To balcony or not to balcony, that is the question.
Many cruisers have the same question -- do we spend the extra money for a room with a balcony or do we book a smaller but less expensive accommodation? Depending on the ship and the demand for rooms on that particular passage, splurging for a balcony can greatly increase the trip's price. Sure, on a weekend cruise, it might not matter so much. On a seven-day (or longer) cruise, the costs can really add up.
We typically cruise in a room with a balcony. In fact, up till now, we have always booked a room with a balcony. Part of it is a sense of luxury. Let's face it, when you have a balcony, you feel somewhat separated from many of the other passengers. Part of it is extra space. After all, cruise cabins are not notorious for having lots of elbow-room. Have you ever been in a cruise cabin while a toddler has a melt-down? It's not pretty.
Our last two cruises were on Disney ships. On one Disney cruise we visited the Pacific side of Mexico (Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, etc.) sailing out of Long Beach, California. That cruise occurred in a late October. On our last cruise, we sailed out of Galveston, Texas. That trip occurred in a December. We visited Jamaica, the Grand Caymans, and Cozumel, Mexico. Both voyages lasted seven days and both were fantastic! Disney does an awesome job! We highly recommended Disney cruises.
But what about the balcony? To be honest, the balcony did not add much to either of those cruises. Both of those trips involved fantastic "sun" destinations. The weather was great. Warm (sometimes even hot), and perfect for swimming and going to the beaches. Just what you'd expect. Most mornings we would pop out onto the balcony for a few minutes to see the new surroundings. It was nice, but we never stayed long. We had places to go and things to do! We spent a lot of time either in other locations on the boat (swimming in the pools, eating, watching shows, etc.) or we were off the boat enjoying the new port-of-call.
Out of the last fourteen days cruising, I think we actually used the balcony on two days (once for each cruise) for any prolonged period of time. On both cruises, we had a very relaxing evening where we sat outside on our private balcony and sipped adult beverages while watching the beautiful ocean slide past us. The views were fantastic! However, the same views are available to everyone on the ship on the observation decks. Just take a walk around a cruise ship, any ship, and you can't help but noticing the fantastic sights surrounding you. At least something is free.
Our next cruise leaves in about 50 days. We are traveling to Alaska on Princess Cruise Lines. We board in San Francisco, California, for a ten-day, round trip adventure. We can't wait!
This time, we did NOT book a room with a balcony. Gasp! Oh the horror! Instead, we have an "ocean view" room (you know, the one where the window is about the size of a postage stamp, but at least that is real sunlight coming into your room). And, of course, our view is "obstructed" which means a lifeboat is hanging outside our window.
Our thinking is as follows. First, it likely won't be very warm when we're cruising through Alaska, even in summer. Second, on a ten-day cruise, the balcony added about $1,000 to our trip. Third, we could use that $1,000 for awesome shore excursions. After all, Alaska is all about getting off of the boat and being active.
The shore excursions won. Instead of a balcony for ten days, we decided to splurge on a helicopter ride out to a glacier for a dog sled adventure. Our nine-year-old daughter can't wait to meet the puppies. Frankly, I am giddy with excitement, too. And, twenty years from now, would I remember a balcony on this trip or will I remember the look on my daughter's face when she gets her first helicopter ride? I think you know the answer.
Once our Alaskan cruise (sans balcony) is over, I will add my thoughts on whether we missed the balcony or not. I bet, though, not having it really won't matter much. After all, how much time are we really going to spend in the room? We have places to go and things to do. And puppies to meet . . . .