Do you like sea day's or ports, sedate cruises or activites, how long a voyage are you looking for, where do you want to visit, also what age bracket would you be in ??. . Celebrity and Princess attract a younger crowd than HAL.
Without knowing more about your wants its impossible to suggest which cruise line is for you. I love Celebrity(food and dining service to me are the most important) followed by Princess, but find HAL too old for me.( I'm in my 40's).
The new HAL ship Zuiderdam should have a great age mix as they are going all out with the Kid's Club area and marketing it for families. I've found that on the 7 day sailings there is usually a pretty good mix but it's probably better during school vacation time. I haven't sailed on Celebrity yet, but I enjoyed our Princess cruises very much and have loved our HAL cruises.
Princess stands out a bit compared to HAL and Celebrity because it is more centered on deregimentaiton of the cruise where HAL and Celebrity are quasi-traditional.
HAL, for me, is less formal than Celebrity. The Indonesian/Filipino crew feel more like family, in some ways, and are a bit more engaging than Celebrity's crew. Celebrity's service is a bit more at a distance, less small talk, they usually don't address pax by first name but by "Sir" and "Madame".
HAL is the only line one of the three that doesn't charge a 15% gratuity for bar purchases. Princess and Celebrity adds them to the price of the drink. HAL, while not handing out envellopes for tips, expects the same tips to much of the same people as the other 2 lines, and the Celebrity rates can be applied to HAL. HAL doesn't charge for the specialty fancy Italian restaurant (on the Rotterdam and Volendam-class ships), serves fresh popcorn before the showing of movies in a real movie theater outside of the Java cafe that doesn't charge for cappacino, espresso, cafe late, and other quality coffee, where Celebrity charges for these in their Cova cafe (but does provide excellent chocolate with the coffee, and gladly provide more if requested). There's also dinner chimes and after diner mints served as pax exit the restarant after they've dined. HAL has the largest staterooms though all three lines are well appointed and comfortably sized. HAL also has the best passenger space ratio. HAL has wonderful fresh flowers just about everywhere on the ship. HAL's ships are usually clean and well maintained. All feature fully wraparound promenade decks with teak flooring, and all of the central pools have sliding glass and can be covered in inclement weather.
Celebrity excels in presentation, presentation of food and the dining experience is well done. They offer cigar bars (that will be turned soon into piano bars), martini and champagne bars, the Cova cafe offers Cova chocolate. Celebrity used to be known for their food, but there's a lively debate about the quality of it now versus the line in its early years, where it was almost praised unanimously as the best in its class. The service staff is well dressed and usually polite, although the bar staff can be engaging and fun. Celebrity, at least to me, seems somewhat livelier than HAL, but not that much. Celebrity has a zero announcement policy, so during the cruise there are days when no announcements are made over the PA system. Sometimes, there are announcements, but there are few of them. Celebrity sometimes have strolling a cappella groups performing in different areas of their ships. Celebrity ships are clean and quite well maintained. The newest ships have wide promenade decks that do not wrap around the front or back of the ship. The previous generation ships wrapped around the back of the ship but not the front.
I like both Celebrity and HAL because they are quasi-traditional and I'm not interested in alternative dining and like the first and second seating of these lines. Both lines do offer casual alternative dining, but they don't do it to the extent that Princess or NCL or others do it. I haven't sailed Princess yet. I find Celebrity and HAL both a rung over RCI and NCL, which I've also sailed, yet they are usually no more expensive, at least for the price of admission. I also find Celebrity and HAL pretty equal in overall quality.
Suggest you move over to 'Cruisemate Staff' thread and check out
"Are you a seasoned cruiser - 10/1/02"
I really believe there is a cruise/a Line to suit every taste - just take the time to read reviews- remembering always that they are the opinions of the reviewer - and carefully study the brochures. It's also very important to be honest with your T-A about what you expect and what is really important to you. It's your money - you're the best judge of how it should be spent!
Suki has a point. Every line has something to offer different from the next line. In my opinion I would most likely take Celebrity, HAL and Princess last of the 3, but that;s me, that's today and that's depending on who I was traveling with and what the ports were. No right or wrong answers here. NIta