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jabcruiser

HAL vs Celebrity Impressions

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We recently returned from a 6 day Celebrity cruise on Silhouette. This was our first sailing on Celebrity.  We normally sail HAL, but have also done Carnival cruises in the past.  Since we are very close to Tampa(and it is our favorite port) and HAL recently pulled out of that port, and Celebrity will begin sailing from there next year, we wanted to give them a try.  Found a great price on this shorter cruise so grabbed it. I must say was not really impressed with Celebrity. Yes in some respects it is comparable to HAL, but we just found it did not fit us that well.  Dining room food and service was excellent.  However buffet food not so good and I absolutely hated that everyone served themselves at the buffet.  Yuck - how many unwashed hands have touched those serving utensils?  Most of the food in buffet overcooked and about tasteless. Prepared in large batches and sits out unlike HAL which prepares smaller batches right at buffet station so always seems fresh and tastes very good in our experience.  The burger/hotdog grill was god awful.  Yuck.  Love HAL's Dive-In burgers and dogs. Also missed Taco bar on Hal.  Celebrity had a "Mexican" station in buffet area but was very lacking.  Salsa made with green peppers(I swear), and not a jalapeno to be had.  Tasteless and bland.  Very little, if any, drink service on pool deck.  Almost never cleaned up tables either.  First day I had conversation with assistant bar manager about this, but did not improve.  On our last HAL cruise, Willy was constantly cleaning tables in Sea View Bar area.  HAL drink service is sometimes little slow, but generally has been good in our experience. Silhouette was a pretty ship but no nice artwork/sculpture and no large flower arrangements scattered throughout ship like HAL.  Silhouette artwork pretty much consisted of photographs of nothing of interest.  Did not attend any evening entertainment events as we do not do the showroom song and dance shows and not much of interest.  We love, love, love BB King Blues Club on HAL ships we have sailed on. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants as seemed way overpriced to us.  Public area bathrooms were always very clean with cloth towels and no difference from HAL there.  Our Veranda cabin was nice with sofa and the veranda actually had a normal height table which you could actually eat on if wanted to.  But it severely lacked storage space, especially shelving I thought. Big closet but no shelves so could only hang clothes on too few hangers.  Half of closet basically left empty, but no shelves.  All in all we enjoyed this cruise.  But think we will stick with HAL in future as Celebrity did not really impress us.  Also, just a footnote, this cruise really began on a bad note when muster lasted one full hour.  Are you kidding me?  Everyone was complaining.  Check in very unorganized and no one knew where to actually "check in" so apparently delay trying to figure out the many " missing" people.  Then stupid cartoon, then stupid "spy" movie really put everyone off.  One hour of standing crammed shoulder to shoulder- not kidding.   Never seen anything like it on any previous cruise.

Just my thoughts.  I am sure others will disagree.  Everyone's likes and dislikes are different.  That is what makes our World such an interesting and beautiful place.

Jane

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Thanks for the review, jabcruiser.  We tried Celebrity last spring and came away with many of the same impressions.  We enjoyed ourselves, but in all categories we enjoy HAL more.

Nice to sail from a convenient port, though!

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We have been mainly loyal to HAL and are 4*.  We did try Celebrity in March for the first time.  

We usually  cruise in a Neptune suite on HAL and on Celebrity we were in a Sky suite.  

 

We never ate in the dining room on Celebrity as they have Luminae and it was great.   We found the suite life on Celebrity to be far superior than HAL with a lot more included.  (For example, Michael’s Club which included all alcoholic beverages).  Price for our cruise was comparable to a Neptune.  

 

We still prefer HAL because of the staff and it just feels comfortable-hard to explain.  But we wouldn’t hesitate to take a cruise on another cruise line if we found their itinerary was what we wanted.  

 

Hard to believe your muster lasted that long-ridiculous!  It was the one complaint I had on Celebrity was the muster-very crowded inside and took too long.

 

Thanks for taking the time to do your report.  I wonder if we hadn’t been in a suite on Celebrity if we’d have liked it as much.  

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5 minutes ago, canadianbear said:

 

 

Thanks for taking the time to do your report.  I wonder if we hadn’t been in a suite on Celebrity if we’d have liked it as much.  

 

We didn't do full suite, but did book aqua class, which has the Blu restaurant, and we still like HAL better.

Just our take on it.

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We bounce between the two and after Celebrity cruises, always wish we had done HAL..  After HAL glad we chose them.  

Over last few years we have preferred Celebrity to Bermuda because of NY vs Boston port and the Summit is a good ship, but we much prefer food, service, entertainment on HAL.  People talk about being bored on HAL, but we find more to do on them.

We are Elite on X and appreciate the perks--have about same days on HAL but not much as a 3 star.

We are debating which to book now and this reinforces our leaning to HAL.

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2 hours ago, St Pete Cruiser said:

In case you haven't noticed, Holland America is returning to Tampa Nov, 2020, with the Veendam.

Thanks for update.  I hadn't seen that yet.  Have never been on Veendam.

Jane

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29 minutes ago, jabcruiser said:

Thanks for update.  I hadn't seen that yet.  Have never been on Veendam.

Jane

You might not be happy on Veendam. 

It is older and smaller. 

 My sister went on it when it was going to Cuba a year or so ago and hated it.   She couldn't understand why we keep cruising HAL.  I told her the newer, bigger ships have a lot more to offer.  It doesn't have an aft pool or BB Kings.  We have taken it twice and know what to expect but  only choose it when the itinerary is not offered on newer ships---like Bermuda or Cuba.

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Thanks for taking the time to post your impressions.  We traveled Celebrity exclusively in the early 2000s.  Then, we took a cruise over a major holiday weekend.  Unfortunately, it was a week-long break for northeastern school districts.  There were hundreds of kids aboard, including our son, who is autistic (Asperger's).  On the first morning, we took him to the kid's club.  We'd traveled with RCCL with him and never had a problem with him being in the kid's club.  A few hours later, they called us to remove him.  Other kids, picking up on the fact that he was different were bullying him.  Instead of removing those kids, they asked us to take our child back to the cabin.  They did give us a game system with lots of games for free, so he could entertain himself.  BTW, he was fine with this solution, but I was furious.  

 

Meanwhile, the other "little darlings" ran all over the ship, throwing things at other passengers, pressing all the elevator buttons, and invading the adults' only spaces, including the night clubs.  My husband and I witnessed security officers being cussed out by a father who was asked to come to one of the night clubs to pick up his 15 year-old son at 1:30 a.m.  The dad swore at the officers for waking him up for something "so inconsequential."  This child had tried to order a cocktail and refused to leave the bar, so the bartender called security.  That wasn't the only incident involving children.  By the fourth day of the cruise, our family was dying to get off,  although to be fair to Celebrity, incidents like this could occur on other lines too.

 

We tried HAL next, in 2008, just my husband and I and knew we had found "our home."  Several years later, we included our son, who, by this time, was an adult.  He adored HAL, and they seemed to understand his syndrome.  We have happily cruised HAL ever since.  In 2014, however, my spring break fell after all HAL ships had left Ft. Lauderdale, so several friends and I went on Celebrity out of Miami.  Nothing wrong with that cruise, except all of us were wishing we were back on HAL, so, OP, I understand your sentiments.

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1 hour ago, lvz2cruz said:

You might not be happy on Veendam. 

It is older and smaller. 

 My sister went on it when it was going to Cuba a year or so ago and hated it.   She couldn't understand why we keep cruising HAL.  I told her the newer, bigger ships have a lot more to offer.  It doesn't have an aft pool or BB Kings.  We have taken it twice and know what to expect but  only choose it when the itinerary is not offered on newer ships---like Bermuda or Cuba.

I kind of wonder that myself.  We have always sailed the Vista Class ships and the Koningsdam last December.  Actually like Vista class better than Koningsdam.  But since we love BB King and I always use aft pool, maybe won't be good fit for us.  We may try it sometime though if I see itinerary I like for good price.  Will see.  Thanks for info though.

 

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Thanks for posting the review.  Like the OP we have done a lot of cruising on HAL (5 Star Mariners) and we have also done a lot of cruising on Celebrity (Elite Plus) including many cruises on the Silhouette (and other Solstice Class ships).  So when we saw the subject of the thread it really go our interest.  In the past 4 years we have lost much of our interest in Celebrity because we think their price increases coupled with many cut-backs have turned a once great cruise line into a mediocre mass market product.  On the other hand, HAL has plenty of problems with too many older ships (too few balconies) and plenty of their own cut-backs (no more production shows for starters).  As to the BB King shows, we also like those but they are only on about half of the HAL vessels.   When the OP posted they do not attend evening shows it reminded me of many fellow HAL cruisers who are often in bed by 9pm and seldom go to shows.  Having seen many of the HAL shows I do not blame them :).  But I guess HAL heard the complaints about their production shows and in typical HAL fashion simply ended all the shows rather then make improvements.  This leaves HAL as the only mass market line without Production Shows.  On our recent Princess cruises (2 in the last 4 months) we chatted with numerous other cruisers who said they would no longer consider any HAL cruise because of the lack of these shows.

 

We do think the OP missed some of the better things on the Silhouette.  Murano is one of the best restaurants at sea (it blows away the mediocre Pinnacle Grill).  On Celebrity we usually can find ways to go to the alternative restaurants for 30 -50% Off the published prices.  I would rather pay $50 for Murano then $15 for the Pinnacle (we get 50% off).   As to the comparison of the Lidos, we are not impressed with either line although Celebrity certainly has longer hours when you can eat in the Lido.  We do agree with the OP that HAL's Dive-In is superior to the burger places on Celebrity.  As to overall service, we would call it a toss up.  We have had excellent service on both lines...and also had some lousy service on both lines.  

 

I did have to laugh at the OP's comment about lack of storage in their Veranda cabin.  My first thought was that at least Celebrity has plenty of "Veranda Cabins."  Many of HAL's ships have very few verandas other then in the expensive suites.  If given a choice between a Celebrity veranda with lousy storage or a HAL Outside Cabin with plenty of storage......

 

Hank

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I was a bit more favorably disposed in my recent comparison. That said, my booked cruises for 2020 are on HAL.

 

 

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Although we have now taken more cruises on HAL than on Celebrity, I can say that there are at least two things about Celebrity that I do miss.

One is the large variety of desserts artfully displayed in the buffet - a treat for the eyes as well as for the taste buds.

The other was the glass-blowing show on the Solstice class ships; sadly, the show has been discontinued (and replaced, I believe, with classes at an added cost).

 

 

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Having sailed numerous times on both Celebrity and HAL, overall I prefer most aspects of HAL (and Princess) to Celebrity.

But would consider Celebrity for itinerary and price in the future.

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23 hours ago, Hlitner said:

Thanks for posting the review.  Like the OP we have done a lot of cruising on HAL (5 Star Mariners) and we have also done a lot of cruising on Celebrity (Elite Plus) including many cruises on the Silhouette (and other Solstice Class ships).  So when we saw the subject of the thread it really go our interest.  In the past 4 years we have lost much of our interest in Celebrity because we think their price increases coupled with many cut-backs have turned a once great cruise line into a mediocre mass market product.  On the other hand, HAL has plenty of problems with too many older ships (too few balconies) and plenty of their own cut-backs (no more production shows for starters).  As to the BB King shows, we also like those but they are only on about half of the HAL vessels.   When the OP posted they do not attend evening shows it reminded me of many fellow HAL cruisers who are often in bed by 9pm and seldom go to shows.  Having seen many of the HAL shows I do not blame them :).  But I guess HAL heard the complaints about their production shows and in typical HAL fashion simply ended all the shows rather then make improvements.  This leaves HAL as the only mass market line without Production Shows.  On our recent Princess cruises (2 in the last 4 months) we chatted with numerous other cruisers who said they would no longer consider any HAL cruise because of the lack of these shows.

 

We do think the OP missed some of the better things on the Silhouette.  Murano is one of the best restaurants at sea (it blows away the mediocre Pinnacle Grill).  On Celebrity we usually can find ways to go to the alternative restaurants for 30 -50% Off the published prices.  I would rather pay $50 for Murano then $15 for the Pinnacle (we get 50% off).   As to the comparison of the Lidos, we are not impressed with either line although Celebrity certainly has longer hours when you can eat in the Lido.  We do agree with the OP that HAL's Dive-In is superior to the burger places on Celebrity.  As to overall service, we would call it a toss up.  We have had excellent service on both lines...and also had some lousy service on both lines.  

 

I did have to laugh at the OP's comment about lack of storage in their Veranda cabin.  My first thought was that at least Celebrity has plenty of "Veranda Cabins."  Many of HAL's ships have very few verandas other then in the expensive suites.  If given a choice between a Celebrity veranda with lousy storage or a HAL Outside Cabin with plenty of storage......

 

Hank

A quick correction.  My wife and I just returned from a 33 day cruise on the Noordam from Honolulu to Auckland, which did indeed feature multiple production shows with the “Holland America Singers and Dancers.” I too thought that the shows were discontinued, and was pleased to discover that at least on some ships they’re still around.

 

Also, both the Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam feature multiple shows from the Step One Dance Company and Post Modern Jukebox. I personally felt that they’re even better than the production shows.

 

We love both Celebrity and Holland America. We usually sail Aqua Class on Celebrity, and for me the food in BLU is a little better than HA, and the Lido buffet on the Edge is for us the best buffet at sea. Aqua Class also gives us complimentary access to the spa and thermal suites. Holland America, though, has longer and more unique itineraries. And we love their perks as four star mariners.

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2 hours ago, BarbarianPaul said:

A quick correction.  My wife and I just returned from a 33 day cruise on the Noordam from Honolulu to Auckland, which did indeed feature multiple production shows with the “Holland America Singers and Dancers.” I too thought that the shows were discontinued, and was pleased to discover that at least on some ships they’re still around.

 

Also, both the Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam feature multiple shows from the Step One Dance Company and Post Modern Jukebox. I personally felt that they’re even better than the production shows.

 

We love both Celebrity and Holland America. We usually sail Aqua Class on Celebrity, and for me the food in BLU is a little better than HA, and the Lido buffet on the Edge is for us the best buffet at sea. Aqua Class also gives us complimentary access to the spa and thermal suites. Holland America, though, has longer and more unique itineraries. And we love their perks as four star mariners.

Your info about the Noordam shows is the first we have seen on CC that mentions Production Shows.  I hope that continues when we next cruise on the Westy 🙂 for a month..next spring..  Quite a few recent posts have talked about a less than stellar entertainment program but we will have to wait until next April to see for ourselves.  We did know about the Step One Dance folks but that is only on a few ships.  Personally I am more a fan of music and singing, but some dance is a good thing.   As to other HAL changes I am one of many that is not happy with the changes made to the Crow's Nest (my old hangout).  And DW and I are still in mourning at the loss of our beloved Prinsendam.  

 

As to Aqua, we have done quite a few cruises in Aqua and it used to be our favorite way to cruise on X.  But we gradually grew tired of the same ole menus in Blu.  About 3 years ago we simply booked a regular balcony cabin (the same as AQ cabins on the Solstice Class except regular balcony cabins actually have better locations).  With part of the money we saved by NOT booking AQ,  we purchased a dining package (when it was on sale) which gave us 16 out of 21 meals in alternative restaurants.  We ate most of those dinners in Murano which we think is lightyears better then AQ.   In fact, we think that Murano is one of the best restaurants at sea (the Pinnacle is not even in the same class).  We used our MDR dinners on the Chic nights when the MDR menus are very good.  In many ways it was our favorite Celebrity cruise.  And it actually cost us less then Aqua would have cost on that same cruise.  But ever since LLP has taken over the helm of Celebrity we think the cut-backs have become too darn annoying...not to mention the big price increases.  This past Spring we grabbed a terrific last minute deal on the Summit which was a terrific cruise given the low price we paid.   On the other hand, we cruised on the Seabourn Soujourn this past July for less money (per passenger day) then a comparable cabin (and perks) would have cost on X.  

 

We have, so far, avoided the new large HAL vessels although there have been quite a few posts about them wasting the beautiful theaters with the lack of big Production Shows.  And showing a BBC Documentary on a ship should never be billed as the main entertainment  On lines like Princess they might put something like that on their outdoor MUTS screen, but would never use it as a main show.

 

Hank

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I used to believe that HAL and X were fairly comparable, slightly preferring HAL's food, bedding, and itineraries, while preferring X's modern decor ships and promos.  Our Halloween cruise last year on Celebrity Infinity was wonderful, 6 months later, something had changed...

 

From Santiago to Honolulu, the Celebrity Eclipse continued  running out of ingredient last Spring.  We were embarked in Vancouver, but I talked to plenty of people who had experienced this from San Diego, Chile, or even Argentina.  Our meals in Blu were a severe letdown, usually with no vegetables, missing ingredients, stale bread, watered down soup, and mashed up corn, carrots, and peas as a bread spread.  The buffet was usually lukewarm and unappetizing, which was fine by us, being so vegetable starved that we were there for salad.  The last night of the cruise introduced frozen mixed veggies into the buffet, which I honestly believe was the bread spread source.  They ran out of pineapple juice while docked in Maui, you would think the stores in Hawaii would have this in stock?

 

I have no idea if what we experienced is the new normal, a fluke on that ship while repositioning, or something they've back peddled on.  Definitely put a sour taste in our mouth, and I have no plans of paying extra for it with their new pricing structure.

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We have been sailing Celebrity and have noticed lots of cutbacks and higher prices to boot.  Looking at giving HAL a shot.  I certainly appreciate your comparisons.  Thank you.

 

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On 11/27/2019 at 1:44 PM, canadianbear said:

We still prefer HAL because of the staff and it just feels comfortable-hard to explain....

 

We cruise both lines. On HAL I feel - just as you said - comfortable, hard to explain. Love the crew, full promenades (lacking on X), the artwork and nautical antiques, piano bars, staterooms on the Lower Promenade on the small ships, the yum-yum man, Mariner's Club tiles, and company's long Dutch history.

 

OP, Our first Celebrity cruise was a five-day sampler and it was terrible (too long to explain) but we still kept an existing booking on a transatlantic and had a much better experience.  We are booked on a 10-night X Tampa cruise in 2021 and, as you may know, HAL is now also returning to Tampa.

 

Almost five years ago, Celebrity introduced their Luminae/Michael's benefits, and those really hooked my spouse. The repeater's benefits are very good. So now we go back and forth between Celebrity and HAL and cruise with both each year. 

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I get Celebrity's email sales notices and they seem much higher priced (for similar products) than HAL or Princess. I have not sensed and am not reading here, that they any more 'luxury' line to deserve the price difference.

 

How lines treat their upper-tier passengers has no attraction to me. How they treat EVERYONE, much more so.

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We prefer Celebrity primarily due to better food in nearly every venue. Specialty restaurants on Celebrity are far superior to HAL both in number of venues and overall quality. We find HAL's buffet very inefficient with long waits in certain areas. Breakfast in HAL buffet is ridiculous with powdered scrambled eggs and one person handling poached egg station. In recent years we have only sailed Vista Class ships because those are only HAL ships with non smoking casinos. Someday hopefully HAL's newer ships will have non smoking casinos; we would like to try them.

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