Is it worth paying extra for a balcony cabin?
As someone who has written about cruising for over twenty years, I’ve heard that question many times and know where I stand on it: Absolute.
You almost always pay more for a balcony cabin on a ship than for a cabin with only a window; the latter is known in the jargon as an ocean view cabin. But often it is no longer scandalous. For example, at the time this story was published, rates for balcony cabins on some fall 2024 cruises from Galveston, Texas, were only 7% higher than rates for ocean view cabins. (Specifically, that was the difference during seven-night sailings in October 2024 on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas).
For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.
Ocean view cabins, in turn, had about 29% more capacity than windowless interior cabins – the third major category of cabins found on ships.
These differences are of course not unimportant. However, for many vacationers on a budget, an extra 29% or even 7% for a room can be a deal breaker.
Related: 8 Cruise Ship Cabin Locations You Should Definitely Avoid
Additionally, some people with extra cash would rather spend money on shore excursions or other extras, such as onboard spa treatments, than on a more expensive cabin. That seems completely logical to me. What is most important to one person during a vacation may be different from what is important to another.
However, here are six things you can get from a balcony cabin that I personally think are worth the extra cost if you have the money to spare.
Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter
Join over 700,000 readers for the latest news, in-depth guides and exclusive offers from the experts at TPG
The fresh air
For me this is the main reason to buy a balcony hut. At any time of the day (or night) you can slide open your balcony door and breathe in the fresh sea air. You can also hear the sound of the waves as they crash against the bow of your ship. It’s a wonderfully soothing, rhythmic sound – so soothing that it can put you to sleep.
Even on cold-weather cruises, there’s nothing like stepping out onto a balcony for a few minutes or more to enjoy the salty breeze. It’s refreshing.
Related: 5 Reasons You Might Want to Turn Down a Cabin Upgrade
The fresh air on the balconies can also be a lifesaver – at least for your sanity – if you are confined to your cabin due to illness. That can happen if you come across something like the norovirus or COVID-19 on a ship. This happened quite a bit to cruisers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the people isolated for days in cabins without balconies were unhappy about the lack of access to fresh air.
I can personally testify that being stuck in a room without a balcony for days on end is not a great situation. 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. At the time, I would have paid just about anything for even the tiniest bit of outdoor space.
The ultimate privacy
Cruise ships can be busy places. Even on luxury ships, which generally have more space per passenger than mass ships, you’re likely to share the pool deck with dozens or even hundreds of other people. On some of the largest ships, like Royal Caribbean’s gigantic new Icon of the Seas, you’ll be competing for lounge chairs with literally thousands of others. It is not private, and it is often not quiet either. Cruise ship pool decks can be noisy.
With a balcony cabin you are always guaranteed an outdoor space where you can lounge for a few hours in complete privacy. And overall it will be a quiet outdoor space. Although you will sometimes hear the sounds of other passengers nearby on their private balconies, for the most part it is a much more serene experience than on the upper deck.
The best views
Balcony cabins don’t just give you access to an outdoor space. They usually also offer you beautiful views of nature from your cabin.
This is because the doors leading to balconies in balcony cabins are usually almost entirely glass and run from floor to ceiling. Often a balcony stateroom will have both a floor-to-ceiling glass door leading outside and floor-to-ceiling windows that essentially form an outward-facing wall made entirely of glass. In contrast, ocean view cabins without balconies often have only one window. Some only have portholes.
Related: 7 Reasons to Splurge on a Suite on Your Next Cruise
The result is that you generally have a much better view outside from a balcony cabin than from an ocean view cabin.
The chance of encounters with wild animals
Speaking of the view, you can see the passing animals much better from a balcony cabin than from an ocean view cabin. Standing at the edge of your balcony railing, you can turn your head from side to side to get a 180-degree view of the passing water. That’s two or three times the field of view you get when staring out a cabin window.
Related: The 5 Most Desirable Cabin Locations on Every Cruise Ship
I’ve found that balcony cabins are particularly great in wildlife-rich destinations like Alaska, where ships sometimes pass such spectacular creatures as whales in the water or bears along the coastline. Often the captain of a ship will first spot such animals and then publicly announce that passengers should look to the sides of the ship. If you’re in a balcony cabin (and on the right side of the ship), you’ll be seeing these sights in no time.
The chance for a romantic dinner
There is nothing that says romance quite 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 background music.
Some luxury lines will arrange an elegant private dinner for two on your balcony – think white tablecloths, multiple courses, the works – at no extra cost. Among the mass market, Princess Cruises offers an ultimate balcony dining experience for an additional charge, including a four-course meal, champagne and cocktails or a glass of wine. With the Princess offer you even get fresh flowers and a (flameless) candle on the table.
The perfect place to watch a port arrival
I’m a big fan of getting up early to watch cruise ships pull into the ports. In some places, like New York and Sydney, the experience is a highlight of the trip. The arrival in New York in particular is one of the great cruise experiences. Your ship will pass under the gigantic Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge (often with only a few meters to spare) before passing the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of Lower Manhattan.
Related: What is a cruise cabin warranty – and can it save you money?
But as spectacular as they are, these port arrivals often take place very early in the morning, before you (or at least your head hair) are ready to head out into the world. The great thing 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 pajamas and go onto the balcony.
Obviously you have to be on the right side of the ship to get certain views. Arriving in New York, it is attractive to view the arrival from both sides of a ship. You have the best view of the Statue of Liberty from the port side. But the starboard side gives you the best view of downtown Manhattan, assuming you’re on a ship headed to a downtown pier.
Balcony cabins cost more than ocean view cabins or windowless interior cabins. But they can be worth the splurge if you’re the kind of person who likes a private spot outside while on vacation. No matter how busy your ship is, you can always escape to your balcony, if you have one, and watch the world go by with little distraction.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories: