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X cruisers retry HAL after 12 years

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We have sailed on HAL 5 times, but not since 2006. HAL chose to remain a mostly smoking ship, while the rest of the industry chose to go mostly non-smiling, and X led the way. Since then we have sailed primarily with X. When HAL recently made significant changes to their smoking policy we decided to give them a try again.

Here are some things we noticed during our 20 day Zuiderdam cruise that stopped in Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Canada: I typically do not compare cruise lines, but both of us kept mentioning things we liked and did not like about the cruise, and compared it to Celebrity. Each rated on a 1-10 scale.

We had a balcony cabin on deck 7.

 

Itinerary: HAL has more choices around the world. HA 9, X 5

 

 

We try to get exercise on sea days by walking. HAL has a wide promenade deck that goes all the way around the ship. 3 laps = 1 mile.

X walking area above the pool is barely usable. HA 10, X 1

 

 

Both cruise lines do a good job of keeping smoke out of the inside of the ship. HAL does not allow smoking on the side of the ship anywhere, only the back of deck 9. Smoking on the side can often be smelled on balconies above. HA 9, X 8

 

 

Service and dining:

 

 

Room steward. The people are excellent on both lines, but HAL has two people where X has one. I don’t know the number of cabins, but it seemed we could not leave for 30 minutes without our cabin being serviced twice daily. Hal 9, X 8

 

 

Main Dining Room. More staff on HAL. Simply better on HAL, especially wine service. HAL 9, X 7

 

 

Specialty restaurants. We only ate at the Italian restaurant, Canaletto. Some people loved it. We thought it was good. I guess wine came with the meal. We had one glass, and a charge did not appear on our bill.

The Steak and seafood menu did not look very good at that specialty restaurant. HA 5, X 9

 

 

I had coffee at the Crows next every morning. Good Americano, Again excellent service. HA 9, X 8

 

 

Cafeteria:

HAL and X both offer plenty of choices. HAL is more crowded than X. It is packed from the time it opens until it closes. They set up tables to accommodate 40-50 people in the pool area. We both preferred the food slightly on HAL. Food quality HA 8, X 7

Overall HA 6, X 8

Main dining room food:

 

 

We ate mainly fish and pasta. I suspect that a ship that departs Copenhagen has some pretty good fish, and I doubt the HAL food on a Caribbean cruise would be as good as what we had. HA, 9, X 8

 

 

Entertainment: HAL production shows were better. The guest singer, comedian, etc. were equal to X.

No piped in loud music anywhere that I noticed, no techno.

 

 

Mattresses: no comparison, as many people have commented HAL has the best at sea. HA 9, X 6

 

 

Internet: X is horribly expensive for average service. Hal is only somewhat expensive on Zuiderdam for the worst at sea, or at least I can’t imagine worse. It was average at 3 a.m. Otherwise it was practically unusable. That was a real problem for many people on the cruise who had to make different connections in NYC at the end of the cruise because the cruise terminal changed from Manhattan to Brooklyn. HA 1, X 4

 

Fellow passengers: very similar, but the median age was probably five years older on HAL. That is certainly not a problem for us. We enjoyed meeting people from many places. We are both 65+

HA 9, X 9

 

 

Overall experience: HAL 8.5, X 8

 

 

 

 

HAL and X are our favorite mainstream cruise lines. We prefer them other other lines significantly.

 

 

It is nice to have another cruise line that we like as much as X.

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Thank you for the nice post.

 

As for HAL smoking, according to a site that that tracks cruise ship smoking policies and was updated 31 Aug, HAL has 2 ships that have smoke free casinos, Euordam and Oosterdam, and the rest have smoking areas there. My experience in ‘limited smoking area casinos’ is they ‘share’ the smoke throughout.

 

Den

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When did HAL go completely smoke free in the Casino? I thought that was only on about 2 ships.

 

I'm not sure. She was refurbished about a year ago.? I don't know about HAL's other ships.

Since the casino always seems to be located on every ship so that passengers have to walk through it allowing smoking there is undesirable to us.

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When did HAL go completely smoke free in the Casino? I thought that was only on about 2 ships.
You are right, some ships still allow smoking in the casino with HAL. We were recently on Koningsdam and smoking was allowed in the casino and it was awful. We're back to Celebrity, although I love Koningsdam. If only it were non-smoking indoors, I would never leave.

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thanks for this...re...Entertainment: HAL production shows were better. The guest singer, comedian, etc. were equal to X.

No piped in loud music anywhere that I noticed, no techno.

No surprise with that one I think Celebrity entertainment is very poor.

Edited by gordylad
spelling

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Eurodam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam are advertised in their 2018 policy book (Know Before You Go) as having non-smoking casinos. The casino was non-smoking on Nieuw Amsterdam in May, too, and I booked another trip on it as a result. It seems they're making them non-smoking after they go through drydock and get updates.

 

Odd that their newest ship (Koningsdam) isn't one of those but most of these smoking policy changes happened after its debut. They have a brand new ship sailing in December and the policy still seems TBA. Hopefully they'll keep it non-smoking on the inside.

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Thank you for the nice post.

 

As for HAL smoking, according to a site that that tracks cruise ship smoking policies and was updated 31 Aug, HAL has 2 ships that have smoke free casinos, Euordam and Oosterdam, and the rest have smoking areas there. My experience in ‘limited smoking area casinos’ is they ‘share’ the smoke throughout.

 

Den

 

I suspect HAL hired the same folks that Celebrity uses for their website. Their information is either equally as bad or worse than Celebrity.

I was told that both Zuiderdam and Westerdam have non-smoking casinos. I never smelled smoke inside the ship anywhere on Zuiderdam, and I walked through the casino at least two times daily.

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When HAL updated their smoking policy, I put them back on my list for future cruises. But then I read somewhere that they still have Formal Nights, which is another deal-breaker for us. What was your experience with the HAL dress code?

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When HAL updated their smoking policy, I put them back on my list for future cruises. But then I read somewhere that they still have Formal Nights, which is another deal-breaker for us. What was your experience with the HAL dress code?

 

They now have Gala nights, much like Celebrity's Chic nights. No jacket required but a lot still wear it.

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When HAL updated their smoking policy, I put them back on my list for future cruises. But then I read somewhere that they still have Formal Nights, which is another deal-breaker for us. What was your experience with the HAL dress code?

HAL stopped having formal nights for at least 2 years now. They call them Gala nights now. All that is required for gentlemen is a button down, colared shirt and you can't wear jeans.

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We have only cruised on HAL one time and that was in 2001 on the very old Westerdam that was stretched out from the original ship. I think that ship has been replaced with a new Westerdam.

 

The few things that I like about it was there were expresso machines in the buffet area. My wife said I got my cruise for free because of all the expresso I drank.

 

There was also a dedicated theater with nice semi reclining seats for movies. And there was free pop corn 🙄🤗. Didn’t see the need for it but I think it had a lot of salt to make you buy a drink

 

There was always a Catholic Priest on board that had daily Mass.

 

Always had free real ice cream

 

Had great entertainment

 

The negatives were that smoking was allowed all most everywhere and at the time TIPS were not required but appreciated. It got to be very irritating at every venue we were told that TIPS were not required but highly appreciated. Our cabin steward brought a scrapbook into our cabin with photos of his family and etc basically begging that we leave him a tip.

 

I have recently looked at HAL but there prices appear to be a lot more than X and their loyalty program isn’t as good

 

About the cost of a cruise it is getting where the prices for us are getting out of our budget. Not complaining as taking a cruise isn’t a right or necessity. It is just getting to the point where we may have to evaluate if our money and time can be used doing other things for a better value and variety.

 

Happy cruising 🌊🚢🇺🇸🌅

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We have sailed on HAL 5 times, but not since 2006. HAL chose to remain a mostly smoking ship, while the rest of the industry chose to go mostly non-smiling, and X led the way. Since then we have sailed primarily with X. When HAL recently made significant changes to their smoking policy we decided to give them a try again.

Here are some things we noticed during our 20 day Zuiderdam cruise that stopped in Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Canada: I typically do not compare cruise lines, but both of us kept mentioning things we liked and did not like about the cruise, and compared it to Celebrity.

 

We too gave up on HAL because of their smoking policy, but have returned as of late for a couple of reasons. We are taking Celebrity cruise #30 next week and have cruised HAL ten times. We have two future cruises on both lines.

 

Reason #1 -- HAL's itineraries are, for the most part, better than Celebrity's.

 

Reason #2 -- HAL's prices are the best deal in cruising as of late. (we are paying $2,353 for an inside cabin on the Edge, and $1,238 for an inside cabin on the Nieuw Statendam; both new ships; Nov 2019)

 

We also love the 360º wrap around promenade deck. We give the nod to X for their food (all over the ship), their newer/modern ships, and their Captain's club benefits.

Nice to have HAL back in the rotation.

 

Enjoy!

Kel:D

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They now have Gala nights, much like Celebrity's Chic nights. No jacket required but a lot still wear it.

 

HAL stopped having formal nights for at least 2 years now. They call them Gala nights now. All that is required for gentlemen is a button down, colared shirt and you can't wear jeans.

 

Thank you both. I will start looking at HAL's latest release of itineraries.

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thanks for this...re...Entertainment: HAL production shows were better. The guest singer, comedian, etc. were equal to X.

No piped in loud music anywhere that I noticed, no techno.

No surprise with that one I think Celebrity entertainment is very poor.

Wow! We feel just the opposite. We are in our mid 60s and grew up with rock n roll starting with the Beatles when I was 12. For us HAL's production shows are definitely more subdued and target the 70+ age group where as the production shows we've seen on both the Solstice and Eclipse have been fantastic and definitely target the young at heart! But I will definitely say if you don't like loud music, HAL is definitely a better choice for those that enjoy more easy listening theater entertainment IMHO.

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The fact that they don’t allow jeans in the dining room at night would discourage most Celebrity passengers. They enjoy dressing down for dinner or not dressing for dinner.

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Wow! We feel just the opposite. We are in our mid 60s and grew up with rock n roll starting with the Beatles when I was 12. For us HAL's production shows are definitely more subdued and target the 70+ age group where as the production shows we've seen on both the Solstice and Eclipse have been fantastic and definitely target the young at heart! But I will definitely say if you don't like loud music, HAL is definitely a better choice for those that enjoy more easy listening theater entertainment IMHO.

You might want to check out their new rock venue.

They are changung their music to the late 60s and 70s.

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The fact that they don’t allow jeans in the dining room at night would discourage most Celebrity passengers. They enjoy dressing down for dinner or not dressing for dinner.

I'm pretty sure that is just Gala nights. We had 3 on a 20 day cruise. Their dress code is very relaxed. A polo shirt even works on Gala nights.

Some people still wear suite and tie though.

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Welcome back!!!

 

Glad you enjoyed the cruise. ;) Though sorry that you missed a few ports. :(

 

Very helpful review!

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The fact that they don’t allow jeans in the dining room at night would discourage most Celebrity passengers. They enjoy dressing down for dinner or not dressing for dinner.

 

My wife and I were on the same HAL cruise as the OP (it was our first HAL cruise). I can assure you that jeans were allowed in the MDR for dinner, as I wore black jeans most nights, and perhaps once or twice even wore a pair of "dressy" blue jeans. I did not really see any difference between HAL and Celebrity in terms of the "smart casual" attire that folks were wearing to dinner. [We'll be on the Silhouette's westbound TA in about a month. We will just re-pack the same clothes. LOL.]

 

The casino on the Zuiderdam is definitely smoke-free now. In fact, there is no indoor space on the Zuiderdam in which smoking is allowed.

 

Many of HAL's itineraries are rather unique, and certainly worth a look. The cruise on which the OP and I just sailed, the Viking Passage, was extraordinary in terms of its itinerary.

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You might want to check out their new rock venue.

They are changung their music to the late 60s and 70s.

I've read about a Rolling Stone Rock Room, but I'll be amazed if rock and roll shows make it to the main stage in any regularity anytime soon. But that's OK, all is good. As you can see from my signature we like cruising on a variety of cruise lines.

 

We do, however, plan on sailing with HAL in the future on the Maasdam, because of their new in-depth voyages, and the Rotterdam because it's taking over some of the cooler Prinsendam itineraries such as going to the Polar Ice Cap. We like having fun on sea days and, unfortunately, for us HAL has been getting more relaxed on their sea days these past few years. That's why we really like the direction HAL has chosen for the Maasdam with all the lectures on sea days and zodiac excursions in unique off-the-beaten-path locations.

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Thank you for your very helpful comparison. We’ve considered some of HAL’s interesting itineraries, but their smoking policy has been a negative factor. We’ll give them another look.

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