Cruise notes: NCL Joy, July 2022

Beware: I didn’t get this cruise documented in a reasonable amount of time after sailing, so have lost some context, but still want to keep track of all sailings for key reminders and later reference.

We return to Norwegian Joy for a summer trip to Bermuda from New York City. This time, Kayla and I actually got off the ship and poked around for a while. Our triumphant return to NCL after just shy of two years and four months – and on the same ship – was also our first opportunity to experience Platinum Latitudes status after Norwegian’s adjustment to the program tiers.

It was a very reasonable cruise, but definitely not perfect, and certainly with some downgrades from pre-pandemic voyages. It was evident that supply chain issues and other logistics problems have impacted the availability of food, beverage and how Norwegian is able to staff the ships.

We also paid a premium for the date and destination, but the heat and humidity at this time of year were more intense than what we were looking for. With the exception of our 2018 Alaskan cruise, every other sailing we’ve taken has been in the winter or spring months, and in future I think we’ll keep cruising in the colder seasons or put Alaska back in contention.

First experience with NCL Air promotion

For this sailing, we were able to take advantage of the Norwegian airfare promotion when booking. While it’s gone through a variety of marketing changes since inception, we paid NCL’s rate for round-trip flights for the first traveller, and then the second person got their airfare for $0. For flights from Toronto (YYZ) to New York City (possibly landing at JFK, LGA or EWR), the total fare of $373.76CAD was extremely close to what we would have each paid for direct economy tickets if booking on our own. So, on the face of it, for this route and dates, Kayla’s airfare was indeed free.

There are a few reasons people choose to skip the NCL airfare, and I took them into consideration when booking this offer. I may write about this more at a different point, but the end result of this promotion for us, though, was 4/5: a set of non-stop flights I probably would have booked on our own (albeit not as a codeshare arrangement):

  • Delta ticket, WestJet plane; depart Toronto at 9:35am the day prior to sailing, arrive LGA 11:35am
  • Delta ticket, WestJet plane; depart LGA at noon on disembarkation day, arrive YYZ 1:42pm

So, with respect to the NCL Air promotion, we were off to a great start!

Pre-cruise in NYC

Despite the reported delays and heavy passenger traffic at Toronto Pearson in late June, we had no issues either getting through the airport or with the flight. The trip from LGA to drop off our bags at the hotel was in true New York style, where we were exceedingly glad we didn’t have to drive ourselves in the city. It’s like a constant game of chicken when changing lanes and dodging construction.

We dropped our bags off at our hotel of choice (Element New York Times Square West) which has suited us well in the past as a base for Manhattan-based activities. No early check-in was available, and the Marriott phone app didn’t notify me when the room was ready, but the staff were pleasant and the price seemed reasonable for going into a US holiday weekend. We had a few errands we wanted to run, so started our lengthy walk around town.

There were many disappointments that afternoon in terms of shopping. We spent our remaining daytime hours looking for things that might not have existed, were overpriced or just seemed uncommonly scarce in a well-populated area. We were both bemused by the lack of affordable flip-flops, even at what you might think is a staple retailer (Old Navy) and the general run-down nature of the drug and department stores.

I was briefly amused, though, at the beer promotion seen at our lunch spot.


We arrived at Manhattan Cruise Terminal slightly before 11am, though not before noticing that the NCL app was up to its usual morning-of-cruise tricks.

(With the minimal time we usually spend off the ship, I’d probably be fine with sailing to Default Itinerary Name.)

The line for security was not unpleasantly paced, and the split-off area for Platinum-and-up guests wasn’t evident until closer to the back of the terminal. A shorter priority line was to the side and fed into the longer general-population line. There was initial confusion between the line attendants and the check-in agent closest to us as to who should be picked from which line in sequence, but we were able to work our way through the process and proceed immediately onboard.

First day notes

I’d been waffling about whether to purchase Vibe passes for this sailing, based on our experience in March 2020 on the same ship. After sorting out some show bookings, we walked by the line located in Teppanyaki on Deck 6. It looked plausible that we could still get passes, despite not being some of the very first folks to board, and so I ended up committing to the experience. I don’t have exact timing, but we spent at least 30 minutes in line, and it seemed closer to an hour.

The key problem was that there was only one staff member running the process, part of which involved hand-writing a fresh carbon copy receipt including an abbreviated set of terms and conditions: mainly no refunds and it could be closed for bad weather. Then the staff member would switch over to a laptop, print and activate new keycards, and hand them over. A second attendant would have helped here to pre-qualify the line (“you want how many dollars for this pass?”) and they have to move away from the physical bill, or at least pre-print them.

(NCL began to pre-sell access to Vibe online later in the year, which we used with great success for our Breakaway cruise in November 2022.)

We ended up getting pass numbers 60 and 61 and were told that they were selling 100 passes for the sailing. Per various people I asked, we were at 3800 guests and 1600 crew, so around 100% double-occupancy capacity at the time but slightly light on the crew side.

After Vibe was secured and paid for ($249 US/person on this sailing), we hit up whichever of Savor/Taste was open for lunch and enjoyed some items from the slightly revised, slightly more cost-effective menu.


While often spoken in the same breath as Western Caribbean destinations, Bermuda is certainly much further afield and has a decisively different feel than those ports. The British, very colonial influence is everywhere – if there’s an option for something to be named after a Victoria or other regal figure, they’ve taken it.

On the first full day in Bermuda, we took the (complimentary) NCL ferry to St. George, where we walked the Beaches and Forts route. At the north end, we found Tobacco Bay beach crowded and $20 for a chair with no umbrella, or $25 for one with, so we kept walking and eventually ended up at the Alexandra Battery and Building Bay (aka Sea Glass) beach. A quick swim helped us cool off, then a lot more walking preceded our return to the ship.

On our second day, I took the public ferry into Hamilton, where again I spent most of my day walking around the city, visiting Victoria Park, Hamilton City Hall, and Fort Hamilton. My biggest regret here was not planning deliberately for food and drink to also coincide with the ferry schedule. I ended up back on the ship in the odd-time between 3:30 and 4:30pm where The Local is basically your complimentary food choice, and while I’m never one to turn down pub food, I wish I’d have picked a bar or restaurant in town to try.

I will say that the weather was more humid than I expected, although I don’t know where that expectation was grounded. I think in a way my experience in Bermuda was incomplete: if I returned, I’d look for a local tour to get a good overview of the island, and then perhaps pick one or two activities, with arranged transportation, plus a return to one of the quieter beaches on the east side of St. George to round things out.

The 2022 NCL experience

Many of my shorthand notes from this cruise focused on the changes from Joy in early 2020, as well as comparisons to the Celebrity Edge sailing that April. Certainly, one area that hadn’t been touched was entertainment – Footloose was of the same caliber I’d come to expect of the other Broadway-class shows on Norwegian ships (although writing this in 2024, NCL has certainly reduced these offerings.) These performances are absolutely as good, occasionally better, than their land-based equivalents. I’ve grown to appreciate the sound mix and precision of the performers.

Other areas where I was regularly satisfied-to-impressed were the ship maintenance and bar service. Painting, window-washing and cleaning were visible and constant. Even with the advantage of having Vibe access, the other bars I frequented (The Local, Mixx, Sugarcane) also had speedy service and upbeat staff.

Actual food quality remained comparable (what I would classify as good to great) to our previous experiences as well. While we did note the less expensive main dining lunch menu, the choices were perfectly satisfactory and more than suitable for what I’d expect from a mass-market cruise line. The buffet regularly included spaghetti bolognese, one of my favourites, so my palate was mollified on days where the lunch buffet was the best choice. Kayla did note she missed the previously offered fish sandwich in the main dining room, so it’s not all good news on this front.

We did notice some rough edges in other areas, though. While the food held up, the actual service of it did not from a timing perspective. Both dinner in the Manhattan Room and the Savor/Taste lunches had noticeable pauses between order and appetizer delivery, as well as between courses. Based on my observations I wouldn’t put this down to individual wait staff, as it happened multiple times in different venues, but more likely towards understaffing on the whole.

Let’s talk about the “difficulties with the supply chain”, though. Immediately after the first day, and well past the point where onboarded supplies from NYC should have been distributed to the appropriate venues, bars kept running out of certain types of drinks. Prosecco, a staple day drink of Kayla’s and mine (a key component of the NCL-sponsored Rebellious Fish, and, y’know, the mimosa), was extinct at all bars midway Day 2 – except for a stash that a Vibe bartender had squirreled away. (I assume the Haven-assigned bar staff also had similar hidey-holes, but then again perhaps Haven bars have a minimum spec for champagne.)

By Day 4, Kayla’s wine had been unpleasantly substituted at dinner with no acknowledgement of the change. The tipping point for me was on the late evening of Day 5 as we turned over into Day 6, where The Local actually ran out of vodka – except the vanilla-flavoured version. I certainly didn’t appreciate what a critical ingredient vodka is to most cruise cocktails, at first, but then realized that my spicy Caesar was not going to be possible to pull off with Absolut Vanilia. This applies for more than tomato/clam mixed drinks; that vanilla vodka was commanding and only works well when a chocolate-based drink is involved.

We did end up discussing the situation with some bar staff after the Great Prosecco Drought and learned that many alcohols were short-shipped. The figure we were given was that of an order of 200 cases of Jameson for the voyage, 12 cases were actually received. Again, you have to take the bartender’s knowledge of ship-wide procurement and logistics at face value, but on any of our previous cruises, we had never been so consistently faced with shortages.


Overall, our second voyage on Joy after an unpleasant two-year interlude – all things travel considered – went really well. It was clear that at this point, the days of limited or low capacity ships were over and Norwegian was back to “business as usual” as much as possible. Even with the Bermudan government shaking folks down for $40 apiece and ArriveCan still a requirement to return home, the ability to travel with progressively fewer restrictions was certainly welcome.

It was also an excellent, recent point of comparison against Edge, and for me reinforced that NCL does continue to have a quality product that suits our vacation needs well, even directly versus the allegedly more-premium tier Celebrity offering.