Our choice was based on itinerary, price, smaller ship size, and past experience with HAL.
Overall we were once again pleased with HAL service but the ship is getting somewhat "frayed around the edges". The dining experience was as very good or better than ever in all dining rooms and the cabin service superb. The song and dance troupe were also excellent. Also, other sectors of the tour industry could learn a lot about the quick effective processing of large numbers of people for embarkation and disembarkation by HAL.
Our biggest complaint is that HAL seems to be dumbing down the intellectual content of its product. When we toured South America and Antarctica on the Veendam, we enjoyed excellent lectures every day, and while sightseeing the ship provided excellent running commentary on the topography, history, marine life, meteorology, etc. The Crow's Nest was the command post for cruising through scenic areas in Antarctica and Patagonia. In spite of Norway's very unique coastal geography, this recent trip scored very low in this regard. Those lectures that were provided offered topics of little relevance/interest to our specific cruise (and seemed to be poorly attended.) To make matters worse, apparently HAL is removing libraries from their ships! Unbelievable! There was only one atlas in the library, and little information relevant to our itinerary's wonderful opportunities for getting to know this part of the world better.