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Norwegian Joy Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
282 Reviews

BirdTravels to Alaska on the Norwegian Joy

Norwegian Joy Cruise Review by BirdTravels

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Aug 2019
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Concierge Villa Suite with Balcony

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

This was an Alaskan adventure on the newly refurbished Norwegian Joy. Alaska is one of our favorite locations to sail. The scenery and sea life can’t’ be matched.

We sailed on inaugural Bliss last year and we were scheduled to be on “inaugural” Joy after her $50M refurbishment to move her from an Asian-based ship to an “American” ship. But, NCL had other plans and cancelled our cruise so that they could do an additional week of media and travel agent cruises. A few months later, we are ready to experience the beautiful Norwegian Joy for the first time!

ITINERARY

Sat Seattle, Washington

Sun At Sea

Mon Ketchikan, Alaska

Tue Juneau, Alaska

Tue Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier

Wed Icy Strait Point, Alaska

Thu At Sea

Fri Victoria, British Columbia

Sat Seattle, Washington

EMBARKATION

The Seattle porters still sit and stand behind their barriers and wait for you to bring bags to them. No one on the curb to help with bags. This “approach” to bag check in is why NCL mails out luggage tags to all passengers to minimize the congestion at the porter station.

Check in was a bit unorganized with no set seating area for priority guests (either platinum or concierge suites).

Pro Tip: There is a hidden waiting room beyond the bathrooms. This room boards first before the main waiting room. If you are in a hurry to get onboard, wait in the far room.

Pro Tip: Our normal routine is to go directly to show reservations and book our comedy shows, Prohibition show, Canvas-by-U painting, and escape rooms at The Social. As soon as we finished our entertainment reservations, we proceeded across the hall to the Teppanyaki restaurant fix our dining reservations around the entertainment we just booked. Everything sells out quickly, so the priority upon boarding is to get entertainment and dining sorted out.

STATEROOM

Category: CC (Concierge Villa Suite with Balcony)

Room: 14170

Concierge Suites are only available on the Norwegian Joy, so we wanted to give one a try. NCL has done a wonderful job with contemporary room decor with colors from the sea. They have appointed the bed with throw pillows and a fabric runner (gone are the days of the tacky plastic mat). The bed is set as a queen, but it can be divided into two twin beds.

Each side of the bed has a separately controlled lamp and separate reading light. The lamp has a USB port for charging or a small bedside fan (although from a cybersecurity perspective, you should avoid using USB charging ports). None of NCL’s reading lights on any ship are exceptionally useful. The reading lights on the Joy are on flexible arms which never would stay in a position you needed. Each bed also as a good sized nightstand to stick a clock, CPAP, or just a bottle of water.

Across the bed, there is a flat screen TV and desk area. There is a separate vanity area next to the balcony door with a large mirror. The desk has the telephone and a Nespresso coffee maker (since this is a suite) which the room steward keeps well stocked. NCL has done away with ice buckets. On the desk and in the mini-bar under the desk, there is bottled water, liquor, and soft drinks for sale. The desk and the vanity have the only outlets in the room. There are a total of three U.S. outlets and two European outlets.

Pro Tip: There are no outlets near the bed. If you have a CPAP, you will need to bring extension cord to bring power to the bedside. We always carry a light weight 12’ and 6’ extension cord for our CPAP. The outlets are controlled by the master power switch which uses your room key (or old hotel key) to activate. Also, room stewards have been instructed to unplug anything left in the outlets to minimize the potential of fire.

The bathroom is spacious with a double sink a beautiful glass tiled backsplash. There is ample room around the toilet (a lot less claustrophobic than a balcony). The room has a tub/shower combination. The Concierge rooms come with L’Occitane bathroom amenities (which we actually like better than the Bvlgari amenities used in the Haven.

With the larger bathroom, there isn’t sufficient space for a sofa. So, you get a couple of arm chairs and a small dining table.

Even in a Suite, there is a lack of storage space. The closet is double the size of a balcony, but still only has one set of shelfs. The desktop and rail quickly becomes overflow storage space.

The balcony was wider (because the room is wider than a balcony or minisuite. But its depth was similar to regular balcony room. The balcony had two standard balcony chairs and a tiny table for drinks.

As a Concierge Suite guest, we got breakfast and lunch in La Cucina every day. The menus were scaled down menus from the Haven, but still offered a lot of food you would not get in the regular dining rooms.

There was a Concierge dedicated to the Concierge Suites who was in La Cucina for Breakfast and Lunch every day, then down at the Guest Services Desk. The poor guy had 80 Concierge rooms to handle by himself. Compare that to the Haven Concierge who has 3 assistants to handle the 80 Haven rooms. I think that he was a little overwhelmed. And some questions we asked were not answered until he chased us down the gangway as we disembarked.

At some of the ports, the butlers recognized the Concierge Suite keys and escorted us around the lines to the Haven entrance. Most other places, we were just another one of the non-Haven guests.

DINING

La Cucina Dinner: La Cucina is the Italian restaurant on almost every NCL ship and serves good Italian food. The menu has been revamped (we liked the old menu better), but there were ample items to pick from.

OCEAN BLUE: A solid seafood restaurant still looking for an identity. When it first opened on the Breakaway and Getaway, the restaurant and menu were designed by Iron Chef and Food Network celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian. Since then, NCL has made wholesale changes to the menu several times (the worst being with the launch of the Bliss). The Joy is back to a more traditional seafood menu. We dined at Ocean Blue twice and enjoyed the Surf and Turf on both nights (with the launch of the Encore, NCL added a hefty upcharge for Lobster at Ocean Blue). With mild Alaskan weather, we were even able to dine al fresco one night.

CAGNEY’S STEAK HOUSE: It is the most popular restaurant on the ship and sells out first. For us, Cagney’s continues to disappoint with substandard food and service. It used to be a favorite of ours, but it has really gone downhill. Cagney’s has also undergone several menu changes recently, all for the worse. The Ahi Tuna Tartare was good. The ribeye was bad. The filet was good, but the tiny piece of meat presented on the huge plate just makes it look bad.

LE BISTRO: Le Bistro is the second “fine dining” restaurant on the ship. The Bistro is no longer in the smoke filled atrium like on earlier ships and replaces Moderno on the Joy giving it a prime location on the Waterfront. The Bistro has also revamped it menu and our favorite Rack of Lamb is back after going on holiday for several years. Always good food.

TEPPANYAKI: Always a great show and always good food (and a lot of it). The chefs work hard to make the shop something to remember. One family on our table asked for chicken fried rice, so the chef cooked up some chicken and added to the rice for all who wanted. We usually special order scallops and filet (why eat shrimp when you can get scallops). Teppanyaki is a must do for us!

Q: BBQ at sea. You’re not going to get a wood burning smoker on a ship, so the food is nowhere as good as at home. There is live music at night, and the restaurant switches over to a music bar at night. We have given the Q a couple of chances, but it is not one of our recommended restaurants.

AMERICAN DINER: While a lot of people stick their nose up at the American Diner, we really enjoyed it. The lobster roll appetizers were great along with the shitake mushroom flatbread. We also had the mozzarella sticks and nachos (which were great compared to The Local). We tried the “famous” milk shakes but were unimpressed. Entrees of seafood basket and skirt steak were o.k.

FOOD REPUBLIC: FR is always a fun place to eat and experiment with foods. Most are great. A few things fall into the “interesting” category of “it was o.k. to try once,,, but not again”. Favorite dishes: Lamb Kabi, miso cod, and tuna stack. A must do from our perspective.

STARBUCKS: Pretty much like any other Starbucks on land. Usually a short line to get your favorite caffeinated drink. There are two Starbucks on the ship. The full shop in the Atrium and a smaller shop with a limited menu in the Observation Lounge.

ACTIVITIES

GO KARTS: Do you feel the need for speed? The Joy’s racetrack was the original go karts for NCL and the track is the smallest. It makes it hard to pass the slower drivers. If you feel the need for speed, go for a drive. The times sell out very quickly on embarkation day, so sign up quickly. It was pretty cold waiting in line on the day we did our race.

GALAXY PAVILION: Packed with virtual reality games, a fun way to peek into the world of VR. The rides tip and shift to make you feel like you are in the middle of the action.

CANVAS BY U: We always channel our inner artist and take a painting class or two or three on every cruise. No experience required. Bring your own drink, if you like. You are guided step-by-step to create a masterpiece that can be sold in the art auction. We did the Whale Tail and Northern Lights paintings on this cruise.

PULSE GYM: With all of the great food at all hours of the day, you need to spend some time in the gym to stay fit at sea. The Joy had a great gym.

MADARA SPA: Time to rest and relax, get a massage at the Spa. Remember, it is the job of the spa personnel to upsell every treatment with the sale of products. It is their job. If you don’t want anything, politely decline. It is their job.

CHILDREN'S CLUBS: When you are on a cruise, you really want some mommy and daddy time. Register your kids for the Splash Academy or Teen Entourage as soon as you embark. And make sure that the kids go on the first night when the kids are making friends for rest of the cruise.

LASER TAG: Want to take out some aggression. A session of Laser Tag and make sure that you are the last person standing!

SERVICE

The crew did an excellent job. We cruise RCCL and NCL several times a year each. And it is amazing how different the crew interaction with passengers are. With NCL, every crew member smiles and greets you (even when you are down in the crew areas and they are off to do their laundry). RCCL, the crew is very cold,,, almost unpleasant.

Bar Service: With most of the adult passengers having the beverage package, they could certainly use a few more bartenders and a lot more wait staff. For us, if there is a line at a bar, there is another bar within 2 minutes walk without a line.

Restaurant Service: Le Bistro and Ocean Blue has the best service. Other restaurants are o.k. but not great. We had poor service (once again) from Cagney’s

ENTERTAINMENT

Footloose: A great Made-for-NCL theater production of the iconic movie of the same name. Great singing and dancing. The show is preformed on two nights (two times a night). Make a reservation and show up about 30 minutes before show time. Stand-by guests are allowed in 10 minutes before show time and may take the seats that no one else wanted.

Elements: O.K.,,, I think we are trying to save money by not installing another Broadway show. Elements is similar to a Cirque show with multiple acts and aerialists that preform above the stage and above the audience. The show is good, but it is also on numerous NCL small ships. The show is preformed on two nights (two times a night). Make a reservation and show up about 30 minutes before show time. Stand-by guests are allowed in 10 minutes before show time and may take the seats that no one else wanted.

PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS

Ketchikan: Rain Forest Sanctuary and The Great Lumberjack Show. This Nature walk combined with the Lumberjack show. It was a little early in the season and the salmon were not running yet so the bears were hiding in the brush and not out in the estuary. And the eagles were being shy (you can usually see them up close and personal). It was still great to be out in nature and watching the staged logging skills.

Juneau: Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier Explorer. This is one of our favorite shore excursions on this itinerary. As the Joy was getting ready to leave Juneau for an afternoon of glacier watching, we boarded a smaller, faster tour boat that took us up close and personal with the Dawes Glacier. Because we were racing ahead of the Joy, we had time to do some whale and nature watching along the way. Once the Joy joined us at the Glacier, we reboarded the ship. Highly recommended.

Icy Strait: Whales and Wildlife: The first half of the tour was whale watching which was great. We had multiple whale sightings. The second half of the tour was going out to a bear observation area. After 45 minutes of watching the grass grow from three viewing platforms (again, the salmon we not running yet), we headed back to the bus. At the last moment, there was a single bear far off in the distance. It was a lot of money and the second half of the trip did not live up to it’s hype.

Victoria: A visit to Victoria is not complete without a visit to the beautiful Butchart Gardens. [Power] walking through the gardens is always a treat.

DISEMBARKATION

We arrived in Seattle in a pouring rain. But our voyage is over. We took advantage of the Port Valet service where they pick up your bags on the last night of the cruise and the next time we saw our bags was at our home airport. Port Valet collects the bags from the ship and take them to the airport and check them in with your airlines.

Self Assist walk off didn’t start until around 7:15 (delays clearing the ship). We left our room around 7:40. The concierge routed us to priority disembarkation. But we were held at the gangway and again in the terminal due to long lines at customs. The CBP officers were out of their booths doing a quick ID check and verbal declaration, but it was still a long line.

We used the NCL shuttle for $20 pp. as fast as they could load the motor coach, they were sending them to the airport. We were elated that we were not standing in the pouring rain looking for an Uber.

SUMMARY

We had a great time on the Joy to Alaska. We were kinda sad that they stripped out all of the restaurant and features for the Chinese market and turned it into “just another NCL ship”. The services for the Concierge Suites was [a lot] underwhelming. But as Platinum Plus members, we did it ourselves and make it a great cruise.


BirdTravels's Full Rating Summary
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Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
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Cabin Review

Concierge Villa Suite with Balcony

Category: CC (Concierge Villa Suite with Balcony)

Room: 14170

Concierge Suites are only available on the Norwegian Joy, so we wanted to give one a try. NCL has done a wonderful job with contemporary room decor with colors from the sea. They have appointed the bed with throw pillows and a fabric runner (gone are the days of the tacky plastic mat). The bed is set as a queen, but it can be divided into two twin beds.

Each side of the bed has a separately controlled lamp and separate reading light. The lamp has a USB port for charging or a small bedside fan (although from a cybersecurity perspective, you should avoid using USB charging ports). None of NCL’s reading lights on any ship are exceptionally useful. The reading lights on the Joy are on flexible arms which never would stay in a position you needed. Each bed also as a good sized nightstand to stick a clock, CPAP, or just a bottle of water.

Across the bed, there is a flat screen TV and desk area. There is a separate vanity area next to the balcony door with a large mirror. The desk has the telephone and a Nespresso coffee maker (since this is a suite) which the room steward keeps well stocked. NCL has done away with ice buckets. On the desk and in the mini-bar under the desk, there is bottled water, liquor, and soft drinks for sale. The desk and the vanity have the only outlets in the room. There are a total of three U.S. outlets and two European outlets.

NCL TV: https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2684918-birdtravels-to-alaska-on-the-norwegian-joy/page/7/?tab=comments#comment-58075639

Pro Tip: There are no outlets near the bed. If you have a CPAP, you will need to bring extension cord to bring power to the bedside. We always carry a light weight 12’ and 6’ extension cord for our CPAP. The outlets are controlled by the master power switch which uses your room key (or old hotel key) to activate. Also, room stewards have been instructed to unplug anything left in the outlets to minimize the potential of fire.

The bathroom is spacious with a double sink a beautiful glass tiled backsplash. There is ample room around the toilet (a lot less claustrophobic than a balcony). The room has a tub/shower combination. The Concierge rooms come with L’Occitane bathroom amenities (which we actually like better than the Bvlgari amenities used in the Haven.

With the larger bathroom, there isn’t sufficient space for a sofa. So, you get a couple of arm chairs and a small dining table.

Even in a Suite, there is a lack of storage space. The closet is double the size of a balcony, but still only has one set of shelfs. The desktop and rail quickly becomes overflow storage space.

The balcony was wider (because the room is wider than a balcony or minisuite. But its depth was similar to regular balcony room. The balcony had two standard balcony chairs and a tiny table for drinks.


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Rainforest Hike

Rain Forest Sanctuary and The Great Lumberjack Show. This Nature walk combined with the Lumberjack show. It was a little early in the season and the salmon were not running yet so the bears were hiding in the brush and not out in the estuary. And the eagles were being shy (you can usually see them up close and personal). It was still great to be out in nature and watching the staged logging skills.

View All 104 Rainforest Hike Reviews

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