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5/4 Joy Sailing Review

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Quick Review of 5/4 Joy Sailing

 

34/F traveling with husband and in-laws. My 6th cruise, 2nd with NCL. I loved the ship and would sail it again. It wasn’t a perfect cruise (see gripes on Buffet/MDR/disembarkation), but still a great one. 

 

Seattle: Loved Pike’s Place Market, get yourself some Beecher’s mac and cheese.  Space Needle is beautiful at sunset.  If you want to treat yourself to a great (albeit expensive) dinner, The Butcher’s Table was fantastic.  Smoked bone marrow is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

 

Embarkation: Quick and easy, minus parade traffic and road closures which threw our Uber driver for a loop.  We reached the pier at 9:40AM, dropped our bags, waited 10 minutes or so for security to open the doors, and ended up with boarding group 1.  Security checkpoint was a little congested but it kept moving.  New employees were being trained on the check-in process but we got lucky and had a supervisor handling ours so it didn’t take too long.  We were on the boat by 10:40am. Wouldn’t be surprised to see later arriving cruisers post about long check-in times because the lack of speed with the new employees.

 

Our dining reservations were pre-booked by our travel agent. Once on board, we immediately booked go karts, galaxy pavilion and laser tag.  The galaxy pavilion doesn’t fill up, but prime go kart slots do (during daylight). I found all three activities to be worth the extra fee. 

 

Room: Mid ship mini suite on 15. HIGHLY recommend getting a room on 15.  Being so close to the observation lounge and buffet was a huge win for this trip given how much time we spent there.  I can also see why so many people recommend a balcony room for Alaska sailings.  IMO, the views from our balcony were better than the observation lounge, especially in Glacier Bay. Our room had ample storage space (the couch has two built in drawers below it) and a good size bathroom.  Fortunately for us, we had the room layout with the bed nearest to the closet.  Our in laws next door had the couch near the closet layout and it was a little cramped. Slept with the door open each night (no children) and listening to the ocean and getting a cool breeze was fantastic for sleep.

 

Observation Lounge: Incredible. It is HUGE.  The photos I saw online before the trip didn’t do it justice.  There is a Starbucks, a bar, two stations with water/coffee/food/dessert, and then one smaller station with desserts.  During breakfast, the food station has variations of yogurt/granola/fruit and during lunch it has a salad bar, meat/cheese and mini sandwiches.   The lounge was frequently packed, particularly in the “premium” seating areas near the front.  But, we were always able to find a few chairs somewhere in the room.  I do think the bar/wait staff are understaffed given how many people pack themselves in there, but this is where throwing a few dollars your server’s way per round can go a long way to getting faster service. 

 

Buffet: This is where I gripe.  The buffet was always packed.  People took to hoarding tables and chairs and camped out.  Incredibly frustrating to see people sitting around camped out for the day when you just want a place to sit and eat.  There are also quite a few large tables for 6, frequently occupied by parties of 1 or 2.  On the second day we gave up trying to find seats and just grabbed our food and went downstairs to eat it in the observation lounge.  Since the observation lounge has drinks, coffee, silverware, dessert etc, just grab a plate of hot food and walk down the stairs to the observation lounge – save yourself the headache of trying to find a table!

 

Also, please washy-washy.  The amount of people I saw completely skip sanitizer and hand washing was just gross.  Based on the sheer number of people who bypassed any sort of sanitation effort, I refuse to believe they all washed their hands elsewhere before coming to the buffet. 

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Go karts: Fun, but your experience is largely dependent on the drivers around you.  We had some real a-holes in our group, including one who couldn’t navigate a turn to save her life (thus backing everyone up at the turns) and one who ran me into a wall (and I’m not taking a sideswipe but a full on t-bone hit).     It was cold and windy up there, so dress warm. 

 

Galaxy Pavilion: Great time and it wasn’t busy when we went so we never had to wait in line for a specific ride/game.  The simulators are fun and include things like flying a drone, riding in a Jurassic Park vehicle and being chased by dinosaurs, and rescuing a kitten from a skyrise.  The formula 1 racing simulator is an extra $10 (I think) and you get 15 minutes in it.  In addition to what you can see on the main floor, there are two 3D shooting games (Zombies/Wolves) in back rooms that hold a group of 7 or 8 people at a time.  I got a little woozy about 45 minutes in, but had done almost everything at that point.  I felt a little off for about an hour afterwards (admittedly I do get motion sick so this wasn’t a surprise).

 

You have to wear this sort of uncomfortable hygiene mask that wraps around your ears. If you have a large noggin, you might not enjoy that.  I took it off between games to give my ears a break.

 

You can use the arcade without having to pay the Galaxy Pavilion fee.  There is also this neat things for kids (ok I did it too) where you can color in an animal and have it scanned into an animation on a large screen.  Kids loved this.

 

Laser Tag: 10 minute game and I was sweating by the end of it, lots of fun! We had some small kids on our team and I loved it.  Their enthusiasm was contagious.  The instruction video they play before the game is outdated or something, and makes the laser tag gun seem complicated to use.  It wasn’t. The instructor told us to pretty much ignore the demo video.

 

Casino: Enclosed smoking room = GENIUS.  The ship smelled so much better than the Escape.  I LOVED not having to smell the stench of cigarette smoke while gambling or having to shove my casino clothes in an airtight plastic bag once back in my room. On our last day, the casino closed at 1:30.  We didn’t get to Victoria until about 6:30 pm. Anyone know why they close it early? We couldn’t figure that out.

 

Gym: Was quite crowded on the first sea day.  Felt a bit small and cramped but has a good variety of equipment.  It is heavy on cardio machines and a bit scant on space for weightlifting/HIIT.  With so many people packed in there, it got hot.

 

No steam or sauna for general public use, you have to book a signature spa service to get access for that day (i.e. the more expensive services). We did not book any spa services.

 

The 50% pressing service was offered the first night, and the $20 bag of laundry special showed up mid week. 

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WiFi: Spotty and slow (but I expected this based on prior reviews of Alaska).  However, I was able to upload photos daily to social media and check emails, so there’s that.  We were able to upgrade our free 250 minute perk to the unlimited package for about $50.  My husband and I split the package, alternating who got to login.  I like that you can kick off another connected device if you need to use the internet.  No service while we were in Glacier Bay (warnings posted in the dailies about how the mountains block it out).

 

The Local: We enjoyed this area and the food.  I think it is comparable to O’Sheehans, no better, no worse, just different options.  It does not have mini pin bowling, a pool table or darts like the Escape, but has some arcade games (including a bowling game) off to the side.  The rest of the arcade is inside the Galaxy Pavilion (ski ball, air hockey). 

 

Main Dining Room: First night was a disaster.  Incredibly slow service (2 hours and we didn’t even order dessert), drinks ordered in the beginning came after the appetizers, one entrée was wrong, mine came out when the others were halfway through their meal.  We asked FOUR different waiters for butter for the bread.  Seriously.  Did not eat in the MDR for breakfast but my in-laws did on Day 2 and had the same service problems.  We then ate dinner in the Manhattan Room a few days later and service was fantastic.  Maybe they just had some bugs to work out.

 

Specialty Dining: Ate at Cagney’s, La Cucina, Q, Food Republic and Teppanyaki. All excellent.  I was really surprised at how good the BBQ at Q was.  Don’t sleep on the banana pudding dessert, one of the best on the ship.  The only specialty dining blip was that La Cucina overbooked reservations so that people with reservations were being seated 45 minutes to an hour later than their scheduled time.  If you have sensitive ears, you might skip Teppanyaki. Between the utensil banging and singing, it was very loud. Great food though.

 

Shows: Elements was a good show, didn’t see Footloose. One thing I enjoy about NCL over other cruise lines are the little game shows they have in the Atrium throughout the day.  I appreciated that our cruise director Dan Dan called out the highly intoxicated woman who lied about being married 56 years to get on the Newlywed Not So Newlywed game.   Her husband later admitted they had been married just 1 year.  She was a real mess.

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I thought it was a little odd that Footloose was shown on just 2 nights, so get your reservation in early!  18+ comedy show also showed as fully booked by the end of the first day.

 

I didn’t keep my dailies, but there seemed to be lots of activity on the ship – a show in the atrium, live music in one of the venues, a demonstration or class of some sort (often for a fee, like wine tastings or canvas painting).   If canvas painting is your thing, reserve a slot early.  My MIL tried twice throughout the cruise but they were fully booked.

 

Disembarkation: Bit of a mess.  We left our room at 8:15am, caught an elevator to the 8th floor, and hit a line as soon as we reached the staircase on 8 forward.  The line to get out went down the stairs to 7, down the entire length of the ship, and circled back around to 7 forward.  I overheard some people complaining that their “priority disembarkation” was not being honored and they had to wait in line.  Tensions were flaring and an argument broke out over line jumpers (it happened right in front of an NCL employee and the angry couple was pissed that the employee didn’t make the line jumpers go to the back). Customs was backed up too.  Once we got our bags, we purchased airport transportation (right outside customs, $20 per person) and departed the pier shortly after that.  Dropped our bags and we were through security at 11am.   So, if you are planning an early flight, be prepared for the chance that you might encounter delays.  This was the longest disembarkation I’ve encountered in 6 cruises.  

 

Juneau: Cold and rainy but I was prepared with waterproof boots, jacket, and a small rain poncho.  Rode the Mt. Roberts tram ($35/pp) and then took a bus to Mendenhall ($45/pp, booth right at the base of the tram).   Walked the trails, including Nugget Falls – a must do if you can make the 2 mile loop.  The buses pick up and drop off every 30 minutes.

 

Skagway: Did an independent 3rd party excursion through Juneau Tours called Yukon Discovery tour. It lasted 6.5 hours and was a steal at just $99 (booked with a coupon code).  The sights, including Emerald Lake, are just gorgeous.  We saw mountain goats and a moose.  Stopped in Carcross for an hour to play with puppies, see sled dogs, and eat lunch.  They have a petting zoo of sorts with donkeys, goats, alpacas and horses.  While kids might not like the 6 hour bus ride, they’d probably love Carcross.  Also, if you do bring kids, please don’t be that guy who let’s your kid listen to an ipad at full volume on the bus so that others can’t hear the tour guide.  You get on and off the bus a lot, so pick a seat up front.  Also, the only real bathroom you will encounter is in Carcross.  There are 2 or 3 other stops with outhouses. 

 

Ketchikan:  Road the Duck Boat and saw the Lumberjack show.   They were fine activities if you are looking for something easy and less expensive than tours offered through the cruise ship.  We had limited time in Ketchikan (7:30am – 12:45pm).  We had great weather though and saw so many bald eagles.

 

Glacier Bay: Just gorgeous.  We got to the “end” point of Glacier bay around 9:45am, so don’t oversleep! The ship made 3 full rotations and we got lots of great photos.  Chunks of the glacier fell off a few times, so be sure to listen for what sounds like thunder and have your camera ready.  A park ranger came on board and made announcements over the PA system.  She also answered questions in the observation lounge.  They also opened up the bow of the ship this day so we were able to go out there for some great views.

 

Throughout the cruise, the captain was great about announcing where we could view wildlife.  We saw whales, pods of dolphins, and seals. 

 

Victoria: Initially slated to arrive at 9pm, but we got there at 6:30pm.  It’s a 15-20 minute walk to downtown, so after dinner we watched the sunset from the pier and then walked to have cocktails at this outdoor bar attached to a Days Inn.  Sounds weird, I know, but it was a great bar!

 

It was reasonably warm (high 60’s) as we sailed to Victoria so we tried out the extra-large hot tub in Spice H20.  It was pretty lukewarm but not crowded. 

 

If you have any specific questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them.

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Were you able to book any shows (Footloose, Elements, Comedy etc.) prior to boarding the ship?  Or could you only book the shows once onboard?

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Just now, The 4 of Us said:

Were you able to book any shows (Footloose, Elements, Comedy etc.) prior to boarding the ship?  Or could you only book the shows once onboard?

Footloose and Elements could be booked prior but not comedy.  However the Elements reservation I had was changed when the ship changed the show schedule onboard. Fortunately the rebooked date worked for our schedule. 

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1 minute ago, TexasCruiser84 said:

Footloose and Elements could be booked prior but not comedy.  However the Elements reservation I had was changed when the ship changed the show schedule onboard. Fortunately the rebooked date worked for our schedule. 

Thanks!  Do you remember when you were able to book the shows?  We are less than 120 days out and still can't book the shows.  We called NCL and they said they should be available to book at 120 days prior to sailing but we keep checking every day but they are still not available.

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Just now, The 4 of Us said:

Thanks!  Do you remember when you were able to book the shows?  We are less than 120 days out and still can't book the shows.  We called NCL and they said they should be available to book at 120 days prior to sailing but we keep checking every day but they are still not available.

We had the same problem, nothing was available 120 days out.  Our travel agent called to make dining reservations around 100 days out and I think our show reservations were made via the app 30-45 days out? 

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Thanks for the insight! A couple of questions:

 

How do you sign up for laser tag, the Galaxy Pavilion, and go-karts - is it at the reservation desk on day 1, or can you do it elsewhere?

 

Also, do you know if two adult riders can sit in one go-kart, or is there some sort of restriction on that (I assume you have to pay per person regardless)?

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Thanks for the informative review. That observation lounge sounds great. One question about complimentary lunch dining.  Other than buffet, MDR, and the local did they have another alternative for lunch?  When we were on Breakaway last year Moderno was set up to serve both breakfast and lunch on sea days.  Does Joy have anything similar to this?

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11 minutes ago, ssteinerman said:

Thanks for the insight! A couple of questions:

 

How do you sign up for laser tag, the Galaxy Pavilion, and go-karts - is it at the reservation desk on day 1, or can you do it elsewhere?

 

Also, do you know if two adult riders can sit in one go-kart, or is there some sort of restriction on that (I assume you have to pay per person regardless)?

We used the little kiosks that are all throughout the ship on the walls - primarily by the elevators. You can make reservations through those! 

 

They do have double karts and specific time slots listed in the dailies for the double carts (I don’t think they put regular karts and double karts on the same course) but I’m not sure if 2 adults can ride them. Single karts have a weight restriction (oh, forgot to mention, there is a scale at check in! I think they only weigh you if you look questionable. The number is covered so you and others can’t see what you weigh in at but permissible weight area is covered in green paper and too heavy is covered in red).   I imagine there is a weight restriction for the double kart but not sure if it allows for 2 adults. 

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4 minutes ago, seemoreroyals said:

Thanks for the informative review. That observation lounge sounds great. One question about complimentary lunch dining.  Other than buffet, MDR, and the local did they have another alternative for lunch?  When we were on Breakaway last year Moderno was set up to serve both breakfast and lunch on sea days.  Does Joy have anything similar to this?

American Diner served complimentary breakfasts, I believe. I didn’t eat there but am pretty sure I saw that in the dailies. 

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I took a few photos on the first day thinking I would live blog but after the first 2 glasses of Prosecco realized I couldn’t commit. Here are some shots of the observation lounge and it’s food area. 

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A few photos from Q.  Split the Pitmaster’s platter and grits too. Inhaled before I remembered to take a photo. Signature drink here is a smoked peach margarita. 

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Miscellaneous photos from my camera. Dessert at Cagney’s, you can get a towel or a blanket from the pool area, and cocktails from Maltings. We loved the Matador and ordered it frequently!

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Misc info - 

 

Parties: The Social comedy club turned into a nightclub at night. I recall a Latin night, 90’s music night, and a glow party/white party with neon face painting. 

 

Q had a country band and line dancing.  

 

Arvin (or was it Alvin?) was the piano man. MIL appreciated the Neil Diamond tribute he did one night.  

 

There was a sassy loud mouthed piano player in the District when we popped in for a drink.  If you like girly cocktails, the drinks on tap here are quite good. 

 

Tastings: (for a fee) Alaskan beer in The District, various wine tastings in Cellars, whiskey tastings in Maltings, and Rum tastings in Sugarcane mojito bar. You get 20% off the tastings with your drink package. 

 

The ship was offering an extra premium drink package for an additional $29/day which got you all the top shelf liquors highlighted in gray on the menu, any wine by the glass, and 40% off wine bottles. 

 

Internet: When we logged on to upgrade our internet from the free 250 minutes to the unlimited WiFi, there were 2 prices listed. The Internet cafe guy said the cheaper one was for 2 devices and the more expensive was for 4. My husband had his work phone and cell, and I had my cell, and we used the internet on all 3 phones with the “2 device” package.  

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Buffet: This is where I gripe.  The buffet was always packed.  People took to hoarding tables and chairs and camped out.  Incredibly frustrating to see people sitting around camped out for the day when you just want a place to sit and eat.  There are also quite a few large tables for 6, frequently occupied by parties of 1 or 2. 

 

Well that leaves 4-5 seats available for others to use.  Don't be shy, share a table .... its done in Europe all the time.  ;D

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, Sauer-kraut said:

Buffet: This is where I gripe.  The buffet was always packed.  People took to hoarding tables and chairs and camped out.  Incredibly frustrating to see people sitting around camped out for the day when you just want a place to sit and eat.  There are also quite a few large tables for 6, frequently occupied by parties of 1 or 2. 

 

Well that leaves 4-5 seats available for others to use.  Don't be shy, share a table .... its done in Europe all the time.  ;D

This introvert would rather just complain on CC 😁 I did find eating in the observation lounge to be enjoyable, bit more peaceful there than the loud, slightly chaotic buffet. 

Edited by TexasCruiser84
Typo

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3 minutes ago, TexasCruiser84 said:

This introvert would rather just complain on CC 😁 I did find eating in the observation lounge to be enjoyable, but more peaceful there than the loud, slightly chaotic buffet. 

🤣

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6 minutes ago, TexasCruiser84 said:

This introvert would rather just complain on CC 😁 I did find eating in the observation lounge to be enjoyable, bit more peaceful there than the loud, slightly chaotic buffet. 

Did the observation lounge have most of the same selection of foods or more or less a mini buffet alternative for breakfast and lunch?

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1 minute ago, seemoreroyals said:

Did the observation lounge have most of the same selection of foods or more or less a mini buffet alternative for breakfast and lunch?

Much, much smaller selection but the lounge is 15 fwd and the buffet is 16 fwd so I just got my food from the buffet and walked down 1 flight of stairs to grab a place to sit and eat. The lounge extends far down the sides of the ship so it’s literally right off the side of the fwd staircase on 15. You can probably walk down to 15 and find a table faster than you can do a loop around the buffet to look for a table. 

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