HAL vs Princess
This is a review after taking back to back 7 day cruises. The first week (Feb7-14) was spent on the Ruby Princess, the latest addition to the Princess fleet. The second week (Feb14-21) was spent on the Eurodam, the latest addition to the Holland America fleet. This review will be focussed on comparing the ships and services of these competitors versus our particular itineraries which were both out of Fort Lauderdale, the western Caribbean on Princess and the eastern Caribbean on HAL.
First the cabins: We had a balcony stateroom on Princess, an obstructed view on HAL but, other than that, here are the differences we observed: Bathroom: The bathroom on HAL is bigger than Princess, with a bath/shower combination vs a small shower on Princess. The towels are bigger on HAL, softer on Princess. The shower hardware on HAL allows for more adjustment. Storage: Although HAL has closets with doors which are aesthetically more pleasing than Princess which is basically an open closet rod adjacent to the bathroom, we found the Princess setup more practical. The closets on HAL are adjacent to the cabin and bathroom door which creates congestion. Also, because there are several closets (3 separate compartments) you need to remember where everything is and you are constantly opening and closing doors in competition with each other when getting dressed or undressed. Combined with the desire to get in and out of the bathroom it can make for some comical results! With Princess the storage area is open and well lighted....not so aesthetic to see all your cloths hanging there, but it is well lighted and just works better. Mini Fridge: the HAL fridge was fully stocked with beers, wines, Perrier, soft drinks and bottled water. The Princess fridge had a few cans of coke and bottled water. They are essentially the same size. Furniture: The HAL bed was adjacent to window with a couch adjacent to the bathroom and across from the desk/TV. It had a table in front of the couch. The Princess bed was closer to the cabin door and had a desk and console adjacent to the balcony doors. We find the beds on HAL more comfortable than Princess. The bedding on HAL has you sleeping between sheets, while Princess has you sleeping under a duvet. The waste can on HAL has separate compartments for paper and waste, Princess has a single compartment waste can. HAL’s desk comes with a lighted magnified make-up mirror. None on Princess. One thing we like about Princess is that their balcony door is a sliding patio door versus a hinged door on HAL. It is great to leave that sliding door open on Princess and go to sleep with the sound of the water on the hull of the ship. It is harder to do that on HAL as the hinged door of their balconies are spring loaded and designed to stay closed. In the past we have wedged them open with a chair. I believe the TV was larger on the Princess than HAL, however, I did not see a DVD player on the Ruby. The Eurodam comes equipped with a DVD player and the library has a good selection of movies for rent. The bedside tables are similar on each ship...a couple of drawers each with a cubby. The Princess bedside tables have deeper drawers which make them more useful. Princess has bedside table lamps which take up space. The Eurodam has neat wall mounted reading lamps on each side of the bed, leaving the top of each bedside table available. Cabin Amenities: The bathrobes are better quality on HAL and are available when you arrive. The Princess robes arrived on the second day of the cruise as they were being cleaned. The soaps and shampoos are better quality on the Eurodam. No towel animals on Ruby. On the first three nights we received small presents at turn down in the evening on the Eurodam. The first night we had a special plate of sweets to celebrate Valentine’s day. The second night we received complementary Pinnacle invitations and a nice HAL tote bag for the beach or shore excursions. The third night we received our Mariner tiles. We were also impressed with the amount of personalized mail we received on the Eurodam. Dining arrangement confirmations etc. The small newspapers provided on HAL are not provided on Princess. HAL even provides an edition for Canadians!
Dining: Main Dining Rooms: There a few things that set these two ships apart when it comes to their main dining room. We had ‘as you wish’ dining on each cruise. We identified a table we liked and made reservations everyday for that table which worked well. However, in the case of HAL, each afternoon a note was delivered to our cabin confirming our reservation. It was a nice touch and by presenting the note when we arrived for dinner, it eliminated any confusion or line-up. The food was good in both dining rooms. HAL serves cappuccino gratis after dinner, where on Princess it is an extra $2.50. The regular coffee is terrible on Princess...not fresh brewed as on HAL. What Princess serves for coffee....well, I`m not sure what it is. You would think they would try and get that right. Probably why the café in the Piazza became my favourite spot on the Ruby. They served great coffee and I ended up purchasing a coffee card for my daily fix. With HAL we had better service. Two waiters plus a wine steward, whereas the waiters (2) on the Princess handled the wine as well. Service and quality of the food I would say was more consistent on the Eurodam.
Lido Dining: The Lido buffets are setup differently on HAL and Princess. On Princess there is more pre-prepared offerings and guests can help themselves, whereas HAL provides staff behind more food stations who prepare your plate of food and hand it to you. We found the line-ups for food about the same on each ship and they varied based on time of day. Again, the food was very good on both Lido decks. I would say the service was better on the Eurodam`s Lido deck. We noticed many staff carrying trays for passengers and they always greeted you warmly. Tables were cleaned and reset more efficiently on HAL. One other bonus for HAL was freshly squeezed orange juice in the morning.....didn’t see that on the Ruby.
Specialty Dining: Each ship offers two specialty restaurants. Each has a restaurant focussed on Steaks - HAL with the Pinnacle Grill and Princess with the Crown Grill, which features an open galley. I have to say Princess wins the battle of the steaks, although the Crown Grill is more expensive. Sabatinis on the Ruby has a wonderful Italian tasting menu, where you enjoy many flavourful appetizers. You only need to order the Entre. The Tamarind on the Eurodam features an Asian fusion experience. Sabatinis was a very lively experience, while the Tamarind delivered a more refined dining experience. These are both great restaurants.
In Room Dining: There is a bigger selection on the in-room menu on HAL than on Princess by a long shot. Also, full breakfast is offered in-room on HAL versus a continental selection on Princess. Common Areas: This is where the Ruby really shines. The fit and finish on the Ruby is far superior to the Eurodam and the richness of her many entertainment venues are what larger ships are able to offer....and the Ruby delivers. From the rich wood panelling of her bars to the marble in the Piazza she is a beautiful ship. The Piazza is a lively centre of the ship with entertainment and events happening on a frequent basis. The lower level is very comfortable with the café offering designer coffees with full bar service and across the way is Vines which is a sushi wine bar. The shops are nicely laid out and the various bars all have their own purpose and personality. Also, we found the movies under the stars feature was neat. We sat on deck chairs one night after supper and watched a concert by Tina Turner. The sound system and video screen is impressive. The Ruby offers 4 separate swimming pools versus two on the Eurodam. A couple of things we found more attractive on the Eurodam was the more expansive promenade deck with room for loungers and a full circuit around the perimeter of the ship all on one level...great for those walks in the morning or after dinner. Also the Crows nest on the Eurodam offers a venue to gaze forward, whereas the Ruby only offers that view from the gymnasium, which is very well equipped.
Conclusions: We enjoyed both our cruise on the Ruby and the Eurodam. The Ruby offers a richer, livelier experience, while the Eurodam was a more refined atmosphere. I have to say the staff on the Eurodam seemed more friendlier than the staff on the Princess. I swear I said Good Morning to more staff on the first morning on the Eurodam than the entire week on the Ruby. While we felt there were many more things to do and places to be on the Ruby, I`m not sure that is what we were looking for in our cruise. Bottom line is that we preferred our week on the Eurodam better. It seems that HAL focuses on a refined, more personalized service versus a livelier albeit more impersonal product offered on the Ruby. We really enjoyed the opportunity to compare the two ships and the style of each cruise line. For anyone looking for 2 weeks to spend cruising I would recommend a back to back on these two fine ships.