This is a detailed comparison of two recent cruises we were on: Celebrity Cruise’s Beyond (X, 3260 pax, 2022, 140,600 tons) Oct 26 to Nov 4/22 to Bermuda/Southern Caribbean and Holland America’s New Statendam (HAL, 2666 pax, 2018, 99,500 tons) Nov 5 to 12/22 to the Northern Caribbean.
Boarding – Hands down X. It took 10 minutes and we were in our cabin. No line up or delay. On HAL it took close to an hour of standing and sitting in 2 different holding areas. The HAL gang plank had a very specific weight capacity that could not be exceeded which was the bottleneck I think. The Magic Carpet steel canopy used on X has greater weight capacity it seems. X 5/5. HAL 2/5.
Sailaway – HAL did much better. They had special cocktails for sale, free horsd’oeuvres and a warm welcome from the cruise director on the Lido pool deck. It felt like a sail away should be like – a celebration. On the Beyond, fog poured in at the last moment and the sail past the Statue of Liberty had to be cancelled. Regardless of the weather, it did not have the feel of a sail away (I think we were at the Sunset Bar area and nothing particular was happening.). X3/5, HAL 5/5.
Food – Initial impressions HAL provides food as good as the X and sometimes exceeds. We were sometimes disappointed in the Beyond Ocean View Cafe food quality. The Statendam’s Lido buffet had better tasting food usually as it is maintained in smaller quantities that they serve you (you do not help yourself usually). Bigger lineups. Beyond had a greater ethnic diversity ot offerings in their Ocean View Cafe and virtually no lineups. HAL’s Dining Room was a major disappointment. Due shortage of staff the service was appallingly slow. Giving X too the edge as they served lobster tail one night ( we had two each) and HAL wants an upcharge now for this. X split the dining room into 4 separately decorated smaller ones, a nice touch. X 4/5. HAl 3.5/5
Specialty Restaurants – We were disappointed on X as we chose the Raw on 5 which was mostly sushi and other raw fish (we could have had the fab seafood tower but chose something else). I heard the man at the next table tell the waitress that his was not a good meal and that it was not her fault!) On HAL we went to the Pinnacle Steak and Seafood Grill. It was the best meal we had on either ship. We could have paid some up charges and gone to better specialty restaurants on X so perhaps this comparison is unfair. X 2.5/5. HAL 5/5.
Cabin – Hands down Beyond! Our balcony cabin was large and spacious with clean lines and bigger bathroom. We had the so called Infinite Balcony which is a sun room closed in on 2 sides with a horizontal wall to wall picture window that goes up and down. You leave the space open to the cabin which increases the latter’s size. We found ourselves spending lots of time in the cabin as it was comfortable and not jammed. On Statendam, the balcony cabin is smaller with a queen instead of king. However we prefer the traditional balcony on HAL since you are actually outside and it is larger. But, HAL’s cabin was dated and jammed. We kept the small coffee table up on the couch to increase space. X 5/5. HAL 3.5/5.
Service: Hands down Beyond. We rarely waited for service for more than a minute anywhere on the ship. On HAL we found ourselves waiting at every bar and restaurant. Compounding this was the process of printing out a receipt for signature even though we had the drinks package and there was no charge. On X they swiped the card or asked your cabin number – no paper. There was a shortage of staff on HAL so that even when there were empty tables all around, the service was slow. X 5/5. HAL 4/5.
Ship: Hands down Beyond. Huge ship with plenty of nooks and crannies to get lost in so it never felt crowded. On Statendam we managed to find a quiet spot on the sun deck as we could not get near the pools or hot tubs due to the crowded conditions. On X I swam laps in the pool which was 75 ft long. I never got in the pool on HAL – no room! However on HAL they had the traditional promenade deck where you could walk around the whole ship perimeter. On X it was blocked up by specialty restaurants. X 5/5. HAL 3.5/5.
Ports of Call: Hands down Statendam. 3 beach destinations and 1 good shopping day: Half Moon Cay, Ocho Rios, Cayman Islands and Bimini, Bahamas. The weather was superb on the HAL cruise. On X we were rained on at each of 3 destinations. There was not enough time in Bermuda. Curacao was really run down – major hotel and casino closed, shops closed etc. Aruba was nice as usual but it was our 4th visit there so we just walked around downtown. It rained a lot on the X cruise. HAL had sunny weather. X 3/5, HAL 4.5/5.
Entertainment: Giving X the edge here. They had fairly good Broadway style shows in the fantastic theatre. Also more intimate shows in The Club. We found ourselves dancing in front of the Martini Bar to the soul band that was playing. On HAL we went to one show, a comedian who was pretty funny. They have a wider variety of music including raunchy rock and roll, blues vocal and instrumental music plus we enjoyed some classical quartet performances. X 4/5. HAL 3.5/5.
Technology: HAL had the best app on board. You could order pizza or burgers on-line and by the time you walked to the takeout restaurant, food was ready for pickup – pretty cool I thought. You also use the app to book excursions and specialty restaurants and this worked well. What we did not like was the throttled internet service which gave us much trouble trying to play our online euchre games every night. On X, the internet was fast allowing us to do basically anything even though we had the basic non-streaming service. There was an up charge for the 2nd device. Their app is poor and I had much trouble navigating it to find what I was looking for. In general, in the 15 years we have been cruising, it is amazing the improvements in on board wifi internet service that have occurred, thanks in part to Elon Musk’s recent Sky Link satellite based internet service. X 4/5. HAL 4.5/5.
Percs and Price: X’s percs were free drinks, pre-paid gratuities and basic internet service for 1 device. HAL’s percs were free drinks, a prepaid specialty restaurant meal for 2, basic internet for 2 devices and $100 excursion credit per person. Celebrity bills itself as an upscale cruise line so their price was naturally a bit higher than HAL’s at $CDN245/person/day vs. HAL at $CDN215. Add $35/day/person for airfare costs. Overall X was the best value we we got a particularly good deal when we booked early. It pays to book early since as the ship fills up, the prices go up and up and up, at least on X. X 4.5/5. HAL 4/5.
Crew: It’s fun, interesting and educational to meet staff from around the world. Each line boasted that they had at least 50 nationalities represented in their crew! On X, the Captain was a stand up comedian who had us in stitches. Their regular captain Kate was on board on vacation with her celebrity cat named Bug Naked. On HAL the captain was more of an engineer reporting technical details and weather. The staff on both lines were always curtious, friendly and hard working. Common to both lines, Rumanians make the best waiters! X 5/5. HAL 5/5.
Best Day: Going to Couples San Souci in Ocho Rios on a day pass – top shelf food and drinks, beach, snorkeling and pool. Worst day – probably Curacao due poor weather and economy there. We would like to visit Bermuda again and spend more time there. Marie’s favourite: Bimini, Bahamas.
Demographic: HAL had a slightly younger demographic with several young families, lots of couples etc. X had an older well heeled group, more obese people, many with electric scooter and lots of gay couples, mostly men.
Best Overall Experience and Value: Celebrity. We will definitely cruise with them again. HAL not likely. One thing we really do like about HAL is they always have a priest on board and celebrate Mass daily. On X they celebrate Mass only a few times a year. There is a lot more of a modern buzz on Celebrity. On HAL, people take it perhaps as it is a little cheaper and more traditional in approach it seems. HAL also gave us 2 nice pottery coasters as souvenirs. X 4.5/5. HAL 4/5.
I welcome any questions you may in the comments section. If you remain skeptical about cruising, stay tuned for Why Cruise? coming up soon.