounge lets you see where you’re going in life. Depending on the sailing, you’ll see Alaskan glaciers, Caribbean beaches or any number of sights up and down North American coasts.
Along with my wife, I was on a mini-cruise: a three-night sailing out of Seattle designed to introduce travel professionals the newest of Norwegian Cruise Line’s 16 ships.
But back to Deck 15.
When you’re (literally) lounging on a comfy couch, with the feint hum of the engine and a marvelous vista unfolding through floor-to-ceiling windows, you can do some serious pondering about your future. Including what’s for lunch.
Food, yes. It’s possible that talking about food on a cruise is cliché because everyone rants about the vast amount and endless choices. But there’s a really, really good reason for so much culinary conversation: The food is that awesome.
There weren’t enough meal times for Mary Beth and me to dine in every restaurant aboard the Bliss, but in the three evenings we stepped up to the plate, we batted 1.000. We had a fabulous Italian dinner in the sophisticated La Cucina, a fancy Mexican meal in Los Lobos and a mess of barbecue and fixin’s in Q Smokehouse.
I defy you to find a better beef brisket—or a bigger banana pudding—than they serve at Q.
Out of professional duty, I visited many other onboard eateries for meals and snacks, including a festive lunch at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (also an NTA member).
And the Garden Café, which serves three meals a day, is a gastronomic treasure hunt. You’ll find ample offerings as you fill your plate at whatever buffet line is closest, but the restaurant is large, and if you keep exploring, you’ll find different specialties, ethnic options and a sweet-tooth’s paradise.
But I didn’t eat the entire time. I also drank. We sampled rum drinks in the Sugarcane Mojito Bar, sipped six of the 70-something beers available at The District Brew House, got an A-plus lesson in winemaking from Michael Mondavi at The Cellars and inspected the ship’s bourbon collection at Maltings Whiskey Bar.
The number and variety of venues aboard the Bliss not only provide a rich experience, they also make a big ship seem smaller. That’s what Stephanie Dilling, general manager of NTA-member Wells Gray Tours, told me.
“When some clients see that the ship can hold 4,000 people, they might think they’ll be constantly in a sea of people. However, the layout and design of the Bliss make it feel like the smaller ships our clients are used to.”
Stephanie, who was also on the Seattle sailing, added that the ship’s many entertainment options mean that guests will never be bored. And I’ll testify to that.
I had seen “Jersey Boys” before, but the show we saw on the ship was absolutely electric. The musical tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and my Blissmates who packed the theater went bananas over it.
The ship offers two other big productions, “¡Havana!” and “Happy Hour Prohibition—The Musical,” along with live music in bars and restaurants, a casino and a video arcade.
And there’s outdoor fun, too: an open-air laser tag course, high-speed water slides that include a loop out over the ocean, an aqua park for kids and a race track. I did not venture down the water slide, but I did don a helmet and zip around in an electric race car on the two-level track. (The quiet engines don’t interrupt the guests who are luxuriating by the pool or in one of six infinity hot tubs.)
So yeah, the ship has fine dining and fast cars.
“There are so many options for the guests to experience, and it feels like a 5-star experience the moment you board,” Stephanie said. “I believe with a younger demographic starting to travel with Wells Gray Tours, the Bliss is a product we can package.”
From what I observed during the private tour Mary Beth and I took when we first boarded, the Norwegian team can definitely help package this product. What struck me was how many dining rooms and areas that groups can book for meetings or meals—including the observation lounge.
And that’s where you can find me. Up on Deck 15.
Maiden voyage to Seattle
The christening of the Norwegian Bliss was the impetus for my trip to Seattle, but spending a few extra days in the city allowed me to connect with NTA suppliers in a destination I had never visited.
My wife and I stayed at Mayflower Park Hotel. The room was elegant and comfortable, and the downtown location made it easy to walk to Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, Pioneer Square and loads of restaurants.
The hotel, which offers cruise passengers a $10 shuttle to the docks, is also right beside Westlake Center and the southern terminus of the monorail, which takes you straight to its only stop: Seattle Center.
It was also the jumping-off point (wading-in point?) for our tour with Ride the Ducks of Seattle. Tammy Guill got us a seat aboard an amphibious craft that prowled both the streets and the waterways of Seattle. I’m a big fan of city tours, and the Ducks do it right.
For info on these and all NTA members in Seattle, go to the member search on NTAonline.com and put Seattle in the city line.
Top photo: Our early June “introductory” sailing aboard the Norwegian Bliss was an all-too-quick trip from Seattle, the ship’s summer home port pictured here, to Victoria, the pretty and engaging capital of British Columbia.
Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line