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Norwegian Bliss

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Norwegian Bliss is a beautiful vessel with a refined feel you don't normally expect to find on such a megaship. Its most striking feature is the 20,000-square-foot Observation Lounge, which dominates the entire forward section of the ship on Deck 15. Originally designed to serve as a focal point for cruisers during its Alaska sailings (so far Bliss will spend every summer in Alaska and was designed with Alaskan sailing requirements in mind), its sole purpose so far is to serve as a space for cruisers to read, chat with new friends and even fall asleep (we saw plenty of napping cruisers here all day long). No games, lectures or seminars are held here. It doesn't transform into a night-time disco. There's no stage for a small band to play. It's simply a refined indoor haven of calm, and we've never seen anything quite like it on a mainstream ship.

In fact, there's a lot about Norwegian Bliss that's unexpected. It feels like a big ship that's taken on the trappings of one that's smaller and more upscale.

Don't let pictures of the go-karts and water slides fool you. Consider the refined choice of fabrics and colour schemes in cabins and public spaces, the excellent service and top-notch food in the restaurants, the range of educational activities during the day (language classes, guest lectures). And, family-friendly features seem less visible (the one exception being the kids splash zone on Deck 16).

In these areas, the ship more closely resembles something you'd find in one of Norwegian Cruise Line's sister upscale and luxury brands (Oceania Cruises or Regent Seven Seas Cruises) than a fleetmate. It's an evolution that the line began with Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy.

But Norwegian Bliss can only mimic a small upscale vessel to a certain extent. At 4,004 passengers at double occupancy, it is a big ship, with a robust selection of dining venues, top-deck fun and enjoyable nighttime entertainment -- particularly The Beatles cover band in The Cavern and the full-scale production of the Broadway hit musical, the "Jersey Boys."

We loved the combination of upscale and mainstream; it gave us the perfect mix of high-energy fun (laser tag and go-karts!) but plenty of spots for quiet relaxation without having to go to an adults-only solarium, which we often find too hot or too stuffy.

But we're not sure the mix works for everyone, especially families. We can't figure out what a family with small kids or teenagers would do in the evening. Will they want to see a show about a 1960s-era band? Havana, which highlights Cuban music and dance, is, in some scenes, kind of inappropriate for kids. There is plenty in the kids' clubs to keep the kiddos busy as the sun goes down, but less for families to do together (which maybe is just what parents want on their cruise vacation?!).

With that said, there is one family-friendly comedy show most nights, a hypnotist displays her talents once per cruise and laser tag and go-karts run till late. But both of those cost extra money -- not necessarily surprising on a line that pioneered extra-fee speciality dining -- so how many times are parents going to let their kids loose on the "rides"?

Overall, we enjoyed our transatlantic sailing on Norwegian Bliss and we think it can only get better once it gets to Alaska and the Caribbean, where the destination will play a bigger part in the overall experience. While we do wish there were fewer extra charges (especially for the laser tag, which was our favourite top deck activity), there is still lots to keep you busy. And, a few hours luxuriating in a good book on a comfy chair in the Observation Lounge can't be beaten.

Daytime: Norwegian Cruise Line maintains a casual atmosphere onboard and this is reflected in its dress code. During the day, casual is the name of the game, with swimsuits, shorts and tees the norm in warm-weather destinations, and warmer clothing more common in Alaska.

Evening: There's not much of a formal dress code at night either; we did see shorts in the three main dining rooms. But two of the speciality restaurants (Ocean Blue and Le Bistro) do require long pants, a collared shirt and closed shoes. Generally speaking, dark jeans or khakis and collared shirts are the norm for the men, while women don blouses with slacks or skirts, or sundresses. (Bring a cardigan or a wrap for when the A/C is too high.) Norwegian doesn't have formal nights, but passengers are urged to dress up for the line's Norwegian's Night Out, held once per cruise on weeklong sailings. You'll rarely see a tux or gown, but suits and cocktail dresses are not unheard of.

Not permitted: Tank tops and baseball caps are prohibited in the main dining room and speciality restaurants. Shoes must be worn in all dining venues at all times.

Theatre

The Bliss Theatre (Decks 6 & 7) is the spot onboard Norwegian Bliss for big-stage productions, as well as one-off shows by comedians, magicians, hypnotists and other guest performers.

The marquis show onboard is an excellent, full-scale production of the Broadway hit, "Jersey Boys," about the creation and careers of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Parents should note the musical does contain some salty language.

Another big-stage musical is Havana, a passion project driven by Norwegian Cruise Line's chairman and CEO Frank del Rio, who is Cuban born. Created for NCL by Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Warren Carlyle, what is supposed to be a celebration of Cuban music and dance, is instead a trite jumble that comes across as fully inauthentic with lyrics in English and music that sounds only slightly Cuban. The costumes and live band, however, are excellent.

During the day, Bliss Theater might be used for movies, seminars and port lectures.

Daily Fun

As on all Norwegian Cruise Line ships, there is lots to do during the day on Norwegian Bliss, starting as early as 8:30 a.m. in the atrium with Morning Fitness Fun (essentially an aerobics class). From then on, there is some type of activity in the atrium every 30 to 45 minutes through the early evening. Examples of atrium activities include silly games; towel folding, fruit carving and cooking demonstrations; language lessons (our sailing had Tagalog, Portuguese, Russian and Italian); and circus trick and balloon twisting classes.

Other daily fun includes two to three rounds of trivia (including a progressive trivia), bridge lessons and knitter meet-ups, as well as the 45-minute Escape the Big Top escape room experience, which requires teams of up to 10 to solve several riddles. (Clue: Pay attention to the patterns!) Reservations are required for Escape the Big Top, but it's free to do.

Extra-fee daily activities might include Canvas by U painting classes, bingo and wine tastings. And then there are the daily seminars, which cost nothing to attend but are designed to get you to buy something afterwards; those include camera seminars, art history lessons, spa treatment and acupuncture seminars, and port lectures.

At Night

Beyond the shows in the Bliss Theater, nights on Norwegian Bliss are packed with live music and comedy shows. From sing-along piano music in the District Brewhouse to country and western in Q and rock covers from the ship's house band in lounges around the ship, there are plenty of places to listen to music.

A popular spot on the ship is The Cavern Club (Deck 8), a recreation of the famous Liverpool-based club where The Beatles got their start. On nights when the The Beatles tribute band performs, the space is packed to the gills. The band is good, though we did enjoy the "early" Beatles ("Hard Days Night," "Twist and Shout," "Ticket to Ride") better than the "older" Beatles ("Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "With a Little Help from My Friends). Each show (i.e., early Beatles, later Beatles or never-performed-live Beatles) is performed twice on one night, and a third time on the night after.

For those who like to laugh or dance the late night away, the Social Comedy & Night Club on Deck 6 is the spot to hang out. A few times a week, it's a comedy club with a family-friendly show earlier (usually around 7 p.m.) and an adult show later on (about 9 p.m.) Around 10 at night it transforms into the ship's disco with a DJ spinning tunes until midnight or later if the crowd is good. Some nights are themed, for instance, the 70s or 80s.

Once or twice per night, the ship offers a silent disco, though on our sailing they had yet to figure out how a silent disco actually works. On our sailing, participants wore headphones with just one channel (so no changing to another style of music as you'll find at other Silent Discos), while the DJ played what sounded like the same dance song over and over again on the loudspeaker -- thus negating the very name of the activity, Silent Disco. Thankfully, the event is complimentary.

Also once or twice per cruise is the adults-only "Prohibition, the Musical," a racy show set in a New Orleans brothel the day before Prohibition is set to kick in. Featuring hits from the 1920s and 30s ("Let's Misbehave," "Makin' Whoopee," "Happy Feet") as well as five included cocktails (Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, Whiskey Sour and Sea Captain), the show costs $23.94and isn't a bad way to spend an hour.

The ship's casino stretches the entire middle section of Deck 7, and features a glass-walled smoking section and a small VIP room for high rollers. There are lots of tournaments throughout the cruise, particularly slot pulls.

Norwegian Bliss Bars and Lounges

Mixx (Deck 6): Located in between the Taste and Savor main dining rooms, Mixx is primarily a place to meet someone for pre-and post-dinner drinks. Seating is only available at the barstools surrounding the square-shaped bar.

Atrium Bar (Deck 6): A central location to grab a drink on the way to somewhere else or for those hanging in the Atrium for all the daytime activities.

Social Comedy & Nightclub Bar: Used mostly by the drink waiters circulating through the ship's comedy and nightclub fetching drinks for people.

Skyline Bar (Deck 7): This is where casino players go when they want something to drink, or for anyone who wants to watch a sports match on the wall-sized screen. (On our sailing, it was always a soccer match.) It's also not far from the Manhattan Room, making it a good place to pick up a pre-dinner drink.

The Local Bar and Grill (Deck 7): While primarily a restaurant, half of the eatery is situated near the bar making it a great place to grab a drink and hang with friends. To the back of this side, you'll find two lanes of mini-bowling ($5 a game)as well as a handful of arcade games. There are no pub games.

The A-List Bar (Deck 8): Located in between Cagney's and Los Lobos, The A-List Bar is named after Norwegian Cruise Line's president and CEO, Andy Stuart. The new-to-Norwegian bar features a variety of cocktails. The bar's signature drinks, The Boss V & T (Grey Goose, Fever Tree tonic, orange bitter and mint) and Gunners G & T (Tanqueray gin, cranberry juice, Fever Tree tonic, fresh lime juice, lemon and juniper seeds), were designed by Stuart. The square-shaped bar is only open during dinner hours and has limited seating.

Sugarcane Mojito Bar (Deck 8): With indoor and outdoor seating on The Waterfront, this bar is the place to grab a flight of six sweet and savoury mojitos ($19.95), or just pick your favourite (each is $10.95) of six flavours. Other Latin America-inspired drinks on offer include pisco sour, Saturn landing and wiki rum punch.

Humidor Cigar Lounge (Deck 8): The only place onboard to relax with a cigar, it's hidden at the back of Maltings Whiskey Bar.

Maltings Whiskey Bar (Deck 8): For those who like something a little stronger, the Maltings Whiskey Bar has a large selection available, with dozens of scotch, whiskeys and bourbons on offer. Whiskey flights cost $19.95 and feature three or four brands, depending on the flight. Whiskey- , scotch- and bourbon-based cocktails are also on the menu. Indoor and outdoor space along The Waterfront is available.

The Cavern (Deck 8): Situated next to Maltings and across from The Cellars is The Cavern, a replica of the Liverpool-based club where The Beatles got their start. On nights when The Beatles tribute band isn't playing, you'll often find one of the ship's house bands playing a gig. The bar offers a typical range of drinks.

The Cellars Wine Bar (Deck 8): Wine lovers will want to stop by The Cellars Wine Bar for a glass of their favourite Michael Mondavi vintage, plus many other vintners. Daily interactive educational wine seminars and tastings are offered here for a fee ($21.95) twice a day and include such topics as "Old World versus New World," "Wine and Cheese Perfect Pairings" and "Riedel Journey of Sense Workshop." When seminars are not happening, wine is available by the glass, bottle and in three-glass flights ($19.95). Four flights are offered, including "The Jet-Setter," which features one French and one Californian cabernet sauvignon and one Italian red blend. Three tapas-sized bites are available during dinner time: an antipasti plate ($5.99), calamari fritti ($5.50) and a mixed green salad with pear ($4.99).

The District Brew House (Deck 8): Beer lovers will find 24 beers on tap and 50 bottled beers to choose from, including craft beers from Redhook Brewery and Elysian Brewery in Seattle, as well as from Wynwood Brewing Company and M.I.A. Beer Company in Miami. The choice of beer covers all types, from lagers and pale ales to IPAs and stouts. The District is also the spot for funtastic piano entertainment. (If Jim Badger is the piano entertainer on your sailing, we promise you, you don't want to miss it.) Disappointingly, the spot which has lots of charm and plentiful seating, including barside, high tops, couches and at tables is not the place to catch a sports game. In the back is a photo machine and a wall to put a pic of yourself up on for perpetuity.

Haven Lounge (Deck 17): This lounge is only for use by cruisers staying in one of the suites located within the ship-within-a-ship Haven enclave. It carries the usual array of wine, beer and cocktails.

Waves Pool Bar & Surf Bar (Deck 16): These two poolside bars are located on opposite ends of the pool deck.

Chill Bar (Deck 16): Order your favourite margarita to go at this bar that's part of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville at Sea.

Observation Lounge (Deck 15): A highlight of Norwegian Bliss is this massive, 20,000-square-foot lounge with 180-degree views spanning the entire forward section of the ship on Deck 15. It's an all-day quiet zone, though there's always the hum of conversation. It's one of the most beautiful lounges we've seen at sea -- especially on a mainstream ship -- with grey, blue and cream marbled carpets; and furniture upholstered in lush materials of dark grey, cream, tan and blue.

There are couches, upholstered loungers facing the windows, tables and chairs and comfy armchairs for sitting and reading, playing quiet board games or just napping. It's wonderfully comfortable and with free drink dispensers located in several places you never have to go far for a glass of water, lemonade or iced tea. There's also a bar at the front of the lounge for any other drink need.

The only drawback to the space is how popular it is. While chair hogging has always been a problem on big cruise ships on the pool deck, it was rampant in the Observation Lounge as well, with people showing up at 8 a.m. or earlier to start claiming spots (particularly the loungers). There are no posted signs asking people not to save chairs and no crew watching for unused chairs with towels and books on them, so nothing prevents one person from claiming several spots.

Spice H2O Bar (Deck 17): Adults sunning themselves or relaxing in the Spice H2O area need go no farther than this bar for a selection of refreshing libations. 

Vibe Beach Club Bar (Deck 19): Serves cruisers relaxing in the extra fee Vibe Beach Club.

Norwegian Bliss Outside Recreation

Pools

Norwegian Bliss has two pools on the main pool deck (Deck 16), one shallower than the other and meant for kids, plus there are four hot tubs (two on each side) one deck up and cantilevered out over the edge of the ship.

Though there's no pool in the adults-only Spice H20 area, there are two hot tubs, as well as a waterfall and water jet feature with a ledge for sitting beneath or amid the spraying water. The extra-fee Vibe Beach Club has one hot tub.

Recreation

All of Norwegian Bliss' attractions for thrill-seekers are located on its outdoor decks.

Borrowing directly from the China-based Norwegian Joy, Bliss features a two-level, nearly 1,000-foot-long (40 percent larger than on Joy) electric go-kart racetrack. Ten people can be on the track at once and, for $9.95, you get to zip around eight times. It's not a bumper car attraction as crew will repeatedly tell you and bumping other drivers is prohibited (though it does happen). Instead, it's meant to be a race-style experience though there's no actual race and no winner or loser. The go-karts can go up to 30 miles per hour but you can take it slow if you like (though you're more likely to get bumped if going slow as someone tries to speed their way around you). We think a slow-session or two would be a great idea for anyone who wants to give it a try but isn't comfortable being on the track at the same time as a bunch of speed demons.

The electric cars run silently so as not to disturb other passengers, but speakers near the driver's headrest pipe in the sounds of a race car engine so drivers get the full experience. The racetrack can be used in damp conditions (we tried them out during a drizzle), so even when the ship is in Alaska (where it rains a lot), cruisers can try their luck behind the wheel. Reservations are highly recommended. However, we found that most people opted to give the go-kart a go earlier in the cruise and it was less crowded toward the end. There is no age limit, but drivers can be no shorter than f4 feet and weigh no more than 300 pounds. Kids shorter than 4 feet who want to go on the go-kart can go as a passenger in a two-seater with a parent.

Also straight off Norwegian Joy is an open-air laser tag course (Deck 20). On Bliss, the course is themed as an abandoned space station and is open during the day and into the evening, when cool lighting gives the space a more out of this world feel. There are plenty of places to hide behind and the laser guns have settings that allow you to shield yourself for four seconds or build up power so that one shot will take out another player -- usually it takes several shots to fully eliminate a player. All players have unlimited lives, you just have to go back to "home base" to recharge if you've been eliminated. Teams accrue points for every successful shot and every elimination. There are no prizes, just bragging rights.

Open sessions are held every half-hour during which everyone who's signed up for that session is divided into two groups to square off against each other. The cost is $5 and you get two five-minute sessions during that time. Reservations are recommended. There are no age or height restrictions, participants simply need to be able to hold their own laser gun.

Also on the upper decks are two water slides (both Deck 17) and a kids' splash area (Deck 16). Not for the faint of heart, the high-speed Ocean Loops free-fall water slide drops riders into two heart-pounding loops: both extend over the side of the ship and have sections of see-through tubing. Riders must be taller than 48 inches, and must remove all jewellery to go on. Swim skirts and shirts can slow you down or even stop your progress in the slide, so are not recommended.

The second water slide, the Aqua Racer, is not actually a racing slide, but instead requires participants to get into an inner tube to ride down the water slide in. Inner tubes are built for one or two people, who each must be at least 40 inches tall. One person going alone, or two people going together combined can weigh no more than 300 pounds. Special lighting effects change colours and patterns as you zip down the looping water slide tubing.

The splash zone features a tipping water bucket, water cannons, climbing structures and spray jets.

Sun Decks

You'll find plenty of loungers for tanning and napping around the pool on Deck 16, as well as one deck up.

Two other sun decks are for adults only. The free adults-only Spice H20 is located on Deck 17 and features two hot tubs and a bar, while the extra-fee adults-only Vibe Beach Club is on Deck 19, and features one hot tub and a bar. Passes to Vibe are $99 per person for the full weeklong cruise or $25 per person, per day. At Vibe, you'll find extra comfy loungers and clamshells.

Norwegian Bliss Services

All of Norwegian Bliss' main service desks (reception, excursion, loyalty and Next Cruise) are located on Deck 6 in the atrium. There's even a desk specifically to deal with onboard credit questions or to apply Norwegian Cruise Line gift cards to your account.

You can also make dinner reservations at a table placed in the atrium or use one of six internet terminals in the ship's nominal Internet Cafe. (That spot is also where you go for any help with your Wi-Fi or internet package.) Internet can be purchased in several types of packages: $125 plus a $3.95 activation fee for 250 minutes (audio and video streaming not supported); $14.99 per day for the unlimited social media plan (view, post and upload pictures and videos to common social media sites); $29.99 per day for unlimited standard service (social media plus the ability to check e-mail and check out most websites); and $34.99 per day for unlimited premium Wi-Fi (all the above plus the ability to do video and audio streaming, as well as use VPN).

Most of the ship's retail is located on Deck 8, including shops that sell fine jewellery, clothing, duty-free alcohol and tobacco, souvenirs, Norwegian Cruise Line-branded items and sundries. There's also a Margaritaville with branded merchandise and funky margarita glasses for sale. The photo gallery is up here as well and has lots of cameras and equipment as well as photo accessories for sale. The Park West art gallery is on Deck 6, between 678 Ocean Place and the Taste and Savor dining rooms. It's got the usual mix of Peter Max, Thomas Kinkade and other unknown artists the auctioneer will try to convince you is worth the investment.

There are no self-service launderettes on the ship, but you can send your laundry out to be cleaned and pressed for you. A special promotion is available all cruise long -- fill up a bag and get everything cleaned for $20.

Hidden away in a small corridor between the atrium and Q are two meeting rooms and the ship's small library with a decent selection of books organized by category (biography, romance, poetry, mystery, etc.). There are also children's books and a selection of board games.

Spa

Mandara Spa (Deck 16) has 24 treatment rooms, a full-service salon and barber shop. You'll find all the usual treatments here, including a variety of massages and facials. Prices are high, especially on sea days; a 50-minute deep tissue massage is $159 ($143 on a port day), a 75-minute Thai herbal poultice massage is $195 ($176 on port days) and a range of Elemis facials cost $122 to $184 ($110 to $166 on port days).

Other services include salt scrubs, Ionithermie treatments, acupuncture, Botox or Dysport wrinkle treatments, tooth whitening, haircuts and styling, manicures and pedicures, and men's grooming.

Also inside the spa is the extra-cost Thermal Suite, which has a vitality pool with heated whirlpool, special experience showers, steam room and saunas, as well as 17 heated stone loungers. A weeklong pass costs $327 per person.

A highlight of the Thermal Suite is the salt room, designed to mimic the natural salt caves found in Eastern Europe. Folklore holds that salt is naturally relaxing and can improve respiratory and skin ailments. Nearby is the snow room, an ice-cold space that supposedly stimulates blood circulation throughout the body. We're not sure of that, but it certainly wakes you up. 

Fitness

Pulse fitness centre (Deck 16) has plenty of TechnoGym equipment, especially treadmills and ellipticals, though there are also rowing machines and bikes. Fitness staff offer personal training and group fitness classes. Some, such as morning stretch and fab abs, are free while others cost extra, including TRX ($20/session), Norwegian Fight Club ($25/session), RYDE Cycling ($20/session), yoga ($12/session), Pilates ($12/class) and boot camp ($20/session). Class packages are available. Pulse is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

A jogging track on Deck 17 is technically open before 9 a.m. and then again after 6 p.m., but we saw people using it during the day. Be warned, the jogging track overlaps with deck space surrounding popular spots like the water slides and Margaritaville and non-joggers have right of way during the daytime. Eight laps equals 1 mile.

With so many places to eat onboard Norwegian Bliss, you'd expect there to be some winners and some losers, but while we discovered which our favourite was (Q by a long shot!) we never did encounter a bad meal. Dining in the main dining rooms was just as good as in the speciality restaurants -- and, in fact, a few our favourite meals were in the MDRs.

Complimentary venues on Norwegian Bliss are limited to the three main dining rooms, which all share the same menu each day, plus the buffet and the 24/7 Local Bar & Grill. A light breakfast and lunch is also available in the Observation Lounge, and you can get quick bites at venues like Starbucks, the District Brew House and The Cellars (during dinner hours only).

As on Norwegian Breakaway, Getaway and Escape, Norwegian Bliss features The Waterfront on Deck 8, offering alfresco seating for several bars and dining venues, including Los Lobos, Cagney's Steakhouse, Ocean Blue and La Cucina.

For those with dietary restrictions, the main dining rooms are your safest bet, as there is much less room for flexibility in the other venues. The same is true of the speciality restaurants, but a few days' notice will give the chef time to make arrangements. Waiters are trained to ask before taking orders in every venue whether someone has a food allergy or not.

Free Dining

The Manhattan Room (Deck 7), Taste (Deck 6) and Savor (Deck 6): Norwegian Bliss has three included-in-the-cruise-fare main dining rooms. Taste and Savor are the two smaller venues, located directly across from each other, and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while the Manhattan Room is a much larger space and is open only for dinner. All are stylishly decorated and have a relaxed dress code.

Vegetarian, gluten-free and spicy items are marked accordingly on the lunch and dinner menus.

The breakfast menu is sizable, offering enough variety to satisfy most tastes. For those in a rush (either on a port day or with some activity they want to get to on a sea day), there's the Express Breakfast, which features scrambled eggs with country potatoes and baked beans, as well as a choice of breakfast meats. Hearty entrees include huevos rancheros, biscuit eggs Benedict, and vanilla pound cake French toast. Other options include a selection of fruit, yoghurt, cereal (cold and hot), baked goods, eggs (scrambled, omelette, Benedict), bagel and lox, pancakes (chocolate buttermilk, yum!), waffles and French toast. (Gluten-free pancakes and French toast need to be ordered the day before.)

The lunch menu doesn't vary and is available every day. Appetizer choices include, but are not limited to, roasted tomato soup, spinach Caesar salad, Cajun shrimp salad, popcorn shrimp and chicken nachos. Main meals are fish and chips, Spanish frittata, bacon-wrapped meatloaf, roasted leg of lamb and fried chicken. There's also a tuna sandwich, Philly cheesesteak, grilled Cajun grouper sandwich and classic cheeseburger. A small selection of desserts is also available.

The dinner menu isn't much bigger than the lunch menu but entree choices change each night. Appetizers, many of which do repeat, might include two to three soup choices (French onion, cream of cauliflower, cheese tortellini), three salad choices (Caesar, mixed garden, grilled iceberg wedge), bruschetta, seared swordfish carpaccio and smoked mozzarella ravioli with lobster cream sauce.

Classic (i.e., available everyday) entree choices are grilled New York strip steak, breaded flounder filet, herb-crusted rotisserie chicken, shrimp and mushroom Alfredo, carved whole-roasted pork loin and three-cheese baked ziti. 

Other main course options might include linguine with little neck clams, braised beef brisket, chicken cordon bleu, grilled lemon-pepper shrimp, eggplant parmigiana, almond-crusted red trout and a vegetable burrito.

The dessert menu always features a changing selection of cakes, pies and other pastries, as well as ice cream (vanilla and chocolate), and a fruit plate or cheese and cracker plate. We particularly recommend the Kahlua creme pie and warm chocolate volcano.

Garden Cafe (Deck 16): Norwegian's buffet is located high up on Deck 16 and offers both indoor and outdoor seating, the latter of which is located close to one of the ship's main pools. Seating is plentiful, though it can be difficult to find a spot during peak hours (noon to 1 p.m. on sea days, 8 to 9:30 a.m. on port days). Stations are situated throughout the space and while generally speaking they're the same on both sides, there seemed to be a few stations in the middle that only appeared once. Even after a week onboard, we found we still wandered around scoping out our options to make sure we found everything.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available here, as are evening snacks.

Breakfast is the usual a.m. fare with eggs (including omelette stations); bacon and sausage; French toast and pancakes; cereal, yoghurt, oatmeal and fruit; and juice stations offering apple juice, orange juice and a cranberry cocktail juice. Water, tea and coffee are also available.

Lunch serves up a wide selection of choices including burgers and hot dogs (turkey and veggie burgers are available upon request), pasta and pizza, hot favourites (fish sticks, lasagna, grilled veggies, etc.), Indian and Asian specialities, and a salad bar.

Dinner is similar to lunch, with a carving station added in (baby back pork ribs, roasted turkey, beef brisket). On any given night, you might find barbecue-braised short ribs, two-bean chilli con carne, vegetable burritos, country-style turkey scaloppini and a grilled vegetable medley. Sides could include steamed vegetables, fingerling wedges with Parmesan cheese, and fried or steamed rice.

Desserts at lunch and dinner include a selection of some eight hard ice cream and sherbet flavours (including sugar-free choices), cookies (chocolate chocolate chip, yum!), pastries and cakes. There are also DIY soft ice cream machines with chocolate, vanilla and swirl.

The Local Bar & Grill (Deck 7): This midship, 24/7 pub-style eatery is popular all day long. Occupying the space (both literally and culinary) that the line's signature O'Sheehans' Neighborhood Bar & Grill does on all other NCL ships, The Local is a casual place to get food all day long. Its central space, right above the atrium means you can hear all the activity, games and music that's held there throughout the day. The dining venue is divided into two sections; the one nearest the bar has high tops for four and six people, while across the corridor are standard tables, as well as comfy booths for up to four people. The menu is much the same with standard pub dishes for lunch and dinner. Appetizers include hot buttered, baked pretzels, a half-dozen chicken wings (buffalo, smoked barbecue and sweet Korean chilli barbecue sauces), and turkey and white bean chilli, among others. There are several burger and hot dog options and sandwiches are grilled cheese, a Reuben and the Rachel (turkey breast on cranberry sourdough bread with apple coleslaw and Swiss cheese). There's also fish and chips, turkey potpie, baked ziti and a tortilla bowl. There are only three dessert options (carrot and walnut cake, apple pie a la mode, and raspberry swirl cheesecake).

Breakfast is also served here, a fact many people forget making it a quiet place for a sit-down meal. On the menu, you'll find an express option, which includes scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and assorted pastries; a country platter with fried or scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage links, baked beans, sauteed mushrooms and hash browns; homemade corned beef hash; made-to-order omelette, French toast and hot oatmeal.

The Observation Lounge (Deck 15): For a lighter breakfast or lunch, head to The Observation Lounge where you'll find several identical food stations. Breakfast selections include a variety of cereal, yoghurt, fruit and pastries. For lunch, there's a DIY salad bar, a selection of premade salads, a few finger sandwich choices, deli meats and cheeses and three or four desserts.

The Haven Restaurant (Deck 17): Exclusively for use by cruisers staying in a suite in the Haven complex on Norwegian Bliss, this pretty restaurant has a more refined menu than what is found in the main dining rooms, and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day. Though the menu is light on vegetarian options, with advance notice the chef will work with diners on extra choices. (The same holds true for gluten-free options.)

At breakfast, you'll find all the standards, but at lunch and dinner you'll find more choices for both appetizers and entrees. There is no always available section of The Haven Restaurant menu, but as long as the ingredients are available, the chef can be quite accommodating. Appetizers at lunch might include a Santa Fe flatbread with ham, tomatoes and mozzarella; a seafood fritto misto with calamari, mussels, shrimp, scallops and sea bass; lobster bisque; or nicoise salad. Lunchtime main courses might feature linguine with clams, seared scallops, herbed chicken, double-cut pork chop or a goat cheese tart. There's no slacking on dessert at lunchtime either; choices might include warm chocolate espresso brownies, carrot cake and banana cream tartlet.

At dinner, appetizers might include shrimp cocktail, ahi tuna poke, beef tartare, slow-roasted pork belly, shrimp porcini risotto and butternut squash soup. At least three salads are also available each night. Dinner entrees at The Haven Restaurant could include grilled sea bass, surf and turf, seared duck breast, herbed chicken and roasted prime rib. Desserts are beautifully presented and delicious and might include rich triple chocolate cake, mocha mousse, warm pear and ginger crumble, and a strawberry and basil parfait.

Fee Dining

Texas Smokehouse Q (Deck 6); a la carte: Familiarly referred to as "Q," this new-to-Norwegian eatery offers Texas-style barbecue in a down-home setting featuring wooden tables and chairs, wagon-wheel-style lighting fixtures and wait staff wearing lariat boleros. The a la carte menu is sizable -- come with a big appetite because you're going to leave stuffed! Starters (called Texas Teasers) include Tex-Mex style tortilla soup ($3.99), deviled eggs ($2.99), Q's chopped salad ($6.99) and fried green tomatoes ($3.99), among many others. The most popular main course is the Pit Master Platter ($24.99), which features a quarter-pound each of brisket, pork spareribs, jalapeno and cheese, sausage and smoked chicken, all served with coleslaw, chunky potato salad, beans and jalapeno-cheese cornbread.

Can't handle that much meat all together? Each is available as a separate entree, along with beef short ribs, pulled pork, turkey breast and broiled citrus-honey salmon. All are served with the same sides as the platter. Main course entrees run from $11.99 to $17.99.

As if all this wasn't enough, there are lots of sides to choose from. Our favourite, hands-down, was the sweet potato smothered in pecan honey butter and cinnamon. Other baked potato options are available, as are baked beans, wavy fries, corn on the cob and mac 'n' cheese ($1.99 to $3.99).

It's hard to imagine anyone could have room for dessert after all that food, but for those that do, there are six options (each $4.50): banana pudding, peach cobbler a la mode, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, bread pudding and a massive warm chocolate brownie a la mode.

Q is only open for dinner.

Teppanyaki (Deck 6); $29.95: Another of the line's signature restaurants, Teppanyaki is the place for Japanese hibachi meals cooked in front of you by chef's performing tricks with the food and their cooking utensils. The meal includes a starter of miso soup and a small salad, an entree of chicken or vegetable yakiudon, seafood (shrimp, scallops, calamari), filet mignon, and vegetable teriyaki or a combo such as chicken and shrimp, filet mignon and shrimp, or chicken and filet mignon. For dessert, you can choose from green tea cake or fresh fruit sashimi. Come hungry and prepared for lots of banging (of utensils) and shouting from your fellow diners. Reservations are critical as there are just nine or 10 seats around the 11 grills and they fill up fast.

Los Lobos (Deck 8); a la carte: This dinner-only upscale Mexican restaurant, which first debuted in 2016 on Norwegian Dawn, shows hints of its Mexican cantina-heritage with colourful serape-style carpeting. The menu features a large selection of plates to share, appetizers, salads, tacos, enchiladas, and house specials. Among the highlights are fresh guacamole prepared tableside (a hit with diners), stuffed poblano peppers, enchiladas de mole and aguachile de camarones (Mexican-style shrimp ceviche). There are five dessert choices, including fried beignets, tres leches cake, chocolate flan and homemade ice creams. There are also handcrafted margaritas on offer featuring the private-label Patron Barrel Select, Norwegian's own tequila blend. Prices for food range from $2.99 for a tortilla soup to $17 for a carne asada (grilled skirt steak).

On warm nights, consider asking for a seat outside on The Waterfront when you make your reservation.

Cagney's Steakhouse (Deck 8); a la carte: Cagney's is Norwegian's signature fine-dining steakhouse; one of a few spots onboard for a fancy special event dinner -- though it actually doesn't have the strictest dress code (you'll find that in Le Bistro and Ocean Blue). Here you'll find several steak cuts ($16 to $22) along with lamb, veal and pork chops; surf and turf; grilled yellowfin tuna steak, grilled salmon, jumbo shrimp skewers and a fried fisherman's platter ($16 to $29). Starters ($3 to $8) include lump crabcake, slow-roasted pork belly, oysters Rockefeller, ahi tuna tartare, lobster bisque and cheese and vegetable marmite, among other choices. Nine sides ($3 each) are available, but we recommend the truffle mashed potatoes or Parmesan truffle fries and the creamed corn.

For dessert, indulge in a creme brule, seven-layer cake, decadent chocolate brownie, caramel-butterscotch cheesecake or warm apple cardamom crisp; all are $5 each.

There is a small outdoor section of Cagney's on The Waterfront.

Ocean Blue (Deck 8); a la carte: Seafood lovers will want to visit this fine-dining venue, which makes its return to a Norwegian Cruise Line ship after not being included in the lineup of the line's last two ships. Start with oysters, either a flight of oyster shooters for $7.99 or indulge in one of three varieties for $10.99 for a half-dozen or $20.99 for a dozen. Other appetizers include chilled shrimp, salmon trout tartare, blue crab salad and ahi tuna sashimi; clam chowder, oyster stew, baked clams, broiled oysters and crabmeat and black mussels. (Prices for starters range from $3.99 to $12.99.) For your main course, choose something that comes from the sea (pasta with crab, pan-seared scallops, lobster potpie, etc.), the land (roasted beef tenderloin, beef tongue and cheek), or the sky (roasted duck breast). (Prices for entrees range from $16.99 to $28.99. Five desserts are on the menu including yuzu and ginger meringue pie, chamomile tea sorbet and dark chocolate mousse cake. (Desserts are either $5 or $6.)

Like all the other restaurants on Deck 8, Ocean Blue has outdoor seating on The Waterfront. It's also one of two dining venues with an actual dress code: here long pants, collared shirts and closed shoes are required.

La Cucina (Deck 8); a la carte: Another of Norwegian Cruise Line's signature restaurants, La Cucina offers Italian fare both indoors and outdoors on The Waterfront. The menu features all your Italian favourites but we'd highlight the burrata caprese or calamari fritti for an appetizer (there is also soup and salad if you want something lighter); ricotta tortellini, shrimp ravioli with lobster sauce and wild mushroom risotto if you're in the mood for pasta; and grilled salmon, red snapper with mixed shellfish, veal scaloppini and braised veal shank if you're craving meat. You can also get one of four styles of 12-inch pizza. Limited gluten-free menu items are available.

If tiramisu isn't your dessert of choice, you can also opt for panna cotta, cannoli, a ricotta cheesecake or chocolate tartlet.

Food Republic (Deck 8); a la carte: The result of a partnership with The Pubbelly Restaurant Group, this lunch and dinner venue made its debut on Norwegian Escape and was a big hit, serving up tapas-sized dishes from across the world, with an emphasis on Asian cuisine. The menu is divided into seven sections: sushi (11 different rolls); hand helds (tempura fried shishito peppers, bulgogi pani puri, tuna pizza); grill republic (pork belly kushiyaki, black cod skewers, squid); sharing is caring (avocado raita, street fries, Korean fried chicken); noodles, rice and soups (shrimp pad Thai, kimchi fried rice, yaki soba); dumplings (pork belly, duck, pastrami); and sugar pump (baklava, carrot halva, pineapple flan). Prices range from $2.99 to $12.99.

Unlike at other dining venues on Bliss, diners at Food Republic select their menu choices using tableside tablets.

Le Bistro (Deck 17); a la carte: Norwegian's popular, fine dining French bistro is located all the way up on Deck 17 on Norwegian Bliss, giving diners beautiful views of the surrounding area. (We suspect it's especially spectacular when sailing in Alaska.) The menu at Le Bistro is divided into appetizers, soups and salads; and entrees. Starters include baked onion soup dripping with Gruyere cheese, lobster and crayfish soup, and warm asparagus salad, though the most popular appetizers are the escargots and foie gras. For your main course, choose from 11 choices including sauteed sole fillets, pan-seared jumbo bay scallops, veal medallions, roast lamb rack and coq au vin. The vegetarian entree is portobello mushrooms layered with goat cheese. Everything is quite rich, so try not to overdo it. If you've got room left after your meal, dessert options include creme brulee, napoleon, chocolate fondue for two, a cheese platter and profiteroles. Prices range from $3.99 to $19.99, with desserts running $3.99 to $8.99. Le Bistro is one of two dining venues with an actual dress code: here long pants, collared shirts and closed shoes are required.

Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville at Sea (Deck 17); $14.95: Nestled into a corner of Deck 17 toward the back of the ship and underneath the entrance to the go-karts, you'll find Norwegian's second outpost of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville at Sea. Just watch out for joggers as the jogging track is directly in front of the entrance to the eatery. (Even though technically the jogging track is only open before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. people do use it during the day.) The decor at Margaritaville is, as you'd expect, beachy and casual, with surfboards and nautically themed booths. It's here that you'll find the famed Cheeseburger in Paradise, along with several other burger varieties, grilled chicken sandwich or quesadilla, fish and chips or fish tacos, salads and snacks like nachos, conch fritters, and chips with queso and salsa. For dessert, choose from Key lime pie and cheesecake. And, of course, don't forget the beer and margaritas (which are not included in the cover charge). Margaritaville is only open for lunch.

Coco's (Deck 6); a la carte: If you've got even the slightest bit of a sweet tooth, you won't want to miss this dessert spot located in the heart of 678 Ocean Place. The decadent offerings include 12 varieties of bonbons ($1.50 each) and eight tarts or cakes ($3.50 each) and six flavours of gelato ($2.50 per scoop in a waffle cone or cup) and massive milkshakes ($14.99) in a variety of flavours served in a large beer stein and featuring all kinds of toppings. We never had the courage to try one but the cookies 'n' cream one was pretty tempting with dark chocolate gelato, Oreo cookies, crushed M&Ms, caramel butterscotch, whipped cream and jelly gummy bears. Loaded ice cream sundaes are $8.99; examples include the mocha tiramisu with vanilla gelato, lady fingers, espresso coffee syrup, mascarpone cream and whipped cream and the white chocolate tutti frutti, with white chocolate gelato, fresh fruit, candied ginger and whipped cream. Four varieties of freshly made crepes ($4.99 to $5.99) are also on the menu (chocolate, dulce de leche, suzette, and lemon cheesecake). There's also a small selection of fancy coffees and teas. If you're looking to celebrate a birthday in style and want to share with others, the Celebration Platter ($18.99) serves about four and is stuffed with white, milk and dark chocolate gelato, chocolate, caramel and butterscotch sauces, assorted fresh fruits and candies.

The Bake Shop and Dolce Gelato (Deck 8); a la carte: As if there weren't enough sugary delicacies at Coco's, cruisers can also hit The Bake Shop or Dolce Gelato for their sweet tooth fix. The Bake Shop takes up the inside space of this venue and serves up bonbons ($1.50 each), nine flavours of cupcakes ($1.59 for a small, $2.50 for large) and 10 flavours of macaroons ($2 each). Outside, you'll find some six flavours of gelato at $2.50 for a scoop in a cup and $2.75 for a scoop in a cone.

Starbucks (Deck 6); a la carte: For those who need a larger selection of fancy coffees and teas than what they'll find at Coco's, the line's first-ever Starbucks outpost offers the coffee company's full range of beverages and pastries, with lots of dedicated seating.

The District Brew House (Deck 8); a la carte: Primarily a place to grab a brew, the District Brew House does offer a few snacks to go with all the suds. Choices include crispy salmon ($4), chorizo scotch egg ($4.99), salmon tandoori naan ($6.99) and firecracker shrimp ($6.99).

Room Service: All room service orders carry a $9.95 convenience charge, regardless of what's ordered or how much. Continental breakfast is available from 6:30 to 10 a.m. and includes a selection of fruit, yoghurt, cold cereal, freshly baked breads and pastries, various jams and jellies, and juices. You can also order a ham and cheddar, or spinach and tomato omelette, as well as French toast. Unlike on many other cruise ships, breakfast can be ordered on disembarkation day; service runs until 9 a.m.

The all-day menu features soups, salads, fruit and cheese plates, sandwiches, pizza and entrees (spaghetti Bolognese, roasted chicken, skirt steak, etc.) There are also three desserts available: New York cheesecake, strawberry pound cake and chocolate cake.

An all-day kids menu offers up chicken fingers, grilled cheese sandwich, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and macaroni and cheese.

Cabins on Norwegian Bliss are comfortable, if slightly on the small side. Tastefully designed, they feature a colour scheme of browns, dark blues and tans, with faux wood accents and cabinets.

All rooms feature queen beds that can be separated into two twins, a mini-fridge stocked with extra-fee drinks, a smallish flat-screen TV, reading lights with USB outlets above the bed on either side, three 110V and one 220V outlets on the desk, a safe in the closet and lighted mirror.

Storage is at a premium in standard rooms with, we think, less than enough for two people packing large suitcases. Closets in standard ocean-view and balcony rooms have two sections -- one with shelving and the second with hanging space. In inside rooms, there's only one section with hanging space and no shelving.

In ocean-view and balcony rooms, there are two large pull-out drawers beneath the platform couch and two cabinets along the wall that each have two shelves; the cabinet closest to the desk has deeper shelves than the one beneath the TV, which are quite narrow. There's a narrow ledge beneath the mirror above the desk as well. There is no pull-out drawer beneath the desk space. In inside rooms, there's virtually no extra storage beyond the small closet space, with no pull-out drawers and no cabinets at all.

We love the bathrooms on Norwegian Bliss, even in the standard rooms. They're roomy, have plenty of shelf space (if you count what's under the counter too), showers with glass doors (!) and showerheads with plenty of water pressure. (You can also press the button on the knob and then push it past the environmentally friendly setting to get even more water pressure.) We especially love that the air vents are located directly above the shower so it's never steamy in the bathroom when you step out of the shower and the mirror never fogs up.

Toiletries are limited to a dispenser of liquid soap by the sink and dual dispensers in the shower -- one with a shampoo/body gel combo and the other with conditioner. Cruisers with higher loyalty status or those staying in spa cabins or any suite get Bulgari toiletries, as well as comfy slippers and bathrobes.

Also onboard is a series of interconnecting rooms designed for groups travelling together. 

Solo: Brand-new on Norwegian Bliss is a category of 82 99-square-foot inside cabins designed and priced for solo travellers that feature virtual "windows" with ocean views. There's not a whole lot of storage space, but it should be enough for one person travelling alone. One quirk of the room, the sink is located in the main living space

As on other Norwegian ships with solo cabins, these cabins are part of a dedicated space for solo cruisers that is key card accessible only and features the private Studio Lounge. The rooms, which are all located on Decks 10, 11 and 12, have a full-sized bed; some on Deck 10 have connecting doors. 

Inside: Three categories of inside rooms (374 total) are available on Norwegian Bliss: family inside (135 square feet), midship inside (135 to 201 square feet) and standard inside (135 square feet). All have two twin beds that can convert to a queen-sized bed. Almost all have room for just two people, but family insides also have two pull-down beds, while a handful of the midship insides have room for one additional occupant. 

Oceanview: Like the inside cabins, there are three categories of oceanview rooms (111 total) on Norwegian Bliss: family oceanview with large picture window (240 to 372 square feet), midship oceanview with large picture window (160 to 245 square feet) and standard ocean view (197 square feet). Some of the smaller midship oceanview rooms have connecting doors. Family oceanviews have a bathtub and bedding for up to three more passengers. 

Balcony: Five balcony cabins (1,088 total) are available on Norwegian Bliss: aft-facing (216 to 425 square feet with 40- to 149-square-foot balconies); large balcony (331 square feet with a 155-square-foot balcony); midship (207 square feet with 32-square-foot balcony); spa balcony (217 square feet with 42- to 58-square foot balconies); and standard (213 to 367 square feet with 38- to 90-square foot balconies). Balcony cabins of all types have a couch; in some rooms the couch is a full sofa bed, while in others it's a platform and the main cushion can be kitted out in bedding to function as a bed. Most balcony rooms on Bliss can accommodate two to four people, except for the aft-facing, which can hold two to three people. Balconies have a small glass cocktail table and two chairs.  

Twenty-eight of the balcony cabins on Bliss are designated as spa balconies. These rooms are located close to the Mandara Spa and fitness center and include complimentary access to the Thermal Spa. The showers in these cabins have a shave bar.

Mini-suite: You'll find three types of mini-suites (308 total): midship (249 square feet with 42-square foot balcony); large balcony (329 to 439 square feet with 102- to 140-square-foot balcony); and spa (249 square feet with 42-square-foot balcony). Mini-suites have the same basic furnishings as balcony rooms but are, generally speaking, bigger and have nicer bathrooms with oversized sinks and more shelf space

Several of the midship mini-suites connect with another mini-suite or a balcony cabin. Most mini-suites can hold two to four people. Spa mini-suites have bathrooms with oversized waterfall shower and multiple body spray jets.

Suite: There are seven categories of suites (80 total) on Norwegian Bliss, all with access to The Haven, which is double the size on Bliss as it is on Norwegian Escape. Here it's two decks high (Decks 17 and 18) and features 80 suites; a private restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining; a lounge with dedicated mixologist; two-story Observation Lounge; plus a courtyard with a retractable roof, a private pool, four whirlpools, a sauna and single spa treatment room. All suites come with concierge and 24-hour butler service, feather duvets and pillows, 600-thread count linen and upgraded Bulgari bath amenities. Suite balconies have, at minimum, two chairs, two loungers and a table.

Suites either inside The Haven or with access to The Haven include:

Deluxe Owner's w/Large Balcony: The two 1,458-square-feet suites have two balconies totaling 487-square feet, and feature two bedrooms (one with king-sized bed, the other with double sofa bed), two bathrooms (one with a whirlpool tub, separate shower and dual sinks), a living area with coffee table and armchairs, a wet bar, large sofa and plenty of storage.

Aft-Facing Penthouse: Located on Decks 9 through 15, the 570 to 667 square foot aft-facing penthouses have balconies that range from 151 to 248 square feet. They feature a king-sized bed; a master bathroom with a separate bathtub and luxury shower, as well as two sinks; a guest bathroom with shower; and dining and sitting area with table for four and double sofa bed. They can hold up to four people. There are 14 aft-facing penthouses on Bliss.

Two-Bedroom Family Villa: Perfect for families, these suites are 538 square feet and have 43- to 127-square-foot balconies. Holding up to six people, the two-bathroom suites have two bedrooms, one with a king-sized bed and bathroom with shower (with a glass window overlooking the ocean), oval tub and his and her sinks. The second bedroom has a double sofa bed and bathroom. The living room and dining area also has a table for four, single sofa bed, writing desk, bar, refrigerator and Nespresso maker. There are five two-bedroom family villas on Bliss.

Spa Suite: The 430-square-foot Spa suites in The Haven include a king-sized bed and bathroom with hot tub, oversized waterfall shower, multiple body spray jets and dual sinks. The rooms have relaxing spa decor and are located near the ship's Mandara Spa and fitness centre for easy access. The living area features a single pull-out bed; balconies are 84 to 87 square feet. Like all spa accommodations on Norwegian Bliss, The Haven Spa Suites come with complimentary access to the Thermal Spa during regular spa hours. There are six Haven spa suites.

Courtyard Penthouse: Located on Decks 17 and 18, the 324- to 620-square-foot Courtyard Penthouses come with 54- to 138-square-foot balconies. Bedrooms have a king-sized bed with feather pillows, and there's a single sofa bed and writing desk in the sitting room. The bathroom has a shower, bathtub, double sink and a pretty glass tile mosaic backsplash. There are 24 Courtyard Penthouses on Bliss, all of which can accommodate up to three people.

Forward-Facing Penthouse: Holding three to four people, these 414- to 466-square-foot suites have balconies ranging in size from 27 to 45 square feet. Features include a king-sized bed, plus dining and sitting areas. There are 14 forward-facing penthouse suites.

Haven Suite w/Connecting Balcony Room: These 420-square-foot suites have forward views, connect to a balcony stateroom next door and have access to The Haven. Balconies are 86 square feet. There are five Haven connecting suites on Bliss.

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