I was on the Joy from 10/27-11/8 to Panama Canal and Western Caribbean. 'Ive long grown tired of writing "traditional reviews" but like to share any random observations I made throughout the trip. There were 3000 people onboard (holds 3800) so that may color others experiences.
Disclaimer: This was my sixteenth cruise, and my 12th on NCL. I am an NCL Loyalist, but NOT a Cheerleader. The opinions below are mine and mine alone. As with any vacation, the "small negatives" tend to stick in our head, so I will point some of them out as well.
9732 was average size. The balcony was very nice though also a little odd; the balconies on deck 9 look directly over the extended balconies on Deck 8. The air in the room was irreparably broken for the first couple days of the trip which was a real negative as it was about 75-80 in the room despite the AC all the way down. After two trips by the maintenance team, it was fixed for the rest of the trip/
I thought storage was a little on the leaner side than previous ships but nothing that couldn't be handled.
Steward was fine; remembered our names immediately. We don't ask for much so didn't interact a lot besides hello and goodbye
We were blown away by the food at Q. I was expecting to be disappointed but instead we went twice!
La Cucina was fine; I really hate their new menu but I cant really control that
Teppanyaki was fine - friend said best filet steak he had ever had
Friends did Cagneys and enjoyed
Food Republic was food, interesting. Also: EMPTY! 8:00 PM 5 people eating and 10-15 staff standing around
Buffet was average. I was really perturbed there was never meat sauce at the pasta station. Never had trouble finding seats.
The Local had really good grilled cheese and tomato, spinach and artichoke dip, and spaghetti Bolognese. I had a little bit of a temper tantrum when I sat down at 9:10 and was informed they were on their Late Night menu. OSheehans never went late night until midnight. I found out after the Local is supposed to go there at 10.
Main Dining rooms were all good, with service time varying. Again, I miss old versions of the menu. The lasagna every night in the old days was 100% better than the "baked ziti" (awful) they have now. I will say, the food in the MDR seemed to be the biggest complaint heard around the ship
I did not do the racetrack, laser tag, or virtual reality. I just frankly didn't feel like paying for it. Others that did these activities seemed to enjoy them, though the laser tag completely broke by the last night
I love the pool deck on this ship; I know its a "mistake" the way it looks due to the China design but having the pool in the corner is great.
The tube slide was fun. I wouldn't go near the drop slide so cant comment; they were removing people from it in the middle pretty routinely.
The Observation Lounge is by far my favorite space on the ship. Quiet, great views, dozens of chairs and couches.
The Casino REALLY ticked me off the whole cruise, and I was onboard after booking with Casinos at Seas. They flat out just refused to lower the tables from $10 - $5 the entire trip, despite the fact that they were 100% empty 90% of the time. It is incredible how dismissive and idiotic casino staff can be, but of course it was all "corporate". Also frankly surprised how small it was considering how big it was when in China. LOVED the enclosed smoking room! Made the whole ship smell better.
The Social is the "club" on the ship. It was fairly busy each night.
One major complaint is the extremely poor use of party space. In 12 days, they used the huge, expansive pool deck for exactly one party. They hosted a few of them in the (small compared to the rest of the fleet) Spice. They actually threw several "main event" parties in Social.
Which kind of seems like a good time to comment on the activities and staff. Maybe its just that this is my 12th NCL cruise and the activities are repetitive, but there was SO LITTLE scheduled to do on this ship. The cruise director was absolutely phoning it in (Dan Dan) and he was rarely seen. When he did appears at a party he stayed 10 minutes and then ducked out. When parties did have a good attendance at Spice, even with a couple hundred dancing, they ended it and threw everyone out to head to Social. The parties really were just weird. They scheduled the Glow Party on a night where the clocks were being set forward an hour and there was a port the next morning. There were at least 5 of 12 nights with no appreciable "activity" late night besides dancing in the social. This isn't an isolated opinion; I heard again and again how for such a huge ship there was absolutely nothing "to do".
The DJs were awful, with isolated exceptions. The Glow Party was by far the busiest event and the DJ would play 20 seconds of a song, get everyone excited to dance to it then change the song. Repeatedly. People were literally stomping off the dance floor. The "Celebrity" DJ started out 3 different nights with the wobble and electric slide.
Footloose was good fun. Elements was not my thing at all (and wasn't on the Dawn years ago, either) I never saw the comedians. The magician (PC Lai) was very good.
Also wanted to comment briefly on the new Towel system. As many are aware, you don't get a towel in your room anymore. You must check them out on the pool deck. This is where it goes off the rails; they staff the counter with a guy with two clipboards with a couple dozen pieces of paper on them where they write down your name, room number, and how many towels. Ostensibly, if you don't check the towel back in you will receive a $25 fee. In reality, the guys had ZERO capability to work this system! By the end of the cruise they stopped even trying to find the entry where you checked out a towel; they just wrote a new entry at the bottom stating you returned two towels. It would be so simple to have a basic computer program to just swipe your card like everything else.
All that said - It was a perfectly nice relaxing 12 day cruise. Nothing awful, nothing special. Good time away with friends and met many new friends as well.
Happy to answer any questions!