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Holland America Vs. Princess: Comparing Two Popular Lines For Alaska

When it comes to choosing a cruise line, there are many factors to consider. Two popular options for Alaska are Holland America and Princess Cruises, and rightly so. 

Both lines have cruised to Alaska the longest. In 2023, Holland America celebrated 75 years of sailing to the Last Frontier, and Princess Cruises marks its 55th anniversary in 2024.

While both provide onboard naturalists throughout their Alaska sailings, there are some key differences to keep in mind when deciding which one is right for you.

A Holland America ship docked in Sitka, Alaska

One of the biggest differences between Holland America and Princess Cruises is the onboard experience. Holland America is known for its exceptional service and sophisticated atmosphere, which makes it a popular choice for older travelers seeking luxury and elegance. 

If you’re seeking a more adult-oriented cruise, you won’t find many children onboard.

On the other hand, Princess offers a more contemporary vibe, focusing on fun and entertainment for all ages. It attracts more multigenerational groups with its family-friendly atmosphere and Camp Discovery program.

Princess Cruises' Camp Discovery
Princess Cruises’ Camp Discovery

Both lines offer a wide range of activities and amenities, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference. So, let’s delve deeper into these top Alaska cruise lines.

Princess Vs. Holland America Overview

Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are two of the most popular cruise lines in the world, both owned by Carnival Corporation & plc.

History And Background

The former was founded in 1873 and has a rich history of providing luxurious cruises to destinations all over the world.

On the other hand, Princess Cruises was founded much later, in 1965, and has quickly become one of the most recognizable cruise lines since being featured on the “Love Boat” series. Overall, they have more vessels, 17 ships to Holland America’s 11.

The Sapphire, Royal, Discovery, Majestic, Grand, Ruby, and Crown Princess offer itineraries in 2024. The Coral and Caribbean Princess replaces the Majestic and Crown the following year.

For 2024 and 2025, choose from six HAL cruise ships: Zaandam, Westerdam, Noordam, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, and Koningsdam. The latter gives access to their newest ship in Alaska.

Holland America Westerdam in Ketchikan
Holland America Westerdam in Ketchikan

I have cruised multiple times on both lines and have been on older vessels as well as newer ones – HAL Koningsdam (built in 2016) and Discovery Princess (launched in 2022).

Accommodation And Amenities

Holland America (HAL) and Princess Cruises offer their guests a range of accommodation options, from inside cabins to luxurious suites. Holland America is known for its luxurious accommodations, while Princess Cruises offers a more casual atmosphere.

If cruising solo, HAL’s Koningsdam has some studio cabins, allowing guests to forego the single supplement. While Princess doesn’t have studio rooms, its mini suites are suited to families with small children as they have bathtubs.

Large families of five would need to book a Sky Suite on one of the newer Princess ships to accommodate them all in one cabin.

However, some of HAL’s ships have Family Ocean-view Staterooms, which are much more affordable. While the rooms aren’t large, they have two bathrooms, a necessity with five in one stateroom.

On board, families on Princess ships can stay connected with their Ocean Medallion. It has a complimentary feature that lets guests track their cruising group on the ship. I found this feature especially helpful when cruising with my elderly mother who didn’t use a smartphone.

Dining And Cuisine

Princess Cruises chocolate journeys dessert
Chocolate journeys dessert

Both lines offer a wide variety of dining options for cruise guests, but Princess is better known for its outstanding desserts and Chocolate Journeys.

While Holland America could use some help in the dessert department, their appetizers and entrees are hard to beat in quality and presentation.

Both lines have partnered with Master Chef Rudi Sodamin to include specialty restaurants onboard. Although Holland America has had Rudi’s Sel De Mer longer than Princess’ The Catch by Rudi, the latter comes in a bit more budget friendly.

Princess Cruises also offers a variety of dining options, including the Salty Dog Gastropub and Ultimate Balcony Dining. However, on a cold day in Alaska, Holland America’s Dutch pea soup is the perfect comfort food, and the best I’ve ever tasted.

Holland America Dutch pea soup
Holland America Dutch pea soup

Entertainment And Activities

Guests can enjoy a wide range of entertainment and activities on board. Princess Cruises offers game shows and a variety of entertaining performances, including Broadway-style productions.

Also, during a port day, they feature “Puppies in the Piazza,” a big hit with families, allowing them to see sled dog husky puppies. Another plus for Princess is that their “North to Alaska” program adds personalities from Animal Planet and Discovery.

Guests might hear a firsthand experience from a member of the Deadliest Catch or stories from Libby Riddles, a retired musher from the iconic Iditarod sled dog race.

Alternatively, fans of classical, rock’ n’ roll and blues will love the music walk on Holland America Koningsdam. During my cruise, the B.B. King’s Blues Club was the most popular venue onboard.

B.B. King's Blues Club
B.B. King’s Blues Club

When the ship was empty, I knew I could find the majority of guests dancing, drinking, and listening to classics at B.B. Kings.

It’s hard to beat the production shows by the Step One Dance Company on the World Stage. Their ‘Musicology’ and ‘Humanity’ no-singing performances kept me captivated the whole way through.

Alaska Cruise Itineraries

Regarding Alaska cruise itineraries, both lines offer various itineraries from Seattle, Vancouver, and Whittier, but only Princess offers sailings from California.

Here are some of the highlights of each line’s itinerary options.

Route Options

Holland America offers a range of itineraries that typically last between 7 and 14 days. Some of the most popular options include round-trip cruises from Seattle or Vancouver, as well as one-way cruises that begin or end in Anchorage (Whittier).

The cruise line offers one unique 14-day cruise in May and another in September, which visits Kodiak Island, Valdez, and Wrangell. Also, it spends a day docked in Anchorage, not Seward or Whittier, giving guests the ability to walk to attractions.

If it’s on your bucket list to see the Kodiak bears on Kodiak Island, only Holland America goes there on these select sailings.

Kodiak bear cub
Kodiak bear cub on Kodiak Island

The Westerdam has a 28-day summer solstice cruise from Seattle for the ultimate Alaska bucket list adventure. It includes 11 different ports, multiple fjords, Glacier Bay National Park, and cruises inside the Arctic Circle for the summer solstice.

Princess Cruises also offers a range of itineraries that typically last between 7 and 14 days. However, when taking a back-to-back itinerary (14 days), the port stops are typically the same – Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway.

They generally only offer Alaska cruises of a maximum of 14 days, although there are two in 2025 that are longer. Those wanting an Alaska sampler can take a four—or five-day itinerary in April or May, but they don’t include a glacier-viewing day.

Alaska Cruise And Land Tours

When it comes to exploring Alaska, the interior contrasts vastly with the coastal towns and cities. Since land tours attract fewer visitors, the chance of seeing wildlife increases.

Both lines offer cruise and land packages. These packages are designed to provide travelers with a comprehensive experience of Alaska’s natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage.

Harbor seals at Hubbard Glacier
Harbor seals at Hubbard Glacier

Tour Packages

Holland America offers a variety of Alaska cruise and land tours that range in duration from 9 to 18 days. These packages include a 7-day inside passage cruise, as well as a land tour that takes guests to Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and some to the Yukon.

The nice thing about some of the 14- and all the 18-day bundles is that they start and end in Vancouver. Cruise and land tours typically begin in Vancouver and end in Anchorage or Fairbanks, or vice versa.

Princess Cruises also offers a range of Alaska cruise and land tours that range in duration from 10 to 17 days. Like Holland America, these packages include a 7-day inside passage cruise, with the balance of days on land.

None of their cruise tours are roundtrip from Vancouver, so Vancouverites must factor in the one-way airfare. Unlike HAL’s longer journeys, which visit Dawson City and Whitehorse in the Yukon, Princess’ extended trips stay in Alaska.

17-day Princess cruise tours include visits to Talkeetna, Denali National Park, Kenai, and Copper River.

Both cruise lines include Glacier Bay National Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site on many of their itineraries, a must for many cruise passengers.

Cruising in Glacier Bay National Park
Cruising in Glacier Bay National Park

Alaska Lodges

In addition to their cruise and land tour packages, both Holland America and Princess Cruises offer accommodation at their own Alaska lodges.

Holland America’s McKinley Chalet Resort is located just outside of Denali National Park and offers stunning views of the Alaska Range. Its 68-acre hotel complex includes an artist-in-residence, an amphitheater, and the Karstens Restaurant.

Holland America utilizes hotel chains for its guests in other areas of Alaska.

Princess Cruises’ Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is located just a mile from the entrance to Denali National Park and offers a wide range of amenities, including a spa, restaurants, and outdoor activities.

They have five lodges overall, located near Denali, Kenai, Copper River, Fairbanks, and Mt. McKinley.

Comparing Costs

Regarding pricing, Holland America and Princess Cruises are fairly competitive. Both cruise lines offer a range of prices depending on the type of cabin you choose, the length of your cruise, and the time of year you travel.

However, Holland America tends to be slightly more expensive than Princess Cruises since the latter tends to send older vessels to Alaska.

It’s worth noting that Princess Cruises often includes more in their pricing. With the purchase of their Princess Premier and Plus packages, pub lunches, pizza, Wi-Fi, gratuities, and alcoholic drinks are included.

Comparing Loyalty Points

This section includes essential information if you’re a solo traveler and book a double-occupancy stateroom. Some lines give double points when you travel in a stateroom and pay for two.

Princess Cruises gives double cruise points when cruising solo in a double occupancy cabin. While Princess counts cruises and days towards its loyalty program, single travelers receive double cruises, not days.

Why is this important? If guests want to fast-track to a higher status in loyalty, cruising solo provides it. So, a solo cruise of 7 days counts as two cruises and seven days.

However, Holland America doesn’t give extra points for solo travelers, even when paying for two.

Princess Vs. Holland America Conclusion

Overall, both Holland America and Princess Cruises offer a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to pricing and value. The decision on a cruise line may come down to who you’re cruising with, stateroom accommodation, itinerary, or wanting a more adult-oriented experience.

Each person may have a different opinion based on their needs and preferences. It’s essential to compare costs and what’s included in the fare to determine which cruise line is the best fit for your needs and budget.

Discover Princess and Holland America cruise ships in Alaska