Cruising Considerations: Why a Balcony Cabin is Worth the Cost

I’ll be the first one to admit that I never understood why someone would pay for a balcony cabin on a cruise ship.  My motto always was I’d rather take two cruises in an inside cabin than one with a balcony.  This is, of course, because I am the ever-thrifty traveler and, additionally, because I often travel solo.  A cabin is just for sleeping, right?  Especially when traveling alone.

Me, enjoying my balcony (but not enjoying my sunburn..)

As much as I hate to admit this–I was wrong.  Having a balcony completely changes the type of cruise you will have whether you are solo, sailing with a friend, a spouse, or with your family.  And, sadly for my Visa balance, I think I’m hooked on balcony cabins for life.  Here’s why:

Natural Light Matters

On my first cruise to Bermuda on Norwegian, I sailed on the Gem in a perfectly nice, perfectly clean, perfectly adequate inside cabin.  And I slept–a lot.  Between the rocking of the ship and the complete and total darkness an inside room provides, I think I was averaging something like ten hours of sleep per night.  And while this may sound ideal for a vacation, it really isn’t.  Even on sea days there’s so much going on on board a cruise ship, you really don’t want to spend your whole trip looking at the inside of your eyelids.

It’s also nice to know what the weather is like before you head out for the day.  Imagine my shock and disappointment when, on a recent cruise to the Caribbean, I emerged from my mole-like cabin to discover that no, I was not going to sit out on the sun deck and read, as the sun deck had become a wind and rain deck.

But speaking of natural light, there is another option–a room with a window.  I’ve sailed in an ocean view stateroom and I have to say–it’s not the same thing.  At least on the ship I was on six years ago, the window was directly above the bed.  So the only way to look out was to kneel on the bed and peek over the window ledge.  Do you know how many times I did that on a seven day cruise?  Zero.  I’m sure there are better designed ocean view cabins on many of the newer ships, but still, nothing beats a floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall window that you can open.

Convenience and Privacy

Sailing into the sunrise over New York City.

Have you ever sailed past the Statue of Liberty on a cruise ship?  I have–four times now.  Do you know what makes it even better?  Doing it in your bathrobe.  On my first trip to Bermuda, I stood up on the deck to watch us sail out of New York City; I did the same on my recent trip, even though I had a balcony (silly me).  But my return trip was much better.  Instead of rising before dawn to get showered and dressed to head up on deck to greet the city as it approached, I simply rolled out of bed, wrapped myself in a fluffy white robe, and threw open the curtains.  Directly in front of me was Lady Liberty (and New Jersey) and off in the distance to my right loomed the New York City skyline.  Which I admired from my balcony, in my robe, with my breakfast.

But it wasn’t just during sail away times that I appreciated the balcony.  Instead of fighting over space on the crowded sun deck, I’d spend at least part of every at-sea day curled up on the deck chair on my balcony, Kindle in hand, glass of wine beside me.  Just me and the sea.

Unexpected Wonders

Some things just can’t be captured in photographs. Like this failed attempt at self-photography out on the balcony!

Everywhere I’ve ever lived has always had at least a small covered porch–even my little studio apartment back in college, which is where I began a rather strange ritual.  I remember sitting on top of my little wooden picnic table, the flaking paint chipping off and sticking to my crossed legs, wind chime ringing angrily in the wind, watching a thunderstorm blow around me.  Whenever I’ve had the chance since then, I sit outside–but under cover–during thunderstorms and appreciate the awesome power of nature.

A thunderstorm out at sea–provided you are not on some sort of sail boat or smaller vessel–is possibly one of the most awe inspiring things I’ve ever had the good fortune to experience.  And I was able to experience it because, well, I had access to my cabin’s balcony.  On my last Bermuda cruise, on the second night at sea, far out into the Atlantic Ocean, we sailed into a storm just as the sun was setting.  It looked rather ominous and I have to admit to being a bit concerned at first.  But the NCL Star sailed smoothly into the storm and, just as I’d done on countless porches in my past, I sat outside to watch, listen, and experience the storm.

Unlike so many things on my travels, a storm at sea is not something you can capture with a camera.  Even if I could, you’d not get the full effect of the lightening lighting up the waves, when suddenly, out of darkness, you can see the arching horizon, and dark waves rising.  The way the clouds look like they are bending down to meet the sea–it’s not photographable, at least not by me.  It is powerful and beautiful and frightening, and I’m so glad I got to experience it one time in my life.  Thanks, cruise ship balcony.

Of course, there’s one thing a cruise ship balcony is not good for–your hair.  But I’d more than happily trade a good hair day for a relaxing day at sea.  But still–ladies–leave the straightening iron at home.  Trust me.

Disclosure: While NCL did provide me with a media rate on this sailing, all opinions are, as always, my own.  And yes, I will pay full price to sail in a balcony cabin again.  I really am hooked. 


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