GUEST POST: JESSALYNN
Okay, let’s just get this out there right from the start: A virtual balcony room is not at all comparable to, or a substitute for, an actual balcony cabin. With that in mind, though, I do recommend the virtual balcony as a good alternative to an inside or oceanview cabin, especially as you can usually find a good deal on this kind of cabin.
Which ships are they on?
Royal Caribbean has built virtual balcony cabins into many of its newer ships (all of the interior rooms in the Quantum class ships – Quantum, Ovation, and Anthem – have virtual balconies) and has retrofitted them into many of the older ones. You can find virtual balcony rooms on Navigator OTS, Explorer OTS, and Voyager OTS, as well as the two newest Oasis-class ships, Harmony OTS and Symphony OTS.
Harmony of the Seas
We sailed on Harmony of the Seas in a virtual balcony cabin in January 2018. I’d booked this cruise on a bit of a last-minute sale in late November and so we were able to get a price I was really happy with, especially for the newest and biggest cruise ship. Ours was a guaranteed booking and we were placed all the way at the front of the ship, which made for a lot of walking! (They say that’s good for you, right??)
Harmony was only about a year and a half old when we sailed on her, so of course, the room made a good first impression. It was clean and new-looking. I really liked the color palette of dark and light browns and teal. It made it look sophisticated and yet fun, but I do think the dark tones of the wood made it a little dark, especially for a cabin with no natural light.
The virtual balcony
When you walk in, you immediately see the screen that constitutes your “virtual balcony” – it’s directly ahead of you, so you can’t miss it! When we entered the room our view was of the port in Fort Lauderdale – not exactly scenic. But as we cruised, the view changed as well, and it was often quite nice. We could see the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean and occasionally another boat or cruise ship, which was entertaining and certainly better than an inside room with no view at all.
One thing that I found interesting about our Harmony room is that it doesn’t have a closet! Instead, it has two large cupboards on either side of the bed, as well as some overbed storage. There was also a nice dresser in the room with a mini fridge, so I felt like we had plenty of room to store our clothes, even for a week-long cruise. There was room to hang our clothes in the cupboards on each side of the bed.
The bathroom was generously big, as was the shower. It was nicer than some of the bathrooms I’ve had in apartments in the States! One thing I really liked about this bathroom was that it had a built-in nightlight when you turned off the main light in the bathroom. This made it easy to use the bathroom at night without blinding yourself or bothering the other person in the room.
Our cabin had a couch which appeared to be sized for one and half people – it was not exactly comfortable for two people, but one person could lounge on it pretty comfortably. The couch doubles as the 3rd bed when you have three to a room (we could see this made up in other rooms in our hall). If you plan on doing this, I would recommend that your third person be a child, or a very short person!
We like to watch TV on cruises – I know this isn’t something that everyone does – and I can verify that the setup in our virtual balcony room was very comfy for watching TV in bed! We watched a couple of American football games during our first sea day when the weather outside was pretty bad.
Overall, I really liked the setup of our room – it seemed big for an inside room, and I didn’t necessarily miss the extra space we would have had with an actual balcony room. If you’re considering the virtual balcony room by comparison to some other kinds of cruise cabins, here are my thoughts:
Virtual balcony vs. interior cabin
I would absolutely choose a virtual balcony over an interior cabin, even for a small price increase. It’s nice to see the outside and the virtual window really helps alleviate the “closed-in” feeling that some people have in an interior cabin. The virtual balconies are a bit of an unknown quantity on the Royal Caribbean ships. But because they’re so new, so you can often find a good price on them.
Virtual balcony vs. oceanview
I would probably not choose a virtual balcony over an actual oceanview room, unless there was a considerable price savings. I like to keep my curtains open and wake up to the actual sunrise, and we learned on the first day that you can’t really do that with a virtual balcony. The lighting is just a bit off, and it doesn’t get light exactly at the sunrise. We also found that the view of “outside” was limited to the width of the screen. You could see a lot less than in a cabin with an actual window.
Virtual balcony vs. real balcony
As I mentioned, the virtual balcony isn’t really a substitute for an actual balcony. I’d recommend this choice only if you save a lot of money and the oceanview rooms aren’t an option. If you’re used to being able to open the door to the balcony and get a bit of fresh air in your room, the virtual balcony will obviously be a disappointment. There’s really no separate area you can use if you and your travel partner like to wake up at different times. For example, if one of you wants to go out on the balcony while the other is still sleeping. Finally, the position of the camera that broadcasts to the virtual balcony screens isn’t great for watching sail in and out. If you’re the kind of person who likes to watch this in the room, you’ll be disappointed,
Would I recommend it?
I would absolutely take a cruise in a virtual balcony room again, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into when you take one. Matching your expectations to reality is one of the important keys to enjoying your cruise!
This looks like so much fun! I’ve always wondered about this type of cabin. I have heard that they apparently help you to stop feeling sea sick. I’d love to try it from that point of view. I’m not really too sure that it would work but it’d be fun to find out.
Thanks for this one Jessalyn!
Jessalynn Strauss, aka The Nerdy Traveler, is a university professor and travel blogger from the USA. She loves cruising and will talk about it to anyone who will listen!
You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @_nerdytraveler and on www.thenerdytraveler.com
Are you still reading this thinking, I recognise that face? Maybe you recognise Jessalynn from our money saving collab video!
Jessalyn has also written a Harmony of the Seas review for us which is definitely worth checking out and a review of her solo cabin onboard the Norwegian Bliss.
Paul and Carole Morgan
Wednesday 21st of March 2018
Really enjoyed reading this post. Depending on our budget we prefer an outside or ideally a balcony. We are not fans of inside cabins however this seems such an interesting concept and would love to try one! Thanks for sharing.