Norwegian Bliss: A Mom's Getaway for Dining, Wining, and Racecar Driving

Updated: Feb 3

As a mother, I delight in my children. But being perpetually at their beckoned call is a lot for anyone. It's not unreasonable to need some time off. As a fitness professional, I preach that you cannot live in fight-or-flight at all times; the sympathetic nervous system needs to turn off and the parasympathetic nervous system needs to turn on. That's why I run hard, cycle fast, lift heavy... but then I rest. As mothers, that rest never comes. In Fall 2021, I reached a point where I needed solitude- and a solo trip to Costco was not going to suffice. Initially, the notion of taking a 7-night cruise to the Mexican Riviera by myself felt self-indulgent. But, twist my arm, I did it! It was restorative, revitalizing, and most definitely recommended. Mothers, bon voyage through this article, but your vicarious vacay is sure to be interrupted by someone yelling for "MOM." You need to get on the ship and experience this, yourself.

photo credit Norwegian Cruise Line


My getaway could have been anywhere, but I really wanted a cruise. What's great about a cruise is that there really is no "travel time." You aboard the vessel and are greeted with a stiff drink before the ship ever leaves the dock. That's my kind of roadie. Shippie? By any name, Happy!


Norwegian Cruise Line appealed to me for several reasons. For one, if I was going to cruise solo, I didn't want to have to make an early dinner/late dinner reservation, the modus operandi for other cruise lines. Aboard such fleets, you're seated at a round table with x-number of people to fill the table. The thought of making evening small talk with strangers and having to turn on my extroverted facade was a deal-breaker on my "mom's-week-off." I also appreciated the safety protocols aboard Norwegian Bliss. SailSAFE was developed by a panel of 12 medical professionals who gave 72 recommendations to Norwegian Cruise Line for safe cruising protocols during a global pandemic. (Side note: I had the privilege of interviewing two of the medical professionals on the committee-- one interesting takeaway: a big way germs are spread is through toilets. If you're saying "ew" right now, you're certainly not a mother. If a toilet does not suction a high velocity finish, it leaves germs that can spread disease. With NCL, you're good). Comparing apples to apples, Norwegian Cruise Line was voted "The Caribbean's leading cruise line" for seven years straight (2013-2020) by World Travel Awards.

photo credit Norwegian Cruise Line


I also liked the amenities aboard The Bliss. A racetrack, a water slide awarded by reviews as the best water slide on a cruise ship, a lavish spa, fully-stocked Technogym fitness center, and several shows- including SIX the Musical, which premiered on Norwegian Bliss prior to Broadway. Karaoke may seem like a low bar, but great karaoke was a must for me. Other passengers would bring the "great," but I brought karaoke. Norwegian Bliss was an informed, but easy decision for my destination vacation.


Bon Appetit


On Norwegian Bliss, there are 19 restaurants. You won't go hungry or dissatisfied with any of the delicious options. But here are three specialty dining venues I would call standout.


MOST DELICIOUS DINNER

That has to go to the French restaurant, Le Bistro. Per the usual, I ordered the starter salad with the dressing on the side. But the dressing was so divine that it might as well have come with a ladle. It was one of those dressings that you want to sip on a spoon, and- when you're dining solo- you can! For the entree, I had a mild fish with olive tempenade that would have put the Greeks to shame.

photo credit Norwegian Cruise Line


BEST AMBIANCE

That goes to the outdoor seating at Cagney's Steakhouse. Al fresco dining while watching the waves pass by, as far as the eye can see... well, that's the finest dining anywhere.

photo credit Norwegian Cruise Line


MOST ENTERTAINING DINING EXPERIENCE

I could write on and on about the production of dining at Teppanyaki. But words are a cheap substitute for the real deal. Here's a clip I captured of one of the knife-tossing, crowd-pleasing, rice-cooking magical moments I observed while eating at this authentic Japanese restaurant.

As a former baton twirler who used to twirl knives for halftime performances at football games, I can recognize great knife-juggling talent when I see it. My ego is lucky this guy didn't show up on the visiting team's halftime performance talent in 1998.


Cheers


Food left nothing to be desired on Norwegian Bliss, but neither did drink. I typically drink chardonnay at home but aboard a cruise ship, I opened my mind an palate for a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I chose to purchase a drink package, which is a prepaid option that covers the tab of beverages while on board. I also attended a wine education class and an eco-friendly mixed-drink class.


WINE TASTING


There is a lot to learn about wine and wine-pairing when studying under a sommelier. For starters, I never knew that white wine gets darker as it ages. (That explains why my wedding wine from 2008 now looks like motor oil). Conversely, red wine lightens in color it ages. Body of wine can vary from light (feels like non-fat milk), medium (feels like 2% milk), or full body (feels like whole milk). The body is AKA the viscosity.

Sweetness can vary like unsweetened iced tea to syrupy-sweet tea, like my grandparents in Quitman, MS used to serve. If wine doesn't taste sweet at all, it's called dry. It varies from there to medium-sweet to sweet. You may think you don't like Riesling wine, because you've only tasted sweet Riesling. Riesling wine actually varies across the sweetness spectrum. Try pairing it with manchego cheese. That was a pairing I learned from this seminar. I'd still say that Riesling isn't my favorite, unless I'm porch pounding by a pool. But I now am a manchego cheese fan. I've had a fresh wedge in the fridge ever since. I find it pairs just fine with Rombauer chardonnay, too.



ZERO WASTE COCKTAILS

Every day, Norwegian Bliss offers a "drink of the day." The drink uses all parts of the fruit/ingredients (think the watermelon rind, coffee grinds, etc) so that no parts of the drink-making process hazardously affect the ocean or environment. They also make a yummy concoction of sweet/savory/salty flavors on the rim of the glass.

Notice in this demonstration how the "extras" are wedged along the side of the glass, not just the lip. This is accomplished by rubbing an orange along the side of the glass, then rolling the glass in the chili-salt, peppermint-sugar, etc garnish. It adds a little more yum-yum than just dipping the lip of the glass in the goods.


Let The Good Times Roll


Every day aboard Norwegian Bliss, an activity agenda includes over 100 happenings. From racecar driving to karaoke, water slides, a Broadway show, a biceps-flexing contest, wearable-technology integrated RIDE class, casino-gambling, and mashup music-making, I had-- a LOT of fun!


LYRIC is an all-female performance, where three vocalists make music, mashing up songs from Britney Spears to Prince. The curated selections were so good that I had to excuse myself from my front row, center stage seat. I moved to an aisle silo seat with nobody within ear's length. I settled in and sang my off-pitched heart out along with every word. So, on this occasion, there were four female singers in the show. And the one who sang worst sang loudest.




Karaoke was a natural follow-up. Just before my turn at the mic, a guest named Josh, an actor from Los Angeles, delivered a rendition of Amy Winehouse's "Valerie," that brought the house down and- dare I say- outperformed the late singer. Since then, I have scoured YouTube to see if anyone caught it on video. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that they did. But someone caught my C- follow up.


The Broadway production of SIX: The Musical tells the story of Henry VIII's wives. It is an all-female cast, all-female crew. The quality of this show on a cruise ship was every bit as good as shows I have seen in NYC on Broadway. But the price of the whole 7-night, 8-day cruise was tantamount to what I would have paid to see a show with a couple girlfriends on Broadway. The special effects and out-of-this-world talent on this stage are worth your price of admission- and you can see it twice over the 7-night cruise.


photo credit Norwegian Cruise Line


Danica Patrick, move over- BB at the wheel! I wasn't sure what I would think of driving a race car on the top of a cruise ship. People tend to white-knuckle it when riding in the car with me; I didn't want to end my run on earth by driving a race car off a big boat. But I decided to give it a slow go. My first loop around the course, which is full of grade changes, twists and turns, was pokier than a grandma in a Buick LeSabre. By the second loop, I had newfound confidence. By my tenth and final loop, I would have given Richard Petty a run for his money.



What getaway could be complete without a trip to the spa? Mandera Spa offers an extensive menu of luxurious services. But if you want to relax without blowing your souvenir budget, consider a Thermal Suite package. The Thermal Suite is based on the concept of Turkish baths, where an entire day can be spent relaxing. The Thermal Suite includes an inferred sauna, dry sauna, steam room, salt room, snow room, whirlpool, and heated lounge chairs.

photo credit Norwegian Cruise Line


For mothers wrestling with the daydream of a solo NCL getaway and the counterbalance of mom guilt, do yourself a favor and take the plunge. Book the cruise and the reservations will let themselves go as you sail away with the motion of the ocean.

Accessories You'll Need


There are a few things that will be make your cruise more enjoyable. These are my tried and true recommendations, not paid endorsements.


The Nokona Weekender. You don't want to pack in a large suitcase for a cruise. The best luggage is a manageable bag that you can tote without assistance. Cruise staff are inundated with guests toting suitcases as large as my coffee table. They won't use half the stuff in there. This isn't the kind of cruise that you need a prom dress for; just pack comfortable clothes and some swimsuits. Throw it in The Nokona Weekender and if anything needs steaming, it's less than $10 on board to have in-house service take care of your wrinkle problems. (If you're like me, your typical over-the-shoulder tote is a reusable grocery bag that you got free at some PTA function. While on vacation, travel in style. Splurge on this sassy and classy medium-sized genuine leather travel bag).


Power Bank. You're probably going to be taking a lot of pictures and videos, and FaceTiming with the family back home. A portable power bank will help you to maintain a cell phone charge. A battery case is another option. *Be sure to put your phone on Airplane Mode while cruising. You can purchase a cheap internet package, so FaceTime, email, Messenger- all of those are fair game. But if you start making phone calls on international waters, your phone carrier may slap with you with a bill in the thousands!



Hydrojug. Norwegian Cruise Line offers a Just Water package, but you won't need that if you bring a less-waste Hydrojug. This large water jug with a carrying sleeve, handle, and shoulder strap holds 80 fluid ounces of water. Just hand it to a bartender at any of the watering stations aboard Norwegian Bliss, and they'll be happy to fill 'er up- with or without ice.


Sunscreen. As the 1999 commencement speech turned to song, Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen, says "The long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen have been proven by scientists." Listen to the song, because it dispenses a lot of other really great advice, but you'll find yourself in trouble on a cruise if you don't pack sunscreen. The same tube of SPF 50 that costs you $4 at CVS before your trip will cost you $20 at a port in Mexico. Pack your sunscreen.


A Big Hat. Along the same lines as sunscreen, women of a certain age know better than exposing bare skin to the harmful rays of the sun. I've been wearing a hat, religiously ever since I was 32 and my older, wiser friend, Keli Roberts, gave me a reckoning over my sunburned face. I'm too cheap for Botox and put too much wherewithal into fitness to end up with skin cancer (without taking precautions). To prevent premature wrinkles and protect from damage and the Big C, I wear a big hat. When I'm sporting a high pony tail, I wear an audaciously passe vi-vi---visor. Function over fashion, mamas.


Sunglasses. There are a lot of rip-offs in this world: vitamins, supplements, certain wearable fitness gizmos, and on and on... but I'd argue there are no bigger rip-offs than over-priced sunglasses. For the same quality of sunglasses that you'll pay $300 for at high-end retailers, you can purchase for $20 at a marathon expo hall. Just get a pair of sunglasses that are polarized and provide 100% UV protection from all UV light. Pay $300 and you'll lose them. Pay $20 and you'll lose them. I packed two pairs of sunglasses on the cruise. I lost both of them.


Even Mary Poppins, a fictional character of care-giving perfection, drifted off on her umbrella when she needed a break. Mothers, bless yourself the refreshing reset of Norwegian Bliss.


Brook Benten (BB) is a fitness professional in Austin, TX. She is a Master Trainer for Johnny G Spirit Bike and Prevention Magazine fitness contributor.

You may connect with her on Instagram, her fave social platform, because it's like TikTok without sensory overload. You can also find her dodging politics on Facebook, running on Strava, poorly hashtagging on Twitter, and applauding boss babe career achievements on LinkedIn.


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