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BEST CRUISE EVER? Our Joy Cruise June 1, 2019


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This is my story and I'm sticking to it.  

 

A little background.  This was our 4th Alaska cruise, 2 on Princess 2 on NCL.  Our 31st cruise overall.   DH is 79 and has had a stroke which mostly affected his speech but has slowed down his mobility some.  I am 57 and adjust my activities to his abilities on cruises.  We only did 1 excursion since we have done others in the past.  We don’t do entertainment, standing in line to push against a bunch of people to sit in an uncomfortable seat to watch whatever is my idea of purgatory.  We do specialty restaurants, we are not "foodies" we just like food.  We are platinum on NCL.  I took a lot of notes and now cannot find them so this review is based on memory.

 

I booked this cruise “by accident” four weeks before sailing.  I was looking at an Alaska cruise for 2020 and saw some great prices so I called my guy at NCL to talk about them.  He told me I was looking at 2019 prices and asked if it was possible to take a cruise this year.  I actually had vacation I had to take or lose by the end of June so I said book it.  The difference in price from this 2019 to 2020 actually paid all other expenses, airfare, hotel, meals etc.  I was able to use 2 Cruise Next certificates since I booked a mini suite at sail away price.  We were assigned a fairly good room on floor 10 near but not adjacent to the front elevators. Because of the late booking my flight choices were limited.  We flew in on Thursday night arriving at 9pm.  We used Seattle Shuttle for all of our transfers.  They were great. 

 

We stayed at The Charter Hotel on 2nd and Stewart.  It was expensive but well located for us.  2 blocks from Pike Place Market.  It’s a great choice if you are willing to spend the money.  I usually am not but circumstances allowed me to loosen up and let go.  

 

We live in the Central time zone so I woke up around 3 am ready to start the day and had to force myself to go back to sleep.  We had identified several restaurants we wanted to try within walking distance so at 7 am we walked to Pikes Place for breakfast.  First stop was The Crumpet Shop.  If you have never been GO.  Wow, I did not know how good crumpets are.  You can sit and watch them make the crumpets fresh.  DH had one with lemon curd, I had mine with salmon spread.  After that we wandered around the market enjoying the show.  We had lunch at the Athenian we both had fish and chips.  This is the restaurant in Sleepless in Seattle.  Great servers, great views, good food, small tables.  Walked around some more then headed back to the hotel for a rest.  DH was tired out from the day so we went to Long Provincial a Vietnamese restaurant on the corner from our hotel for dinner. It was very good Vietnamese food.  Awake again at 3am.

 

Next up: The cruise.

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At 6:30 we walked 2 blocks down 2nd to Ludi’s, a Filipino diner.  We split an order of corned beef hash and a sausage biscuit and gravy.  The portion sizes were huge.  Coming from the deep south I was unsure about the sausage gravy, and it was not southern gravy, but it was very tasty and the biscuits were fine.  Ludi’s will close in August as the neighborhood around them “improves” and they are being forced out, an unfortunate event that has happened to several of our favorite hole in the wall restaurants in several cities. 

 

Seattle Shuttle was to pick us up at 10am, we got a call at 9:50 that there had been a delay for the departing Princess passengers so our car would be late.  Okay.  These things happen.  They got there about 10:30.  Hop, skip and a jump and we were at the pier.  Madness!  Our driver, however, pulled up to a valet, he took our bags, we gave him a small tip and headed to the line.  Once we got into line it went pretty fast.  Got to the point where you get in line to get your key cards and since we are platinum we went to the left, no line, we immediately got our cards and were told we could get right on the ship.  Right around 11am.

 

We were on the Breakaway in November and again in March so there was a sense of familiarity about the ship BUT, man, do I like the Joy better.  The color scheme is very serene and tasteful.  Very beautiful. The first thing we did was go to where we could change our dinner reservations.  Since we booked so late I was unable to get the restaurants and times I wanted online.  We bought a 3 SDP and had the 2 free meals for platinum.  This process went like clockwork and we left 15 minutes later with the places and times we wanted.  Since we are from the central time zone, we wanted to eat fairly early Joy time.  We then went to purchase the 4 bottles of wine package.  The wine guy tried to talk us into a more expensive package but when this happens I have a strategy, I look at DH ask him what he thinks, He grumpily says no and I shrug.  Nobody is ever willing to argue with DH.  Got the package we wanted.

 

Time to head to lunch.  “The buffet is open”, we were told by all crew members trying to steer us that way.  No, we preferred to eat at the restaurant.  Got to Taste/Savor (Which I will refer to from here on out as T/S because there is no difference except the side of the ship.)  No lines, we were seated immediately.  We ordered lunch.  The food was quite good.  Here is where I will mention that DH is a retired chef, our son was a chef in high end restaurants in San Francisco and we love food.  What we expect on a cruise is mid level restaurant quality.  This met our expectations, we found our food better than average.  I have read on the boards that service is very slow on the Joy, as for us, we would call it leisurely.  The restaurant never filled up as long as we were there.  As we were finishing we heard the announcement that all rooms were available.  Off we went to our cabin.

Got to our cabin and dropped our stuff headed immediately to the balcony. It was 10 square feet larger than our balcony on the Breakaway, wow what a difference.  Since we were on port side we had a view of the water so we sat and enjoyed being there.  Went to muster drill which went like any other muster drill.  Got back to our room and met our steward Mark.  He ended up being one of our best stewards ever.  Met all our needs before we knew we needed them.  As soon as we left our room he would jump over and clean it.  Kept us in ice and bath towels which we requested.  Got my husband the extra blanket he requested.  We sent laundry 2x during the cruise and he kept us informed as to when it would return.

Our luggage arrive just as it was time to leave for dinner.  We had reservations at Le Bistro at 5 pm.  This was 7 pm back home so we were ready.  Le Bistro is one of our favorite of the specialty restaurants.  We were using our platinum free dinner so one app, one entrée and one dessert.  That was more than enough for us tonight.  We have tried many of the options but always come back to our favorites, Escargot as an app and the scallops for our entrée, the hazelnut napoleon for dessert.  Le Bistro does a French press coffee which is very good.  The scallops were just barely over seared but the cauliflower mousseline was so good.  I told my husband I wanted to use it as a pillow.  After two meals I started to see a trend with the food, it was all very light in taste rather than heavily weighed down.  This was a good change from most cruise ship food.  We saw this carry out throughout the entire cruise.

 

Back to the cabin.  We always put the room service slip out for coffee at sweet rolls for 6:30.  Sat out on the balcony for a while then we went to bed and I again woke up at 3 am, hungry and ready to start the day.  We were very happy when 6:30 came.

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4 hours ago, fmrlkr said:

This is my story and I'm sticking to it.  

 

A little background.  This was our 4th Alaska cruise, 2 on Princess 2 on NCL.  Our 31st cruise overall.   DH is 79 and has had a stroke which mostly affected his speech but has slowed down his mobility some.  I am 57 and adjust my activities to his abilities on cruises.  We only did 1 excursion since we have done others in the past.  We don’t do entertainment, standing in line to push against a bunch of people to sit in an uncomfortable seat to watch whatever is my idea of purgatory.  We do specialty restaurants, we are not "foodies" we just like food.  We are platinum on NCL.  I took a lot of notes and now cannot find them so this review is based on memory.

 

I booked this cruise “by accident” four weeks before sailing.  I was looking at an Alaska cruise for 2020 and saw some great prices so I called my guy at NCL to talk about them.  He told me I was looking at 2019 prices and asked if it was possible to take a cruise this year.  I actually had vacation I had to take or lose by the end of June so I said book it.  The difference in price from this 2019 to 2020 actually paid all other expenses, airfare, hotel, meals etc.  I was able to use 2 Cruise Next certificates since I booked a mini suite at sail away price.  We were assigned a fairly good room on floor 10 near but not adjacent to the front elevators. Because of the late booking my flight choices were limited.  We flew in on Thursday night arriving at 9pm.  We used Seattle Shuttle for all of our transfers.  They were great. 

 

We stayed at The Charter Hotel on 2nd and Stewart.  It was expensive but well located for us.  2 blocks from Pike Place Market.  It’s a great choice if you are willing to spend the money.  I usually am not but circumstances allowed me to loosen up and let go.  

 

We live in the Central time zone so I woke up around 3 am ready to start the day and had to force myself to go back to sleep.  We had identified several restaurants we wanted to try within walking distance so at 7 am we walked to Pikes Place for breakfast.  First stop was The Crumpet Shop.  If you have never been GO.  Wow, I did not know how good crumpets are.  You can sit and watch them make the crumpets fresh.  DH had one with lemon curd, I had mine with salmon spread.  After that we wandered around the market enjoying the show.  We had lunch at the Athenian we both had fish and chips.  This is the restaurant in Sleepless in Seattle.  Great servers, great views, good food, small tables.  Walked around some more then headed back to the hotel for a rest.  DH was tired out from the day so we went to Long Provincial a Vietnamese restaurant on the corner from our hotel for dinner. It was very good Vietnamese food.  Awake again at 3am.

 

Next up: The cruise.

My what a different story from what we read earlier this morning. 

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23 minutes ago, tulok said:

We will be on Joy in 2 days. Looking forward to reading all that you have to say.

My advice is go into it expecting a good time and relax you are on vacation!

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14 minutes ago, newmexicoNita said:

My what a different story from what we read earlier this morning. 

Yeah, I read that.  We generally expect a good time and usually don't let the small stuff bother us.  There was too much good stuff on this cruise for us.

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Sea Day 1

 

To be perfectly honest I don’t remember what we did all day so some of the following happened at some point on the cruise but I will share here.  We never did see the huge hordes of rude, unruly passengers specifically trying to ruin our cruise (light hearted joke!)  The only times we saw crowds were during peak times and we went with the flow and got were we wanted to go.  One night at the elevators while it was busy there was a gentleman (I really wanted to call him something else) who was screaming over and over, “This is bull****” while banging on the call buttons.  If the elevator is on a floor, even if it is full, pressing the call button will result in the full elevator door opening.  Because elevators cannot reason, the other elevators see this as the call being answered and will not stop.  You must let the open car leave the floor before pressing the button again.  This seems to make some passengers crazy!  When crowded, we will get on any elevator with room regardless of the direction it is going in.  Eventually it will get to where we are going.

 

Observation lounge.  I visited the observation lounge nearly every day at various times.  Yes, I saw people who arrived early and staked out their location, but I did not see the “I’m saving 26 chairs for my friends and family who may or may not arrive” people.  I was never unable to find a place to sit.  Maybe not up front, but someplace.  I eagerly searched for the shoeless passengers sleeping there looking like homeless people.  I found a couple later in the week but to me it just looked like cruisers enjoying their cruise.  In fact, one day DH and I went for coffee in the lounge while Mark cleaned our room.  We took a seat nearer to the elevators.  I read my book for a while then looked up to see DH fast asleep in his chair with his book on his lap.  He did have his shoes on.  His shirt however was unbuttoned.  Which brings me to the observation that Alaska cruises are always so hot.  Inside areas on the ship, stores and restaurants at ports, even the lumberjack show in Ketchikan had overhead heaters.   I was hot the whole time.  Luckily I learned from past cruise to layer my clothing. 

 

We had dinner at La Cucina, again at 5 pm.  Another one of our favorites.  Here we rotate app but usually get the Osso Bucco although the filet with blue cheese ravioli is a better steak that any I have had at Cagneys.  (After several disappointing experiences we have given up on Cagneys, I have said that the service at Cagneys is so bad because the are so busy serving mediocre food.)  All desserts are great at La Cucina.

 

Went to the casino and broke even.  We ended the cruise $30 down for the week which we take as a win.

Back to the room, breakfast order out, Ketchikan tomorrow. 

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1 minute ago, fmrlkr said:

My advice is go into it expecting a good time and relax you are on vacation!

Good advice. Only if they make me cook, clean and do laundry would it make it a horrible cruise. 

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Ketchikan

Got up early and went to the Local for breakfast because they are open 24 hours, except when they are not serving, which was when we got there.  They were getting ready for early breakfast so were not serving, but they could give us coffee and a chicken sandwich, okay we can wait and have the chicken sandwich.  Turns out to be a chicken salad tea sandwich.  I love the chicken salad on NCL so it worked out.  ½ an hour and we ordered breakfast.  It was okay, just like any Denny’s.  We did not eat at The Local after that. 

 

Got our stuff together and left the ship.  We were an hour early for our excursion so we shopped to see what we would buy before we got back on the ship.  More on that later.

 

Well, we finally attend the lumberjack show.  Found the meeting place and were given a map and told to walk several blocks over for the show.  What?  As I mentioned DH has had a stroke and would not be able to walk that far.  The representative from the show looked at us and immediately asked if we would like a Taxi, no charge.   Yes, thank you.  They also provided a taxi back.  Those who walked got to visit the main part of town.  We have enjoyed Ketchikan on our other cruises so I would recommend the walking tour if you can.  

 

What I expected was a cheesy tourist-oriented show.  What I got was an EXCELLENT cheesy tourist-oriented show.  It was Puntastic! (Please forgive me.)  Great for all ages.  They mention what good athletes the lumberjacks are often, I would like to add that they are very good performers.  If you are looking for something fun which is easy (level 1) consider this.  It really was a highlight of our cruise.

 

Shopping.  Do all your souvenir shopping in Ketchikan.  We shopped at Sockeye Sams which is right off the ship and at Tongass Trading.  I’m talking trinkets and stuff.  (If you plan to buy more arty, expensive stuff, wait for Skagway).  DH bought a coat for $20 at Sockeye Sams.  In another thread several people were discussing buying this coat and what a good buy it was.  If Ketchikan is your first stop, don’t bring a coat buy one for $20.  At Tongass we bought matching bear pajama pants.  We wore them in our cabin for the rest of the cruise.  We liked them so much we bought matching moose pj’s on the ship as a thank you to my sister and her husband for watching our dog (double the price).  I also recommend the blanket for $9, I wish I had bought more, great gift.  I picked up and put down the huckleberry licorice several times, finally I asked myself why I was dithering over $5 and went ahead and bought it.  If you are a fan of Twizlers buy some, it is delicious!  Lots more but most was recipient specific.

 

Got back on the ship, DH was exhausted.  He took a nap while I went up to the observation lounge and had a scone, my favorite thing there.  Watched as we left Ketchikan.

 

Dinner at Le Bistro again gambling, breakfast order then bed.  Tomorrow: Glacier disappointment and rescue at sea, kind of.

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Juneau

We arrived in Juneau to rain.  We had planned to just walk around town but decided to stay on the ship.  We were docked at the AJ dock which is the furthest from town which made our decision easier. Today we had breakfast in the buffet.  We have been disappointed since they stopped serving lox at breakfast.  On a recent cruise we learned that you can ask for it and sometimes you will get it, not always.  It took some time, but DH secured us a plate of beautiful salmon.  We did not often go to the buffet and usually when we did it was to fill our beverage cups (never straight from the machine people!)  We never had a problem getting a table. After breakfast we wandered around the ship.  Today was the day we would cruise the glacier from 5 to 9. Remember to take your binoculars.  We used them throughout the cruise but especially today.  We did not have dinner reservations to best enjoy this experience.  We expected to get room service.  I had ordered OJ from room service that morning and kept it for this part of the day.  I popped our champagne (the OJ helps) and made mimosas to drink on the balcony as we sailed.  There as a lot if ice, DH and I commented on it.  After awhile the Captain made an announcement that there was so much ice, we would not be able to get all the way in.  He said there was a boat ahead of us which could not get in and had sent back information about the situation.  In addition, all ships must be out of the glacier by dark and because of the ice causing the ship to move slowly he would go as far as he could before turning around.  About this time on several of the pieces of ice we saw seals just lounging, one mama and baby.  We saw a sightseeing boat ahead of us coming back towards us.  Moving very slowly and pushing the ice out of the way.  It kept coming towards us, luckily for us on our side of the ship finally they pulled up along side of us and all the passengers got on the ship.  Turns out it was an excursion that left from Juneau at 1:30 and cruises further in than the ship can and then they rejoin the ship. This just happened in the midst of a lot, let me say again, a lot of ice.  It was disappointing that we did not get further in.  We have cruised the glaciers before so mostly felt bad for the first timers who missed the best part of an Alaska cruise.  So, we went to T/S and had dinner which was nice, gambling, breakfast request and bed.

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1 hour ago, cmecruise1962 said:

Thank you for doing this review!  I'm not going until August, but I am so excited!  🙂

 

I'm excited for you.  It's a beautiful ship and Alaska is our favorite cruise.

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56 minutes ago, edspec said:

Love this, sailing on the Joy 6/22 so happy to read a review from someone who sounds like me. Made a note about souvenir stop, I'm seeing new pjs in my future 🙂

I am wearing my bear pj's right now.

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Skagway. 

If you have never had the continental room service menu, please try it.  We always order coffee for 2, fruit Danish for DH, Blueberry muffin for me.  Occasionally we add juice or a banana or sliced melon, it just depends.  I fix our coffee and we go out on the balcony to start the day.  In Alaska the sun is already up, in the Caribbean we sit watching the sun come up.  Later we will go and have a true breakfast.  Today we went to T/S and had the Salmon and something else.  Skagway has some great excursions. You can’t go wrong with any that involve the White Pass Railroad.  We designed our own version of a tour based on the Historical City and Salmon bake.  We called it the City Shopping and Halibut Fry.  We waited and watched as everyone got off to meet their tour.  Once the crowds died down, we got off the ship.  The city has a shuttle bus to take you from the ship to town.  It is $2 each way or $5 for all day.  Well worthwhile.  Our driver said Skagway has a population of just under 1,000 people and on the day we were there 16,000 cruise passengers arrived.  I believe during the summer there are more residents they are just not year-round.  We strolled up and down the street looking in shops.  There are stores that run the gamut from touristy t-shirts to high end craftsmen and artists.  Fun food finds also.  If Disney were to design an Alaska town, it would be Skagway.  After shopping, around lunch time we went to a side street to Woodie’s for Halibut fried fish platter.  They also had a king crab platter we saw many people getting.  There we a long line the whole time we were there.  The guy running the place said he went down to the fishing camp 4 miles away the day before and got the Halibut whole and had them break it down into pieces.  True?  I choose to believe him.  We picked up the shuttle bus and went back to the ship. 

We were docked so that our balcony overlooked the activities.  As it got close to time to leave, we watched excursions return.  It began to rain slightly.  We love to watch the pier runners in Cozumel as they try to drunkenly stumble back on the ship with their sunburns.  Take note, Cozumel, cheap Tequila included excursions out in the sun for hours on end may seem like fun at the time but there is a steep price to pay!  Back to Skagway.  We waited and saw crew take 6 wheelchairs out to the area where people return.  An excursion bus arrived late, and the wheelchairs were taken over for those who needed them.  We called them Skagway pier runners.  That night when we went to dinner there were 6 scooters lined up outside of Le Bistro and Cagney’s.

Each cruise has its own personality.  We had been referring to this cruise as the sloth cruise because it was very cute and moved at the speed of a sloth.  Casino practically empty, no party people.  Only the Atrium was crowded so we avoided it.  I was talking with CruiseNext and asked if this was typical for an Alaska cruise.  He said it was and went further to say that the average age on the Joy was 35.  Probably because of all the multi-generational families with many young children.  He said the average age on the Jewel was 65, oh my.  Of course, the average age of my husband and I is 68, so numbers don’t mean much.  Dinner at Le Bistro.  By now we were becoming know to restaurant staff who greeted us warmly everywhere we went.  On the Breakaway we received lots of hugs and greetings.  There have been comments about the Joy crew being rude.  When we fist arrived, they seemed a little distant but as we talked with them and thanked them, they became friendlier.  By the end of the cruise we were being seated at the best table in T/S and many were coming over to say hello.  I believe the crew may just be adjusting to the change from the China market.

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2 minutes ago, trip111 said:

What do people generally wear at night on an Alaskan cruise?  I keep hearing it is more casual.  Also, is there a formal night on Joy?

It is more casual, wear whatever you are comfortable in.  There is a dress up or not night, ours was on Day 2, Sunday.  This is a good opportunity to dress up and have pictures taken.  We saw people all week dressed up or down.  Please, I beg of everyone, do not wear a baseball cap in a dining room, it's just rude and inappropriate.  If you just have to wear a baseball cap go to the buffet.  

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24 minutes ago, trip111 said:

Are people mostly wearing jeans at night?  That seems so foreign to me as when we've cruised before we've always dressed up at night.  

 

You will see a lot of jeans, plaid shirts and waterproof shoes..... it really really a casual atmosphere!   No need to pack any fancy stuff if you don't have the room, make sure the sweatshirt fits before you put the cocktail dress in the suitcase.

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34 minutes ago, fmrlkr said:

Skagway. 

  I was talking with CruiseNext and asked if this was typical for an Alaska cruise.  He said it was and went further to say that the average age on the Joy was 35.  Probably because of all the multi-generational families with many young children.  He said the average age on the Jewel was 65, oh my. 

 

I dispute that claim, I would say our Jewel sailing (5/27-6/4) the average age was just about 40.  Lots of younger couples and not a heck of a lot of "oldies".  I am in my late 50's.

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