Beyond Beautiful – Norwegian Bliss

The last several decades have brought the traveling public an almost overwhelming number of new and spectacular cruise ships. With over 100 cruises taken and more than 75 cruise line sponsored inaugural events attended since starting in the travel industry back in 1993, my husband and I have seen plenty amazing ships but our impression of Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest vessel, the Norwegian Bliss,  far surpasses most of the typical descriptive adjectives used.

NCL Atrium

Eye-catching star of the vessel – the Atrium

Luxury is not often a word used to describe an NCL ship but the Norwegian Bliss offers a delectable taste of elegance.  Just take a look at this absolutely breath-taking atrium focal point with changing colors and hues of a 3-deck high stunning glass and light design.

Another notable area of the ship which displays lovely décor is the well-planned 180-degree Observation Lounge located on Deck 15.  Expansive floor to ceiling windows in the lounge provide passengers with the perfect spot to enjoy the scenery.  What a perfect spot to take in the beauty of Alaska!  Passengers will appreciate the tasteful design of the lounge, complete with cozy groupings of soft and cushiony furniture (like you would have in your own home) in striking but subtle colors of grey, black, silver and touches of blue.  From the artwork to the delicate glass vases carefully placed on open shelves which divide the sitting areas, it is obvious that great care was used to design and place every little detail.  This welcoming area of the ship is a 20,000 square foot oasis – a first for Norwegian Cruise Line.

ncl observation lounge

Observation Lounge

A generous amount of the ship’s design are her views from within the ship looking out and among the most spectacular are the two 2-deck high sets of windows in the bow as part of The Haven’s exclusive Horizon Lounge.  And speaking of The Haven, it is heavenly.  This is where true, non-stop luxury lives and breathes for cruise guests occupying one of 80 Haven suites.  The most luxurious accommodations on-board the Norwegian Bliss are The Haven Deluxe Owner’s Suites, complete with electric fireplaces and cushy wilderness cabin furnishing.  Guests will experience all the amenities one might look for at a high-end resort including an elegantly appointed living room and dining area with wet bar, dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows for viewing the seascape, and spacious balconies.  Beautiful fabrics, textures and colors adorn the 2-bedroom/2-bath suites.

 

The all-new contemporary décor of the ship compliments the artwork carefully placed throughout and is unusual, eye-catching and sometimes whimsical without being tacky.  It seems everywhere you look there is something new and fun to look at.

 

There is so much to tell about the Norwegian Bliss and what she has to offer.  In addition to our love of the overall beauty of her design, we are in awe of her seemingly endless array of dining options (27 to be exact); her entertainment options; her lounge experiences; her pampering spa services; her fun to be had (can you image an actual race track and laser tag onboard a cruise ship?)  And water slides and aqua fun galore!

 

The 4,004 passenger ship is a large one – 168,028 GRT – yet her public areas do not feel crowded.  This is a ship you could easily call ‘home’ for a least a week if not longer for any of her planned itineraries which include Alaska, Pacific Coastal, the Mexican Riviera, the Panama Canal and the Caribbean.  She is revolutionary.  She is unique.

The Norwegian Bliss is definitely Beyond Beautiful.

Bliss Theater on Norwegian Bliss

 

Passport Requirements When You Cruise

This can be a confusing topic for most travelers , so here is information which provides  you with guidelines and recommendations the next time you plan to cruise.

Basically, whether you are cruising the Caribbean and Bahamas on a popular ship like the Carnival Vista or taking a cultural European river cruise on the Rhine River with Avalon Waterways you SHOULD bring your passport.  On a Caribbean cruise you don’t necessarily have to have a passport but you MUST have a passport when you travel to and throughout Europe and other parts of the world.  Let’s explain:

U.S. Citizens on a closed-loop cruise, one that begins and ends at the same U.S. port, can use a driver’s license or government –issued ID card and a certified and/or notarized birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship.  Destinations on closed-loop cruises that permit passport-free travel for U.S.citizens include Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

So here’s the catch and why cruise lines and travel agents strongly recommend that all guests travel with a valid U.S. passport during their cruise:

  1. If you have a medical, family, personal or business emergency and need to fly back to the U.S. before your cruise ends a passport is required or you could experience significant delays and complications.
  1. If you need to fly to meet your ship at the next available port should you miss your scheduled embarkation in the U.S. port or if you miss a ship’s departure from a port of call. (i.e. too many margaritas in Cozumel and you just could not make it back to your vessel!)
  1. Some ports may have their own entry requirements. Each individual cruise line can provide this information if there are exceptions.

Keep in mind that if you are cruising outside of the Western Hemisphere you definitely need a passport.  If your itinerary includes ports of call in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Eastern Med, Australia or New Zealand you’ll need a passport.  Depending on where you are headed you may also be required to fill out additional visa or reciprocity paperwork.   For example, when cruising to the Baltics with a stop in St. Petersburg, Russia allows cruisers to enter without a visa as long as they remain on official shore excursions, but requires a complicated visa application for those who will tour on their own.  Another example is when individuals enter Argentina or Chile as part of a South America departure, they are required to purchase a Reciprocity Fee for the country they will fly into prior to traveling.

Passport pic for FB

So there you have it. Although it is acceptable to travel without a passport in some instances we highly recommend that you have your valid passport in hand.  Why give yourself added stress if you have an emergency and need to get home with only a driver’s license?   For more detailed information, passport applications and renewals you should visit https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html

One more passport travel tip:  Keep a copy of your passport separate from your actual passport in your hand-carried luggage, wallet, etc.  This applies whether you are cruising or taking a land-based vacation.

Keep Calm and Travel On!

Affordable Luxury Cruise Experience

The words affordable and luxury rarely go hand-in-hand but we recently experienced one such instance in our travels to Bermuda from Miami while on board MSC Cruises MS Divina. During our 7-night stay in the MSC Yacht Club, an exclusive sanctuary of refinement, we were pampered and catered to by attentive private butlers with white glove service and waist coat attire. Although our beautifully designed and comfortable balcony Yacht Club stateroom was not much larger than a standard contemporary cruise line balcony stateroom, we thoroughly appreciated the well-appointed marble bathroom, the memory foam mattress and Egyptian cotton sheets, the welcome basket of fresh fruit and bubbly, and chilled Champagne.

But, it was not all about the stateroom and butler! When we arrived at the busy and often hectic Port of Miami we were immediately escorted to a private, tented area and were greeted by a Senior Butler who checked us in and made sure our luggage was sent on board ahead of us. After he personally brought us into the cruise terminal and we passed through security, we received our stateroom key cards and were provided with a private room where we could relax with mimosas and refreshments while waiting for customs to clear the ship. During this time we had a great time meeting fellow Yacht Club guests, many who had been in the Yacht club multiple times and who “just keep coming back – because we love it so”!

Once on board the lovely MS Divina, we were escorted to our Private Concierge Reception where we met our own private butler and his assistant, the dining room Maitre’D to discuss and plan our dining preferences, and given a tour of new ‘home away from home’ for the next 8 days. At this point we knew the Yacht Club experience would be a ‘cruise within a cruise’! MSC Yacht Club has dedicated an impressive amount of space on the ship so we would have exclusive access to the Top Sail lounge offering complimentary cocktails, wine and beer throughout the cruise as well as tempting desserts, afternoon tea and tasty midnight snacks. During our cruise we developed a tradition of pre-dinner drinks and appetizers together and loved this relaxing time!

For breakfast, we liked heading up one deck to our exclusive pool deck. Not just continental breakfast, mind you, we had our choice of light fruit, eggs & breakfast meats or the European way – freshly baked hard rolls with salami or prosciutto with a selection of cheeses. Lighter fare lunch was also served in our private pool area (complete with bar, or course). We noticed that many of the Yacht Club members never ventured out to dine around the ship, but we must confess that we became addicted to the best pizza on the high seas so we would also visit the casual Calumet Buffet to feed that addiction!

For our evening dining experience, the MSC Yacht Club extends to our private dining room, Le Muse. Please note that the dining room is on the opposite end of the ship and requires a great deal of walking and although the experience is worth that walk, MSC Cruises has informed us that on their next ship, the MSC Seaside,
the private dining room will be located IN the Yacht Club venue.

As our 8 day/7 night cruise came to an end, it was so very fitting that we were personally escorted by our butler, Jacques, off of the MSC Divina through a private area away from the departing crowds. A delightful experience and we shall return!

Look for future blog posts regarding our insights from our enchanting Bermuda visit and also more on the beautiful vessel, the MSC Divina.