On Location: What’s New on the Revitalized Norwegian Joy

Fresh from a $50 million renovation, Norwegian Cruise Line’s 167,725-ton Norwegian Joy has repositioned from Asia to the West Coast of North America and will begin Alaska sailings next week.

With the addition of this ship, Norwegian is almost doubling its capacity along the West Coast, as Norwegian Bliss, introduced to Alaska last year, also sails to the Great Land again this year.

Travel Agent sailed this past weekend on this nearly new, 3,804-passenger, Norwegian Cruise Line ship. Here are our initial impressions.

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Major Renovations

As a Breakaway Plus-class ship, Norwegian Joy – while just two years old – just completed a three week drydock in Singapore and a three-day wet dock in Seattle earlier this month. The goal was to ensure that it had the appropriate spaces to appeal to the North American market. Originally, this vessel was built to source Chinese business.

Many renovated public spaces mirror those on Norwegian Bliss. For example, the renovation added introduced 13 new dining, bar and lounge venues onboard, many the signature Norwegian eateries that North American guests already know.

Cruisers and repeat Norwegian cruisers will find everything from Le Bistro to Teppanyaki and the Food Republic, plus other specialty eateries and the main dining venues – the Manhattan Room, Taste and Savor.  

Norwegian Joy also has the Waterfront, an outdoor walking, dining and bar space – typically restaurants that flow outside with al fresco dining options.

Newly added is the American Diner with a 1950s automobile theme; that’s different than Margaritaville, located in that space on Norwegian Bliss.

In addition, the ship received a redesigned pool deck along with widening of the go-kart speedway and an expansion of the Observation Lounge.  

New Concierge Level Accommodations

Norwegian Joy has Concierge Level accommodations, which travel advisors and their clients won’t find on other Norwegian ships. Exclusive to Norwegian Joy within the Norwegian fleet, the Concierge Class ensures “those extra special touches,” says Dana Salem-McCarthy, a Dream Vacations franchise owner from Jefferson, OH, who toured these accommodations while on the preview cruise over the weekend.

Guests staying in these accommodations receive such perks as 24/7 concierge service, priority embarkation/disembarkation, an exclusive lounge, 24-hour room service and private breakfast. 

Most intriguing for families is the two-bedroom Concierge Family Inside (CF) accommodation with a virtual balcony. Check out the photos of #14605, which sleeps up to six people. In the slide show above.  

“With its virtual balcony, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and living area, a family will have privacy and space for everyone,” says Salem-McCarthy, who says that this unit also affords “an abundance” of good closet and storage space.

Total space ranges from 512 square feet to 561 square feet of space. The living room has a double sofa bed plus a virtual reality balcony (with imagery of sliding glass doors).

I found that VR treatment both pleasing to the eye and larger than what one would get from a VR porthole. It also adds a good sense of light and a spacious, open “feel” to the living area.

On one side of the living area is the master bedroom and a full bath, including a combination bathtub/shower. To the left is the second bedroom; in this unit, that had a twin bed and a pull-down upper berth, plus its own flatscreen TV and bathroom with shower.  

I also toured #14166, a Concierge Villa Suite with Balcony (CC) category with 338 square feet to 341 square feet of space, plus these accommodations, which sleep two to three people, have a balcony of more than 64 square feet.  Again, see the slide show above.

One important note? Norwegian Joy does not have “The Studio,” the solo cabin complex found on Norwegian Bliss and several other ships.

But it does have The Haven, the higher-end, ship-within-a-ship enclave of upscale accommodations, found on Norwegian Bliss; guests enjoy key card-accessible access to a complex that has a private dining room, lounge and pool deck. The new ship’s Haven has a library, too.

Virtual Reality and Laser Tag

Norwegian Joy should wildly appeal to teens, young adults and techie fans of all ages with its virtual reality Galaxy Pavilion.

I strolled into the one-of-a-kind Galaxy Pavilion, not found on other Norwegian ships, and it’s clear this virtual reality and gaming center (with both virtual and augmented reality) will be a magnet for teens, young adults and techies of all ages.

At an interactive video wall, guests can see their physical drawings brought to life. Interactive virtual reality experiences include a Star Wars cockpit simulator, a virtual reality maze and a hang-gliding ride, to name a few.

Cruisers also can experience roller coaster and racing simulators, the latter in an authentic Formula One racing car.

Wildly popular during my visit was the Jurassic Park VR experience. Cruisers climb into a Jeep-like vehicle that moves up and down as the riders “encounter dinosaurs” as they “ride along” on the park adventure. I observed one woman getting off the ride, walking around and getting right back on it.   

Of course, classic arcade games are also available at the Galaxy Pavilion, too. Teens have easy access as the entrance to Entourage, the teen club, is within steps of the virtual reality fun.   

Outside on Deck 20, cruisers can also try outdoor laser tag. It’s a hoot to run around and compete for control of an abandoned space station. Traditional lasers and Hero Blast fists are available for guests. The cost of this experience is $9.95 for two matches of five minutes each.

Two-Level Race Track

Atop the stern, cruisers and race car fans can climb into an electric powered car for a race around the outside go-kart track. How fast can the cars go? Well, 10 cars are on the track simultaneously and can reach speeds up to 30 mph.

With eight hair-pin turns, the ride also has a covered pit lane, a viewing platform, floodlights and a timing system as cruisers head for the checkered flag. Let’s just say this experience is a seagoing version of Daytona or Indianapolis racing – or at least cruise guests can dream big.

Each driver will go around the two-level track for eight laps. Double seaters are available at specified times. The ride costs $9.95 per person.

New Entertainment

A new Broadway-style show, “Footloose,” based on the popular 1980s movie and featuring the music of Grammy-award-winning artist Kenny Loggins, awaits guests in the main theater. Having attended a performance, I have to say it was energetic, vibrant and highly professional.

Broadway show fans and those who love the movie, Footloose, will likely love it. By the time the show was over the crowd was whistling, cheering and immediately on their feet with applause.

Sets are fairly simple but the cast is robust -- at least 24 performers. The performer quality ranks up there with Jersey Boys, the Broadway show on Norwegian Bliss.  

Also debuting on Norwegian Joy is the new aerial acrobatics show, Elements, which celebrates the four elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Clients can expect a combination of magic, high-flying feats and music and dance.

As part of Norwegian’s specialty dining performances, Wine Lovers: The Musical, unfolds in the Social Comedy and Night Club. Guests 21 and older can taste a variety of wines at a lunch club-style experience while enjoying musical comedy about the joys of wine and love.

Within the Cavern Club, a tribute band to the Fab Four performs with three different performances that each represent a different era of Beatles music.

Expanded West Coast Presence

Norwegian Joy almost doubles Norwegian Cruise Line’s West Coast capacity. The ship will sail Alaska cruises from Seattle this summer.

Norwegian Joy’s first seven-day, roundtrip Alaska sailing from Seattle, WA, will depart May 4; calls include Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Strait Point and Skagway, AK, and Victoria, B.C.

Then the ship will reposition to Los Angeles for fall Mexican Riviera voyages, before heading to the Panama Canal and on to Miami for 2020 Caribbean sailings.

Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss are the largest cruise ships ever to home port on the West Coast. Norwegian is beefing up its West Coast capacity and Camille Olivere, senior vice president of sales discussed the strategy late last fall with travel advisors.

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