When I was invited to join an all travel agents and media cruise to experience the Norwegian Joy on its inaugural sailing from Vancouver, BC to LA just 2 days after arriving home from Dubai, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity.
The Norwegian Joy, which is the sister ship to Norwegian Bliss, began its U.S. inaugural journey from Vancouver to Los Angeles on April 26, 2019, exactly two years after Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) originally accepted the ship – did you know it was originally built for the Chinese market?
Its former homeports were in Shanghai & Tianjin, but has now made a huge shift back to the US.
While most people envision sunshine and Caribbean vibes when sailing, many don’t realize that Alaska cruising is the most popular of all destinations and its popularity continues to grow every year.
Because of this, NCL decided to spend $50 million to bring the Joy to the level of the Bliss which meant changing specific areas of the boat to appeal to the Western market which included changing two tea rooms that became a bar and an entertainment venue, and a number of small casinos were removed, including a private one that was in the exclusive Haven suite area – what is the Haven you ask? More on it in a moment.
Other changes include the replacement of every single piece of carpet, a gym enlargement and a spa expansion.
The Norwegian Joy has a Concierge Class of suites that range from inside cabins with two bedrooms and a large virtual balcony showing live video feeds of the outside of the ship (no more staring at four blank walls on an interior cabin!) to Concierge Penthouse and Villa Suites with actual balconies and walk-in closets, offering families much more space. While not a part of the Haven, these suites enjoy a number of the same perks.
If you’ve never heard of or experienced the Haven, this area is unlike what you would experience with any other cruise line. The Haven is hidden away at the top of the ship and is home to the most luxurious and spacious accommodations on board. Not only do Haven guests have access to everything on the ship, they’re the only ones to have special access to this area, allowing for complete privacy and a much quieter, relaxing cruise experience.
These guests receive personal service of a concierge and 24-hour butler throughout the entire stay. One of my favorite areas is the private pool and sundeck reserved exclusively for guests staying in the Haven. From embarkation to disembarkation, boarding of tenders to shore, on-board entertainment to dining times you always have priority, which on a ship of thousands, can make you feel like you’re only one of a few. Staying in this area truly feels like a ship within a ship, an experience I personally booked a few years ago that you can read about here, So, What Is It Like to Cruise Norwegian?”
There was fun at each turn throughout the ship, my favorite was The Speedway – a go kart racing track at sea. Surprisingly the karts drive fast and the track is wide enough to allow for competitive lane passing all with views of the ocean on the top decks – surely addicting for anyone that loves a little speed.
Laser tag is fun and was enjoyed by kids and adults – 2 teams battling for top score, while getting to see your own person score and accuracy. I can’t wait for some of you with kids to challenge them to a game or two on this course!
One of the most surprising areas of enjoyment was the Galaxy Pavilion, a virtual reality playground. From the Jurassic Park ride where you’re in a jeep with dinosaurs, another virtual reality room with a fast paced experience fighting off zombies and werewolves, to VR hang gliding were just a few of the virtual experiences all located in one area of the ship. And like other Norwegian cruises, the on-board entertainment was some of the best I’ve experienced at sea.
One of the most often asked questions I receive is – how is the food? I was blown away at the quality and variety of food on ship. With Norwegian’s Free at Sea program – I would highly recommend always choosing their Specialty Dining as one of your choices. Free at Sea is a program only offered by Norwegian, which depending on your room type you get free amenities ranging from Specialty Dining options without all the additional charges, Free WiFi, Drink Packages, Excursion credits and much more. They vary by sailing and ship but are totally worth it. The specialty dining restaurants take up the food experience many notches and left me excited to try another new restaurant the next night, generally all you have to pay extra is the taxes.
Surprisingly, Q, the BBQ concept restaurant was my favorite! Super casual and equipped with a live band that made me feel like I was sitting in a Nashville concert hall, I enjoyed some of the best barbecue I’ve had – and Norwegian really got it right with the banana pudding and other delicious down home desserts.
The ship has a wine bar, mojito bar, whiskey bar, among others where you can order craft level cocktails and try unique combinations. I’m definitely seeing the move towards craft cocktails on more ships, as cruise lines embrace new levels of sophistication in their drink offerings.
The one area of the ship that received the most oohs and aahs was the Observation Lounge. This area wraps around the front of the ship and provides the most amazing views of the ocean – critical for an Alaskan cruise when you’re wanting to stay cozy inside with a hot chocolate or coffee and take in the beautiful views and watch whales or seals swim by from the comfort of a couch or leather lounger.
Often the weather heading up to Alaska can change in an instant, leaving you stranded on the topic deck freezing trying to catch a view of a far-off whale, or eagle, or even watching glaciers calve off and fall into the ocean with the wind chilling you to the core. Not on the Norwegian Joy, sit back enjoy the view from the warmth of the Observation Lounge while sipping on a warm drink.
I was overjoyed with the Norwegian Joy and would highly recommend it for a future Alaskan adventure. I’m even considering going on another Alaskan cruise, with the variety of cabin choices, there is something to suit any individual, couple or family, so reach out for assistance with planning your perfect Alaskan vacation – I’d be overjoyed to help.
Click the link below to schedule your FREE consultation and let’s get you experiencing Pure Joy at Sea!