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How This Ship Added 314 Extra Balcony Cabins 11 Years After Her Launch

In the competitive cruise market, where new and bigger ships are launched annually, cruise lines want to make sure their older ships still appeal to passengers.

One way cruise lines keep up with the evolving needs of passengers is to add balconies to older ships. In this article, we look at how and why ships might be upgraded in this way.

Marella Explorer 2 had her balconies added eleven years after the ship was first built

I recently sailed onboard Marella Explorer 2. This ship was originally built for Celebrity as Celebrity Century in 1995, and became Marella Explorer 2 in 2019.

She had her side balconies added on eleven years after she was originally built.

Ship History

Historically, Ocean Liners and Cruise Ships weren’t built with balconies, they were considered an unnecessary luxury.

Outside cabins had portholes, or in some cases larger, squarer windows.

Ocean liners are designed to complete a journey from A to B – from the UK to America, for example.

Ocean liners are a different shape to cruise ships. They tend to sit quite low in the water and have a pointed bow.

They are designed this way to be streamlined – deal with bad weather and minimize the feeling of movement onboard.

Cruise ships are designed for recreation and leisure. They usually complete shorter voyages and often sail along the coast of different countries, stopping at lots of different ports.

As cruising became more popular, guests wanted to enhance their cruise experience by having their own private balcony area. They could then fully enjoy sailing to different destinations and take in the wonderful ocean views

Find out more about the differences between Cruise Ships and Ocean Liners below.

Cruise Ships vs Ocean Liners – Measurable Differences You Need to Know

Queen Elizabeth II – built in the 1960s with no balcony cabins – Image Chris Frame

Ocean Liners had a decline in popularity, caused by the popularity of air travel in the 1960s. Long journeys could be made quickly and easily by plane.

Taking a cruise for recreation and leisure purposes became increasingly popular.

When Cruising on ships built in the 1980s and 1990s, you could really only choose an inside or ocean-view cabin with a porthole – unless you spent a lot of extra money on a suite.

Balconies for most guests were often not an option – and if they were, you had to book one well in advance, and pay a higher fare – they were in such short supply.

These days, new cruise ships are being built with increasingly more balconies. Modern-day ships are built with 80-90% more balconies than older ships to accommodate the growing demand for private balcony space by their customers.

Most cruise lines are phasing out rooms with portholes almost entirely on new ships – except for a select few cabins lower down that still have windows.  

ambassador cruise line ambience
Ambassadors Ambiance had a previous life with many different cruise lines. She was built in 1991, and has few balconies – Image Ambassador

Why Add Balconies?

Balcony cabins are very popular among cruise passengers, offering private outdoor space with direct ocean views.

These cabins enhance the guests experience and provide cruise lines with the opportunity to increase their revenue. They can charge far more for a balcony than an inside or ocean-view cabin.

Balconies are profitable for the cruise line, so retrofitting ships with balconies – although costly – can be worth it in the long run.

norwegian fjord cruise view from balcony
Wonderful views from my private balcony – Anthem of the Seas, Norway.

Technical Challenges and Solutions

Retrofitting a cruise ship to add balcony cabins is a complex engineering feat that involves significant structural modifications.

The process happens during a dry dock period when the ship is taken out of service for maintenance and upgrades.

This allows time for the engineers and construction crews to make the necessary cuts into the ship’s hull, where the balconies will be integrated.

Key considerations include maintaining the structural integrity of the ship, ensuring the safety of the balconies, and integrating the new features seamlessly with the existing design.

The added weight of the balconies requires careful calculation to ensure it does not adversely affect the ship’s balance and stability.

Are Balcony Cabins Often Added Later?

Although balconies are a popular addition to older ships, it is happening less often now.

Carnival added balconies to a few of their ships – like the Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Sensation – but they are no longer in service with the company.

Others that have had additional balconies – like Carnival Paradise – are still sailing for Carnival.

Any new ships built have as many balcony cabins as possible, so this major structural refurbishment is needed less and less often.

Older ships that are reaching the end of their useful life are either sold on to smaller cruise companies, who accept the ship’s limitations – or are scrapped.

Find out more about why cruise companies sell their ships on to other companies, along with examples of ships that are still sailing under a new name here:

Why Cruise Lines Sell Ships to Other Cruise Lines (Average Lifespan and More)

Celestyal Olympia Cruises Aft
The oldest Cruise ship I have ever sailed on is Celestyal Olympia was built in 1982. It has no balconies.

Example – Celebrity Century – Now Marella Explorer 2

The Celebrity Century underwent a significant refurbishment in 2006, which included the addition of 314 new balcony cabins.

Celebrity Century before the balcony cabins were added.

Celebrity Century originally had only 49 balcony staterooms – the fewest of all the ships in the Celebrity fleet.

At a time when most cruise ships boast a high percentage of balcony cabins, Century’s lack of balcony space was certainly hurting business. 

This $55 million project, was carried out at the Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo, Italy.

Balconies were clamped onto the sides of the ship along with additional steel supports to balance the new additions. She was in dry dock for five weeks whilst the work was carried out.

This was one of the largest cruise ship makeovers at the time and transformed the ship’s overall appearance.

As well as the new balconies, other improvement works were carried out, including:

  • Upgrading of the ship’s staterooms
  • Making improvements to the dining facilities, spa and fitness centre
  • Introducing some “speciality restaurants”
  • Adding an additional 24 cabins – standard staterooms and suites – to the aft sports deck.
Celebrity Century after the ship’s 55 Million dollar makeover – Balconies were added.

When I sailed on Marella Explorer 2 – the former Celebrity Century I didn’t try a normal balcony cabin. I had an aft balcony cabin with an unusual layout.

It certainly had a few advantages – and disadvantages! Find out more about that here:

Benefits To The Cruise Line

Adding more balconies to a ship can make an older ship more competitive against the newer ships that feature balcony cabins as standard.

This can extend the operational life of the ship, making it more attractive to passengers who prioritise privacy and want to have their own private outdoor space to enjoy the ocean views.

Retaining their existing ships allows cruise lines to maximise the use of their existing assets – rather than building new ships.

Keeping older ships sailing also reduces the overall environmental impact associated with the construction of new cruise vessels.

Marella Explorer 2 docked in Spain, in October 2022.

Before You Go

If you like interesting cruise facts, read why ships are often red below the waterline here:

Why Are Ships Red Below The Waterline? – I Went Under One to Find Out!

Find out what are the most common causes for people being banned from cruise lines :

These Are The 5 Most Common Reasons Guests Are BANNED From Cruise Ships

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.