HAL v Princess

While Holland America and Princess Cruises both offer terrific cruise vacations and are beloved by fans, the onboard experiences you get from them are totally different.

Generally speaking, Holland America appeals to an older demographic that prefer fine dining, live music and a subdued evening atmosphere -- though the line is trying to change its reputation by livening up its onboard offerings. Princess Cruises attracts an active crowd that is both young and young-at-heart. While the line attracts plenty of kids and younger professionals, age on Princess Cruises is less a matter of years lived and more a matter of who's going to be the first one to sign up for the belly-flop competition (or if not sign up, at least get a front row seat). Cruisers often say Holland America is the line they take without their grandkids, while Royal is for the whole family.

To help you pick the cruise line that fits your needs, Cruise Critic pits Princess Cruises vs. Holland America in a head-to-head comparison. There is no winner -- except you and your cruising party (even if you're a party of one) when you find the line that's the perfect match.

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Compare by: Fleet | Pricing | Demographics | Itineraries | Cabins | Dining | Pool Deck Fun | Sports Deck Fun | Indoor Fun | Nightlife | Family Focus | Tradition vs Innovation

Holland America's Eurodam

Fleet size, ship sizes and ages

Holland America has a smaller fleet than Princess -- both in terms of how many ships the line has and what size the ships are.

Holland America

  • 15 ships, four built before 2000
  • Largest: Koningsdam (2,650 passengers)
  • Smallest: Prinsendam (835 passengers)
  • Oldest: Maasdam (1993)

Princess Cruises

  • 17 ships, six built before 2000
  • Oldest: Sun Princess (1995)
  • Smallest: Pacific Princess (672 double capacity)
  • Largest: Royal Princess, Regal Princess and Majestic Princess(all 3,560 double capacity)
Pricing

Pricing

Holland AmericaView Holland America Deals

  • Pricing is dependent on several factors, including ship booked, destination and length of cruise; when compared to weeklong Princess cruise fares, Holland America prices tend to be pretty comparable, though entry-level and suite pricing can be less expensive than on Princess
  • Prices include meals in the main dining room and a handful of casual venues, but all alternative restaurants cost extra

Princess Cruises View Princess Cruises Deals

  • In general, Princess fares for weeklong cruises are comparable to, though sometimes a mite higher than, Holland America pricing; sales are offered regularly
  • Pricing includes about three-fourths of the alternative eateries on most ships (not including the two newest ships, Royal Princess and Regal Princess)
The Piazza on Regal Princess

Demographics

Passengers on Princess are, on average, younger than those who sail on Holland America. The exceptions are Princess' longer voyages, which pull in primarily retired couples and groups of friends.

Holland AmericaView Holland America Roll Calls

  • All ships draw couples, solo cruisers and groups of friends ages 40 to 80s, though the average Holland America cruiser is between 55 and 70 years old
  • Alaska itineraries appeal to families, particularly multigenerational groups; few families on other sailings

Princess Cruises View Princess Cruises Roll Calls

  • Alaska and Caribbean sailings draw families, couples and groups of friends in all age brackets
  • Ships sailing longer, exotic itineraries draw a 55-plus crowd
Beach on Princess Cays

Itineraries/Destinations/Homeports

Neither Princess nor Holland America keeps any of their ships in a single port all year long, both preferring to schedule itineraries according to seasonal cruise trends, such as Alaska in the summer and Caribbean in the fall and winter. Speaking of Alaska, Princess and Holland America offer the most comprehensive Alaska cruise programs in the cruise industry. Both also offer exotic cruises in far-flung destinations all over the globe.

Holland AmericaView Holland America Itineraries

  • Cruises from 11 North American mainland ports, varying by season
  • Sails seasonally to Alaska, Bermuda, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Canada and New England, Europe and Mexico, as well as through the Panama Canal and along the Pacific Coast
  • Exotic itineraries include Asia, Australia, the South Pacific, South America, Antarctica and world cruises

Princess Cruises View Princess Cruises Itineraries

  • Cruises from seven North American mainland ports
  • Offers seasonal sailings to Alaska, Mexico, Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean and the Bahamas
  • Has ships deployed to Australia and Asia year-round
  • Other exotic itineraries include sailings to the South Pacific, South America and India, as well as world cruises
The Neptune Suite on the Eurodam

Cabins

Holland America

  • Rooms are divided between five basic categories: inside, ocean view, lanai (not available on all ships), balcony and suite
  • Suite perks (Neptune and Pinnacle Suites only) include priority tendering, free laundry and pressing, free mimosas with ensuite breakfast, free bottled water on embarkation and more
  • Spa cabins (only on select ships) differ from other cabins only by in-room amenities, which include a loofah mitt and bath salts, yoga mat and two pedometers
  • Is the only cruise line with lanai cabins (select ships only), which are technically ocean-view rooms but have sliding-glass doors that open directly onto public deck space
  • Two ships (Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam) have cabins specifically designed and priced for solo travelers, as well as a selection of family-specific cabins (the only ones in the fleet)

Princess Cruises

  • Cabins on all ships are divided between five basic categories: inside, ocean-view, balcony, mini-suite and suite
  • Distinctive cabin choices include mini-suites and suites without balconies (on select ships only)
  • Suite perks are more extensive than Holland America's perks and include free dinner at an alternative restaurant on embarkation night, priority embarkation/debarkation, butler service, free laundry and suites-only breakfast in a specialty restaurant
  • Limited family room options include connecting cabins and family suites with full baths (on select ships only)
Steak Dinner at the Pinnacle Grill on Noordam

Dining

Holland America

  • Main dining room options include traditional (same time and tablemates each night) and the flexible As You Wish program (choose when and at which table you want to eat on a nightly basis)
  • Up to four specialty restaurants on all ships (all for a fee), except on Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam, which have more
  • Main dining room menus feature select dishes from members of the line's Culinary Council, including chefs David Burke, Elizabeth Faulkner and Jacques Torres
  • One to three formal nights per cruise (depending on voyage length), requiring cruisers to swap out casual wear for fancier attire

Princess Cruises

  • Dining room options include traditional fixed dining with early or late seating choice, and the flexible Anytime Dining program (except on Pacific Princess, which only has traditional)
  • Few specialty restaurant choices, with most included in the cruise fare; the newest ships (Royal Princess and Regal Princess) have a larger selection of for-fee eateries
  • A partnership with celebrity chef Curtis Stone brings "Crafted by Curtis" menu items to the main dining rooms on all ships, as well as the Share by Curtis Stone restaurant (on select ships) and the Chef's Table by Curtis Stone experience
  • A partnership with chocolatier Norman Love provides cruisers with distinctive chocolate desserts and drinks
Pool deck on Crown Princess

Pool Deck Fun

Holland America

  • All ships have at least one main pool and five whirlpools; several also have an aft pool, an extra-fee indoor therapeutic pool and/or a teen-only pool
  • Minimal pool games on warm-weather sailings

Princess Cruises

  • At least three pools and five hot tubs on most ships, including an aft pool and (on select ships) one beneath a retractable roof
  • When sailing in the Caribbean, silly games might be played poolside on sea days
  • The adults-only Sanctuary (some of which have a pool) offers cruisers a quiet pool/sun deck alternative
  • Current and favorite films shown daily on the pool/sun decks as part of the line's Movies Under the Stars program
Sports Court on Caribbean Princess

Sports Deck Fun

Holland America

  • Offers a jogging track and basketball court on all ships, and either a volleyball or tennis court

Princess Cruises

  • Offers shuffleboard and a jogging track on all ships; most also have a basketball court
  • All ships have some type of golf space onboard, ranging from a practice cage to a nine-hole putting course (varies by ship)
Culinary Arts Center on Eurordam

Indoor Fun

Holland America

  • Daily activities include a blend of fun activities -- trivia, arts and crafts and dance classes -- and educational programs (designed via partnerships with BBC Earth and the Digital Workshop Powered by Windows)
  • Cooking demonstrations and classes are offered in the Culinary Arts Center; wine lovers can enjoy tastings at the onboard Wine Tasting Bar (on most ships) or try the Chateau Ste. Michelle wine-tasting and blending experience (only on Koningsdam)

Princess Cruises

  • Daily activities might include arts and crafts, dance classes, trivia, bingo and Voice of the Ocean rehearsals (a singing competition created in partnership with TV's "The Voice")
  • Destination-specific lectures and educational programs are offered on sailings in Alaska, Hawaii, Asia and the South Pacific
  • Select ships have a multi-deck piazza-style atrium, a hub for dining and entertainment
B.B. Kings Blues Club on Noordam

Nightlife

Holland America

  • B.B. King's Blues Club, a nightly show in the Queen's Lounge, is available on eight ships
  • The same eight ships feature Lincoln Center Stage, bringing high-quality, live chamber music (including classical covers of popular tunes) to the high seas, while seven of these have Billboard Onboard, an amped-up piano bar featuring chart-topping hits from the past 50 years
  • Main-stage theater shows include musical revues, illusionists, comedians and concerts

Princess Cruises

  • Main-stage theater entertainment includes musical revues, as well as one-off comedy and magic acts; several ships feature a made-for-Princess musical created in collaboration with Stephen Schwartz, the Oscar-winning composer of "Wicked," "Pippin" and "Godspell"
  • Live music available nightly in most bars and lounges
  • Nightly wine tastings or wine-and-chocolate pairings are offered at the Vines wine bar
  • All ships have a late-night dance club
Shockwaves on Crown Princess

Family Focus

Holland AmericaHolland America Family Cruise Reviews

  • Three kids' clubs, divided by age group: 3- to 7-year-olds, 8- to 12-year-olds and 13- to 17-year-olds
  • Families with teens should look for one of the five ships that has a top-deck teen hangout with teen-only pool
  • Kids' activities include "Walking with Dinosaurs" programming designed in partnership with BBC Earth
  • After Hours babysitting is available from 10 p.m. until midnight for kids ages 3 to 12; at other times, and for children under 5, limited babysitting might be available on sea days
  • Family-specific cabins are only available on Koningsdam

Princess Cruises Princess Cruises Family Cruise Reviews

  • Three kids clubs (except on Pacific Princess): Princess Pelicans (ages 3 to 7), Shockwaves (ages 8 to 12) and the Teen Club (ages 13 to 17)
  • Activities are provided through a partnership with the Discovery Channel, primarily themed around TV shows from the Discovery, Animal Planet, Learning and Science channels
  •  A kids' splash pool is on all ships (except Pacific Princess); select ships also have teen-only hot tubs
  • Select ships offer two-room family suites
  • All ships have self-service laundry rooms
The SeaWalk

Tradition vs Innovation

Holland America

  • One of, if not the most traditional of the North America-based cruise lines, emphasizing main dining rooms, dressing well, live music and an overall dignified vibe
  • Holland America is updating its onboard experience through partnerships, including teaming up with Lincoln Center and Billboard to offer innovative music venues on select ships, as well as with BBC Earth for a variety of educational programs

Princess Cruises

  • Values classic cruising traditions like multiple main dining rooms, limited extra-fee dining and musical theater shows
  • Technological innovations such as the SeaWalk, a transparent glass walkway suspended off the side of the ship 16 decks above the water, are limited to the line's newest ships (Royal Princess and Regal Princess)

Holland America

Princess Cruises