[ There are 25 photos in this post. Some of the text is in the form of captions. ]
FRIDAY 24 February – Embarkation and Departure
The rainy weather moved into the Long Beach area overnight but our Uber was able to pick us up under the canopy in front of the Staybridge Hotel near the Long Beach airport and drop us off at the Port of Los Angeles (also in Long Beach) under similar cover. We had an embarkation window of 11:30 to noon, and arrived just ahead of that time. We had received text messages yesterday changing our terminal, and had the Uber driver take us to the new location. Upon arrival at the terminal, we were a bit perplexed, as our ship was nowhere in sight. The terminal was also not what Nancy and Paul expected, based on previous experience with NCL, and not what we had been told to expect with respect to the Haven (ship within a ship) “experience” on the Joy.
Everything seemed “makeshift” and that, indeed, turned out to be the case. The Joy was at a different dock, but the high winds of the last few days had damaged the tents that had been set up to serve as the welcoming and processing center, so those operations had to be moved last minute to our present terminal. A separate waiting area had been created for guests in the Haven, but it wasn’t a comfortable lounge and we waited for quite a while before being escorted on a long walk to an area with several dozen motorcoaches were waiting to shuttle us to the ship. It turned out that NCL had been scrambling since yesterday to hire as many of these motorcoaches as they could find in the area.
Once our bus was full, we were then driven to where the ship was actually docked, and went through the actual embarkation process, which was not especially well organized.
We had been told we would have separate, priority access to the ship and be taken directly the Haven in time to have a relaxing lunch, but that didn’t happen, as the process of getting from the terminal onto the ship was quite lengthy, the Port of Los Angeles staff did not appear to know what they were doing, and some of the PoLA security people were actually a bit rude.
We eventually made it to our room, however, as did all of our luggage. Our bottle of champagne was there waiting for us, even though the ice had melted by now, but we were not in a festive enough mode to enjoy anyway, and decided to save it for some other occasion. While not the embarkation we expected, in the end, we were all in our stateroom in the Haven with all of our luggage, and were able to relax before going to dinner.
The ship was scheduled to depart at 4 PM and actually pulled out closer to 5 PM under heavy mist. Once out of the port, the Pacific Ocean had big swell, but the Joy handled it well.
The ship can accommodate up to 5,000 guests, but there we not that many on board this particular cruise. We had dinner in the Haven restaurant, a place we would visit frequently during the cruise and be one of the highlights of the ship for us.
Back in our suite, which was certainly the main highlight of the ship for us, we unpacked our luggage and set up our bedroom and on-suite bathroom. We also met our butler, Isidro, and our stateroom attendant, Harold. It was immediately obvious that we would be treated to a very high level of service on this cruise. As something we were not accustomed to, it that took us a few days to become comfortable with this. We eventually did, but we never took it for granted.
The following photos are a fairly complete tour of our stateroom:
SATURDAY 25 February – At Sea
We were at sea all night on the 24th, all day on the 25th, and overnight into the 26th headed south along the California coast and then along the Pacific coast of Baja California and Baja California Sur (south), Mexico.
The sea eventually settled down a bit, but the coast was often shrouded in haze and/or clouds. We were also far enough off shore that we couldn’t see land most of the time anyway. (My presumption was that we were probably in international waters so the ship could operate the onboard casino.) We took this time to familiarize ourselves with the ship, starting with the Haven.
The Haven is NCLs “ship within a ship” concept. On the Joy, it occupies the front portion of Decks 17, 18, and 19, the front part of 19 being an open roof deck area.
Deck 17 has a lounge with large windows across the entire front of the ship with a small buffet area that was stocked for a light breakfast or afternoon snack. Just aft of the lounge were staterooms (all with outside balconies). In the center was a small swimming pool, hot tub, and lounge chairs. The area above this was open all the way to a retractable glass ceiling above Deck 19. (We never saw the roof retracted.) The aft portion of Deck 17 was a small lounge, small bar, and the concierge desk. Behind the bar and concierge disk were the service elevators, which the concierge staff used to get us to the theater and to/from the embarkation deck.
The forward portion of Deck 18 consisted of the two “Owner’s Suites” (2-bedroom staterooms), one on the port side (that was ours) and one on the starboard side. In-between the two owner’s suites are the high ceiling of the front-center portion of the main lounge, with a library aft of it.
The remaining length of the port side, and about half of the starboard side, were staterooms, again all of them with outside balconies. The aft portion of Deck 18 was the Haven restaurant (starboard side) and kitchen (center portion).
Every stateroom in the Haven had butler service, and one of the perks of staying here is that you can have your meals (from the Haven restaurant) in your room. One of favorite perks of being in the Haven was that our butler brought coffee and breakfast baked goods every morning around 6:30 AM.
By sunrise, we had traveled far enough south to get to beautiful, clear weather and calmer seas. Since we would be at sea all day, we took the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the ship. We were also able to see the Baja California, Mexico coast at times.
Shipboard activities also opened up. Linda, Nancy and I (Bruce) booked a wine tasting while Paul booked a Single Malt Scotch tasting. The wine tasting was run by the wine director (head sommelier?) for the ship and featured red wines. It was unusual, but very well done, in that we tasted the wines in the reverse order from what is normally done, working from the sweetest to the driest, and pairing food items with each wine that were both appropriate and inappropriate. This approach allowed us to actually experience and start to understand why each type of wine is usually paired with certain foods.