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Celebrity vs Holland America


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We have taken more than 10 cruises on Celebrity and a half a dozen on Oceania. But our very first cruise was on Holland America 18 years ago. I have noticed an attractive itinerary on HAL in 2022. The thing is our recollection of Holland American is that it was stuffy and formal and had quite a lot of upselling compared to Celebrity and Oceania. But it has been so long I suspect and have heard that changes have been made. We enjoy the stage shows and poolside and bar  entertainment on ships; we like the wine bars and we use the athletic facilities and walking tracks quite a bit; we have attended quite a few lectures and talks on a variety of topics.  We do not usually participate in culinary classes and are not purchasers of art or jewelry. What will we think stands out if we try HAL again?? What might we be disappointed in? Thanks for your thoughts.

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Welcome back to HAL, my favorite cruise line, with that said, here are my thoughts.

 

I have not sailed on Celebrity or Oceania so its hard for me to compare, but I can give you my thoughts on HAL.  Some changes HAL has made were hard for me to get used to but in time I did.

 

I don’t find HAL as formal as you may have remembered.  I have sailed HAL for over 30 years or so.  The dress code at night is more relaxed than what you probably remember.  There is still gala nights (the former formal nights) where gentlemen’s suggested wear is button down shirts and nice pair of trousers, tie and jacket optional.  Ladies wear nice pair of pants, skirt, blouse/shirt or cocktail dress.

 

Other evenings on board are relaxed for dress code as well.

 

There is little to no entertainment poolside, but I have gotten used to that aspect so its a non-issue for me.  The BBkings and dueling piano bars are on all ships, but on the Pinnacle class ships (Koningsdam, Nieuw Statendam and soon Rotterdam) they also have the Rolling Rock Room which I loved and had a better venue for BBKings.  The Pinnacle class ships have the best showers I have ever used on a cruise ship, no more shower curtains in any class of cabin, the best!!!!

 

I did go to some shows while on the K’dam and thought they were good.  I found the food to be very, very good in the dining room, Lido Market Place, Canaletto and just ok in the Pinnacle Grill which is their steakhouse restaurant, but it may have been what I ordered.  Canaletto and Pinnacle Grill are the up charge restaurants, all others are free.

 

My suggestion is if you are coming back to HAL perhaps one of the Pinnacle class-ships would be best to try first, this class of ship is my favorite, however, there is nothing wrong with the other ships, they are all great, just different.

 

I am sure someone else can chime in with their thoughts as well.  I love sailing HAL, hope you will as well.

 

Good luck with your decision........hope this helps.

Edited by doone
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7 hours ago, vancojo said:

We have taken more than 10 cruises on Celebrity and a half a dozen on Oceania. But our very first cruise was on Holland America 18 years ago. I have noticed an attractive itinerary on HAL in 2022. The thing is our recollection of Holland American is that it was stuffy and formal and had quite a lot of upselling compared to Celebrity and Oceania. But it has been so long I suspect and have heard that changes have been made. We enjoy the stage shows and poolside and bar  entertainment on ships; we like the wine bars and we use the athletic facilities and walking tracks quite a bit; we have attended quite a few lectures and talks on a variety of topics.  We do not usually participate in culinary classes and are not purchasers of art or jewelry. What will we think stands out if we try HAL again?? What might we be disappointed in? Thanks for your thoughts.

I have watched for years as HAL 'takes away'. First I'll say the ships are always in good  condition, in good order, clean and comfy; the service is always stop notch.  The most noticeable onboard cut-back is the lack of entertainment, especially in the evening, which really matters to me on a long cruise. The once Vegas-style big productions have dwindled down to six or eight 'dancers' doing calisthenics to piped-in music, with no costume changes. Some of the comedians are older than me (I'm 72) and are telling the same jokes they told ten years ago.  One particularly uninteresting 'show' is a big screen nature film, accompanied by two musicians who play along with the piped in music. Year after year, the offerings are less and less.  The service in the main dining room has been chopped to one waiter who serves a dozen tables. and seldom has time to say 'hello". The fillet and lobster-tails have shrunk considerably over the years. Some of the ports are horrible. Nicaragua?? Really?? I always stick with the adage 'you get what you pay for' but that's doesn't  always apply where HAL is concerned. I've seen a lot of changes over the past twenty years, most of which I'm not happy about. It's NOT ALL terrible, and I'll continue to sail HAL, hoping it will improve, finger's crossed it will continue to sail. My advice is go ahead and try HAL; just bring something to entertain yourself, especially on those long sea days. 

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I sailed on HAL for the first time in Nov 2019 after sailing only Celebrity and Royal for 10 years. My last Celebrity sailing was Feb 2020, so I have recent (relatively) experience on each.

 

I would say that Celebrity did more upsetting that HAL. 

 

The crowd on HAL is definitely older. Many people required mobility assist devices. All the tables in the forward lounge were hogged by people doing jigsaw puzzles. There was very little to do after 9:00 pm. 

 

The entertainment on Celebrity was better, IMO. I did really appreciate the live music on HAL (dueling pianos and LCS), but it was not the kind of thing that I would sit and listen to.

 

I prefer the food on Celebrity. I had a better experience in specialty restaurants on Celebrity. On HAL we went to Pinnacle Grill one night for our friend's birthday, and the food was stretching to be average. The steaks were tough. The service was distracted and slow. We were given a comp meal which, unfortunately, the food was not any better, although the service was improved but not stellar.

 

I did love the itinerary of our HAL cruise and would cruise HAL again for the right itinerary. I loved the choices for shore excursions on HAL much better than Celebrity. And, in my mind, that makes up for the other deficits.

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9 minutes ago, Tudy said:

 

 

The crowd on HAL is definitely older. Many people required mobility assist devices. All the tables in the forward lounge were hogged by people doing jigsaw puzzles. 

 

That is the first time I have heard that comment - the visualization gave me a good laugh!  

 

Ironically I am sitting hear typing this reply before getting settled into my latest jigsaw puzzle! I do like my jigsaw puzzles to whittle the winter hours especially in our current lockdown state, but they do not appeal to me on a cruise. 😉

 

 

Edited by rodndonna
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2 hours ago, doone said:

The BBkings and dueling piano bars are on all ships

The BB King music venue (as well as some others) is not on all HAL's ships. Last I checked it's only on the Eurodam, Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Nieuw Statendam, Noordam, 

Oosterdam, Rotterdam, Westerdam, and the Zuiderdam.

Edited by Lido - Lanai
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I haven’t sailed Oceania in years.  I’ve only sailed Celebrity once in an Aqua Class cabin.  I’ve sailed HAL many, many times.

 

Celebrity has much better productions shows.  The restaurant associated with the Aqua class cabins (can’t remember the name of it) is much better than the MDR on HAL.  I prefer HAL’s buffet, for quality of food and selection.  I also prefer HAL’s hamburger bar to Celebrity’s.  I did not eat in the MDR on Celebrity, so can’t speak to it.  The Ship Sponsored Shore Excursions offered by Celebrity were equal to those offered on HAL.  The Casinos on both were equal.  HAL’s Front Desk was better than Celebrity’s.  The age of the passengers was equivalent.

 

My Celebrity cruise was several years ago, so things may have changed.  My opinion, at that time, was the two cruise lines were pretty much equivalent. 

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I love both lines. My favorite things about Celebrity is 1.Murano's. Love that French flair and service! 2. Cafe al Bacio. 3. Lots of places to sit in the shade outside in your lounge chair. 4. No smoking in the casinos. 

My favorite thing about HAL is 1. BB King Lounge. I know it is not everyone's favorite but I could listen all night. (Brought up on Motown). Also enjoy the chamber music.2. Crow's Nest. Great place to sit during the day to relax and enjoy the scenery.  (I could never seem to enjoy the similar area on Celebrity as it was always closed for private parties,evening cocktails for the upper status, etc. 3.Tamarimd. Both lines have good good in their Asian style restaurants,  but HAL's is a little more romantic to me and is tucked away from people walking by in the hallway.

What I dislike most about HAL is that have almost no lounge chairs available in the shade anywhere!

I think you should give HAL a try. You might be surprised. I have been alternating lately between the two lines.

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Ditto to everything Grandma7 said. BBKing is my favorite music venue at sea. YMMV

 

The biggest difference I sense between the 2 lines is the heavy class distinctions on Celebrity. Depending on your class (regular, concierge, aqua, suite) you will access to different bars, restaurants, services, etc. on Celebrity. Except for some perks associated with the Neptune Suites and a weak attempt with their Club Orange, HAL guests can pretty much expect the same quality product.

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I also ditto everything Grandma7 said.  We sail both HAL and Celebrity and love them both.  We have cruises booked on both now.

I will just add as for your "stuffy and formal" phrase, I have found that even though HAL changed the dress code years ago to jacket and tie optional on Gala nights, it seems to be taking longer for HAL cruisers to realize that.  You'll see many more men without jackets on Evening Chic nights on Celebrity (but still dressed very nicely and to code) than you will on HAL Gala nights.  HAL does skew older, which could be part of the reason, I also believe many people just don't know the dress code changed.

 

We do prefer HAL's itineraries, especially for longer European cruises.  I give a nod to Celebrity for guest entertainment, and find the food to come out fairly equal.  Definitely book on a Pinnacle Class ship, more entertainment and dining choices.  

 

 

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2 hours ago, Lido - Lanai said:

The BB King music venue (as well as some others) is not on all HAL's ships. Last I checked it's only on the Eurodam, Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Nieuw Statendam, Noordam, 

Oosterdam, Rotterdam, Westerdam, and the Zuiderdam.

Ooohhh thank you for the correction, thought they were fleet wide.....

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13 hours ago, vancojo said:

We enjoy the stage shows and poolside and bar  entertainment on ships; we like the wine bars...

 

Unfortunately, this is one of HAL's weakest points.  HAL has nothing like the martini bar on Celebrity, nor do they have live poolside entertainment.  Stage shows are pretty weak as well.  

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5 hours ago, doone said:

The BBkings and dueling piano bars are on all ships..

 

This should probably be explained a little better.  HAL does not have dueling piano bars.  They have a lounge with 2 pianos, but it is not a dueling piano format, like Howl at the Moon.  

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HAL's newer (Pinnacle class) ships will not seem that different to Celebrity cruisers, albeit the decor is less "whimsical". Some of the same design elements are used in each.

 

If you are a suite traveler or like Aqua Class, HAL offers far less for those segmented groups than Celebrity. 

 

Entertainment varies depending on what you like. HAL has developed a number of good musical venues but as a result their production shows have suffered (in some cases almost nonexistent).  Also HAL has fewer daytime activities on most shorter cruises with fewer sea days.

 

About equal (to me) on HAL and Celebrity:  similar amount of upselling, quality of food in the MDRs on both lines. (I do like Celebrity's specialty dining restaurant Murano much better than Pinnacle Grill).

 

So what's good about HAL?  Good cabin size and some of the best itineraries. Good connection to the sea on most ships, a strong maritime history that isn't "in your face" but becomes more evident when you go looking for it.

 

Perceptions of service also vary based on your own norms. I don't find that much difference in my interactions with normal staff on these two lines, but I'm also not one that puts a lot of store or expectations into such interactions. I'm not fussy about things and I don't necessarily want to stand around chatting.  What is different is that the officers on Celebrity are generally much more visible and approachable than on most HAL ships (of course exceptions exist with such a large number of ships and personalities...)

 

To sum up my own impressions, on Celebrity I feel much more like I am in a large floating hotel with a "vibe" to it. More people seem out and about -- in the bars, around the pools, in the spa, at shows, etc.  HAL is more like a quieter and more traditional European resort -- not so flashy but you sort of feel cocooned and kept away from the normal hurly-burly of the world while on board.

 

I like and will sail both lines interchangeably. Itinerary for me is the ultimate decider.

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Last time I was on HAL the dueling piano bar had two young men who sat facing each other while playing their pianos,singing and talking.It was not wild and crazy, but you could not get a seat there unless you went early. They were very entertaining if you like that sort of entertainment.  I don't go to the shows on the ships, unless it is going to be a special entertainer brought on the ship. Also don't  care about activities or music by the pool, but it doesn't  bother me. I am just there to relax. OH, how I miss it!!!!

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Have sailed 5 times on HAL and twice on Celebrity. We have not booked HAL for the last few years as we thought the entertainment and food had really gone down both in terms of quality and quantity. The crew continue to be marvellous. Our last HAL voyage was on Eurodam and we thought the main dining poor and understaffed, the Pinnacle Grill food and service was rather perfunctory although we adored Tamarind. We normally book a Neptune suite.

On Celebrity, we book a mini suite. The dining room food was ok but we thought Murano was bit pretentious. We enjoyed the Tuscan Grill. We thought the evening entertainment on Celebrity was much better. We had a butler who was absolutely superb in taking care of our every need. A huge step up from the concierge in the Neptune lounge!

However, despite the above, I have a soft spot for HAL, their ships look like ships and not blocks of apartments and are beautifully decorated. I had a particular soft spot for Prinsendam. I find the new Celebrity ships really ugly, the Silhouette class look odd with the silly little funnels, and Edge are plain ugly with the big orange gantry on the side. My wife tells me that when you are on the ship ,you can’t look at it so it doesn’t matter - but somehow it does to me!

I realise the above probably says more about me than HAL/Celebrity and I realise that removing levels of service keeps prices low which fills all the new large ships but I can’t help hankering after the HAL I knew when we started cruising on the 1990s. Sad really.........

 

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3 hours ago, Mickb said:

The dining room food was ok but we thought Murano was bit pretentious. We enjoyed the Tuscan Grill. We thought the evening entertainment on Celebrity was much better. 

 

My Celebrity Eclipse cruise was a 14 day Caribbean with ports that were attractive to me including a rare visit to St. Croix.  I agree with Mickb's opinion regarding those two specialty restaurants.  The cuisine in Murano:  nothing to complain about.  But, the service was pretentitous.  Tuscan Grill:  I had a dinner and lunch there and it was excellent in all categories.  During my most recent HAL cruises in 2018 and 2019/2020, the arrival in Seattle of a new Executive Vice-President in charge of Food and Beverage did make a significantly positive difference in menu offerings, preparations, and the taste of what was served.  Whether that gentleman remains once HAL resumes cruising, who knows?   

 

Main Theater entertainment was mostly not to my liking.  But, the musical groups elsewhere in the ship:  very enjoyable.  

 

I was pleased with my Celebrity cruise experience and would consider sailing one of there ships again.  But, all things being equal:  I prefer the HAL experience.  

 

 

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Many similarities. Lots of good to say about both, as mentioned in earlier posts. Celebrity is more trendy, HAL more classic.

 

Celebrity’s addition of the private Luminae dining room fleetwide and Michael’s Club lounge sealed it for my spouse. So now we go on Celebrity mostly for the suite amenities, even in lowest-fare suites. I’m not a fan of the new Edge class after one sailing.
 

But I love being on board HAL, any ship or stateroom category, and really liked the Nieuw Statendam Pinnacle class. We sometimes book suites but feel treated equally well regardless. With the full promenade decks, there’s an ocean liner feel vs a floating hotel feel. The ships seem more comfortable and the staff & crew for the dining room and staterooms seem better trained. 

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Hello!

 

Through 2005 , I was a regular on HAL beginning with a 1981 New York November sailing on the Rotterdam.  (What a beautiful ship!)  I then sailed on the Statendam, Veendam, Ryndam, Noordam, Maasdam and the newer Rotterdam. I think they were all S class ships. I had a great time on all the ships.  Really good food (not exceptional) great service, plenty to do during the day and night and really enjoyed the musicians scattered around each ship especially in the Ocean Bar.

I was happy with HAL even though I was also sailing  on the Cunard Line's Sagafjord and the QE2.

 

Then in 2005 I decided to book the 35 day Voyage of the Vikings 35 day sailing round trip out of Boston on the MAASDAM    It truly was a beautiful itinerary.   I loved my many wonderful fellow passengers.  I loved the teak 360 degree promenade deck on which I spent many days reading on my deck chair overlooking the ocean.  And people watching.  Sadly, there is no such usable promenade deck on the new ships.  Stupid move.

 

This is why I will never be back despite the fact that HAL has some really good long cruise routes which I would dearly love to take.

 

You would think on the 35 day Voyage of the Vikings with many regulars on board that HAL would take pains to provide an exceptional experience for so many repeat passengers.  I would guess at least 80% of the passengers were long time HAL loyalists such as myself.

 

You would think wrong.

 

The first thing I noted was the reduction in musicians and live music throughout  the ship.  Some of the musicians on this cruise played like amateurs.  Now having musicians playing around the ship may not be important to you but it sure is to me.

 

The second thing (And most important) I noticed was the drastic reduction of waiters in the MDR.  The poor waiters had to scramble around with way too many tables to serve.  Many were literally sweating.  They had no time to chat with passengers.   It was rush rush and rush some more.  Because they had so many tables to serve the food from the kitchen came slowly and was often lukewarm.   No doubt the food was hot when left out for the waiters to pick up but by time the waiters bought the food out whatever you ordered that was supposed to be hot had cooled.  Those poor waiters.  I am very sorry but having to witness these waiters rushing around does not make for an enjoyable experience for me.  Cutting back on waiters was a great idea by HAL bean counting management!!

 

The third thing I noticed was that because of cutbacks the poor room stewards had way too many cabins to service.  No doubt many were exhausted.  Again, I don't want to witness this.  To help out my steward I often  told him to skip my cabin  as it really didn't need to be cleaned every day.  Sad.

 

Yes, there are many good qualities but not enough to make up for the decline in standards that I am always reading about on this site.  No need to repeat them here.  I am an optimist by nature so of course hope that HAL will improve the experience but I see no evidence that they are.  Too bad because I sure would like to book their longer cruises.

 

So now I sail almost exclusively on CUNARD LINE mostly on the magnificent Queen Mary 2.  (Over 40 voyages on her alone.)  On Cunard ships there are plenty of musicians.  (About 32 on the QM2 alone.)

Plenty of live music everywhere.   Great entertainment.   Great lecture programs.  Plenty of activities night and day including ballroom dancing every night in the ballroom. .  A real dress code.  All the ships have real promenade decks you can actually use and enjoy.  A lot of space and quiet places to just relax and not have to listen to piped in music.  Unfortunately the negative is Cunard has only  three ships they cannot offer the great  routes HAL has.

 

So that is my opinion.  I will be watching this site closely in the hope HAL will be back.  I do want to book those wonderful long cruises HAL has.

 

Be well.

 

Deck Chair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WOW!!Thank you, fellow cruisers, for your thoughtful and responsive feedback. I guess now it is up to me. The itinerary I had spotted is actually a 25 day Transpacific. It stops at places other than Hawaii and  Tahiti. We have been to those and I will usually choose something new over a repeat. But that means an itinerary with lots of days at sea and it is an older ship, I believe. We did a Transatlantic on Celebrity and were delighted by all of the additional activities (Flash mob dancing/fitness classes/dance classes/passenger chorus/ship tours  and lots of lectures ) that kept us busy on consecutive  days at sea. "Cocooning" and jigsaw puzzles and little live music during the day leave me something to think about.  Not like we can decide to get off if we don't like it.  25 consecutive days would be a long cruise for us--our previous longest trip was South East Asia with Oceania and it was very port Intensive. 

 

Not much to do with respect to cruising right now except dream, but thank you all again for your responses.

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Holland America, Celebrity and Princess.   We'll sail on any of them based on 

 

1. Itinerary

2. Price

3. Timing (less of a factor now since retired).

 

We prefer HA and each have a few strengths and weaknesses (but honestly that can change from cruise to cruise within a line) and to us they're not that important.  But to others they are.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, clueless2 said:

Holland America, Celebrity and Princess.   We'll sail on any of them based on 

 

1. Itinerary

2. Price

3. Timing (less of a factor now since retired).

 

We prefer HA and each have a few strengths and weaknesses (but honestly that can change from cruise to cruise within a line) and to us they're not that important.  But to others they are.

 

 

 

 

We feel the same way.  We see no difference in the service levels or the staff.  We see no differences in staff.  More differences in ships.

 

All of the mass market cruise lines have one thing in common.....inconsistency.   You can have a wonderful cruise or you can have a mediocre cruise.  All down to luck of the draw based on management and staff on a particular trip IMHO.   Food, entertainment are all highly variable.

 

But if all things are equal AND the Celebrity offering is a Solstice class  ship it will win by default.

Edited by iancal
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