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HAL vs. Carnival/Royal


dcedar
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I am looking at cruises and found some great prices for HAL. Great! But I don't know anything about HAL. I have cruised CC and RC. Loved both. Both had things that were a step above the other but not enough to say one line is better than the other. 

 

1. Activities. I am not very fit and active but I do like to do things. Pool, rope course, waterslides, etc.

2. Entertainment. I love comedy shows. The more the better. I also like the music shows and the game shows (Quest, Love/Marriage/etc)

3. Food. This is tricky because everyone's taste buds differ. Is the food like a buffet or better? Desserts? How are they? Are there a lot of options like RC and CC? (The RC desserts I had were terrible, weird consistency and taste, and I ended up buying candy and a cupcake from their cupcake shop because I wanted something sweet to eat.) 

 

What is the feel of HAL? Is it a party cruise or a relaxer cruise? Are their things to do all day long? What type of activities do they offer during the day?

 

Any feedback is appreciated. Thank you.

 

 

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I have never sailed on Holland America either. I have looked at dozens of youtube videos lately though. It looks like it is for an older crowd so not a lot of partying. That's fine with me. The food looks good on video. I saw that the desserts have sugar-free and flourless options. I didn't see any pizza. I'm looking forward to trying HAL out!

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We've been on both Royal Caribbean and HAL, but not Carnival.  

 

HAL is more of a relaxer ship.  Ship Shore Excursions are about the same as on both lines.  HAL has that annoying 3-day ship tour deadline for any money back, and after you board the ship, they charge a 10% fee for cancelling a tour.  

 

They do better with allergies in the MDR than Royal Caribbean.  Less crowding aboard ship, more elevators.  As mobility challenged, we love the aft stairways.  I believe Veendam has only two elevator banks: aft and forward, but the rest we've been on have three.  With Royal Caribbean, we must walk half the length of the ship if your room is aft.

 

Yes to pool, no to water slides.

 

Once you get around 80-90 loyalty points, specialty dinners and all the coffee drinks at Explorations Cafe are 25% discounted, 50% discounted after 200 points.  (Double points for Vista, Signature, Neptune and Pinnacle Suite Categories. 

 

Onboard accounts counts toward loyalty points:  $300 per point.

 

I liked the desserts in both Royal Caribbean (2017) and HAL (2019). 

 

The last time we were on Royal Caribbean for high season Alaska, their dining room was so crowded, we couldn't get to one of our tables w/o asking people next to us to move.  So, we chose to eat in specialty five out of seven days.  Unusual for us.

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28 minutes ago, cricketmk3 said:

I have never sailed on Holland America either. I have looked at dozens of youtube videos lately though. It looks like it is for an older crowd so not a lot of partying. That's fine with me. The food looks good on video. I saw that the desserts have sugar-free and flourless options. I didn't see any pizza. I'm looking forward to trying HAL out!

They have pizza in the Lido, we also got New York pizza in the retreat of the Rotterdam in 2016. 

 

They also have some really great burgers and Hot Dogs at the Terrace Grill.  On our  recent Voyage of the Vikings, we ate there a lot! 

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I’m platinum on Carnival and Royal Caribbean and we will be taking our second Holland America cruise (aboard the Niew Statendam) in February. 

 

My opinion about HAL is that it excels over Carnival and Royal if you have an eye for small details. Everything is just a tad nicer. For example, you’ll see fresh flowers throughout the ship, your room service is delivered in finer dinnerware, linens in your stateroom are of higher quality, your laundry is delivered folded in tissue paper with a gold HAL seal, the decor throughout the ship is comprised of a multi-million dollar art collection, quality brand dinnerware at dining venues, your dining room staff adheres to proper etiquette and protocol, etc. If you’re someone who would notice these things, then you’ll begin to understand how HAL differentiates itself from Carnival and Royal. 

 

- Food taste is subjective, but quality is not. Overall, cuisine onboard HAL tends to incorporate higher quality ingredients, as well as better presentation. 

 

- Instead of hairy chest contests or bartending competitions, you’ll have lecturers, musical acts, and overall more cerebral entertainment.

 

- Instead of music blasting from a Jumbotron and games by the pool, the main pool deck on HAL will be blissfully quiet most of the time. 

 

- Instead of Hasbro, Quest, Love and Marriage games, you’ll have BBC Planet Earth, Lincoln Center Stage, and BB Kings. 

 

- No incessant announcements advertising bingo, liquor tastings, art auctions, $10 sales, or gold chains by the inch. Cruise director announcements are kept to a minimum. 

 

- Fellow travelers do tend to be older, more affluent and traveled. But it will vary depending on your itinerary, time of year, and region, with longer, exotic itineraries attracting an even older crowd.

 

- Night time entertainment tends to die down much earlier than on Royal and Carnival. 

 

Overall, we considered HAL to be a nice departure from Royal and Carnival. Quieter, more sophisticated, and subdued. It feels much more like the way traditional cruising used to be before the mega ships and their sensory overload became the cruising norm . It’s definitely not for everybody, specially for people looking for high energy, late night thumping entertainment, or for people who need the latest forms of technology and entertainment, or for people who couldn’t care less about the small details that I mentioned at the beginning.

 

Our first cruise on HAL was very enjoyable, but being a young family, we found ourselves a bit out of our element. We are now returning to HAL aboard their newest ship, the Niew Statendam, driven partly by the itinerary (all stops except for one will be new to us), and partly by the excellent fares (with a kids sail free promo and great discounts, our sailing will be literally thousands cheaper than Carnival or Royal). We are also looking forward to sailing on HAL’s newest vessel which incorporates a more modern style and  decor, as well as new forms of entertainment for the whole family. Looking forward to it! 

 

 

Edited by Tapi
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I have not been on HAL, but I'm diamond on RC.  We just tried Princess this year for the first time and we really liked it.  Like TAPI above said, just a bit nicer and quieter, no silly pool games, loud announcements, etc.  It was very relaxing .  Gorgeous Ship as well.  Regal Princess.  Check it out :)

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Comedy on HAL?  We recently heard a rumor that even the cruises the cruise director can no longer tell jokes (it might offend somebody, somewhere).  Hal has no late night adult comedy shows. They sometimes have a comedian as the main entertainment unless they ended this when they stopped all the Production Shows.  Very few game shows on HAL as the cruise director must spend most of his/her time running trivia.  And some trivia teams do cheat (very sad).

 

Hank

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There are many differences between HAL and both RCI and CC but IMHO there is only one significant difference between/among them - only HAL has a Roman Catholic priest (who celebrates daily Mass) on board every one of its cruises.  Since spiritual renewal is an important component of our vacation experience, HAL is our hands-down choice. YMMV

Edited by avian777
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On 9/30/2019 at 12:03 PM, knittinggirl said:

They have pizza in the Lido, we also got New York pizza in the retreat of the Rotterdam in 2016. 

 

On Eurodam, there was no pizza in the Lido.  They did have a pizza stand at the aft pool but for some weird reason, pizza by the slice was not available.  They would only take orders for whole pizzas.  

 

On 9/30/2019 at 2:36 PM, Hlitner said:

Comedy on HAL?  We recently heard a rumor that even the cruises the cruise director can no longer tell jokes (it might offend somebody, somewhere).  

 

Absolutely true.  I was not aware of this change until my cruise on Eurodam last week. The Cruise Director....er, Cruise and Travel Director as they're calling it now....had me wondering what the heck HAL was up to.  No jokes and no energy whatsoever.  

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We have had great cruises on all three of these cruise lines.  Service was comparable on all three.  

 

We often read read snide comments about Carnival.....party’s, drunks, Walmart of cruise lines.  On our two Carnival. cruises this simply was not true.  Everything about both cruises was first rate.  Same for Our RCI trips.   Anything but an amusement park with screaming kids. 

 

We choose our ships and our times carefully.  These three are mass market lines.  Your experience on any of these cruise lines could vary from poor to wonderful based on ship, crew, cutbacks, ship maintenance etc.  In some respects it comes down to luck of the draw and expectations.

 

The industry is is changing so much that we came to the conclusion a long time ago that the ship was more important to us  than the cruise line.  There are some HAL ships that we would never consider.  Ditto for Carnival and for RCI.

 

Edited by iancal
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5 minutes ago, iancal said:

 We often read read snide comments about Carnival.....party’s, drunks, Walmart of cruise lines.  On our two Carnival. cruises this simply was not true.  Everything about both cruises was first rate.

I love Carnival, and I have some wonderful memories from the many cruises that I’ve taken since I first sailed on them 25 years ago. 

 

But as a Carnival Platinum cruiser, I have to say that I believe that some of the stigma is well founded. You can’t cover the sun with one finger and pretend it’s not there. I’ve seen things on Carnival that I’ve never seen on any other cruise line I’ve sailed on. These things may not happen on every single cruise, but they do happen with enough frequency to be noticed. 

 

Does that mean that Carnival is a bad cruise line? Absolutely not. It’s a great cruise line that offers an affordable, accesible, and fun cruise experience to a much bigger sliver of the cruising population than other cruise lines. Some fellow cruisers may not be as polished, traveled, or well behaved in public as on other cruise lines, but I’ve learned that that’s part of the fun of sailing on Carnival. 

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We’ve done 4 cruises with Hal with myself, dh, two kids and my in laws.  Our last cruise was Christmas 2017.  On that cruise there were several times that at 8:30 at night that there was nothing that we wanted to do.  We had already listened to the bb kings and there were no game shows or the piano players were not performing.  Plus after 10:30 or so it was very quiet.  Plus we missed music by the pool.

 

After that cruise we decided to try Royal.  We went on navigator of the seas Christmas 2018 and loved it so much more.  Even my fil who I didn’t think would love it.  First of all it was a bigger ship, with more to do.  My kids loved the mini golf and my daughter loved the flowrider and rock wall.  Plus there was music by the pool, trivia, movies at the pool, game shows every night, plus the main shows, comedy and the piano player.  Plus other parties on the promenade.  Oh and the ship was still hopping after 10:30.  We are going with royal again on adventure of the seas.  We love the fun stuff too much, and it sounds like you do too.

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12 minutes ago, Spunky946 said:

Plus we missed music by the pool.

 

I don't. I am allergic to constant noise, definitely a reason to avoid the ships with what some call 'high energy'. Probably an age difference. HAL excels with their long itineraries and interesting ports.  

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Agree.

 

If you are looking for a quiet cruise, really quiet then HAL is the choice.  Hardly a soul about after second seating.  You can have the ship to yourself! Some say that this is refined.  Others disagree.

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On 9/30/2019 at 4:08 PM, dcedar said:

Thanks for the feedback! The cruise I am looking at is 17 days. I wonder how much relaxing I actually need:) 

17 day cruises on any cruise line will attract an older, more relaxed passenger load.  Young couples and families generally have less vacation time and free time for sailings of that length.  If Royal or Carnival have cruises of that length, they will typically be on smaller ships with less of the play area amenities.  Repositioning cruises for the larger ships would be the most likely exception.

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On 9/30/2019 at 2:39 PM, Tapi said:

My opinion about HAL is that it excels over Carnival and Royal if you have an eye for small details. Everything is just a tad nicer. For example, you’ll see fresh flowers throughout the ship, your room service is delivered in finer dinnerware, linens in your stateroom are of higher quality, your laundry is delivered folded in tissue paper with a gold HAL seal, the decor throughout the ship is comprised of a multi-million dollar art collection, quality brand dinnerware at dining venues, your dining room staff adheres to proper etiquette and protocol, etc. If you’re someone who would notice these things, then you’ll begin to understand how HAL differentiates itself from Carnival and Royal. 

 

- Food taste is subjective, but quality is not. Overall, cuisine onboard HAL tends to incorporate higher quality ingredients, as well as better presentation. 

 

- Instead of hairy chest contests or bartending competitions, you’ll have lecturers, musical acts, and overall more cerebral entertainment.

 

- Instead of music blasting from a Jumbotron and games by the pool, the main pool deck on HAL will be blissfully quiet most of the time. 

 

- Instead of Hasbro, Quest, Love and Marriage games, you’ll have BBC Planet Earth, Lincoln Center Stage, and BB Kings. 

 

- No incessant announcements advertising bingo, liquor tastings, art auctions, $10 sales, or gold chains by the inch. Cruise director announcements are kept to a minimum. 

 

- Fellow travelers do tend to be older, more affluent and traveled. But it will vary depending on your itinerary, time of year, and region, with longer, exotic itineraries attracting an even older crowd.

 

- Night time entertainment tends to die down much earlier than on Royal and Carnival. 

 

Overall, we considered HAL to be a nice departure from Royal and Carnival. Quieter, more sophisticated, and subdued. It feels much more like the way traditional cruising used to be before the mega ships and their sensory overload became the cruising norm . It’s definitely not for everybody, specially for people looking for high energy, late night thumping entertainment, or for people who need the latest forms of technology and entertainment, or for people who couldn’t care less about the small details that I mentioned at the beginning.

 

 

This is the most succinct and complete analysis I've seen yet. I agree with every single point (except I don't have the knowledge base to judge between HAL and Royal or Carnival).

 

15 hours ago, avian777 said:

There are many differences between HAL and both RCI and CC but IMHO there is only one significant difference between/among them - only HAL has a Roman Catholic priest (who celebrates daily Mass) on board every one of its cruises.  Since spiritual renewal is an important component of our vacation experience, HAL is our hands-down choice. YMMV

 

Amen! DW and I just recently returned from 14 days cruising the Baltic Sea on board the Rotterdam. Father Tamiru Atraga of the Archdiocese of Atlanta was a delight, the very model of a chaplain. And Father X contributes to this Board frequently under the name Himself, and always offers a fresh and valuable perspective.

 

I would add two points to this discussion. One, imho HAL is like a Buick. Buick owners raised a hue and cry when GM stopped using genuine wood on the Buick dashboards, but times do change. Some people want the luxury of a Lexus and other brands do offer more in the way of glitz and fun and sportiness. But some of us just love our 5-passenger Buick sedans. Two, HAL packs fewer passengers into ships of equivalent size. As a result there is materially more elbow room than you'll get in other mass-market lines.

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I just returned  from three cruises on RCI Oasis class ships, one in July, August and Sept.  I loved them and had a grand time BUT I am ready for a quieter less  boisterous environment in November on Nieuw Statendam.   I sometimes think it is like comparing apples to oranges.

I need to mix things up!😉

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On 9/30/2019 at 12:43 PM, dcedar said:

I am looking at cruises and found some great prices for HAL. Great! But I don't know anything about HAL. I have cruised CC and RC. Loved both. Both had things that were a step above the other but not enough to say one line is better than the other. 

 

1. Activities. I am not very fit and active but I do like to do things. Pool, rope course, waterslides, etc.

2. Entertainment. I love comedy shows. The more the better. I also like the music shows and the game shows (Quest, Love/Marriage/etc)

3. Food. This is tricky because everyone's taste buds differ. Is the food like a buffet or better? Desserts? How are they? Are there a lot of options like RC and CC? (The RC desserts I had were terrible, weird consistency and taste, and I ended up buying candy and a cupcake from their cupcake shop because I wanted something sweet to eat.) 

 

What is the feel of HAL? Is it a party cruise or a relaxer cruise? Are their things to do all day long? What type of activities do they offer during the day?

 

Any feedback is appreciated. Thank you.

 

 

Have you looked at Princess yet? We were just on the Crown for 12 days going around the UK and had a great time! The have six assistant CDs, all comedians in their own right, that help the cruise director offer a variety of fun things to do on sea days as well as every evening. On HAL, if you like to laugh, they really don't offer a lot in that area. 

Edited by Ken the cruiser
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Just off Amsterdam repositioning cruise, six night. Our cruise director was all business all of the time with one small exception. One evening, he alluded to a bit of a joke and received laughs from the audience. That was so out of character for him but I enjoyed the chuckle.

 

Amsterdam also had one production show with a four piece band, four singers and six dancers. After reading on this forum that HAL no longer has production shows, this was a very pleasant surprise and I enjoyed the show very much.

 

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12 minutes ago, coffeebean said:

Just off Amsterdam repositioning cruise, six night. Our cruise director was all business all of the time with one small exception. One evening, he alluded to a bit of a joke and received laughs from the audience. That was so out of character for him but I enjoyed the chuckle.

 

Amsterdam also had one production show with a four piece band, four singers and six dancers. After reading on this forum that HAL no longer has production shows, this was a very pleasant surprise and I enjoyed the show very much.

 

Sounds great. If I might ask, what HAL repositioning cruise is only 6 nights?

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8 hours ago, coffeebean said:

Just off Amsterdam repositioning cruise, six night. Our cruise director was all business all of the time with one small exception. One evening, he alluded to a bit of a joke and received laughs from the audience. That was so out of character for him but I enjoyed the chuckle.

 

Amsterdam also had one production show with a four piece band, four singers and six dancers. After reading on this forum that HAL no longer has production shows, this was a very pleasant surprise and I enjoyed the show very much.

 

I am very relieved to hear the Amsterdam has it's own band/performers as we are boarding her very soon for 51 days!  

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11 hours ago, Ken the cruiser said:

Sounds great. If I might ask, what HAL repositioning cruise is only 6 nights?

I think "repositioning cruise" is incorrect. What is was was 34 day cruise for more than half of the passengers. It was a six night cruise for the rest of the passengers. The 34 day passengers went on to other ports in South and Central America.

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