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LMaxwell

HAL first timers - the next generation

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Decided it was finally time to see if HAL really is just Carnival with different decor, or if it really is a product with a "Signature of Excellence".  

A little about us; I think we would represent the next generation of cruisers to HAL.  Late 30/early 40's married with young child.  We take 4-6 cruises per year and many, many weekend trips to Disney.  Live in South Florida and have high status among many cruise lines (Royal, NCL, MSC, Carnival...) but am just completely over the "YELL LOUDER IF YOU ARE HAVING FUN. WHAT?!? YELL LOUUUUUUUUUUUDER."  

 

What I am interested in is quiet, refined service (staff doesn't have to be fake friendly to us; but working efficiently and not in our face.  When I see harried dining room workers on other lines it doesn't create a calm environment) Clean ship (I like to feel like I spent our hard earned money on a nice product, not a discount motel at sea).  Quality entertainment (this is a major concern; it seems the kids clubs are fine but HAL has cut their nightly adult entertainment to Carnival levels; if this is the case we are one and done.  ). Good included food (I know it is purposely limited because of specialty dining, but still expect good), and I am getting hugely burnt out on nickel and diming from other cruise lines (RCI and NCL being particularly obnoxious with the constant upselling).  HAL markets itself as a premium mass market product.  Not full luxury, but still a cut above the cruise lines I am used to and have spent tens of thousands of dollars on.  Going in with an open mind and some trepidation.  Hoping to find nice little touches that set HAL apart from our other experiences but trying to keep expectations in line with their offerings.  

 

I am excited to try a new cruise line.  I hope it offers what we are looking for.  We are planning a much larger two week Alaska vacation for 2021 and this is a test run for HAL.  Tips, pointers, or level setting is appreciated.  

 

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I hope you enjoy your experience on Holland America.  If you tell us which ship we can be specific in our comments.  Welcome to HAL!

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We are about 10 years older than yall and had our first HAL cruise two years ago. We have been on two more since then and are leaving in 11 days for another. Obviously we enjoyed our first experience. We felt food and service were a step above other mass market lines. Production shows a step down. "Fun" and daytime activities about two steps down from other lines. Music at night a step above other lines. Value is also a key reason we cruise HAL. We are bargain hunters and get great rates on every cruise, better rates than other mass market lines. Upscale experience + better rates = cruise for us.

 

My main concern for you all would be the kids programs and activities. They have a kids club like all other lines, but with so few children on board it may not be a great experience for your child. As your child gets older this may be a bigger deal.

 

Daytime activities for all ages are another minus. Trivia is common, but not too much else on sea days. If you can make your own fun and enjoyment, you'll be fine.

 

My two cents.

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If you enjoy live blues and rolling stones music do sail on the newer / 1900pp and up ships.

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You are the age we were when we "discovered" HAL after years on Carnival and other "loud" cruise lines......For our first HAL cruise, we were 35ish w/kids in tow.....We've never looked back.  Our wish list is similar to your list. 

 

As they say, "savor the journey" and "welcome aboard"

 

 

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IMO, HAL meets most of your wish list, with the exception of entertainment.  Also, you will find fewer children on HAL on most cruises (except perhaps Spring break, etc).   

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I think you might best find what you are looking for on either the Nieuw Amsterdam (newest) or Konigsdam Pinnacle Class HAL ships. We were on the N. Stat. in April on a seven-day out of Port Everglades and thought the “Music Walk” with entertainment in a series of adjacent venues all evening was really fun. Lots of variety. 

 

I love the atmosphere on all the HAL ships, and it’s definitely more refined with good food, clean ships and genuinely friendly staff. 

 

 

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Your wish list is the exact same as mine! I am in my mid 30s and travel with my 14 year old. We have only sailed Royal Caribbean and I'm tired of the mass crowds, rowdiness, loud party-ship atmosphere. We booked our first HAL cruise for this month (Nieuw Amsterdam) and are SO excited to experience it. My hope is that it will be a more laid back experience with a sophisticated atmosphere. My only worry is that the evening entertainment may be lacking for us. We do enjoy the production shows on RCL but if all of our other boxes are checked, I'm okay doing without. 

Edited by Samanthac25

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While my husband and I might now be the "old passenger" stereotype for HAL, it is a position into which we have aged. We both started cruising in our twenties and we have our years of cruising with a child.

   

Unfortunately, it seems that Carnival Corporation is repositioning HAL to be a bridge line between the Carnival cruise experience and the upper tier cruise experience (HAL and Princess did basically target the same socioeconomic market). While this makes sense from a corporate marketing viewpoint, it has definitely impacted on the overall HAL onboard experience.

 

At this point, good food is still included in the cruise fare in the Lido buffet and the main dining room, and for those who pay for a cruise but still want hamburgers and hot dogs, the Dive In. Pizza is abysmal (unless one thinks the stuff some US chains sell is pizza).

 

The excellent production shows with onboard singers and dancers are a thing of the past. While we enjoy the Lincoln Center performances (classical and some pop music), they do not stand up as the replacement source of entertainment.  Also gone is some of the frequent daily on board board cruise staff led activities; i.e., trivia; and past passenger favorites such as the ship building competition.

 

Other onboard activities have been dumbed down. While there use to be an excellent on board cooking demonstrations, they have been replaced by an hour long commercial of "America's Test Kitchen" presentations for those whose culinary expectations don't extend much beyond grilled cheese (although I have read  ATK may be also disappearing).

 

We have become bored on our last few HAL cruises at the lack of entertainment and we have never been passengers that required a high level of on board activities.  Bring several good books and enjoy the in cabin movies; it may be all you have at times.

 

Other long time HAL touches have disappeared over the last few years: abundant fresh flowers around the ship and the liqueurs to pour over ice cream in the Lido are examples.

 

The new larger ships have also removed one of the best parts of the HAL experience. The outside deck space used to be freely available to all. Now in the spirit of the lower tier cruiselines, one may purchase deck space in the form of deck cabanas and private sun deck.

 

Some of the open deck space has also be removed from the older ships as more cabins have been added to the ships (bye-bye aft pool, hello birdbath) and the restricting of deck seating on the promenade deck due to reserved chairs for cabins on that deck.

 

Of course, many of these changes are understandable. In order to attract new passengers, the fares on HAL are low and the nickel and diming of the cruise line by passengers in the form of cruise fare games have become common.

 

If the fare income has been lowered, than the daily per diem rate  the cruise line can project to spend on each passenger aboard is also lowered. Result: less entertainment, less little extra special touches).

 

You will find HAL much better in food quality and a quiet on board atmosphere than what is available on Carnival, Royal Caribbean or NCL. Will it be too lacking in entertainment will be your opinion.

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2 hours ago, Homosassa said:

While my husband and I might now be the "old passenger" stereotype for HAL, it is a position into which we have aged. We both started cruising in our twenties and we have our years of cruising with a child.

   

Unfortunately, it seems that Carnival Corporation is repositioning HAL to be a bridge line between the Carnival cruise experience and the upper tier cruise experience (HAL and Princess did basically target the same socioeconomic market). While this makes sense from a corporate marketing viewpoint, it has definitely impacted on the overall HAL onboard experience.

 

At this point, good food is still included in the cruise fare in the Lido buffet and the main dining room, and for those who pay for a cruise but still want hamburgers and hot dogs, the Dive In. Pizza is abysmal (unless one thinks the stuff some US chains sell is pizza).

 

The excellent production shows with onboard singers and dancers are a thing of the past. While we enjoy the Lincoln Center performances (classical and some pop music), they do not stand up as the replacement source of entertainment.  Also gone is some of the frequent daily on board board cruise staff led activities; i.e., trivia; and past passenger favorites such as the ship building competition.

 

Other onboard activities have been dumbed down. While there use to be an excellent on board cooking demonstrations, they have been replaced by an hour long commercial of "America's Test Kitchen" presentations for those whose culinary expectations don't extend much beyond grilled cheese (although I have read  ATK may be also disappearing).

 

We have become bored on our last few HAL cruises at the lack of entertainment and we have never been passengers that required a high level of on board activities.  Bring several good books and enjoy the in cabin movies; it may be all you have at times.

 

Other long time HAL touches have disappeared over the last few years: abundant fresh flowers around the ship and the liqueurs to pour over ice cream in the Lido are examples.

 

The new larger ships have also removed one of the best parts of the HAL experience. The outside deck space used to be freely available to all. Now in the spirit of the lower tier cruiselines, one may purchase deck space in the form of deck cabanas and private sun deck.

 

Some of the open deck space has also be removed from the older ships as more cabins have been added to the ships (bye-bye aft pool, hello birdbath) and the restricting of deck seating on the promenade deck due to reserved chairs for cabins on that deck.

 

Of course, many of these changes are understandable. In order to attract new passengers, the fares on HAL are low and the nickel and diming of the cruise line by passengers in the form of cruise fare games have become common.

 

If the fare income has been lowered, than the daily per diem rate  the cruise line can project to spend on each passenger aboard is also lowered. Result: less entertainment, less little extra special touches).

 

You will find HAL much better in food quality and a quiet on board atmosphere than what is available on Carnival, Royal Caribbean or NCL. Will it be too lacking in entertainment will be your opinion.

 

You just said everything I would have said.

 

 

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2 hours ago, *Miss G* said:

I hope you enjoy your experience on Holland America.  If you tell us which ship we can be specific in our comments.  Welcome to HAL!

Nieuw Amsterdam 

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2 hours ago, FlaMariner said:

You are the age we were when we "discovered" HAL after years on Carnival and other "loud" cruise lines......For our first HAL cruise, we were 35ish w/kids in tow.....We've never looked back.  Our wish list is similar to your list. 

 

As they say, "savor the journey" and "welcome aboard"

 

 

 

👍👍

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2 hours ago, Samanthac25 said:

Your wish list is the exact same as mine! I am in my mid 30s and travel with my 14 year old. We have only sailed Royal Caribbean and I'm tired of the mass crowds, rowdiness, loud party-ship atmosphere. We booked our first HAL cruise for this month (Nieuw Amsterdam) and are SO excited to experience it. My hope is that it will be a more laid back experience with a sophisticated atmosphere. My only worry is that the evening entertainment may be lacking for us. We do enjoy the production shows on RCL but if all of our other boxes are checked, I'm okay doing without. 

Sounds like you are doing a Caribbean itinerary like I am on the same ship this spring. Look forward to if you have a review or thoughts after.  I’ve look for the daily papers but only finding from many years ago.  Halfway to Diamond Plus on Royal and getting burned out on the repetitive nature and sliding product quality. 

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15 minutes ago, LMaxwell said:

Sounds like you are doing a Caribbean itinerary like I am on the same ship this spring. Look forward to if you have a review or thoughts after.  I’ve look for the daily papers but only finding from many years ago.  Halfway to Diamond Plus on Royal and getting burned out on the repetitive nature and sliding product quality. 

I will let you know how it goes when we get back! I'll also do my best to remember to take a picture of the daily papers. I saw your other post and was hoping someone would have had them too since I'm very interested in what the days and evenings will be like. 

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18 minutes ago, LMaxwell said:

Nieuw Amsterdam 

Hello,  I think you will enjoy the Nieuw Amsterdam.  I have done my last 2 AK cruises on her ( last one this past May and I posted a review on this forum with dailies)  I have enjoyed your posts on the MSC forum,  and my last 2 Caribbean cruises have been on Divina.  Production shows are not HAL's strength...however the Nieuw Amsterdam has the BB Kings  and we love them.  I have found HAL more low key overall, less food venues than NCL, but better food (IMO), than MSC or NCL in the MDR.  We seem to be gravitating more towards HAL for our most recent cruises and enjoy their newer ships.   Although the very best cruise we ever had was a 2 week cruise on the Maasdam several years ago.

 

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I'm of your same demographic and have cruised extensively on every non-luxury line and I absolutely love HAL.  If I were forced to choose, I'd probably point to it as my favorite line.  I jotted down some of the things I love about it on my blog, if you're interested: https://profcruise.com/20-things-i-love-about-holland-america/

 

Enjoy your cruise!

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1 hour ago, LMaxwell said:

Nieuw Amsterdam 

 

The Nieuw Amsterdam is a lovely ship.  A hidden gem is the Tamarind bar (along with the Tamarind restaurant).  It is reached mid-ship, only, via the stairs or the elevator.

 

You will also find the HALfacts site useful for room pictures and ship information.  Keep in mind that many of the pics were taken pre-refurbishment so if it looks out of date it usually is. That’s where the Dry Dock threads come in handy.  Have a wonderful time!

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7 hours ago, LMaxwell said:

Decided it was finally time to see if HAL really is just Carnival with different decor, or if it really is a product with a "Signature of Excellence".  

A little about us; I think we would represent the next generation of cruisers to HAL.  Late 30/early 40's married with young child.  We take 4-6 cruises per year and many, many weekend trips to Disney.  Live in South Florida and have high status among many cruise lines (Royal, NCL, MSC, Carnival...) but am just completely over the "YELL LOUDER IF YOU ARE HAVING FUN. WHAT?!? YELL LOUUUUUUUUUUUDER."  

 

What I am interested in is quiet, refined service (staff doesn't have to be fake friendly to us; but working efficiently and not in our face.  When I see harried dining room workers on other lines it doesn't create a calm environment) Clean ship (I like to feel like I spent our hard earned money on a nice product, not a discount motel at sea).  Quality entertainment (this is a major concern; it seems the kids clubs are fine but HAL has cut their nightly adult entertainment to Carnival levels; if this is the case we are one and done.  ). Good included food (I know it is purposely limited because of specialty dining, but still expect good), and I am getting hugely burnt out on nickel and diming from other cruise lines (RCI and NCL being particularly obnoxious with the constant upselling).  HAL markets itself as a premium mass market product.  Not full luxury, but still a cut above the cruise lines I am used to and have spent tens of thousands of dollars on.  Going in with an open mind and some trepidation.  Hoping to find nice little touches that set HAL apart from our other experiences but trying to keep expectations in line with their offerings.  

 

I am excited to try a new cruise line.  I hope it offers what we are looking for.  We are planning a much larger two week Alaska vacation for 2021 and this is a test run for HAL.  Tips, pointers, or level setting is appreciated.  

 

Our first HAL cruise was last year to the Mexican Riviera 7 nights after tiring from the RCCL product.  We loved HAL. Service is top notch, the staff friendly and always saying hello.  I love how they serve the food in the buffet and even coffee in the main dining room is a production of high customer service and presentation.  We thought the food was very good.  HAL is not big on big performance entertainment, but it was enough to keep us happy.  Very few kids and the few there were were well behaved I dare say better behaved than a few adults we ran into but you will get that.  Night clubs were pretty sedate on our cruise.  I think about 10 PM people started turning in.  If you want high energy thumpathumpathumpa night clubs look elsewhere.  HAL is old school cruising to me.  Now, the dreaded dress code:  Main dining room I felt fine and we fit in just fine with business casual except on formal night with just semi-casual (dark suit).  There were one or two tuxes but not enough to warrant me bringing mine.  Drink prices were not bad.  They do charge you for a second entree in the main dining room, but that is standard in the industry now I think.

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46 minutes ago, ScottC4746 said:

They do charge you for a second entree in the main dining room, but that is standard in the industry now I think.

 

Sounds like you traveled during the paid-second-entree test period.  Apparently people didn’t respond well to that so they’ve done away with it.  Glad you enjoyed your first HAL cruise!

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Two things - no charge for second entree.  That was just an ill advised test!

Second, dress code for formal nights (now call Gala Night) is all over the place, from a few tuxes to dress shirt and tie without a sport coat.  Even polo shirt and nice slacks works.

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11 minutes ago, *Miss G* said:

 

Sounds like you traveled during the paid-second-entree test period.  Apparently people didn’t respond well to that so they’ve done away with it. 

 

3 minutes ago, DaveOKC said:

Two things - no charge for second entree.  That was just an ill advised test!


Phew! So glad to hear this because we like to get an extra entree for two of us to share if we can’t decide between two things 😆

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If you go into the cruise knowing the entertainment may not be up to par with what you've experienced on other cruise lines, then you should be fine.  My son first cruised HAL when he was 24 years old.  Prior to that cruise, he'd traveled on RCCL and Celebrity.  Since that first cruise, he's never looked back and regularly cruises with HAL.  During our upcoming cruise, he'll become 3*, a hallmark of which he's quite proud.  He loves HAL service and quiet ambiance, but he also enjoys the various venues where he can party.  Stage entertainment isn't that important to him, so that may be a big difference from his perspective that doesn't translate well for you and your family.  

 

Definitely give Tamarind a try.  Delicious.  Make sure you order at least one lunch from Dive-In.  Gourmet burgers and wonderful Nathan's hot dogs with the best fries.  Crispy coating on the outside and soft on the inside.  Yum!  

 

On embarkation day, if you arrive at the port in time to board between 11:30-1:00, consider going to the main dining room for lunch (served from noon to 1:30).  It's a quiet, calm way to begin your voyage instead of running around the Lido Marketplace, which is often crowded.  Even if you're told that the dining room is closed, go anyway.  Often, those stewards you meet as you board are trying to steer everyone toward the Lido.  Enjoy your cruise and please come back to share your opinions.

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10 hours ago, Homosassa said:

While my husband and I might now be the "old passenger" stereotype for HAL, it is a position into which we have aged. We both started cruising in our twenties and we have our years of cruising with a child.

   

Unfortunately, it seems that Carnival Corporation is repositioning HAL to be a bridge line between the Carnival cruise experience and the upper tier cruise experience (HAL and Princess did basically target the same socioeconomic market). While this makes sense from a corporate marketing viewpoint, it has definitely impacted on the overall HAL onboard experience.

 

At this point, good food is still included in the cruise fare in the Lido buffet and the main dining room, and for those who pay for a cruise but still want hamburgers and hot dogs, the Dive In. Pizza is abysmal (unless one thinks the stuff some US chains sell is pizza).

 

The excellent production shows with onboard singers and dancers are a thing of the past. While we enjoy the Lincoln Center performances (classical and some pop music), they do not stand up as the replacement source of entertainment.  Also gone is some of the frequent daily on board board cruise staff led activities; i.e., trivia; and past passenger favorites such as the ship building competition.

 

Other onboard activities have been dumbed down. While there use to be an excellent on board cooking demonstrations, they have been replaced by an hour long commercial of "America's Test Kitchen" presentations for those whose culinary expectations don't extend much beyond grilled cheese (although I have read  ATK may be also disappearing).

 

We have become bored on our last few HAL cruises at the lack of entertainment and we have never been passengers that required a high level of on board activities.  Bring several good books and enjoy the in cabin movies; it may be all you have at times.

 

Other long time HAL touches have disappeared over the last few years: abundant fresh flowers around the ship and the liqueurs to pour over ice cream in the Lido are examples.

 

The new larger ships have also removed one of the best parts of the HAL experience. The outside deck space used to be freely available to all. Now in the spirit of the lower tier cruiselines, one may purchase deck space in the form of deck cabanas and private sun deck.

 

Some of the open deck space has also be removed from the older ships as more cabins have been added to the ships (bye-bye aft pool, hello birdbath) and the restricting of deck seating on the promenade deck due to reserved chairs for cabins on that deck.

 

Of course, many of these changes are understandable. In order to attract new passengers, the fares on HAL are low and the nickel and diming of the cruise line by passengers in the form of cruise fare games have become common.

 

If the fare income has been lowered, than the daily per diem rate  the cruise line can project to spend on each passenger aboard is also lowered. Result: less entertainment, less little extra special touches).

 

You will find HAL much better in food quality and a quiet on board atmosphere than what is available on Carnival, Royal Caribbean or NCL. Will it be too lacking in entertainment will be your opinion.

Very helpful to set expectations 

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6 hours ago, ProfCruise said:

I'm of your same demographic and have cruised extensively on every non-luxury line and I absolutely love HAL.  If I were forced to choose, I'd probably point to it as my favorite line.  I jotted down some of the things I love about it on my blog, if you're interested: https://profcruise.com/20-things-i-love-about-holland-america/

 

Enjoy your cruise!

My wife MUST have found your link; she texted me about the room service today ha!  That's a really nicely laid out site and fulfills some of the questions I have had.  Thanks for sharing it 

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