Text and images KRIZETTE CHU
It’s tragic to go on a cruise alone. So don’t.
Not even when you’re trying to find yourself.
Or trying to get away from it all.
Or trying to search for momentary hookups, which will be as finite as the waves that crash against the hull of your ship.
Take it from me—a cruise virgin who took on Norwegian Joy—one of the world’s most outrageously beautiful, ridiculously huge five-star vessels to ever cross the oceans—by my lonesome.
First, you’re not going to find yourself. There are places in the world where you are your own best company—say, a cozy little lodge in a spa resort.
In a huge cruise ship like Norwegian Joy, more than 1,000 feet long, your loneliness will trail you like a shadow. It’s a 3,900-passenger vessel, and you’re the only one stalking the corridors alone. (Who was it who said that nothing feels as lonely as being in a room full of people?) You’re going to find a shopping gallery, a casino, a Starbucks, a photo wall, an open bar— but not yourself.
Second, you’re not going to be able to get away from it all. Every corner holds a hidden surprise to keep its guests duly entertained from sunup to sundown—because that’s what cruises are all about.
You can just stay in your spacious, well-appointed cabin. But FOMO is real, and every night the staff leaves a catalog with a schedule of events for the next day—comedy bar shows, acoustic nights, live musicals—that to stay cooped up in your room means double punishment.
Third, many guests who go on cruises are coupled up, or in large groups. And you don’t have a wingman to help you ease into flawless intros. So looking for Mr. or Ms. Right (Now) is a no-go.
So take it from me—just don’t. Look for someone to take this crazy, wonderful Norwegian Joy ride with you.
If you’re hankering for a special adventure for the holidays, and if you’re a cruise newcomer, an expedition across the seas onboard a beautiful ship should be on top of your wish list.
This Oct. 6, the newly refitted ship Norwegian Joy will begin to sail from Vancouver, British Columbia to Los Angeles, and then for the fall season, sail from LA to the Panama Canal to Miami on Oct. 11, and begin sailing weeklong Mexican Riviera cruises from LA between Nov. 24 and Jan. 12, and sail a five-day Baja Mexico cruise from LA on Jan. 12.
Here are seven reasons why you should go on the newly renovated Norwegian Joy ship.
1. The ship just got a $50 million makeover
Some people go on cruises as a way to visit multiple destinations for cheap (you don’t need to rent hotel rooms, you don’t need to eat out as most cruises come with free food and entertainment)—but Norwegian Joy is a destination in itself.
Joy is the 15th cruise ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet, and was for two years dedicated to the Chinese market.
To update it for the American market, which has completely different requirements, NCL needed to completely change the layout and amenities of the ship. Aside from the carpets being completely new, the deck is devoid of the “garden” setting that once was the tai-chi and yoga park for the Asian market. It’s now a wide-open deck space for those who just want to lounge.
Tea rooms were replaced with pubs, cocktail lounges, and wooden-oaked BBQ restaurants and well designed main dining rooms.
Aside from Zumba sessions and a bar, there’s not much to do at the open deck. As for me and my lonesome, we enjoyed going up the deck as the ship regally passed under the iconic Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, a historic moment for the city, as the Joy is the largest ship to ever dock here.
2. This is the first ship in the world with a Go-Kart track
The Norwegian Joy was the first ship that debuted a Go Kart Track, a two-level race track at the top deck of the ship, designed for serious thrill seekers who love hairpin curves. Even when I only had myself to cheer for myself, I decided to go on this ride. It’s an experience not to be missed as you careen around the track with the vast ocean view before you, and the stinging wind on your face. The cars look like F1 racers, revving up at 30 mph for about eight laps. Waving at an imaginary friend for every time you round a curve is optional.
3. There are five complimentary dining venues and nine specialty restaurants
For a cruise newbie like me, realizing there were restaurants that were fully complimentary—free every time, all the time!—must’ve been akin to an explorer arriving on an island teeming with the fat of the land and the bounty of the ocean. Smorgasboard on board.
Because I was alone, you would often find me at The Local, the 24-hour café that served intercontinental fare and some finger food, not only when I was hungry, but when I was bored and needed to see people. But for some serious grub, hit the main dining rooms for a great selection. Fancy something fancier? The specialty restaurants on board can rival award-winning choices on land. There’s Cagney’s for steak, Q Texas BBQ for authentic down South cuisine, Ocean Blue for locally sourced seafood, a beautifully appointed Japanese restaurant called Teppanyaki, Le Bistro’s upscale French dining, and even a full service, sit-down Starbucks. The dining rooms were so romantic I shed a tear over my slab of tender sirloin steak.
4. Entertainment is top notch
Whether you’re lowbrow like me, who find absolute joy in politically incorrect, off-color jokes, or a sophisticated member of the culturati, or a music fan, you’re sure to find something to match your taste from their menu of entertainment offerings.
My most favorite activity in the entire ship was attending the standup comedy performances at The Social Comedy and Night Club, headlined, during the inaugural trip by the hilarious Rob Little. I was there every night (in fairness, the jokes changed every performance) foregoing many other events.
If you’re the theater-goer type, you’ll be wowed by the Tony Award-nominated musical Footloose, featuring the songs of Kenny Loggins and based on the movie of the same name—this is the first time the musical was played at sea.
NCL also has the aerial acrobatics show Elements, which features mesmerizing magic, high-flying feats.
As part of Norwegian’s specialty dining performances, Wine Lovers: The Musical, known as the world’s first wine-tasting musical production, provides the opportunity to taste a variety of wines at a lunch club-style experience while watching a comedy about the joys of wine and love. You can head over to The Cavern to enjoy a live band play Beatles music all night long. It’s a suit and pearls kind of crowd, so do bring a little black dress. The casino is an option too, if you want to try your luck at the tables.
5. Bring your kids, and leave them to fend for themselves at the Galaxy Pavilion
“Kids=cooped up inside a ship” may read like the start of a horror story, but you’ll be wrong to think that children are going to start climbing walls from being inside a ship all day. Claustrophobics have nothing to fear here. There are pools, as in any cruise ship, but the Gen Z and younger market will love the ship’s Galaxy Pavilion, a virtual reality playground, which is the first of its kind on any cruise ship.
There are more than 20 rides and arcade games at Deck 16. There’s hang gliding, shooting zombies, walking a plank (where you don a safety harness and headset, setting out on a plank one inch off the ground—but in the VR world elevating you to a world 80 stories above a street), and an interactive 3D wonder wall.
Separately, there’s a Laser Tag Arena that sits at the top of the ship which looks like a space station. You do need to find a group or be in a group to do a laser tag battle so guess which amenity I never had a chance to try. Don’t miss the expanded Aqua Park and the mini-golf course.
6. There’s a Haven inside the ship
A feature of Norwegian Cruise Lines ships is the Haven, which is the ship’s “ship-within-a-ship” area, featuring staterooms and all-suites. The cabins here have butler services, luxury toiletries, room service, and priority embarkation and disembarkation. At the Haven, I also spied a drool-worthy library, which is inaccessible to the lower deck people.
There are 91 accommodations with Haven privileges, both forwardand aft-facing suites, and has a pool with a retractable roof, perfect during chilly days.
7. Catch a breathtaking sunrise (or sunset).
And finally, the singular thing that made a solo trip on this ship worthwhile—the chance to have an unobstructed view of the sun rising from still waters. This, to me, was the highlight of the trip. Despite the biting cold of the early morning, it was a majestic experience to see bright reds, purples, and pinks shoot across the sky as the sun rose in the horizon. Of all the activities onboard the ship, this is by far the best one to do without a plus one—watching the colors change in the quiet of the morning, enjoying the deep meditative silence without the snoring of an exhausted partner splayed out on the bed, staring out into the distance trying to figure out your place in this vast world. In the breaking dawn, before the chaos and the noise and the fun, it’s just you and this magical, tranquil world.
You know what, forget everything I said. In this vast ship, as this regal behemoth glides in the vastness of the Pacific, you can get away from it all, you can find yourself in the stillness, and yes, you can find love—even if it’s just a passing gratitude for this unrivalled sunrise you’ll never get to see anywhere else in the world.