On April 27th I embarked on a virtually empty cruise ship, surrounded by almost 1,000 Chinese staff. A special experience indeed.

An empty ship…

Before the first Chinese guests could embark, the ship had to sail all the way from Germany. That’s a long journey of one and a half month. I was onboard from Bremerhaven until Gibraltar, with no passengers. My only travel companions were some contractors who had to finish some details, and of course the ship’s staff. 

Although the Captain is Swedish, the majority of the hotel department team is Chinese. Most of them could speak both Mandarin and English. The language skills will of course be essential to cater for the guests coming from China.

All signs onboard are both in English and Chinese.

It was really interesting to see the daily crew trainings. At the end of this long journey every single staff member must know his or her job by heart.

I saw the croupiers gambling every day. Only if you know how to play yourself you know how to be a croupier, I guess.

I saw waiters learning to walk around with trays full of water-filled, or even empty glasses, in an inclement Bay of Biscay. 

I saw chefs cooking Chinese dishes I’ve never tasted before. And the few of us were the guinea pigs.

I saw bar staff learning to work with the computer tablets.

I saw cabin stewardesses being taught how to clean bathrooms and how to make the beds.

And of course they had to attend daily safety exercises too.

All of this was a delight to observe.

When the future croupiers become gamblers.

When the reception area becomes a classroom.

Some parts of the ship were not completely finished. Day by day I could see how the ship got totally ready.

The Dauerflora team added the finishing touch to the Japanese-style garden in the plaza.

Technical investigation of a slot machine.

Now, the NORWEGIAN JOY is an exciting ship. It is so different to the ships we know, because the passengers are different too.

Cultural notions of how colours should be treated was certainly a design aspect to handle. The colour of green had to be treated carefully as it can symbolize bad luck when used in the casino for example.

The number four had to be avoided because it means bad luck too. Instead of Deck 4 you’ll have to press ’embarkation deck’ in the elevator.

The majority of Chinese people do not care to sunbathe in direct sunlight. Instead of maximizing the sun deck area, NCL decided to have a two-level competitive racetrack (!) and an open-air laser tag course (!).

The first go-kart race circuit at sea.

Laser track course, as in a Star Wars decor.

Inside there are a lot of different restaurants, and several places to have tea. In fact for Chinese tea is important; more important than alcohol.

There are three casino’s, one for everybody, one for VIPs and one for the VVIPs.

I also saw the Galaxy Pavillon, which is a space filled with technologic games, such as 7D cinema, bumper cars (!), a Formula 1 simulator, Star Wars capsules etc..

Bumper cars


La Cucina, Italian restaurant

Seafood restaurant

French Bistro

After the passage in the English Channel, the Bay of Biscay and the Iberic Coast we arrived in Gibraltar on May 2nd, after five very special days on board.

When writing this blogpost, on May 9th, the ship was about to arrive in Oman. Final destination: Shanghai.

More photos can be seen on my website.

NORWEGIAN JOY will operate for Norwegian Cruise Line from Shanghai and Tianjin.

Article and photos: Mike