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Jim Zim's Norwegian Joy Cruise with Photos & Videos

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We recently returned from a 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise in The Haven on Norwegian Joy.  This cruise was a pretty big milestone for us!  It was our 50th cruise since we started cruising back in 1996.  It was our ninth cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line and our sixth time in The Haven.

 

 

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While Norwegian has been steadily raising the prices for The Haven over the last few years, this one was priced a little more reasonably.  It turns out that demand for cruises on Norwegian Joy had been a bit soft recently, so they had to keep pricing a little lower than on their other ships in order to encourage people to book it.

 

My wife and I had a fantastic Panama Canal cruise on Norwegian Bliss last year... but weren't able to afford a suite in The Haven.  Ever since then, I've been keeping an eye on the pricing for The Haven on Norwegian Bliss, looking for an opportunity to experience The Haven on that ship, but it's been tremendously expensive.  It was a delightful surprise to find much more reasonable prices in The Haven on her sister, Norwegian Joy.  At least, if you're willing to cruise during times of the year when demand is the lowest.  The total cost for this cruise in The Haven was $4794...  which seemed about right to me for a cruise in The Haven...  and one of the few times I've seen prices under $5000 for The Haven lately.

 

While cruise prices are always sky high for cruises over Christmas week and New Years week, if you're able to cruise in the weeks before Christmas, you'll find the prices to be among the lowest of the entire year.  Our cruise was from December 1st through the 8th.  And since this cruise began and ended in Los Angeles, we didn't have to fly to get to it.  LA is a four hour drive from our house.

 

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The Haven Courtyard

 

We stayed in a very nice suite that was located directly adjacent to The Haven Courtyard.  I loved being so close to the courtyard because it felt like we had our very own sunroom with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, loungers, and daybeds.  I could step out of my suite and take a quick look in the courtyard to see if it was empty before deciding if it was the right time to put on my swim suit and use the Jacuzzi.  It was literally a 15 second walk from our front door to the courtyard...  about a minute walk to The Haven restaurant...  a minute to get to The Haven Sun Deck...  30 seconds to get to The Haven Bar.  This was one of the greatest suite locations we've ever had in all of our cruises!

 

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This view only shows a portion of our suite

 

We really loved the color scheme they used in decorating the suite.  It was mostly warm earth tones such as brown, tan, and beige.  We're going to be using a similar color scheme in our dream house, which will begin construction in early 2020 in anticipation of our move to Washington state in the Fall of 2020.

 

Now I'd like to share a video I put together, which does a pretty good job of explaining something about our suite that was very different than on most of our previous cruises in The Haven:

 

 

To start the video playing, click the triangle in the middle of the video screen
 

Since we were on a Mexican Riviera cruise that visited Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan, the weather was quite warm once we got down in to that area.  Kellyn and I spent a lot of time at The Haven Sun Deck...  lounging around on the very comfortable loungers, or sitting in the Jacuzzi which looked out over the side of the ship.  I liked that the sun deck is for adults only.

 

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It's not uncommon for families to stay in The Haven...  in fact, there are suites specifically designed for families.  But children aren't allowed on the sun deck...  so they tend to use the pool in the courtyard during the day, and the adults gravitate up to the sun deck to be away from the commotion the kids make when they're in the courtyard pool.  Families have every right to enjoy their vacation in The Haven, just as do the people who are cruising without children.  But when families do take over the courtyard pool area, it gets quite noisy in the entire enclosed courtyard.  So, it's good to have that adults-only area out on the sun deck.  On a cold-weather cruise such as Alaska, I bet noisy kids might be more of an issue since adults wouldn't be able to just escape out to the sun deck.  But in that case, adults could move to the Haven's private observation lounge at the front of the ship, which tends to be a quiet place.

 

Another quiet place within The Haven is The Haven Library... which doesn't get much use, as far as I could tell.  It's fully enclosed... so it would be a fantastic place for a noisy group of Haven guests to have a Cocktail party or a loud card game.  I found this unique piece of art in The Haven Library to be interesting...

 

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I've stayed in The Haven on NCL six times now, on six different ships.  This was definitely the best Haven of them all!  The sun deck is twice the size of the one on Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Breakaway, and Norwegian Escape...  and features two Jacuzzis instead of just one.  Between the Jacuzzi in The Haven Courtyard and the two up here on the sun deck, there are three Jacuzzis for the exclusive use of Haven guests...  and that's a lot, since there aren't that many Haven guests!

 

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The enclosed Haven courtyard is fantastic for itineraries such as Alaska where the weather isn't as warm as it is in the Caribbean or on the Mexican Riviera.  That previous picture shows that in addition to all the seating on the lower level of the courtyard, there is also an upper level with additional chairs and loungers...  all with very thick, soft cushions.  That upper level gets used more on cold-weather cruises like Alaska more than it does in warmer locations.  Also, that overhead glass dome can be retracted on sunny, warm days to make the courtyard an outdoor venue instead of just an indoor one.

 

But even if you don't stay in The Haven, the Norwegian Joy is a really great ship!  All the rest of the photos of this page are of things available to ALL passengers on Norwegian Joy, not just the ones staying in The Haven.

 

One of the most unusual features on Norwegian Joy is a go-kart track...  something you wouldn't really expect to see on a cruise ship!

 

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Another really fun feature on Norwegian Joy is the free-fall waterslide.  You climb the tower, get in to a glass tube, and suddenly the floor drops out from under you and you free-fall.  It scares the heck out of you for a few seconds!

 

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But there's more to it than just that first scary drop!  There are curves and loops, and at one point  the tube even has you going upside down.

 

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Note that in that last picture, the direction of travel inside the waterslide is from left to right across the picture, and the woman is basically shooting upside down through that section of the tube.  The other thing that jumps out at me is that she is wearing a one-piece swimsuit.  That's actually not such a good idea on this type of waterslide.  You'd think that a one-piece suit like that would be the smart choice, because a bikini might tend to have a "wardrobe malfunction" on a ride involving so much speed.  But actually, the more fabric you wear in the waterslide, the more friction there is with the tube and the more likely you are to get stuck in it!  With a lot of friction from your swim suit, your speed inside the slide is slightly lower, and you might not have enough speed to make it over the hump of the tube that the woman in that last picture was approaching.  So, the skimpier the swim suit, the less likely you are to get stuck!  Girls should wear bikinis on this waterslide, and guys...  do not wear a t-shirt.  Too much friction!  Also, the more you weigh, the greater the speed you'll have during the free-fall, which will give you enough speed to get over "the hump".  The ones that tend to get stuck are usually the skinny ones, or wearing a lot of fabric.  In the following video, you can actually see a skinny girl get stuck in the ride...

 

 

I consider myself something of an expert about cruise ship water slides!  It's an aspect of cruising that I've always found fun, and when a video I made about a waterslide on a Carnival Cruise went viral and got 94 million views, it turned me in to something of a cruise ship waterslide fanatic!  In case you've never seen that viral waterslide video, here it is:

 

 

 

94 million views of that video is crazy, isn't it?  I doubt I'll ever replicate that, but I'll keep trying!  I do have a model train video that recently passed 65 million views, so I guess it's not out of the question to think that it might get in the 90 million range someday.  So far, eighteen of my YouTube videos have gotten at least a million views...  so I feel like I'm doing something right!

 

If you do like a few thrills during a cruise, you might also like the Virtual Reality Gaming area on Norwegian Joy, known as the Galaxy Pavilion...

 

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In that last photo, note that the big flat panel display isn't actually for the rider...  everything he sees is in the goggles.  I think that big display is so that family members watching during the ride can see what the riders see.  Also, when you're considering whether you want to spend your money to do the ride or not, the display helps you get an idea of what the ride is all about.

 

Of course, there's a lot more to Norwegian Joy than just thrilling stuff like go-karts, waterslides, and virtual reality gaming.  In fact, for the older passengers who probably couldn't give a hoot about any of that stuff, the Norwegian Joy is still a great choice.  There is a lot to love about this ship!  One of my favorite things is the big observation lounge that takes up the entire forward portion of deck 15.

 

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This is one of the most brilliant design ideas I've seen on a cruise ship in quite a long time.  They're not looking to make money from you here...  they're just giving you a place to be comfortable on the ship, with fantastic views, plenty of places to sit or stretch out, and no weather worries.  No matter what the weather is doing outside, it's always perfectly comfortable in the observation lounge!  The buffet is just one floor above, if you're hungry...  but there are also free snacks here in the lounge.  And on Norwegian Joy, they took it even one step further than they did on Norwegian Bliss.  Joy has a Starbucks in the observation lounge that Bliss doesn't have!

 

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Believe it or not, there are actually two Starbucks on Norwegian Joy!  Besides this one in the observation lounge, there is also a larger one on deck 6, near the atrium and the guest services area.

 

One other thing about the observation lounge...  it's huge!  There's much more to it than just the section at the very front of the ship, which you saw two pictures ago.  That's only about 1/5 of total space in the lounge!  It stretches from the front of the ship almost all the way to mid-ship, and on both the starboard and port sides.  It's tremendously bigger than anything like it on other cruise ships...  and they made it really comfortable by outfitting it with very plush furniture.  Here's a photo showing another part of it:

 

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The furniture was more comfortable than what I've got at home, and it's fantastic that the observation lounge is available to all passengers at all hours of the day or night, at no additional charge.  There's even a bar, for those who would like a drink while they relax.  And the views out the windows are fantastic!  They don't call it the observation lounge for nothing!  On a Mexican Riviera cruise, the ship travels in the busy shipping lane that runs along the Mexican coast...  where you'll not only see a lot of cruise ships, but also a lot of cargo ships that are traveling between the Panama Canal and California.

 

If you'd rather relax outdoors rather than indoors, a great place to do so is on the "waterfront" which runs along both sides of deck eight.  There are several outdoor bars, outdoor seating for several of the ship's specialty restaurants, and numerous places to just sit and relax and enjoy the views...

 

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A small thing that I like about the Waterfront on NCL ships is that they put these big binoculars along the railing, so that you can take a closer look at any interesting things that you might see.  And there's no charge to use them...  which is a refreshing change from the way that some cruise lines charge you extra for every little thing!

 

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Another considerate little thing that Norwegian Cruise Line does involves the carpet in the hallways outside of the cabins.  The carpet features fish that are all swimming in the same direction, and they're always swimming towards the front of the ship.  So, when you come out of your cabin, if you're trying to figure out which direction to go, you can use the fish in the carpet to help you figure out which direction takes you to the front of the ship and which takes you to the back.  Other cruise lines should do something like this!  It's such a simple thing, but so helpful.

 

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Another little detail you might overlook on a big ship like this is a small feature on the Waterfront, at the very back of the ship.  There are several parts of the deck that feature glass panels providing a view straight down to the waterline below.  If you've got any issues with heights, it can be a little intimidating to stand on the glass and look down!

 

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If you've sailed on other Norwegian ships, you're probably familiar with the adults-only outdoor area known as Spice H2O.  Horrible name, in my opinion...  but it's great that they made such a nice adult's-only area on the ship.  At night, they have big outdoor parties here...  but during the day it's usually a good place to stretch out and get some sun.

 

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The downside to this part of the ship is that there's a bar right next to it where smoking is allowed.  So, in those loungers you can see in the photo, not only are you downwind of all that cigarette smoke, but you here a lot of loud drunk people at the bar, too.

 

They did something really great at Spice H2O on Norwegian Joy that is hugely better than on other NCL ships such as Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Breakaway, and Norwegian Escape.  They put in a gigantic whirlpool tub...

 

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That might just be the biggest Jacuzzi I've ever seen on a cruise ship!  If I hadn't been staying in The Haven, which has three Jacuzzis itself, I suspect I probably would have spent a lot of time in this Jacuzzi!

 

One other thing I noticed on Norwegian Joy that I thought was a very thoughtful design was the amount of shade they offered out by the main pool at mid-ship.  Getting a sunburn on a cruise is a good way to ruin your vacation, and on some cruise ships it's very difficult to find shade out by the pool.  But on Norwegian Joy they had gone to the trouble of building in a lot of unobtrusive structures that provided shade...

 

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I've spent a lot of time talking about adults-only venues on Norwegian Joy, but kids will love this cruise ship, too.  If you've got kids cruising with you, they will love the children's water park...

 

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As a 62 year old guy traveling without kids or grandkids, I didn't spend a lot of time shooting pictures of the features of the ship that kids would be interested...  but if you've got kids and you like to cruise, Norwegian Joy would be an excellent choice of cruise ship.  There is LOTS for kids to do.

There was also a lot within the ship that I did not take the time to photograph.  Decks six, seven, and eight are full of restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues.  It's where you'll spend a lot of time at night.  I couldn't resist taking a photo of the big chandelier that hangs from the ceiling of deck eight and is a focal point of this area...

 

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The early versions of NCL's Breakaway-class ships had a big design mistake in this area.  The casino is located on deck 7, and the smoke from the casino would rise up through this open area by the chandelier...  making the smell of smoke quite noticeable on deck 8.  If you ever cruise on Norwegian Breakaway or Norwegian Getaway, you'll notice this when you walk through deck eight.  But NCL learned from that mistake and Norwegian Joy is designed much better!  Most of the casino is non-smoking, but there is an area of the casino where smoking is allowed...  which is fully enclosed in glass and has its own ventilation system...

 

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I like the specialty dining options on Norwegian Joy...  especially the Texas Smokehouse and the American Steakhouse.  That's my kind of food!  Sorry that I didn't get any photos of the food there...  it's just too dark in most of the restaurants to get a good quality photo, and I don't like to use the camera's flash because it might bother other guests in the restaurant.

 

One restaurant I was quite curious about is the American Diner.  It's located in the space that was occupied by Margaritaville during my cruises on several of the sister ships.  To give you an idea of the kind of food they serve at the American Diner, here's a menu...

 

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If you have any trouble reading the text in the menu,
click here to bring up a larger version of the photo

 

I got a kick out of the design of the tables at the American Diner.  There was artwork on the tabletops...  a photo of a collection of license plates.  The thing that put a smile on my face was that out of the eight license plates, two of them were from Washington state...  which is where we'll be moving in 2020.

 

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Internet Access

 

Internet access on Norwegian Joy was slower than I expected.  When I did a Panama Canal cruise on Norwegian Bliss, the Internet speeds were incredible.  I was hoping that Norwegian Joy had the same technology, whatever it was, that produced those impressive upload and download speeds on her sister, the Bliss.  But actually Norwegian Joy's Internet service was fairly slow.

 

Royal Caribbean and Princess have the best Internet access because they use O3B Networks, which uses a series of low-orbit satellites to provide Internet service.  Most other cruise lines, including Norwegian, use satellites that are in a higher orbit around the earth, which creates more latency in the signal, and slows down the feel of accessing the Internet.  I did some testing using Speedtest.net to objectively quantify the Internet service on Norwegian Joy, and here some of the results:

 

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You can tell from the ping test that Norwegian Breakaway was using a satellite in a high orbit around the earth.  On Royal Caribbean, using the O3B network, that ping number would be several hundred milliseconds faster.  Of course, if you were at home, using a cable modem, the ping number would be ridiculously small...  like 6 or 10.  That's one of the reasons that the Internet feels so responsive at home...  low latency, as measured by the ping time.

 

4 Mbps was about the fastest download speed I saw on Norwegian Joy, and 2 was a more typical number.  That pretty much sucks.  The upload speeds were about the same, as you can see in the chart.  I'm sure that someday, perhaps when Elon Musk's network of satellites is fully operational, we'll shake our head and laugh at these kinds of Internet speeds on cruise ships.  But for now, that's what we're getting on a lot of cruise ships.

 

Norovirus

 

About a week before our cruise on Norwegian Joy, I was surprised to find the ship making the news for a Norovirus outbreak that affected 127 passengers and six crew members.  And then the day we were going to get aboard, it made the news again for a smaller number of Norovirus cases...

 

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I didn't worry about it too much, because I know that when there's a Norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship, the crew takes extreme measures to stop the outbreak.  I figured by the time we got onboard, after two weeks of intense sanitation measures, it would probably be the cleanest cruise ship we had ever cruised on.  Indeed, during our cruise we saw a lot of disinfection activities and protective measures designed to prevent any further cases of Norovirus...  and by about the fifth day of the cruise there had been such a reduction in new cases that they were able to reduce the level of precautions they were taking.  Neither my wife or I came home sick from the cruise, nor did we hear of anyone onboard who had been sick during the cruise.  So, it sure seemed like they did a good job dealing with the outbreak.

 

Special measures to prevent the spread of illness were noticeable all over the ship.  In the buffet it was especially noticeable...  they didn't let you serve yourself at all.  You would tell a crew member what items you wanted, and they would place them on a dish and hand it to you.  But there were other things we noticed all over the ship.  In the Haven Library, all the books were removed!  In the public restrooms, the outer doors were propped open so that you wouldn't have to touch the door with your hands to enter the restroom.  We also saw the cabin stewards taking extreme measures to disinfect in the cabins.  They even wore a hazmat-type of protective suit to do certain cleaning procedures in the cabins.  I felt bad for all the extra work the crew had to do, but it worked...  and Norwegian Joy stayed out of the news the week we sailed on her.

 

Entertainment

 

The big musical onboard Norwegian Joy was "Footloose", based on the 1984 hit by Kenny Loggins.  People who were teenagers in 1984 are now in their 50s...  so that's a nearly perfect era for a cruise ship musical.

 

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I thought the show was OK, and I certainly enjoyed all the music from that era...  but at more than 90 minutes long, this show seemed about twice as long as it really needed to be!  Big theater shows are not really a strong suit for NCL.  If you're looking for the best big theater shows at sea, give Royal Caribbean a try.

 

There was a lot of other entertainment onboard Norwegian Joy besides the big production shows in the main theater.  They have some fun audience participation game shows in the atrium on deck six, and lots of music in numerous venues around the ship.

 

After 50 cruises, one thing really stood out for me on Norwegian Joy...  a country music band.  You don't see that very often on cruise ships.  They play in Q, the Texas Smokehouse specialty restaurant, and they call themselves "Top Shelf".

 

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Sorry about the purple lighting!  Cruise lines like to use unusual colored lighting for musical performances, to add some extra excitement.  It looks OK for the audience watching live, but it never looks very good in photographs of the band!

 

Another musical performance that tickled me was an Abba tribute performed by this duo (known as "Cryptic Duo") in the Cavern Club...

 

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The Ports Of Call

This was a 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise embarking from the Port of Los Angeles and visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas.

 

We actually made an unscheduled stop in Cabo San Lucas on our way to our first scheduled port of Puerto Vallarta.  A passenger onboard had some kind of medical emergency and needed to be evacuated to a hospital.  Mexico sent out a helicopter on the first sea day, but their helicopter was unable to successfully evacuate the passenger.  The US Coast Guard makes it look easy, but I guess it's not as easy for Mexico to make it happen.  So, the next day the ship made a detour to Cabo San Lucas to evacuate the passenger by tender.  While we were there, I took this shot of the famous arch there in Cabo San Lucas.

 

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After completing the medical evacuation of the passenger, Norwegian got back on course for our scheduled first destination of Puerto Vallarta.  I guess we had a lot of extra time in our travel schedule because it took them about two hours to complete the medical evacuation in Cabo, but we still managed to arrive on time in Puerto Vallarta the next day.

 

In Puerto Vallarta, we took one of my favorite cruise ship shore excursions.  It's called the "Las Caletas Hideaway" excursion, and we've done this same excursion on several previous visits to Puerto Vallarta.  It's such a fun day, that we pretty much do the same excursion on every visit to PV now.  Basically, it's a beach day at a private beach, including an open bar and a lunch.  To get to the beach at Las Caletas, you have to get on an excursion boat for about a one hour ride south.  The crew does a good job of entertaining you during that time, and they make it fun.  Upon arrival at Las Caletas Beach, you are free to roam around choose your favorite place to spend your time there.  There are hammocks, lots of loungers, remote isolated places where you can have privacy, or rows of chairs and loungers at several different little beaches.

 

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The whole time you are there, roaming bar servers will take drink orders and deliver your drinks right to you at no additional charge.  There are kayaks and stand-up paddle boards that you can use, and floatation devices for those that just want to swim or hang out in the warm water.

 

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About 50 feet off shore of the beach are several little floating wooden platforms with hammocks on them.  You can swim out to them and call one your own...

 

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They also have a whole bunch of macaws at Las Caletas, and they sometimes let them fly around.  My wife and I just totally love macaws...  we used to have one as a pet, years ago.  It is so cool to see them flying free above Las Caletas Beach.

 

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We spent several hours at the beach, enjoying the drinks they brought to us, and swimming in the warm ocean water.  It's one of my favorite ways to spend a vacation day!  After a few hours of that, lunch is served...  and they have things like barbecue chicken and ribs, plus a few Mexican items like taquitos.  And then, all too soon, it was time for the one hour boat ride back to our cruise ship.  I can't wait to come back to Las Caletas beach again during our next Mexican Riviera cruise!

 

The next day, Norwegian Joy was docked in Mazatlan.  Frankly, I don't find Mazatlan to be all that interesting...  so we decided to just stay onboard Norwegian Joy and enjoy a lazy, relaxing day in The Haven!  I spent some time in a Jacuzzi on the Haven Sun Deck, with a nice view of Mazatlan.  One of the things I always get a kick out of seeing near the dock in Mazatlan is the Pacifico Brewery, where they produce several types of beer for export to the United States.  At one of my favorite restaurants in my hometown in California, they have a big painting on one of their walls that is all about one of the beers they sell at the restaurant, imported from Mazatlan.

 

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While we're on the subject of Mazatlan...  it's always a little sad for me to see the air pollution there.  I work at a nuclear power plant in California, where we proudly generate electricity without producing any significant carbon emissions.  California environmental regulations are some of the strictest in the world, and that means that where I live we have amazing air quality.  So it's sad for me to visit Mazatlan and to see how the power plant there, which probably burns either coal or oil, creates tremendous air pollution.  This picture has not been doctored in any way...  it's what the air looks like there in Mazatlan.

 

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After a nice day relaxing in The Haven while the ship was docked in Mazatlan, we sailed north to our final port of call:  Cabo San Lucas, part two.

There is no dock in Cabo San Lucas that is capable of handling cruise ships, so all visiting cruise ships (and there are usually several of them!) position themselves just off shore and tender their passengers ashore.

 

I certainly expected to see other cruise ships in Cabo San Lucas...  but as I sat on my balcony that morning I was completely surprised and delighted by what cruise ship pulled up next to us!  It was the Carnival Panorama.  This was quite a surprise, as the Carnival Panorama is a brand new ship that just came over from the shipyard in Italy and hadn't even had her maiden voyage with paying passengers yet!  There were only crew members and a few Carnival big wigs onboard.  Notice in the following picture that there isn't even one passenger out on the balconies!

 

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My wife and I have a cruise scheduled on Carnival Panorama in January, since we do like to sail on brand new ships, but we generally like to wait a month or more for them to work all the kinks out.  It was a real treat to see her, quite unexpectedly, in Cabo that day!  While she was there, someone came aboard via tender.  I don't know if it was local dignitaries welcoming the brand new ship, or what.  She also launched a lifeboat as a training exercise.

 

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Carnival Panorama only stayed in Cabo for about two hours, and then headed north to her new home port of Long Beach for her official naming ceremony and maiden voyage.

 

We had originally planned to take a tender in to Cabo and have lunch at "The Office"...  a fantastic little restaurant on Medano Beach that has delicious Mexican food.  With no decent Mexican restaurant onboard Norwegian Joy, going ashore for Mexican food sounded great to us when we planned our cruise.  But upon arrival in Cabo, we were feeling quite lazy!  We had such a nice day the day before, staying aboard and just enjoying the amenities of The Haven, that we decided to do it again on this day in Cabo.  Perhaps on our next Mexican Riviera cruise, on Carnival Panorama in January, we'll make it to The Office for lunch.

 

 

Downloads

 

Here are links to a couple of pdf files that I think you would find useful:

 

Norwegian Joy Deck Plans

All 7 Norwegian Joy "Freestyle Daily" Newsletters

List of all the shore excursions offered  (including prices)

Disembarkation Information

A Map Of Las Caletas Beach in Puerto Vallarta

 

 

 

Room For Improvement

 

We had a really good cruise on Norwegian Joy...  in fact, it was one of the most enjoyable cruises we've ever been on.  I love the design of the ship, and I think that Norwegian does a pretty good job of running things.  These days, we consider NCL our cruise line of choice, and Norwegian Joy and her sister ships are clearly the best ships in their fleet.

 

But with all that said, there is always room for improvement!  No cruise line gets everything right.  So here are a few things that I think could have been better on our cruise...

 

  • The Cruise Director was from Italy and spoke with a very thick Italian accent.  I would expect that on MSC or Costa...  but not on NCL.  In fact, in my nine cruises with NCL, I've only had one really great Cruise Director and quite a few really bad ones.  Whoever hires the Cruise Directors for NCL needs to pick much more qualified people...  and especially people with excellent speaking skills, with no trace of an accent.  After all, the vast majority of NCL passengers are Americans.
  • Embarkation at the Port Of Los Angeles was a complete and total mess.  Prior to embarkation, I received conflicting information about what time embarkation actually started.  I arrived at the port to find a line that took people about two hours to get through in order to board the ship.  That part was mostly not NCL's fault...  the Port Of Los Angeles has failed to modernize their cruise ship terminals and they are completely unable to handle the number of passengers on today's mega cruise ships.  Other ports, such as Long Beach, Miami, and Ft Lauderdale have amazing cruise terminals that can get you onboard in 15-20 minutes.  The facility at the Port Of Los Angeles is dysfunctional.  But NCL employees were also disorganized during certain aspects of the embarkation.  Three different NCL employees told me that there was no special line for Haven guests at embarkation and that I need to wait in the massive line outside of the terminal.  Finally, a more senior NCL employee came along and took me to the special Haven security line when she found out I was a Haven guest...  and this probably saved me two hours of waiting in line outside the terminal.
  • The Musical, "Footloose", at over 90 minutes long, was about twice as long as it really needed to be.
  • The gigantic balcony on my suite was so large, it could have easily fit several loungers or a daybed...  but NCL didn't bother doing this.  That was a missed opportunity to "wow" your Haven guests.  At a minimum, put two loungers out on that big balcony, not those two regular chairs.
  • Internet access was bad compared to the state-of-the-art on cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Princess that use the O3B network of satellites.
  • There are eight specialty restaurants onboard plus six complimentary dining venues...  yet not one restaurant serving Mexican food, other than the buffet.  NCL must not realize how popular Mexican food is with Americans.  I love what they've done with Q, the Texas smokehouse.  Whoever thought of that was a genius.  But the ship really needs a restaurant for casual Mexican food.

 

So, that's it!  Or as the Brits say, "Bob's your uncle".  That's the story of our cruise on Norwegian Joy...  one of the best cruises we've been on, and we've been on 50 cruises!  If you have some time to kill and you'd like to read some of my reviews of other cruises we've been on, head on over to my web site at JimZim.net

 

I'd love to hear your comments about what I've posted here today, so now it's your turn...

 

 

Norwegian Joy - 153 - GOPR3577.JPG

Norwegian Joy - 153 - GOPR3577.JPG

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Great review as usual Jim.  You could have requested loungers on the balcony the first day.  We've done that before.  But I agree with that size, they should have come standard.

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What time did embarkation begin?  How were you able to find the NCL employee that knew about the Haven line? Nice review and pics, as usual.

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Thank you for taking us on a virtual cruise with you.

I agree with your choice of Las Caletas in PV and The Office in Cabo. It bought back great memories of when we visited.

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What a fantastic review!  I've wondered what Joy is like especially after the $50MM refurbishment upon leaving China.

Those chairs and sofa look so comfortable and I loved seeing your photo of the huge jacuzzi in Spice H20.  We'll be on Encore next month and lack of that venue will be noticeable especially for adults like us with no kids.

 

I am also going on Gem Panama Canal and both PV and Cabo are among our stops.  Unlike your cruise, our Cabo shorex includes whale watching and sea lion watching (by zodiacs or more comfortable boat) so NCL seems to do a good job of coordinating those with the humpback whale season.  However, for Cabo there is no mention of Las Caletas.  Maybe they will add it in the next couple of weeks.  You really brought it to life.

 

We've only had one CD of Italian origin - Geo - Jade in Europe.  He spoke quite a few European languages so fit in well.  Not sure who your CD was but maybe not the right match for your itinerary and demographic, like you say.

 

You've whet my appetite and I will definitely visit your site to see your reviews.  Congrats on your videos getting so many hits!  I couldn't go on that power tube thing to save my life and might need bonine just to watch your video.😨 

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1 hour ago, rockfsh said:

What time did embarkation begin?  How were you able to find the NCL employee that knew about the Haven line? Nice review and pics, as usual.

 

There's a longer answer to that question than you might imagine there would be!

 

There was conflicting information from NCL about time boarding was supposed to begin.  My cruise docs said 11 AM, but then I got a text message from NCL that told me not to arrive until 1 PM.  I assumed that this had something to do with the Norovirus outbreak on the previous cruise.  I figured they were going to do some huge disinfecting of the ship and that they had decided to delay boarding until 1 PM so that they could get it done...  thus the text message.  And because they very clearly told me not to arrive until 1 PM, I figured it would be stupid to arrive at 11 AM because I would just end up standing around for two hours before they even began boarding.  So, we arrived a little after 1 PM.  Very bad mistake on my part!!!  That is the last time I will ever believe a text message about delayed boarding from a cruise line.  Carnival does the same thing...  they start their boarding at 11 AM but they send you a communication shortly before the cruise telling you not to show up until 1 PM.  They do it to try to spread the crowd out a bit, so that not everyone arrives at 11 AM.  You'd think I would have recognized that NCL was doing the exact same thing to me when they sent me the text, but I made the mistake of assuming that this time it was different, because of the Norovirus outbreak the week before.

 

Anyway, from what I could tell from talking to other people on the ship, boarding began at 11 AM.

Regarding how I found that one NCL employee that understood that Haven guests didn't need to stand in that long line for security...
I just got lucky!  When three different NCL employees told me that Haven passengers needed to be in that huge long line, I believed them.  So, we stood in the line for about 15 minutes.  At that point, our place in the line was right near the spot where Haven passengers were being let in to a special bypass.  I saw someone get taken through the bypass and heard them say they were Haven passengers...  and I made note of who the employee was that let them through.  Once that employee came back, I let them know that we were Haven passengers, too.

 

I was really lucky to see that when I did, because if another ten minutes had passed, the line would have advanced enough that I would no longer have been able to see the bypass and I would have been stuck in that line for at least another hour more.

I really wish that the folks at NCL would communicate to every one of their employees at the Port Of Los Angeles and educate them on the proper boarding process for Haven passengers.  It's frustrating that three different employees didn't understand the process.

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2 hours ago, snorklinbarb said:

What a fantastic review!  I've wondered what Joy is like especially after the $50MM refurbishment upon leaving China.

Those chairs and sofa look so comfortable and I loved seeing your photo of the huge jacuzzi in Spice H20.  We'll be on Encore next month and lack of that venue will be noticeable especially for adults like us with no kids.

 

I am also going on Gem Panama Canal and both PV and Cabo are among our stops.  Unlike your cruise, our Cabo shorex includes whale watching and sea lion watching (by zodiacs or more comfortable boat) so NCL seems to do a good job of coordinating those with the humpback whale season.  However, for Cabo there is no mention of Las Caletas.  Maybe they will add it in the next couple of weeks.  You really brought it to life.

 

We've only had one CD of Italian origin - Geo - Jade in Europe.  He spoke quite a few European languages so fit in well.  Not sure who your CD was but maybe not the right match for your itinerary and demographic, like you say.

 

You've whet my appetite and I will definitely visit your site to see your reviews.  Congrats on your videos getting so many hits!  I couldn't go on that power tube thing to save my life and might need bonine just to watch your video.😨 

Barb,

The Las Caletas excursion is from Puerto Vallata.

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Another great review!  I am a lurker!   We booked the private house in Cozumel a couple of weeks ago after watching your video 😍.  Your you tube videos even got me to book the carnival vista and now we just got off the horizon.  Love the Havana area!  
We sail the Epic in a couple weeks and really wanted the Haven but it was 4000. Over the 4000. We already paid. Not worth it to me.  Your deal on the Joy was amazing and I would have paid that in a heart beat.

Thank you for all of your advise!  Panorama is on my list but I love NCL and Celebrity also!  Oh what shall I do 🤷‍♀️

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Thank you, nicely done.  It's been 10 years since we sailed the Mexico Rivera (Norwegian Star then) ... I don't think DW wanted to fly west just to catch the refurbished Joy.  But, she's coming our way on the East in 2021 - should be on our bucket list.  

 

Arzeena ... I trust RJ and you are going to pencil this in the calendar, at some point 👴

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1 hour ago, Arzeena said:

Barb,

The Las Caletas excursion is from Puerto Vallata.

Mistake on my part.  You are right and I meant PV as I already have whale watching in Cabo booked.

Have the shorex plus the extra shorex credit so booking through the ship.

 

Nice to see your name here and hope we can cruise together sometime again!

 

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Jim, thanks for the great review. we are sailing the Joy in April from LA - will look for the Haven bypass

 

Los Lobos (casual Mexican) is on the Bliss, Dawn & Encore

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Great review! We’re traveling spring break on the joy and your review was just what I needed!  We unfortunately don’t have a Haven suite to get priority boarding.  Question....at LA port Do you know if there is a separate line for handicap boarding? DH uses a walker and I’m concerned about long standing wait times.  Any info you might have seen while waiting would be helpful!

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Fantastic review of the Joy!  Thanks for sharing your cruise with us!  We almost booked the Joy for Alaska 2020, but went with the Bliss because of the thermal suite.  

 

BTW, my 3 year old grandson watches your train videos every day!  You've got fans old and young!  

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7 hours ago, parmus said:

Great review! We’re traveling spring break on the joy and your review was just what I needed!  We unfortunately don’t have a Haven suite to get priority boarding.  Question....at LA port Do you know if there is a separate line for handicap boarding? DH uses a walker and I’m concerned about long standing wait times.  Any info you might have seen while waiting would be helpful!

 

I don't think there is.  I think your best strategy will be to talk to the first NCL employee you see and ask if they could bring out a wheelchair for him while he waits in line.

 

Actually, the best strategy might be to arrive there about 10:45 AM, before there's much of a line.

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Hi Jim! We are millennial cruisers out of Arizona and subscribers to your YouTube channel. 

 

Thanks for the information on the Joy! We have never cruised Haven, and have not had much interest in the BA+ class after Escape, but may consider the Haven at the price point you mention. That would be worth it in my opinion. 

 

If you have time to answer, what is your next cruise? We will be following along on YouTube regardless. Thank you for all you do!

Edited by willsears94
grammar

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Great review!  Thanks!

We are on this cruise this March and staying in an Aft Haven.  Very excited to hear that the Haven sun deck is bigger on the Joy than on the Escape.  We expect to spend a good amount of time up there.🌞

 

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Thank you for the great review.  We are sailing on the Joy to Alaska in July.  Hoping the embarkment process is better in Seattle than in Los Angeles.

 

We opted for 2 connecting, balcony cabins mid ship vs a Haven suite.  I have been on 12 cruises and the 2 times I got sick was in forward rooms.  I avoid them now.  Wish there were a few mid ship Haven cabins.

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Outstanding review, looking forward to our March 1st sailing!

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3 hours ago, willsears94 said:

If you have time to answer, what is your next cruise? We will be following along on YouTube regardless. Thank you for all you do!

 

We'll be on Carnival Panorama in January, in a Havana Suite.  Same ports of call as the cruise on the Joy, but Carnival spent millions on upgrading their terminal in Long Beach...  so the boarding process should be a lot smoother!  I'm looking forward to Guy's Burger Joint and the Pig & Anchor for a week...  and never having to make a reservation for a show.  Oh, and the huge shower in the Havana Suite!  There should be some videos on my YouTube channel by the end of January, and if you're in the "Jim Zim On YouTube" Facebook group, there will be occasional real-time updates during the cruise.

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2 hours ago, disneylover89 said:

Thank you for the great review.  We are sailing on the Joy to Alaska in July.  Hoping the embarkment process is better in Seattle than in Los Angeles.

 

We opted for 2 connecting, balcony cabins mid ship vs a Haven suite.  I have been on 12 cruises and the 2 times I got sick was in forward rooms.  I avoid them now.  Wish there were a few mid ship Haven cabins.

Have you looked at the location of the Haven Spa Suites? They are often midship and I found the movement in them to be much less than in the Haven itself.

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