OpinionOops! Lesson Learned: I Booked a Zero-Privacy Balcony on a Cruise... Right...

Oops! Lesson Learned: I Booked a Zero-Privacy Balcony on a Cruise… Right Over a Pool

It’s a great feeling when you score a sweet deal on a balcony cabin for a cruise.

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Sure, those interior cabins are more affordable, but when you can upgrade to have your own private balcony for just a few dollars more, life is good.

But what if that private balcony turns out to be a little too public?

Image of Carnival Celebration cruise ship cabins from the outside

I recently learned the hard way that not all cruise ship balconies are created equal.

On a Carnival Celebration cruise a couple months ago, I booked a balcony stateroom for my family, thinking I was some kind of superhero for springing the extra cash for a little luxury.

But the moment I walked into the cabin and opened the door to the balcony, the expression on my face changed from bliss to cringe.

Directly below the balcony – and I do mean directly – was a public pool.

The pool even stuck out from the side of the ship for better visibility.  Perfect!

With the stateroom only one deck above the pool, it felt like I was an unpaid lifeguard whenever I walked outside.  Except, rather than wearing a rescue buoy and a whistle, I stood there awkwardly, looking out over the ocean, trying to pretend I didn’t look like a creep.

pool below balcony cabin
As you can see, this balcony was directly over the pool, and there was no hiding from that fact. This is cabin 9335 on Carnival Celebration.

Cruisers trying to enjoy a sunny day in the Havana Pool tried to ignore me as well.  But on one occasion I must have surprised someone wading in the pool when I heard them say, “Oh, wow, it’s like they are right on top of us!”

While I typically spend a lot of time on my balcony relaxing, taking in the views, and sipping some coffee, on this cruise I barely used the outdoor space at all.  And when I did, I tried to make sure no one was in the pool — for both our sakes.

There were several times my family and I wanted to enjoy some time on the balcony but a full pool with loud conversations made us think again.

The Havana Pool — the pool I could practically jump into from my balcony — is reserved for Havana stateroom guests, so at least not the entire ship had access to this cozy little bit of water.

But what is supposed to be a nice pool for relaxation, I’m sure was a tad unsettling when some random cruiser stood out on the balcony above like a king ready to give a speech to his subjects.

Read more: 25 Cruise cabin hacks to make a stateroom more livable

How did this happen?

A little something known as a “guaranteed fare” cabin was the culprit.  I was able to get such a good deal because I sacrificed picking my cabin’s location for extra money in my bank account.

When you select a guaranteed fare cabin you are securing a certain cabin category while allowing the cruise line to select the cabin itself.

The issue is that you only get the cabins that are left over, after all the smart cruisers have picked out the best locations.  If that gave you flashbacks of getting picked last in 6th grade gym class, I do apologize.

Apparently, no one who had the opportunity to select a cabin wanted this particular one.

Related: True cost difference between a balcony and inside cabin

pool below balcony cabin on Carnival Celebration

How can you keep this from happening to you?

Aside from avoiding a guaranteed cabin, there are a couple things you can do to make sure you are happy with your stateroom well ahead of the cruise.

(By the way, I’m not totally against guaranteed fares.  If it saves you money and you don’t really care where you stay, by all means go for it.)

The first thing you should do is study the cruise ship’s deck plans.

It’s not just for nerds.

It allows you to see some very important things like:

  • If your cabin has a door connecting to the next cabin
  • If a cabin is near the elevators (whether you want this or not)
  • If a cabin is right on top of or below an active lounge
  • How far you have to walk to your favorite parts of the ship

You can look at the deck plans of your ship right on the cruise line’s website, or use a website like Cruisemapper instead.

Also, you can try to find pictures or videos of that exact cabin online.  It might feel like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, but you’d be surprised how many times you will find that exact stateroom on a forum or in a video.

This cabin was #9335 by the way.

Looking at deck plans is not enough

Model of Carnival Celebration
Even the Carnival Celebration ship model on board reminded me of my stateroom’s location.

If all I did was look at the deck plans of Carnival Celebration, I would not have noticed the pool below, at least not so easily.

This is where a video or actual image of your stateroom can come in handy, but if you can look at your cabin from outside the ship, that can really help in your decision process as well.

A deck plan will tell if you that cabin has an obstructed view, but not all obstructed views are the same.  Seeing your stateroom from the exterior of the ship will give you more insight into whether it’s the right cabin for you or not.

Final Thoughts

The funny thing about all this is that I almost booked a Havana cabin – I was just too cheap.

And then it would have been me in the Havana pool, looking up at that random cruisers in the balcony above me, wondering how that person got looped into a less than desirable location.

Read more: 7 cruise cabin booking mistakes you should avoid

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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
OpinionOops! Lesson Learned: I Booked a Zero-Privacy Balcony on a Cruise... Right...

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