Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Bliss, will sail Caribbean itineraries from its home port in Miami beginning this fall. Combining big-ship bells and whistles (go-carts! laser tag!) with small-ship sophistication, Bliss features many firsts, not only for the cruise line, but for the entire industry. We recently sailed aboard the 994-foot-long, 4,000-passenger ship, and here are the features we loved the most.
1. The Cabins
With more than 2,000 cabins, there’s something for every budget and taste on Bliss. Specifically design and priced for solo cruisers, 82 studios are compact (just 99 square feet) but cool, with full beds; en suite bathrooms; and “virtual ocean views” through faux windows. And there’s a private Studio lounge so you can hang with other singletons.
At 200-plus square feet, our digs, a balcony cabin, were sleek and spacious, and we particularly loved the bathroom, with its double-faucet trough sink and glass shower doors.
Top-of-the-line accommodations are in The Haven, an enclave of premium suites on Decks 17 through 19. This ship-within-a-ship (think of it as Bliss‘ equivalent of first class) has 80 suites ranging from 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom/two-bathroom family villas to spa suites that come with complimentary access to the spa’s thermal suite. Haven suites, as you’d expect, are priced significantly higher than others, but for passengers who want plenty of perks (a concierge; priority dining; a private restaurant, pool deck, lounge and two-story courtyard), it just might be worth it.
2. The Dining
If you’re thinking you might lose a few pounds on Bliss, you’ve got a lot more willpower than we had. The ship is a foodie’s dream, with 20 restaurants — everything from a steakhouse to an Italian restaurant to a French bistro and teppanyaki — spread over as many decks. At newbie Los Lobos (Mexican; additional charge), we couldn’t get enough of the guacamole, expertly prepared tableside. Come hungry for dinner at Q Smokehouse, the line’s first barbecue restaurant, where the Pit Platter offers an array of meat sufficient for even the hungriest carnivore. And don’t poo-poo the thrice-daily buffet at the Garden Café; the shipboard spread of seafood and desserts was among the best we’ve seen. And heads up, coffee cravers: there’s a Starbucks on board, too.
3. The Observation Lounge
One of the things we enjoy most when cruising is the opportunity to spend hours gazing at the ocean, contemplating its vastness (and, occasionally, what we’re going to eat at our next meal). And Norwegian Bliss offers an elegant, expansive lounge — spanning a full third of the length of the ship — that offers 180-degree Caribbean (and, seasonally, Alaskan) views. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the moving panorama, and groupings of chaises, sofas and chairs accommodate both solo cruisers and groups. Bonus: The lounge has a bar, and Continental breakfast and light lunch is served here daily (handy for when we finally decide what we’re going to eat).
4. The Race Track
Cruising is generally a leisurely affair but for those who want to pick up the pace, head up to deck 19 aft, where Bliss boasts the longest outdoor racetrack at sea. For $7, cruisers taller than 4 feet can take a souped-up go-cart for a spin around the two-tier, 1,000-foot-long track at speeds of up to 30 mile per hour — a truly surreal at-sea experience, particularly at sunset when the raceway is bathed in a rosy glow.
5. The Adults-Only Areas
Bliss is definitely family-friendly: there’s a kids’ club, Splash Academy; a video arcade; the first laser tag at sea; and a kids’ water park. But as child-free cruisers we really appreciated the adults-only areas on board. Our picks: Deck 19’s Vibe Beach Club, a sun deck where, for a daily (or cruise-long) cover charge, you can snooze in cabanas and wake to complimentary chilled towels, fruit kabobs and flavored water. During daylight hours, Spice H20 on Deck 17 aft offers a similar adults-only experience for no extra charge, complete with a bar, twin hot tubs and a hydrotherapy pool.
6. The Shows
If you didn’t snag a ticket for the Broadway smash Jersey Boys, don’t fret because the Tony-award winning production about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons is performed twice a night in Bliss’ theater — a first for any cruise line. And if you’re into The Beatles, watch the impressive tribute band at The Cavern Club, inspired by the Liverpool venue where the Fab Four once played. For a more intimate entertainment experience, Social Comedy & Nightclub features two stand-up shows a night, one that’s family-friendly and a later show that’s strictly for grown-ups.
7. The Itinerary
Bliss sails from Seattle to Alaska in the summer but come fall and winter, it relocates to balmier climes. From Miami, cruisers can hop seven-day sailings to the Eastern Caribbean, with calls at Tortola in the British Virgin Islands; St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. Bliss will also sail select 12-and 14-day southern Caribbean itineraries from New York in January and February 2019, which will include ports such as St. Kitts; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Maarten; St. Lucia; and Barbados.