The first wave of a big ship invasion is hitting Alaska.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest, largest, and most tricked-out cruise ship, Norwegian Bliss, has begun seven-day trips to Alaska from its home port in Seattle. The 4,000-passenger, 168,028-ton Bliss is touted as the largest cruise ship ever to sail to Alaska waters. At least it will be until Royal Caribbean deploys its even-larger behemoth—the nearly 5,000-passenger Ovation of the Seas—to Alaska next year.
So while the Bliss temporarily owns the Alaska waterways, now’s the perfect time to check it out (especially as we are now in peak Alaska cruise season). How does the gigantic new ship rate? I took a look:
By the numbers
- Guests: 4,004 (at double occupancy)
- Decks: 20
- Staterooms: Just over 2,000—including 80 in the exclusive “Haven” section, 308 mini-suites, 1,088 staterooms with balcony views, 374 staterooms with interior views, and 82 studio staterooms for solo travelers
Bliss‘s biggest attraction is an onboard racetrack, a first for North America (NCL boasts a slightly smaller track on the Norwegian Joy, which homeports in China). The bendy, twisty course winds its way up and down the top two decks and allows you to hit speeds of up to 30mph—which in these cars turns out to be a lot faster than it might sound.
Another slightly unexpected attraction is an open-air laser tag course, where you can blast away at fellow passengers day and night. The ship’s ginormous pool area includes an Aqua Park with two waterslides, including Ocean Loops (which includes a loop that juts out over the side of the ship) and the 360-foot Aqua Racer, where you can race fellow guests down the chute.
For a more passive—but no less thrilling—activity, the place to go is the Observation Lounge at the front of the ship. There, you’ll find a stunning, 180-degree panoramic view that is a prime spot to view Alaska’s natural wonders (including the bald eagles you’re almost certain to see, so bring your binoculars). There’s a bar nearby, so it’s the perfect place to spend an hour or two. Speaking of bars…
Food and drink
Roughly 20 bars adorn Bliss, including some designed to cater to any possible libational craving: beer (the stylishly casual District Brew House), whiskey (Maltings Whiskey Bar); wine (The Cellars, NCL’s partnership with the Michael Mondavi family); and mojitos (Sugarcane).
Bliss boasts eight complimentary dining options (not counting room service), and twice as many specialty dining options, including a Starbucks and NCL’s latest Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea. Other standouts: the upscale Mexican restaurant Los Lobos, NCL’s new Texas Smokehouse, Q (which features a live pop-country music each night), and Coco’s, which features all kinds of innovative (and ridiculously tempting) dessert options.
The centerpiece of the onboard entertainment is NCL’s at-sea production of the Broadway hit, “Jersey Boys.” There’s also the Cuba-flavored “¡HAVANA!”
If you like the “resorts at sea” that define modern mainstream cruising, Norwegian Bliss is a more-than-worthy entry. It’s an attractive, roomy ship with plenty of activities to keep every generation in your cruising party occupied and happy.
Just make sure you don’t let all the activities distract you from the real reason to cruise to Alaska: the gorgeous natural beauty of the Last Frontier (particularly, the awe-inspiring Glacier Bay, which Bliss will visit during next year’s Alaska cruising season). Yes, the onboard perks are great, but Alaska’s natural wonders are even more thrilling than a racetrack.
For more on Norwegian Bliss, visit ncl.com/cruise-ship/bliss.