Tale of Two Cities

Norwegian Joy Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 29

Overall rating:

4.1 out of 5
Verified Review
Norwegian Joy

16 Night Panama Canal (Miami To Los Angeles)

Sail date: February 14, 2020

Ship: Norwegian Joy

Cabin number: 13966

Traveled as: Singles/Friends

Reviewed: 1 year ago

Review summary

This is the 15th cruise taken and 6th with NCL. NEVER have I experience such a poor and disappointing embarkation/disembarkation. Two hours for each is unacceptable. The ship was short-staffed, I believe, in those two areas and in some nights of main dining. The number of passengers lead to experiencing long lines, wait times and no seats partially due to some of the venues where things were held. I don't feel NCL was prepared for the age of most cruisers. I would venture a guess the average age might have been 70-75. This would mean not a lot of partiers and late nighters. From what I observed the bars and Casino did not get a lot of attention. Most nights the Joy Theater was filled to capacity and if you weren't in line 60 minutes prior to the show, the likelihood of getting a good seat was questionable. Although the claim saving of seats is not allowed, there was no presence of any one to prevent it. In fairness virtually all cruise lines make the same claim and lack of enforcement. In the Cavern Club when the Beatles Revolution performed, people lined up 75 minutes before the later show. One night I experienced coming at 8:00 PM for a 9:00 PM show only to find there was not one seat left to sit. I attended an art auction. The art director commented when there was clearly not enough room in the venue for all people to sit, this was the second auction this had happened and it would give him more credibility to ask for a larger room. The atrium was inadequate for many of the live music events and demonstrations, etc. There were only 6 computer stations and they happened to be next to the atrium. So in the crowded times people used the computer stations for their atrium seating, which was disconcerting when I wanted to use the computer. The Observation Lounge was a hidden secret for about two days, then after that it was jammed packed. I did reach out to NCL directly and they replied very quickly and apologetically. They offered $150 OBC for my wife and me for a future cruise. That was appreciated.


1 out of 5
See final comment. Partly due to the corona virus scare and what they called a computer glitch it took well over 2 hours to get on to the ship. Part of that time, probably 30 minutes we stood in the sun. There was never any offer for water. Not a good way to start a cruise. It seemed like there was a lack of preparation for the number of passengers. Everyone was supposed to be on the ship by 2:00 PM. It was 2:10 when we finally got to the counter to check-in and the line was still out the door waiting. I suspect it was another 60 minutes before everyone got on board.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

5 out of 5
Specialty Dining was a highlight, especially Cagney's and Ocean Blue. Teppanyaki was fun but extremely loud so it was not conducive to engage in any conversation. Also the same for "Q" which had live Country-Western music while eating. If you're not a fan of that type of music there is no choice but to endure it. The BBQ was excellent. Garden Cafe was usually crowded, but if you were lucky to be where someone was leaving the wait wa not too long. We only ate breakfast there and it was what you would expect. The Observation Lounge offered another venue for light breakfasts and lunches.

Onboard Activities

3 out of 5
Fitness Center had a lot of equipment. However, no presence of a locker room or shower facility that I could find. In the evening there was no presence of any on staff. I would use the treadmill in the evenings and usually the place was empty.


4 out of 5
Very talented performers, however "Elements" fell flat from expectations.

Service and Staff

4 out of 5
We lucky after the second night to lock in with a waiter in the Taste Main Dining Room who provided excellent service knowing our requests and having the table prepared the following nights. Interestingly this waiter was to go home after his 9 months prior to this cruise, but was expected to stay on for two more cruises because of the shortage of waiters. Supposedly our last night was his his last night as well.

Ship Quality

3 out of 5
It didn't seem to have a lot of common areas for one to have some semblance of privacy. Deck 8 did offer some couches and depending on the side the sun was on provided limited seating. The card room and library is strictly a card room with tables and chairs with some books, but no where to read comfortably.

Cabin / Stateroom

5 out of 5
This is aft-facing which was great to experience the Panama Canal. It was a handicapped cabin with an extended balcony.

Ship tip

Be prepared to endure long lines and waits.

Ports of call

Cartagena, Colombia

4 out of 5
Old City and Fortress were interesting. Getting to the Fortress was a difficult walk. Listed as a Level 2 should definitely be a Level. Stood in the sun for approximately 20 minutes to get back on the ship. No offer of water of cold towels until the moment getting on the ship. This caused a cancellation of the remaining three shore excursions planned.

Panama Canal Transit

5 out of 5
No port just the awesome experience of going through the locks.

Mazatlan, Mexico

4 out of 5
Nice shopping area close to the ship. Made the trek to the Cathedral. It was worth seeing.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Did not visit port

Don't do tenders


1 out of 5
We were to get off the ship at 9:20 and it was 10:40 when our color Orange #2 was called. There was still Brown and Red to follow. The announcements indicated there was a delay with immigration and rather than wait in the warehouse where the luggage was stored it would be better to wait on the ship. That was helpful but the reality was when they did let people off the ship after such a long wait people ignored the color tags. That caused a major backup line once you got your bags. Ahead of us in line where many people with brown and red tags where they should have been behind us. No one was checking and I only saw two NCL people directing us where to go and line up in a haphazard line that meandered around and through other people getting their bags. One long line eventually broke off into 2 lines. We were told both lines were the same which was not true to come to find out. Naturally the line we settled in initially moved about the same as the other line. but evfentually it was clear we got in the wrong line. There was now another two or three NCL people present telling us to move forward, really? Anyway the line we were in we came to see also handled all the people who needed assistance with their luggage and handicapped people. That essentially made a third line. So 6 customs agents handled one line whereas 6 customs agents handled two lines. That is when there were 6 customs agents working. Some left for periods of time. NCL should have regulated this better. The comment short-staffed was made once again. We were in the warehouse nearly two hours before we got to the customs agent. That literally took one minute to eventually get outside to wait another 15-20 minutes for the bus to take us to the airport.
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