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Holland America vs RCL for Alaska


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Curious to know if anyone has done an Alaska sailing from Seattle or Vancouver with Holland America, and if so how was the experience compared to RCL? The wife and I have only ever done Alaska on Celebrity and that was over a decade ago, but we have heard from colleagues and family who speak highly of Holland America, in terms of better service and food. A few family who have sailed HAL seem to prefer the experience on board as they have a very diverse Alaska program though not sure about the family demographic?

Having only ever sailed Royal recently, what are some thoughts on Holland America for Alaska? They seem to have a great cruise-land tour program that RCL does not offer, and their ships boast on board lectures and chamber music though I also hear the ships shut down by 11 pm...

Looking to do Alaska in 2023 when we return stateside again, nothing to Alaska from Singapore unfortunately.

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I have not sailed with HAL, but the one thing I've always heard is after dinner, HAL ships tend to be dead as everyone goes to bed, whereas Royal Caribbean has a nightlife scene.

In terms of Alaska, you're going to the same ports.

It may come down to what each line offers onboard their ship, especially on sea days and/or in the evening.

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I have sailed to Alaska three times, twice with HAL and once with Royal, all pre-pandemic. 

HAL is going to give you a much more intimate ship experience. It will more directly compare to sailing to Alaska on a Vision or Radiance class ship as far as size goes, and that only with HAL's largest ships.

While I think the demographic of folks choosing an Alaska cruise skews older than the Caribbean, I feel like the average age on HAL was higher than Royal. It will definitely impact the energy at the activities.

If you enjoy some of the more "classic" things about cruising, such as dressing up for formal night, you might enjoy the HAL cruise. 

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HAL to Alaska on our honeymoon ~7 years ago was one of my first and only non-RCL cruises. It was partially paid for by Carnival loyalists, who actually went with us on Ovation last year. HAL to Alaska was absolutely amazing. The ship didn't have anywhere near the amenities as Ovation, but the experienced crew, and dedication to the Alaska experience, was just top notch. There were also enough amenities to satisfy our needs, and the fact that we were younger and out and about in the evening meant we could form closer relationships with the crew.

Additionally, the family that tried out RCL for the first time with us in AK this year are actually getting on another cruise right now, a Carnival ship in Port Canaveral. While they were gracious about how awful the experience was on Ovation, they all privately said they wouldn't be booking on another RCL cruise.

An AK cruise is just such a massive expense for most of us (mitigated a bit if you're a west coaster or Canadian). If I could do it again, I'd stick to HAL even though what drove us to Ovation were some of the things I think may influencing your thought process (we took both of our kids on Ovation). Personally, I'd book for the ship for itineraries in the Caribbean where you'll be able to use the shiny amenities more fully. For AK, I'd book the one that has a better track record of getting you a truly spectacular experience of the ports and the scenery.  HAL is a clear winner.

Also, if you can swing it, do the one way itinerary, and personally I preferred sailing out of Victoria (versus the RT sailing out of Seattle).

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It's my understanding that HAL was the first to sail Alaska. They have prime access to certain Fjords and bays that due to environmental restrictions only allow for a limited number of ships. 

In my mind, you are going to Alaska for the grandeur of nature not for clubs and discotheques. 

Per Gary Bembridge (on YouTube) HAL, and to some extent Princess, are the Alaska leaders in overall sailing experience. 

We did an inside passage on Princess years back for an anniversary trip. By far, the best cruise we've ever been on.

I say that and we are sailing on the Quantum OTS in June with my grown kids and spouses. Another inside passage. The kids are all in their 30s and wanted more "stuff" than what was offered by Princess which was my first choice. 

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We did Radiance in 2008 as a family,  and a HAL in 2019. Both were good cruises, but a lot depends on you. We were youngsters (late fifties) on the HAL, and traveled without kids. Had a great time, and twice we had aurora borealis.  It was more intimate than the RCL, and what I liked was that they pisted what was on their buffet, so you knew whether it was worth doing the buffet rather than the plates. Serious Alaskan seafood!

The RCL was great because it had a lot of kid options.  Too much,  in my opinion.  My kids did not want to leave the ship, and my DH stayed while I walked around Skagway. At the time, Radiance had headliners that they boarded for the night,  so entertainment varied. 

So it depends on you. I think kids would be bored on HAL, and by kids I mean under 50. 

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9 hours ago, karl_nj said:

 

I'm hoping to do an Alaska cruise within the next few years, and I'm leaning towards booking it on Princess.  I've read that both Princess and HAL are great for Alaska, but I think Princess would be better for families.

 

Of the two, Princess is better….but Princess isn’t all that good for families. If you are taking kids 0-18, Royal, Carnival, Disney, and NCL are what you want to stick to.

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20 hours ago, WaybackCruiser said:

Curious to know if anyone has done an Alaska sailing from Seattle or Vancouver with Holland America, and if so how was the experience compared to RCL? The wife and I have only ever done Alaska on Celebrity and that was over a decade ago, but we have heard from colleagues and family who speak highly of Holland America, in terms of better service and food. A few family who have sailed HAL seem to prefer the experience on board as they have a very diverse Alaska program though not sure about the family demographic?

Having only ever sailed Royal recently, what are some thoughts on Holland America for Alaska? They seem to have a great cruise-land tour program that RCL does not offer, and their ships boast on board lectures and chamber music though I also hear the ships shut down by 11 pm...

Looking to do Alaska in 2023 when we return stateside again, nothing to Alaska from Singapore unfortunately.

We took holland to alaska

   Boring.  Next time royal Caribbean.

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We have recently taken HA to Alaska.  Things to remember: as we understand it, HA holds permanent permits to enter Glacier Bay (National Park), and only four large ships are allowed entry per day - and HA has two of these slots.  Additionally, National Park rangers join the ship while in the Park, and are available to answer questions and point out sights, plus have literature, photos, and other memorabilia available!  To make a long story short, these rights hark back to the founder of the tour division of the company.  Some of the on-board lectures and films are fascinating.  Additionally, multiple tours can extend seven-day cruises in increments up to 18 days.  Train tour segments are also available.  Downside: limited production shows and cabarets, plus a generally a mature clientele.  Food, in our experience, was outstanding, and the beverage/excursion/upgraded dining/wi-fi package very reasonably priced.  We are D+ on Royal and still are loyal, but surely did enjoy Holland.  Carnival Corporation owns Carnival, Holland, Princess, others and does have a shareholder program to obtain on board credit, in line with Royal's offering.

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On 10/29/2022 at 6:13 PM, Batman362 said:

We took holland to alaska

   Boring.  Next time royal Caribbean.

Just my opinion so no flames please.

I have been to Alaska four times. twice on princess and twice on RCCL.  For my trips to Alaska (The only ports I have been to more than twice) I could care less what ship or cruise line I am on. As long as my Room has a balcony, Alaska provides my entertainment and I am NEVER bored.

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8 hours ago, FSUFAN said:

@BigKarl is correct in stating that whatever line you choose, a balcony is a must have when sailing in Alaska. 

We have done balcony and the interior.  Unlike Florida, the sun does not set in the summer, so even with blackout shades, the room remains light.  The balcony is nice, but personal preference over brightness. Both cruises had ranger's / naturalists come aboard while watching the calving. 

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19 hours ago, Audrey V. said:

We have done balcony and the interior.  Unlike Florida, the sun does not set in the summer, so even with blackout shades, the room remains light.  The balcony is nice, but personal preference over brightness. Both cruises had ranger's / naturalists come aboard while watching the calving. 

I don't remember the sun being an issue, but I totally understand liking it dark.  There is so much to see from the balcony versus heading up to the top decks to see whales and such when they make a sighting announcement. Plus, the trips into the fjords/arms where you can sit in relative comfort.

Mrs Fan enjoying her tea from the comfort of our room during a morning visit to (I think) Tracy Arm. This was a Princess sailing.

97YF8ACJTPWoKRjwG5x6ww.thumb.jpg.da80baf8db451050630751c05fb5fc9b.jpg

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