An industry game-changer – and Seattle’s newest arrival – Norwegian Bliss is a joy to sail on, as Rebecca Barnes discovers.
Standing on my stateroom balcony, binoculars in hand, about 50 miles south of Victoria, British Columbia, I swear I see the odd spray of water, suggesting there are whales in the area – between May and October there is, after all, a 95 per cent chance of spotting resident Orca pods.
I stand rooted to the spot for a good 45 minutes but no fins emerge from the ocean. But I soon get over the fact that the marine mammals are keeping a low profile, as I realise there’s plenty more excitement to be had on the ship.
I’m sailing from the iconic American city of Seattle on new sensation Norwegian Bliss, the largest cruise ship homeported on the US West Coast.
Built in 2018 and with 4,004 passengers, 1,716 crew and 20 decks, this is no small sailor – the day before we set off for Victoria, the Breakaway Plus Class ship had made history as the largest to be christened in Seattle. It’s also Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest ship and boasts first-class facilities.
Back to the thrills and spills and, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll probably have heard about one of Bliss’s star features – the two-level Go Kart racetrack, the largest at sea. Located on deck 19, there is an additional charge to race but I can confirm it’s a great deal of fun – how many times have you burned rubber round a hairpin bend with the ocean right in front of you?
The adrenalin rushes keep on coming with a laser tag attraction and multi-level water slides in the Aqua Park, one of which extends over the edge of the ship – it’s a veritable playground for both big and small kids.
Inside things are no less impressive; everything looks pristine, contemporary and chic. Located at the front of the ship, the panoramic Observation Lounge was one of my favourite places in which to sit with a drink in hand and watch the ship chart its course.
678 Ocean Place is where to head for food, drinks, shopping and fun. Spread over three decks, and the hub of the ship, it’s also a social place in which to meet new or old friends. Retail brands in attendance include Ray Ban, Tory Burch, Swarovski, Tag Heuer, Mont Blanc and many more.
Another great meeting spot for when the weather is fine – and exclusive to Breakaway and Breakaway Plus Class ships – The Waterfront is a quarter-mile outdoor promenade to enhance guests’ connection to the ocean with a variety of dining, bar and lounge spaces.
But when the night draws to a close, you want all those creature comforts that you’re used to. More than 50 per cent of the accommodation is taken up by balcony staterooms – these are decorated in calming shades of deep blue, brown and beige, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading outside. My queen-size bed was super-comfy (this is also able to convert to two beds), the bathroom clean and functional. There’s also a sofa and a coffee maker.
Hidden at the top of the ship, The Haven is a hub of luxury – a boutique hotel within a ship if you like. Often guests who book to stay here don’t leave this tranquil, elegant enclave for their entire cruise.
And who can blame them? Accommodation is elegant and well- appointed with Bulgari toiletries in the bathrooms, plus there’s a 24-hour butler service, concierge service, restaurant, bar and private sundeck.
A real foodie’s paradise, there are more than 25 dining options on board Bliss – from the Q Texas Smokehouse featuring an authentic Texas BBQ to the Mexican eatery Los Lobos, there’s something for everyone. Coffee fans will also appreciate the first Starbucks outlet on a Norwegian ship, in homage to the ship’s homeport of Seattle.
Entertainment is a key USP on Norwegian ships, and Bliss is blessed with a number of first-rate shows. ¡HAVANA! is a colourful celebration of Cuba’s music and culture, taking the audience back in time to its heyday in the 1950s. This upbeat musical is making its world debut on Bliss, so is definitely one not to miss.
The award-winning Broadway show Jersey Boys is also on the entertainment programme, and features the true story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. It’s a real singalong production that will appeal to most.
One of the biggest draws during the evening – certainly when I was on board – is The Cavern Club with its excellent Beatles cover band. With an intimate, speakeasy atmosphere, this is a great place for an after-dinner drink with a roll call of classic tunes included.
When it’s time to wind down, there is no better place to do it than in the extensive and award-winning Mandara Spa, which offers more than 50 speciality treatments as well as a Thermal Suite (additional charge applies), Vitality Pool and salt room – grab a heated relaxation bed in front of the full-length windows for unbeatable views while you chill.
This ship is custom-built for a well-rounded cruise holiday and we love that she’s based in buzzy Seattle, the gateway to Alaska. Can you imagine yourself on Bliss?