Is it worth paying extra for a balcony cabin?
As someone who has written about cruising for more than two decades, I have heard that question a lot, and I know where I stand on it: Absolutely.
You’ll almost always pay more for a balcony cabin on a ship than for a cabin that just has a window — the latter being known in industry lingo as an “ocean-view” cabin. But often, it’s not outrageously more. For example, at the time of this story’s publishing, fares for balcony cabins on some fall 2024 cruises out of Galveston, Texas, were just 7% more than fares for ocean-view cabins. (Specifically, that was the differential on seven-night sailings in October 2024 on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas).
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Ocean-view cabins, in turn, were running about 29% more than windowless inside cabins — the third major category of cabins you’ll find on ships.
These differentials aren’t insignificant, of course. For many vacationers on a tight budget, though, an extra 29% or even 7% for a room can be a deal breaker.
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In addition, some people with extra money to spend would rather splurge on shore excursions or other extra-charge items, such as shipboard spa treatments, than on a higher-priced cabin. That makes perfect sense to me. What is most important to one person on a vacation may be different from what is important to another person.
However, here are six things you’ll get out of a balcony cabin that I personally think make it worth the extra cost if you have the money to spare.
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The fresh air
For me, this is the big reason to get a balcony cabin. At any time of the day — or night — you can slide open your balcony door and breathe in the fresh ocean air. You’ll also be able to hear the sounds of the waves as they crash against the bow of your ship. It’s a wonderfully soothing, rhythmic sound — so soothing that it can lull you to sleep.
Even on cruises in cold weather, there’s nothing quite like stepping out on a balcony for a few minutes or more to soak in the salty breeze. It’s invigorating.
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The fresh air available on balconies also can be a lifesaver — at least for your sanity — should you find yourself confined to your cabin due to an illness. That can happen if you come down with something like norovirus or COVID-19 on a ship. This happened to cruisers quite a bit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the people who were isolated in cabins without balconies for days weren’t thrilled with the lack of access to fresh air.
I can attest personally to the fact that it isn’t a great situation to be stuck in a room that doesn’t have a balcony for days. In late 2020, I was isolated in a cabin without a balcony for four days during a COVID-19-related ship quarantine, even though I wasn’t sick. I would have paid just about anything during those days for even the smallest bit of outdoor space.
The ultimate privacy
Cruise ships can be crowded places. Even on luxury ships, which generally have more space per passenger than mass-market vessels, you’ll likely be sharing the pool deck with dozens or even hundreds of other people. On some of the biggest vessels, such as Royal Caribbean’s giant new Icon of the Seas, you’ll compete for deck chairs with literally thousands of others. Private, it isn’t — nor is it often quiet. The pool decks of cruise ships can be noisy places.
If you have a balcony cabin, you’re always guaranteed an outdoor space where you can lounge for a few hours in complete privacy. And, in general, it will be a quiet outdoor space. While you will sometimes hear the sounds of other passengers nearby on their own balconies, for the most part, it’s a much more serene experience than being up on the top deck.
The best views
Balcony cabins don’t just offer you access to an outdoor space. They typically also offer you a great view of the outdoors from inside your cabin.
This is because the doors leading to balconies in balcony cabins usually are made almost entirely of glass running from floor to ceiling. Often, a balcony cabin will have both a floor-to-ceiling glass door leading to the outside as well as floor-to-ceiling windows that make for what is, in effect, an outward-facing wall made entirely of glass. Ocean-view cabins without balconies, by contrast, often have just a single window. Some just have portholes.
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The result is that you’ll generally have a much better view of the outdoors from the inside of a balcony cabin than from the inside of an ocean-view cabin.
The chance for wildlife encounters
Speaking of the view, you’re going to be able to see passing wildlife much better from a balcony cabin than an ocean-view cabin. If you stand at the edge of your balcony railing, you’ll be able to twist your head side-to-side to get a 180-degree view of the passing waters. That’s two or three times the field of vision that you’ll get from gazing out a cabin window.
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I’ve found balcony cabins to be particularly wonderful to have in wildlife-filled destinations such as Alaska, where ships sometimes pass such spectacular creatures as whales in the water or bears along the shoreline. Often, the captain of a vessel will spot such animals first and then make a public announcement to passengers to head to the sides of the ship to look. If you’re in a balcony cabin (and on the correct side of the ship), you’ll be gazing down upon these sights in no time.
The chance for a romantic dinner
There’s nothing that says romance like a private dinner for two under the stars. And that’s exactly what you can do on your balcony on many cruise ships, with the waves as a background soundtrack.
Some upscale lines will arrange an elegant, private dinner for two on your balcony — think white tablecloths, multiple courses, the works — at no extra charge. Among mass-market lines, Princess Cruises offers an Ultimate Balcony Dining experience at an extra charge that brings a four-course meal, Champagne and cocktails or a glass of wine. In the case of the Princess offering, you’ll even get fresh flowers and a (flameless) candle on your table.
The perfect spot to watch a port arrival
I’m a big fan of getting up early to watch as cruise ships pull into ports. In some places, such as New York and Sydney, the experience is a highlight of the trip. The arrival into New York, in particular, is one of the great cruise experiences. Your ship will glide under the giant Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge (often with just feet to spare) before passing the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of lower Manhattan.
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But as spectacular as they are, these arrivals into ports often take place very early in the morning, before you (or at least your bed-head hair) may be ready to go out into the world. What’s great about having a balcony is that you don’t have to get dressed and ready for the day to watch a port arrival. You can just roll out of bed in your jammies and head out on the balcony.
Of course, you have to be on the correct side of the ship to get certain views. Arriving in New York, there is an allure to watching the arrival from both sides of a vessel. From the port side, you’ll get the best view of the Statue of Liberty. But the starboard side brings you the best views of downtown Manhattan, assuming you’re on a vessel heading to a midtown pier.
Balcony cabins cost more than ocean-view cabins or windowless “inside” cabins. But they can be worth the splurge if you’re the kind of person who likes a private place to be outdoors during a vacation. No matter how crowded your ship is, you always can escape to your balcony, if you have one, and watch the world go by with few distractions.
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