Great Cruise

Norwegian Joy Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America

Cruises: 2-3 cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 32

Overall rating:

4.4 out of 5
Norwegian Joy

12 Night Panama Canal Partial Transit (Miami Roundtrip)

Sail date: February 02, 2020

Ship: Norwegian Joy

Cabin type: Inside

Cabin number: 12647

Traveled as: Singles/Friends

Reviewed: 1 year ago

Review summary

Great cruise. I would definitely recommend this itinerary. The ship crew was fantastic and the evening entertainment was excellent. Embarkation process was a disaster, but disembarkation was flawless. I thought the food was great, though my parents said they've had better on previous cruises. I love that the length of the ship could be crossed on most floors, but the Poolside ship design was odd. Deck 8 Waterfront was my favorite place to go relax on the ship. Ship activities were a bit disappointing, but the go-karting was fun.


1 out of 5
Embarkation process was a disaster. We arrived at the terminal just before noon and only managed to get on the ship at around 3:30pm. We were waiting in line outside with a huge crowd for ages, and then when we finally made it past security, we had to wait another hour or so inside the terminal for our embarkation number to be called. We were told by some other passengers that this embarkation disaster was due to some security issues with previous passengers disembarking. Whatever the reason, Norwegian should have made announcements and improved the situation.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

5 out of 5
I thought the food was great. We didn't try the specialty restaurants, but the main dining rooms had great service and I always enjoyed the food. Buffet was always excellent as well. Our only critique is that the dining rooms never had any seafood on the menu. Manhattan dining room was ideal for getting in quickly for a meal during busier hours. Taste and Savor were smaller and lovely for meals later in the evening.

Onboard Activities

3 out of 5
The ship activities were fine overall, but nothing wow. There are only two pools (Haven pool doesn't count) on the ship. Most people don't actually bother swimming, so we never had any issues of overcrowding in the pool, but it feels ridiculous to have only two tiny pools for over 3000 passengers. Go-karting was fun and worth doing, though it is slightly expensive. Mini-put was fun as well. The Galaxy pavilion is impressive, but also slightly expensive. We tried the Jurassic Simulation and it was definitely NOT worth doing. The actual ship activities weren't impressive. The cruise director's staff were not the best at getting the passengers involved in their games, and there were not enough fun activities being scheduled on Deck 16 Poolside. Sometimes, there were hundreds of us by the poolside and only one 20 minute activity was scheduled out there for the whole day.


5 out of 5
Footloose was great. Elements was okay. Both are definitely worth seeing. Beatles shows, whether in the Cavern Club or the Joy Theater, were incredible and fun. I thought Po the Magician was awful and I definitely do not recommend his show. The acrobatic show (Dmitri and Catenya) was fun, though it could use a bit of polishing. Musicians performing during the day around the ship were good.

Service and Staff

5 out of 5
The staff was impeccable. They all seem happy to be working on the ship, always smiling and some singing. Waiters in the dining rooms were friendly and our room steward was fantastic, always greeting us by name and helping us with anything we needed.

Ship Quality

4 out of 5
Common areas were always well cleaned and maintained. No issues with that at all. Cruise staff were always insisting we wash out hands and were disinfecting everything everywhere all the time. Ship layout is fine, and I love that we can cross the length of the ship on almost every floor. My only issue is with the pool deck. I know this ship was initially created for an asian market and was refurbished for an american market. I think this shows mostly on Deck 16, where the ways things are placed is a bit odd, namely the pools and the staircases to Deck 17.

Cabin / Stateroom

5 out of 5
Room was great. We had a connecting room with the rest of the family, so that was fantastic. Our room steward always kept it clean. Size was fine. Bathroom was a great size.

Ship tip

Book excursions and entertainment in advance via the NCL website.

Ports of call

Miami, Florida

4 out of 5
Miami is always great. Tons to do, great weather. We were there on SuperBowl weekend, so the atmosphere was incredible. It's also a great departure spot for cruises.

Willemstad, Curacao

4 out of 5
Great stop. We booked a tour of the city a little bit outside the port for much cheaper than the cruise excursions, and cheaper than the ones offered right at the port. The Curacao Liqueur distillery is nice to visit. Fort Nassau has a lovely panoramic view.

Kralendijk, Bonaire

4 out of 5
We booked the snorkeling excursion with Norwegian, and it was fantastic. We were taken to the Sea Cow as soon as we walked off the ship. We were about 25 people on the boat and the crew explained everything to us and we headed towards Klein Bonaire. We were split into smaller groups, each with out own snorkeling guide, and went snorkeling in 2 different locations for about 30 minutes each time. We also had time to shop a bit in Kralendijk, though there isn't a ton of shopping to do within walking area of the boat.

Oranjestad, Aruba

5 out of 5
Probably one of of best stops on this cruise. Lots to do. We booked an excursion with viator before the cruise. We visited the Aloe Vera Factory, the Casibari rock formations, the Natural Bridge, the Bushiribana gold mill ruins and the California Lighthouse. Our tour driver also took us through different areas of the island to show us how different people lived. I loved how the island can go from desert area to beach paradise within just a few kilometers of driving.

Cartagena, Colombia

5 out of 5
Loved this stop, particularly it's history. We took the Norwegian "Ride to the Old Town with a Caribbean Taste" to travel from the ship to the Old Town via boat. It wasn't very expensive, and it helped us avoid traffic while enjoying a good view. In the Old Town, there is tons to see, from local shops to museums and dungeons. It's just gorgeous. The cruise terminal also had a fantastic free park with tons of flamingos, parrots, monkeys, etc. that is worth seeing.

Colon, Panama

2 out of 5
Colon itself it a very dangerous and poor city that should not be visited by foot (other than the port shops directly by the cruise terminal). I will, however, admit that I understand that is was necessary to stop at this port for everyone wanting to take an excursion elsewhere into Panama. I took the kayaking excursion with a stop at the Agua Clara Locks Observation Center, which I quite enjoyed, since it allowed me to see Panama beyond Colon.

Panama Canal (Cruise Into Canal)

5 out of 5
Full day crossing through the Agua Clara Locks. The Joy opened up some spaces around the ship so that passengers could have better views. Deck 8 Waterfront and the Observation Lounge were the best spots.

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

4 out of 5
We did the Caribbean Train, Eco-Cruise and Countryside excursion with Norwegian. It was enjoyable. We thought the train ride was okay, but were sitting on the right side, so we couldn't see much. The countryside drive through the banana fields was insightful, and our guide was very knowledgeable and loved his country. The ecocruise was the highlight, and we saw lots of animals in the trees. There wasn't much to do near the port, but there was a large market with lots of local artisans selling their wares.


5 out of 5
We had no issues and didn't wait at all.
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