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QUICK BLISS B2B 1/5-1/19/19 – Review Points

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QUICK BLISS B2B 1/5-1/19/19 – Review Points




We’ve sailed NCL Breakaway, Getaway and Escape several times and wanted to try the Bliss with the new design. 




We were concerned about the movement of the Spa to the aft of the ship as that was our favorite morning ritual venue after a long walk outside and a light breakfast; usually 10-11:30. Related, what would the creation of the Observation Lounge and the Garden Café at the bow premium locations have?

As usual, the reviews on the Bliss appeared to be “all over the place,” something we’ve experienced on almost ship we’ve sailed.


PRE- AND POST-CRUISE TRAVEL – D for Air, A+ for Intercontinental


Flying to FLL or MIA from New England on Southwest has become increasingly unreliable over the past 2-3 years for us.  So we go a day early.  Well, delays on the way down, barely make it to the Intercontinental Hotel by Club Level hours.  We will be switching to 2-DAYS ahead from now on. 


We did get the TEXT ALERTS from NCL regarding the late arrival of the Bliss and request to not arrive at port prior to 1PM.


Flying out of FLL on the 19th was a mess at the airport; not Southwest, but for all airlines with flights delayed or canceled to the plains, northern and northeast airports due to the massive snow, freezing rain and ice storm. Many were having their breakfast at the Garden Café with tablets out trying to find alternate flights, car rentals or hotel reservations.




The Bliss is absolutely beautiful.  Our trepidations were misplaced.  Everything was awesome, design changes to the LOCAL, design of the Observation Lounge and Garden Café were stunning, open, refreshing and warm with light colorful schemes.  The Mandarin Spa aft was still the best; we believe the NCL Breakaway and + class ships Spa are the best at sea on ships we’ve cruised.  By a wide margin.  The Go Cart track operation and location did not take away from the aqua slide and related activities.




What an unbelievable amount of floor-space resources used for this new public venue.  Totally incredible on each side and in the front.  Light food offerings perfect.  Seating was aplenty and service was, for the most part, very good.  We did NOT SEE and chair hogging at all, however we did see the bare footed passengers on the fabric loungers regularly even though THE DAILY mentioned the policy almost daily otherwise.




We have frequented a buffet on a cruise ship much at all in years; except for MSC Seaside for the slice of pizza.  We found the Garden Café beautifully designed on both side, the front and middle with different color schemes and table types (pub height, etc.), well laid out food stations and EXCELLENT FOOD QUALITY.  That is quite a compliment from us, haven’t had such buffet quality since we cruised Celebrity Solstice class ships.


Not an A+ because of one specific issue; over these 2-weeks, 50-75% of the passengers were ‘hacking with a seemingly similar congestive chest infections. Given that, and also that not all passengers that are sick take any precautions to prevent spreading their joy*, WHY ARE THERE NO ADDITIONAL SHIP PROTOCOLS (kitchen plastic gloves or single napkins (with no utensils), or staff server only handling tongs).  Additionally, the tables are cleaned by the bus staff who also wipe the table with the SAME CLOTH over and over and over.  As a result, we used 6-8 napkin/utensil rolls every time we went to the Garden Café, and we cleaned our table and chairs with a Purell soaked napkin.




Really nice new, friendly design; smaller layout and LESS OVERCROWDING in the bar and 2nd floor Atrium overview.  Really light, quick and FRESH breakfast and lunch; we ate there at least once a day.  Definite UPGRADE over previous versions on other Breakaway and + class ships.  Everything we had was served hot, perfectly cook and very timely. Hot buttered baked pretzels, chopped blues salad, watermelon Greek salad, Reuben and every hamburger or hot dog that we tried.




Went once to Taste for breakfast.  Service long, slow and the food sat in the round covered container near us for 20 minutes.




COMMON ISSUE - In specialty dining is the performance and service of the wait staff; gone are the days apparently of 10-12 year experienced specialty restaurant wait staff, replaced with new, inexperienced and rotational servers.  They don’t know the food, and you’d likely see them busing in the Garden Café or main dining at various days.


ALSO – When we mention portion sizes below, consider we are not big (I’m 145lbs, wife 125lbs) or big eaters.




This continues to be an ‘alternative specialty dining ala carte Asian infused menu of incredible new tastes in small portions that you can order on your table tablet at your own pace; yet also offer sushi and sashimi for those interested in such.  Since we have access to sushi and sashimi state-side, we total love enjoying different flavors for lunch on sea days and a couple of dinners per week.  We rarely have anything twice, except the edamame with sea salt and BBQ smoke flakes to start each meal.  Other starters were firecracker shrimp, ahi tuna bhel, street fries and calamari salz & pepper; ALL EXCELLENT.  After a couple of visits, wait staff knew our plan, always had a nice cold glass of prosecco for us to start and answered any questions on the tablets that had pictures and descriptions of each food item.  We tried so many; Korean chicken, Peruvian beef, RAMEN BBQ with pork bellies (spicy red soup), pastrami and sauerkraut dumpling, lamb kalbi ui, pork belly and scallions dumpling and a WICKED black cod skewers (never had anything prepared so well).  Only had room for dessert once, the cemischte assorted baklava (awesome).


Food Republic is heavily attended by crew members, but the ala carte pricing just doesn’t please most the passengers to pay an amount equal to a specialty restaurant.  Worked fine for us, loved the walk-in access, beautiful location, all ocean views and open chefs kitchen.  OUR FAVORITE on NCL ships that have this venue.




We book Cagney’s on NCL 2-3 per week typically.  After our first dinner in week one, we cancelled all of the other reservations.  We ordered shrimp apps that disappointed in size of shrimp and iced texture.  Like those in a frozen bag 31-40 count.  Certainly different then our first cruises on this class of ship, not only with regard to size (yes, I know you can order several) but also not prepared properly at all.  We shared an iceberg lettuce wedge; best part of the meal.  Then the disappointment.  My Australian lamb looked perfectly cooked medium rare and was.  However, it had ZERO TASTE.  Never figured that out, NOT ONLY NOT GAMEY, but didn’t taste like anything at all.  Wife’s 5 Oz fillet was perfectly colored medium, beautiful sear; absolutely ZERO TASTE.  Our onion rings (I got 2) were cold and the batter had separated from the onions.  When our server “finally” came back, our plates were 3/4ths uneaten.  Never even asked why.  This would have been an F, but we’ve had dozens of great meals at Cagney’s before.




We’ve stayed away from this venue, whatever the name or chef, in the past largely due to the smoke.  There was no such on this.  Nicely decorated venue.  Started with an Oyster sampler.  The waiter had zero knowledge of Oysters; asked how to identify fresh versus farm and why from Pacific Northwest versus Atlantic Coast all the way up to Maine and PEI.  No idea of either.  Had to send the hostess over.  Not much help.  So, the Oysters came.  First indication of trouble, no liquid in the Oyster after shucking; the LIQUID is the LIQUOR of the Oyster that keeps the flavor of the water bedding of where procured.  Waiter had hostess come over, she went to kitchen, brought back another sampler.  Honestly, they weren’t shucked correctly again and it tasted like tap water or ice water with the Oyster.  Well, they offered to bring another, however, I realized that they knew nothing about preparation or serving of Oysters so I COULDN’T TRUST THEM for the proper handling of the Oysters in the first place.

Had a small app with shell fish and red shell fish broth.  It was okay, but you only got one little portion of each (i.e., single clam, single mussel, etc.) and needed another 2” of broth (which they procured when asked).  Again, it was okay, could be spectacular.


Next up was the Red Snapper special. It was okay to taste, but I’ve had smoked salmon thicker than the fish that I was served.  Taste okay, tiny portion and well over-cooked.  Wife had a non-fish entrée, the tenderloin.  She liked it; one of the two pieces properly cooked and really tasty; the other not from same cut of meat.




D+ because, being a seafood specialty restaurant, the seafood has to be right.  Cancelled reservation for week 2.




Well, we previously have not had much luck in similar venues of the other ships in this class, BUT CRUISE CRITIC REVIEWS were trending positive on this.  Really like the venue; location, terraced layout, colors and formality in attire upgrade (for NCL).


We started with the foie gras and escargot apps.  Excellent.  My 5 peppercorn fillet was TOPS.  Perfect sear, cook, rested and tasted great.  Wife had the coq au vin (burgundy brazed chicken).  She loved the chicken, but we had to ask for another bowl to pour out the saturating sauce that it came in.

Great food.  Service for the food very good.  Service for the bottle Veuve Clicquot no so.  Server popped the cork and poured in warm champagne glasses directly into the middle, no tilting of the glass and from 5+ inches.  Totally defused any essence that would attribute to the correct pour.  So we had him “do it again” and the hostess came over.  They did have chilled and/or iced glasses “if you asked,” and I did our own pours.




We usually can “make the best of it at this venue” but historically it has been marginal at best.  THEY’VE REALLY IMPROVED THE MENU AND QUALITY OF FOOD AND THE DINING EXPERIENCE.


We started with the antipasti (meats, cheeses and pickled veggies and olives).  REALLY GOOD.  Couldn’t finish there was too much for us.  My wife had the penne cured pork pasta; it was REALLY GOOD.  I had the cartoccio fruite di mare (various fish, shell fish, tomatoes, olives red broth) and it was EXCELLENT.


Service okay, or would have been A+; but can’t overlook how IMPROVED this specialty dining venue is on Bliss.






Totally blow away by this experience because our expectations were low and we thought we’d get piles of meat like a Texas Roadhouse.  We started with the chopped salad and Texan crab cakes; both really well prepared and served.  We split a sweet potato. I had the beef short ribs and wife had beef brisket.  The servings WERE NOT HUGE, very well designed and just about LIGHT in size.  Prepared really well.  TASTED GREAT. 


The coleslaw was the only side that disappoint; process so much it was a white paste.  The onion rings were beautifully done, aplenty and hot and crispy.  Couldn’t finish.

Service okay, or would have been A+. 




PART 2 – to be continued.


Vibe, pools and water slides, go carts, bars and lounges, etc. and boarding, disembarking, bus transfers, Uber and cab lots.


PART 3 – to be continue.


Issues: Vibe passes and policy exceptions for Haven guests, WIFI totally unreliable, diesel fuel smell on deck 12 stateroom mid-ship, explanation of stateroom shower, NCL exclusion of water and coffee in UBP, forward elevators/lifts and passenger comments from week 1 to 2.

Edited by Formula280SS

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2 hours ago, CRUELLA1114 said:

Loving your review so far. I will be on Bliss 2/2 and I’m very happy to hear your restaurant reviews. 




Taking some time to get to Part 2. 


Took a post-cruise week long detour to Texas to visit #1 son's family w/2 GK's 5 and 7.  Been ''busy.''


I will say, regarding the restaurant specialty restaurants, we spoke with many couples in the Vibe, and others in the Observation Lounge, that had BOTH + and - experiences at the same venue.  In context, that could mean our ratings could possibly all reverse.  However, we did Le Bistro, La Cucina and Q twice during the two weeks with the same result.  Also, to be fair, we also did not visit Cagney's or Ocean Blue for a 2nd time in the two weeks.

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11 hours ago, Sand and Seas said:

Thanks for your honest review.     This will certainly help us with booking our restaurants!


You're welcome. 


We find CruiseCritic to be the best source of information on all of the ships we have been on; specifically the member experience posts.  Sometimes they are weighed toward the negative, but normally we're seeing less than a dozen threads out of 4,000-4,5000 passengers adds some dimension to such.


To be fair to NCL, and as per our cruises in our expanded signature, we believe NCL "overall" (complimentary and specialty) dining is the best on what we've sailed with the exception the Yacht Club on MSC Seaside and even Divina.  Ship-wide, NCL Breakaway and + ships, by far, have maintained the best "overall" dining venues, quality of food and variety (for us, since a long time ago on Celebrity pre-Equinox).


Also to be fair, NCL is not the only cruise line in which the specialty restaurant wait staff appears to no longer be of the 10-12 year experience; rather rotational in and out of other venues including the buffets, and not the same level of experienced, expert service.



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what deck did you embark on?  What venue did you go to to get Vibe pass?

Edited by cincicruisers

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PART 2 – Continued.


Vibe, pools and water slides, go carts, bars and lounges, etc. and boarding, disembarking, bus transfers, Uber and cab lots.


VIBE – Week 1 – C, Week 2 – A


The VIBE ‘experience can change on a dime week to week.  It is totally dependent on the characteristics of those that secured Vibe passes.


Although we’ll comment in PART 3 about current issues with the Vibe process, recent changes and where it could be going, it is safe to say that the Vibe pass-holders are tiered into distinct groups based upon ACCESS PRIORITY.


Although it appears B2B cruisers are the first to board with access to the Vibe passes, the number of Vibe passes are reduced significantly if there are requests from Haven guests (especially large groups of related Haven guests paying a pretty sum to the cruise line).  So, after B2B come the Latitudes priority boarding tiers; generally long-term experienced cruisers of a certain age and demographic and generally looking for a comfortable, semi-private experience.  After that come GROUP 1 (been there); where there exists a large # of passengers that really WANT THE VIBE.  I call them RUNNERS.  They get there early and they work for it.  However, depending on the #’s ahead of them, there is no guarantee that there will even be ANY VIBE PASSES LEFT.


Tough way to start a cruise vacation; so many are disappointed at the outset.


To make matters more difficult, the # of Vibe passes are sometimes cut to as little as 42; totally dependent on pre-cruise promises to Haven guests.  Also, although most have to have their room cards and each person to secure the Vibe pass, a Haven guest was observed by several of us, secured 17 Vibe passes solely with his own card.


During Week 1, this group would appear and the Vibe would fill up more; however, never once even close to full.  Also, the group BROUGHT THEIR OWN ENTERTAINMENT.  Although they set up mid-Vibe, and we always are to the forward QUIET ZONE; there was nothing you could do to not feel the Vibe environment completely change.  We just left.  This group also repeated this same behavior in the Observation Lounge forward bar during the week; we and others all left.


Then there are the RUNNERS; generally younger, looking for the Vibe for more of a private party.  They generally are very good and are only noticed during the multiple, daily ROUND OF SHOTS.  Again, rambunctious, but generally having fun at the bar.  On some Vibe experiences, if this group is large and moves to the hot tub and drinks all day and gets quite loud (and verbally ‘near the line), it can be time to just leave.


Week 1 had the Haven overflow as enumerated above.  Also, if you not the cabanas that are unclothed (i.e., blue fabric with not fitted white covers) and lounge chairs abutting the Haven the same; THOSE ARE RESERVED IN CASE HAVEN GUEST WANTS TO GO TO THE VIBE.  Even if not used, you cannot use them.  Week 1 was a C and not because of the RUNNERS.


Week 2 totally different with regard to demographics.  Mostly adult Latitude tiers looking for a special place, loungers and a bit of privacy.  A lot of interaction with others and sharing experiences.  Week 2 was an A.


BOTH WEEKS exhibited a decline in the Vibe service from prior cruises a couple of years ago.  You generally have to go to the bar to get drinks; and you have to go to the left side of the bar that looks through to the “other bar outside the Vibe,” so the Vibe bartenders ‘working that side can see you.  It’s a fact, that bar serves a lot of people and they make their money out there.


POOLS – No Rating, Didn’t Use


Although we didn’t use the pool, we like the layout; most of the seating faces forward toward the huge entertainment screen and side live entertainment area.  It appear a lot better that previous designs.  To the rear was the kids/family area with a small number of loungers in the opposite direction.


WATER SLIDE – A (Port Days)


I don’t recall the name of the DROP SLIDE, where the platform you are own disappears and down you go, up and around, over the side and back on toward the end.  However, it was a blast.  On sea days, you line up on the circular steps making your way to the top as each person goes and clears the bottom.  Depending on the number of families and ages of your cruise, this can be a short or a really long wait.


So I do port days.  When it opened at 10am, I’m the first.  Ride as many turns as I can possibly take.  GOT STUCK on first slide, something to do with water jet before the uphill over the side second section (got out the emergency hatch); no problem thereafter.


Although no one there, the 3 crew members working where the most depressing crew members we met.  No conversation, nothing.  A couple of other 55-65 YO’s came to join me and one even stopped and asked the attendant “smile, it’s beautiful out.”  I still had fun; however, I would not wait in a long line to do it.


GO CARTS – A (for quality), C (for organization)


The TRACK is awesome; design and layout.  The CARS are awesome; both single and double seater's.  The OVER-RIDE CONTROL by the track monitor is a GREAT FEATURE to keep everyone from potential injury by OVER-ANXIOUS aggressive drivers.  GREAT QUALITY.


The MANAGEMENT of the flow of riders is a mess; your cards are take twice, once to get in and once to identify you by name and assigned car number.  Not only is this a DOUBLE PROCESS, the second one IS DONE BY HAND KEYPUNCH; they take all of your cards and KEY IN your information.  Totally technically antiquated in today’s world.  And, they make KEYING mistakes.


Next, que up is poorly transitioned and too timely.  We took 1.5 hours from entry to seating.  Head hoods are provided ahead of time, but not helmets; so size and adjustments for GLASSES had to be made by the attendants after seating in the carts.  It took a lot of time.


SECRET – When you go to the LED screen for booking dinning, entertainment and activities; DON’T BELIEVE THE SCREEN.  We looked the next day after our first ride and at 6PM it said 2 spots open.  We booked it.  When we got there, WE WERE THE ONLY TWO.  We had the entire track to ourselves.


NOTE ON BOOKING SCREENS: DON’T BELIEVE THE SCREEN for DINING Red, Green and Yellow coding.  Totally either fabricated or technologically flawed.




For this class ship, these venues were well staffed and seemed to experience significantly less periods of overwhelmed bar staff.  Yes, there were busy times, but we visited most and had no real issues.


Some bars and lounges, when NOT OPEN, you are allowed to sit in.  The DISTRICT is one example of a GREAT PLACE to be alone or in a group during the day.  The ocean view is stunning and the seating can accommodate whatever number you(r) group consists of.




No issues at all.




NCL bus transfers well organized,


UBER and APP and CAB lots are staging areas that THEY MUST QUE UP IN.  The CABS are RELEASED IN ORDER to keep the CAB loading area supplied.  The UBER and APP section are released WHEN THEY ARE SECURED FOR A RIDE.


Well organized and efficiently and effectively executed.


We booked flight out of FLL at 2:45; could have book at least 4 hours earlier.

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Just now, cincicruisers said:


what deck did you embark on?  What venue did you go to to get Vibe pass?


You will board on Deck 7 and you have to make your way down (recommend the stairs) forward or aft and make your way to the SOCIAL CLUB (generally across from Teppenyaki's and Coco's) at where the glass stairways are located.


There are three separate lines; 1 for the Vibe, 1 for the Entertainment and 1 for the GoCarts and LaserTag.


Across at Teppenyaki's there are about 3-5 tables set up for Dining reservations.


Regarding the glass stairways, they were ROPED OFF on both of our weeks.  However, that didn't stop some RUNNERS from stepping over the ROPES at the top and bottom of the glass stairways.  NOT RECOMMENDED.


If you DO NOT GET THE VIBE, the Customer Service representative stays in his room to the right for quite a while.  Request that he add you to the WAITING LIST.  It is quite common for many Vibe pass holders to give them up (for example, several Haven passengers, including us in the past, have survey the # of kids in the Haven and, if not many or if many but well behaved, give up the Vibe passes).


Also, there can be other ways to secure Vibe passes; we don't agree with them but have either observed them directly or heard of such directly from those that did.


1.  $$$ talks.


2.  Tier Status talks - vociferously complain.

Edited by Formula280SS

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Great review, I haven't heard too many people talking about the lazer tag.  Any feedback?

Edited by lattegirl10

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3 hours ago, lattegirl10 said:

Great review, I haven't heard too many people talking about the lazer tag.  Any feedback?




Sorry that we can't help much with Laser Tag.  We did look at it as it sits perched atop the Vibe and looks impressive.  During Week 1 when there were a lot of families it was busy during the early hours of operation, then mostly Dads and older teens later on; and some 'adults.


We stayed in the Vibe and met others in the Observation Lounge; but no one with families so we didn't get any feedback on the attraction.


It does look impressive.


I will say that they located it on a piece of really pricey real estate.  Other than the Haven upper deck, where they have the venue location is PRIME.  If they had the venue 'inside somewhere, that location would be a GREAT opportunity to expand the Vibe, allow more guests, and have an upper and lower deck layout.


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Very informative! Thank you!  We are going to try for vibe passes on the Bliss in March.  Fingers crossed!

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On 1/22/2019 at 9:43 AM, Formula280SS said:

QUICK BLISS B2B 1/5-1/19/19 – Review Points


PART 3 – to be continue.


Issues: Vibe passes and policy exceptions for Haven guests, WIFI totally unreliable, diesel fuel smell on deck 12 stateroom mid-ship, explanation of stateroom shower, NCL exclusion of water and coffee in UBP, forward elevators/lifts and passenger comments from week 1 to 2.


1.  VIBE Experience:


The Vibe experience is unique.  It also, based on the demographics (NCL tiers, Haven and Group 1 "runners"), can change from week to week.  The forward section of the Vibe is "quiet" (from the hot tub forward).  From the hot tub aft, including the bar (much smaller on Bliss), it is fluid and week to week.  Many looking for a quieter experience, but sit near the bar and aft, often complain to the Vibe staff about language, excess drinking, etc.  However, most do not see the 'very small signage for the "quiet area."  Honestly, with the hot tub going and a slight breeze, sitting in the quiet area shields a significant % of the bar area revelers. 




The venue is simply too small for the demand.  So many have hopes and plans that get disappointed to start a cruise.  THERE ARE SOLUTIONS.  The area "on the other side of the Vibe entrance" is exceptionally designed to expand the Vibe (they have everything but the same loungers and cabanas) and IT IS MUCH LARGER.  We believe that the existing small Vibe could be the "quiet Vibe" and bit more pricey; and the larger expanded Vibe would be "more active" and less pricey.


We'd be happy with either.


2.  WIFI:


Well, for the first time in years, the WIFI was totally flawed.  After refunds of the premium package for both weeks, the IT support (he's really good; mostly alone in the Atrium), he honestly stated that there was a non-software issue with the WIFI communications (the week before our B2B and through both our weeks).  We had to resort to important matters using cell phone hotspots at acceptable ports and/or wait until return to Miami for the turn around.


3.  DIESEL FUEL SMELL - Deck 12 Mid:


Usually during cleaning or service and maintenance, a clear diesel smell on Deck 12 port mid ship between both elevator/lifts.  Our uniformed guesses focused on the service door to open stairways being left open during cleaning or service/maintenance.  However, have no idea how such would get into those stair wells in the first place.




Really, $5 for water that costs $0.25 is absurd.  Starbucks instead of MDR, Garden Cafe, etc. coffee unnecessary.  Re: the water, 'cmon.  Re: the coffee, 'use a better roast or at least offer 2-roasts; regular and dark.  YIKES.


5.  ELEVATORS/LIFTS - Forward:




The Garden Cafe is FORWARD.


The Observation Lounge is FORWARD.


The Main Theater is FORWARD.


Walk from your stateroom AFT and use the AFT elevators/lifts.

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