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We booked this cruise about a month before sailing as a last minute vacation. I then began reading reviews and was hoping we had not made a mistake. This was our first Norwegian cruise. We have sailed on Carnival previously nine times, so my comparisons are with Carnival ships not other Norwegian ships. I will try to address the major areas of complaints I saw in other reviews. Embarkation and debarkation - This was the quickest embarkation and debarkation I have ever had. The staff was very friendly. Passengers were directed to gangplanks on two different decks, so passenger were not all trying to crowd on to one set of elevators. Our cabin was already ready, so we could drop off our carry on bags and head to lunch. Decor - The decor of the ship is shades of brown, blue and green. Much more tasteful than Carnival ships with one huge exception. The atrium, color changing chandelier and staircase are small and kind of Vegas tacky compared to every single Carnival ship I have been on, even the older ones. In fact we walked through it twice before we realized that it was actually the main atrium. Dining - Overall I will just say if you want seriously fine dining - do not travel on a ship that is feeding 3,500 people every meal. That being said, I thought that overall the food was very good. Compared to Carnival ships, the buffet is enormous. Beyond the standard buffet fare, there are also stations for Asian food, Indian food, pasta, soups. The hot food bar had rotating menus including pot roast and Yorkshire pudding. In addition to soft serve ice cream, there is a regular ice cream station with eight daily flavors. There was a different specialty for dinner every night. We ate the buffet for lunch most days. We ate dinner there the night they had prime rib and it was as good as the steak in the dining rooms. I think the Norwegian buffet easily tops Carnival in both quantity and quality. I do prefer the Guys Burger Bar and Mongolian Wok on Carnival for non buffet lunch options. The three main dining rooms appears to have the same rotating menu. Taste and Savor are smaller with lower ceilings. I liked the atmosphere. The Manhattan Room has a higher ceiling, more similar to dining rooms on Carnival ships. Freestyle dining means that you can eat whenever you want, but you are not going to have waiters who know your name and preferences. There are no nightly dancing waiters and no last night Baked Alaska. I would say the food was at least as good as food on Carnival ships. The only specialty dining we did was the Japanese restaurant. The chef put on a very good show and was friendly and entertaining. The food was very good, but a little garlic heavy for my taste. Entertainment - The Footloose and Elements shows were much higher quality than anything Carnival has to offer. I can't rate the comedy because we were never able to get in to see a show. Small comedy clubs are a huge problem on every Carnival ship I have been on. However, with Norwegian's reservation system, you are probably not going to get in if you can't get a reservation. There are stand by lines if you want to try. I booked our show times two weeks before sailing, but the comedy shows were already full. My advice - book your entertainment, specialty dining, race track times long before your sail date. Service - I was concerned after reading the reviews about service. I made a point to go to guest services on two occasions, ask for assistance from store clerks, and random crew members. Every single time I was met with courteous and friendly assistance. Ports of Call - In general, I have booked my own excursions with local companies for years without problem (until this trip). The cruise ships keep 70% of the fees they charge, and I would rather my money go to local companies. Ketchikan - Went on sight seeing tour with Aurora tours which is run by a life long native Tlinglit. We saw a ton of eagles, salmon, and beautiful sites that the large tour groups did not. It was too hot and the tide was too low to see bears that day. But no one else did either. It was a great tour and we got great photos including an eagle carrying off a salmon. Juneau - We took the shuttle in to town and bought tickets for the bus to Mendenhall Glacier. We spent three hours there which was plenty of time to walk to the Nugget Falls and also take the path to the photo point. There were a ton of people almost running to the falls and not taking time to look at the beautiful scenery on the trail. The park is a rainforest, and it is gorgeous. We still had about an hour to walk around downtown. I agree that this stop should be longer than it is. The afternoon was spent cruising Tracy Arm Fjord. We saw lots of floating ice, beautiful mountains, and a glacier at the end. Icy Strait Point - Here is where I have to agree with the critical reviews. This is a Norwegian only port owned and run by the Icy Strait Point Corporation. I had booked a whale watching trip through Trip Adviser. The company was owned by a member of the ISP Corp. Their boat broke down several days earlier, but they did not leave us a message on our phone, so we sat there for an hour before another local guide helped us figure out what was going on. Now, this is not Norwegian's fault. However, in any other port there are plenty of booths offering tours. Because this is a privately owned stop, there are NO other options to book a tour. Everything was sold out. We spent an hour walking through the museum and gift shops and went back to the ship. It is billed as a native village, with native crafts. Only one store had some actual local wood crafts, everything else was over priced typical tourist ware. There is a nature walk and beach walk, but my husband has a bad knee, so that was not an option. Overall, I agree that this stop is a disappointment, and way too long. This is one stop I would say book a tour through the ship, and book it early. Victoria - We booked a last minute whale watching excursion with Eagle Wing Whale tours. It was absolutely wonderful. We saw a pod of killer whales, and watched a humpback whale breach repeatedly for ten minutes. This tour and the trip to Mendenhall Glacier were the highlights of the cruise. A few other points: 1. The casino is non-smoking except for a glassed in enclosure 2. The push to sell photos, spa treatments, etc was much more low key than on Carnival 3. There was a complaint about no educational opportunities in some reviews. There were three audio lectures about various aspects of Alaska and Alaskan wildlife a day for the first four days on the observation deck. 4. There were indeed movies shown on deck several nights in the evening. There were also a 3D movie in the theater one afternoon. 5. There are several sit down bars with live music, and a nightly dance club. Overall, we were very happy with this ship and this cruise and would sail Norwegian again. We would pick a different itinerary next time to avoid the Icy Strait Point.

Very good time and very good service

Norwegian Joy Cruise Review by jzhendley

11 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: July 2019
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
We booked this cruise about a month before sailing as a last minute vacation. I then began reading reviews and was hoping we had not made a mistake. This was our first Norwegian cruise. We have sailed on Carnival previously nine times, so my comparisons are with Carnival ships not other Norwegian ships. I will try to address the major areas of complaints I saw in other reviews.

Embarkation and debarkation - This was the quickest embarkation and debarkation I have ever had. The staff was very friendly. Passengers were directed to gangplanks on two different decks, so passenger were not all trying to crowd on to one set of elevators. Our cabin was already ready, so we could drop off our carry on bags and head to lunch.

Decor - The decor of the ship is shades of brown, blue and green. Much more tasteful than Carnival ships with one huge exception. The atrium, color changing chandelier and staircase are small and kind of Vegas tacky compared to every single Carnival ship I have been on, even the older ones. In fact we walked through it twice before we realized that it was actually the main atrium.

Dining - Overall I will just say if you want seriously fine dining - do not travel on a ship that is feeding 3,500 people every meal. That being said, I thought that overall the food was very good.

Compared to Carnival ships, the buffet is enormous. Beyond the standard buffet fare, there are also stations for Asian food, Indian food, pasta, soups. The hot food bar had rotating menus including pot roast and Yorkshire pudding. In addition to soft serve ice cream, there is a regular ice cream station with eight daily flavors. There was a different specialty for dinner every night. We ate the buffet for lunch most days. We ate dinner there the night they had prime rib and it was as good as the steak in the dining rooms. I think the Norwegian buffet easily tops Carnival in both quantity and quality. I do prefer the Guys Burger Bar and Mongolian Wok on Carnival for non buffet lunch options.

The three main dining rooms appears to have the same rotating menu. Taste and Savor are smaller with lower ceilings. I liked the atmosphere. The Manhattan Room has a higher ceiling, more similar to dining rooms on Carnival ships. Freestyle dining means that you can eat whenever you want, but you are not going to have waiters who know your name and preferences. There are no nightly dancing waiters and no last night Baked Alaska. I would say the food was at least as good as food on Carnival ships.

The only specialty dining we did was the Japanese restaurant. The chef put on a very good show and was friendly and entertaining. The food was very good, but a little garlic heavy for my taste.

Entertainment - The Footloose and Elements shows were much higher quality than anything Carnival has to offer. I can't rate the comedy because we were never able to get in to see a show. Small comedy clubs are a huge problem on every Carnival ship I have been on. However, with Norwegian's reservation system, you are probably not going to get in if you can't get a reservation. There are stand by lines if you want to try. I booked our show times two weeks before sailing, but the comedy shows were already full.

My advice - book your entertainment, specialty dining, race track times long before your sail date.

Service - I was concerned after reading the reviews about service. I made a point to go to guest services on two occasions, ask for assistance from store clerks, and random crew members. Every single time I was met with courteous and friendly assistance.

Ports of Call - In general, I have booked my own excursions with local companies for years without problem (until this trip). The cruise ships keep 70% of the fees they charge, and I would rather my money go to local companies.

Ketchikan - Went on sight seeing tour with Aurora tours which is run by a life long native Tlinglit. We saw a ton of eagles, salmon, and beautiful sites that the large tour groups did not. It was too hot and the tide was too low to see bears that day. But no one else did either. It was a great tour and we got great photos including an eagle carrying off a salmon.

Juneau - We took the shuttle in to town and bought tickets for the bus to Mendenhall Glacier. We spent three hours there which was plenty of time to walk to the Nugget Falls and also take the path to the photo point. There were a ton of people almost running to the falls and not taking time to look at the beautiful scenery on the trail. The park is a rainforest, and it is gorgeous. We still had about an hour to walk around downtown. I agree that this stop should be longer than it is.

The afternoon was spent cruising Tracy Arm Fjord. We saw lots of floating ice, beautiful mountains, and a glacier at the end.

Icy Strait Point - Here is where I have to agree with the critical reviews. This is a Norwegian only port owned and run by the Icy Strait Point Corporation. I had booked a whale watching trip through Trip Adviser. The company was owned by a member of the ISP Corp. Their boat broke down several days earlier, but they did not leave us a message on our phone, so we sat there for an hour before another local guide helped us figure out what was going on. Now, this is not Norwegian's fault. However, in any other port there are plenty of booths offering tours. Because this is a privately owned stop, there are NO other options to book a tour. Everything was sold out. We spent an hour walking through the museum and gift shops and went back to the ship. It is billed as a native village, with native crafts. Only one store had some actual local wood crafts, everything else was over priced typical tourist ware. There is a nature walk and beach walk, but my husband has a bad knee, so that was not an option. Overall, I agree that this stop is a disappointment, and way too long. This is one stop I would say book a tour through the ship, and book it early.

Victoria - We booked a last minute whale watching excursion with Eagle Wing Whale tours. It was absolutely wonderful. We saw a pod of killer whales, and watched a humpback whale breach repeatedly for ten minutes. This tour and the trip to Mendenhall Glacier were the highlights of the cruise.

A few other points:

1. The casino is non-smoking except for a glassed in enclosure

2. The push to sell photos, spa treatments, etc was much more low key than on Carnival

3. There was a complaint about no educational opportunities in some reviews. There were three audio lectures about various aspects of Alaska and Alaskan wildlife a day for the first four days on the observation deck.

4. There were indeed movies shown on deck several nights in the evening. There were also a 3D movie in the theater one afternoon.

5. There are several sit down bars with live music, and a nightly dance club.

Overall, we were very happy with this ship and this cruise and would sail Norwegian again. We would pick a different itinerary next time to avoid the Icy Strait Point.
jzhendley’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin MA 11858
The good - The cabin was clean and tastefully decorated. The bathroom was large with glass tile above a long double farm style sink. The shower was large, much larger than I have had in similar cabins on Carnival ships. Would easily hold two adults or multiple children. It had a rain-shower shower head with additional low back and ankle level jets.

The okay - The mini-suite was 249 sq feet. We have had much larger cabins in ocean view categories on Carnival. There was only one double closet with shelves on one side and hangers on one side. The closet doors were sliding so I was not able to use my over the door shoe holder I normally use to hold toiletries. There were two other cabinets about the size of a night stand. It was enough space for my husband and I, but my son lived out of his suitcase.

The not so great - Both the mattress and the sofa bed were hard. My husband likes a firm mattress and they were too hard for him. For me, Carnival's bedding is much more comfortable.

Sidenote - No towel animals. This is not huge deal. It is just something that was kind of fun to find when you came back to your cabin at night on Carnival ships.
Deck 15 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Icy Strait
    I have booked my own excursions with local companies for years without problem (until this trip). The cruise lines keep 70% of the fees they charge, and I would rather my money go to local companies.

    Icy Strait Point - Here is where I have to agree with the critical reviews. This is a Norwegian only port owned and run by the Icy Strait Point Corporation. I had booked a whale watching trip through Trip Adviser. The company was owned by a member of the ISP Corp. Their boat broke down several days earlier, but they did not leave us a message on our phone, so we sat there for an hour before another local guide helped us figure out what was going on. Now, this is not Norwegian's fault. However, in any other port there are plenty of booths offering tours. Because this is a privately owned stop, there are NO other options to book a tour. Everything was sold out. We spent an hour walking through the museum and gift shops and went back to the ship. It is billed as a native village, with native crafts. Only one store had some actual local wood crafts, everything else was over priced typical tourist ware. There is a nature walk and beach walk, but my husband has a bad knee, so that was not an option. Overall, I agree that this stop is a disappointment, and way too long. This is one stop I would say book a tour through the ship, and book it early.
    View All 332 Icy Strait Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Icy Strait Cruise Port Review
  • Juneau
    Juneau - We took the free shuttle in to town and bought tickets for the bus to Mendenhall Glacier. We spent three hours there which was plenty of time to walk to the Nugget Falls and also take the path to the photo point. There were a ton of people almost running to the falls and not taking time to look at the beautiful scenery on the trail. The park is a rainforest, and it is gorgeous. We still had about an hour to walk around downtown. I agree that this stop should be longer than it is.

    The afternoon was spent cruising Tracy Arm Fjord. We saw lots of floating ice, beautiful mountains, and a glacier at the end.
    View All 1,526 Juneau Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Juneau Cruise Port Review
  • Ketchikan
    Ketchikan - Went on sight seeing tour with Aurora tours which is run by a life long native Tlinglit. We saw a ton of eagles, salmon, and beautiful sites that the large tour groups did not. It was too hot and the tide was too low to see bears that day. But no one else did either. It was a great tour and we got great photos including an eagle carrying off a salmon.
    View All 1,763 Ketchikan Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Ketchikan Cruise Port Review
  • Seattle
    Thanks to the Port Valet program. We had about four hours in Seattle before we headed to the airport. We were able to tour the Pikes Place Market and Space Needle. We also had the opportunity to walk around before our cruise. Seattle appears to be a very nice clean city.
    View All 822 Seattle Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Seattle Cruise Port Review
  • Victoria
    Victoria - We booked a last minute whale watching excursion with Eagle Wing Whale tours. It was absolutely wonderful. We saw a pod of killer whales, and watched a humpback whale breach repeatedly for ten minutes. This tour and the trip to Mendenhall Glacier were the highlights of the cruise. Note - There is a shuttle to down town at the port. Unlike Juneau, it is not free. It is $15 per person, and your ticket is good for the day. If you are interested in whale watching, do not take the shuttle. Fisherman's Wharf is only a ten minute walk in the other direction. I would actually like to see Victoria again to have a chance to see the castle or the gardens.
    View All 1,284 Victoria Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Victoria Cruise Port Review