On 24 October 2021, we finally checked in our luggage at the Los Angeles World Cruise Center, tingling with excitement to embark on a long-awaited adventure. We were going to cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ most prominent and newest ships. It is considered among the 10 largest Ocean Cruisers in the world and one of the most exciting. Later, I found that the Bliss has the perfect balance between luxury, endless fun, and tranquility, as I’ll describe shortly. The ship was built in 2018 by Meyer Werft for the Norwegian Cruise Line. The famous nature artist Robert Wyland created the magnificent hull design. It’s a marvel to behold: life-size humpback whales, sea lions, and dolphins. The Bliss entered service on 21 April of the same year after being towed to New York Harbor from Europe. The ship had a show-stopping tour around the USA for an entire month as she headed to Seattle to pick up the guests booked to sail on her May 30th maiden voyage to Alaska. On her way around North America, she became the largest cruise ship ever to pass through the Panama Canal. The Bliss has another ‘Largest Ever’ title as the largest cruise ship to sail from Los Angeles.
It is time to describe the magic awaiting us on board. As I said above, the ship had a classy, fresh glow, impeccable cleanliness, and without a doubt, the most professional and friendly crew. The delights continued beyond the beauty outside. One could almost smell the delicious cleanliness aboard. We just felt safely protected as soon as we embarked on the gangway and stepped onto the ship’s security entrance.
After we showed our room key card, we passed through security, and the true magic began. The attending staff greeted us enthusiastically, with a Greek Chorus of the warmest, most heartfelt welcome greeting. The passengers looked relaxed and happy, with a celebratory swing to their step.
Both crew and guests seemed lit up from within; some were already making new friends. We were unburdened by luggage since the baggage was smoothly checked in and delivered safely right to the doors of our staterooms. I only wish airlines would take a lesson from these beautiful people on how to treat baggage. I glanced back at the luggage-laden vehicles as we stood in line to embark; I saw the Baggage crew carefully loading our checked bags. There was no banging of expensive checked suitcases like the airport guys, which is often not unlike loading garbage trucks.
(My brand-new golden, hard-shelled suitcase got smashed on my Delta flight back to New York).
Upon entering the elegant elevator bay, we were offered an assortment of Perrier and mineral water. All done with warm smiles, elegantly served on silver trays.
We didn’t need directions to find our staterooms. The 11th floor balcony suite was the fourth stateroom past the corridor of the aft elevator bay. The staircase was directly by the bay, wide, carpeted, and elegantly designed. Instant friendships were formed right from the start: a delightful woman and I connected during the short elevator ride, and we still kept in touch. Sweet serendipity!
Despite the proximity of the large, fast elevators, I used the stairways (which served as an exercise machine to run up and down to our many and varied activities). It proved to be great fun to race against my friend in the elevator. And win. Our luggage was neatly placed in the corridor beside the cabin. We entered the room, marveling at the large, comfortable bed, cozily laid with fragrant fresh linens, a sofa bed across from the large TV. The piece de resistance: a furnished veranda overlooking the harbor. We were amazed at the amount of space inside the cabinets and drawers. Talk about utilizing space while avoiding clutter. The built-in unit across from the sleeper sofa was a genius piece of room organizing. It served as the desk with a comfy chair tucked under, held a large TV, multiple large drawers, and shelves. The big closet cleverly provided hanging and open shelf space. Our empty suitcases and assorted luggage went under the bed. The spacious closet was cleverly designed to neatly organize our clothes, hats, and bags on top, shoes on the bottom shelf. The small vault held our critical documents.
The bathroom shelves and cubicles neatly put away our toiletries. We were unpacked and ready to explore in ten minutes, leaving behind a seemingly freshly made stateroom.
We started by following the happy noise on Deck 16, where the Waves Pool Bar, the adjoining pools, hot tub, and lounge chairs were filled with people dancing, drinking, and smiling from ear to ear. The crowd was in celebration mode, though the ship was still docked. A live band blasted dance music. The entire deck down to the opposite side of the Surf Bar was a wonderfully exciting contrast to the desolate isolation we left back onshore. We continued up to deck 19 to look at a two-level, 1,000 feet long, electric go-kart race track. Thrill-seekers can experience the adrenaline rush of high speeds, compete in head-to-head battles mid-ocean. For the less daring, The Aqua Racer Dare is a good choice. You’ll whoosh you over the side of the ship at a less intense rate but still get the blood rush and crazy blurry views. If you are a true daredevil, get on the Ocean Loop and plunge at insane speeds. It’s like being ejected from a canon and probably grand for the machismo in males and females. Putt-putt Golfing course and the Laser Tag is an interstellar-themed layout and is certainly a bonding experience to get your blood flowing faster and meet new people. For those like me, there are daily yoga and stretch classes. Then there is the magical panoramic observation lounge. Furnished by upholstered sofas, comfy chairs, and small tables to hold your drinks and books. Silence and soft tones are required. The enclosed covered space facing the ocean is often fully occupied. It’s one of the most popular spaces on the ship:. The ocean view is marvelously relaxing for meditating, reading, or a quiet conversation.
Back in our cabin, we turned on the TV which gives out the menu of the days’ events, allowing you to register for the various shore excursions.
The lower decks are full of great adventures. We went to see the Beatle Experience nearly nightly. Sang and performed by four talented musicians, the ‘Beatles’ played nightly to a packed house. Every night they performed a different Beatles album. The Cavern on deck 6 is made to look like the original bar where the Beatles played in Liverpool. On the last night of the cruise, we saw them at the large and comfortable Bliss Theater, with barely an empty seat anywhere, playing the best of the Beatles hits. By magic, they managed to turn back the clock on the principally silver-haired patrons. It was miraculous. The elderly folk suddenly turned into the young kids they were in the 1960s. Like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ who woke from a hundred-year slumber after a kiss from Prince Charming, they woke up when the princes of music sang the music of their youth. I think it was a crowd effect; being together made hearing “ComeTogether” a shot of blissful joy. They sang and danced like when they were young kids. I saw the entire show at the comfortably plush Bliss theater and took many videos of the crowd. It was so heartwarmingly sweet that I tasted the salty tears of joy rolling down my cheek, all the while smiling goofily and applauding the audience.
The Broadway-quality Six”, a brilliant all-female musical retelling the story of Henry the Eighth’s six wives. They were clad in amazing steaming outfits; their sparkly personalities and talent were mind-blowing enough to warrant a standing ovation. These lovely ladies sang, danced, and acted better than actors in most Broadway musicals I ever saw.
After three jam-packed days at sea, our magical week-long cruise had three consecutive days of docking on the itinerary of the Mexican Riviera. Every day we had about 8 hours to explore the local terrain. The First stop was in Puerto Vallarta. We went horseback riding in the majestic Mexican jungle. It was hot, and my horse went through a shallow river and looked in amazement at the hanging rope bridge, the high mountainous terrain with rivulets of water everywhere. The next day we stopped in Mazatlan (Mazatel is Spanish for the locally worshiped white-tailed deer). An exquisitely knowledgeable, funny taxi driver took us through the old town. He had the best stories as he pointed out the stunning, bright-colored homes. We got invited to look at one of the many delicious inner courtyards walking across cobblestoned streets. Later we drove to the famous sculptures, saw statues of frolicking dolphins; I posed with the mermaid, and shortly it was time to run back to embark on the ship.
In Cabos San Lucas, I asked the guide to show us the local flavor and stay away from the glittery tourist resorts. The contrast between people living in boxes and the luxury palaces and resorts was intense. We were back in Baja, and our very last cruise day was spent at sea.
I felt unrestricted for the first time in a year and a half. The crew began calling me ‘Sarity, beaming whenever they saw me. After 2-3 days, I got close to many staff members. Some favorites were the beaming staff member at the washbasins before entering the tea room. His ‘Washy Washy’ moto, said in a singsong tone, was funny and irresistible. The lovely Maitre d’ Catherine de Leon, and Celeste, her assistant, ensured that we were always seated directly by the windows with an ocean view at the elegant Manhattan Place restaurant. She also made herself available whenever I needed anything. Our servers were superbly trained, polite, and patient. The crew was beyond superb, caring, and professional. Even though the staff was wearing mandatory masks, their heartfelt Duchenne smiles spread to their entire being.
Everyone was delightful and high-spirited, guests and staff alike.
We were able to spread our wings and enjoy being alive, unhindered by the chaos. I referred to the entire cruise experience as being in an alternate universe that the moniker ‘Freedom Cruise’ expressed for my new friends. It felt to me that everyone aboard was living life to the fullest.
It felt like all was well with the world, at least for the magical week of the cruise. Being surrounded by so much loveliness, comfort, and beauty, most of us were able to let go of the troubled world we left behind. I don’t ever drink alcohol, and I get high naturally. Still being surrounded by so many glowing faces added an extra dimension to my inner peace.
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For information on Glatt Kosher River Boat Cruises click https://www.kosherica.com/kosher-cruises/danube-river-cruise/
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By Sarity Gervais