Our experience on Norwegian Bliss Cruise Ship
We recently went on a 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise on the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship. This particular cruise departs and returns to Los Angeles, with stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Our departure date was November 5, 2023.
This isn’t our first cruise experience. However, it is the first time cruising with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). The Norwegian Bliss is without question the largest cruise ship we’ve ever sailed.
The Bliss has room to accommodate over 4000 passengers and 1700 crew members. I’m pretty sure that our boat sailed at full capacity. At least, it felt like it was at capacity.
After spending one week on the Bliss, we learned a lot about this cruise ship. In this post, we share our experience on the Norwegian Bliss Cruise Ship.
Reader’s note – we feel it’s important to inform you we did NOT receive ANY compensation or perks for this cruise. We did NOT partner with NCL. All thoughts and opinions are based on firsthand experience.
Pick your location of stateroom carefully
Be careful when booking the location of your stateroom. At the time of booking you have the option to select where you want your room. Consider a number of factors, like noise, ship movement, views, balcony and proximity to restaurants and services.
The options for this Norwegian Bliss cruise ship are AFT (back), Mid-Ship, and Forward.
Our room is 14116. This means it’s located on floor 14 and closer to the front of the ship.
Mid-Ship you will have more people walking past your room, which might create more noise.
Also consider the floor that is directly above you. With our room being on the 14th floor, the observation lounge is located directly above us. We did hear chairs move periodically. However, the observation lounge is a quiet space.
We found the ship movement more noticeable in the AFT (back). Our preference is Mid-Ship to Forward.
If your room is located at the back of the ship, you will have a bit more walking to get to your room. It’s a large ship and the hallways are long.
Click here to view the Norwegian Bliss deck plans
Things to consider when selecting your stateroom on Norwegian bliss.
Are you prone to seasickness? If so, a higher floor and mid-ship might be best for you.
Do you want quiet? Then maybe stay away from areas that are directly below busy areas, like the pool area.
Do you have mobility issues? Perhaps it’s best to pick a stateroom that is close to the elevators. This will limit the amount of walking from your room to the elevators, and vice versa.
Should you book the port (left when facing forward) or starboard side (right when facing forward)? For this Mexico cruise on Norwegian Bliss, I like the port side. I found we had the best views on this side, like when arriving at Cabo San Lucas.
Search for more Mexico cruises and itineraries here.
Can you bring wine or champagne on Norwegian Bliss?
Guests may bring bottles of wine and champagne on board at the start of the cruise or at any port. When bottles are brought on board, a corkage fee will be charged according to the below bottle sizes:
- 750 ml Bottle: $15.00 USD
- 1,500 ml Magnum: $30.00 USD
Wine or champagne sent directly to the ship are subject to the same fees. Guests do not need to pay the corkage fee if they have the beverage package. However, you will still be required to declare and show your wine or champagne.
If you bring any other alcoholic beverage on board the ship, staff will keep it for you until disembarkation.
Do you need the Drinks Package on a Norwegian Bliss Cruise?
There isn’t a straight answer to this question. It depends on how much you think you will drink.
I booked our cruise as part of a promo. Therefor, my son and I did not have any extras included (no beverage package and no included specialty dining).
When you book a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines, normally you have the option to add the Free at Sea package. This includes the unlimited drinks package, free specialty dinking, free wifi, and free excursions.
Before sailing, I looked at how much it would cost to add the drinks package. It’s almost $1000 USD for myself, because of the promo deal I selected. I didn’t think it was worth it because I knew I would not be drinking $100 USD per day.
However, if you like specialty drinks and plan to drink a lot, it might be worth the additional expense.
Waterslides and Go Karts have weight and height limits
The Norwegian Bliss (and it’s sister ship, the Norwegian Joy) offers guests a lot of unique activities. The most notable being the waterslides and a rooftop go-kart track.
Now, if you chose this cruise ship to enjoy these waterslides and go karts, you must confirm you (and your family) meet the height and weight requirements.
The Aqua Racer waterslide with the tubes is kid friendly. My son weighs 60lbs and not very tall. He is able to go by himself in a single tube and with me in the double tube. Ship staff will check your weight (so go easy on the buffet).
Requirements for Aqua Racer Waterslides on Norwegian Bliss:
- Minimum Height 40”
- Minimum Weight: No minimum
- Maximum Weight: Max weight cannot exceed 300lbs/136kg for both solo and double tube riders
Requirements for Ocean Loop Waterslides on Norwegian Bliss are:
- Minimum Height 48”
- Minimum Weight 120lbs/54Kg
- Maximum Weight 300lbs/136kg
The Ocean Loop waterslide is more intense and includes a drop and loop that people need to complete. It has has a height and weight minimum. I did see adults being turned away because they did not weigh enough.
Watch this short video from inside the waterslide.
The Norwegian Bliss Speedway also has requirements for both weight and height.
Requirements for the Norwegian Bliss Speedway are:
- Maximum weight 265 lbs
- Maximum height 82”
- Minimum height 55”
Kids below the height requirement can ride in a double cart. However, they are NOT allowed to drive. They can only be a passenger.
Dining in the restaurants will take a long time. Expect to wait.
If you’re looking for a quick meal, the observation lounge has snacks and the Garden Café (buffet) has lots of options. However, if you want to dine in one of the ship’s restaurant, expect the dining experience to be slow. Plan for 1.5 hours per meal.
I found the food to be very good, but I found the service to take a long time.
We dined at The Manhattan Room on the first night. I found the service to be quite slow.
The next day we dined at Taste. I found it to be the best dining restaurant (we did not do specialty dining, so I cannot comment on this).
The service at Taste was notably better than the Manhattan Room. I also preferred the smaller room and the location on the ship. We were also given a window seat multiple times, which is nice.
Early dinner to avoid disappointment (especially on days at sea)
Included restaurants and specialty restaurants on the Norwegian Bliss require reservations. Prior to boarding, I pre-booked all our meals at the restaurants, but I could only get the Manhattan room.
After our first dining experience at the Manhattan room we weren’t impressed with the service. When dinner opened at 5:00PM each evening, we went to Taste. Even though we did not have reservations at Taste, they found a table for us. We enjoyed this restaurant.
One of the days at sea, we lost track of time. We went to dinner closer to 6:30PM. I was initially told the restaurant is fully booked. However, because we had dined several times at Taste, they knew us and graciously found us a spot.
If you have a big group, this might not be possible. On this cruise it was only my son and I. Obviously, it’s a lot easier to seat two people versus a large group.
If it’s a sea day, you may have trouble getting reservations. Make sure you plan ahead. Depending on your status when you book the cruise, you can start booking restaurants approx. 3 months prior to boarding the cruise ship.
Kids meals at the restaurants are the same every day
The meals in the main dining rooms for adults change daily. However, the kids meals stay the same throughout the cruise.
The kids menu includes Burger and Fries, Hot Dog, Chicken noodle soup, Mac and Cheese, Chicken Tenders, Peanut Butter and Jelly, cheese and pepperoni pizza.
My son ordered the chicken tenders and said they were very dry and not good. He has a dairy allergy, so this limits his options.
I was surprised the menu did not change for kids. If you’re traveling with children, keep this in mind.
That said, kids can order off the adult main menu. That’s what we did. He often ordered plain pasta or pasta with red sauce.
How is the food on Norwegian Bliss?
I will write a separate post about the restaurants and food on the cruise.
Dealing with food allergies on Norwegian Bliss Cruise
Our son is allergic to dairy (requires an epi pen). On the first day, we found it challenging to order food for him. Servers kept telling us there’s lots of cross contamination with the food.
At first, it felt like there are limited options for him in the restaurants. However, when we were struggling for food options the next day, our server at Taste restaurant advised me that we can order a dairy-free meal for the following day and a special meal will be prepared.
For the rest of our Mexican Rivera cruise we ordered his dinner meals ahead of time.
We normally ate breakfast at the buffet. Lunch was mostly off the ship at the ports of call. We ate dinners at the main restaurant.
Guests with allergies or food restrictions can pre-order breakfast, lunch and dinner at any of the restaurants.
Each evening, before finishing our dinner, we were given the next day’s menu. We chose similar options off the main menu, but made the meal more kid friendly. For example, one evening there was meatballs as a starter and a pasta option for the main course. So we asked for pasta and meatballs.
You can buy a Starbucks unlimited drinks package on the Norwegian Bliss
If you love Starbucks you’ll want to consider Norwegian’s Unlimited Starbucks Package. The price at the time of our sailing is $12.95 per person per day plus 20% gratuity.
If you plan to drink more than 2 drinks per day, you might find this package worth it.
The Starbucks package does not include canned or bottled drinks, food, and merchandise. It’s NOT included with the Norwegian’s beverage packages.
Starbucks is available on most NCL cruise ships, including Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Getaway, and Norwegian Sky.
Starbucks gift cards are accepted. You can also use the Starbucks app to pay onboard if you don’t purchase the Starbucks drink package. You can order Starbucks espresso drinks in the main dining rooms and specialty restaurants.
Bring a refillable water bottle
Buying water on the ship is expensive and it’s not included in the beverage package.
Bring a refillable water bottle (my favourite is Stanley. Find them here). There are lots of places to refill your water bottle including the buffet, the Observation Lounge, and various juice and water stations around the ship.
Please don’t refill directly into your bottle. Use the provided cups and then pour the water into your refillable bottle.
Read more Norwegian Bliss Mexican Riviera reviews here.
There are quiet areas to escape the crowds
The Norwegian Bliss Cruise ship is a large ship with over 4000 passengers so many areas can be very busy. However, I was able to find a few quiet areas on the ship.
We even had the hot tubs to ourselves a few times in the evenings.
Our favourite breakfast place is the Garden Buffet. However, the seating is quite crowded.
In the mornings, if you go to the pool deck, the ship has extra seats and coffee available. It is quiet and offers nice ocean views.
The Observation Lounge is another area that’s not very busy. During the day, you can find various snacks here.
Is the unlimited arcade package on Norwegian Bliss worth it?
I researched the arcade package and had trouble finding info. I learned that the unlimited package only includes the green swipe readers but I didn’t know how many games are actually included.
The cost for the unlimited arcade package on Norwegian Bliss is $175 USD.
To answer the question, I do think the unlimited arcade package is worth it for my 10 year old. If his brother had joined us, they can both share the card. This would make it even more valuable.
As long as you don’t do more than 3 swipes in 3 minutes, you can play as long as you want. If you do accidently swipe more than 3 games in 3 minutes the card is temporarily suspended for 15 minutes. This did not happened during our cruise.
What’s included in the unlimited arcade package on Norwegian Bliss?
There are several different multi-player race car games and motorcycle games included.
Other games include Halo (2 person option), Pirates of the Caribbean (2 person option), Jurassic Park (2 person option), Basketball, Gun shooting, Star wars, Guitar Hero, air hockey, virtual reality simulator (you can ride a virtual roller coaster). And there is 2 person Mario Cart driving game where the indoor bowling is located.
Each game is at least $1.99 per play, so the cost can add up quickly.
We like the 2 person games and played a lot of Jurassic Park and Pirates. We are both able to use the same card. When one person’s game ends, you just swipe to get back in the game.
Embarkation Process for NCL Mexico cruise
We arrived at the Los Angeles port around 10:00AM. The lines were already busy. I had my printed luggage tags ready and there were lots of port employees wanting to take our bags. Don’t worry about bringing a stapler since the people taking the luggage had one I could borrow.
I noticed others had luggage holders like this that I thought was very handy for luggage tags.
We got a group number card (we were group 8) and key cards for our stateroom and everything else on the ship. Seating at the terminal filled up quickly, so we found space on the floor and waited.
We waited in the terminal for about an hour before the first group was called. A new group is called about every 5-10 minutes. We started to boarding about a half hour after the first group was called. The boarding process started at 11:45 AM.
Bring your bathing suit in a day bag on embarkation day
Getting on the ship is a fairly straight forward process. However, a lesson learned is to bring bathing suits and pool stuff (sunblock, etc) in my carry-on bag or day bag.
I didn’t think about the first few hours between arriving on the boat and having our luggage arrive in the stateroom. Our room was not available until 3:00PM.
During that time, we wanted to enjoy the pool and hot tubs, but we did not have our swimming clothes on hand.
Fortunately, our room on the 14th floor is one of the first to be available. However, our bags didn’t arrive to the room until 5:00PM in the evening. We didn’t carry anything on the ship with us, other than important documents, like our passports.
Some ports on Norwegian Bliss require a tender
Sometimes ports don’t have a dock or a dock that’s large enough to accommodate the massive Norwegian Bliss ship. This means you’ll need to tender to shore.
What is a tender port?
It’s when there might not be a dock and the ship needs to anchor off shore. Passengers board smaller boats from the cruise ship that transport you to the shore/dock.
Why is it important to know if you may need to tender on a cruise ship?
For those who have mobility issues, or need to bring a stroller, it’s important to plan ahead. Also, it takes more time to tender, so you want to be mindful when booking excursions.
We had to tender in Cabo because there is no dock. Some older guests had a bit of trouble getting on and off the tender due to the waves. There are staff available to help, but it can be challenging for some people because of the stairs and waves.
Make sure you always know the ship time
This is tip is very important. Always know the ships time and confirm before getting off.
The Norwegian Bliss always arrived and departed on ship time which is sometimes different than the city location. Therefore, it’s important that you always know the ship time and plan your port activities accordingly. The cruise ship will leave without you if you are back on board in time.
I did feel the port calls were pretty short. Often, I felt rushed to get our activity done and get back on the ship. We would like to go back and stay longer in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.
See the Norwegian bliss Mexican Riviera itinerary here.
Bring your ID and ship card every time you get off the ship
NCL gives you a card that acts as payment on the ship as well as documentation. Bring these items with you when you leave the ship at every port. The card scans you when you get off and when you return.
It’s also smart to bring valid ID (passport or driver’s license) when getting off the ship. I wasn’t always asked, but a few times we were asked for extra identification to get back on.
If you were to accidentally miss the ship’s departure (it does happen!) you’ll need ID to catch a flight to re-join the cruise.
Bring an international USB adaptor
We travel with lots of devices so it’s important we have the ability to charge them. On the ship, there are only 2 USB adaptors and they are located by the bed. If you are like us and have a lot of devices that need to be charged, we highly recommend you bring an International USB charger.
This one is our favourite. We bring it with us on most trips.
Bring medicated cream if you have sensitive skin
Connor has sensitive skin. The ships hot tub and pools made his skin react and he had itchy irritations after using the pools and hot tubs. However, I suspect it was mainly the hot tubs causing the reaction.
I bring medicated cream with me, so I had lots on hand to help ease the irritation. After using the pools and hot tubs, I put the cream on Connor and his irritation was always gone by the next morning. It would have very uncomfortable for him if I didn’t have the medicated cream with me.
Bring your own medication for kids and adults
The Norwegian Bliss cruise has a medical center onboard, located on deck 13. It is accessible to passengers and crew members 24/7. However, medical services are not included in the price of the cruise and passengers are responsible for any medical fees incurred.
You may be able to get medication at one of the ports. For example, getting medication in Mexico in easy.
However, we always travel with a pack of medication for both our kids and adults because when you need it, you often need it immediately.
Before going on any cruise, I also suggest visiting your doctor ahead of time and get seasickness pills or patches. Both will help if you find yourself feeling unwell due to the ship’s movements.
The Norwegian Bliss is big, but you still feel the ship moving. Connor didn’t feel well the first night at dinner. We had to leave early to lie down and rest. He took some of the seasickness medication and felt much better in the morning.
The medication we bring is typically:
- Epi Pen (we have allergies in our family)
- Tylenol (chewable pills)
- Advil (chewable pills)
- Pepto (chewable pills)
- Cortisone cream
- Seasickness pills and/or patches
Reminder to avoid liquid bottles if you’re catching a flight before the cruise. If the bottle is too big, airport security might not let you bring it on the plane.
Pick your departure flight times carefully
I initially booked flights departing Los Angeles at 3:00 PM. However, our flights were cancelled and re-booked for 12:30 PM.
The NCL portal says that we can start disembarking around 7:30AM. I thought this would be plenty of time to get to the airport for our international flight back to Vancouver.
The cruise ship offers a transfer to the airport for $25.00 USD per person. When I talked to guest services they said as long as I get off first, I would have plenty of time to get to the airport.
Disembarking at Los Angeles cruise ship terminal
Unfortunately, our disembarkation was delayed by over an hour. The ship could not let people off until it was authorized to do so.
This meant everyone wanted to be first off the ship. The lines were crazy. Elevators were packed with people and luggage. It was absolute chaos.
It took over an hour to get off the ship.
We also should have taken a taxi, but I had pre-booked the transfer through NCL. The transfer took a very long time to get the bus filled and loaded with luggage. Then there is LAX traffic. And you need to wait as the bus drops each person at the different terminal stops. There’s a LOT of terminals.
Our flight departs from terminal 6, which is one of the last stops. It took a long time.
We did make our flight. But it was a very stressful morning. I don’t recommend flights any earlier than 1:00PM. Evenings would be much better, if you have that option.
Travel Tip – when using the elevator, go up to the top floor first, instead of waiting to go down. Once you get to the top, stay in the elevator and go back down. Otherwise, you won’t get an elevator with room for a very long time.
Did we like the Norwegian Bliss and would we sail it again?
Yes, we did like sailing on the Norwegian Bliss. I would sail on this cruise ship again. And I would also cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines again.
We do like cruising, in moderation. We like the idea of visiting a few different locations in a short period of time. It’s nice that your room travels with you, so you don’t have to pack up each day.
It’s a fun way to travel with family.
Read more blog posts about cruising:
- Everything you need to know about an Alaska cruise on Celebrity Eclipse
- Thinking about a European River Cruise? Here’s what you need to know
- Taking a Caribbean Cruise? Here’s what you need to know
- Here’s what we did on our Portugal River Cruise with Viking
Do you have questions about Norwegian Bliss Cruise Ship?
Leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer.