As strange as it may seem, balcony cabins were not as commonplace as they are on cruise ships today. The few available were exclusive for the well-to-do. Today, balconies can be found on even the smallest type of ship.
The first major cruise line to offer balcony cabins was Royal Caribbean with their Monarch of the Seas in 1991. Although only five percent of the ship had balconies, it was a trend that would soon catch on. In the 2000’s, cruise lines began adding more balcony cabins with roughly between 25 to 45 percent of the ship being balconies. Today, that number has increased to more than 65 percent.
Many novice cruisers seem to think that all cruise cabins of a specific type are the same. For example, if you’ve been in one balcony cabin, you’ve been in them all. This is most definitely not the case. There are many different ways to find out if your cabin is suitable for your travel needs.
Traditionally, the higher the cabin is on a ship, the more expensive. Even with a balcony cabin, a blocked view can occur, especially if on the deck where the ships’ tenders are situated. Depending on the ship, the view may be blocked by the tenders even several decks above.
A balcony at a bargain price may include a giant orange lifeboat blocking the view!
Although a balcony in the centre of the ship may save steps to lifts and stairwells, those opened to the ship atriums should be avoided if you require tranquility. Some ships have made their atrium the heart of the ship’s gathering point and include entertainment or live music, large movie screens and the place thousands of your fellow passengers tend to linger.
There are several special features and reasons for getting a balcony cabin, some of the best being:
- If you want the best spots to see some scenery, a balcony cabin offers panoramic views along with a space to sit outside and take in the beauty.
- Even the smallest of balconies offer more than enough space for you to be able to sit outside and relax; it can also be a good place if you want privacy.
- If you are claustrophobic, the balcony can serve as a safe space where you can get away from what bothers you and look at the calm scenery around you.
Make sure the balcony faces out rather than in. A number of newer ships like the Quantum of the Seas offer balcony cabins that open to inside public areas. They offer little privacy and once the novelty of looking down at the passerby’s and the activity wears off, you may never use the balcony for the duration of the trip.
DIFFERENCE IN SIZE
Some ships such as Carnival remain standard with their balcony cabins of about 170 to 190 square feet. Carnival’s balconies on the main deck are called The Coves. The Coves are 25 feet from the waterline, offering you a beautiful view of the entire ocean, perfect for photo opportunities and a truly romantic sight during sunset.
Disney Cruise Lines, P&O and Cunard have what are considered some of the largest balconies in the industry. Including the balcony, Disney averages at 226 square feet, whilst Cunard ranges from 248 to 269 square feet and P&O measuring in at 246 to 254 square feet depending on the ship.
Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines average between 120 and 160 square feet
Cabin space may be average on Holland America but their new ship Koningsdam, boasts 228 to 420 square feet (including balcony) and contains some of the largest outdoor cabin space at sea.
Luxury operator Paul Gauguin has 70% of its accommodation as balconies. The cabins range from 200 to 588 square feet (including the balconies) and most have actual queen-size mattresses (vs. two single beds).
A large amount of cruise ships today have “wave” running port and starboard sections, which causes a wide variation in balcony sizes. This variation means that you can take advantage of this by getting a cabin of a certain category but situated in an area of the ship that offers larger balcony space.
The truth of the matter is that, as everyone’s experience is different and every cruise line wants to offer a different experience, one person’s worst cabin can be another person’s favourite.
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Consider expert and consumer reviews, as well as your own travel habits and the amenities that mean the most to you. If you plan to spend much time inside your cabin, then it’s likely worth extra money to select one of the most luxurious (and higher priced) options.
Written by Veronica Shine
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