Norwegian Joy Cruise Review by LukeIAmYourFather
- Sail Date: May 2019
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: The Haven Courtyard Penthouse with Balcony
We flew in to SeaTac the morning of the cruise. I would have preferred to fly in the night before, but didn’t want to worry about lugging my son’s car seat everywhere with us. Traveling with kids already requires a lot of extra stuff. At any rate, when we got to baggage claim we saw representatives for NCL directing us to the bus transfers we paid for. They took our luggage from us, which was nice, and it later appeared at our stateroom.
I found the bus transfer process to be very hectic and disorganized. The outdoor holding area had passengers for the Joy, as well as princess. Everyone is given a different colored ticket to get on a bus. The problem we found was that there were so many people in the holding area, that voices easily drowned out the announcement of what color ticket would getting a bus ride. So then a bus shows up, goes to a random pickup spot, and large groups of people are moving to see if it’s there bus and trying to get on. I think a better way of doing it would be to designate pickup points. This line is for only green ticket, this line is for only white tickets etc. having the lines and bodies constantly intermingling and masses of people moving from one pickup spot to another was just ridiculous. It also took about an hour for our bus to arrive. However, that did not bother me too much because it’s about 20 miles each way from SeaTac to the pier.
When we got to the pier, we had priority embarkation because of where we were staying. Ours went smoothly and quickly. My mother in law did not stay in the Haven, and she said her process was also smooth.
When we got to the room, we were expecting there to be a crib inside, which we had requested and confirmed would be there. It was not, so we made a call and were told it would be there shortly. We boarded around noon, and didn’t get the crib for about 5 more hours. A little bit frustrating when your trying to put down your kid for a nap (he just plays when we put him on a big bed).
We stayed in room 17126 (H5 category). The room was nice. The bed was stiff enough to not hurt my back, but also just soft enough to feel comfortable and not like your typical hotel bed.
The next big thing we did was the muster drill. This was total chaos. Here is a quick tip for you if you haven’t cruised much before or it’s been a while. Your key card has a number in it which designates your checkin group (A letter followed by a number). On the back of your door inside your cabin, it tells you what floor to go on and where. If you didn’t know that, you’d be wondering around trying to ask someone, but Many employees are busy at that time. It would make more sense to me if they Also printed your deck and location for the drill on your card. I did not see any employees helping to direct lost people and when I arrived to our muster point the doors were closed and locked. I don’t think it was on time, so there were hundreds of people packed into a hallway, lining up around the corner and into the elevator area. We were all just standing around asking each other if we were in the right spot.
Moving around the boat on the first couple days was awful. Especially during massive movements like the muster. This is when you really feel the pain of the Breakaway class ships only having two elevator banks ( forward and aft). So any time people were getting on and off the ship for port, or peak meal times, expect to wait a little while. Twice while getting back on board from port (level 4), I got so tired of waiting for the elevators I just walked up to floor 17. Another alternative is to walk up to level 6, then go to the opposite side of the ship and use that bank of elevators. That seemed to be a lot faster because everyone gets on/off the ship on the same side using the same elevators.
For my wife and I, the food was okay. We not food snobs and I find that I am usually happy with most things, as long as I get what I ordered and don’t leave too hungry. We ate at the Haven for a few breakfasts and lunches, but never tried it for dinner. The food seemed more fresh, but honestly, when the menu stays the same all week it loses its appeal. In general, the service was outstanding. Everyone was super nice. But a few times we got things we didn’t order (omelets with opposite ingredients, burgers way undercooked). Some stuff was good, others I just felt were okay.
We ate at Ocean Blue the first night. This was my favorite restaurant. We had the three meal dining package, but paid the $20 up charge to eat. The crab cake was one of the best I’ve had, the firecracker shrimp were very good, and then I had chicken cordon bleu. I thought it was very good. Service was very good too. It is the same wait staff that works in the haven restaurant for breakfast and lunch. They recognized us by name after only eating there for lunch that day.
We also ate at La Cucina. The deserts were all good. My wife’s pasta was very good. I was disappointed with mine. I can’t exactly remember the name of what I ordered, but it was a piece of steak with blue cheese ravioli. The piece of meat was maybe a little larger than a golf ball, and there were two raviolis. I thought that was a total waste and left hungry.
We also went to Le Bistro one night. The somolier kept trying to push bottles of wine on me, and I told him I was ok. Then he’d come back a few minutes later offering wines that weren’t on the list or on sale. I finally just started to completely ignore him after he came back for the third time in about 10 minutes. My wife had a chicken dish in a hearty sauce/stew she absolutely loved. I had a fish in lemon sauce that was very good and delicate. Once the wine guy finally left me alone I ordered a bottle of white wine. They give you a little tablet that shows the bottles and prices. I pulled up a bottle of wine that was $60, handed the tablet with the page still up to the waiter, and he took my card and left. A little while later the wine guy came back with a bottle of wine. I’d never had that wine before and assumed the bottle was the one I ordered. When it came time to pay, they brought me the wine bill and it was $187 for the bottle. Even though my wife and I were staying in the Haven, we are not rich by any means. We saved for a long time for an anniversary gift. Even paying $60 for a bottle of wine is out of the norm for us. So I quickly told the waiter and wine guy that we did not order the $187 bottle of wine. They told us that is what we drank, and I asked to see the wine list again. I pulled up the bottle of wine, which was also a white wine and same brand. The bottles almost looked identical. I told them I ordered the $60 bottle and handed it to them. They then reversed the charge and charged me for the $60 bottle. I’m still not sure which bottle we ended up drinking.
The last restaurant we went to was Cagney’s. I didn’t think the service was very good at all. Our waiter didn’t seem very attentive and we went through long stretches without seeing him. The restaurant was less than half full. We have to eat dinner closer to 5 with the baby. I ordered the porterhouse medium rare. When it came out it was raw. I cut into it and it looked like seared sashimi tuna. For me, this is no big deal. I got the waiters attention and just asked nicely to have them throw it back on the grill. A little while later my steak came back out. I cut into the opposite side of where I originally cut in, and it still looked like seared ahi. At this point I got a little annoyed. If you’re a steak house, you should know how to cook a steak. So my family ate their meals. They didn’t think their steaks were really anything that special. I waited for about 10 minutes before the assistant manager came by to check on our meals. He asked if my steak was prepared correctly this time. I showed him that it was still raw. He offered to have them put it back on the grill for a third time. I told him I was okay at that point and he could just take it back. I said I would be okay with the side dishes and bread. I wasn’t angry and was nice about it. Mistakes can happen. He then offered to bring me out a 4oz filet minon. I respectfully declined (the guy who orders the 20oz porterhouse probably isn’t looking for the 4oz filet). At this point he picked up my steak and rolled his eyes at me. I wasn’t sure if I had actually seen that, and as soon as he left my wife hit me in the arm and asked if I had just seen him roll his eyes at me after declining the filet. So, now I was a bit irritated. The assistant manager came back a little while later and asked if we wanted any free deserts. My wife and I both declined and just asked for the bill. A short time later the assistant manager brought us the bill. Of course he charged me $30 for my rare steak. He left and I had to wait about 10 more minutes for him to return. I told him I wasn’t going to pay for for the rare steak. I told him I had no problems paying for the food we had consumed, but would not pay for the steak. He then said, well I thought you were paying with a meal plan (before you check in at the restaurant they ask you if you are or aren’t and they swipe you card). I told him we were not, and then asked why he offered us free desserts? If we were using a meal plan credit the dessert would have been included. He didn’t have an answer and walked away with the bill. He later came back and comped the entire meal. Although my experience was poor, I heard a lot of people say they loved it and their steaks were cooked perfectly.
The garden cafe could get crowded around meal time and seating could be hard to find. It was good for a quick breakfast before port. Dinner was ok. You have to be realistic about where you are going. Don’t expect a 4 or 5 star meal from any buffet. It’s not possible when cooking for thousands of people. But, For every dish I had that I didn’t think was any good, I usually found one I thought was good. I found the layout to be awkward and just created a little confusion. Putting things like omelette stations in between the middle of a line/counter doesn’t make sense. People just have to jump in and out of line to get things.
We ate at one of the main dining rooms one night. I had a Chinese style pork dish I thought was very good. My wife had fried chicken she didn’t like. Overall though, I think I personally would have been okay eating dinner every night in the main dining rooms.
I went to the 24 hour restaurant a few times. The food was ok. Again, hit or miss for me. The chicken wings are really good. Nice and crispy. But then I had a sandwich that wasn’t that great. However, it is free and open late at night after the restaurants close.
Room service was pretty crappy. We only ordered it once when the kid fell asleep early. I got a BLT. They cut the crusts off and then cut the bread into triangles. However it wasn’t a triangle like 1/2 of a sandwich, cut that in half to quarters and that is the size of the bread. The BLT had two 1/4 triangles for the size giving you w whopping half sandwich size for the grand total. It took over an hour to get...oh ya, my BLT didn’t have the L, the T, or any mayo on it or included in the side. It was a half sandwich of bacon and dry white bread. The chicken soup was really bland. I would have been happier with a canned soup. Not joking. My wife got a hot dog that was dry and the bun was stale. However, my mother in law had a good experience with their Cobb salad and breakfast. It did seem like a lot of the food we got from room service, the pub/24 hour place and even in the buffet was old, stale, or clearly needed to be changed. IE kind of stale bread, stale chips, old French fries.
Ok, on to other stuff than food. The ship was clean. Everything is still new. There are hand sanitizing stations everywhere.
The Haven was very nice. Probably too nice for me. But the private bar is awesome. The bartenders and serving staff were all great. The Haven observation lounge is nice. It was never actually crowded, but there would be some people in there sleeping. Great views. I didn’t use the pool or hot tubs, but they were mainly unused. The best part for me is that it wasn’t that busy. I could always find someplace where there weren’t people to disturb and let my kid run around and play.
The main area of the ship was ok. Again, everything was nice and clean, but I really didn’t like the layout of the main levels. I’ve cruised princess before and the atriums are all huge, breathtaking and make you feel really small. Neither of the joys atriums really feel open, and certainly not large or expansive. I was pretty underwhelmed by them and didn’t think it was a great layout to be honest. Those areas could get a little crowded, but you could always find a little place out of the way.
I liked the waterfront area on deck 8. It was a nice place for a stroll or to sit down, weather permitting. It’s nice because the main decks can get loud with things going on, so this was a nice alternative.
The main deck was large. I actually wished they would have left the little walking “garden” in from before the refurbishment. For an Alaskan cruise, there aren’t many people using the pool, nor are they sunbathing. So, they don’t even put out 1/2 the lounge chairs. We were just left with a big open deck, and nothing going on there with nothing to do. Maybe this feature will be better the Mexico cruises, but I don’t think the oools are really that adequate after seeing them in person. The 2nd pool off where the walking garden used to be is awkwardly to the side of the deck and definitely doesn’t seem like a “main feature.” It just kind of feels forgotten about.
I really wish NCL would do something different with their video screens. They have a massive one on the main deck, but really just used it to play stuff that nobody paid attention too. Mostly just random music. I’ve been on a previous cruise to Alaska where they used that area to show current movies at night with popcorn and blankets, and tons of people used it. No one used it on this cruise at night, and there were about three night where it wasn’t cold or windy. It would have been perfect.
The galaxy pavilion seemed kind of cool. I didn’t pay for it. The price was $30 for 90 minutes. It requires an appointment and I think they allow around 90 people in at once. I never saw more than 20 people in it. Then inside even though you paid for it, there is a race car simulator that cost about 15 more, which seemed dumb to me. The little games off to the side like skiball all cost about 1.25 to 1.75 for one game. I could see how this would be a nightmare for racking up charges if your children had access to this area on their own. However my wife and I used it some to entertain my son. He especially liked sitting in the table playing air hockey.
We didn’t use the go carts or laser tag. We made reservations but cancelled them. The days and times just didn’t work out once we were on board. However, it looked like everyone that did it really enjoyed them. The race cars seemed to have a little zip to them as well. Unfortunately, it looked like some people were getting really frustrated. It only took one slow/crappy person to slow down everyone. There didn’t appear to be sufficient room to pass someone, and if you start bumping someone trying to get around they will stop the race and spread people out. However, almost everyone had a grin on their face after getting off.
We tried to watch a comedy show one night, but left. The comic wasn’t really for us. We listened to him make fun of a 16 year old in the audience for about 10 minutes before leaving. Thought it was a little to brutal to do that to a kid.
My wife and mother in law went and saw Elements. They both really liked it and said it was broadway caliber. However, get there early. Even though it requires a reservation, there is no assigned seating.
We also paid to see wine lovers the musical. This was the only show I saw and was pleasantly surprised. I’m not big on stage shows. It cost $30 each, but would gladly pay it again. We had 5 pours of different wine, and champagne at the end. The lighter drinkers couldn’t finish all the wine. They also serve you a meal that was very food. It was better than some from the restaurants on board.
We went and saw a country band in Q one night. I didn’t get the name, but they were from Nashville.The singer had a terrific voice. They played some older stuff and newer stuff. Some I recognized, some I didn’t, but it was all good. Then they did an intermission, and a line dancing class took over. It was kind of a big mood killer because the band left the stage and the music went real low. It kind of ruined the show for us so we left.
The observation lounge in the haven and main ship are both awesome. Although it is weird to me people taking up loungers and chairs to sleep in for hours. People would get there early, get a chair right in front of the window, then go to sleep. I thought that was a pretty lame move. Why do you need to take up the spots with the best view for you to not enjoy it and sleep?
The crew were all really nice. The majority that I ran into were Filipino or Indian. Our room steward would clean the room like 2 to 3 times a day. It actually made me feel a little bad going in there during a break from the action. I’d lay on the bed for a while, watch some tv, then leave for about an hour. I’d come back and the bed would be all made again and the room tidied up.
The bars all seemed good. The district brew house had a really nice view. We sat there and had a beer one day. I tried a monitor from the mojito bar, and it was nice.
As I said before, (if you’ve managed to make it this far) we travelled with our 20 month old. We took him to the guppies play events and were pretty disappointed. The lady working there was nice. But the little activities they did were only 30 minutes long. We weren’t looking for a place to drop our kid off and wanted him with us. Instead we were looking for a little place to let him play and run around where he wouldn’t disturb other people or get stepped on. The times would always be at like 5:30 to 6 or during a time I would expect most people would be trying to feed their kids. Then, after the kids warm up and start playing around, they kick you out after 30 minutes.
Overall, I enjoyed the ship. You are never going to find anything that was perfect. I had a couple mishaps with some food, but they always tried to correct the mistake. The quality of the food was always hit or miss, but what can you expect from a ship that holds 4000 passengers and 1500 crew. That’s a lot of meals to get right. The crew was nice, the entertainment was great. The observation lounges are cool. Everyone seemed to enjoy the race track and laser tag. The spa and gym were pretty small. They were able to give my wife a massage and she was 18 weeks pregnant at the time of travel. I guess those massages are different. Overall I would give this cruise a 4 out of 5. We actually really enjoyed it and put down a deposit for another NCL cruise. I think if you are looking for a 5 star cruise you well never get that off any of the major cruise lines. You’d have to do a smaller luxury cruise. If you’re laid back, realistic about the size of the ship and passengers it accommodates, you’ll have a good time. Also, reserve things early! If you can, do your dining as soon as the website will let you, as well as shows! If the website says it’s full, it’s not! They do about 1/3 before the cruise. That means board the ship, don’t go explore, just go straight to the reservations desk and book your activities. People were upset about not getting into places. There’s 4K passengers onboard! The show rooms hold like 800 at most. The restaurants maybe 200. Again, be realistic and flexible and you’ll have a good time.
And sorry for the type-O’s. This was done in my phone in an airport.
250,000+ people have entered their email
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Icy StraitNot really worth getting off the ship. I’d say the majority of people got off the ship for a couple hours, then got back on. Pretty, but disappointing. The town of Hoonah is 1.5 miles from the pier. It consists of a couple tourist shops, one or maybe two places to eat, and that’s about it. The pier has a little nature trail, a bbq place and a couple camp fires lit. The main attraction is an impressively high/long zip line ride that although looked cool, was also way overpriced on the cruise ship. Book it on shore. I wouldn’t do another Alaskan cruise that stopped here. It felt like a waste of an 8 hour day.View All 332 Icy Strait Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Icy Strait Cruise Port Review
JuneauLucked out on the weather. Totally gorgeous. Nice tour bus driver and right on time.View All 1,550 Juneau Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Juneau Cruise Port Review
KetchikanJust walked around town. Cool little place. Too many jewelry stores. It’s the same in all the cruise ports though.View All 1,784 Ketchikan Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Ketchikan Cruise Port Review
VictoriaI really like the city. It’s clean. People are nice. Very pretty. My mother in law went to Butchard Gardens and loved it. Good food and atmosphere.View All 1,315 Victoria Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Victoria Cruise Port Review