Day & Night
There's lots to do day and night on Norwegian Joy, but expect to shell out extra for quite a bit of it. While activities like trivia, Ping-Pong competitions, silly games in the atrium, art auctions and fruit carving or towel folding demonstrations are free to attend, if you want to hop on the go-karts, play Bingo, shoot lasers in the laser tag arena, participate in a wine or whiskey tasting, or experience flying a "Star Wars" pod racer in virtual reality, you'll have to pay extra.
Daytime activities are scheduled every 30 to 45 minutes from midmorning through late afternoon. Watch for mention of the Escape the Big Top escape room experience. It requires reservations but is free to do. You'll be partnered with up to nine others to solve a series of riddles, as you compete against other teams to see who can escape first. (Clue: Patterns are important!)
You'll get the most bang for your buck at the Galaxy Pavilion, a virtual reality arcade. It's a lot of fun. For $29 you can spend 90 minutes flying on a hang glider, racing others in a "Star Wars" pod racer or race car, escaping from dinosaurs in a "Jurassic Park" jeep, walking the plank on another NCL ship or shooting at zombies in a 7D movie theater. There are several other included VR attractions, including a Formula One race car simulator, but you'll have to pay an extra $10 for that. If you're prone to motion sickness, be careful -- remember, you can always close your eyes during the "ride." If 90 minutes isn't enough, there's a $199 weekly unlimited pass as well.
There's more that's complimentary at night; you'll need reservations for the Broadway show "Footloose," but attending doesn't cost a dime. The other big theater product show is "Elements," a mesmerizing spectacle full of acrobatics, aerialists and illusionists.
Beyond the theater, you'll find comedy in the Social most nights (it converts into a disco later in the night), sing-along piano music in The District Brew House, country music in Q, Latin music and dancing in Sugarcane Mojito Bar and rock 'n' roll covers from the ship's house band in lounges around the ship.
A popular spot (we're talking standing room only) on the ship is The Cavern Club (Deck 8), a recreation of the famous Liverpool-based club where The Beatles got their start. The tribute band usually performs three to four nights out of the week: Each show is themed -- Early Years, Middle Years or Later Years.
Norwegian Joy has nearly 20 bars onboard, most with their own distinct feel and menu of specialty drinks. The ship also features the line's Cocktails on Tap program, which provides specialty cocktails created for select bars; the cocktails are mixed in bulk every few days and kept in kegs for easy pouring.
Mixx (Deck 6): Located in between the Taste and Savor main dining rooms, the square-shaped Mixx is the place to go to grab a pre-dinner drink, though it also gets busy starting around midafternoon. The only seating is at stools around the bar.
Maltings Whiskey Bar (Deck 6): Tucked away in a corner, just next to the Social, this comfy lounge specializes in whiskey drinks, with dozens of whiskeys, scotches and bourbons, plus cocktails. The cocktails on tap options at this bar are a blackberry bourbon smash and a rye & rum sour, but other cocktails can be made on demand.
Social Comedy & Night Club (Deck 6): A multipurpose spot, this lounge is used for a number of different events, from comedy club sessions to late night dancing. The extra-fee Wine Lovers: The Musical show is held here on select evenings as well.
Starbucks (Decks 6 and 15): This at-sea Starbucks offers most of the same drinks and pastries you'd find on land. The main location is on Deck 6 in the atrium. You can sit and sip at one of the tables inside or take your drink to go. There's another, smaller, Starbucks at the very front of the Observation Lounge, but the selection here is smaller.
The District Brew House (Deck 8): One of the most popular bars on the ship, the District is the place for beer-lovers, with more than 20 beers on tap and another 59 or so in bottles. Whether you like a good ale, porter or IPA, you'll find it here. The bar even has a beer cocktail (pumpkin-spiced Guinness), as well as two cocktail on tap options. At night, a piano player entertains the crowds with jokes and sing-alongs.
The Cellars (Deck 8): Wine aficionados pack this sizable venue from late afternoon through till closing. There are 110 labels on offer from all over the world, and you can try out a few during one of the venue's extra-fee wine tastings. While it's quite popular, it's generally a more low-key spot than most of the other bars onboard.
Sugarcane Mojito Bar (Deck 8): Anyone looking for a Latin flair on their cruise will want to head to Sugarcane. Not only does the bar offering a wide selection of mojitos but it also has an evening house band which tends to get people up and dancing. It's a lively spot and popular most nights. There's an outdoor bar area that's mostly open when the ship is in warm-weather destinations.
The Cavern Club (Deck 8): Designed to look like the legendary club that The Beatles got their start in, The Cavern is popular on the nights the in-house The Beatles tribute band plays. (Come early as the limited seats fill up fast!) The group does three shows: Early Years, Middle Years and Later Years. You'll find standard drinks here. There's an outdoor bar area that's mostly open when the ship is in warm-weather destinations.
A-List Bar (Deck 8): Named for Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Andy Stuart, this cocktail-only bar offers a small menu of drinks, including several gin (or vermouth) and tonic varieties -- apparently Stuart's drink of choice. The bar is located between Cagney's and Le Bistro; it gets surprisingly busy in the evening considering its out-of-the-way location. There are stools surrounding the square bar, but nowhere else to sit.
The Humidor Cigar Lounge (Deck 8): A traditional cigar lounge with leather sofas and armchairs, this bar is the only place onboard where you can light up a stogie. It's not easy to find; the entrance to the bar is from outside, on the Deck 8 promenade. (This prevents the smell of cigar and cigarette smoking from permeating any public areas.)
The Observation Lounge (Deck 15): The most spectacular space onboard Norwegian Joy is the massive Observation Lounge at the front of the ship. The entire space is lined with windows, but you'll find the most impressive views at the front, where 180-degree views let you see everything in front of the ship. The space maintains a serene atmosphere (it's an all-day quiet zone), with plenty of places to sit and read, play cards quietly or just gaze out at the ocean. You'll find a bar at the front of the lounge, along with a Starbucks outlet.
The two pools on Deck 16 are a bit perplexing; a comedian on our sailing joked that they were so small passengers were throwing in pennies and making wishes. On the other hand, there's plenty of space for sunbathing, with the bulk of the deck taken up by space for loungers. There is also space on Deck 17 overlooking the pool deck as well as further forward, outside of Vibe Beach Club. The main pool deck also has two hot tubs and there's another one outside of Vibe.
Additional lounge space can be found in the adults-only Spice H2O (Deck 19), along with a massive hot tub. For an extra-fee, you'll find more cushy loungers and a hot tub in Vibe Beach Club (Deck 17).
A third pool is located in The Haven Courtyard; it's also small but reserved exclusively for the use of The Haven suite passengers. One deck up is The Haven sun deck, with plenty of plush loungers and a selection of first-come, first-served cabanas.
Also on the main pool deck is the kids' aqua park with a variety of splash and climbing elements, and a tipping bucket. (Children must be potty-trained to use any of the pools or the water park.)
You'll find the entrance to two water slides on Deck 17. The Aqua Racer has riders zipping down the looping slide on one- or two-person inner tubes. The high-speed Ocean Loops slide is a free-fall affair that drops riders into two loops. Because the loops require riders to defy gravity and go up, you won't be permitted to wear anything that creates drag, including items like swim skirts and T-shirts.
Other active outdoor recreation can be found at the small mini-golf course on Deck 19 but more heart-poundingly at the laser tag arena and go-kart racetrack.
Themed around an abandoned space station, the laser tag arena is open during the day and well into the evening. Ten-minute sessions are held every half hour, and everyone signed up is divided into two groups to compete against each other. The cost is $9.95 and reservations are recommended. There are no age or height restrictions, participants simply need to be able to hold their own laser gun.
The two-level racetrack gives cruisers the chance to zip around a 755-foot-long track at up to 30 miles per hour. The cost is $15 for 10 laps, and it books up quickly so you'll want to reserve a spot as soon as you're onboard. There is no age limit, but you must be 4 feet or taller and weigh 300 pounds or less. Kids shorter than 4 feet can go as a passenger in a two-seater with a parent. (FYI, the go-kart viewing platform is located beneath the smoke stacks, and you will get soot falling on you if you stay there too long.)
Both the laser tag and go-karts offer $199 unlimited "play" packages.
The 22-treatment room Mandara Spa on Norwegian Joy offers a variety of body treatments (massages, wraps, scrubs, etc.), facials, medi-spa treatments (Botox, Dysport, dermal fillers, etc.), acupuncture, salon services (hair, nails, waxing, men's grooming), teeth whitening and more.
Prices are average for a cruise ship (meaning high for many people), with massages ranging from $159 to $239 and $129 to $185 for facials. (Price ranges are subject to change.) Hair and nail services range from $39 to more than $190.
Unique spa offering are treatments using a crystal quartz bed and have names like hot mineral body boost ($239) and poultice-powered muscle release ($249).
The spa's biggest shortcoming is its lack of a thermal suite or relaxation room. And the steam room and sauna that are located in each locker rooms are only open to those who book a signature treatment.
If you plan on purchasing multiple treatments, ask about the "book three, save 30 percent" package: book three signature treatments and you'll get 10 percent off the first, 20 percent off the second and 30 percent off the third.
Fitness buffs can stay in shape on Norwegian Joy with a full selection of Technogym machines, including ellipticals, recumbent bikes and treadmills, as well as resistance machines, exercise balls, kettle bells free weights up to 75 pounds and more. However, the space is small, and when classes are being offered, a section of the gym is roped off, making it even more cramped.
The only complimentary classes offered are a stretch class and Fab Abs session, both scheduled only in the mornings. The remaining classes are yoga ($12), spin ($20) and boot camp ($20). The yoga class is held at the front of the Observation Lounge, not in the gym.
A jogging track is on Deck 17; 7.5 times around equals a mile. In some places the track is quite narrow and located immediately next to rows of loungers, so it competes with passengers standing around loungers or simply making their way to the front or back of the ship.
Splash Academy is Norwegian Cruise Line's program for kids, aged 3 to 12 years. The program is divided into three sections, with each having its own space in the Deck 5 Splash Academy facility: Turtles (3- to 5-year-olds), Seals (6 to 9) and Dolphins (10 to 12). Each space is brightly colored and has an open floor plan; there are no windows, but some activities are held in other parts of the ship, including outside.
Age-appropriate activities include arts and crafts, treasure hunts, sports contests and other similar activities. Though kids do not need to be potty-trained to participate, youth counselors will not change diapers; parents will be called if a child in diapers needs to be changed.
Children aged 3 to 9 must be signed in and out by a parent or guardian; kids 10 to 12 can sign themselves in and out after a minimum of two hours with prior parental consent.
The program is open most of the day on sea days and select hours on port days. There is also an extra-fee program on port days that includes mealtime supervision ($6 per child) and extra-fee late night hours ($6 per hour, per child, plus $4 per hour, per additional sibling) every day of the cruise.
Norwegian Joy also offers Guppies play times for families with toddlers under 3 years old. Toys, including balls, blocks and interactive games, will be provided and at least one parent must be with the child at all times.
You'll find the Entourage teen club on Deck 16, inside of the Galaxy Pavilion. The space is small, with just three computers for video gaming, a large TV for watching movies and a handful of seats for hanging out. Teens will love it mostly for its proximity to all the virtual reality fun of the Galaxy Pavilion (which does cost extra!). Most teen programming is offered in the afternoon and evening, and might include free laser tag play, quizzes and late-night parties.