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 purchase a balcony cabin. However, I might upgrade if the purchase price is right. Out of the 4 cruises which I have been on, just twice have I upgraded in any form, both times from an inside to a balcony.
When I look at getting an update there are three (3) things I take into account:
#1: COST – This is very important to me, regardless of the “perks.” 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 upgrade. What are the ports of call and how much does the boat 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 choose a 21-day cruise I might prefer to obtain an upgrade.
This upgrade took place after we had boarded the ship and we had requested to be put 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, however, I would probably have skipped this offer if I knew then what I know today.
Because May is usually the first month when cruise lines start 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 2 people.
As days passed we watched the costs 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 combine 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 only $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 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! We jumped on it only 3 days before death. This was certainly the ideal upgrade deal we’d 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 final point… out of those four cruises (all different places) the Alaskan Cruise was the only one truly worth trying to get an update on. As I mentioned previously, location is a major element.
On my other 3 cruises (two of which I did not update) I easily enjoyed the sea scenery just fine from public areas. But on the Alaskan Cruise (the Inside Passage experience just wouldn’t have been the same without my very 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 worthwhile.
If you don’t like just staring at the sea for unlimited hours then I would not advise getting a balcony or ocean view updates on Baltic, Trans-Atlantic or even Mediterranean cruises. You may be surprised I included wildlife removal near me 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 watch the ocean if you so desire.