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Cruiseathoning

Joy Review-Efficient Honesty

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The big question first, would I book her again?  The answer is not in current configuration.  I would like to state that this opinion is based on preferences, and should in no way dissuade you from booking, nor give you concern if you already have.  Like just about any cruise, count on having a good time.  But leave it at that expectation.  Broadly, just having a good time.

 

First the Noro rumor thing.  Did not encounter it.  What I did find was a ship clean enough to eat from the floor.  Whether there was Noro or not, I can't say.  Seemed fine, and they were very cautious.

 

Big problem 1.  Buffet.  Not appealing to me.  Weird choices, (turkey parmigiana?)  bland food, fractured configuration.  The Indian food was good.  The rest was an odd mismash of pork, boxed pastas, canned veggies, and believe it or not, bologna.

 

Solution?  Observation lounge.  For some reason, perhaps proximity to The Haven, the buffet there, while limited, was higher quality and fresher.  Nice sandwiches, meats and cheeses.

 

Big problem 2.  Daytime activities.  Not enough that did not require a fee.  This was a recurring theme.  

 

Solution?  Go to port.  Sea days were slightly better.

 

Big problem 3.  MDR was a letdown.  Choices were fair, if dated, however execution we found lacking.

 

Solution?  Specialty dining.  Eh, speculate among yourselves as to why the food, in our opinion, was so drastically different from MDR to specialty.  Q was magnificent, as was Food Republic, Teppanyaki and Cagney's.  Ocean Blue was fair but lacked the fresh fish on the menu in several cases.  Some of it had been replaced with other fish.  For instance, Branzino, to Rainbow Trout.  

 

 

Big problem number 4?  Space in The Cavern for Beatles tribute.  As one might expect, the show was crowded, sometimes up to an hour before.  We counted 70 seats, and on one night, management actually closed access to the room.  

 

Solution?  Get there early.  Very early.

 

Big problem number 5.  Hard beds. 

 

Solution? Egg crate.  Inelegant but worked.  But compared to Princess, however, the room comfort is in our view lacking.

 

Positives?  Plenty.  Cryptic Duo was fantastic, and very friendly, the Beatles tribute was good, but again, the venue is small, somewhat claustrophobic to me, and the acoustics do not compare to The Social.

 

Clinton Jackson the comedian is a national treasure.  Clean, warm, hilarious.  Carl Guerra is a comedian.  That is all I will speak about him.

 

Footloose is fun.  Choreography was a bit sloppy.  But it was fun, so for those less familiar with the workings of theatre, the dancing will be less noticeable.  Nice vocals, excellent sets.  Seats we did not find comfortable.  

 

Drinks were fantastic, terrific bartenders.  Service sometimes slow.  Atrium is usually overcrowded, which is unfortunate, because all of the trivia and games are done there.

 

Roberto the cruise director is very friendly.  Mona and Pedro with the entertainment team are sweet but shy.

 

Lido is lacking.  Tiny pool area, huge floor area.  They smartly use this as seating for pool bands.  Spice H2o is a great place for hot tubs and such, but is busy.  So we did not find this ship to be great for lido loungers.  Also, no food whatsoever on Lido expect for buffet.  No outdoor hot dog grill, burgers, nothing.  For those familiar with Princess and Carnival you will notice.

 

The local, is uh, food.  Reubens are good, overall a limited menu.  They do not allow to go.  For $7.95 you can have room service.  This is a common theme, the nickel and dime aspect to me.  After a while it just gets to be grating.  Room service, fee.  Sauna, fee.  Cars, arcade, laser tag, fee, fee, and more fees.  American Diner serves much of what I remember the Local once serving when it was O'Sheehan's on other ships, but as a specialty charge.  For Burgers and Mozzarella sticks, for reals?  Predictably, we saw few people in there.  I would guess it will close or be replaced.

 

Venues in general we found lacking.  I mean literally-there just is not enough of them. This is perhaps due to so many restaurants taking up space.  We did not use go carts, laser tag, or the virtual reality arcade.  We don't cruise for that.  Personally, we would prefer a basketball court and some more pool options.

 

The Social is a nice place to see comedians, do karaoke, and dance at night.  Again, somewhat smallish and really, there is only that, The Cavern, and the Atrium for events other than the piano bar and Joy theater.  Maltings Whiskey is a nice space you can drink in but no activities are held there.  Mostly this is a ship for eating and drinking.  We did step into The District, a brew pub, for the piano bar, but again, you guessed it, small.

 

And reservations.  Oh the reservations.  You have to book constantly; restaurants, shows, laser tag, go carts, it is anything but freestyle to have to book ahead of time, in my opinion.

 

So because of the venues, an unappetizing buffet, weak MDR the lack of outdoor space, and persistent upselling, nickel diming, we would not book again.  

 

However, this is my opinion.  We did have fun.  We did not go a whole week with no fun.  We met nice people, made friends, learned new things, and relaxed.  So don't read this and think your trip will suck.  It will not suck.  A few adjustments like the solutions I mentioned go a long way towards mitigating the issues I spoke about and it always help to not be uptight.  I just feel, as a vacation investment, Norwegian does not stack up to other products in terms of offerings or consistency.  It is not as polished as Royal Caribbean nor as fun (action packed) as Carnival.  

 

That said, I do not want to leave the impression that we are ruling out ever using Norwegian again.  We find their Jewel class ships to be the perfect combination of amenities and size.  And no reservations needed for shows is a plus.  If however, you are booked on this ship don't be discouraged, it is just one opinion among many and there are plenty of good things about this ship to look forward to.  

 

Make sure to kick off your Sunday shoes when you embark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Good review, the ships with the race tracks etc hold no interest for me.  The Escape was a nice cruise a little over a year ago...I really liked that ship.  

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Thanks for the review.  While I would not be interested in booking the Joy for its lack of thermal suite, I appreciate the perspective you've detailed about your experience.  Agree with PTC Dawg that that class of ship holds little interest for me.  

Edited by Georgia_Peaches

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1 hour ago, Cruiseathoning said:

Roberto the cruise director is very friendly.

 

Silas Cook is already taking a break from the Encore?  I thought he was the launch CD for that ship and would be there for a few more months.  I met him on the Bliss in April and thought he was energetic and friendly.

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Just one counter point.  The diversity of activities helps disperse some crowds.  Not everyone likes go carts but they keep busy and keep people away from the pool or the casino or the atrium.  Did they do a Beatles show in the main theater.  They did on the Bliss and that allowed more people to enjoy their talents 

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MDRs are pretty much cafeteria food.  They are making everything in batches to serve 3000-4000 people a day.   Average is going to be the baseline on the food with a few items standing out and a few missing their mark.  There really is no way around it on today's mainstream cruise lines.   Thats why I find it funny when people are comparing food on different lines.  Everyone claims that each line has the better food but its all the same.  If MDR food is important to you, a boutique cruise is going to be the direction you will need to go.  

Edited by Liljo22

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I disagree.  MDR food is not the same on each line.   It is not even the same on each ship.  Lunch in Savor was pretty good.  And the burger in Savor vs. The Local was completely different meat.   Yes, Beatles Tribute played in theater the last night.  I did not attend.

 

Back to MDR food-Princess is better in our opinion, but it carries recipes by Curtis Stone on Ruby and Royal, (maybe others.)  It shows.

 

However if I might theorize I believe Norwegian is the only mainstream line that does fully anytime dining.  This might affect execution, whereas Princess knows upfront how many to expect at a certain time.  It is certainly easier to cook, if you have a guest list.

 

 

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Thanks for the review. I'm taking the Christmas cruise in 13 days and it's good to have an idea on what to expect.

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10 minutes ago, Viajera7 said:

Thanks for the review. I'm taking the Christmas cruise in 13 days and it's good to have an idea on what to expect.

As long as your goal is to relax and have fun, a positive approach will handle it.  So expect to have fun, just like I said, frame it in that context.  Mission is not a perfect cruise.  Mission is to have fun.  i am just being objective based on 21 cruises, a rookie to some of you.

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We’re just off the Joy yesterday, had a wonderful time but do agree on a lot of the dining accounts. My only true complaint was the A/C controls (maybe it was only our stateroom?) It will run for 30 mins and shutoff which makes the room hot and uncomfortable and silent and uncomfortable. Karts & virtual reality really are worth the costs. Do yourself a favor and go see Leo in the Atrium Bar in the evenings, hands down best bartender we’ve ever experienced in 25 cruises. Overall it was an 8 out 10 for us. 

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Just cruised Joy Thanksgiving week, agree with most of your comments, my butt is still sore from the theater seats watching Footloose!  It was my first cruise on a mega ship, we stick to jewel class.  I expected more crowds and having to make more reservation, the NCL app was great for that.

 

We only went to buffet twice, horrible layout and we didn’t like the location, much prefer a rear buffet and great outdoors aft deck.  Agree on food, we only liked the Indian selections also.

 

The Local, way too loud in there, noise coming up from below.  We had lunch one day in PV after stepping off to shop.

 

Things we liked:

Observation lounge early for a starbucks coffee, until the day sleepers showed up, what is with people crashing on the loungers all day?  I can’t sleep like that in public!

 

The magician Po, his solo show and with Elements, best shows of the week.

 

Dinners in MDR were fine, lunch was mediocre.  We preferred Manhatten room, service was fast and efficient.  We had SDP so it may have been repetitive if we ate there 7 dinners.

 

Deck 8 outdoor seating and boardwalk!  It was never crowded compared to all the bodies hanging out on Lido.

 

The AFT elevators!  So glad we booked an aft balcony.  With the theater and buffet up front the forward elevators were always crazy busy.

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1 hour ago, chriscec2012 said:

We’re just off the Joy yesterday, had a wonderful time but do agree on a lot of the dining accounts. My only true complaint was the A/C controls (maybe it was only our stateroom?) It will run for 30 mins and shutoff which makes the room hot and uncomfortable and silent and uncomfortable. Karts & virtual reality really are worth the costs. Do yourself a favor and go see Leo in the Atrium Bar in the evenings, hands down best bartender we’ve ever experienced in 25 cruises. Overall it was an 8 out 10 for us. 

 

Sounds like you had the A/C in energy saving mode. If you pressed the button with the snowflake (I know it makes no sense), that’s what happened.

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8 hours ago, gmbhardy said:

 

Sounds like you had the A/C in energy saving mode. If you pressed the button with the snowflake (I know it makes no sense), that’s what happened.

Good Tip for our cruise next month

Thanks 

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Hopefully they will not make drastic changes to Escape when she goes into dry-dock next year. Give us options and don't assume we all like the go carts and lazer tag especially if you take away Spice H20. Whats next roller coasters??? Opps, never mind. 🙄

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I look at it like this, I have to make a decision, do I want "big time" entertainment, that requires reservations, waiting in line, or more generic fun shows like Playlist Productions or similar on other lines designed to be fun at the time, but not Cats and something I can walk into at my leisure?  When we cruise, it is to have a relaxed and easy good time.  If I want big time, we go to Las Vegas.  This is us:

 

Vegas=planning=stress.

 

Cruising=ahhh.  So if the shows "suck" so what?  I still watch pretty people with cool sets sing cool songs and dance around energetically enough to entertain.  And if that is no good, I do karaoke.  Or games.  Or a poolside movie.  Or see a comedian.  Or meet with friends.  Or go to the hot tubs.  Or sit on a balcony and read.  Or go to the piano bar..see where this is going?

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37 minutes ago, Cruiseathoning said:

I look at it like this, I have to make a decision, do I want "big time" entertainment, that requires reservations, waiting in line, or more generic fun shows like Playlist Productions or similar on other lines designed to be fun at the time, but not Cats and something I can walk into at my leisure?  When we cruise, it is to have a relaxed and easy good time.  If I want big time, we go to Las Vegas.  This is us:

 

Vegas=planning=stress.

 

Cruising=ahhh.  So if the shows "suck" so what?  I still watch pretty people with cool sets sing cool songs and dance around energetically enough to entertain.  And if that is no good, I do karaoke.  Or games.  Or a poolside movie.  Or see a comedian.  Or meet with friends.  Or go to the hot tubs.  Or sit on a balcony and read.  Or go to the piano bar..see where this is going?

 

That sounds exactly why we are going back to the Gem for next year.  We tried the Escape, and although we were able to (eventually) see almost every show we wanted, it was not our idea of a relaxing cruise vacation.  Having to try to make reservations the moment we boarded (for those we couldn't make before boarding), and then having to wait on stand-by lines for the shows we couldn't get reservations for - was way too stressful and definitely took some time away from our enjoyment of our vacation. 

 

Don't get me wrong - we still had a great time, and the main shows were really good, but we still prefer the more relaxing way to cruise on the smaller ships - truly freestyle.

 

The big ships may be NCL, but it definitely ain't freestyle cruising!

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This review is pretty much spot on.  We have only cruised Royal and NCL so I could only compare the 2. 

 

The caveat is that the biggest difference in any cruise is going to come down to the individual ship.  NCL Encore floating around the Caribbean and the Jewel going through Asia will be a completely different experience in entertainment, food, service and the types of cruisers on board.  It will also affect the crew and their attitudes.  Having to do the same Caribbean ports for 6-8 months with a ship full of drunks and kids can be grinding versus sailing around the world with retirees and cruisers on the trip of a lifetime.

 

That said we have always found the food on NCL to be lacking.  Our first NCL cruise was on the Star through Norway.  Wonderful time, crew was all excited about going through the Fjords (We saw many excited crew taking selfies ) but the MDR was not good at all, buffet was subpar.  We always find something that we like but in all of our 2 NCL cruises, no clean plate clubs in the MDR.  Compare this to Royal which always had something "pretty good", rarely amazing but we were always able to finish.  

 

Because of the lack of tasty food in the MDR, specialty restaurants are where it is at on NCL.  Not always amazing but the food gets eaten.  It's worth it to do the research and find out which dishes in the MDR are worth trying and plan the other dinner nights at Specialty restaurants.  That being said I could eat every night in Royal MDR vs. NCL MDR.  Specialty restaurants on Royal certainly blow away every specialty restaurant we have ever tried on NCL.

 

Entertainment on the two Royal ships we have been on (Anthem and Freedom) has been amazing.  Of course this is comparing to the Jewel and the Star so not quite fair but we are booked on the Joy for Dec 22 and I can't see how anything on the Joy would even come close to anything we have seen on Royal ships.  (Comparing "The Gift" and "Ice Show" to "Footloose")  The amount of activities on the Royal ships is on the heavy side and included with the fare.  Game shows are more entertaining (this can be Cruise Director Specific) , kids activities are better and the experience we have had with the musicians and bands on Royal tend to be memorable.  As an exampIe, I could tell you the last three headliner bands we saw on Royal ships without looking but cannot remember one headliner band from an NCL ship.

 

There are many different reasons to pick a cruise- itinerary, specific unchangeable vacation dates, the ship, just being on the ocean.  Of all these I would certainly never choose an NCL vacation because of the ship.  Our last trip on Freedom of the Seas we had the choice of sailing NCL Epic during the same dates.  We had all been on Freedom of the Seas before and after a family meeting and going through the Freestyle Daily's we decided that Freedom was the way to go.

 

What I would choose NCL for is The Haven.  Our second trip on NCL was on the Jewel and the only reason we picked it was The Haven.  This next trip on Joy is over a Christmas Holiday and while vacation dates dictated this one, I would never book on an oversold crowded more kids than adults NCL ship with nothing to do unless you pay for it cruise unless of course we had The Haven.  

 

I am with the OP in that it's not that we wouldn't sail NCL at all but given the choice of trying other lines it's usually the last cruiseline we look at when booking.

 

 

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23 hours ago, Cruiseathoning said:

Cruising=ahhh.  So if the shows "suck" so what?  I still watch pretty people with cool sets sing cool songs and dance around energetically enough to entertain.  And if that is no good, I do karaoke.  Or games.  Or a poolside movie.  Or see a comedian.  Or meet with friends.  Or go to the hot tubs.  Or sit on a balcony and read.  Or go to the piano bar..see where this is going?

I do, you cruise like I do.  

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I think was on the same cruise -  a few more review points/opinions:

·         The crew worked really hard at cleaning the ship after the Noro on the last Panama Canal cruise.  Constantly wiping walls, doors, railing, etc.  The last thing they want are sick, angry people!

·         We had 3 medical events.  First they thought about airlifting with a Mexican port/military helicopter.  Seeing it circle the ship multiple times, hovering near the bow with a guy hanging out was . . . interesting?  Would have been nice had they not waited until the following day until making an unscheduled stop in Cabo to get the person off on a tender (couldn’t do the airlift – not the right equipment) to tell us what the heck it was doing out there.  Someone broke something at the pool on the ship in Mazatlan – not sure how that ended up.  Someone collapsed the last day at sea on the way back to LA and we went full steam ahead to get there earlier Sunday morning to get the person off.

·         Main dining food was ok, not great, La Cucina was good, Cagney’s and Q were great.  We had only one waiter/waitress the whole time with a personality though, no matter the venue.  They weren’t necessarily bad, just rushed, distracted and most likely overworked.  Definitely not like it used to be.  First time I didn’t find anyone to give tips to beyond the DSC.

·         Stateroom staff was hit or miss for our group.  The other two cabins in our group had the same gal, and she was great.  We never saw ours and we didn’t get fresh towels twice, although the ones on the floor were taken away (I kept grabbing from the carts in the hall).  Again, not necessarily bad, just meh.

·         Go carts – why on earth they let 10 year olds out there with adults I’ll never understand.  It had the potential to be fun, but instead the crew ended up shutting off our carts (they have a kill switch for them) every time one of the kids got stuck in the wall and couldn’t get off (most laps), or took up the entire track allowing for no passing because they just don’t know, despite directions given.  In our slot they put the kids out in front and the adults in back.  Why?  I would never do again unfortunately. I pin that on the crew and the way it is managed, not the kids.

·         Elements was meh.  I was disappointed.  Footloose was enjoyable, Po was very good in his own show.  Cavern club was a disaster – too small, and unlike everything else, no reservations. You had to get there an hour early for a 45 minute set.  Doesn’t make sense.

·         Funny.  I didn’t find Clinton Jackson very funny, but did find Carl Guerra funny.  Different tastes!

·         If you want a good cocktail, go to the A List bar outside of Cagney’s/Le Bistro.  Best drinks on the ship by far!  Try the Black Manhattan and Woodford Old Fashioned.

·         We liked our mid ship balcony room – its been a little while since we’ve cruised, and the shower was much larger and more comfortable than any before.

·         We didn’t choose the ship for the ports, and if not for the rest of my party wanting to go ashore I would have been much happier lounging on the ship the whole time.   A couple of our party have limited mobility, so the one bus tour was the standard couple of sites, tip the divers, go shop here, blah, blah, blah fare.

·         We had the beverage package, and the one night in Cagney’s that I ordered a glass of Moet for an additional $4 the bar staff brought the bottle back and essentially gave me 1 ¾ glasses for that $4, which was nice.

·         Shops on ship.  That was it?  Smaller ships I’ve been on have twice the selection.  Not sure what that was about.

·         Loved having Starbucks for decent coffee.  The MDR coffee was abysmal and I gave up on it pretty quickly.

·         Go to the back of the buffet.  Apparently no one wants to go past the crowded stations closest to the entry doors and the back was wide open.

·         Get the charcuterie platter in Q.  It was excellent.

·         The district ran out of the dark beers.  Put more on tap in the first place!

·         Go see the Beatles show in the main theatre and save yourself the waiting and frustration.

·         Live entertainment was lacking.  Some were OK, but overall?  Not great.

·         We liked The Local for lunch – easy to get a seat and a decent casual snack/lunch menu.

As with the OP, just my random opinions and thoughts.  We had a nice time and I thought the price we paid for cruise/drinks/specialty dining/air all included was a good value.  We also had $470 in onboard credit per cabin so the perceived nickel and diming wasn’t a big deal for us. 

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19 minutes ago, WilsCM said:

Someone collapsed the last day at sea on the way back to LA and we went full steam ahead to get there earlier Sunday morning to get the person off.

The ship was probably pretty close to full speed anyway.  I did the Mexican Riviera on the Bliss in October, final port was Cabo.  We left there approx. 36 hours before scheduled arrival in LA, the Bliss (and Joy for that matter since I imagine the top speeds are the same at around 23 knots) can travel 830 miles in 36 hours.  A not-quite-direct route (the one I see hugs the coast fairly close) between those ports is a little over 900 miles.  When I checked using a GPS app on my phone we were traveling around 26 MPH, just shy of top speed.

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