Prepare yourself for the ultimate joy ride.
The Norwegian Joy took its inaugural sail on Friday, April 26, from the Port of Vancouver to the Port of Los Angeles, and I was lucky enough to partake in her first big weekend trip across the sea.
I had never been on a proper cruise before and did not know what to expect, but there were a few things right away to hint to me that I was going to like cruises. They were as follows:
- You can wear whatever you want (no dress codes on Norwegian Cruise Line!).
- You can literally DO whatever you want, at any point (there is always something open, and a lot of activities to choose from).
- So much food. So much alcohol.
- The cruise was taking me home while I was still on vacation (since it was sailing to Los Angeles, where I live).
However, there was a problem, and I knew immediately upon walking into my stateroom, a concierge suite, that this particular problem was going to be very difficult to overcome. You see, I loved my stateroom so much that the moment I walked into it, I thought, “Oh my god. I’m never going to leave this room.”
The Argument: Why Would I Leave This?
Why would I ever leave this room? First of all, it has a balcony, which already meets all of my needs (my only need is that I want to be looking at the ocean 24/7). But then, somehow, it gets better. The concierge suites feature an extremely comfy queen-sized bed and spacious, luxurious accommodations–the room is big. The walk-in closet is so large that it could double as an extra room, honestly. It also had a strange feature, that being an actually comfortable couch (most hotel room couches feel like rocks, sorry). I’m not leaving! You can’t make me!
Did I mention the balcony? I did? Great, let me talk about it some more. There is a balcony, and the balcony has a chair on it, and you can sit in the chair and look at the sea. I did this for a very, VERY long time, which is extremely understandable.
What I’m saying is that at this point, the stakes were going to have to be PRETTY high to get me to leave this room that had been sent to me straight from heaven. What the heck was going to be able to do this??
The Muster Drill was the first thing to pry me out of my room, as it was mandatory and my name would be called over the loudspeaker if I didn’t attend. So, that got me out of my room pretty quick. Those are very high stakes–perhaps the highest of stakes that would be presented to me.
I certainly didn’t want to get in trouble, at all, and I MOST DEFINITELY did not want my full name said out loud over the PA system of a whole ship. So, I went to the drill and learned about ship safety. And after I went to the drill, well, heck, I was already out of my stateroom, so I figured I might as well do some exploring. During this exploring, I found other things I liked (imagine that!).
Stakes: The highest possible.
Reason: Do not want name said over the PA system.
The District Brew House
Chances are that if something is called “The District,” I am going to like it, because in my own personal history of going to things that are called “The District,” those things usually have something to do with beer (I don’t know why!). This one, The District Brew House, is a gastropub.
The brewhouse features more than 50 different bottled beers. That’s right–50. Lord, that is a lot of beers. I almost cried because I was so happy about this. They also have 24 draft beers on tap (also almost cried–I have a problem!), and the atmosphere is the perfect combination of pub and, well… the sea (floor-to-ceiling windows bring the ocean inside of the bar, baby).
Another true treat of The District is that every evening at 9 pm, the featured entertainment is a man playing a keyboard, singing songs, and telling jokes (and also just straight up yelling at everyone). It’s called “Music and Humor with Jim Badger” and it both confused and enthralled me.
INSIDER TIPIf you are not paying attention, Jim will yell at you! Related: Jim yelled at me.
Stakes: Pretty high.
The Garden Cafe (and Other Food Establishments)
One of my favorite things in life, in general, is “eating whatever I want, exactly when I want it,” so when I found the ship’s buffet area–The Garden Cafe–I was delighted. Everything (and I mean everything) you can possibly want to eat is available (including American, French, Italian, Indian cuisines, and then some), at most hours of the day (and it changes, of course, depending on the time of day). The problem I have with most (all) restaurants is that I have to wait for my food, because, well, I came to this establishment because I was hungry, and when I get hungry, it happens quick and needs to be remedied five minutes ago. The Garden Cafe, therefore, was my personal white knight–my sweet savior of meals. I could waltz in there, spritz my little hands with hand sanitizer, and grab whatever the heck I want, and as much of it (or as little) as I want.
Now, as perfect in every way as the Garden Café is, there is a very wide variety of other food establishments on the Norwegian Joy. The other complimentary dining options are actually good and include two main dining rooms (with menus that change daily) and a bunch of casual cafes and grills.
As far as the specialty restaurants go, I went ahead and tried some of the crowd pleasers (the bangers, if you will) from each of them, including a shitake mushroom flatbread and lobster roll slider (both from the American Diner), a tuna tower and goat cheese and beet salad (both from Ocean Blue, an upscale seafood restaurant), and a crispy salmon roll from Food Republic (a Japanese Hibachi restaurant, where the food is cooked right in front of your face).
Stakes: Very high.
Reason: Sudden hunger!
The Gym Overlooking the Sea
A girl’s gotta exercise because a girl’s gotta be able to eat more chocolate mousse at the Garden Cafe (also this particular girl’s gotta keep her serotonin levels regular if you know what I’m saying! [What I’m saying is anxiety]).
Stakes: Extremely high
Reason: I already said this part.
The Joy Theater Presents: Footloose
As a former theater major and musical theater person turned serious investigative reporter, let me tell you something really quick: I love the theatre. And the Norwegian Joy has combined two of the best things in existence–’80s music and live theatre–with nightly performances of ’80s movie-turned-Broadway-musical Footloose. I happily left my heavenly cabin to watch a full performance of the musical Footloose, presented without an intermission (so the run time was only an hour and a half). The show itself is a revamped and reimagined production of Footloose: The Musical, and features all-new choreography, designs, and orchestrations. It is self-described as “sexier” (it is!) and grittier (it is this, also!).
Reason: Musical theater.
And Many Other Entertainment Options, Actually!
As exciting as it was to have Footloose on board, there are many other entertainment options available on the Joy, and all of them are legitimately entertaining. The Cavern Club features a Beatles tribute band with nightly performances that will transport you into the different eras of Beatlemania (each era has its own show!).
There’s a show for ’60s-era Beatles (“The Early Years”), the psychedelic times a la Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (“The Middle Years”), and lastly, what Norwegian has dubbed “the concert that never happened,” featuring songs from The White Album, never actually performed in concert by the Beatles (“The Later Years”).
Reason: This show is very good but it gets really packed and you have to show up early.
The Observation Lounge
The Observation Lounge is a swanky lounge providing you with the best views at sea. You’re at the very forward tip of the ship, and the floor-to-ceiling windows provide it so that you can feel as though you’re king-of-the-worlding it without ANY possibility of, you know, falling into the ocean. There are comfy chairs and loungers for you to sit (or better yet: lie down while propped up) and stare out into the sea. The views are picturesque, the lounge itself is stylish, and the mood is tranquil, as jazz plays faintly in the background.
Or, if you elect to lounge there at night, you can more easily get a place to sit or lie down–but that’s because it’s dark outside and you won’t be looking at the ocean–only a reflection of yourself.
Still, not the worst situation, let’s face it. I sat there with a glass of Prosecco and did what everyone else around me was doing (look at our phones–excellent Wi-Fi onboard, by the way). Honestly, the loungers are so large and comfortable, you might want to sleep there (you can’t, though, not allowed, sorry!).
INSIDER TIPEither get to the lounge early in the day or prepare to act as a (polite) vulture in the seats in other parts of the lounge. You will have to watch until one of them is vacated, and who knows when that might happen!
Stakes: Pretty high.
Reason: Pretty views + loungers.
Drinks and More Drinks
The Norwegian Joy has around 15 different bars onboard, which is so many bars. The variety of bars is quite impressive, and there is truly something for everyone. The Cellars is a dimly lit and very fancy wine bar. Sugarcane Mojito Bar is, well, a mojito bar, with a nightly band and dancing.
Just below that is Maltings, an elegant and very leathery whiskey bar (many, MANY leather chairs in this one). The A-List Bar is situated between Le Bistro (a fancy French restaurant) and Cagney’s (a fancy steakhouse), enabling you to truly be the center of attention while enjoying a handcrafted margarita.
Stakes: High, again!
Seeing this large chandelier thing is good enough reason for any person to want to leave their cabin. This large chandelier thing is larger than my apartment. This extensive chandelier can be viewed from multiple bars surrounding it (and as I have mentioned, the bars are ALSO worth leaving your cabin), and it changes colors–so chances are that every time you look at it, it will appear slightly different than it was previously.
Stakes: Medium. At least look at it once!
Reason: Pretty colors.
This Damn Pub Mix in a Little Carafe Glass
Look, there is nothing “special” about this pub mix–it’s the whole pub mix situation that makes it special. Every time you sit down, they bring you one of these, and I ate the whole thing every time. I could never fit my hand in there, but damn it, I didn’t care–I’d drink the pub mix. Don’t even think that I wouldn’t. I grew to love this loyal snack–I could always trust that it would be there, no matter what. And boy, do I love being able to trust that. I love a sure thing!
Stakes: I love this snack.
Reason: I love this snack.
Of course, I will leave my room for Starbucks. I am not a monster. I am who I am–a fabulous lady who prefers Starbucks coffee over any other coffee, and it’s available for me–all I have to do is walk down a hallway, take an elevator down a couple of floors, and there it is. I will leave my room for Starbucks. I will.
Stakes: The highest.
Reason: After all this eating and drinking, I need coffee (and water).