Planning & Tips

Should I choose a balcony with a cabin for my Antarctic cruise?

Cabins with balconies might not sound like an obvious choice if you’re heading to an icy destination like Antarctica, but they’re becoming an increasingly popular option for polar expedition cruising. In this article we’ll discuss how having a balcony cabin can let you enjoy your very own private piece of Antarctica. 

Do all expedition ships offer cabins with balconies?

Penthouse Suite on the Magellan Explorer
Penthouse suite with balcony on the Magellan Explorer

Some of the older ships in the polar fleet were built as research vessels, and because it wasn’t felt that scientists needed the lap of luxury those ships just have either portholes or windows in the cabins. More modern ships such as the Seaventure, the Magellan Explorer and the Hondius are purpose-made for expedition cruising and have so they’ve got a mix of portholes, windows, and then some balconies. Finally, you have the newest ships that include the X-Bow design, many of which are built with the majority of their cabins having balconies. Ships like this include the Ultramarine and the Greg Mortimer. The ship designers have taken a look at the market and realised that balconies are something that people really enjoy, and incorporated this into their ship design. 

What are the balconies like?

Cabin with a veranda on the Seaventure
Cabin with a veranda on the Seaventure

The balconies come right off the cabin, and usually have enough space for a small table and a chair or two. Some ships have cabins with what is termed a Juliet or French balcony, where the top panel of the huge window partially slides down to give you plenty of fresh air and the view, but you can’t actually walk outside. The World Explorer is a great example of a ship which offers both full and Juliet balcony options. 

The best have floor to ceiling windows with sliding doors, so you don’t have anything blocking your view, giving you a constant connection with the scenery outside. 

Will it be too cold to enjoy my balcony?

You certainly won’t be outside sunbathing like on a Caribbean cruise, so balconies aren’t used for relaxation this way. They’re more for stepping outside by yourself, away from the public decks and having a quiet moment in your personal space to take everything in. I sailed on the Greg Mortimer on my most recent Antarctic trip, and my favourite thing to do in the morning was to get up, throw on my bathrobe like a crazy person and step outside, take in an invigorating blast of fresh air and stare at the icebergs to look for wildlife. It’s lovely to do this between activities or just before you go to bed – you can really revel in a private moment.

Are there any other benefits of having a cabin with a balcony?

Balcony suite on the Ultramarine
Balcony suite on the Ultramarine

The main benefit is that constant connection with nature: you’re never without a view. On other ships, if you want to be on the lookout for wildlife you need to be in the public areas, either in the observation lounge or out on the decks. But with a balcony, you might still see seals on passing ice floes, or whales swimming nearby. When there is a wildlife sighting, your best view is always going to be from the upper decks where you have the widest field of view and more manoeuvrability, but it’s still a lovely thing to be able to do from the comfort of your own cabin. 

The other great benefit is letting the outside world into your cabin. I personally tend to be very prone to motion sickness even in relatively calm water, and found that having the fresh air and the constant view of the horizon was a real boon. Just being able to open the door, step outside and get some fresh air definitely had a calming effect for me. If you’re the same, we recommend choosing a balcony on a lower deck (where available), which will have slightly less ship movement than those higher up.

Are there any restrictions on using the balconies?

Veranda Suite onboard the World Explorer
Veranda Suite onboard the World Explorer

Balconies on expedition cruise ships are non-smoking. During the voyage, there may be times when they’re locked for safety reasons, in particular any time you encounter turbulence, such as when you’re crossing the Drake Passage. On some occasions the crew might need to remove some of the dividers between balconies if the crew need to temporarily access them. 

Is a balcony worth it for all types of travellers?

Some travellers will want to spend every available moment of their trip out on the deck with their binoculars and camera, looking for wildlife and photo opportunities. If this is you, then you might not feel that you’ll get the value from having a balcony in a cabin that you won’t spend much time in. For those who appreciate having a little more personal space, the ability to step outside and enjoy your own private Antarctica can really enhance your polar experience.

How much extra does a cabin with a balcony cost?

Solo cabin with balcony on the National Geographic Endurance
Solo cabin with balcony on the National Geographic Endurance

As more and more ships increase their balcony offering, balconies have become relatively more affordable. While every ship varies, adding a balcony typically adds between 8–20% to the price of a cabin. They’re not just for the luxury crowd anymore, but it’s always worth noting that this is just one factor in the price of your trip. Travelling at a premium time such as Christmas, or choosing a longer voyage to take in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia might also affect which cabin you go for. If an itinerary on an X-bow ship is the one that suits you best, a cabin with a balcony may actually be your most economical option. 

If you would like to know more about cabins with balconies for your Antarctic adventure,  please let us know and we can talk through the available options in more detail.

Molly Hutchinson

Molly Hutchinson

Swoop polar specialist

Molly is an Antarctica specialist at Swoop. She’s been working and playing in the travel world for more than a decade, has crossed the Antarctic Circle several times and camped on the White Continent. When she’s not out travelling, she keeps the spirit of adventure alive in her home state of Montana.