Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest Breakaway Plus class mega vessel comes with an expanded go kart race track, one of the largest observation lounges at sea, a truly terrifying over-the-sea waterslide and more than 25 dining options. But, sometimes the little things matter as much as the big.
During a two-night inaugural cruise from Bremerhaven to Southampton, Cruise Arabia & Africa was invited to experience NCL’s newest ship. These are the six big and little things about Norwegian Bliss, and Norwegian Cruise Line generally, that we love so far:
The little things
Aboard most cruise lines, guests check-in at the terminal and then have to queue at guest relations or the kiosk machines to link their cruise card to their credit card, or debit cash onto the card. It’s an unnecessary double-queue system that NCL has done away with by doing it all in one. Guests’ cruise cards are linked to credit cards or debited with cash at time of check-in, so there’s no queueing at guest relations once on-board.
- All doors leading to outside decks are automatic
Every single passenger doorway leading to the outside decks aboard Norwegian Bliss is automatic. Guests need only swipe their hand across the green touchpads to get in or out. It’s fantastic for when your hands are full of food or drinks, which is often the case aboard an NCL cruise thanks to its freestyle dining. On a more practical level though, the automatic doors mean you’re never stuck trying to push a door open against a robust sea breeze, or trying to close a door without trapping your fingers!
- Anti-slam doors and drawers
All drawers and wardrobe doors in the cabin are anti-slam. This may sound penantic on the face of it, but it speaks to the higher than usual quality of everything aboard Norwegian Bliss. She is a mass-market cruise ship that feels very close to an Oceania Cruises vessel in terms of little premium touches, like cabins that don’t feel or look cheap. And if you’re not sure what we mean, just take a look at her truly impressive Observation Lounge, it looks like a VIP ‘members lounge’ in one of Dubai’s top hotels, but this is a lounge open to all passengers.
The big things
- Freestyle dining concept
During an interview with Nick Wilkinson, Vice President and Managing Director for the UK, Ireland and Middle East and Africa at Norwegian Cruise Line, he mentioned that Middle East cruise passengers love NCL’s freestyle dining concept. “We give them that resort casual, highly flexible product that they’re after, they don’t want formal, they don’t want set dining times,” he said. It’s for this reason that NCL is seeing double digit growth in the number of Middle Eastern passengers cruising with them, and its easy to see why. With more than 25 dining options, and the freedom to dine where you want, when you want, how could anyone not love this level of choice?
- Premium all-inclusive
Norwegian Cruise Line have introduced a new option for guests that is an evolution of the freestyle dining. Called Premium All-Inclusive, it gives guests unlimited drinks and food during the cruise on all orders of less than US $15 (which is pretty much everything apart from the really fine wines and whiskeys). It takes convenience to another level aboard one of the ‘big three’ cruise lines.
- The staff
During a press conference aboard Norwegian Bliss, Andy Stewart, President and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line, insisted that NCL has some of the best-trained staff in the industry. It’s a PR platitude that would be easily dismissed if we hadn’t experienced it first-hand. From the ‘back of house’ cleaners and engineering staff, to the guest-facing wait staff and hospitality crew, everyone is ready with a smile and quick to try and provide help. In the global cruise industry excellent service from the staff is quite normal, but not to this extent, and its extremely rare to see this friendly helpfulness coming from the upper management as well.
- The Racetrack
Norwegian Bliss features the largest racetrack at sea. To be fair, it’s only the second racetrack to be on any cruise ship (the other is on Norwegian Joy). This one is 40% longer at more than 1,000 feet, and the cars run on electricity in silence, but with race car engine sounds piped in through speakers located in the car’s headrest to augment the experience without disturbing non-racing passengers. So even from directly below the racetrack, you cant hear when a race is in action.
- The Waterslides
The Aqua Park on Norwegian Bliss features two water slides, the Aqua Racer and Ocean Loops slide, which curve out over the side of the ship, thirteen-decks above the ocean, and descend through three levels to the pool deck.
- The entertainment
During our inaugural two-night sailing to Southampton, there were three full Broadway-style shows on for guests (Jersey Boys, Prohibition and ¡HAVANA!). The highlight was Jersey Boys, which of course tells the story of the Four Seasons and their frontman Frankie Valli. It’s a show that got mixed reviews from the international group of travel agents and journalists on the inaugural cruise, but played to an all-American ‘Baby Boomer’ crowd sailing out of Seattle to Alaska, it will no doubt prove hugely popular.
- The Waterfront
Norwegian Bliss features the distinctive waterfront design feature that debuted aboard Norwegian Breakaway. It’s essentially a second promenade deck, but with no lifeboats obstructing ocean views or taking up deck space. There are bars and restaurants that line either side of the ship so that you can stroll along and take your pick of where you want to grab a drink or something to eat.
The quarter-mile strip is designed to connect passengers with the sea and is the best example of Norwegian’s outward-design ethos aboard the Breakaway and Breakaway Plus class ships. Just about every eatery and bar on Deck 8 has an outdoor area on the Waterfront.