Along with Carnival Paradise, Costa NeoRomantica, Seabourn Legend amongst others… They have had Balcony Surgery. It’s the latest fad in the cruise industry and cruise lines are jumping head of heels to add Balconies to their fleet. And rightly so, as the newest cruise liners have many balcony cabins, yet their older counterparts are struggling to keep up, this is why Costa Romantica has had an amazing transformation under the welders knife. Now I’m not going to lie and say that I think this transformation looks attractive from the outside, I really liked the look of the Costa Romantica and her sister Costa Classica. I think the ship now looks top-heavy and a bit mish mash, but having seen the interior of the ship I believe she looks great, and some wonderful new areas have been developed, I however would have seized the opportunity to lengthen the ship like was original planned for sister ship Costa Classica, the lifeboats could then have been reconfigured and more balcony cabins added.
Balconies have been on the rise since the early 90’s when they would make a deck of a ship for the premium accommodation, Royal Princess, a ship well before her time (as we covered in an article here). Now its an industry standard, with most ship having significant amounts of Balconies. However some ships, such as Costa Victoria, debuting in 1996 had a distinct lack of balconies, and it is interesting to see that in 2004 she underwent a refurbishment which added balconies to the ship, a transformation which also happened at Celebrity Cruise were Celebrity Century, Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury all had a similar refit. Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury are now Mein Schiff & Mein Schiff 2 respectively.
Even Swan Hellenic’s lovely little Minerva has undergone a makeover adding additional balcony cabins. I was worried about this refurbishment for fear that it would ruin the proportions of the little ship. However I think she looks great and the refurbishment will keep her competitive for the foreseeable future. You can read more about the ‘Magnificent Minerva’ at ‘From The Deck Chair’.
Splendour of the Seas recent Royal Advantage refit included the addition of a row of balcony cabins, converting former ocean view cabins into balcony cabins, Splendour of the Seas being launched in 1996, and already having two decks of Balcony cabins on delivery. The problem for most of these older ships are that the lifeboats are held on the top deck, as seen on Carnival Sensation (below). This means that it is not easy to add additional balconies as there obviously needs to be a clear path to the sea for the lifeboat. It would be pretty inefficient for a lifeboat to be stuck in a balcony, unless perhaps it was your balcony. On the refurbishment to Costa Romantica and the Carnival Fantasy class ships it means that balconies have been added together in huddles, where Lifeboats are not lowered, this gives the ship an interesting profile.
Many a maritime enthusiast will argue that balconies make ships look like floating car parks, live goods carriers or apartment blocks, but I think the addition of the balconies if worked well into a design, Like the Queen Mary 2, Carnival Spirit and Minerva can make a great experience for those onboard and be aesthetically pleasing. I believe ships like MSC Lirica, with only one deck of Balconies, as well as Oriana and Aurora we receive similar treatment to keep them competitive in the cruise industry, now in the face of a slight overcapacity and falling bookings due to poor media coverage surrounding incidents it is likely that cruise lines will hurry some ships into refit to temporarily reduce capacity.