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Onboard the Norwegian Joy: Avoya’s Firsthand Review

Norwegian Cruise Line just made huge waves on the U.S. west coast with their newly refurbished mega ship, Norwegian Joy, which embarked on its inaugural U.S. sailing out of Los Angeles. Our editors had the opportunity to experience the inaugural and get a firsthand look at all the additions and changes to this Norwegian Breakaway Plus Class ship.

Check out our Youtube video for highlights of our experience onboard the inaugural Joy LA sailing...

Sailings are available now with itineraries to Alaska, Mexican Riviera, and Panama Canal so we’re giving you an inside look at everything that blew us away on our cruise onboard the Joy. We’ve included some tips that can go a long way to making your stay onboard this ship even more of a Joy! Read on to find out everything you need to know…

A view of the top deck on Norwegian Joy.

Refurbishment & Relocation

In 2017, Norwegian added Joy to the Breakaway Plus Class and designed her specifically for cruise passengers in the Chinese market. However, in 2018 it was announced that Norwegian Joy would move to North America (new itinerary details below) and undergo a $50 million renovation, taking most of her remodel inspiration from her sister ship, Norwegian Bliss.

Nearly identical to Norwegian Bliss, this vessel enhances the guest experience for North American passengers with a wide variety of restaurants, multiple themed bars, amazing entertainment and activities, and an expanded gym and spa area.

Related: Things We Loved on NCL Bliss that You Need to Try

An exterior shot of the Norwegian Joy ship.

You can now look forward to things like La Cucina Italian Restaurant, a go-kart race track, Q Texas Smokehouse, open-air laser tag course, and exclusive to the Joy, a virtual-reality arcade called the Galaxy Pavilion – just to name a few of the upgrades.

Take a closer look at what it’s like onboard:


The Joy did not disappoint. This cruise ship has something for everyone from delicious and plentiful dining options, to unique entertainment at sea, and luxurious cabin accommodations. If you haven’t already experienced the Norwegian difference, the Joy offers the best of freestyle cruising that lets you enjoy your vacation completely free of schedules and stipulations.

Dining and Bars

Wine, cocktails, and delicious dinners were abundant during our time onboard. Here’s the three places our team raved about the most…

A view of the Observation Lounge onboard Norwegian Joy that features panoramic aft views and lounge chairs.

Observation Lounge – A top bar for the Avoya team was this stunning and spacious lounge with comfy seating, unforgettable panoramic views, and live music that sets the tone of the friendly atmosphere. There is a Starbucks and a full bar in this area perfect for mingling and enjoying views of the ocean or nearby coast. We can only imagine how awesome the Observation Lounge views would be on a full-length sailing to Alaska or Mexico!

The Garden Café – This complimentary onboard buffet serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers a wide array of options. There is outdoor seating, but the floor-to-ceiling windows showed off great views from the large space of indoor seating as well. Enjoy your surroundings while feasting on your choice of pasta, Indian food, burgers, Asian food, paninis, and pretty much anything else you’re craving. Don’t forget to grab a drink from the bar and dessert.

The District Brewhouse – The perfect place to grab a beer from their selection of 50 different craft beers while munching on some finger food. Breathtaking views and live music make this spot a fun, lively atmosphere with good vibes all around. Many of our Avoya team members crowned this spot as their favorite onboard bar.

More Top Dining and Bar Tips:

  • Delicious steak and scallop pasta dinners coupled with red wine made the Manhattan Room one of the best complimentary options onboard for a sit-down dinner that is a bit more upscale than the Garden Café.
  • For late night bites, The Local Bar and Grill offers 24-hour dining and features comfort foods like burgers, chicken wings, and fish and chips.
  • For aficionados, try the Cellars Wine Bar or grab an Old-Fashioned and head to the Humidor Cigar Lounge.
  • La Cucina (Italian), Le Bistro (French), Q (Texas BBQ), and Teppanyaki (Japanese) were all specialty restaurants that impressed with high-quality servings and ambiance.

A view of Teppanyaki Restaurant onboard Norwegian Joy.

  • Cocktails to try while onboard: Mango Meltdown and Rebellious Fish.
  • Tip: Make reservations online before boarding or as quickly as you can when you get onboard for any specialty restaurants that you want to try. You can make reservations from the digital touch screens by the elevators.

A salmon dish at one of the main restaurants onboard Norwegian Joy.

  • Tip: If you plan on enjoying alcoholic beverages while onboard, consider a drink package deal. Drink costs can add up , so if you plan on indulging, a drink package will most likely save you money and provide peace of mind while you’re cruising.

Related: The Best Cruise Beverage Packages & Destination Drinks

Must Try Entertainment

From Broadway hits, live music, stand-up comedy acts, and epic games, you’ll find there’s an activity for family bonding, catching up with friends and meeting fellow cruisers. No matter where our team was onboard, it was clear to us that Norwegian Joy is not your average cruise ship. It was hard to pick our favorite entertainment spots, but if we had to choose, we highly recommend these…

A stage view of Footloose: The Musical onboard Norwegian Joy.

Footloose: The Musical – Prepare for incredible choreography, a talented cast and a revamped version of this Broadway hit. This was by far one of our favorite activities and we’re sure you’ll find it hard not to dance in your seat and sing along! You can also look forward to catching the most popular productions as Norwegian Joy changes shows every few months based on Broadway’s biggest and latest hits.

Galaxy Pavilion – We’ve truly never seen an arcade like this. This virtual world redefines the meaning of gaming – our favorite rides included Jurassic Escape, the Formula One racecar simulator, virtual rollercoaster, and Walk the Plank. Get ready to laugh and scream (we sure did) in this fully immersive gameplay area.

The Racetrack – Nothing but heart-pumping fun at this two-level racetrack – the largest at sea! Test your skills and speed up to 20 mph, all while catching stunning ocean views. Whether we were racing or cheering on our fellow team members, we found this activity to be one of the highlights of our trip.

A view of the race cars at the racetrack onboard Norwegian Joy.

More Top Entertainment Tips:

  • Some of our team members got to experience The Cavern Club, where they felt transported to Liverpool’s most famous club where the Beatles started off their big hit. Sing along to Beatles-mania hits like Yellow Submarine and Penny Lane covered by the band onboard.
  • For late night fun, we highly recommend checking out The Social Comedy and Night Club. You can expect an evening full of lots of laughs and dancing enjoy the hottest hits from top 40’s, Caribbean beats, hip-hop, and more.
  • For active group fun, get your family and friends together for a laser tag battle at the top deck, galactic-themed course. This is an open-air course that is open until 10pm for late night laser tag under the stars.
  • If weather permits, try the Ocean Loops waterslide that scales over the side of the ship.
  • Many of the onboard activities and shore excursions fill up quick, so it is best to reserve as soon as possible. You can book entertainment at any of the digital touch screens found throughout the ship.

Are you interested in booking a cruise onboard Norwegian Joy? If so check out the Free At Sea Exclusive deal where you can receive free airfare, beverage package, and shore excursion credit!

Must Stay Staterooms

When we weren’t out and about exploring, we found our staterooms to be very comfortable and truly a space to slip away and recharge. From plush pillows and sheets, incredible views and attentive staff, this is the type of vacation where you truly get to relax. Here are the staterooms we had the opportunity to experience, plus some tips for choosing the right stateroom for you…

An inside look at one of the Haven Suites onboard Norwegian Joy.

The Haven – A few of our team members were able to stay in the Haven and hands down recommend staying here. Nestled at the top of the ship with exclusive private access, these accommodations are a great option for families traveling with children who want separate bedrooms or anyone who enjoys indulging in luxurious amenities.

You can relish in 24-hour butler service, concierge service and enjoy more privacy with the private pool and sundeck exclusively appointed for Haven guests. If you happen to stay in the Haven, be sure to head over to the Horizon Lounge that boasts 180-degree views, perfect for taking amazing pictures or simply taking in captivating sites of glaciers in Alaska or romantic sunsets in Mexico.

Here's some more exclusive perks only specific to Haven guests…

  • Skip the lines and be personally escorted on and off the ship at the pier and at ports-of-call
  • Complimentary limousine service from pier to airport (for Garden Villa guests)
  • 24-hour trained and certified suite butler. From unpacking your suitcase to pouring your champagne our butlers are at your service
  • Concierge service for quicker booking of dining, entertainment, and shore excursions.
  • Priority when reserving restaurants and entertainment
  • Exclusive access to private pool, sundeck, hot tub, and fitness area
  • Distinctive platinum keycard

Balcony – Many of us stayed in the Balcony stateroom and found these accommodations to be very modern, spacious and clean. Aside from the proximity to activities, we really enjoyed the private balcony which offers a great space to soak in fresh ocean air and beautiful seascapes. We can only imagine what it would be like waking up to a new port of call with coffee in hand.

An interior view of a Balcony stateroom onboard Norwegian Joy.

More Top Stateroom Tips:

  • If you enjoy personalization, we suggest staying in the Concierge accommodations that offer 24/7 concierge service and you can be assisted with shore excursions, dinner reservations, special requests and customized experiences. These accommodations are exclusive to Norwegian Joy.
  • To be closer to activities, we recommend choosing accommodations closer to the front of the ship, however if you want to squeeze in extra steps, mid-ship and the aft are great options too
  • We can’t say it enough, if you can stay in the Haven, stay in the Haven!

More Norwegian Joy Tips

Here’s a few more insider tips for Joy from the Avoya team…

  • Ideal Ship for: Millennials seeking unique cultural experiences, multi-generational families who value onboard entertainment, and Baby Boomers seeking to visit bucket list destinations.
  • Best Viewing Areas: Observation Lounge and Waterfront

A view of the outdoor giant chess set onboard Norwegian Joy.

  • Most Luxurious Area: The Haven Suites
  • Best Cabin Location: If you want to be closer to the activities book towards the front of the ship
  • Los Angeles Port of Call (San Pedro): Try to ride share or avoid parking in the lot if you need to catch a quick flight upon returning. It can take up to an hour or two to get through customs and finally exit the parking lot depending on your disembarkation time.
  • Specialty Restaurants: We recommend trying at least one – they are worth the extra cost!
  • Pool Area is Different than Bliss: The pool area is a bit smaller than that on Joy’s sister ship, the Norwegian Bliss. Don’t worry, the epic waterslide and Kid’s Aqua Park area are still featured.
  • Freestyle Daily: Norwegian provides you a handy printed guide that shows the ships schedule of events, dining, entertainment, and itinerary information, and hours of operation of all the significant venues and services. The Freestyle Daily guide helped us plan out our fun!

2019 and 2020 Itineraries...

With all the cutting-edge features onboard the Joy, it is pretty much a floating city, but that does not take anything away from the amazing places it will regularly sail to. Here’s a little bit more about where the ship will be sailing in the next few years…

Alaska – Sail out of Seattle and further north to breathtaking cruise cities in the ‘Last Frontier’ such as Ketchikan, Juneau, and Victoria. The delicious Alaskan fresh caught fish is reason enough to cruise this stunning region of the world.

Landscape view of mountains in Alaska.

Mexican Riviera – From Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta. Snorkeling, first-class beaches, unbelievable Mexican cuisine, and margaritas – enough said.

A panoramic view of a beach in Mexico.

Panama Canal – Compelling ports like Cartagena, Huatulco, and Puerto Chiapas are unforgettable and so is crossing the 40-mile Panama Canal. Some call it a rite of passage. It will be a bucket-list item to check off the list!

A sunset view from Norwegian Joy.

Related: We Cruised Norwegian Bliss – Here’s 5 Tips…

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