This sister ship of Norwegian Bliss has a unique history. Built for the China market, it was launched in 2017 and sailed in Asia for a year before it was renovated and repositioned to North America, where it will sail West Coast itineraries — most notably Alaska — beginning in 2019. With many of the features that make Bliss so successful, this big ship offers big entertainment for a wide swath of travelers, all under one roof. Here’s our review.
What We Love
It Covers All the Bases: Whether your group needs multi-story water slides or a nap on a comfy lounger, burgers and beer or a wine tasting with vintages from the Pacific Northwest, you can find it on Norwegian Joy. The ship’s strength is in its shear variety of options, and it bucks the notion that it’s impossible to do many things well at once. Restaurants and public spaces are attractively designed. Food — particularly in the specialty restaurants — is flavorful and fresh. Marquee activities like go-kart racing, virtual reality arcade games, and big-name Broadway shows bring plenty of excitement onboard, but there are also places to hide away and find some quiet, like in the expansive Observation Lounge.
It Offers Excellent Value: Norwegian’s ships pack lots of punch for the price. Sailings on Joy start at around $500 per person for seven-night itineraries, and that you can often take advantage of the line’s Free at Sea promotion that includes beverages, excursions, dining, or other perks. Taking the quality of the ship and its onboard experiences into account, it’s one of the best deals at sea.
The Concierge Cabins: A new category of cabins created specifically for Joy, this varied group of suites comes with access to a dedicated concierge, priority embarkation, specialty breakfast and lunch each day in La Cucina, and more space. Intended for groups larger than two, the real magic here is in the cabins themselves. Most of these share the elevated design sensibility that you’d find in The Haven, the exclusive luxury enclave where guests have access to private lounges, sun decks, and restaurants. Think plush carpets, creative lighting fixtures, enormous closets, bigger balconies, and some of the softest bathrobes we’ve ever experienced. A totally unique cabin that also falls under the Concierge program is an interior two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite that sleeps six and has a full living area and a virtual window for some added light and ocean ambiance. We spotted this room on select sailings for as little as $700 per person — a steal considering the perks, and the amount of space offered here.
Best Known For
Go-Kart Racing: The winding two-story go-kart track, where you can race your friends at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, is situated on the top deck and is a focal point of the ship. When we tried it, the race was fun and fast without being intimidating or scary — a key factor that keeps this activity suitable for the entire family. Try it at night for an extra-dramatic effect.
The Observation Lounge: As on its sister ship, Bliss, the Observation Lounge on Joy is a showstopper. Flooded with light from windows that span the entire height of the deck, and furnished with ultra-comfortable leather loungers and overstuffed couches, this is the place to scenery-gaze, whether you’re gliding past Alaska’s rugged mountainscapes or pulling into port in Los Cabos. In a ship that offers so many (literal) bells and whistles, the relative quiet of this space is a godsend.
Marquee Entertainment: Whether you’re craving an actual Broadway show (Footloose), a fun cover band (Beatles look and soundalikes at The Cavern Club) or more abstract, Cirque de Soleil-like performances with dancing, feathery costumes, and acrobatics, the variety and quality of the performances onboard is notable. As on many larger cruise ships, you will also find a fair number of singing solo pianists and vocals-and-guitar duos in the bars and public spaces, but the focus here is all on the big-name shows.
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Who It's Best For
Families Who Want to Spend Time Together (And Not): While the kids are playing virtual reality car racing games in the arcade, parents can taste wines at The Cellars, a wine bar presented by the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. At the same time, grandma and gramps can relax in the pool, or watch the scenery go by from their balcony. Then, everyone can meet up for dinner in The Manhattan Room and share stories of the day. Whether together, apart, or exploring in small groups, Joy caters to family groups in ways that will keep everyone happy.
Megaship Newbies: If the thought of sailing with your 3,000 closest friends seems intimidating, Joy is a good place to start. Energetic without feeling exhausting, it hits the spot whether you need to cut loose on the dance floor or lounge in the sun.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
There Are No Solo Cabins: While Norwegian’s newest crop of ships have all included a dedicated block of studio cabins for solo travelers, Joy does not. The space where you’d typically find these cabins on other ships is occupied by the multi-bedroom interior Concierge suites.
The Spa Is Small: Joy’s sister ship, Bliss, has a splashy spa that includes its own pool and thermal suite. The version offered here has typical treatment rooms and a roomy sitting area — this is a good place to hide away if you’re looking for a quiet spot to check email or sit with a book — but it's significantly scaled down.
The Pool Deck Might Leave You Scratching Your Head: If you’re looking for obvious signs of Joy’s origins as a ship built for the China market, you won’t find anything obvious — except for the pool deck. Situated so that they’re mostly in shade, the pools occupy the outer edges of the deck, instead of sitting right in the middle as they would on other ships. This leaves a gaping empty spot in the center of the deck — a space that feels a bit awkward. Here’s hoping that activations or entertainment can fill this literal gap in the future.
by: Laura Motta
Laura Motta is the director of publishing for ShermansTravel.
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Norwegian Joy at a Glance
- Line: Norwegian Cruise Line
- Class: Breakway-Plus
- Number of Passengers: 3900
- Ship Size: Mega
- Launch Date: 2017
- Refurbish Date: 2019