I had no idea I would be so pampered in luxury on the revitalized Norwegian Joy during her inaugural sailing to Ensenada, Mexico. Once I presented my passport upon check in, I received a private key card to the Penthouse in The Haven Courtyard. This new, spacious and beautifully appointed concierge enclave offers the most luxurious and well-appointed accommodations.

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Tapping my card near the entrance on deck 17, the glass door opened to allow me into this exclusive area. A certified butler greeted me and led me to my spacious stateroom cabin 13108. The Haven offers a private bar/lounge, pool, sundeck, whirlpool, library, dining room and 180-degree glass observation lounge.

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My stateroom is modified for the handicap combining a bedroom and living area with a couch. This can be pulled out into a sofa bed for one or two guests. There is a small dining and sitting area, and full size soaking bathtub and large shower in the bathroom. Sliding the glass door open to an extra large balcony with two chairs and a table, reveals an ideal spot to watch a sunrise with a cup of coffee or sunset with a glass of wine.

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One could just stay in this exclusive area of the ship during the duration of the cruise, yet for those looking for variety in cuisine, there are three main dining rooms, a help-yourself buffet and eight specialty restaurants on board that include a fun American Diner, Japanese Teppanyaki, Texas Barbecue, Italian La Cucina and Le Bistro showcasing food from around the world.

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I was invited to a “Taste of Joy” lunch in The Manhattan Room, one of the three complimentary dining rooms on the JOY. The chef’s presented signature dishes prepared at five of the speciality restaurants – American Diner, Q Texas Smokehouse, Food Republic, Ocean Blue, and Cagney’s Steakhouse.

Each course was paired with two premium wines – a Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay from Columbia Valley, Washington and an organic red blend from II Borro Salvatore Ferragamo Borrigiano “Valdarno di Sopra DOC” from Tuscany, Italy.

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We started with two appetizers from Q Texas Smokehouse that included a large charcuterie plank topped with artisan meat, pickled vegetables, olives, mustard and a long baguette. The Deviled Eggs had bite size pieces of maple glazed bacon on top. Other specialty items at Q Texas Steakhouse that we enjoyed included the Pitmaster Platter that arrived with tender oak-smoked brisket, spare ribs, chicken and cut into hearty squares jalapeño cornbread. Side dishes from the restaurant included crispy fried okra served with a Cajun mustard sauce. For dessert we had three sweet treats. From Q Texas Steakhouse was their bread pudding soaked in whiskey and brown butter.

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The whimsically designed American Diners serves lobster roll sliders on brioche buns, and flatbread topped with soy-glazed enoki and shiitake mushrooms, griddled onions, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and truffle oil.

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Ocean Blue is known for its fresh innovative seafood. A signature favorite is the Tuna Tower made with layers of pomegranate-soy marinated tuna, avocado, frisee leaves, peppers, carrots and scallions. Another delight on the menu is the Lobster Mac & Cheese made with gouda and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. It was topped with panko crumbs and a parmesan cheese crust. The pastry chefs at the restaurant make a toothsome Valrhona chocolate cake at Ocean Blue that is moist and topped with caramel popcorn and a vanilla drizzle. It’s served with chocolate ice cream.

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Dishes from the Food Republic kitchen included crispy pinko-crusted salmon filled with avocado and rolled with cream cheese in a nori roll. There was a drizzle of sweet barbecue eel sauce. A plate of pan-fried pork belly wontons arrived topped with scallions and chives. For dessert Food Republic makes an assortment of baklava filled with pistachios, pecans and walnuts. They also may an ethereal rose water panna cotta topped with rose petals and chopped nuts.

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Cagney’s Steakhouse signature menu item is Surf and Turf. It arrives on a plate with premium black-angus filet mignon and large sautéed butter garlic shrimp. Sides include large grilled asparagus topped with garlic and shallots and fries topped with truffle oil and herbs.

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After lunch we walked to the center of the ship to meet underneath a towering light fixture sculpture in Ocean Place. This three deck soaring ceiling area offers a variety of bars, the specialty restaurants, a casino, shopping and live entertainment. We joined other passengers for a pub crawl on the 8th deck. Our first tasting was at the Sugarcane Mojito Bar for Honey Ginger Mojitos and Wiki Rum Punch.

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Next we visited The Cellars for an informative wine tasting experience. NCL partnered with famed Michael Mondavi Family winery and offers a collection of nearly 100 different wines. Throughout the year, The Cellars offers “Meet the Winemaker” cruises allowing guests to meet renowned vintners on select sailings to learn more about their favorite blends, wines and vintages.

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On June 8, 2019 winemaker  Bob Bertheau from Chateau Ste. Michelle will be on the JOY pouring wines and educating passengers. He oversees the winery’s diverse wine portfolio including Columbia Valley, Single Vineyard, Ethos Reserve, Artist Series and Limited Release Club wines.

On August 17, 2019 fourth generation Napa Valley winemaker Rob Monday Jr. will be on the JOY. Raised by Isabel and Michael Monday, Rob spent much of his childhood playing among the vines and barrels at Robert Monday Winery.

On November 24, 2019 special guest Juan Munoz Oca will be onboard pouring Columbia Crest Reserve, H3 and Grand Estate wines. He was named winemaker at Columbia Crest in 2011.

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Last we walked over to The District Brew House featuring 24 beers on draft and over 50 different bottles of nationally recognized and local craft beers. Since the JOY will be sailing to Alaska during the summer, The District will pour local craft Alaskan Husky IPA, Alaskan Amber and Alaskan White Ale.

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Channel your foodie cravings by tasting and savoring spectacular dishes onboard the JOY this summer to Alaska. The ship will take guests on a 7-day journey from Seattle with visits to the ports of Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Victoria, British Columbia, and Icy Strait Point, known for its truly authentic Alaska wilderness and cultural experiences. Book your 2019 Alaska cruise vacation adventure today to select the best choice of staterooms on board.