A Bit Of Bliss . . . NCL Style

A couple of weekends ago I was invited, along with 4000 or so of my closest competitors, to fly from DFW to LAX to experience a tiny, tantalizing taste (just under 40 hours to be precise) of NCL’s newest floating masterpiece, The Bliss.   It probably tells you everything you need to know about travel agents that they will blissfully (pun intended) get up at 3:30 am, fly three hours and Uber another half hour to board an inaugural cruise on a brand new ship and sail gleefully off . . . to nowhere.   Such is our devotion to new experiences, expanding our already vast library of knowledge and OK, I admit, complimentary libations.

The Aqua Park

I was permitted a guest and I brought along my grandson, Samuel Denton Walls (take note of his awesome middle name), a very recent high school graduate.  The only thing better than experiencing a beautiful new cruise ship by yourself is the delight of viewing it through the eyes of someone who has never set foot on one of these floating destinations.  Plus, Sam proved exceedingly helpful once I offered him a small stipend to be my official photographer and videographer.  The photos and video you see here are his handiwork.

So what does the NCL Bliss have to offer?  Honestly, there are way too many features to recount them all in this post but click here and then “highlights” for a full recounting of the many venues and activities.  I will focus our remaining moments on just a few of my own impressions.  Before I do, those of you who are looking at the picture above and are imagining me plummeting through one of those blue tubes extending over the side of the ship like some bulbous human torpedo, you are cursed with hyperactive imaginations.

The A-List Bar

On the other hand, should you picture me lingering in this venue instead, you would be very near the mark if not on it.  This was one of my favorite watering holes due to the fact that it is conveniently wedged between Cagney’s Steakhouse (my personal favorite specialty dining venue) and Los Lobos, in their words, “a premium Mexican restaurant celebrating traditional flavors with a modern twist.”  Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to visit “The WDSC03957olves” (English translation) but I tried my best to offset that omission by behaving rather like a ravenous wolf myself at Cagney’s.  Don’t be misled by my restrained demeanor in this picture to the left.  Before the flash even had time to dissipate, I was up to my elbows in Australian lamb.  Pray, what other fare would you expect from a wolf?  We don’t do tofu.

I am hardly a connoisseur of fine art (unless watching every episode so far of Genius on the life of Pablo Picasso and attendance at two recent “wine and paint” parties qualifies) but I was very impressed by the magnificent works of art liberally sprinkled around the Bliss.  That feature, among others, is treated in the video below.

One of the most unique features on the ship is the Grand Prix race track with Formula One style cars racing around the largest competitive racetrack at sea.  On one of Sam’s few respites from filming the next great Indie film to take Cannes by storm (see below), he managed to take a spin.  Not wanting to embarrass him with my own racing prowess honed over years of driving the DFW metroplex, I refrained.

I invite you to take ten minutes . . . I promise it will seem like less than half an hour . . . and watch this riveting video.  I apologize in advance for the sound quality.  No matter how rudely I shouted at the other 4000 invited guests to stop having such a boisterous good time, they treated my efforts to create a video masterpiece with what can only be charitably called disdain.  These six little vignettes will give you a flavor of additional features on the Bliss that time and space fail me to mention here.

NCL Bliss video

If you are longing for the perfect ship to sail you from the shores of your mundane daily rut and into a sparkling sea of fine dining, stimulating entertainment and/or soothing relaxation (as you prefer), the NCL Bliss is the obvious choice.  Visit our website tltravelagents.com to find one of our experienced vacation travel advisors who will be only to happy to make this happen.

How To Select A Fine Texas Port

For those credulous souls who found their way to this post assuming they were going to be the first in their snooty wine circle to discover a classic Texas port wine to rival Quinta

Fonte do Ouro and thereby pique the envy of their fellow enthusiasts, my apologies.  Keep in mind, this is a travel blog . . . or purports to be anyway . . . so when we toss the term “port” about we have something entirely different in mind.  We are thinking of a facility from whence one launches one’s dream cruise.

While Texas may not have yet solidified its position as the port wine capitol of the world, we are rapidly making a name for ourselves as one of the great cruise departure points.  Recently I wrote another of my little literary gems called “Galveston oh Galveston:  I See Your Cruise Ships Sailing” in which I shared a little chart that explains the current options from Galveston.  Since that post, there have been a couple of exciting announcements.

In a recent article in USA Today, it was revealed that “Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises on Thursday both announced plans to begin voyages out of Houston’s Bayport Cruise Terminal, which has been mostly vacant since being completed in 2008. Princess says the 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess will offer seven-night sailings to the Western Caribbean out of the terminal starting in November 2013.”

“Norwegian says the 2,374-passenger Norwegian Jewel will begin seven-night sailings to the Western Caribbean out of the terminal starting in the fall of 2014.”

Since the cruise terminal has been empty for so long, this is important news for both the city of Houston and the cruise lines.   But I suspect it will also raise a lot of questions in the minds of the seafaring public about this new option.  Not to worry, dear soul.  As usual, your intrepid guide to all things travel related is here to dispense the fog, evaporate the mist, dispel the darkness, shed the light . . . you get the idea.

So the two choices that will soon be available to you in Texas are the Port of Galveston or the Bayport Cruise Terminal. Now I realize that a lot of factors will go into your cruise decision such as cruise line, the specific cruise ship, length of sailing, itinerary and ports of call.  But once you weight the pros and cons of each port, you may well want to add the port of departure to your list of considerations.

Bayport Cruise Terminal

Bayport Cruise Terminal

Bayport Cruise Terminal

One of the most obvious advantages of sailing from Bayport is the availability of numerous flights into both George Bush International Airport and Hobby Airport.  While there will be a cost in getting to the pier, unless the cruise lines should decide to provide transfers, it will be less time and money than getting to Galveston from Houston.   If your travel plans include either a pre or post overnight stay, Houston of course offers a wide array of hotels in various price ranges.

I have not personally been to the new terminal, apparently an experience I share with close to 100% of the population, but I understand it is very modern, roomy and well designed to service cruise customers.

Port of Galveston 

Port of Galveston with two Carnival ships

Port of Galveston

One of the chief benefits of sailing from Galveston is the number of local attractions such as the brand new Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.  There are plenty of places to stay such as the historic Galvez Hotel & Spa or The Tremont House. The Strand offers lots of shopping options and contributes to Galveston being a fun place to spend an extra day or two.

Having choices is always a good thing.  Now you can pop over to the Port of Galveston and very soon you will be able to bop over to the Bayport Cruise Terminal.  The most important thing is to flop down a deposit on your next cruise.  OK, this is getting sappy even by my exceedingly low standards so I’m going to . . . yes, you guessed it . . stop.