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Holland America vs Oceana experiences


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We have found a unique itinerary for Feb 2022 on Oceana but for the last ten years we have mainly cruised on Holland America and larger ships before that. I am hoping to hear from past travelers on both lines who can share their thoughts on any similarities or differences between the two different lines. A sale begins on Monday so we are trying to research beforehand. Thank you.

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While it's been about 5 years since I was on Oceania vs just a year ago on HAL, the biggest differences are the sheer size of the ship and number of pax, Found food to be much better on O, and no up charge for the special restaurants. No big show, but more ;live music on O. You can bring your own wine onboard for no extra fee. to my mind, at least there was less effort to upsell everything.

But, Oceania tends to be considerably more expensive. 

Don't think either option is bad when we can sail again.

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We are five star on HAL. We have sailed Oceana on a Dubai to Cape Town itinerary and liked it very much. We were scheduled on another last March that hit the western part of Africa but Covid caused it to be canceled. We transferred our credit for that cruise to another similar itinerary in 2022. We like the size of the ships and the packages you can get with your cruise. I wish they had a wrap around Prominade deck, but other than that the ship layout is fine. They like to brag about their food in their broachers, but we found it to be about the same as HAL's. The problem we are having with HAL is that they are getting rid of their S and R class ships and only building the larger ships with 2500 passengers.  We don't like ships that large, so even with the five star perks we have been looking at alternatives.   We found the crew on Oceana quite helpful and friendly and there was less "nickel and diming" than on HAL. We prefer longer cruises (4 to 6 weeks) going to unusual locations and we can find those on Oceana. Overall, if you have liked HAL, you probably will like Oceana.

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We have sailed both.  Our takeaway, HAL wins in crew and has a larger number of unique itineraries (that may change since HAL has lost so many ships that sailed those).  Oceania wins on food, ship maintenance, loyalty program and crew/passenger ratio.  Oceania is more expensive.

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I have sailed extensively on HAL, and took a 'one and done' cruise on Oceania. 
The Oceania ship (Riviera) was gorgeous, no doubt about it. It was a size I like, so had that going for it, too. But for positives, that was about it. 
Except for my cabin steward (who happened to come from Indonesia) service was terrible. Every evening my friends and I would meet for cocktails; well, they had non-alcoholic drinks while I had the real stuff. Every night, in the same lounge, at approximately the same time in the same area, it took forever to get waited on, even though there were few other people there. 
Once we got our drinks we were never approached for a refill. 
Service in the dining room was not attentive, either. Stewards were rotated among all the various dining rooms, so you were never able to build a relationship with one, and had to make special requests anew every night. 
The food in the dining room never lived up to the hype I had heard about Oceania; a couple of the specialty restaurants did. No matter how clearly I described how I wanted my breakfast bacon cooked, they always, always, always over cooked it. By a lot. My friend could never get her eggs cooked the way she wanted, either. 
The grill, on the other hand, was very good. They knew how to cook a burger, and used delicious meat. You put in your order, got a number, and the food was brought to you. You could also get real milkshakes at the adjacent stand. They were good. 

I went to one show, sat in the back, and couldn't hear because the CD and other employees were standing behind my row chatting away the entire time. Other entertainment at night was missing or lacking. 

All this for more than twice what I usually pay on HAL! It would have been four times as much had I not found a roomie to share the expense (I typically sail solo). 

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30 minutes ago, RuthC said:

I have sailed extensively on HAL, and took a 'one and done' cruise on Oceania. 
The Oceania ship (Riviera) was gorgeous, no doubt about it. It was a size I like, so had that going for it, too. But for positives, that was about it. 
Except for my cabin steward (who happened to come from Indonesia) service was terrible. Every evening my friends and I would meet for cocktails; well, they had non-alcoholic drinks while I had the real stuff. Every night, in the same lounge, at approximately the same time in the same area, it took forever to get waited on, even though there were few other people there. 
Once we got our drinks we were never approached for a refill. 
Service in the dining room was not attentive, either. Stewards were rotated among all the various dining rooms, so you were never able to build a relationship with one, and had to make special requests anew every night. 
The food in the dining room never lived up to the hype I had heard about Oceania; a couple of the specialty restaurants did. No matter how clearly I described how I wanted my breakfast bacon cooked, they always, always, always over cooked it. By a lot. My friend could never get her eggs cooked the way she wanted, either. 
The grill, on the other hand, was very good. They knew how to cook a burger, and used delicious meat. You put in your order, got a number, and the food was brought to you. You could also get real milkshakes at the adjacent stand. They were good. 

I went to one show, sat in the back, and couldn't hear because the CD and other employees were standing behind my row chatting away the entire time. Other entertainment at night was missing or lacking. 

All this for more than twice what I usually pay on HAL! It would have been four times as much had I not found a roomie to share the expense (I typically sail solo). 

I could not agree more.  I would go as far as saying some of the crew were down right surly.   This  was not only my observation but many in our large party had the same experience.   There is one itinerary that is very enticing but the memory from 2018 is still raw. 
 

what was most disappointing was for years Norwegian was my favorite line until the fleet changed to large ships.    I had high hopes for their sister, Oceania

Edited by Mary229
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36 minutes ago, RuthC said:

I have sailed extensively on HAL, and took a 'one and done' cruise on Oceania. 
The Oceania ship (Riviera) was gorgeous, no doubt about it. It was a size I like, so had that going for it, too. But for positives, that was about it. 
Except for my cabin steward (who happened to come from Indonesia) service was terrible. Every evening my friends and I would meet for cocktails; well, they had non-alcoholic drinks while I had the real stuff. Every night, in the same lounge, at approximately the same time in the same area, it took forever to get waited on, even though there were few other people there. 
Once we got our drinks we were never approached for a refill. 
Service in the dining room was not attentive, either. Stewards were rotated among all the various dining rooms, so you were never able to build a relationship with one, and had to make special requests anew every night. 
The food in the dining room never lived up to the hype I had heard about Oceania; a couple of the specialty restaurants did. No matter how clearly I described how I wanted my breakfast bacon cooked, they always, always, always over cooked it. By a lot. My friend could never get her eggs cooked the way she wanted, either. 
The grill, on the other hand, was very good. They knew how to cook a burger, and used delicious meat. You put in your order, got a number, and the food was brought to you. You could also get real milkshakes at the adjacent stand. They were good. 

I went to one show, sat in the back, and couldn't hear because the CD and other employees were standing behind my row chatting away the entire time. Other entertainment at night was missing or lacking. 

All this for more than twice what I usually pay on HAL! It would have been four times as much had I not found a roomie to share the expense (I typically sail solo). 

 

9 minutes ago, Mary229 said:

I could not agree more.  I would go as far as saying some of the crew were down right surly.   This  was not only my observation but many in our large party had the same experience.   There is one itinerary that is very enticing but the memory from 2018 is still raw. 
 

what was most disappointing was for years Norwegian was my favorite line until the fleet changed to large ships.    I had high hopes for their sister, Oceania

 

I have to say I agreee with you both.

I found most staff surly unless they came from HAL, Crystal or Seabourn.  You could see the difference.

I will say that the rooms were gorgeous and really well laid out (we were in a PH on the Riviera).

I found the food way over hyped.  Most of the specialties were meh other than Jacques which was fantastic.

I’m used to smaller ships since my favourite was the Prinsendam but comparing crew to crew, I found this crew cold, not caring and especially showed when we had Noro.

I’m like Ruth - one and done but many have had a good experience on Oceania.  I thought I was going on a premium cruise line.  I would have had a better experience on the Prinsendam IMO (no longer with the fleet).  

YMMV

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I’ve done a few Oceania cruises and until they change their product, I’m done with them. I would say they only exceed HAL in one area - food. One thing’s for sure - Oceania is not worth the premium price. 
 

if you’re willing to pay for a premium line, I recommend Viking Ocean. 
 

Otherwise, stick with HAL or consider Celebrity. 

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I agree with previous posters, Oceania does Not deliver the premium product they claim. After multiple sailings on both their class of ships, we, and our friends, will not patronize Oceania again.

 

The issues I identify that should Not be the case for a premium cruise line with premium pricing:

 

1) Arrogant on board management - the demeanor of officers is basically, they look down at you, barely acknowledge your existence, not acceptable. Guest Relations and Shore Excursions, cold and aloof. The worst of any cruise line or hotel I have experienced.

2) Service staff. With a few exceptions, rather formal and austere. There is not the staff service levels there should be for a premium line

3) Food. Not as advertised. Oceania downgraded their food offerings, food quality and choice in August 2018. There are threads on CC about this. The MDR is no better than most main cruise lines, the foods I was presented were in many cases worse then at my local chain restaurants. Not impressed. The Terrace etc, Ok, but not the amount of variety one would expect for premium pricing. Oceania toots that you get get grilled lobster in the Terrace, yes, but that does not make up for the overall, same old, same old. Salads swimming in dressing etc. It is my impression that Oceania uses the olive oil cart etc to "fancy" up their specialty restaurants, but generally they are no better than the specialties on other lines

4) The R ships - too small, too old, and the bathrooms entirely inappropriate for a premium cruise line. I and others were bored most of the time.

5) Missing ports. Oceania seems to have a higher than normal tendency to miss ports. All my cruises on Oceania, and my friends on their Oceania trips - all of us had a minimum of one lost port. 

 

In the end, each person can choose what they want. For the premium price tag, I most certainly did not receive a premium experience.

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We very much enjoyed our cruise on Oceania's Marina and would sail again with them. In fact, we were booked with them for a South America cruise in January but we did cancel. That cruise's base price was slightly (about $100 pp) more than HAL's for a similar itinerary. But, Oceania includes WiFi, all non alcoholic drinks and all specialty restaurants. I also like being able to bring our own wine and alcohol for in cabin enjoyment for no extra fee. So for us, Oceania was less expensive, for a smaller ship with less passengers.

For me, all things being equal, I would rather be on a smaller ship. The tendering process is so much easier. We had 2 full days at Easter Island and we had no issues getting off the ship in time to meet our private tour. There was no getting up at the crack of dawn for tender tickets, as there is on larger ships.

We had very good service with the glaring exception of a very unfriendly cabin attendant. Technically she did her job, our cabin was always spotless but it was my first experience with an unfriendly crew member and it really stood out. We also had rather slow beverage service in the Terrace Cafe, they were friendly but slow. I would rate the level service as the same as HAL with the exception of the cabin attendant.

We had some excellent food on Oceania and we also had some average food. We found the food on HAL to be average. We had nothing bad on HAL but nothing excellent either.

We would gladly go on Oceania or HAL again.

 

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1 hour ago, Sea42 said:

We very much enjoyed our cruise on Oceania's Marina and

 

I found the Marina, though newer, very much like the Zaandam, it was deja vu for me.  I was surprised that I had a change of cabin steward half way through a 12 day cruise.    That seemed odd.  Of course, the 2nd one turned out to be the friendliest crew member from my experience.   Ask me one day about loosing my iPad on the Marina, OMG, as the kids say.

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In the last two years we have sailed on HAL and Oceania, twice on each. While we enjoyed both cruise lines, each has their positives and negatives. On the Riviera and the Marina, there are 4 specialty restaurants included at no extra charge, where we really enjoyed the food.  The MDR on either line is comparable, but we liked the Terrace on O better than the HAL Lido although we used those venues only for breakfast.  In my opinion, the pesky photographers on HAL along with the nickel and dimeing is what we enjoyed doing without on O.  We did 7 day Caribbean cruises on HAL, but on O our cruises were 10 & 12 day European cruises.  The higher fare on O is more inclusive than HAL, basically including everything except alcohol, but when apples and oranges comparisons are made, it looked similar for the longer itineraries.  We like smaller ships, and HAL seems to be exiting that market and leaving us to Oceania, Viking Ocean and a few others.  We just hope to be back on a cruise ship next year!

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On 11/19/2020 at 1:38 PM, boom_boom said:

While it's been about 5 years since I was on Oceania vs just a year ago on HAL, the biggest differences are the sheer size of the ship and number of pax, Found food to be much better on O, and no up charge for the special restaurants. No big show, but more ;live music on O. You can bring your own wine onboard for no extra fee. to my mind, at least there was less effort to upsell everything.

But, Oceania tends to be considerably more expensive. 

Don't think either option is bad when we can sail again.

Agree.  You pay more up front with Oceania but the food and internet were better. And smaller ships. Our next cruise will hopefully be in June with Oceania,  fingers crossed.  

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I've sailed both HAL and O in the past (HAL I'm 3 star Mariner; on O, Bronze having sailed that line eight times on both the old R ships and the newer O ships; haven't sailed HAL in the past four or five years).  Today, Oceania is my preferred cruise line, and I sail her about once a year; Celebrity is my  number 2 choice, sailing her about once a year as well.  

 

I've never been disappointed on either HAL, O or X, with service, staff, ship cleanlines and maintenance being good on all three, but overall O beats the other two IMO.  Also beats them in the food department, and they do treat us like adults, trusting to drink in cabin whatever alcohol we may take with us. That's why I have my next cruise - June 25 to Norwegian Fjords - booked on Marina.  I must also add that I'm currently looking at HAL's 35 day cruise to Hawaii and French Polynesia, so you can see I haven't yet completely abandoned HAL.

 

Donna

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3 hours ago, GeorgesGal said:

I've sailed both HAL and O in the past (HAL I'm 3 star Mariner; on O, Bronze having sailed that line eight times on both the old R ships and the newer O ships; haven't sailed HAL in the past four or five years).  Today, Oceania is my preferred cruise line, and I sail her about once a year; Celebrity is my  number 2 choice, sailing her about once a year as well.  

 

I've never been disappointed on either HAL, O or X, with service, staff, ship cleanlines and maintenance being good on all three, but overall O beats the other two IMO.  Also beats them in the food department, and they do treat us like adults, trusting to drink in cabin whatever alcohol we may take with us. That's why I have my next cruise - June 25 to Norwegian Fjords - booked on Marina.  I must also add that I'm currently looking at HAL's 35 day cruise to Hawaii and French Polynesia, so you can see I haven't yet completely abandoned HAL.

 

Donna

We are booked on HAL’s 35 day Hawaii & FP in Feb of 2022, hop on board.  Interestingly, many of those cruises are booking quicker then normal due to lifts and shifts as well as all the FCC floating around.  I was shocked when we went to the roll call and it was already something like 5 pages long 😳.

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On 11/19/2020 at 4:55 PM, KirkNC said:

We have sailed both.  Our takeaway, HAL wins in crew and has a larger number of unique itineraries (that may change since HAL has lost so many ships that sailed those).  Oceania wins on food, ship maintenance, loyalty program and crew/passenger ratio.  Oceania is more expensive.

I agree. Can't say anything about ship maintenance and loyalty program, but I do not particularly like the smaller O ships, loved the Riviera. I would sail with both lines again for the itinerary. 

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3 hours ago, Floridiana said:

I agree. Can't say anything about ship maintenance and loyalty program, but I do not particularly like the smaller O ships, loved the Riviera. I would sail with both lines again for the itinerary. 

That is exactly how I feel. I would not hesitate to book either cruise line if the itinerary was what I wanted. There are differences, but nothing negative enough to spoil my enjoyment.

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On 11/22/2020 at 9:43 AM, Floridiana said:

I agree. Can't say anything about ship maintenance and loyalty program, but I do not particularly like the smaller O ships, loved the Riviera. I would sail with both lines again for the itinerary. 

We have only sailed on the big Oceania ships and love the four specialty restaurants.  Our next cruise will be on a smaller Oceania ship with only two specialty restaurants.  

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