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Coming back to HAL for the first time in about ten years.


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We have done several HAL cruises but have generally cruised with Celebrity for about the last ten years. We are doing a 14 day Panama Canal cruise later in February. What should we know? We'd love to hear from people who have done both HAL and Celebrity. We are pretty average cruisers and are not Suite or elite class folks.

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The HAL of 10 years ago is not the HAL of today, but that is to say it hasn't changed significantly.  We cruise Princess 2/3rds and HAL 1/3rd and we have found, that especially after covid, HAL is more and more like Princess was in the last decade from both their onboard product and entertainment, to even their latest ship class.  I've often thought the Pinnacle class is a more likely evolution of the Princess' original Grand class ships - a nice size if a little big.  But fortunately many of the HAL halmarks (sorry for the pun) are still there.

 

This is our opinion and others may disagree, but as such, we will probably get closer to flipping that ratio between Princess and HAL as we don't care for the newer Princess. We really like this slightly newer version of HAL as it retains much of what made it great in the past, while at the same time innovating and trying out new things (some are duds).

 

I suppose its inevitable that cruise lines have to change over time.  Fortunately, the great service that HAL is known for has not changed that we can tell.  HAL still is a really great value with above average to excellent food that is included, nice itineraries, spacious ships with nice nooks and crannies for reading or quiet contemplation, and now with a bit more night life and a better mix of entertainment.  

 

Enjoy your cruise for what it is - not so much how it compares to another line, or time.

Edited by cruisingrob21
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Some will depend on which ship you are taking - the now grand old ladies (which were newer when you last sailed the R class and Vista class) , the smaller more intimate HAL ships are pretty much the same but with a lot better decor.

 

The newer, more modern HAL ships (Pinnacle class) are quite different a different experience but have a lot more variety, spaces but obviously with a lot more passengers but still well under the mega-class ships on other lines. But basically they still try to be a "HAL ship" -just a lot harder considering their size and busy-ness. 

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The biggest material difference will be the addition of "as you wish dining". They still have fixed dining, early (5:30) and main (8pm). But the lower main dining room is now drop in, lines, waiting, everyone eating different courses at different times, but with the option of also making a reservation for a particular time that best suits your own schedule. 

 

Formal nights with strict main dining room enforcement became gala night, then dressy night and are at total mile bag where the passenger makes the decision; no longer the ship as to what one wears those evenings.

 

There is still a mix of special attire so if you  like to dress up, these are the nights to make it sparkle. Otherwise, what one would wear to the Lido is no longer off limits on formal nights. Yes, there is still black tie for some. "As you wish attire" has also taken over the HAL formal dining scene. 

 

Soup and appetizer course got combined into a single first course, fresh bread is now made with frozen dough but still tasty. Lots of specialty diets now accommodated even on the main menu, with a good degree of creativity. But loss of the dinner salads and the cold soups are missed. No free espresso at dinner.  Loss of libraries and the librarian is also mourned. But specialty coffee bars have been added. (fee)

 

From our first HAL cruise in 2009, the garish mish-mash of decor and firesafe closeout choices of mismatching carpets is long gone - a lot more attention to overall feeling of design and color coordination is now part of the HAL brand. But the relatively fine art and traditional Dutch sailing heritage remains tucked here and there too, even on the newer ships. 

 

Which ship will you be on?

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On 1/23/2023 at 3:29 PM, boatlady32 said:

We have done several HAL cruises but have generally cruised with Celebrity for about the last ten years. We are doing a 14 day Panama Canal cruise later in February. What should we know? We'd love to hear from people who have done both HAL and Celebrity. We are pretty average cruisers and are not Suite or elite class folks.

Welcome Back!  We are sailing on the Zaandam Feb.18- March 4 San Diego-Ft. Lauderdale and are staying on to return to San Diego March 4-18. We are glad to be back on a smaller ship. We have sailed the Zaandam 5 times in the past and expect her to be pretty much the same.  We have enjoyed the Signature Class ships but not the Pinnacle Class (too big!)  We do have a roll call for Feb. 18th.  We have only sailed on HAL, but know loyal Celebrity cruisers.

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Welcome back!

 

Three things come to mind as far as major changes from 10 years ago.

 

1). Music Walk (several live music venues every evening)

2). Anytime Dining along with early and late fixed sittings still available

3). New Pinnacle Class Ships (3 of them and they are our favorites)

 

The awesome crew, great food, sparkling clean ships and great cruise itineraries are all still there waiting for you!

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14 hours ago, Loreto said:

Welcome Back!  We are sailing on the Zaandam Feb.18- March 4 San Diego-Ft. Lauderdale and are staying on to return to San Diego March 4-18. We are glad to be back on a smaller ship. We have sailed the Zaandam 5 times in the past and expect her to be pretty much the same.  We have enjoyed the Signature Class ships but not the Pinnacle Class (too big!)  We do have a roll call for Feb. 18th.  We have only sailed on HAL, but know loyal Celebrity cruisers.


Do you have any reports on how the Celebrity cruisers view the HAL product?

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19 hours ago, Loreto said:

Welcome Back!  We are sailing on the Zaandam Feb.18- March 4 San Diego-Ft. Lauderdale and are staying on to return to San Diego March 4-18. We are glad to be back on a smaller ship. We have sailed the Zaandam 5 times in the past and expect her to be pretty much the same.  We have enjoyed the Signature Class ships but not the Pinnacle Class (too big!)  We do have a roll call for Feb. 18th.  We have only sailed on HAL, but know loyal Celebrity cruisers.

We will be with you on the Zaandam on the first trip. Looking forward to it!

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5 hours ago, Ipeeinthepools said:


Do you have any reports on how the Celebrity cruisers view the HAL product?

I have cruised both equal number of times, most recently (since COVID) only HAL.

My preference is still Celebrity but it's close. HAL gets the nod for itinerary, Celebrity for dining (MDR and buffet) although I don't know what changes have occured post COVID. Menu variety has gone backward with HAL but quality is still there. I tried several different fish dinners, on my recent Westerdam cruise, and all were cooked perfectly, likewise with beef. I rate both equal for service.

 

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2 hours ago, lyndarra said:

I have cruised both equal number of times, most recently (since COVID) only HAL.

My preference is still Celebrity but it's close. HAL gets the nod for itinerary, Celebrity for dining (MDR and buffet) although I don't know what changes have occured post COVID. Menu variety has gone backward with HAL but quality is still there. I tried several different fish dinners, on my recent Westerdam cruise, and all were cooked puerfectly, likewise with beef. I rate both equal for service.

 

This difference in entertainment is pretty big, Celebrity by far has better entertainment especially in the main showroom. Music Walk on HAL is getting old and so is the BBC TV shows that HAL is trying to pass off as entertainment. We had a horrible cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam last month with lousy food, when the food was decent the portions were miniscule, I had Sole one night and with a portion so small I finished it in 3 bites. The entertainment was pathetic. We are staying with Celebrity and Princess while HAL has lost 2 very loyal 4 Star customers.

Edited by MISTER 67
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We split our cruises about 50/50 with Celebrity.  I will say honestly we prefer Celebrity if price was equal.  However HAL is usually significantly more affordable.  Like you we typically only sail Interior or Veranda class only so can’t speak about higher level cabins.

 

here are some minor difference and some very major differences. 

 

Celebrity Edge class ships are much more sophisticated and “fresher”, while HAL are much more traditional, but classy.  Celebrity has interesting art and a more modern color scheme especially in the cabins.  HAL is more muted and neutral and the cabins are not as “pleasing”.  The Celebrity Solstice class ships are much more similar to HALs ships.  

 

The biggest difference is entertainment, and after many cruises we find the traditional main theater shows to be somewhat boring on most chips.  Dancing and B/C grade singing with shows with no real story.  The music is better on HAL,  but the nightlife is better on Celebrity.  

 

Pool and outdoor areas are miles ahead on Celebrity with resort style pool decks, HAL is adequate but been the same for 20 years.  No live music on the pool deck like Celebrity.  

 

Food is similar on both, Celebrity does have more extra cost eateries, HALs burgers/dogs and pizza is better in our opinion.  The buffet is better on Celebrity, but neither are great.  The Celebrity Martini Bar and World Class Bar are exceptional, HAL really does not have a great memorable bar.  

 

We are not party people but prefer a more quiet laid back experience so HALs atmosphere suits us better, and why we sail both for a change of pace.  I like music and reading on the deck, or sipping a  in the Crows Nest.  The service on both has always been great and have not had in issue on any cruise.  We always feel a cruise is what we make of it and is better than working any day.  

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We jumped ship from Celebrity to HAL last year. We were attracted 

by The Music Walk entertainment. We were on NS and Oosterdam 

and thoroughly enjoyed both of them with The Pinnacle Class NS

being our favourite. It is a beautiful ship and there was nothing 

about it which we disliked. The same does not apply to Celebrity 

Apex. We will not be using Edge Class ships again. The 

music on HAL is much more to our tastes compared to the

Celebrity offerings. We preferred every aspect of the design and

the facilities on NS compared to Apex. Food was comparable.

Good on both. I find the lack of a forward facing lounge on Apex

to be a bizarre design decision. We are looking forward to being

back on Oosterdam in 3/4 weeks time.  However, I hope HAL build 

more Pinnacle Class ships in order to expand our choice of

itineraries which remain our priorities, although the ships we

book come a very close second.

 

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7 hours ago, montythecat said:

............ However, I hope HAL build 

more Pinnacle Class ships in order to expand our choice of

itineraries which remain our priorities, although the ships we

book come a very close second.

 

 

Our hope is just the opposite - more smaller ships which can still get into more out of the way port and away from the Big Ship port competition with other cruise lines.

 

The bigger ships also get consigned more to industrial ports out of town, while the smaller ones can still find spots in the older in-town docking spots. Poor HAL, is always asked to be the Gold-locks cruise line - just right, somewhere in between the luxury prices small ships and the mega behemoths.

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The odds of HAL building a ship smaller than Pinnacle Class is somewhere between slim and none.

 

The economics both in operations, and in capital cost per passenger carried are just not there. There would need to move out of the adult mass market price point into the premium category with rates atleast 50% higher. Many of their current passengers get upset when gratuities go up a dollar per day.

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1 hour ago, lizinindy said:

Do they still have the tiered display of dates outside the dining room for your enjoyment?

 

 

Sadly the last of the liveried "Chimes Masters" are a thing of the past now too - held out before "covid" but now missing in action - dates, mints, ginger, apricots - all nice sailing tradition digestive aids.

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