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Deb November 29th, 2001 11:35 AM

Do I really neeed a balcony?
My family of four (two teenagers) are considering Alaska in August. Is a balcony cabin worth the extra money? Our option would be to take an inside and enjoy $1000.00 more of shore excursions. Pros and Cons please.

Also we would prefer to cruise out of Seattle. How does the Seattle itinery compare to the Vancouver ports. Would I miss much? It would be on the NCL SKY or the HAL Amsterdam.
I have a wedding in Seattle following the cruise and am wondering if the drive from Vancouver is worth the time and expense for the different itinerary.

Thank You,


lougee1043 November 29th, 2001 12:16 PM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
do you really need a balcony?? do you really need to cruise?? only you can make that choice. you didnt mention if you are considering a full or mini suite.
in either case the veranda comes with a bigger cabin and with 4 adults sharing the same space the veranda space may become a necessity and not a luxury.

we are from oregon and are sailing on the zaandam inside passage on aug 10 out of vancouver.

my decision is based on the following; amsterdam stops for the day in victoria and we have been there twice. once by land and again this past sept on the zandam. at this point we have no interest in spending the day there again.

the amsterdam cruises hubbard glacier and we decided that glacier bay will be more spectacular

we discovered that we can dog sled on the day we are in skagway and thats a must for my wife.

it would be easer for us to drive to seattle - park the car etc etc. but instead we will fly to seattle

hope this helps a little

Karen November 30th, 2001 10:44 AM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
You will certainally get many responses stating a balcony is a must. I totally disagree. I now go with a cheap inside cabin and prefer to see it all from the front of the ship. Of course I pack my "Alaska Uniform"- lined nylon jacket, wind pants, knit hat and gloves. Actually $250pp for shore excursions is MODEST in Alaska. The best of the best is a glacier helicopter landing and if you take a ship excursion it is about $190pp, I never book from the ship and always book direct with the operator for better tours and savings. It is really necessary to plan on at least one flight to really see Alaska. Other examples Whale watching $100pp, White Pass RR $82pp, even a ship excursion Juneau city / glacier combo is $40 (but $20 from local venders at the dock). You seem really torn by this decision- that tells me you would be just as happy saving your money and getting an inside cabin.

Laura J. December 1st, 2001 10:48 PM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
I agree...haven't been to Alaska yet, but have booked the Mercury for 6/9/01. Based on other cruises I've been on, I usually am satisfied to book an inside room and spend the extra money on shore excusions. When you look at total room cost it ends up being a lot more....sure a balcony would be great if money is no issue, but for a thrifty person like myself, I'm content to head up to the outside decks to take in the views!

HannaS77 December 3rd, 2001 02:50 PM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
We have been cruising Alaska once or more often twice a year since 1972. Back in the olden days the ships were much smaller than today( Island & Pacific Princess) and did not have balconys. In more recent times we have occasionally occupied a stateroom with a verandah also called a balcony when we received an upgrade. We would not pay for this type accomdation having experienced the following: the area is usually small and taken out of the space for the cabin; the area is quite often dam damp and wet from condensation; there are times you can experience days of rain; the area is often cold when the ship is moving; the large plate glass door and wall can make is difficult to maintain a satisfactory temperature inside the stateroom.

A balconey can be a nice viewing place when you are going around and around and around in one of glaciers.
We have never visited Glascier Bay when the weayther was not hot an sunny even though on the other days it may have neen colld or raining.

I cannot advise about Seattle since we always have flown from LAX or Palm Springs, CA. to and from Vancouver.

> My family of four (two teenagers) are considering Alaska in
> August. Is a balcony cabin worth the extra money? Our option
> would be to take an inside and enjoy $1000.00 more of shore
> excursions. Pros and Cons please.
> Also we would prefer to cruise out of Seattle. How does the
> Seattle itinery compare to the Vancouver ports. Would I miss
> much? It would be on the NCL SKY or the HAL Amsterdam.
> I have a wedding in Seattle following the cruise and am
> wondering if the drive from Vancouver is worth the time and
> expense for the different itinerary.
> Thank You,
> Deb

Kevin December 6th, 2001 01:06 AM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
You might consider taking Amtrak from Vancouver to Seattle instead of driving. It's a very scenic ride and isn't very expensive.

Karen December 6th, 2001 09:14 AM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
Amtrak is another choice, but you need to get to downtown Seattle and then a cab from Vancouver- both of these add to the expense.

buck December 7th, 2001 09:56 AM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
I have ponder this same question. Since last May, I have been planning a 2002 cruise to Alaska and have read different opinions on both sides of the question. I have two children also, but will be ten and nine next June when we cruise. I opted for an outside balcony. Why?

First, and foremost, viewing. My wife hates to be cold, so I told her we would get an outside cabin so she could view the beautiful scenery and still have somewhere to be warm. Second, we wanted a little extra room. Third, we booked a room off the aft (rear) of the ship. We have the advantage of "seeing" both sides of the ship at the same time. Someone once wrote that the view from the "rear" of the ship as the wake spreads before you is awesome. After reveiwing several photo galleries that show this, I couldn't see saving the money to pass up a chance to have memories that would be cherished for a lifetime. The rooms on the aft, usually, have a bigger balcony. Also, when going for a aft balcony, you loose the wind problem mentioned in previous posts. Another person also mentioned that having a morning coffee or an evening dinner in your cabin while sitting out on the balcony watching the scenery go by MasterCard might say is, priceless.

I, too, am very conservative and frugal (cheap). I don't make six figures, I had to work an extra job to pay for the trip,but I think this is one time when you have to step up to the plate and pay for a luxury that will enhance the trip. Karen has given some great advise on where else to save money in Alaska, ie., booking your own tours, doing your own pre-cruise tour, etc. In these areas, I will save my dollars, but on the ship, I have to try a balcony. Maybe next trip, inside cabin.

Also, I was very persistant with my travel agent for a aft facing balcony. After much research, Princess, HAL, and Carnival doesn't offer a "quad" aft balcony room. RCCL offers one, on the Legend of the Seas. Be sure to check if the cruiseline requires that the lower beds be seperated to allow a "fire escape" for the kids sleeping in the upper bunks. This will be our 15th anniversary present and that was not to appealing.

The bottom line, to me, was in 10, 20 or 30 years, and I look back on this trip, am I going to say, "wish I would of had a balcony?" Going to Alaska is not cheap, period. I am not sure if I will be able to afford to go back to Alaska, at least until the kids are out of the house. Where do you cut corners and where do you just say, "Go for it!"? That is your choice to make. This is why the cruiselines offer inside and outside rooms. To each his own.

My final decision was base on this...when I die, can I honestly say on my deathbed that I live life to it's fullest and with no regrets. I had a friend of mine that was on the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Towers. He was the one that taught me to live life to the fullest and with no regrets. Needless to say, I'm in a balcony.

Kathy G December 7th, 2001 10:05 PM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
Buck -
You have chosen the best way to see Alaska. We had an aft balcony cabin this year on Radiance and it was the greatest. I would get up early in the morning and wrap myself in a blanket on the lounge chair and watch the scenery from the quiet of my cabin (didn't have to rush to get dressed to go out on deck). I saw whales a couple of times and it was wonderful. We spent more time in our cabin than ever before and it was worth every hard earned cent. You don't get the wind which is great and you have lots of privacy too. This will be a trip to remember!!

Kathy G

Debbie December 8th, 2001 09:22 AM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
i have had the same dilemma....been planning on doing alaska for my 50th birthday...with great deliberation have chosen to do a balcony on may 31, 2002 on the legend of the seas...this is my 14th cruise and first time balcony...i to have always gone the most reasonable way and hoped for an upgrade...but like they say you only live once and i dont suppose i will be able to return to alaska again...have a great trip...

Deb December 12th, 2001 01:33 PM

The decision
After careful consideration I have decided to go with TWO Balcony cabins on the Mercury roundtrip Vancouver on 8/11 for the following reasons:

1. Works about to about $1000.00 per person (only $1200 more than ONE inside quad on the Vision of the Seas)
2. Vancouver allows be an easier trip home to Boston than Seward
3. The dates work
4. First class seats on the airlines are available

My only other questions:
1.Can we make a 1:00 PM flight out of Vancouver when we leave?
2. Should we stay the night in Vancouver and fly Monday morning?
3. Hotels in Vancouver? Pan Pacific?
4. Train or rental car from Seattle to meet ship? Pros Cons?

Thank you all for your direct emails feel free to write to me at

You have all been terriffic! Happy Holidays!

Kathy December 12th, 2001 01:58 PM

Re: The decision
Congrats on booking Mercury - it is a really nice ship. You will be so glad you have a balcony too - I think it is well worth the extra money. I would say a 1:00pm flight would be pushing it and there is so much to see and do in Vancouver. Renaissance Hotel in Vancouver is nice and has some great internet rates. Pan Pacific is great too but a bit pricey. We rented a car one-way each way and enjoyed the drive. I much prefer going at our pace. We could also stop along the way and pick up a few things (wine). Have a great cruise.

Kathy G

Shar December 13th, 2001 06:19 PM

Re: The decision
We were in Vancouver (for the first time) in September and I'd highly recommend staying over night. We stayed at the Sheraton Wall Center and really enjoyed it (only if you're not afraid of heights). The views from the higher floors are spectacular. Take the afternoon and go to Stanley Park. They have a wonderful aquarium and beautiful gardens. Downtown offers a lot if you're into people watching. I would imagine it's especially fun for teenagers, since it's the hub of the University of BC.

Happy Holidays!

Karen December 18th, 2001 08:27 AM

Re: The decision
With early disembarkment- 1pm should be no problem. I most always drive Vancouver - Seattle, Budget, Avis, National all have downtown offices with no drop off fees to / from Seatac. Compare them all.

Tim Agg December 19th, 2001 05:38 PM

Re: The decision
As a Vancouver person, it is necessary to warn first-time visitors of the vast numbers of people who breeze through our cruise terminal en route to either our airport or Seattle's and find themselves saying, "If on'y I'd known, I would have planned several days there."

Deb December 23rd, 2001 07:34 AM

Re: The decision
Thanks for tips on car rental and Vancouver. We have decided to stay at the Pan Pacific post cruise and I am now going to research car rental options with a downetown drop off from Seattle to Vancouver. If there is anything else please let me know.

Thanks for all the great advice.

Deb December 24th, 2001 08:24 AM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
Thanks for the tip on taking Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver. I booked it today. I could not believe how inexpensive it was. With AAA membership it was only $72.00 for three adults and one child. We are going in August and they said it was good that I bboked this early because that train always fills up way in advance. You said it was a scenic ride. What side of the train should we sit on for the best views? I also understand that the train station is only 1 mile from the pier.

Karen December 29th, 2001 06:00 AM

Re: Do I really neeed a balcony?
The train is 13 miles from Seatac airport to downtown Seattle and 1 mile from Canada Place at the Vancouver depot- so additional costs need to be factored into the costs. There can be sights on both sides but more probably on the left side.

Jo Anne January 31st, 2002 11:43 PM

Re: The decision
We're booked on the same cruise on 8/11. We're going to stay in two balcony rooms as well. (Category 2 rooms, $979 pp plus $180 in port fees.) How does that compare with your "deal?" I think that the Mercury is a great bargain. My agent said that the wasn't originally planned to be in Alaska, which is why great rooms are still available.

We're planning on extending our day in Vancouver, for at least 3 extra days. We had looked at the Banff, Jasper cruisetour but I think it might be a bit much for my 6-year old. Anyone have any ideas about a great place to extend our stay -- two late-40 parents (us) plus our 85 year old mom and 6 year old kid.

Kathy G February 1st, 2002 08:30 AM

Re: The decision
Jo Anne
What about Whistler - it is a couple of hours North from Vancouver and suppose to be very nice. It's a ski resort in the winter. I am hoping I can add a couple extra days to our July cruise to do this.
Have a great cruise.

Kathy G

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