We have cruised with Holland America Line (HAL) on numerous trips. When we started on this travel journey in October, we cruised with HAL in order to get to our destination without having to fly. Read about the pros and cons of traveling via airplane vs cruise ship.)
Both Ernest and I favor cruises as a vacation. In our opinions, it’s similar to an all-inclusive resort with the benefit of exploring several different places/countries in one trip. However, not all cruise lines are alike. Here is our review of HAL.
The average passenger on HAL are older, retired individuals. It’s definitely a line that attracts more senior guests. This, we think, is due to it’s more laid-back atmosphere. Cruises normally offer an array of activities throughout the day (when at sea) for it’s passengers. With HAL, the activities may not be as physical (ie. no pool volleyball tournament nor scavenger hunts). Instead, you’ll find more ‘talks’ (ie. lectures) on some of the ports of calls, and, like most cruise lines, the usual poker, slots, bridge, and mahjong tournaments.
HAL passengers are more experienced cruisers and, as such, they’re looking for a more quality product/service; a more traditional cruising experience.
Accommodation and Staterooms
If you’ve never cruised before, staterooms consist of a bed, desk, sitting area, closet and bathroom. You may be thinking that’s pretty amazing to have all that on a cruise ship. However, it’s packed pretty nicely into a small space. For example, 2-3 steps from the bed, you’ll reach the sitting area and 2-3 from the sitting area and you’ll be at the desk. Staterooms are relatively small in comparison to onshore accommodations. However, there are suites which would be more of the average one bedroom apartment in NYC or downtown Toronto.
The newer ships are very contemporary and modern with a majority of the staterooms having verandas/balconies. Some may also have bathtubs, but most will only have standup showers.
In our opinion, you’re not going to be spending much time in the staterooms so there’s really no need for the bigger space. However, having a veranda is nice to be able to look out from your cabin and take in the scenery. Also, ordering room service and having breakfast on the veranda is a nice treat.
Cuisines and Dining
There’s a variety of cuisines available on the ship. However, some do require a fee (although still totally worth the fee). These speciality restaurants may charge a fee ranging from $15 to $35 per person. Please note that this is a flat fee and you can order whatever and however amount you want from the menu. Still a great deal, right?!?
However, there’s no need to dine at the speciality restaurants and still have a variety of FREE dining options. For breakfast, lunch and dinner there are the buffet as well as the main dining rooms (more upscale and where they serve you). The buffets also have ‘themed’ nights, such as Asian where they’ll have Chinese and/or Indian dishes.
In between the main meals, there’s always ‘snacks’ available such as burgers, hotdogs, nachos, tacos, pizza, ice-cream, and cakes/pastries. And there is 24-hour room service available; aka uber eats without the charges to your credit card! There’s an endless amount of food and, trust me, you will NEVER go hungry on a cruise ship.
We would rate the food on HAL a 7.5/10. It’s okay, but not the best in taste and presentation. Although, some of the different ethnic cuisines, may be rated a little higher.
Activities and Entertainment
We’ve already mentioned some of the activities available on HAL up above. We think that choosing a cruise line to cruise with means looking at what activities are available. Like we’ve mentioned, HAL is more for the older or more laid-back passengers. Therefore, the activities are catered to these passengers.
We enjoyed our cruises with them, since we like our ‘alone’ time. We are able to find an area (other than the stateroom) with no one around where we could do our own thing without the noise or eyes (ie. people that are people watching).
Spa and Gym
Both of these areas do get quite busy. However, you just have to figure out the right times if you want the gym to be less busy so that you’re able to get in a good workout. Normally, the majority of people workout in the mornings and afternoons, so early evenings and late nights are best!
Drinks and Internet
With most cruise lines, alcohol, juice, soft drinks and specialty coffees (ie. lattes, cappuccinos, Spanish coffees, etc.) are an additional fee. You can “pay-as-you-go” for whenever you’d like to get one of these drinks. Or there are packages that may be purchased prior to your cruise or even during the cruise.
A tip is to look for these deals when purchasing your cruise. A lot of times when purchasing the cruise, there will be specials or deals where the purchase price will include a drink package or prepaid gratuities or onboard credits (ie. a credit that can only be spent on onboard purchases). Nowadays, with the commonality of being ‘online’, a lot of cruise lines may also offer free internet packages.
So look around when hunting for a cruise deal and find the deal that best suits you. Don’t pay the regular price for a drink package. It may cost you an additional $1000 on top of the price of the cruise.
The internet on most cruise ships have come a long way. You may not find the same speeds as when on land, but you’ll be able to stream Netflix and watch your Youtube videos. However, don’t be surprised if connection drops once in awhile. You’re out in the middle of the ocean with nothing around but the ocean!
Most cruise lines will charge this additional cost. It’s about $14.50 per person, per day (as at today, March 2019). If you’re in a higher stateroom category, for example a suite, then this cost will be higher at around $16.50 pp, per day.
This is pretty much the only additional fixed cost, other than the cost of the cruise.
Our Overall Rating
In summary, a lot of older cruisers are loyal to one cruise line since they are rewarded for cruising with a specific line. Therefore, with this “loyalty” you’ll find that each cruise line will be more geared towards the likes and needs of these type of passengers. So if you’re looking for a more upbeat, action filled cruise, you’ll know that this line isn’t for you.
Holland America’s ships are mostly rated 5 stars with some 4.5 stars on the smaller and older ships. These ratings are out of 6 stars. We would give them an overall rating of 8/10. Our rating includes the level of service, cleanliness, food quality and food variety. We did not include activities and entertainment offered since, as we mentioned, each line is geared towards a particular clientele.
We have cruised with several different lines and know what each line offers and who they cater to. Stay tuned as there will be posts on a few other lines.
Have you cruised before? If yes, with which cruise line?