The French balcony, considered dated once Scenic Tours launched its first full-balcony Space Ship, is making a major comeback on European rivers.
And the reason: ship owners have found passengers simply want more cabin space rather than an outside veranda.
Before 2008, almost all river ships were fitted with French balconies – doors that slide away to create the impression of a balcony.
Then Australian shipbuilder and Scenic Tours owner Glenn Maroney unveiled the first Space Ship with a full balcony.
For the first time, guests could step out of their cabins, close the door behind them and enjoy a coffee as Europe passed them by.
The result was a stampede of copycat cruise lines, with Avalon fitting its Panorama Suites with sliding door balconies and Viking launching its first cabins with verandas in suits while maintaining French balconies in other cabins.
But as the hype around full balconies began to subside, cruisers began to notice the reduction in cabin space to make way for the new outdoor seating areas.
So began the mission to find the perfect ratio of accommodation to fresh air and the return of the French balcony.
Uniworld retained full balcony categories aboard its newer ships, but maintained French balconies in its staterooms.
General manager John Molinaro told Cruise Passenger every Uniworld ship is designed individually and based on guest feedback.
“Over the years the decision on whether to include balconies has been influenced primarily by what our guests are telling us they’d like, where the ship will be based and which itineraries and rivers it will sail,” he said.
“We find that our guests have different preferences and appreciate that there are options to suit.”
APT introduced ‘Twin Balcony Suites’ where guests can get the best of both worlds.
On one side the room has a Panoramic Balcony with a glass conservatory-style sun lounge and there’s also an outside balcony with tables and chairs.
Evergreen Tours’ first ‘Star Ships’, which launched this year, were given drop down balconies where the window lowers to form a balcony. Entry level suits were fitted with indoor balconies and others have floor to ceiling windows where the top half drops down.
Cruise Passenger asked if Scenic would consider French balconies aboard its forthcoming vessels, to which the line said no.
“The Scenic ‘Sun Lounges’ are hugely popular with guests offering 24/7 access to the private balcony, no matter the weather,” a statement from the line read.
“At the press of a button it can convert to become a fully enclosed Scenic ‘Sun Lounge’, giving our guests continued access to the balcony to enjoy the stunning views regardless of the time of year.
“There is no reduction to the internal cabin space so that the cabins remain the largest of any standard cabins on Europe’s rivers.
“Scenic ‘Space-Ships’ are also the only river cruisers sailing Europe’s waterways to offer the bonus of a full window view in this manner.”