Huge numbers of people vacation on cruise ships despite notable accidents and incidents of illness. A key, difficult decision is exactly what kind of cabin to select, because there are large differences in costs.
On many of the larger ships there are smaller inside cabins with the lowest costs, while those with more money available can choose outside cabins with windows, often referred to as ocean view ones. The higher the deck level, the higher the cost, but there are few critical reasons for spending a lot more money on a higher deck, unless you have fears about getting off a ship that is sinking. Indeed, many people believe that lower deck cabins offer smoother conditions during rough water, as do cabins in the middle of the ship.
Another important choice these days is whether to choose higher cost cabins that offer an outside verandah or balcony, not just a window facing the water. As someone who has cruised a number of times I can attest to the pleasures of being able to step outside and be able to sit on some type of verandah or balcony to watch either the beauty of the ocean or some spectacular seashore scene, or just a terrific sunset while sipping champagne, for example.
Importantly, consumers have every right to expect a lot from top rated, expensive cruise lines that these days sell luxury status. Cruise lines like Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas and Crystal successfully, for example, cater to couples who can afford to spend upwards of $10,000 for a week or ten day cruise, with a key cost factor being whether or not a verandah or balcony is chosen.
On a Regent cruise I knew that I was paying for a cabin with a nice size verandah. But more recently I cruised on a smaller Seabourn ship that charges higher prices for “balcony suites.” Here is all the text found on the Seabourn website about the balcony: “All Balcony Suites feature doors opening to fresh sea breezes from a private mini-balcony.” I suppose the term mini-balcony indicates a small balcony, but what was encountered was a shock. Turns out the mini-balcony is just a few inches wide, hardly enough to even stand comfortably on it. Considering that I spent several thousand dollars more than an ocean view cabin with just a window, I felt cheated.
Upon returning and checking the term balcony on Wikipedia this is the most relevant type of balcony to accurately understand the Seabourn mini-balcony: “A French balcony is actually a false balcony, with doors that open to a railing with a view of the courtyard or the surrounding scenery below.” Yes, the mini Seabourn balcony is, indeed, a false balcony.
Sadly, before selecting this cruise I had not found an objective review of the Seabourn Legend ship that noted what was actually included, namely “tiny French balconies that aren’t large enough to stand on much less populate with furniture.” This proves my point that the information provided by Seabourn is intentionally incomplete and misleading.
Moreover, in further support that there is a more ethical and consumer friendly way of doing business, Viking River Cruises clearly distinguishes cabins with a verandah versus ones with a French balcony, charging more for the former than the latter.
The best travel agents should, of course, inform their clients that about the exact nature of a balcony or verandah cabin. Mine did not do this for my recent cruise. Here is the lesson I want to share: Those considering a cruise should do their own research on the particular ship or ships they are considering to fully understand cabin alternatives and what they would be getting for their money.
Personal research should not be avoided because of what appears in a cruise line’s literature or website. For example, a little irony to my experience with Seabourn is that it proudly notes on its website that for 2012 it has received inclusion in a list of the The World’s Most Ethical Companies. This is a designation from an independent group that recognizes companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business “ethically” and translate those words into action.
But based on the incomplete information provided by Seabourn on its expensive balcony suites I do not believe that this designation should cause people to not spend time on independent research. Truly ethical behavior would require that Seabourn, like other companies such as Viking River Cruises, describe cabins as French Balcony Suites and perhaps a few words revealing that people cannot readily stand or sit on this false balcony.