With fond memories of the 2018 “Norwegian Bliss” inaugural cruise out of Miami, Florida, this traveler jumped at the opportunity to sample the Joy, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest family member and sister ship to the Bliss.
Following a recent $50 million face-lift, Joy’s three-day inaugural cruise began in Vancouver, British Columbia, and sailed down the Pacific seaboard, past Seattle, to the port of Los Angeles.
The addition of the wildly popular accommodation choice Haven by Norwegian offers guests an even higher level of luxury, with expanded staterooms and suites, private enclosed pool area, and a Horizon observation lounge for panoramic views of the ocean. The Haven is a very attractive option for those seeking a posher experience, without having to miss out on the many main attractions a vessel like Joy has to offer guests of every age.
Families can easily get on board with the concept of multi-generational travel. Offering a more quiet and upscale retreat, The Haven may be described as a “ship within a ship.” Outside The Haven, other family members can take advantage of mini-suites or Concierge Villa Suites with bedrooms and balconies which open up to the endless horizon. There is nothing more peaceful than stepping outside your patio door to reveal a rising or setting sun over the water, while breathing in the fresh sea air. The Joy is the only ship in the 16-member Norwegian fleet to offer the Concierge-level stateroom category, with 24/7 service and private dining options.
Like her popular sister Bliss, Joy touts on-board entertainment options for adults and children at every stage. Younger sailors ages 3-12 may opt for the Splash Academy, where dedicated staff supervise creative play, sports and other fun activities. The teens are drawn to The Entourage, which resembles an adult lounge for hanging out and making new friends, minus the adults. Grown-ups and kids have no shortage of activities for making memories together, from the exciting Motor Speedway to Laser Tag, a round of Mini Golf and the Galaxy Pavilion, filled with virtual reality experiences. Wearing special reality glasses, you can ride in a jeep through a prehistoric jungle being chased by a T. rex, or hop onto a roller coaster for the ride of your life—without even leaving the boat. When ready for more fun in the sun, hit the sixteenth deck for the Aqua Park Water Slides at the main pool. Ready to get lost in a magazine or soak up some vitamin D? Order up a cocktail at the poolside bar, and grab a lounge chair, where all your worries can sail away. After a quick jog around the deck track, don’t forget to check out the Mandera Spa menu for an added treat, topped off with Norwegian’s impeccable service and attention to detail.
One of Norwegian’s most desirable features is their “free-style” cruising. This means dining when, where and with whom you want. No dress-codes or set dining times. No assigned tables or awkward itineraries. Use the digital touch screens on the ship to make your own reservations for specialty dining restaurants, or simply pick up the phone in your Concierge room to have someone help you reserve a table at your preferred location and time for each meal.
The several waterfront dining options include Cagney’s Steakhouse, where I enjoyed a perfectly prepared Black Angus filet mignon with truffle fries and grilled asparagus on the side. Feeling like Asian Fusion? Grab a table at the Food Republic, where I savored the best crispy salmon sushi roll I could ever imagine. Yearning for a taste of home? Be sure you don’t miss the artisan meats and deviled eggs on the sharing menu at Q Texas Smokehouse. Top that off with a smoked peach margarita, and you’ll be jonesing to find more hibiscus salt for your rim before your feet ever hit Texas soil again.
In search of a great glass of wine or a regional beer? The District Brewhouse features the largest collection of craft beer at sea with 24 draft beers and over 50 bottled varieties, from the ports of Seattle, Alaska and Miami. Cold fermented in mine shafts to promote a balance brew, we favored the Alaskan Amber from Alaskan Brewing Company. Sailing out of Seattle, the Joy has recruited many wines from the Columbia Valley in Washington to top their wine list at The Cellars Wine Bar. Two of my personal favorites were a refreshing riesling by Chateau Ste. Michelle and the velvety merlot from Columbia Crest.
The Joy delivers nothing less than standing ovations from audiences and fans of live entertainment. Get ready for a toe-tapping good time with the Tony-nominated stage production of Footloose, the beloved ‘80s movie from which several top-forty hits were born. Elements is an acrobatic feast for the senses, with the show transcending all languages. The talented performers wear elaborate costumes and defy gravity, both on the stage and through the aisles of the theater, where guests are mesmerized by scenes personifying the planet’s elements through artistic expression.
Outside the shows, you will also find plenty of live entertainment throughout the ship’s multitude of restaurants and bars. If you sailed on the Bliss and fell in love with the Cavern Club, then you can also return for an encore on the Joy and dance the night away to all your favorites from the ship’s own Beatles cover band.
Now sailing out of Seattle for Alaska all summer long, the Joy makes stops at Glacier Bay, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia. Alaskan excursions include adventures in whale-watching, halibut fishing, and the option of Cruisetours, where you can dive deeper into the wilderness on a railway, reaching destinations like Denali National Park. After going through the Panama Canal in October, the Joy will sail to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles through November. She has her sights set on the Caribbean, launching out of Miami in 2020.
You can easily find this new sister of the sea, as you make your way about the country. Offering air and sea packages, Norwegian makes it a breeze to access all ports, which are joyous destinations in themselves.
Cover: The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Joy on her inaugural cruise, sailing past Seattle. Courtesy photo
A native of Louisiana and married to Brian Maass, Louisiana State University graduate Dana Kent Maass now hangs her hat in Round Rock, Texas. When not traveling and writing, Maass enjoys practicing occupational therapy, volunteering, supporting the LSU Austin Alumni, attending live shows and hiking.