Balcony lovers, rejoice! There has never been a better time to take a river cruise, particularly if you treasure your fresh air. More river cruise operators than ever feature balconies of some sort on their ships, and river cruise lines continue to offer their own unique innovations in this area. Some believe that full, step-out balconies are the way to go; others think a combination of both French and step-out balconies are the way of the future. Others still prefer hybrid combinations that turn the entire stateroom into a giant open-air balcony.
Here is a look at some of our favorite ships that are sure to delight lovers of all types of balconies:
AmaWaterways – AmaCerto
In 2012, AmaWaterways quietly ushered in a new era in river cruising when they introduced the then-new AmaCerto. The industry was abuzz with much debate about what kinds of balconies their guests would prefer. Traditional thinking was that French Balconies were a great balance between being able to offer guests the fresh air and expansive views that they desired without cutting into available cabin space. Other lines contended that full, step-out balconies similar to those offered aboard most oceangoing cruise ships was the way to woo their customers.
AmaWaterways thought differently: they included both types of balconies within a single stateroom. Best of all, this wasn’t an innovation that AmaWaterways reserved exclusively for suite guests; guests booking standard staterooms can get in on the fun, too. Category BB staterooms feature this twin balcony concept, and include a French balcony in addition to a full, outside balcony complete with deck chairs and a small table. These staterooms are also slightly larger than Category C staterooms at 210 square feet, and are located on Cello Deck.
Category AA and AB staterooms are larger still at 235 square feet, and reside on Violin and Cello decks. Like the Category BB staterooms, they also feature the line’s unique twin balcony concept, comprised of an actual, outdoor balcony with table and chairs in addition to a French balcony indoor sitting area.
Suites, of course, re the highest level of accommodation aboard AmaCerto. At 350 square feet, they’re also the most spacious, and also include the line’s unique dual-balcony concept. Expect these staterooms to deliver more everything: more space, more amenities, more comfort.
Best of all, all of AmaCerto’s sister-ships – right up to the new AmaSonata – feature this exciting feature that truly combines the best of both worlds. Why choose when you can have it all?
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection – S.S. Maria Theresa
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection struck gold when they introduced their first “Super Ship”, S.S. Antoinette. Sporting a sleek new profile and innovative features like an indoor swimming pool and cinema, Uniworld built upon that success with the new S.S. Catherine, and furthered it still this year when the line christened the new S.S. Maria Theresa at a lavish naming ceremony in the Dutch city of Amsterdam.
Uniworld takes a very practical approach to balconies aboard S.S. Maria Theresa: she only features French Balconies. But their design is so clever that you just might pick these over full, step-out balconies on your future river cruises.
To start with, Uniworld has a dedicated sitting area in all Category 1, 2 and 3 staterooms and suites aboard S.S. Maria Theresa. This features its own elegantly-designed furniture and a small table that’s perfect for a glass or two of wine and a book. The window is electronically opened with the push of a switch. It is, like everything else aboard the S.S. Maria Theresa, elegant and well-designed.
But there’s one feature we really, really loved: the bug screen. Yes, if you’re tired of wasps and mosquitoes ruining your scenic cruising experience, Uniworld has just what you’re looking for: a retractable screen. If you want it, just push a button. If you don’t want it, no worries – you can retract it up along with the rest of the window.
It’s just one more way Uniworld is striving to differentiate themselves from the competition, and it won us over handily.
Scenic Jasper – Scenic
Do you love full, step-out balconies? So does Scenic. In fact, every one of their Scenic Space Ships – including the brand-new Scenic Jasper – features nothing but staterooms and suites that feature full step-out balconies. It’s just one of the many details that set Australian-based Scenic apart, from all-inclusive fares to butler service.
ms Inspire – Tauck
It’s not really a balcony, but we’re so enamored with Tauck’s Loft Suites that we’re throwing them in here, too.
Featuring a raised sitting area that is separate from the main sleeping area of the stateroom, Tauck’s Loft Suites on the ms Inspire and ms Savor are almost like having your own indoor solarium. The full-story glass windows open electronically with the push of a button, turning the entire sitting area – which features a full-sized table and seating for two – into an open-air indoor balcony. The line never uses the term “balcony” to describe this stateroom, but it’s been a wildly popular innovation. Given the choice, we’d pick this over comparable French balcony staterooms any day.
Avalon Panorama – Avalon Waterways
Avalon Waterways struck gold when they introduced Avalon Panorama and her successive sisters. To start with, they oriented the bed so that it faces the wall-to-wall panoramic windows. Then, they designed the windows such that they could be opened to almost the extremes of the stateroom. The result? A stateroom that transforms into a giant open-air balcony – and a bed you can rest and relax in while you watch the slideshow that is the Danube casually drift by.
Emerald Sky / Star – Emerald Cruises
Scenic subsidiary Emerald Cruises makes the list for their unique balcony design that combines an electronic window with a set seating area off to the side of the main stateroom. This features comfortable “directors”-style chairs, a large table, and separate teak-like flooring that mimics the slatted wooden deck of an ocean liner. Add to this windows that feature a soft emerald-green tint, and you’ve got the makings of a great place to sit and read a book. Other lines offer a similar arrangement, but Emerald’s seemed to be the coziest during the day and at night.
Viking Longships – Viking River Cruises
If you love balconies, Viking has your number. They offer a bit of everything aboard their new Viking Longships, from traditional French Balconies to staterooms that feature full step-out balconies. Suites feature both French and step-out balconies, and if you’re really looking for the ultimate experience, pick one of the grand Explorer’s Suites situated at the stern of the ship. There’s only two on each Viking Longship, and they have some of the largest baclonies afloat: wrap-around outer decks that face the stern of the ship.
For balcony lovers, there’s never been more choice. What’s your favorite type of river cruise balcony?