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Undecided: HAL or Norwegian? West Coast or Caribbean?


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My wife and I are planning to cruise this winter for our yearly vacation. We haven't cruised since 2006 and from what I have gleaned, a lot of things have changed.

 

We are only able to travel from December through February. What We love about Cruising are Great food, shows, staterooms (balcony) and exploring! Another couple may be joining us and we would love to make friends along the way!

 

Are there other folks considering the above lines and time-frame? Lets see if we can get a little unofficial group going!

 

also any advise would be wonderful too!

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My wife and I are planning to cruise this winter for our yearly vacation. We haven't cruised since 2006 and from what I have gleaned, a lot of things have changed.

 

We are only able to travel from December through February. What We love about Cruising are Great food, shows, staterooms (balcony) and exploring! Another couple may be joining us and we would love to make friends along the way!

 

Are there other folks considering the above lines and time-frame? Lets see if we can get a little unofficial group going!

 

also any advise would be wonderful too!

Good food quality is not one of NCL's high points. They generally have the worst food of any major line. this not to say it's garbage, just not very high quality. Think of your local Applebee's. If you consider that REALLY good food, then NCL will be fine for you. HAL has much better food overall. Their downside is it's a much older demographic agewise. We have no problem with that. We're "foodies" so we prefer Cunard/Celebrity. Cunard is too formal for some, so I'd suggest Celebrity. We did a 14 day Caribbean trip on the Eclipse late last Jan. The food was excellent, though you also have so really great extra cost dining options other than the main dining room. We did an inside room& it cost about $3000 total.Not cheap, but I feel a good price for a complete 2 week vacation for 2.

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I did 14N on HAL. Food probably worse than NCL which I have not been on in several years. Average age on HAL way over 70. Not a pleasant trip. One of few I was glad to get off. Best bang for buck with best food of mainstream lines is Celebrity. Try the new ships; Sillhoutte (sp?), or Reflection.

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Mishelle: we haven't cruised on HAL, so I can't speak to that. But if food is very important to you, you might consider a line other than NCL, where the food is pretty mass market in the MDRs and buffet. (Far better in some of their specialty restaurants, like Le Bistro.) We enjoy NCL because of the whole freestyle dining concept and the good energy on board, but if you want a more "upscale" experience, I second the recommendation for Celebrity. The S-class ships have a true "wow" factor; the Eclipse is the most beautiful ship we've ever been on, so much so that we have two more cruises booked on S-class ships.

Edited by Turtles06
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My wife and I are planning to cruise this winter for our yearly vacation. We haven't cruised since 2006 and from what I have gleaned, a lot of things have changed.

 

We are only able to travel from December through February. What We love about Cruising are Great food, shows, staterooms (balcony) and exploring! Another couple may be joining us and we would love to make friends along the way!

 

Are there other folks considering the above lines and time-frame? Lets see if we can get a little unofficial group going!

 

also any advise would be wonderful too!

 

I've sailed quite a bit on Norwegian and I would likely recommend them over HAL. I've done two RSVP cruises on HAL, and I'm booked with my niece in June for a regular HAL sailing because of itinerary. But the general consensus is that HAL caters to a slightly older, more sedate crowd.

 

I have done a Pacific Coast sailing and had more fun than I thought I would. I have another Pacific Coast cruise booked for October and I expect to have fun. Having said that, I always have more fun on a Caribbean cruise. There's just something about the light, the water, the air, and Miami!

 

A few words about Norwegian: some folks will be quick to rattle off that "everyone knows Norwegian has truck stop-quality food" or "everyone knows Norwegian is the Walmart of the seas." Neither is true. :p The only feature Norwegian doesn't have that I value is a glass-enclosed pool. (HAL has them.) But Norwegian does have excellent entertainment, lively ships, and more dining options than any other brand. And resort casual is the norm (i.e. no formal nights). Your experience will vary based on the ship you choose. I've been on their smaller ships (Sky, Pride of America, Spirit) and I had a nice time. I'm about to set sail on their largest ship (until Escape and her three Breakaway-Plus class sisters set sail in 2016-19) Norwegian Epic. I'm sure I'll have a fantastic time. :D

 

And that raises an important point: Norwegian is in the middle of a building boom, constructing six new mega ships to the tune of $6 billion. Additionally, they're investing $300 million in the existing fleet with their Norwegian Next initiative. By contrast, HAL is selling ships and their new Pinnacle class ship is barely mentioned. If Norwegian was the Walmart of the seas, they wouldn't be building so many new, fabulous ships.

 

By the way, my December sailing on Norwegian Epic (12/7-14) has quite a roll call going. And it's one of the most affordable travel weeks of the year. Check it out. And good luck with your selection. ;)

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thank you zoncom and Turtles06 !!!!! I only was considering NCL with a mini suite and upgraded dining. Now that they don't allow Balcony smoking, they are eliminated completely! I know HAL attracts an older clientele but I know they have great food and well... we can make our own party! =)

 

But now I am going to immerse my self into everything Celebrity!!!!! MUST learn! Ha! I have just now signed up for special offers and will start the process of exploring!!! ...Starting with "S" class ships etc!!!!

 

Thank you again! I will post when we make a decision!!! :)

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Cruiser Bruiser! Thank you for your detailed insight regarding Norwegian! I had been considering Getaway and Epic since the prices of Epic were VERY reasonable! I Sailed NCL (1989 or 1990?) and they were awful then but things seem to have changed for the better. The most amazing thing about cruising back in the day, was the food and the water!! I truly felt like we "got away" So that's what I am after today!!! DW has only been on one cruise which was HAL but it was also Olivia (our honeymoon) which is a total different experience!

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You do know that Celebrity does not allow balcony smoking.

 

 

 

You beat me to posting that. :)

 

Also, no smoking in the casino (which doesn't seem to hurt their business one iota). I LOVE Celebrity's strict no-smoking policy. It is literally a breath of fresh air.

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I'd go with Celebrity, Princess, or HAL. Those are our three favorite lines. HAL's reputation as attracting older passengers isn't really deserved. A lot depends on the itinerary. Our HAL cruises in December to the Caribbean have been full of younger passengers--people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s (in addition to the older folks). It's the longer cruises and the cruises to other destinations that attract the older passengers--and that's true of all cruise lines.

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If being allowed to smoke on a balcony is a must, HAL I believe will very soon be your only option left on a mainstream line. Celebrity is fantastic and our favorite, but, they have one of the strictest no-smoking policies at sea.

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If being allowed to smoke on a balcony is a must, HAL I believe will very soon be your only option left on a mainstream line. Celebrity is fantastic and our favorite, but, they have one of the strictest no-smoking policies at sea.

 

According to press reports this week when NCL announced its new ban on smoking on balconies, HAL is now the only mainstream line that still allows it. I think it's just a matter of time before HAL does the same.

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The worst ship I've ever been on was HAL's Maasdam last year - as long as you avoid that, or the other Statendam Class ships, I think you'll be very happy. NCL isn't as bad as people make it out to be - we've been on the Star, Sun and Jade. They are a little lower end, but food is good as long as you stick to the specialty restaurants. As others have said, I really would look into Celebrity. It's, by far, our cruise line of choice. We are in our 30s and find that the ships are beautiful, modern, offer great service, good food and generally well-traveled and friendly passengers. We are Celebrity Elite + and always look to them first when booking a cruise. The Solarium is my favorite spot on any ship. Check it out !

 

 

 

Michael

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Um, you didn't mention what you like to do in ports. Scuba diving? Caribbean. Museum-going? West Coast. And keep in mind that in mid-winter, San Francisco can be as cold and wet as where you are, and even L.A. can be less than balmy.

 

Also what you'd like the mood of your cruise to be. HAL (or X or Princess) will be a tad more formal, relaxed, and subdued than I understand NCL (or Carnival) to be.

 

Oh, and the West Coast will be, of course, a lot more queer friendly.

Edited by shepp
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Wow! Thank you for the input everyone!!!! I lived in SF Bay area in the '80 so I know how damp and chilly it can be! Was it Twain that said: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Fransisco!" ??? We are caretakers at a county campground open April through November so the only time we can vacation is Dec, Jan or Feb (per contract)....

 

I think I was limiting my cruise preferences based on Balcony smoking... (sad - i know) After NCL announced their ban I decided 2 things: We might be non smokers by the time we sail and I can always pick a cabin with easy access to a smoking area!!! After all, we never smoke in hotels even when it was allowed!!! (like in China last year - we won that trip! Amazing!) We just can't stand the smell! Sooo NOW, I am exploring more possibilities!!!!!

 

I have actually considered the NCL Epic Dec 7! Didn't realize there was a significant grouping going!!!! We have missed socializing with brothers and sisters so we consider that a plus! Also, Beaches!!!! The comment: "There's just something about the light, the water, the air, and Miami!" is EXACTLY what we are out for! We don't scuba (got to "sample" once but haven't pursued it) I love to snorkel although DW doesn't swim...

 

All wonderful advise and Will keep you posted!!!!

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thank you zoncom and Turtles06 !!!!! I only was considering NCL with a mini suite and upgraded dining. Now that they don't allow Balcony smoking, they are eliminated completely! I know HAL attracts an older clientele but I know they have great food and well... we can make our own party! =)

 

But now I am going to immerse my self into everything Celebrity!!!!! MUST learn! Ha! I have just now signed up for special offers and will start the process of exploring!!! ...Starting with "S" class ships etc!!!!

 

Thank you again! I will post when we make a decision!!! :)

We loved the Eclipse last Jan. We did a 14 day cruise all through the Caribbean. At about $3k. It was not cheap, but still a bargain overall, considering the food quality. We were dedicated to Cunard, but they cut back on their Caribbean trips. Like you we'r pretty much relegated to winter travel. I'd read up a lot on their "blog" on this site. You'll see that no matter what the cruiseline there will always be the "bitchers", where nothing seems to EVER go right for them.

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If the choice were ONLY between NCL and HAL.....HAL, hands down! Have sailed on both. But....consider "X"' "Equinox" on Jan 23. Hubby and are booked along with another gay couple. I've posted on the roll call, already.

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Thank you Keithm and Donnatello! I was reading more reviews yesterday and I agree that some of the things folks choose to complain about were not severe enough to ruin a vacation yet they got so worked up over them that the rest of their trip was overshadowed by them. Other times, I think that some folks "want something for nothing" and assume that their complaints warrant some kind of compensation.... So I try to "read between the lines"

 

So I am leaning more towards Celebrity while still holding in the back of my mind that Holland is still a great choice for us too! I found out yesterday that the couple who we thought might travel with us, are now not going to be able to, so that also changes the importance of some of the features of a cruise I was considering. They would be new to cruising so I was weighing the importance of things that are not as important to us as it would be to them.

 

To us, The adventure of being on a ship at sea is the purest definition of

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N! Nice surroundings, friendly people and great food!!!! What more could one want!?!?!?!?

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  • 1 month later...

We have done Transatlantic Crossings on HAL and NCL. Lunches are equal but HAL has better dinners and NCL has the better breakfast. NCL was definitely more gay friendly and the Epic had a nude sundeck. There was more energy in the NCL gym and their entertainment was head and shoulders above HAL. The cabins were equal as were the excursions. HAL was a 60+ crowd on the Transatlantic. Young children were absent on both crossings. NCL allowed us to bring cola aboard and had a wonderful alcohol sale about 3 days before disembarking. I think they wanted to get rid of the US products and restock with brands more familiar to Europeans. Boarding was smoother with NCL. Maybe the older folks just moved slower. The NCL Epic had some great bars , many were tucked away waiting to be discovered. It is a large ship. The spa was better on NCL than HAL, although on HAL there was free access to a sauna. In 20215 we are doing a Celebrity crossing from FTL to Amsterdam. It will be good to get a third opinion to broaden our view. Pack light and go with a positive attitude. You will have a great time.

Edited by amspinner
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I had forgotten that I had posted this question! Our friends ended up being able to go after all and we booked HAL Eurodam November 30! We have VD veranda staterooms and We are so excited!!!!!! I think that once HAL bans the veranda smoking (which I am sure they will) we will venture on Celebrity!!! This will be our friends FIRST Cruise and I am excited for them! This will be my wife's 2nd cruise and My 6th!!!!! If anyone else is going, let us know so we can be excited together and meet up for cocktails on board!!!!!! Thank you everyone for all your advise!!!!!

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