While Holland America Line and Princess Cruises both offer terrific cruise vacations, 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. Cruisers often say Holland America is the line they take without their grandkids, while Princess is for the whole family.
To help you pick the cruise line that fits your needs, Cruise Critic pits Holland America vs. Princess Cruises. 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.
Holland America has a smaller fleet than Princess -- both in terms of how many ships the line has and what size the ships are.
Largest: Rotterdam (2,668 passengers)
Smallest: Volendam & Zaandam (1,432 passengers)
Oldest: Volendam (1999)
Oldest: Grand Princess (1998)
Smallest: Coral Princess (2,000 passengers)
Largest: Sky Princess, Enchanted Princess and Discovery Princess (all 3,660 double capacity)
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 Cruises.
Prices include meals in the main dining room and a handful of casual venues, but all alternative restaurants cost extra.
In general, Princess fares for weeklong cruises are comparable to, though sometimes a mite higher than, Holland America pricing; sales are offered regularly, including during Wave Season, in summer and Black Friday.
As with Holland America, pricing includes dining in the buffet and main dining room, plus delicious pizza on deck. All specialty restaurants are charged extra.
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.
Alaska, European and Caribbean sailings draw families, couples and groups of friends in all age brackets.
Ships sailing longer, exotic itineraries draw a 55-plus crowd.
Cruises from eight 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
Cruises from 11 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
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, in-suite coffee/espresso machine, complimentary mimosa with in-suite breakfast, complimentary laundry, pressing and dry cleaning, welcome glass of sparkling wine at dinner on embarkation day, premium in-room dining breakfast menu and premium bathrobes.
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
Three ships (Koningsdam, Nieuw Statendam, Rotterdam) have cabins specifically designed and priced for solo travelers, as well as a selection of family-specific cabins (the only ones in the fleet)
Cabins on all ships are divided between five basic categories: inside, ocean-view, balcony, mini-suite and suite
Distinctive cabin choices include Sky Suites on the line's newest ships. This extravagant accommodation, sleeping up to five, offers 270-degree views via 1,000-square-foot (plus) balcony. It's among the nicest accommodation at sea.
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
Family room options include connecting cabins and family suites with full baths (on select ships only)
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, Nieuw Statendam and Rotterdam, which have more
Main dining room menus feature select dishes from members of the line's Culinary Council, including chefs Rudi Sodamin, Ethan Stowell, David Burke, Jacques Torres, Jonnie Boer and Andy Matsuda.
One to three formal nights per cruise (depending on voyage length), requiring cruisers to swap out casual wear for fancier attire
Dining room options include traditional fixed dining with early or late seating choice, and the flexible Anytime Dining program
Newer ships (Royal Princess and later) have more specialty dining options. The latest ships have up to five.
A partnership with chef Rudi Sodamin, who also works with Princess as head of culinary arts, also sees The Catch by Rudi on the newer ships.
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
At least three pools and five hot tubs on most ships, including an aft pool and (on select ships) one beneath a retractable roof. Enchanted Princess has four pools and eight hot tubs.
When sailing in the Caribbean, fun 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
Offers a jogging track and basketball court on all ships, and either a volleyball or tennis court
Pickleball At Sea is offered fleetwide
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)
Daily activities include a blend of fun options -- trivia, arts and crafts and dance classes -- and educational programs designed via a partnership with BBC Earth
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)
Daily activities might include arts and crafts, dance classes, trivia, bingo and Princess Live, a large venue with a stage and video screen.
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. King's Blues Club, Billboard Onboard and Rolling Stone Rock Room bring vibrant blues, rock and other genres of music to some of Holland America’s fleet in music club-style venues.
The World Stage showcases a selection of live music shows, by Step One Dance Company, Lincoln Center Presents and Cantaré. BBC Earth concerts are also held here
Main-stage theater shows include musical revues, illusionists, comedians and concerts
Wine tasting and trivia are also offered.
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
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 Oceanview cabins are available on some of the newer ships and sleep five, with two bathrooms, one with a bathtub, one with a shower.
Princess Cruises steps outside of its comfort zone with Sun Princess and the debut of Park19 in 2024. This new top-deck family activity zone features Sea Breeze, the industry's first 'rollerglider' on a ship.
Three kids clubs: The Treehouse (ages 3 to 7); (ages 8 to 12), The Lodge (ages 8 - 12) and The Beach House (ages 13 - 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
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
Values classic cruising traditions like multiple main dining rooms, though there is a growing number of extra-fee dining venues 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. Princess' dazzling multilevel Piazzas remain a hub of action across the fleet.
At the forefront of the the newest ships is the line's Medallion technology. A wearable disk and a powerful app, complemented with a ship wired to the nines to make sure it all works, adn create a more seamless, high-tech sailing experiences. While the technology had its teething problems, it's now paying off on Enchanted Princess, one of the few ships in the Princess fleet to debut fully loaded with all the power of the line's Medallion.