River cruising can be a confusing business. There are so many new ships coming online and so many destinations to choose from that future travelers can find themselves bogged down with questions. Recently, we received one question that is likely on the minds of many who have yet to take their first trips along the waterways of Europe:
How is a French balcony different from a veranda?
French Balconies look and act like a regular balcony, with the only exception being that there is a railing placed directly behind the glass, meaning you cannot step out onto a separate space — without splashing into the river, that is. Many river cruise companies place a small sitting area in front of the French Balcony, allowing it to perform the same function as a full, step-out balcony.
Some river cruise lines are tweaking the French Balcony concept and, in doing so, they are coming up with some increasingly diverse “branding.”
Avalon Waterways touts its Open-Air Balconies, which are essentially French Balconies on a grand scale, with windows that open almost the entire width of the room. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection calls them Full Open Air Balconies.
Newly launched river cruise line Emerald Waterways has some staterooms called Panorama Balconies that feature floor-to-ceiling windows where the upper partition drops down to let fresh air into the room.
Balconies – sometimes referred to as Full Balconies or Step-out Balconies or Verandas– are defined by the fact that you can step out on to them (without plunging into the river), much like you would aboard a traditional oceangoing cruise ship. Balconies typically have two chairs and a small table, and — with a few exceptions — tend to be quite narrow due to the fact that the width of river cruise ships is restricted because of narrow locks on the waterways of Europe.
Suites – the Best of Both Worlds
In Suites, nearly all river cruise lines tend to offer two — either a French and a full balcony, or two full balconies — in their top-of-the-line accommodations. Viking River Cruises is deserving of notable mention here for the wraparound balconies in its Explorer Suites that enclose the sterns of the Viking Longships.
River View Staterooms
At the entry levels of the accommodations spectrum are River View Staterooms, also known as Standard Staterooms. These offer small, fixed windows that usually occupy the top quarter of the stateroom, and which typically cannot be opened.
Due to the location of these staterooms – usually on the lowest deck – windows are positioned high in the room due to the level of the waterline. The notable exception here can be found on Tauck’s new ms Inspire and ms Savor, which feature eight Loft Staterooms each that come with a 1.5-story tall wall of glass with a middle partition that can open to let fresh air in. These innovative staterooms are a hybrid between a river view and a French balcony.
It always pays to do your research before booking any river cruise stateroom. Read the brochure, visit the company’s website and – of course – ask us. We’re here to help.