Hello heavenlyescapes. Let me be the first to welcome you to Cruise-Chat.
I have only sailed on HAL so I cannot offer any comparisons. I would think that food, service and cleanliness would be comparable. The biggest difference would be atmosphere.
Do you have an itinerary and ship in mind?
Finally getting back on a Dam ship, Nieuw Amsterdam Nov'11 (My Mom's 80'th B'day cruise)
Navigator of the Seas 2010
Serenade of the Seas 2009, 2011
I've sailed on both Carnival and HAL. I enjoyed both, yet HAL was definitely a notch above in food quality (subjective, of course), food presentation, and service. I'd give Carnival the edge in entertainment. But a lot also depends upon the ship you're sailing. I like the intimacy of the smaller HAL ships (~55K tons, 1300 pax), and have not been on one of their larger, Vista class ships.
One big difference between the two lines -- and this is a recent move -- is that HAL now offers pax a choice between an anytime dining option and fixed seatings for the duration of the cruise.
I also have sail both, I would give Carnival the edge on food and service. I love the HAL Zaandam, but food and service could have been better.
With that said any cruise is great and we are booking another HAL cruise.
I believe HAL is more than a notch above Celebrity. It depends on what you are looking for. Want to party, drink with your buds all night? Then Carnival is the line for you. Want elegant, refined dining,a dress code, fewer if any children, and service that is incomparable? Then HAL is the line for you.
You know I always hear about Carnival being a party ship. I do not know if it is the time of year we go, the location or what, but we do not see the parties. We are not smokers, non drinkers, usually hit the rack earlier than the younger kids, but we just do not see it.
MY husband and I just started cruising last October and are hooked we have been on 4 cruises since and are going on Princess this month.Our first were on Carnival and Royal Carribean. Carnival had the best food and service and nicer rooms, very clean! Royal Carribean was dated, dirty, poor service and covered up with kids. Hope Princess is equal to Carnival.