Some people would never cruise without booking a cabin with a balcony. Others would argue balconies are not worth the money. Both sides have valid points.
Balcony fans like the idea of swinging open a door to let in the ocean breeze and of having their own quiet place to stare at the sea. Even if every balcony is not the same (your space may be large enough only for a couple of chairs), and even if it's not exactly private (the neighbors may be able to see you), it's your space and you are free to sit there and read, snore, or do whatever else you wish outdoors. Having a balcony also means you’ll get a nice, unfettered view of destinations as you pull into port.
Balcony detractors will argue that your neighbors may be noisy -- or worse, smokers (though most ships now ban smoking on balconies) -- and that there are plenty of other places where you can grab a lounge chair and look out at the water. Plus, there's so much to do on the ship that you will hardly be in your room. There's also the argument that the extra $20 or $30 a day you'd spend for a balcony could buy you a cabin with more interior space, which some find a more worthwhile investment.
But let’s back up for a minute…
Balconies vary by cruise line and even from one part of the ship to another. Some may be more spacious and others more like postage stamps. To plan for this, know that location is important.
The best way to find the rooms with the larger balconies is by looking at ship’s layout. Those with better balconies are usually located in the corners and the aft (back) of the ship. Suites may feature balconies with features like private hot tubs and outdoor dining tables.
There are also different types of balconies available. Some new Carnival ships have lower-deck balconies that offer a cool view close to the waterline and are usually less expensive than those higher up. On Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships, including the new Harmony of the Seas, you can choose from cabins that face the ocean or face indoor spaces, such as the ship's Central Park, overlooking real plants and trees.
Our best advice is to think about how much you'll use the balcony before you throw down the extra bucks. Here are some things to consider:
How much time do you want to be outdoors?
Who are you traveling with? (If you’re with small kids, for instance, you may not want the temptation of balcony rails.)
Do you get claustrophobic? Balcony cabins give at least the illusion of more space thanks to the large glass doors.
Is your goal to get a cruise at the lowest price, or are you okay to splurge a little?
Once you pinpoint the type of vacation you want to have, and where a balcony ranks in offering that experience, your answer should be clearer.