This is an opinion piece about the requirement, or lack thereof, to buy (or upgrade to) a balcony cabin on a cruise ship. Do note that this is based on my own experience.
My short answer is: No, I’d NEVER outright buy a balcony cabin. But, I might update if the purchase price is right. Out of the four cruises that I have been on, just twice have I updated in any form, both times from an interior to a balcony.
When I look at getting an upgrade there are three (3) things I take into consideration:
#1: COST – This is very important to me, no matter the “perks.” I ask myself, “can I afford it?” However, based on my budget at the moment, I shall also consider the following criteria.
For me personally this is same with cruising and helps me deciding if I wish to get an update. What are the ports of call and how much does the ship sail from the coast?
#3 DURATION – If I was to go on a weekend getaway, I could totally deal with an inside cabin. But, if I was to take a 21-day cruise I might prefer to get an upgrade.
The first time that I updated was when I was on a 14-day Trans-Atlantic Cruise from Copenhagen to Miami back in October of 2012 with my older brother. This upgrade took place after we had boarded the ship and we had requested to be placed on a waiting list for upgrades. The day after departure, the front desk notified us that there was an update to a balcony cabin available for $300, we approved. This was an okay upgrade though, I’d probably have skipped this deal if I knew then what I know today.
Because May is usually the first month when cruise lines begin to re-enter Alaska following Winter ends, it was still “off-peak” season. In the time of booking, we paid only about $1100 – $1200 for a 10-day Inside passage cruise for two people.
As days passed we saw that the prices of the balcony and ocean-views carefully. We felt the prices were too high for us to update and we were really just happy that our beloved friend from Scotland was going to join our boat too.
Less than a week before passing my mom got an email from the NCL offering us an upgrade to a balcony cabin for just $200 per-person. As $200 per-person was MUCH cheaper than what the NCL’s site was supplying, we decided to call for more information.
We ended up calling a Friday just before the department closed and the extremely honest lady told us to call back Monday as we’d most likely be offered a better deal.
We jumped on it only 3 days before departure. This was certainly the best upgrade deal we’d ever heard of, let alone gotten for ourselves. Plus we could get our friend from Scotland the same deal as well, something she could not have done on her own since NCL only makes these special offers to US and Canadian travelers.
So, the Alaskan Cruise upgrade brings me to my last point… out of the four cruises (all different locations) the Alaskan Cruise was the only one genuinely worth trying to get an update on. As I mentioned previously, location is a significant factor.
On my other 3 cruises (two of which I didn’t upgrade) I readily enjoyed the sea scenery just fine from public areas. However, on the Alaskan Cruise (the Inside Passage experience just would not have been the same without my own balcony. Seeing a pod of dolphins pass by early in the morning or seeing the Aurora lights late at night out of my cabin was totally worth it.
If you don’t like just staring at the sea for unlimited hours then I would not recommend getting a balcony or ocean view updates on Baltic, Trans-Atlantic or even Mediterranean cruises. You may be amazed I included Wildlife Removal too but, the ships are often too far out at sea to allow you to see much anyway. As I said before, there are plenty of public spaces it is possible to view the ocean if you so desire.