Holland America Vs Princess Cruises: Which Is Best?

Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are both part of the Carnival group. Both have a reputation as being a more premium cruise line. So, how do you go about choosing between them?

Comparative display featuring Holland America Line's cruise ship on the left with its classic dark hull versus the Royal Princess cruise ship from Princess Cruises on the right with its distinctive blue and white livery, symbolizing the friendly rivalry between the two cruise lines.

It’d be strange for a cruise group to own two cruise lines essentially catering to the same market, and there are some key differences between Holland America and Princess. Knowing those will help you to decide which is the better fit for your own cruises.

In this guide, I’ll take you through each cruise line in detail, looking at every element of the onboard experience, so that you can work out which you should book, if any.

Both Holland America and Princess Cruises have a variety of ships in their respective fleets, although neither have as many ships as cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival or MSC.

Holland America has 11 ships currently sailing for the line, and as of writing, there are no more under construction. Princess has 16 ships in the fleet, so a little more choice, with one currently being built.

Holland America Ships

The MS Rotterdam, a Holland America Line cruise ship, anchored at sea with lifeboats at the ready, showcasing its multi-deck structure and distinctive navy blue hull on an overcast day.

There are four classes of ships in the Holland America fleet:

  • Pinnacle Class – the flagships of the fleet, three ships accommodating 2,650 guests
  • Signature Class – two ships accommodating 2,100 guests
  • Vista Class – four ships accommodating 1,900 guests
  • Rotterdam Class – two ships accommodating 1,400 guests

The oldest ship still sailing for Holland America is MS Volendam, which first launched in 1999 and is part of the Rotterdam/R Class.

The newest ship in the fleet is the MS Rotterdam, which launched in 2021 and is part of the newest Pinnacle Class.

Read more: Holland America Ships By Size & Age

Princess Ships

The Enchanted Princess cruise ship from Princess Cruises, showcased in the calm sea under an overcast sky.

There are four classes of ships in the Princess Cruises fleet:

  • Sphere Class – The newest ships, accommodating 4,300 guests
  • Royal Class – Six large ships accommodating 3,560 to 3,660 guests
  • Grand Class – Eight mid-sized ships accommodating 2,600 to 3,140 guests
  • Coral Class – The oldest two ships, each catering for 2,000 to 2,220 guests

The oldest of the fleet is Grand Princess, which was launched in 1998. The newest is Sun Princess, which started sailing in early 2024.

Read more: Princess Cruises Ships by Age

Which to Choose?

Immediately you can start to see a difference between the two cruise lines – Princess’ ships are almost all larger than even the largest Holland America ship, at least in terms of guest capacity.

If you’re someone who prefers a quieter, small ship then a Holland America cruise is more likely to be your style.

But if your preference is a ship that has a more lively atmosphere or, more crucially, extra space for more dining options and onboard activities, then the Princess fleet could be more suitable.

Both HAL and Princess Cruises have a range of sailings to choose from around the world. Neither really has a ‘home’ cruise destination – while a cruise line like Carnival or Royal Caribbean will ‘mostly’ sail to the Caribbean, or MSC will have most of its ships in Europe, both Princess and Holland America have itineraries that are more evenly spread around the world. No one single destination is really favoured.

Here’s a breakdown of the different itineraries available on both cruise lines:

Holland America LinePrincess Cruises
Alaska11123
Australia & New Zealand1796
Canada & New England3519
Caribbean & Bahamas14554
East Asia6420
Europe242147
Hawaii218
Mexico & Latin America217
Pacific Coast220
Panama Canal3922
South America2719
South Pacific037
Transatlantic037
World1446

Holland America Destinations

A Holland America Line cruise ship traversing the deep blue waters of a fjord surrounded by lush green mountains under a clear blue sky.

You’ve a wide choice of cruise itineraries with Holland America Line, and that means a wide choice of embarkation ports too – there are 35 ports you can sail from.

They’re fairly well spread out too, so it’s not like half of those are in the US as would often happen with other major cruise lines. You get more variety in the Netherlands with three ports of embarkation (Amsterdam, Ijmuiden, and Rotterdam), as well as a lot of options in Alaska.

Holland America does offer cruises from the UK, from the port of Dover. 

Princess Destinations

The Sky Princess cruise ship from Princess Cruises sailing near the coast of a vibrant city, with colorful buildings dotting the waterfront and hills in the background.

Princess doesn’t have quite the same variety when it comes to embarkation ports, compared to Holland America, but it isn’t super far behind. There are still 30 different options, and again there is a global spread.

The UK port for Princess is Southampton, the biggest cruise port in the country, and there are several Princess ships to choose from if you are cruising from the UK.

Princess sailings in the Caribbean and Bahamas often call at one of two private resorts in the region – Princess Cays and Half Moon Cay.

Aerial view of Half Moon Cay, revealing its crescent-shaped shoreline nestled in the heart of a serene blue sea. The lush greenery of the island contrasts with the soft white sands, creating a picturesque and tranquil tropical paradise.
Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay is also visited by some Holland America ships, although very infrequently.

Which to Choose?

There isn’t a lot to separate the two cruise lines when it comes to destinations and embarkation ports. Holland America does offer more Pacific Coast cruises and a bigger variety of Alaskan itineraries, but Princess is better for Australia and New Zealand.

Otherwise, if you have a destination in mind, you’ll likely find a ship for either cruise line that works for you.

The accommodation options on Holland America and Princess Cruises are unlikely to sway your decision too far in one direction.

Both cruise lines have the standard range of accommodation options that you’d expect on a cruise – Inside, Oceanview, Balcony and Suite categories.

Inside cabins are the cheapest on the ship, whereas if you want a view you’ll need an Oceanview cabin or better. Suites come with an additional range of perks, and so it’s worth looking at what you get to determine whether the extra cost is justified for you.

If you’re travelling solo, then your options are limited on both cruise lines…

Holland America does have a limited selection of solo cabins on MS Koningsdam, while the newest Princess ship – Sun Princess – also has a small selection of single rooms.

On the rest of the ships in the fleet, expect to pay twice the fare to secure a double room even when on your own.

Holland America Staterooms and Suites

These are some of the noteworthy accommodation options on a Holland America cruise:

Pinnacle Suites

Elegant and cozy bedroom in the Pinnacle Suite on a Holland America Line cruise ship, featuring a large bed with plush bedding, tasteful decor, and ambient lighting.

The largest suites in the fleet, these suites offer true luxury. Not only does your suite bathroom have an oversized whirlpool bath, but so does your verandah, so you can choose to unwind indoors or outside, depending on the weather.

Spa Rooms

A serene Spa Stateroom on MS Rotterdam featuring a comfortable king-size bed with neutral-toned bedding, a sitting area by the balcony doors, and a tranquil ocean view.

Available as Inside, Ocean View or Verandah Spa rooms, or as a Neptune Spa Suite, these accommodations are all situated close to the spa onboard the ship, and offer a range of tailored features to feel more relaxing, including spa-themed amenities and a premium massage showerhead.

Princess Staterooms and Suites

Here’s a look at some of the more unique options on a Princess cruise:

Sky Suites

Luxurious Sky Suite on Princess Cruises' Sky Princess at dusk, featuring a spacious balcony with lounge beds, outdoor dining area, and a stunning view of the sunset over the ocean.

Sky Suites are the best suites you can enjoy on a Princess cruise, though they are only available on the newest Royal-class and Sphere-class ships.

The attraction here is not so much the suite – as impressive as it is – but the balcony, which has over 1,000 square feet of space on some ships, and views in almost every direction from its lofty position. It’s the perfect space to unwind or to entertain if you like hosting parties.

Suggested read: Sun Princess Signature Sky Suite (Floor Plan)

Reserve Collection

The Cabana Mini-Suite on Princess Cruises' Sun Princess, with contemporary décor, a comfortable seating area, large bed, and a balcony offering ocean views, bathed in natural light.

Debuting on the newer Sphere Class, the Reserve Collection is where you’ll find some of the best Mini Suite and Cabana rooms in the whole fleet.

Guests who book a Reserve Collection room get access to a private restaurant, which is typically a feature you’d only get when booking a full suite with most other cruise lines.

Signature Collection

Elegant Signature Penthouse Suite on the Sun Princess, featuring a spacious room with a comfortable bed, a large sofa, modern decor, and floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to a balcony with serene ocean views.

The Princess Signature Collection also makes its debut with the Sun Princess and Sphere Class, and is the very best accommodation on the ship – a selection of stunning suites.

Again, guests have a private Signature Collection restaurant to enjoy as well as the Signature Sun Deck and Signature Lounge for peaceful relaxation away from the crowds.

Which to Choose?

If you’re someone who loves spa treatments and relaxations, then Holland America’s Spa Staterooms are worth checking out. Otherwise, there’s little difference between the two cruise lines in terms of what’s available. 

Both the Pinnacle Suites and Sky Suites on the respective cruise lines are exquisite, but the costs are very high too, and only a handful of guests will be deciding between those two options.

Food plays a huge part of any cruise line, so let’s look a little more at what each cruise line can offer.

Holland America Line’s Food

Holland America’s ships all have a selection of dining venues to choose from, including casual venues for a snack and more formal restaurants for classy lunches and dinners. 

Elegant dining area inside a Holland America Line cruise ship with modern beige and black chairs, red carpet flooring, and large windows offering a panoramic view of the sea.

Holland America’s restaurants are quite premium in quality – expect the freshest, finest ingredients to be used across each venue.

The cruise line hosts many culinary cruises, featuring celebrity chefs for special, intimate dining experiences, and in 2023 the line introduced a fresh fish policy, sourcing fish from ports all over the world.

Princess Cruises’ Food

A Princess cruise offers a lot of variety – there are several formal restaurants, but just as many casual venues where you can grab a lighter bite.

Indeed, many believe that Princess offers the best pizza slices at sea – it’s a matter of personal taste but the pizza is definitely good, if you’re in the mood for a snack.

A smiling young boy sitting at Princess Cruises' World Fresh Marketplace next to a teddy bear dressed in a ship captain's uniform, with a slice of pizza on a plate in front of them.

There’s plenty of choice for speciality restaurants serving a range of cuisines, and Princess Cruises puts a lot of focus on authenticity – menus are carefully planned to utilise flavours and ingredients that are typically found in the regions where you’ll be sailing.

Whether you want a sit-down dinner or a lighter bite, Princess has enough options that you won’t ever get bored.

Which to Choose?

There’s a good selection of dining options across both Holland America and Princess. If the quality of food matters more to you then you’ll probably rate Holland America higher, but if you prefer to have a variety of venues then Princess tends to offer more choice.

But both are great – you’ll have a good selection of options on Holland America ships, and the quality of Princess food is still very good.

Both cruise lines offer a selection of onboard activities to entertain you during sea days.

Holland America Activities

Holland America’s activities are what you would consider to be traditional cruise activities. Not in the sense that they’re old-fashioned but they’re common across most cruise lines.

Cooking lessons, dancing lessons, spa treatments and more complement the casino and the fitness centre. You can also play pickleball, which is only available on a handful of cruise lines.

Inside the casino on Holland America Line's Rotterdam, showcasing a range of slot machines with bright screens, elegant chairs, and a sophisticated ambiance with stylish carpeting.

Princess Activities

Princess Cruises have a similar range of activities that you can enjoy during the day, including the traditional options of dancing lessons, art auctions, bingo, quizzes and casino gambling. 

You won’t find an extensive range of innovative attractions on either Holland America or Princess,.

However, the latest Princess ships do have some nifty features, like the Sea Breeze Rollglider which offers a fun trip around the top deck. It’s not a thrill ride, but its great for enjoying the view.

Visitors enjoying the Sea Breeze Rollglider on Sun Princess, featuring an aerial adventure track with vibrant colors, a spacious deck, and people engaging in various activities under a clear blue sky.

Which to Choose?

Princess Cruises has a little more variety, but it’s also aimed at a broader audience. If you don’t need your entire day filled with activities, and you enjoy lounging by the side of the pool, then Holland America will likely have a more relaxing ambience. 

Princess will be a little more ‘fun’, although there are other cruise lines that are more aimed at offering a packed schedule if that’s more to your liking.

When the sun sets, you’ll want to know what entertainment options each cruise line has to offer, and neither line disappoints.

Holland America Entertainment

Holland America Line’s evening entertainment includes some vibrant theatre shows, with dance companies and singing groups offering quality performances.

Some ships have a Rolling Stone Lounge for rock, pop and country music, while the B.B. King’s Blues Club is another very popular venue each evening, available on the newest ships. 

The opulent King's Blues Club on HAL Rotterdam, featuring a grand stage set for live music, plush blue velvet seating, elegant lighting fixtures, and a sophisticated ambiance.

Princess Entertainment

Princess Cruises offers some wonderful evening entertainment, including Broadway-quality shows. There are even original musicals put together by composers of classics like Wicked, so you know you’re going to enjoy something slick, professional and thoroughly entertaining.

As well as the live theatre shows, there’s also plenty of live music around the bars on the ship, along with magic and comedy performances to enjoy.

Interior view of the Princess Theatre on a Princess cruise ship, showcasing a sea of purple seats facing a large stage with a red curtain and a screen displaying 'Princess Theatre'. The ceiling is dotted with lights, enhancing the venue's vibrant atmosphere.

Which to Choose?

For bands, singers and dancers, both cruise lines are well represented in the evening. Princess’ shows are more of a ‘Broadway’ style including musical-style shows, and Princess also has more variety in terms of magic and comedy. Holland America focuses more on cultural music and dance.

Planning a family trip? Then you’ll want to know what kid-friendly facilities are available on each cruise line.

Holland America Kids’ Facilities

Holland America ships do have kids’ clubs, offering a good range of activities that are fun and engaging, including scavenger hunts, team games, themed parties, sports and more.

There are three age ranges, as there are with Princess, so teens aren’t mingling with the smallest kids and can enjoy age-appropriate activities.

That said, Holland America line isn’t really a family cruise line. If you sail with kids outside of the school holidays, you might be the only family on board.

A cheerful scene in the Kid's Club on HAL MS Koningsdam with a young girl and a staff member engaging in play with colorful building blocks at a table, surrounded by vibrant, cozy seating.

Princess Kids’ Facilities

Princess Cruises is a more family-oriented cruise line, and its Camp Discovery kids clubs reflect that with an extensive range of programs and activities for all ages.

The cruise line has partnered with Discovery and Animal Planet, and so brings a lot of nature educational content into its clubs, though always prioritising fun.

The cruise line also hosts various dining events for children, so that they can enjoy a special occasion while you’re relaxing with your own lunch or dinner. Those pizza and ice cream parties always go down a treat!

Children are engaged in video games at Camp Discovery on a Princess cruise ship, comfortably seated on colorful couches in a bright room with a large screen TV and modern, playful décor.

Which to Choose?

While the actual facilities offered by Holland America and Princess are fairly similar, kids will typically have a better time on a Princess Cruises ship, because there will be more families onboard in almost every case.

Of course, if your kids don’t like crowds, they may prefer the quieter kids’ clubs on a Holland America ship, so bear that in mind!

Let’s look at the typical guests you’ll find on each cruise line.

Holland America Demographics

The average age of a Holland America guest is between 55 and 70 years old, though you’ll often find guests from their 40s to their 80s sailing on the ships too.

A couple enjoying a romantic toast with white wine in the intimate and warm setting of a dining area on a Holland America Line cruise ship, with elegant decor and other diners in the background.

Most people sailing with the cruise line will be solo travellers, couples, or groups of friends.

Families are not as common, mainly because there isn’t as much to do onboard and the ships are a little more traditional in style. Yes there are good kids’ facilities, but this is not a cruise line aimed at families – it’s aimed at parents travelling “with” kids, and not “for” the kids.

Princess Demographics

The Princess Cruises demographic is quite broad – it’s not really a cruise line that only focuses on one particular market.

The average age is still between 50 and 70 for most guests, but there are also a lot of families who enjoy a Princess cruise, so there tends to be a good mix of ages on the ships.

A family enjoying a lively meal together at a specialty restaurant on a Princess Cruises' ship, featuring smiles, shared stories, and a relaxed, modern dining atmosphere.

Princess is one of the more popular cruise lines for multigenerational holidays since the older guests will like the traditional elements of the cruise line while younger guests enjoy the more contemporary elements.

The price you’ll pay for a cruise is often one of the biggest determining factors for booking, so let’s see how the two cruise lines compare:

Holland America Prices

Holland America cruises are not cheap – the cruise line is positioned as a premium luxury cruise line, offering 5* service, so you shouldn’t expect amazing cheap deals.

Older ships can be a little bit cheaper, but not by much – because the fleet is already quite small, there isn’t a huge difference between the ship in terms of the price you’ll pay.

For a 7-night cruise in the Caribbean on one of the newer ships, you should expect to pay between £160/$200 and £210/$266 per person, per night for an inside cabin.

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Princess Prices

Princess is considered to have a slightly premium cruise experience but not at a high price. It’s not a cheap cruise line – far from it – but it will typically be cheaper than what you’d pay for Holland America cruises.

As a guide, a 7-night Caribbean cruise on Sky Princess will cost as little as £70/$90 per person, per night for an inside cabin, but it may cost more.

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Things do get a little more confusing with Princess Cruises when you start to consider Plus and Premier fares, which are higher-cost fares that have a lot of extra inclusions, such as drinks packages, speciality dining meals and more.

It’s worth taking some time to look at the perks of each fare, and deciding which offers the best value for you.

Read more: Princess Premier Vs Princess Plus

The Verdict

While Princess Cruises does offer a slightly more premium cruise experience than some mainstream cruise lines, Holland America is another step above that. It’s more traditional, it has smaller ships, and the quality of the dining and service is a little more luxurious.

That’s not to say you’d have a bad time on a Princess ship, even if you were a couple used to a classical cruise experience. Princess just has a wider scope, blending more contemporary features into its cruise style and appealing to a wider demographic.

If you’re choosing between the two and travelling with family then I’d recommend Princess Cruises. But if you’re sailing alone or with your other half, then you’ve got more of a choice to make between the classical, premium style of Holland America or the marginally more modern and mainstream Princess.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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