On a River Cruise
“In most cases, a French balcony is perfectly fine for a river cruise,” says Tom Baker, “because you tend to spend less time in your stateroom than you do on an oceangoing vessel, and more time in the air-conditioned lounge or on the upper-level deck, where you can see both sides of the river. Also, when a river ship ties up for sightseeing, it often docks right next to another ship. A balcony isn’t used during that time because the view diminishes completely.”
That’s the short answer, but variations in ships and itineraries complicate the matter, which is why it’s wise to book your cruise through a Trusted Travel Expert who has sailed—many times—on the cruise line and the ship. “The value of having a balcony versus a French balcony depends on the cruise company,” says Mary Jean Tully. “They are not all designed the same. On Viking’s river cruises, for example, when you splurge on a balcony you are also upgrading to a larger suite, and for many people, that is well worth it. On other river ships, such as the new builds for Crystal Cruises, the French-balcony design allows for larger staterooms. You can take in fresh air and see the view without compromising on space.”
Leslie Fambrini says she favors the veranda rooms on some river cruises because of their better location. “On many vessels, veranda rooms are positioned on the upper decks, with the bottom deck having window accommodations. These non-veranda window rooms are at or very near the water line, so the view becomes water streaming by as you sail, with very little view of the shore.”
Bottom line: On a river cruise, a balcony may offer good value when it means an upgrade to a larger suite, but not when a French balcony gives you more interior space, or when you will be spending little time in your cabin.
On an Ocean Cruise
A veranda cabin is generally worth the splurge on a seagoing vessel, which is why 80 percent of new ships are built with balcony access. “I always favor veranda accommodations if they fit into the budget,” says Leslie Fambrini. “A balcony affords a wonderful perspective when you’re sailing into or from a port of call—even hearing the sounds from the port below adds to the experience. And when you’re close to a calving glacier or in an area with dancing dolphins, having that balcony can be a game changer. With that in mind, guests sailing on an itinerary with few ports of call and the possibility of chilly weather, such as on a transatlantic crossing, could forgo the balcony.”
“A balcony or veranda cabin is really ideal for a warm-water destination,” says Tom Baker, “like the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Mexico, Hawaii, or French Polynesia, and even the Mediterranean in the summertime when the weather is lovely. Balconies are lesser used in cold-water destinations like Alaska, Antarctica, and places where weather is cooler.”
Bottom line: On an ocean cruise, a balcony is generally worth the premium price.