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Holland America vs Princess


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We are long time Princess cruisers, and with all of the loyalty changes we are interested in comparing other lines,  most specifically Holland America.  If you have cruised on both I would love to hear what you think the differences are.  Thanks in advance.

 

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We have cruised on both and it does depend somewhat on your tastes, where you are heading, etc. We have exclusively done Alaska out of Seattle due to proximity and the ease of getting to the port. The Princss ships we've been on we enjoyed but you can see that we are more HAL people. The Princess ships are larger (sometimes by 1000 passengers) and it seems like it takes a long time to get somewhere. I'm not as fond of their buffet - find it hard to get around in and somewhat cramped. We tend not to use the dining room as much. Our handicapped cabins have been spacious and well-placed. We have done 4 of our own version of a back-to-back by doing a week on Princess, get off the ship and immediately board and due a week on HAL. 


The entertainment on Princess is more varied and I enjoy the shows on both. On Princess I found there was more going on during the day and I liked the enrichment activities and entertainers in Skagway and Juneau. We do a Princess cruise when DH has a hankering to do the White Pass Railroad as HAL out of Seattle doesn't do Skagway. 

 

Hope that helps!


Karen

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Being Elite with Princess and 2-Star on HAL, when I find a cruise I want to do, I price them both and decide on ships, ports, price and make my decision.

Having priority boarding stocked mini-bar with Princess is a slight plus, losing the extra loyalty OBC a minus, makes HAL a little more favorable. I prefer smaller ships, but love the Grand Class ships of Princess.  Entertainment is not a big draw for my choice as I prefer just being on the sea. 
CCL Shareholder OBC goes with either cruise line. 
Give HAL a try, I feel you will like it.

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The food on Princess is not as good as on Holland America by a long shot.  Last Princess cruise I was on the dining room was too brightly lit besides, and the host seemed to always seat me under a spotlight (initially; of course until I said I didn't want to sit there).  The cruise director was extremely loud and obnoxious and ran around like he was hyped up on something.  We like to do the trivia or I would have stayed out of his path entirely.  Princess gets awards for more interesting itineraries but you will know the itinerary before you book anyway.  I might agree that the shows are better on Princess too.

Princess does a great job in Alaska,  but maybe HAL does too for all I know.

I am not overly loyal loyal to anyone.  It mainly comes down to the dates and specific itineraries, but I would pick HAL over Princess.

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HAL is much mellower than Princess, has better food and great service.  Princess is much livelier with better entertainment  and tends to have more active shore excursions.  I would sail either interchangeably depending on itinerary and costs. I am disappointed that Princess sold off its smaller ships.   If sailing with a family group I select Princess as they have more for the children.  

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Karen, has done a good assessment of comparison. 

I will just say that our very last cruise prior to the pause due to covid was in February 2020 on the Royal Princess, prior to that was HAL Eurodam Nov 2019, Then Diamond Princess September 2019. We have more cruises with HAL but we are also Elite with Princess.

Going back 15 years ago I actually did not care for Princess as much as HAL I though Princess food was much lower quality than HAL but move forward to 2019 and 2020. I found HAL and Princess food quality to be pretty close. We actually prefer Princess's Horizon Court Buffet over Holland America's Lido Buffet. Dining Room food and service was really equal. Where there tends to me lots of differences are in these categories.

Entertainment... Princess has the edge with far more going on and more variety, although HAL is good for us with the BB King if we are wanting that for an evening. Otherwise HAL tends to be a bit more boring.

 

Spa...HAL is definitely better, even though they are both operated by Steiner a third part company. HAL locations on the ship and what they offer for a Thermal Suite experience far exceeds what Princess has done. Most Princess ships you tend to feel they placed the spa in dungeons or it was an after thought by Princess that said "Oh you can place your spa in this area" But if you want a bit better spa experience NCL is actually much better.

 

Over all service is really equal.

 

Staterooms...this is hard because the majority of HAL ships mainly Vista Class and Signature Class are hard to compare to Princess. Interior, Oceanview, and Balcony/Verandah staterooms are much larger and better laid out on Holland America. But when you start comparing PCL Mini Suite, HAL Signature Suite and HAL Neptune Suite to PCL Full Suite it is not easy to compare. PCL Mini Suite is nice well laid out but bathroom is small. If comparing to HALVista Suites the PCl mini Suite wins but if comparing to the Signature Suite especially on Vista Class and Signature Class ships HAL wins hands down. Plus in many cases for similiar cruises the Signature Suite is not going to be that much drastically higher in cost. But if comparing the PCl Mini Suite to the newer HAL ships Vista Suites Princess wins that round. Then full Suites of Princess to HAL, Princess wins especially if you are on Royal Class and higher since they have the Suite Lounge. The lay out of the Suite feels more like a suite the amenites are equal except one small thing Princess needs to fix and that is to add the coffee maker in the suite like HAL has done. But Princess service adult beverage in the Suite Lounge from late after noon into the early evening.

 

Over all feel of passengers over time I have found it to be really the same. HAL demographics have gotten much younger while Princess seems to have stayed the same or gotten a bit older. But length of cruise and cruise location has a lot to do with the demographics.

 

Over all if you have liked Princess you will also like Holland America a lot.

 

 

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37 minutes ago, LAFFNVEGAS said:

Princess ships you tend to feel they placed the spa in dungeons

 

So many good responses from posters to the OP's questions.  I must highlight yours because that is rather what I "felt" on the new Royal Princess.  The amenities were great; but, the location with no natural sunlight:  not as pleasant as the Greenhouse Spa, Hydrothermal Pool, and Thermal Suite on a HAL ship. 

 

My cruise history at the bottom of my post tells one which of the two lines I prefer.  But, I would have little hesitation of sailing on Princess (or Carnival for that matter) if I decided the itinerary, the date of sailing, and the price were satisfactory for me.  

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I'm glad I'm not the only one who found the Royal Princess spa thermal suite too dark! Such an odd location on the ship. It was well-featured, but I did find there wasn't really anywhere to sit in the main area if the few loungers were taken. I'm hoping the thermal suite in the Nieuw Amsterdam works a bit better for me. I always spend lots of time in ship thermal suites. 

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6 minutes ago, Gail & Marty sailing away said:

We 19 Princess cruises. One large difference Hands down Holland crew is great compared to Princess.

 

HAL's crew is, and has been for years, a hallmark of the cruise line.  Are they 100% perfect?  Absolutely not with Evidence #1 of my Cabin Steward on a World Cruise that tried to jump ship in Singapore.  But, the young man was an exemption and what he tried to do was tied into his sub-par performance of his duties that Housekeeping recognized.  

 

My most recent Princess experience was on Coral Princess in July, 2019.  There was not any staff member with whom I interacted that failed to meet the same quality of service and attitude that I have experienced on HAL.

 

My experience began with lunch in the dining room after I embarked in Whittier.  The Steward and his Assistant were personable, took time to converse, and with the Assistant Maitre d' checking on my satisfaction twice during my lunch.  That type of experience throughout the ship in the interactions that I had with the staff.  

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I have to disagree with the poster who said Princess had better itineraries.  It seemed like the same old thing year after year.  HAL itineraries are much better IMO.  But if we have a family cruise everyone seems to like to go on Princess so they'll have plenty to do.

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9 minutes ago, NinatheGreat said:

I'm glad I'm not the only one who found the Royal Princess spa thermal suite too dark! Such an odd location on the ship. It was well-featured, but I did find there wasn't really anywhere to sit in the main area if the few loungers were taken. I'm hoping the thermal suite in the Nieuw Amsterdam works a bit better for me. I always spend lots of time in ship thermal suites. 

 

The greater variety of showers on Royal Princess was nice as compared to Nieuw Amsterdam.  Tried a water bed and almost needed help in getting up and off it!  The lack of thermal suite beds is a chronic problem, I think, that afflicts any ship that offers that amenity.  I enjoyed the rain type shower in the pool on Royal Princess, but the stainless steel racks at the rear of the pool were higher off the deck than on HAL ships and proved an uncomfortable challenge for short-legged me to "climb aboard".  

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2 hours ago, Hobbes67 said:

We are long time Princess cruisers, and with all of the loyalty changes we are interested in comparing other lines,  most specifically Holland America. 

 

 

Not for nothing but if the loyalty program is a big deal to you, I do not recommend HAL.  

 

Have you considered Celebrity?  

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DW and I love variety so usually find the pros and cons of each cruise line (we have been on 16 lines with #17 already booked).  We have long been Elite with Princess and are also 5 Star Mariners with HAL.  We enjoy both lines and currently have future booking with both lines.   As a general rule we find that HAL is more sedate (for lack of a better word) and laid back then Princess.  On most of our HAL cruises (we usually are on longer cruises) the ship is generally quiet by 10pm.  On Princess the ship is alive (with more entertainment options) until a later hour (11:30 - 12).   Princess has always had more expansive hours for both their Lido and dining rooms.  This has not been much of an issue with us, but some do complain that HAL's hours for breakfast and lunch are too brief.  

 

When it comes to entertainment, Princess has always been the better choice.  Prior to COVID we think HAL hit a new low when they eliminated Production Shows, thought it was fine to show a BBC documentary film as the main theater entertainment on some nights, etc.   HAL has also eliminated their piano bars (on most ships) and replaced it (on some ships) with a dueling piano show that has specific show times (vs a piano bar that will usually have more expansive hours).  DW and I have spent many wonderful nights at the piano bars on both Princess and HAL and are very disappointed that HAL eliminated this from most of their ships.  We have not cruised on the newest/largest HAL ships (Pinnacle Class) so will leave comments on those ships to others.

 

Another thing we love on Princess is their International Cafe where DW and I spend a lot of time.  HAL does not have anything comparable although their Explorations Cafes do have the coffee drinks with a few snacks.  But on Princess I love knowing I can go to the International Cafe 24/7 to get a nice coffee drink and decent snack.   Both lines have so-so alternative restaurants so we would call that a tie.   As to the crew, we have always been pleased with the crew on both lines.  Regarding the MDR offerings, both lines have seen a degradation in quality over the past few years and we think it is hit/miss depending on the ship, current executive chef, etc.   To be very honest, DW and I now find ourselves moving more to lines like Seabourn and Oceania where cuisine is still treated (by the lines) as something important.

 

Hank

 

 

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Posted (edited)

We have never seen much of a difference on the crew or service between HAL, Princess, and Celebrity.  From our perspective they have all been about the same.  Very good.

 

Food is down to personal tastes and luck.  Just as easy to have great food on HAL or Princess as it is to have mediocre food on either of them.  

 

We no longer care about the logo on the funnel.   It is all down to ship and luck of the draw.

Edited by iancal
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4 hours ago, sarellen8385 said:

I would add that internet on the newer Princess ships is quite excellent!

I will agree that the Medallionet internet works very well, but only a few steps up from what I had on my last HAL Eurodam in November 2019. But it was a HUGE jump forward from the older Princess ships that did not have Medallionet. In September 2019 I would need to sit out in the hallway or keep our cabin room door open or sit at the entrance to get any wifi signal to do my Live from Japan posts on CC. On the Royal in Feb 2020 it was fairly good but not always fast and I only experienced one time it was not working, I am not sure how any one could do any streaming with it. I also had upgraded for the best package they had. 

Oddly the ships/cruiselines I have had the best internet has been NCL, even on their older ships going back to about 2015 when they upgraded them and you could be on line as long as you like for one price the internet was fast and excellent. I remember sailing on the NCL Jewel watching the Christianing and Streaming the Inaugural of the Escape Live from Miami, while sitting in the main dining room of the NCL Jewel on a sea day and the servers were standing around me watching it on my phone. Now that was impressive for 6 years ago. I will also state I know people who have been on Royal Caribbean and stated theirs was excellent as well. I do not think the CCL group of cruiselines have done as well for moving forward in the internet world. Even John Heald had problems thid past week with his Live posts on the Carnival ship as well as other cruise bloggers.

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One thing to keep in mind is if you book the basic fare on Holland America instead of the more inclusive fare, it is non-refundable and must be paid immediately.  At least based upon a couple of bookings I was looking at.

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22 minutes ago, nocl said:

One thing to keep in mind is if you book the basic fare on Holland America instead of the more inclusive fare, it is non-refundable and must be paid immediately.  At least based upon a couple of bookings I was looking at.

There are three fares on HAL, one is not readily apparent and you may need to call for a quote.  It does not include the package yet is refundable.  

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Probably the single opinion with which I most disagree in this thread is the comment that HAL's entertainment is better.  In fact, I had to read that post twice to make sure I read it right.  IMO, Princess blows HAL away (well, pretty much every line does) when it comes to entertainment.  

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30 minutes ago, nocl said:

One thing to keep in mind is if you book the basic fare on Holland America instead of the more inclusive fare, it is non-refundable and must be paid immediately.  At least based upon a couple of bookings I was looking at.

That must be new. I booked a cruise with the basic fare, non-refundable deposit (pre-covid) and it did not have to be paid in full immediately. It had the normal pay in full schedule.

The non-refundable deposit is also not use it or lose it. It can be transferred to another cruise as a non-refundable deposit.

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5 minutes ago, Aquahound said:

Probably the single opinion with which I most disagree in this thread is the comment that HAL's entertainment is better.  In fact, I had to read that post twice to make sure I read it right.  IMO, Princess blows HAL away (well, pretty much every line does) when it comes to entertainment.  

I agree with you and wondered if that poster had not been on HAL for many years.  My goodness, HAL even eliminated Production Shows, did away with many of the live musicians, eliminated their piano bars (from most ships), started calling BBC Documentary movies their main evening show (the only cruise line to call movies their main entertainment), etc.  Over the years we have seen some excellent entertainment on HAL but whoever has been calling the entertainment shots for the past 5-6 years should be keel hauled or sent down in the laundry to hand fold towels. We truly hope that HAL reverses course (in terms of entertainment) when they resume most operations.

 

Hank

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Holland always seems to me to be a bit more reserved without so much rah rah let's party hype.  Some may enjoy hearing the Love Boat played ad nauseum but I really don't.  Also don't much care for the semi non stop LOUD movies, videos etc played on big Princess screens. 

 

Of course the very idea that some people might prefer silence without piped in music or repetitive announcements in every lounge area can often be a problem on both Princess and Holland.  I do however enjoy the BB King bands on Holland which may be too loud for some.  I also love what is  left of the nice promenade decks on Holland, as well as the overall smaller ships.

 

Holland's crews also seem a bit more friendly but that could just be me as Princess also has some wonderful crew members.

 

While there are things I like about both and I just wish I were sailing either one right now overall I still prefer Holland America.

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20 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

Over the years we have seen some excellent entertainment on HAL but whoever has been calling the entertainment shots for the past 5-6 years should be keel hauled or sent down in the laundry to hand fold towels. 

 

May I disagree with your punishment?

 

I would, and have done so on CC, this individual, if he still is on his august throne in Seattle, ought to be fired!  He is responsible for the lacklaster reputation has for HAL on-board entertainment.

 

The lousy utilization of the technical features built into the ships' main theaters on the Vista, Signature, and Pinnacle Class ships has been a severe waste of money on those features.  Each Class had theaters that were more technology advance than the previous Class.  I sail on Nieuw Statendam expecting, after all of the hype about the World Class Theater, performances that would "WOW" me.  They did "wow" me, negatively.   I was seriously underwhelmed and disappointed.  

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