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I Stayed in Royal Caribbean’s “Neighbourhood Balcony” (Unexpected Pros and Cons)

Normally if you take a cruise in a balcony cabin you can look forward to views of the ocean and the ports that you’ll be visiting.

That is not what happened on my last cruise though because I stayed in what is called a “Neighbourhood Balcony Cabin.”

Although my cabin did have a balcony, it had no clear views of the ocean!

It is one of the most controversial cabins at sea and definitely one of the strangest cabins I’ve ever had. I saw and heard some weird things from here too…

There are plenty of videos and reviews online that warn others not to stay in this type of cabin. I didn’t want to pay the price of an ocean-facing balcony and as this one was much cheaper, I decided to give it a go.

I usually cruise in inside cabins without windows anyway, so I figured, it must be a step up from that.

The ship that I was sailing on was “Symphony of the Seas” which is one of the biggest and most exciting ships in the world.

I was so happy and excited to have a cruise booked on her, I’d have stayed in a cupboard or a lifeboat if it was the only way I could get on board the ship.

I still hoped that I wouldn’t regret my decision to book this cabin – I’d been looking forward to this cruise for years.

I booked what is called a “Guaranteed Cabin.” This means that I was guaranteed to get the cabin grade that I had booked – didn’t get to pick the specific location.

Doing this saved me a little bit of money and usually what happens when you book a guaranteed cabin is that you get assigned the leftover cabins.

That is probably what happened here, everybody who is willing to pay to pick their rooms does, and then the guaranteed cabins are assigned. 

Still, I was very happy with the cabin I was given. I was assigned cabin 11707 on deck 11 which I would later find out overlooked an area called “The Boardwalk.

Find out about other guaranteed cabins I have stayed in on other ships, and whether they were a good choice here:

I Always Book Guaranteed Cabins on Cruise Ships – (Photo Examples, Regrets & More)

On Royal Caribbean’s website the “Neighbourhood Balconies” look amazing! It looks as though they overlook a peaceful park or an area with a couple of restaurants & bars – but that really isn’t the case.

I did worry a little that we wouldn’t have any privacy – but I was still excited to be right in the middle of all the action. 

Looking at the deck plans I noticed that we were located towards the back of the ship, this meant that we were overlooking the Boardwalk instead of Central Park.

I knew that this area was often used for late-night parties and for Aqua Theatre shows, but I hoped that it wouldn’t be a problem. I can sleep through most things – or so I thought.

When we embarked on the ship we walked into a huge central street on deck 5 and went up the staircases to deck 11 to find our room.

Having a cabin on deck 11 did turn out to be great because it was halfway between the inside areas on decks 5, 6, 7 and 8 – and areas like the buffet and pools on decks 15, 16 and 17.

I didn’t take the lift once during this cruise, so I spent a lot of time wandering up and down the stairs!

I was very impressed by the quality of the maps and signage around the ship. For somebody like me – who could get lost inside a paper bag – signage is very important.

The closest staircase to my cabin had a giant painting of Nintendo’s character, Mario – so that made it very easy to find.

I’d walk up or down the stairs until I found Mario, and as long as I was on the right staircase, I’d be fine.

There were 23 staircases onboard though, so it wasn’t a given that I wouldn’t get lost. Symphony of the Seas is a very big ship…

My first impression of the cabin was very good, it felt spacious and I loved the big sofa to the side.

I’d cruised in the past on another Royal Caribbean ship called “Anthem of the Seas” and the cabin design reminded me a lot of that cruise. On “Anthem” I did have a clear view of the ocean though. 

Find out more about my Anthem of the Seas cruise to the Norwegian Fjords here:

I had previously cruised on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas

Symphony of the Seas launched in 2017, which, for a cruise ship makes her fairly new. I didn’t expect her to have all the mod cons – but also didn’t expect the cabin to appear dated.

The sofa becomes a bed if you have a third person staying in the cabin, but we didn’t so this stayed in sofa mode for the entire cruise. 

The cabin also had a big double bed, a TV and a desk opposite the sofa.

We were offered a kettle – but I said “No”- which if you know me, you’ll find very odd!

I think this is the first time in my life that I’ve ever turned down a kettle and a cup of tea on a cruise, but we were cruising during a heatwave called “Cerberus.”

I actually didn’t have a cup of tea all week. When a Brit turns down the opportunity of having a kettle in their cabin, you know the weather really is hot...

I hoped that we would be able to enjoy the heat on our balcony, but that the air conditioning in the room would also be good.

If the air conditioning didn’t work, with it being a heatwave, that would have been miserable. I’m happy to say it did work and it’d come on whenever the balcony door was closed. 

I did think that it might be windy being in the middle of the ship and I wasn’t sure if the sun would actually come onto our balcony very often.

I’m from the UK and the hottest it ever gets here is around 30c. We had temperatures higher than that every day of this cruise with a humidity that I’m not sure humans should even exist in. 

It was such a relief to put down the bag that I’d been carrying since 5 a.m. I’d travelled from London to board the ship in Barcelona, and rather unsurprisingly the first room that I needed to explore was the bathroom.

The bathroom was fairly small but the shower area was large and there was space for everything that we needed.

I liked the design and later in the cruise, I would find out that there was a nightlight in there which is always appreciated by me.

Without a night light, if you go to the toilet at night you either have to just feel around in the pitch black, or turn on the lights full brightness – which I don’t like doing at all.

There was of course a toilet too, which flushed in the traditional cruise ship way by using suction.

I took my first cruise when I was 11 and I used to be so scared of the cruise ship toilet flushing noise -especially when some of the toilets had an automatic flush! I’d press the button and then run out of the room as fast as I could! I’m happy to say I don’t do that anymore

The biggest complaint that I had heard about Neighbourhood Cabins pre-cruise was that there was a lack of privacy on the balcony. This is because there are other cabins directly opposite.

Walking back into the room from the bathroom this was immediately obvious. I realised that anybody in the cabins or balconies opposite could see all the way into the room – and I could see into their rooms too.

I was amazed by how messy some people leave their cabins – but live and let live I say.  

It reminded me a bit of how river cruise ships will often dock side by side. When that happens though you are only a few centimetres away from the opposite cabin. This can be really weird if you’re not expecting it.

I had a very unexpected view out of my window on the Tui River Ship “Skyla.” Find out all about that weird cruise experience here:

I went outside on the balcony to look around, and I was excited to be able to see down into the street that was on deck 8.

This was the first time I’d seen this area and the huge slides and glass windows of the lounges and restaurant looked very impressive.

I hoped that I would be able to get used to not using my balcony as a private space.

I wasn’t planning on doing anything on the balcony that I didn’t want other people to see – but I knew that it would be easy for me to forget when in the cabin and to walk out of the bathroom after a shower wearing just a towel.

Usually when you cruise the only thing opposite the balcony is the sea, so it isn’t something you have to think about. 

I do like to sit out on my balcony and watch the sail away – and the fact that the sea was so far from my cabin was very different from anything I’ve experienced before.

At this point, it was pretty quiet outside – but that would soon change! 

It wasn’t long after this that our luggage arrived and we unpacked. There was a lot of storage in the cabin and there were loads of drawers by the bed and by the mirror.

There were two areas of hanging space and we didn’t end up using half the storage space that we had. It would be a little different if there were more than two of us in the room and perhaps we were cruising somewhere colder.

We just had really light summer clothes that didn’t take up much space.

I put my suitcase in the bottom of the wardrobe and would put my dirty clothes in there at the end of the day…..and also in the middle of the day because it was so hot whenever we went outside I had to come back, have a shower and get changed.

That meant that my bag basically packed itself though.

We were actually in our cabin for the sail away, so we missed it completely. There really wasn’t any way to tell that the ship was moving at all

The ship didn’t feel like it had moved at all and we never felt any movement in the cabin which was great.

We did have fantastic weather, so that might have had something to do with it – but we never felt any vibrations or juddering.

We did experience one negative of being located behind the funnel, but more about that later.

It wasn’t long before I noticed the first person zip-lining past my cabin

That is such a bizarre thing to say, but it is true! There was endless entertainment that we could watch from the balcony and I was particularly looking forward to seeing an Aqua Show.

The area at the back of the ship is an Aqua Theatre where they do diving and dancing. I’d seen a few previews online before embarking on this cruise and it looked so cool.

On the first night of our cruise, we watched the show “Hairspray” in the theatre and had an early night.

I don’t remember there being much noise outside the cabin – but to be honest I was exhausted and fell straight asleep.

This cabin definitely did get noisier as the cruise went on though, and I wouldn’t recommend this cabin if you have kids or are somebody who needs silence to sleep.

The bed was incredibly comfortable and I was lucky to have a plug socket on my side – but there wasn’t one on the other side.

Because I’m from the UK I use an adapter. The adapter was dangerously close to the light switch that controlled the main lights for the room.

Being able to get into bed and turn off the lights was fantastic, but I was always nervous that one wrong move and I’d turn on the lights in the middle of the night – luckily I didn’t. Over in the desk area, there were more sockets and USBs. 

There was a little bit of storage space down by the bed too, and the TV had access to all the things that I like to look at – like the daily schedule and my onboard account.

I don’t usually use the TV much when I cruise, but it was good to have the option.

I did find one show about the history of Royal Caribbean which was interesting – the oldest Royal Caribbean ship I’ve ever been on is the Song of America.

She is currently sailing as the “Celestyal Olympia” she was built in the 1980s. The difference between that older ship and Symphony is totally bonkers!

Find out all about my cruise on Celestyal Olympia (formally Song of America) here:  

A little later in the cruise, we went to a silent disco that was happening down in the Boardwalk area. It started at 10:45 p.m. – and we left a little after 11 p.m.

It is called a silent disco because everybody has headphones on where you can listen to music – but it definitely wasn’t silent.

The silent disco going on deck 6 wasn’t silent! From our cabin, we could hear hundreds of people singing random Justin Bieber songs or dancing to “Gangnam Style”

I loved sitting on my balcony and watching everybody dance it was funny – and felt like I was still in the party – but from the comfort of my balcony, which was nice.

If you had kids or couldn’t sleep with noise though you might not find this so entertaining. The doors blocked out most of the sound but I could still make out every word from inside the cabin and it went on until about quarter to twelve.

This only happened one night of our cruise though, and the majority of the noise that we heard wasn’t from singing but from music and from the Carousel. 

The carousel was only open at certain times of the day and it was free to use – as were the slides and the zip line.

It was really hot during our cruise, and having a balcony that was most of the time out of direct sunlight was fantastic.

We probably wouldn’t have been able to use our balcony as much if we had chosen a traditional outside balcony – just because of the intense heat.

Another benefit of the cabin facing inward was that everybody put their clothes and swimwear out there to dry. You’re usually not allowed to do that on regular balconies because clothes might blow into the sea, but we didn’t have that worry.

The worst-case scenario would be that they’d blow down and onto somebody below, but there really wasn’t any wind in the middle area so that didn’t happen.

Because the weather was so hot, there were a few days when we chose to stay onboard the ship rather than get off and explore the ports.

This was very much a “work trip” for me. As I had bought the internet package and my laptop I spent a lot of time sitting on the balcony working.

One thing that I hadn’t thought about pre-cruise was that there would be music from the Aqua Theatre during the day. Of course, the performers need to practice – I think I’d have to practice for 5 years to learn one of the songs in one of the performances.

I hadn’t thought about how this would mean I’d hear the same songs at least 15 times during the cruise! (I’m saying 15 because I counted 11, but I’m sure there were a few I missed.) 

At first, it made me excited to go and see the Aqua Theatre Show – but by day 4 or 5 I could hear those songs in my sleep.

I couldn’t get the songs out of my head – as soon as I did I’d hear them again. The songs were good though, no complaints from me about that…

The first Aqua Show that we watched, called “Hiro” was absolutely phenomenal. I’ve never ever seen anything like this on a cruise before and it blew my mind.

The fact that this is included in the cruise fare, as are theatre shows and ice skating shows is amazing and for me, it was one of the best parts of the cruise.

We saw a second show called “Aqua Nation” on the sea day which was equally as good.

If I could choose again, I’d probably pick a Neighbourhood Balcony Cabin that overlooked the area that’s called “Central Park” instead of “The Boardwalk.”

This area was normally quiet -and they even played bird songs in there (at least I assume they did, as I didn’t see any real birds.)

You might think “Well Emma of course, you don’t get real animals living on cruise ships.”

To that, I’d like to show you Mr. Lizard who I found living onboard the Celebrity Edge. Sometimes animals do hitch a ride on cruise ships!

Look out for Mr. Lizard in my Celebrity Edge video below:

In Central Park was a cafe where I’d often get a sandwich and a drink and there were lots of comfortable seats. There would be less to watch with a cabin above here I’m sure, but I think the quiet would suit me better.

They do sometimes have live music in here but still, it was mostly a relaxing place. 

We also wouldn’t have had any problems with soot if we were in a Central Park balcony cabin – as it is in front of the funnel.

Most days we would come back to our cabin and find some soot on the railing and the floor.

Soot from the ship’s funnel ended up on our balcony.

It didn’t bother me, but I did have to wipe my feet clean a few times and I know that this would annoy some people, so I thought it was worth a mention.

A lot of the bad reviews online are about the soot – which is understandable, I’m not sure what they could do to fix that one though. 

The Central Park cabins are identical inside to the Boardwalk Balcony Cabins – as are most of the cabins on the ship.

If you were to look at one balcony cabin and then another you’d find that they are all almost exactly the same.

I did actually manage to have a quick look inside a couple of the balcony cabins and one of the inside cabins. A lot of guests on this cruise disembarked partway through, in Rome. Usually, you don’t get a chance to look in other cabins apart from peering in as you walk down the corridor.

The only real difference was the position of the bed. Some cabins have the bed close to the window and others have the sofa closer to the window.

This is because of the way that cruise ship cabins are made, they are made fully formed in factories and then loaded into the side of the cruise ship – it is incredible.

There are at least 2759 versions of my exact cabin – or its mirror image – onboard this ship alone.

There are 2759 pairs of curtains – but probably only one Captain Hudson in the fridge – mine! (That would be a bit weird if there were more Captain Hudsons about.)

Given the price that I paid – £1375 ($1775) for the week -including all my flights, transfers and gratuities, I was very happy with my choice of cabin.

Picking an inside cabin instead of my Neighbourhood Balcony cabin would have only saved me £250 ($320.) For me, the upgrade was well worth the money.

For me, the upgrade was well worth the money – especially considering how hot it was during the cruise.

If I had unlimited money I’d book a traditional balcony cabin, but this one was great fun and it felt like a good compromise between an inside and a balcony cabin. 

I had another cabin recently that was also called a “Balcony” Cabin – but didn’t have clear ocean views either.

Instead of the cabin looking onto a central street, it went straight onto the promenade deck. Yep, the proper promenade deck where people sunbathe and walk by.

To find out how I found that cabin and who I would and wouldn’t recommend it to, check out this video next: 

Before you go

American, Italian and British cruising experiences are all very different. There are things I like and dislike about all of them.

To compare the American Royal Caribbean or Norwegian cruising experience to that of the Italian cruise line MSC, check out the article below:

10 differences between MSC and NCL/Royal Caribbean

To compare a Royal Caribbean cruise to that of the British Cruiseline P&O, read the article below:

7 HUGE Differences Between P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean

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.