This is an opinion piece about the necessity, or lack thereof, to purchase (or upgrade to) a balcony cabin on a cruise ship. Do note that this is based on f my personal experience with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), the only line I have sailed with thus far.
So, would I purchase (or upgrade to) a balcony cabin on a cruise ship? My short answer is: No, I would NEVER outright purchase a balcony cabin. However, I might upgrade if the price is right. Out of the 4 cruises which I have been on, only twice have I upgraded in any form, both times from an inside 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, depending on my budget at the time, I will also consider the following criteria.
#2: LOCATION – As they say in real estate, “It’s all about: Location, Location, Location!” For me this is same with cruising and helps me deciding if I want to get an upgrade. What are the ports of call and how far does the ship sail from the coast?
#3 DURATION – If I was to go on a weekend cruise, I could totally handle an inside cabin. But, if I was to take a 21-day cruise I might prefer to get an upgrade.
The first time I upgraded 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 asked to be placed on a waiting list for upgrades. The day after departure, the front desk notified us that there was an upgrade to a balcony cabin available for $300, we accepted. This was an okay upgrade though, I would probably have skipped this offer if I knew then what I know now.
Now I will jump forward to May of 2015 when I went on an Alaskan Cruise with my mom for my 21st birthday. In the spirit of thriftiness, we did as we always do… book the cheapest available cabin.
Because May is usually the first month when cruise lines start to re-enter Alaska after Winter ends, it was still “off-peak” season. At the time of booking, we paid only about $1100 – $1200 for a 10-day Inside passage cruise for two people.
As days passed we watched the prices of the balcony and ocean-views closely. We felt the prices were too high for us to upgrade and we were really just happy that our beloved friend from Scotland was going to join our ship too.
Less than a week before departure my mom got an email from the NCL offering us an upgrade to a balcony cabin for only $200 per-person. As $200 per-person was MUCH cheaper than what the NCL’s website was still offering, we decided to call for more information.
We ended up calling on a Friday just before the department closed and the extremely honest lady told us to call back Monday as we would probably be offered a better deal.
Sure enough, she was right! The new offer was only $100 per-person. We jumped on it just 3 days before departure. This was certainly the best upgrade deal we had ever heard of, let alone gotten for ourselves. Plus we were able to get our friend from Scotland the same deal as well, something she could not have done on her own because 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 separate locations) the Alaskan Cruise was the only one truly worth trying to get an upgrade on. As I mentioned above, location is a major factor.
On my other three cruises (two of which I did not upgrade) I easily enjoyed the ocean 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. Watching a pod of dolphins pass by early in the morning or seeing the Aurora lights late at night from my own cabin was totally worth it.
Unless you like just staring at the ocean for endless hours then I would not recommend getting a balcony or ocean view upgrades on Baltic, Trans-Atlantic or even Mediterranean cruises. You may be surprised I included Med Cruises too but, the ships are often too far out at sea for you to see much anyway. As I said before, there are plenty of public spaces you can view the ocean if you so desire.