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One of the most important decisions you’ll make when booking your cruise is which stateroom to select, especially if you’re wanting to book a balcony stateroom. (Assuming, you don’t let the cruise line pick one for you.)
This usually involves a series of questions:
- What type of category do you want to book?
- Where do you want to be?
- Will you be spending a lot of time inside the stateroom, and therefore want a view or a balcony?
- Or will you use it as a way in which to shower and sleep between adventures?
In the past, we’ve talked a lot about staterooms, including what the different categories offer and tips on which cabins you definitely want to avoid. But today, we’re going to take a closer look at a very specific type of stateroom and determine whether or not it might be right for you. Because while a lot of people love aft-facing balconies, some folks don’t. With that in mind, let’s look at the pros and the cons of booking an aft-facing balcony.
Pros and Cons of an Aft-Facing Balcony
1. PRO: The view can’t be beat.
There’s a reason so many ships have bars and pools which overlook the wake from the upper decks. What is it that we find so incredibly peaceful about watching the wake of the ship? Is it symbolic of leaving our problems behind, if only until the ship returns us home? Is it that the seemingly never-ending stretch of ocean makes us aware of just how small we are and, by extension, how insignificant even our biggest problems really are? Who knows… and honestly, who cares. It’s beautiful, and that’s what really matters.
2. CON: The view could be partially blocked.
While we’ve found that most aft-facing balconies offer incredible views, you definitely want to do a little research to find out if there are any obstructions. On some ships, the staterooms in the middle of the aft are dubbed “pole balconies” by cruisers because the flagpole bisects the view. On the ones we’ve seen where this was true, it didn’t seem like much of an obstruction. On other ships – particularly some ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet – the aft-facing balconies are set back further than you might expect and surrounded in part by structures. These still offer great views, but they aren’t quite the same as balconies which rest fully on the aft of the ship.
3. PRO: The size of the balcony.
In most cases, you’ll find that aft-facing balconies are larger than their port and starboard brothers. For example, while many complained about the rather small regular balconies on the Norwegian Breakaway, her aft-facing balconies were huge… in some cases, downright cavernous. This has held true on smaller ships as well, such as Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Miracle, and Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. It’s pretty easy to do a little bit of poking around the internet to find details about which decks offer the biggest aft-facing balconies on most ships, and you can often even find YouTube videos if you want to check them out before booking.
4. CON: You might feel vibrations.
That churning sound we mentioned a moment ago? Well, that’s caused by the propellers pushing the boat through the water… and those same propellers can cause a bit of a vibration. How much depends entirely on the ship, how many decks above the water line you are, how fast the vessel is moving, and a host of other factors.
For a lot of people, the gentle vibration, like the sound of the wake, helps lull them to sleep at night. It’s also worth noting that when the ship goes into reverse, such as when it pulls out of a port, you will definitely feel more of vibration than normal. It can be a little bit jarring and, for some, even frightening the first time they experience it.
5. PRO: The sound of the wake.
When you’re sitting on balconies on the port or starboard, the sound you hear can best be described as the ship crashing through the waves. It’s a very cool sound, but different from what you’ll hear when sitting on an aft-facing balcony. There, the sound is smoother, more that of the water below churning. Like the view, the sound can be oddly hypnotic and extremely peaceful.
6. POTENTIAL CON: You could wind up beneath something loud.
We’re labeling this as a “potential” con because it proves again how important it is to make sure you know exactly where the cabin you’re booking is located. Not all aft-facing balconies are created equal! You could be directly above a theater or nightclub that is located at the back of the ship. And if you are on one of the higher decks, you might be directly beneath a pool or entertainment area where parties are held late at night or chairs are moved around early in the morning.
On ships like the Norwegian Breakaway, party space Spice H20 is at the back of the ship… directly above the aft-facing balconies.
7. POTENTIAL PRO: You might get a great deal.
On some ships, aft-facing balconies are the same price as – or only slightly more than – their smaller starboard or port ones. That’s not always the case, especially since cruise lines have definitely realized how popular they are. But if you poke around a little, you might be able to find a room with a view (and a bigger balcony) at a really good price.
8. POTENTIAL PRO/POTENTIAL CON: They typically get more sun.
This will, of course, vary from ship to ship, but we’ve found that aft-facing balconies often get more sun than do traditional ones. This is often because of the construction of most ships, which have slanted afts. As a result, The deck above you can provide a bit of a shaded area, while the majority of the balcony will be directly exposed to the sun (and other elements). It’s worth noting that on ships where this is true, that also means that people on the aft-facing balconies above you might be able to glance down at you.
9. POTENTIAL PRO/POTENTIAL CON: You’ll likely do more walking.
If you’re looking for ways to work off the meals you’ll be eating, this could be a real pro. Most ships don’t have a true aft elevator, meaning you’ll have to do a bit of trekking to get from your cabin to pretty much anywhere on the ship if you don’t want to take the stairs. If you have mobility issues of any sort, that might be a reason to avoid this particular type of stateroom.
As we said from the beginning, choosing a stateroom cabin is one of the most important decisions you will make when planning your cruise. The last thing you want to do is wind up in a cabin that isn’t, for whatever reason, right for you. Hopefully, the information above will give you a little bit of guidance when it comes to figuring out if an aft-facing balcony will be a good fit for you!
Have you ever stayed in an aft-facing balcony? Would you do it again? Why or why not?