My husband and I are in our early 40's with four children. We want to go to Alaska in July 2002. I would like to read opinions about what line to choose. I am leaning HAL, just from reading and examining brochures. I would like to know about the food quality on either line. My children favorite foods are ice cream, any chocolate deserts, pizza, and hamburgers. My husband likes beef and I like seafood. My husband and I like to swim late sometimes. How late will be able to do that? What is the entertainment like on either line? How is cleanliness of the cabins on either line?
I have sailed on HAL, but not on Princess. My experience on the Ms Veendan last March was terriffic.It was my first time on Holland American Line and I think I will only sail on HAL from now-on.
As for Princess, I hear they are nickle-and diming their guests to death. On the Veendan, all the pizza, ice cream and other cullinary delights are FREE. They also have a Java Bar serving Capacino or other coffee concoctions from 8AM to 5PM also FREE.
If you are going to Alaska with kids, then you HAVE TO SAIL HAL. HAL has a mid-ship, fresh-water pool amd hot tub that has a sliding skylight over it. In the cooler and wetter weather of Alaska the skylight will be closed so the pool can be used during any weather. Some other lines are now building movable skylights over their pools, but not many are sailing yet, but all HAL's newer ships have this feature.
A poolside food consession serves the pizza,hambergers and stir-fry foods while the pool is open. Ice cream is served nearby in the LIDO Dining area. All this is on the LIDO Deck. There are windows on both sides of the pool area overlooking the sea so you can see the sights as you enjoy the pool. There were many children on the cruise I was on and all I saw were well behaved. HAL ships are attracting more families even though older passengers like the traditional good service that HAL provides.HAL also has a childrens club for activities onboard and these are separatred by age and appropriate activities are provided.
HAL operates their ships like Cruise Ships; NOT like Las Vegas Hotels. This is truely a nautical experience and Holland American Line knows how to do it Right! There is plenty of elegance in furnishings and friendliness among the members of the ships crew so this will be a rich rewarding experience. Continue with your research. But, I'm sure HAL will be your final choice.
Can't add to Franks' comments about the ship and HAL generally, except to endorse them. As you plan your trip, be sure to visit the HAL website to check out shore excursion options. You can rely on the information, and there is great variety to choose from, including lots that is designed for the interests and energies of kids. If money is no object, indulge in helicopter or flightseeing trips, but there are great options for a lot less money. If nature is calling, plan on a wildlife/whale watching trip from Juneau - and soak in the spectacular scenery while watching the humpback and orca whales. Enjoy!
I've been on Princess, HAL and Celebrity ships (8 total) - they're all comparable, but when asked for a favorite I always mention HAL first, then Princess (who's especially good with children). However, on a summer Alaska sailing even HAL will have adequate children's programs, and on the Alaska itinerary kids programs aren't as important, I don't think, since you're in port everyday you're not on a viewing glaciers, etc. day which will in itself occupy the kids. Not to mention the great family bonding the experience of viewing this fantastic scenery together will be - I always tell people that Alaska can't be described in words or pictures, it's a feeling, I've felt closer to the Good Lord in Alaska than anywhere else I've been, The prior comments about getting "extras" without extra charge on HAL - vs - Princess are true; if you don't want to pay $4 for a sundae, go HAL! And while I've had great service on all three, the Indonesian and Filippino crew on HAL always make for an extra special experience, and if you go HAL don't miss the crew show! However, the other 2 have international crews and your children would meet people from all over the world there as well. Cabins on HAL, I think, are a tad roomier than Princess but balconies are more affordable on Princess and would be worth the extra expense if you can manage it. Unfortunately, none of us can really direct you, you'll have to mull it all over for yourself. Don't be worried about what you hear about such an "older" crowd on HAL, though, you'll find a similar mix of people in Alaska on all 3 lines. How wonderful you can enjoy this with your family, God bless you, and enjoy your cruise!