Just finished our first cruise on HAL - the Noordam Xmas and New Year cruise out of New York. Overall we had a brilliant cruise, but this was mainly due to the friends we cruised with, the brilliant tours we did, and the itinerary. We have only cruised Celebrity before this one so thought it was interesting to note the differences with HAL, some we liked but many we did not. So overall, we have decided that HAL is not for us and we are back to Celebrity for our next two cruises at least.
Anyway, for anyone that might be interested, these observations are our personal opinion, of course others may have a completely different view. BTW, we had a balcony cabin on deck 5.
In no particular order...........
Fruit in cabin - on HAL you are asked to select two choices and the fruit bowl is replenished daily. I believe you only get this benefit in Concierge class on Celebrity. Hairdryers are better on HAL. The beds are comfortable on HAL however sleep is almost impossible due to the constant droning of the air con which cannot be turned off. Hydropool and Thermal Suite - HAL - we got a couples pass for the whole cruise and it was the best thing about the ship. Heavenly. As well as the safe, there are lockable drawers on HAL. Bathroom toiletries - HAL wins with Elemis products. Bag full of laundry - HAL wins - $12 for as much as you can get in the bag. It's surprising how many items you can get washed and ironed - I think we got about 20 items in one bag (without cramming). A total bargain. Entertainment -we only saw two shows on HAL, Don Ware (comedian), and the Las Vegas production show. They were both very good. We could not see any more than this as the dining room service was so slow (see below). Embarkation - HAL was a total shambles and took around one and a half hours to board. With our Celebrity experience we were on board within a few minutes. Dining room - service was much better on Celebrity - the first thing our HAL waiter did was to apologize that he couldn't give us the service we were expecting??? What???? For the whole cruise???? Yes - as he was so busy. Tables were hardly ever laid correctly, drinks were ordered and didn't arrive without reminders after half an hour, bottled water went walkabout to other tables. Service was very slow, and most nights we missed the shows. We had 8pm fixed seating - one night we had not received our entree by 9.45pm. Our friends had to collect their daughter from Club HAL at 10pm so quite frequently one of them would have to go to Club HAL then return for the rest of their meal. We were led to believe that cappuccinos etc were available after dinner in the dining room on HAL. We were never offered them, but did have them on a couple of nights when we requested them. Overall we thought the food quality, presentation and general atmosphere on Celebrity was much higher than HAL. Cabin Steward - Celebrity wins. Almost without fail our cabin was not attended to until at least midday on HAL. I understand someone has to be last in line for getting their cabin cleaned, but it should be rotated so you get done early at least a couple of times. Also the cabin steward kept moving things around the bathroom so that our shampoo/shower gel would be by the sink and you would have to step out of the shower to retrieve it. Quite annoying. Room Service - Celebrity wins again. We ordered coffee on HAL, was asked if we wanted cream and sugar - we told them we did - coffee arrived without cream and sugar. Had a meal in our cabin then called for the tray to be collected (there really isn't room for a tray that large in the cabin) - after 2 hours we gave up waiting for it to be collected and went to sleep. Celebrity are so much more efficient in room service. Buffet - Celebrity staff are always available and offering to carry trays for you. No offers to help from HAL staff until about the 12th day of a 14 day cruise. Waffles - No contest - Celebrity wins hands down! Cabin - Celebrity supply a pitcher of iced water in your cabin, replenished twice daily. HAL supply a bottle of water which you may PURCHASE. We found the French Doors on HAL annoying as you had to move the furniture around on the balcony to open and close the door - Celebrity have sliding patio doors which are much more user friendly in such a small space. Layout of ship - personally we did not care for the layout of Noordam and after 2 weeks were not that familiar with the ship. Celebrity have bars close to the Dining Room, with dancing and music, great for meeting up with friends just prior to dinner. No bars close to the Dining Room on Noordam. Services - Celebrity have on screen accounting and on screen room service ordering. To get account details on HAL you have to go to the front desk and request a print out. Pillow Chocolates - Celebrity win again. Xmas present - We received a very nice photo box/album last year on Christmas Day from Celebrity. This year from HAL we got a Candy Cane each!!!!! I kid you not. It was about 2 inches long and at first we thought it was a joke and something else must be missing. Nope. Everyone got the same. We found it very insulting - would have been less insulting if they had given us nothing - the fact that someone dreamed this up as a Xmas present when you are paying the highest prices of the year was absolutely gobsmacking. Speciality Restaurant - Celebrity really are special in this area. The Pinnacle Grill was not a great success - this meal was a gift from friends we were travelling with so I will not go into great detail as she may wish to elaborate herself. Cabin Storage - HAL wins - plenty of storage in the cabin and suitcases fit easily under the bed. Theatre - Celebrity's theatre has tables at every section of seating. The only tables we could see in Noordam's theatre were right at the front in the sofa style seating. So if you wanted a drink you had to hold it for the whole show. Umbrellas - Celebrity supply umbrellas in the cabin - HAL do not. Balcony furniture - HAL furniture is superior to Celebrity's. Outside decks for night time drinks - How we missed Celebrity's Deck 10 aft, with a late closing bar and music, sitting under the stars relaxing with a drink and chatting with friends. HAL's outside bars seem to close at around 9pm. Pools - the aft pool on Noordam is a brilliant idea for adults only, however the water was so cold, hardly anyone was ever in it. Maintenance - twice we received notification that our balcony was going to be cleaned and railings varnished. Not a huge deal but we made the effort of being out of our cabin early on both days so as not to be disturbed by the activity. It never was done on either day and we received no explanation. Announcements - Both lines are very good at keeping announcements to a minimum, however a little more information from the Noordam captain regarding the high seas, rocking, rolling and crashing on the final two days back to New York would have been very reassuring.
Sorry the above does seem to jump around a bit.
I realize that not everyone will agree with me about all of the above - please remember this is our opinion only. Especially the poor service around the Noordam - yes the staff were very busy, however this is HALs problem - with a full to capacity ship and prime holiday time, they should supply extra staff, and not expect staff to stretch themselves so that guests suffer. This is not what we paid premium prices for.
Someone else said on a review for the same sailing " You really have to take what you are giving and make the best of it."
Sorry, actually I don't.
So back to Celebrity for us. Doubtful we would ever sail HAL again - it's just not the line for us.