Norwegian Joy Cruise Review by Buckhorn3628
- Sail Date: July 2019
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Balcony
We had last sailed on the Breakaway so I decided to give NCL another chance. We weren't in love with that ship, but we also had crummy weather on our previous cruise which didn't help. I chose the Joy over the Bliss just based on the available dates.
After I booked it, I started reading reviews and was getting a little nervous. There seemed to be few positive reviews, but I figured we'd make the best of it. When I looked closer at the itinerary, I started worrying that there was going to be too much time at sea on the ship. By the end, my entire family concluded there was not ENOUGH time at sea! We ran out of time to do everything we wanted. So now on to the cruise.
We flew to Seattle two nights before so that we'd have a full day to explore. We stayed at the Marriott Waterfront. On the day of the cruise, we left our room at 10:30 and were on the ship by 11! We literally walked across the street and embarkation was no wait at all. A far more pleasant experience than when we boarded the Breakaway in New York City.
We immediately booked times for the Speedway and Laser Tag as well as a comedy show. I had booked the other shows and Teppanyaki before we left. Next, we signed the kids up for Splash Academy and Entourage. We enjoyed lunch at the Local to avoid the chaos at the buffet. While we were sitting down to eat, we got the announcement that staterooms were available. We were able to leave our stuff in the room and explore. The 9-year-old had worn her bathing suit onto the ship, so we enjoyed some cocktails by the pool while she swam. It was a beautiful afternoon in Seattle!
By the time the muster drill was over, our bags had arrived. We were in a balcony cabin for 4 on deck 11. We traveled with 4 suitcases, 2 smallish rolling duffles and 4 backpacks. We were able to fully unpack our largest suitcase. I used all the hangers in the closet and the two hooks by the door. We used three of the remaining suitcases as drawers and slid them under the bed so they could easily be pulled out from under each side of the bed as needed. Just as we finished, we met our amazing cabin steward, Gete. He pointed out that there was a large empty drawer under the couch. We didn't even need it, but it would have been nice to know about it before we unpacked. Bathroom storage was plentiful as well. When we were on the Breakaway, we had a mini-suite balcony. The only difference between them is the bathroom. The shower and sink in the regular balcony rooms is tiny compared to the mini-suite. We soon got used to it, but it was a surprise at first! The bed itself if not very comfortable, and of course, it's a tight squeeze when you add a ladder for the bunk bed, but we knew what to expect so it worked great for us.
As soon as the waterslides were open after sailaway, we headed up that way. I was afraid the weather wouldn't be good for the rest of the trip and the kids definitely wanted to try them. The Aqua Racer was super fun, but even with a short line, be prepared to wait. The crew working the slides makes each person get all the way through the slide and out before even summoning the next person to get a raft. I appreciate safety, but it was windy up there and cold so a bit frustrating. You have to weigh at least 120 pounds to do the Ocean Loop. Since the 9-year-old couldn't go on it, none of us did. It seemed to be open quite a bit less than Aqua Racer anyway. We lucked out with great weather and did experience Aqua Racer several times throughout the week.
As far as food, I am not a foodie by any means. I read many of the reviews that complained about the food and I came to a conclusion. Many cruisers don't realize that the crew is not American. That includes the Food & Beverage department. So some of the food is different than you might expect. My favorite dining room was Manhattan. Especially, if you can sit at the back by a window and see the wake. We ate there twice. I appreciated the service and attentiveness at all the dining establishments. The crew works hard and it shows! The buffet was usually busy, but that is to be expected. There are multiple stations with the same dishes so just walk a bit further to find a less busy one. Plenty of variety and, if all else fails, there's always pizza or burgers. I also appreciated that there was a bar in the buffet!
We had a 3 meal Specialty dining plan and only managed to use 2 of them! Teppanyaki was a family favorite. Great food and entertainment. One night we tried Q because we didn't need reservations. The food was great and there was a ton of it. Dessert is not included which I didn't realize until I saw the charge the next day. I was so stuffed, I only had a couple of bites so that was a waste. I had planned to use our last meal the Victoria night, but we got back to the ship too late and had to get a snack from the buffet instead.
I read many reviews about the added costs of everything. As long as you know that going in, I think it's actually a good thing. If laser tag and the Speedway were included, they'd be overwhelmed with people. It cost us extra, but both were very fun and worth the fees. No one in my family was interested in what the Galaxy Pavilion had to offer so we saved money there.
The Observation Lounge was generally pretty full. It reminded me of a hotel lobby and was not entirely appealing to me. We didn't spend much time there. We visited Spice H2O a couple of times. It was very quiet so we basically had the bar to ourselves. With the number of people onboard, I was very pleasantly surprised with the number of quiet spots we found. The Waterfront on Deck 8 was my favorite! Very few people and easily accessible bars.
My 9-year-old loved the Splash Academy! She went there most days. My 13-year-old complained about having to wear a wristband for Entourage because he was "sure he wouldn't go". By the second night, he was there, or hanging out with kids he'd met there, every night of the cruise!
Footloose was enjoyable, but a little long in my opinion. The acrobatics in Elements was AMAZING! I could have done without some of the magic tricks, but overall it was a very cool show. Jim Badger in the District is very funny. We stumbled on him the second to last night. I can't even describe what he does, but check him out for a few minutes, if you can. We didn't manage to squeeze in any other formal entertainment, except for one family-friendly comedy show that was pretty good.
I will agree with several other reviews that the time in port is too short. My daughter and I did the Lumberjack show in Ketchikan. She loved it while I thought it was kind of corny. Husband and son went fishing on a private charter and caught lots of fish, including a King Salmon. In Juneau, we took the Mt. Roberts Tram and hiked straight up the mountain. Even with an early start, we didn't have time to see anything else in town. In Skagway, we did the White Pass Railroad which was fascinating. We met friends in Victoria. I would have liked a bit more time in all of the ports. That being said, getting off and on the ship was as smooth as can be. Never more than a minute or so wait either way.
We were not in a rush to get off the ship so we opted to disembark with the green group. It's always a pain packing the day before, but we wanted to enjoy our last morning onboard. We left our cabin at 8:30, enjoyed breakfast at the buffet, and walked right off the ship with no waiting. Our luggage was right there waiting and we were on our way. Super easy!
All in all, it was a fabulous time for all of us! The Joy brought us joy and what more can you ask for? I would go again in a heartbeat!
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