Afer sailing 7 times on Celebrity, we thoght we would venture into new waters by trying HAL. My only hesitation at this point is how HAL's food stacks up to the high quality of Celebrity. The reviews that I have read on HAL cuisine have been from "excellent" to "disappointing" - any comments?
We sailed Celebrity's Mercury in Oct, 1999 and HAL's Veendam in Jan 2000. The Veendam food was much better, in our opinion. It wasn't that the food on the Mercury was not good, it just was not as good. We even wrote a review of the Veendam cruise for Sealetter.
I've always found the food on Hal to be excellent like eating in a fine restruant every nite. I'm also diebetic and found that I can stick to my diet. Without to many problems. I need to do this because I control my diebetis with diet only no sahots or pills. They even had sugar free baked Alska on my last cruise.
I sailed the Veendam in March 2001 and found the meals excellent. This was my first HAL cruise and my third overall. I was not only satisfied with the meals, but the Indonesian wait-staff were so friendly that the combination of terriffic food and friendly service staff made that trip the best so far. I have heard from many fellow cruisers that HAL offers the best cruise experience overall. It is not just the meals, but the staff and their attitude that make the HAL cruising experience one that you want to come back to. In three more months I will do just that; my second HAL cruise. HAL is definately an "Adult" cruise experience; not a "college fraturnity party at sea".The dignified atmosphier on board is relaxing in-itself.
Although we've never sailed on the Veendam, we've been on four different Holland America ships (out of our 12 cruises) and it is our favorite cruise line. The rooms are more spacious, the staff more attentive, excellent service, outstanding food and menu selection, etc. I wouldn't hesitate to book on this line.
I have to say Celebrity does a bit more with the dining food, food presentation is nicer, there's the clear your pallette sorbet between courses that's nice. Veendam's food is very good when I was on her but I would give the edge to Celebrity in terms of overall dining and quality of food. HAL's buffet food seems just as good as Celebrity's.
The service style is just different to me, one isn't necessarily better than the other. HAL remembers preferences and anticipates more and is definitely friendlier, Celebrity is a bit more formal. I think if you get Celebrity trained personnel you get the formal and polite service but it seems some RCI personnel have crept into Celebrity's ships from time to time resulting in some "chatty" wait staff.
BTW, the dining staff on HAL is Indonesian, the bar and cabin staff are Filipino.
Veendam has lots of space for pax, has more open (teak) deck space than Celebrity ships. One thing HAL has Celebrity lacks are the piano bars - my wife and I had loads of fun in the Veendam's piano bar interacting with then piano performer Perry Grant. Also HAL doesn't make you pay for stuff that Celebrity does such as quality coffee in their Java Bar (HAL's version of Tastings - sort of), they offer free popcorn before showing movies, they offer after dinner mints, there are chimes announcing dinners, also other little things.
Like Celebrity, HAL is a grown up cruise, maybe even more so. I like both of these lines, and I prefer elegant, romantic cruising to the mall/resort type of ships (RCI) or the "fun" ships (won't go near Carnival). Also I'm 42 (too many say HAL is just for people over 60 or so).
We just got off the Volendam two weeks ago and the food was great. Everyone at our table was happy and there were definitely some picky eaters. I've never been on Celebrity so I can't compare there, but the food was far, far better than NCL.