Inside cabins are generally the least desirable accommodations on a cruise ship -- they might be cheap, but they are often cramped and always lack natural light. Royal Caribbean found a way to brighten up inside cabins when the line introduced the concept of "virtual balconies" in inside cabins.
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What It Is
Royal Caribbean's virtual balcony inside cabins feature floor-to-ceiling HD display screens that give passengers real-time views of the sights and sounds outside. Your actual view depends on which wall the 80-inch HD screen is affixed. If your screen faces the front of the ship, you will get the view from a high-quality digital camera mounted on the bridge. Facing back, you get the view of the ship's wake from the camera mounted on the rear of the ship. Curtains can be drawn to conceal the HD screen.
The "balcony" includes a virtual railing, too, and natural sounds associated with the views are piped in. (You can control the volume and even turn them off completely.) The HD screen is meant to function solely as a de facto window; it won't stream life-size movies or sports, just camera views.
The virtual balcony is more than just a novelty to get passengers to book inside cabins; it truly enhances the interior cabin experience by giving cruisers a taste of the outdoors without the true balcony price tag. For example, you can check if it's raining or sunny outside without having to go up on deck and might even be surprised by a school of dolphins swimming past.
The ambient sounds thrumming in from the ocean can help drown out loud neighbors, early-rising crew or other intruding sounds that can make sleeping on a cruise ship difficult -- yet you remain in a climate-controlled room. (In a real balcony cabin, you'd have to prop the door open to benefit from ocean sounds.)
Cruise fares for virtual balconies on Royal Caribbean vary based on ship, destination and sail date. In general, expect to pay $90 to $150 per person, per night. Fares -- especially for the older ships -- can drop as low as $75 per person, per night. However, on ships with a mix of virtual balcony cabins and regular inside cabins, the virtual balconies are always slightly more expensive.
Virtual balconies are available on the following ships:
- Anthem of the Seas
- Quantum of the Seas
- Ovation of the Seas
- Navigator of the Seas
- Explorer of the Seas
- Voyager of the Seas
- Harmony of the Seas
You can find one of Royal Caribbean's virtual balconies in every inside cabin aboard Anthem, Quantum and Ovation of the Seas. Navigator of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas have 81 virtual balconies each, and Harmony of the Seas has 76, just a percentage of the total number of inside cabins.
See photos of virtual balcony cabins on Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas.
--By Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor