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cruisinderek

Alaska on HAL vs Princess

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Hello all, 

My wife and I have been to Alaska twice and will be returning in Aug. The past 2 trips were with Princess and we absolutely loved it. This trip we will be taking the Kids and grandkid with us. So my question for those that might know is how will the activities compare to Princess?? for example, on Princess they bring on puppies and have a naturalist talk before and during the Glacier bay cruise. Does HAL also have "location specific" activities?? If so, would someone give me an idea of the kind of things we may have available to keep our grandson entertained. Thanks in advance for any insight. 

 

I guess it might help if I told you we are going to be on the Noordam on a northbound cruise. 

Edited by cruisinderek

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Personally ,with children we would have selected Princess ,especially for Alaska  ,HAL in Alaska will more likely be a much older pax 

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It also appears hal may be tinkering with the club hal kids programs on certain ships, so if thats something you would plan on using, it might be worth looking into.

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My two cruises on HAL to Alaska had quite a few kids on board who looked like they were having a ball!  Depending on the age of your grandchild you should check out Club HAL.  I loved the Noordam and on my cruise last year I became friends with a family that had a 6 year old boy.  He LOVED club HAL!!!   Have fun!

I really hope they keep the club HAL option on most of the ships.  

~Nancy

Edited by oakridger
added

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We traveled to Alaska on HAL with 14 family members. It was a great cruise, but it was the only time in my kids 10 cruises across 5 different cruise lines when they refused to attend the kids club. They went one time and after that, they never went again. In all fairness, the facilities and activities paled in comparison to other more family oriented cruise lines (we were on the Westerdam). We still had a great time though. Outside of Club HAL, there weren’t many (if any) kid specific activities. The kids just participated in activities designed for the general population. They went to the pool (yes it was warm enough), they attended performances at the main theatre (they even had a magician one night), and we’d go dancing to live music after dinner. They did have a park ranger come onboard on Glacier Bay day. 
 

We sailed from Seattle, and although fellow cruisers skewed a bit older, it wasn’t the nursing home that many make HAL sound like. There were people of all ages onboard, including other families.

 

I think that Princess would probably be a better choice for families with smaller children. We found their facilities and kids program to be better than HAL. 

 

With that said, we are sailing on HAL again in a few weeks aboard the Niew Statendam which is supposed to have better Club HAL facilities. Let’s see what the kids think this time around.

Edited by Tapi

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I have read about the club HAL not being much of an experience. Good thing is that my grandson has not been interested in them on any of the past cruises. For the price, I couldn't pass up the cruise vs. Princess. I was more looking for insight on if HAL has events related to Alaska. Good to hear that they have the Park ranger on board for Glacier bay. Looking to hear of other events that they do special for just Alaska cruises. 

Edited by cruisinderek

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On our last cruise to AK in 2018 there was a naturalist onboard who gave a few talks and also led photography how-to presentations on deck. Those were really popular. 

 

I don't know if there was similar last year.

 

Sorry I have never heard of HAL having sled dogs, puppies, or dog sledders like Princess does. 😞

 

 

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4 minutes ago, cruisinderek said:

I have read about the club HAL not being much of an experience. Good thing is that my grandson has not been interested in them on any of the past cruises. For the price, I couldn't pass up the cruise vs. Princess. I was more looking for insight on if HAL has events related to Alaska. Good to hear that they have the Park ranger on board for Glacier bay. Looking to hear of other events that they do special for just Alaska cruises. 

We chose HAL over Princess because of price. Kids sailed free, and as the cruise date neared, prices dropped several times, so we upgraded from an ocean view stateroom to a balcony stateroom, and HAL was gracious enough to offer OBC as well. This adjustment was made a few days before sailing. We saved a considerably amount over Princess. 

 

In addition to the park ranger going through Glacier Bay, they also had an “Alaskan cookout” on deck one day, where fresh Alaskan salmon was offered among other delicacies. Overall, we had a fantastic multi-generational family cruise, with wonderful memories that we will always treasure. Overall, HAL offers a great product focused on attention to details. If I need to point any negatives, I’d say that HAL’s decor tends to be “darker and gloomier” than Princess. Our ship, the Westerdam, didn’t have the airy and light filled feeling that I’ve experience on other ships from other cruise lines. Still a pleasant ship, with an impressive multi million, very interesting, (and sometimes head scratching) art collection, just not to my personal taste. 

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Thank you, starting to put my mind at ease. We have prepared our grandson for a slower pace cruise, I was just hoping it would not be Glacially pace cruise (punt intended). Between the indoor pool and a few events to keep him interested in Alaska i think we are going to have an amazing time.  

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26 minutes ago, cruisinderek said:

We have prepared our grandson for a slower pace cruise,

 

I apologize if I missed this.  How old is your grandson? And does he have any specific likes or interests that may help him engage with Alaska? (e.g., history, wildlife, photography?)

 

 

Edited by VennDiagram

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We love both HAL and Princess but chose HAL for Alaska due to the smaller ship and the fact that they call at Sitka and Princess does not. I will admit that I was a bit jealous of the Princess folks who got to see the “Puppies in the Piazza” as they look adorable and I think that would be a fun experience.  That said, the naturalist at Glacier Bay was great and the open bow with Dutch pea soup during the glacier viewing was quite special.  
 

I think there are pluses and minuses to everything; one has to just pick what works best for them. If the price is the same you can’t go wrong with either. HAL has much smaller ships which is a plus on the open decks during glacier viewing but no puppies. Princess has prettier interiors IMO but they don’t go to Sitka which was a great port. It’s all give and take. 

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Grandson is 11 and he is all about understanding the how's and why's of things, So if there is a naturalist explaining things along with the Ranger on Glacier bay day then I think he will be able to keep himself busy. He loved the fact that the pool is enclosed and we are doing a week in Denali after the cruise so the he will get the Puppies there. 

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5 minutes ago, cruisinderek said:

Grandson is 11 and he is all about understanding the how's and why's of things

 

One thing that keeps many of us of varying ages entertained is being outdoors, watching for whales and  dolphins.  Maybe get him some binoculars of his own, and a camera? And a book about the humpback whales migrating, feeding, etc?

 

 

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Funny you would say that, Did all of that about a week ago and he has been reading my Cruise companion book from the last time we went to Alaska. 

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4 hours ago, cruisinderek said:

we are doing a week in Denali after the cruise so the he will get the Puppies there. 

Have him bring along a baggie of dog biscuits. The dogs will love him, and give him loads of attention! 
He can't feed the little pups, but the older ones, and the full grown dogs can have them, and they love it. 


(of course, ask permission of whoever is in charge, but I have never been refused.) 

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That sounds like an awesome idea. I would never have thought that the park rangers would let the dogs have anything other than a regulated diet. 

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Though both cruise lines offer the best of Alaska cruises, since you’re bringing kids, go Princess. For Puppies in the Piazza, line up very early! The line wrapped down the hall out of the piazza!!

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Both HAL and Princess are the go-to cruise lines for Alaska. HAL will have better food, and depending on which Princess ship, better viewing areas. Service should be slightly better as well.

 

Princess has a slightly better northbound/southbound itinerary since they usually visit 2 glaciers vs 1 glacier stop. The Princess ships usually have 2 pools available for kids, which my nephew enjoyed greatly.

 

The Puppies on the Plaza I think is held during the Skagway stop, so you may not be on the ship when it happens. No great loss for us, since we stopped by a sled dog center in the Yukon during our shore excursion and pretty much had 30 minutes+ of quality time without having to wait in line or deal with crowds. Your week at Denali will be more than ample time to experience the "real" Alaska as well.

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I did Alaska with my son on Princess at about that age....we both loved it. We had been on HAL earlier, in the Caribbean, with my parents (frequent HAL cruisers) but my son was not a fan of the onboard activities, so we chose Princess for Alaska.

 

I will say that the naturalist on Princess was absolutely fantastic and was with us the entire time; gave 4-5 packed lectures (but more for the adults than the children).

 

The onshore activities are what really "make" the cruise for that age, I think. My son really enjoyed going to the raptor center, panning for gold, doing a whale-watching cruise, etc. 

 

Also:  has Princess stopped visiting Sitka?   On both of the Princess Alaska cruises I've done in the past, we went there -- it was a favorite.

 

(Edited to add: I just did a search and found a number of Princess cruises that visit Sitka in 2020.....)

Edited by cruisemom42
added new info

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On 1/23/2020 at 4:48 PM, cruisinderek said:

we are going to be on the Noordam on a northbound cruise. 

 

On 1/24/2020 at 7:57 AM, cruisinderek said:

For the price, I couldn't pass up the cruise vs. Princess. I

 

The OP has already chosen HAL. 

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I would have loved to go with Princess for a 3rd time but the price difference was about $3000. HAL had the best price and the itinerary I was looking for and the dates that worked. Thank you all for the insight of what to expect from HAL and what i need to be prepared for. I know there is no such thing as a bad cruise, and certainly not a bad cruise to Alaska. If anyone can think of other things that HAL does for Alaska that are special or unique I would love to keep hearing them. 

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2 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

I did Alaska with my son on Princess at about that age....we both loved it. We had been on HAL earlier, in the Caribbean, with my parents (frequent HAL cruisers) but my son was not a fan of the onboard activities, so we chose Princess for Alaska.

 

I will say that the naturalist on Princess was absolutely fantastic and was with us the entire time; gave 4-5 packed lectures (but more for the adults than the children).

 

The onshore activities are what really "make" the cruise for that age, I think. My son really enjoyed going to the raptor center, panning for gold, doing a whale-watching cruise, etc. 

 

Also:  has Princess stopped visiting Sitka?   On both of the Princess Alaska cruises I've done in the past, we went there -- it was a favorite.

 

(Edited to add: I just did a search and found a number of Princess cruises that visit Sitka in 2020.....)

I double checked the cruise port calendars for 2017, 2018, and 2019. the Emerald Princess called once in 2017 and the Grand Princess called at Sitka twice in 2018 and thrice in 2019. When we went to Sitka in 2016 on the Westerdam, one of our tour guides said Princess stopped calling at Sitka due to some dispute with the docking arrangements. Apparently he was not entirely correct as evidenced by the port info but 6 calls in 3 years shows Sitka is not a common or focused on port for Princess. HAL is there almost weekly. 

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15 minutes ago, cruisinderek said:

I would have loved to go with Princess for a 3rd time but the price difference was about $3000.  

 

That seems to be a common theme lately.  My last couple HAL cruises, including Alaska, were chosen due to huge price differences.  I'm looking at a Caribbean cruise now in February and HAL is over $1k cheaper than the competition, and it includes drinks and is on their brand new ship. 

 

That said, due to the lack of activities, if prices were equal, I would not be choosing HAL.  Sorry to be blunt, but activities and entertainment suck on HAL. 

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28 minutes ago, cruisinderek said:

If anyone can think of other things that HAL does for Alaska that are special or unique I would love to keep hearing them. 

 

To be honest we pretty much use the ship to get to the ports in Alaska.  There's so much that you can do, either with HAL shore excursions, or on your own, onshore.  We are fairly oblivious to what does and doesn't happen on the ship.

 

The bow will be open on your glacier cruising day.  There will be pea soup and hot chocolate being served.  There are lots of places to be out on deck for glacier viewing (unlike the experience I had with Princess)

 

What have you got planned for shore activities?

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We have Whale watching and Mendenhall in Juneau, Liarsville in Skagway, and Totem park and Lumberjack show in Ketchikan. Since my wife and I have been to Alaska twice already we pretty much let our daughter and grandson decide what looked good for the ports. Nice to hear that the bow is open for Glacier bay day. I love being out and about for the day, 

 

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