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TMLAalum

Questions from a potential HAL cruiser

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Still unfamiliar with the new CC format and search options, so please forgive my naive inquiries!

Is there a Catholic priest aboard at Christmastime?

How many formal nights in a 7 night cruise and how formal is formal?

If jacket is required for men, and DH doesn't have one, can he borrow one from the maitre'd?

If no jacket available, what are other dining options for formal night?

Looking at a GTY- when do we learn our cabin #?

If we book a basic suite, do any perks come with it?

We are very familiar with Celebrity, what differences might we expect with a HAL cruise?

Thanks!

Edited by TMLAalum

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I'll take a first pass but I'm sure others will also chime in.

It is my understanding that there is always a Catholic priest on board and Mass is celebrated.

Typically there are two Gala nights on a 7 day. It used to be "formal" but HAL has backed off of that some - now they just want anyone who eats in the MDR (and presumably the other specialty dining venues) to be dressed up more than they would on a normal evening. I'm not sure about borrowing a jacket - it used to be that you could rent formalware on board (not sure these days). The Lido (buffet) is always an option as is room service (no extra charge ever) if you won't/can't comply however other than showing up in ripped jeans, shorts or a t-shirt, I'm not sure what would get you turned away. I think that guarantee's are assigned based on the popularity of the itinerary and/or if other groups have booked - so no real help from me on that one (we usually specify the cabin when we book). The general suites used to offer some (minimal) amenities but now really only offer double Mariner points (days booked) you don't really get anything until you book the Nepture Suites (which have so far been too pricey for us). Haven't sailed with Celebrity so no help from me...

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So lets take this one at a time :).  HAL is well known for having a Catholic Priest on all their cruises (I suppose there might be some exceptions).  At Christmas time that would certainly be true and you will find that masses are well attended.  The Priest also conducts Masses for the crew, some of whom are Catholic.   Although we are not Catholic, DW and I have had the pleasure of meeting (and dining with) several of the priests on HAL and they were really fascinating men.  Suffice it to say that it is a popular "vacation" for the priest  and all the one's we have met really love being on cruises.  On a 7 day cruise you will generally have two so-called "Gala Nights."   The dress code for men just requires a collared shirt and slacks.  I would normally expect a majority of men to wear a jacket but your DH will not be the only one sans jacket.   There is a buffet dining option but no reason to avoid the MDR :).  As far as Guarantee cabins (we have done this many times) it really varies.  We have sometimes had our cabin assignment about 2 weeks prior to the cruise, but that really varies.  We actually met one couple that did not have their cabin assignment until they arrived at the Port...but that is the exception.

 

As to Suites, it depends on the type of suite.  The smaller suites such as "Signature Suites" come with few perks.  The Pinnacle and Neptune  suites get you access to the exclusive Neptune Lounge.  There is also a suite breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill.  There are other more normal perks such as Free Laundry.  If you look at HAL pricing you will notice that the price difference, for the suites that get you into the Neptune Lounge, is huge!  I would argue that the perks do not justify the cost.  Those that book the large suites either have a big desire to have a very large cabin or are in a situation where money is not much of an issue.  My advice is that if you really want a large cabin and can afford the price then a Pinnacle or Neptune Suite is great.  But paying all that extra money for a few perks is not worth it.

 

As to a comparison with Celebrity this is difficult because much depends on the actual ships and the length of the cruise.   Some HAL cruises tend to be much more "sedate" then a Celebrity cruise.  While on Celebrity you might find a crowd at the Martini bar late at night, on many HAL cruises about all you find late at night are the cleaning crew :).  There are no late night adult comedy shows on HAL because even the comedian would likely fall asleep.  Also be advised that HAL allows some smoking in most of its casinos (although they sometimes have smoke-free nights).  As a general rule I consider the entertainment on Celebrity to be somewhat better then what we get on HAL...but that also is very dependent on the ship.  We find the entertainment on the smaller HAL vessels to be kind of sad....but the larger ships are more options including their upbeat BB King shows.

 

Hank

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Welcome to Holland America! I'll take your questions in order:

There is a Catholic priest scheduled on every HAL cruise; Mass is celebrated daily. Rarely is there a problem and the priest doesn't make the sailing. When that has happened on my cruises, a vacationing priest has been aboard, and he has stepped up to serve.

There should be two Gala Nights on a 7-day cruise (HAL no longer refers to them as 'formal). The minimum acceptable level of dress is 'smart casual', with no jeans that night. It does get dressier, but your husband is not required to wear a jacket if he doesn't want to.
There are options on every night, should you choose. Every ship has a Pinnacle Grill and a Canaletto, as well as the Lido buffet. Some ships have a Tamarind. The newest ship has additional options.

Guarantee cabins are generally assigned about 10 days before sailing. It could be a few days before or after that.

Signature Suites have a telephone concierge, an umbrella, and binoculars. No other perqs that I can think of. If there are additional perqs, someone will post them.

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Welcome to the HAL board.

 

If you are sailing over Christmas, you will find more men dressed up in suits and tuxedos than on other cruises.

 

There was a time when the maitre'd did have jackets to lend to the men on Gala nights -- haven't seen that in quite a while.  Also have not seen HAL advertise renting tuxedos the last few years.

 

You could call Ship Services at 1-800-541-1576 and ask about rentals.

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Ditto to what everyone has said, but let me add two things.  First, Mass is held daily.  The room varies but it is always listed in the daily schedule of activities you get each night.  My husband and I have been to Mass on board.  It is a full Mass and they give out communion as well.  On our last cruise, we got news that a dear friend's daughter had died and we asked the priest if he would give the next mass intention for her--and he did.  It was very nice of him to do that and we felt a little bit better knowing our prayers were with her.  Second, for formal nights or any other night men also wear just slacks and a dress shirt.  My husband has done that many times--sometimes with a tie and sometimes without.  Remember, dinner in the Lido buffet where there is a casual dress code is always an option!  Happy sailing!

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Thanks all for the replies so far...if we do book it will likely be on the new Nieuw Statendam right after disembarking from the new Celebrity Edge.  Keeping my eye on pricing.

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Another option for Gala Nights is dining on your verandah.  You can order from the MDR menu through Room Service during the meal times and this includes Gala Night, too.  It must be noted that you can order multiples of any menu item.  As for me, I order surf 'n turf with two/three lobster tails and no turf.  Bring some LED candles to improve the ambiance.

 

You can see the nightly MDR menus on the ship's Navigator app and posted near the entrance to each dining room.

 

Enjoy your cruise planning.

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I really like that HAL has a Catholic priest on their cruises.  The priests are part of the Diocese of the Sea (I believe) out of Texas and are usually retired priests who are willing to serve on a cruise ship or in large ports full of sea vessels serving the mariner community.  They give a full mass with Communion and readings, and often there are folks on the ship who have been lectors or eucharistic ministers in their own churches and will volunteer to help out the priest during the mass.  The mass becomes another lovely community within the life of the cruise!

 

 

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On ‎10‎/‎25‎/‎2018 at 10:20 AM, TMLAalum said:

Still unfamiliar with the new CC format and search options, so please forgive my naive inquiries!

Is there a Catholic priest aboard at Christmastime?

How many formal nights in a 7 night cruise and how formal is formal?

If jacket is required for men, and DH doesn't have one, can he borrow one from the maitre'd?

If no jacket available, what are other dining options for formal night?

Looking at a GTY- when do we learn our cabin #?

If we book a basic suite, do any perks come with it?

We are very familiar with Celebrity, what differences might we expect with a HAL cruise?

Thanks!

One of the reasons we like HA so much is that we are Catholic and enjoy the fact that each HA cruise we've ever been on, even in Europe featured daily Mass.  So, yes, absolutely, there will be a priest at Christmas.  Christmas Eve Mass is a big deal, and you'll find many passengers attending, many who are not Catholic.

 

On a Christmas cruise, more guys wear tuxes, at least that's been our experience, but during the last two Christmases, we also saw plenty of guys with dark suits and some with blazers, a few with dress shirt and tie, no jacket.  

 

HA does rent tuxes.  Place "cruise line formal wear" into search engine, and it will give you the web site.  You may also rent a tux directly onboard, but options are more limited, and they cannot guarantee a good fit.  My brother got caught last year without any type of "gala" night attire, so we rented a tux from the front desk.  The jacket was a little snug, and the tux shirt was too short in the sleeves, but he wore it anyway.  Obviously no one noticed because he received many compliments!

 

As others have said, a GTY could be assigned as early as two weeks out or as close as the day before sailing.  On our Prinsendam sailing, we selected a GTY and received one category upgrade about two weeks prior to sailing.  The day before we were scheduled to leave, I received an email from HA alerting us that they had upgraded us again, free of charge.  We were delighted, although the upgrade had us closer to the bow, where we felt the motion of the ship a little more than usual.  Since we always pack Bonine, the extra motion didn't adversely affect us.  

 

Unless you book a Neptune Suite, you won't get any perks at all, except a larger bathroom and cabin.  You will receive double days for any suite, i.e. if you cruise for 7 days, you'll get credit for 14 days.

 

I've traveled with Celebrity three times, and each time we stayed in a suite.  With HA, I've booked everything from an inside to a suite.  The lines are similar, though I feel Celebrity is more class conscious than HA.  They also serve better corned beef hash than HA's version, which is terrible, IMO. 

 

We started sailing with HA in 2008 and have remained loyal to this cruise line ever since because of its exceptional service, old-world ambiance, and generally courteous fellow passengers.  Celebrity probably has better entertainment.  We have enjoyed HA for its BB King Blues Club, Lincoln Center Stage, and Billboard Onboard, all very different venues.  On some ships, I've enjoyed the cooking demonstrations, on others not so much.  HA does have beautiful fresh floral arrangements throughout the ship, and the art work/artifacts are sometimes museum quality.  Celebrity reminds me of a sophisticated resort, while HA is more in tune with the Golden Age of passenger ships, especially the older vessels in their fleet.  With HA, I feel as though I'm on a ship, and HA doesn't have to cram its vessels full of modern gimmicks to keep passengers happy.  The HA experience is more laid-back and relaxing.  You won't find constant activity, and if that's what you're looking for, don't sail with them.  You will be disappointed.

 

Perhaps others can give you their impressions of the HA experience to round out what I've written.  Regardless of the line you select, have a wonderful cruise.     

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On ‎10‎/‎25‎/‎2018 at 1:14 PM, TMLAalum said:

Thanks all for the replies so far...if we do book it will likely be on the new Nieuw Statendam right after disembarking from the new Celebrity Edge.  Keeping my eye on pricing.

So, does this mean you'll be on the Dec. 23rd sailing?  We're booked on that sailing.  If you decide to book that cruise, come on over to the roll call, so you can meet everyone.  Maybe, we'll have a chance to meet in person.  Happy sailing!

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