What Is a French Balcony on a River Cruise Ship?

Are you considering taking a river cruise but are unsure whether to book a room with a French balcony or not? To help you out, we will discuss in this post what a French balcony is and the pros and cons of booking one.

What is a French balcony on a river cruise ship? A French balcony is not a true balcony but is actually a window or a door that opens to allow fresh air in. While a true balcony has a table and some chairs, the French balcony has no space for that. 

In other words, you can call a French balcony a “false balcony” or a “pseudo balcony” because it’s not a real balcony but a virtual one. 

A French balcony can be a wall-to-wall window or two sliding, narrow doors that you can open to let air in or to view the scene outside of the ship. It would allow fresh air to come in whenever the occupants want to open the window or the door. There’s a foot deep of space, guarded by a railing to keep the occupants safe.

Some people feel they have been “conned,” but this should not be the case had they researched the correct meaning of a French balcony. That’s why when booking your room on a river cruise, take note if the room provides a French balcony or a regular balcony, as these two are quite different from each other. 

Continue reading to learn more about what a French balcony is on a river cruise.

What Is a French Balcony on a River Cruise Ship?

As mentioned earlier, a French balcony is not a true balcony in that it only has doors that open to allow fresh air in – there is no place to sit or stand on the balcony. There are some other differences between a French balcony and a true balcony which I will list below.

French Balcony vs. Real Balcony:

1. Room Size

The size of the room with a real balcony can be smaller than the room with a French balcony because of the space taken up by the added balcony. Naturally, if you can afford the higher cost, you can always book a more spacious room. 

2. Cost

The room with a genuine balcony is costlier than a room with a French balcony. However, the cost could also depend on various factors, such as the amenities you have requested, the size of the room, the location of the room, and other similar aspects.

3. Type of Balcony

Typically, a room with a real balcony allows you to go out and actually sit on its chairs and use its table and do stuff like eating, reading, or simply sightseeing. On the other hand, the French balcony doesn’t provide this kind of space.

4. Convenience

A cabin or room with a true balcony is more convenient to stay in when on a river cruise, as you don’t need to dress up and spend time outside your room if you want to sightsee. You can do this from your own balcony.

You can do these activities with a French balcony, too. However, you have to do it inside your room. You also won’t have enough space to maneuver and watch from different vantage points. 

Pros and Cons of a French Balcony

For more information, here are the pros and cons of French balconies on a river cruise ship:


  • Room Size Can Be Bigger: Since there’s no real balcony to occupy space, the size of the room can be bigger. Generally, the room measures 168 square feet to 232 square feet and can be bigger from 261 to 500 square feet. For 1,000+ square feet rooms, you can avail of these rooms with premium plus payments. A number of cruise ships provide staterooms that measure 200 square feet and an additional 11 feet for a French balcony.
  • Provides Real, Fresh Air: Even though the balcony is a quasi-balcony, it can still provide real air coming from the river and from Mother Nature and the environment. Surely, you would prefer this set-up than a porthole or a room without windows and natural ventilation.
  • Better for Photo Ops: When it comes to photo ops, a room with a French balcony is better than one without a balcony at all. But, a room with a true balcony is the best with photo ops because of its extended decking area. If photography is one of your main purposes for cruising, going to the top deck remains to be the best choice for you.
  • Better View: It provides a better view than those without French balconies. However, a room with a real balcony can offer a good view when on a river cruise ship. At least, you can admire the view from one side of the ship. Again, for the best view, the top deck can provide you a panoramic view of the area.


  • Cannot Provide Full Convenience of a True Balcony: Take note that French balconies are more decorative add-ons than functional. You can’t truly enjoy the perks and conveniences of being in a real balcony, such as sitting outside of your room, relishing the sunlight early in the morning, breathing fresh air, and having a complete view of one side of the river.
  • Can Be Pricey: You will have to pay more for rooms that have a French balcony than those without it. So, if you’re cruising on a budget, you can always scrap the French balcony and do away with it. People with a tight budget consider cabins with French balconies as extravagant spending.

Still, a real balcony is even more expensive. So between the two, a cabin with a French balcony would be a better option because it is cheaper than a full balcony.

Valuable Tips When Choosing a French Balcony on a River Cruise Ship

french balcony on a river cruise ship

Know what comes with the room when booking for your river cruise. If you want a French balcony, consider these significant tips:

1. A French Balcony Is Not a “Must”

If you can afford it, you can avail of a French balcony. However, in river cruises, the ship must conform to standard ship size and specifications as to width and length, so having a French balcony may not be practical. The reason is that you can always go out of your room for some air, sunshine, or views of the riverbank and waters.

Remember that the river is not as spacious as the sea. There are narrow portions of the river that the cruise ship has to pass through. Thus, the sizes of the rooms in the ship have certain restrictions.

Sometimes, the extra cost of a French balcony is exorbitant that you would have rather booked a room with a real full step-out balcony for the perks it provides. These balconies are true balconies that you can stand on and sit on. 

2. Some River Cruise Ships Provide a Small Sitting Area in French Balconies

With the expansion and modernization of river cruise ships, some ships feature a small sitting space right in front of the French balconies. However, this area is not as spacious as the regular balcony.

In addition, a number of river cruise ships offer a stateroom with a Panorama French Balcony, which can provide floor-to-ceiling windows that you can open to let fresh air in. There are also Full Open-Air French Balconies with windows that span the entire width of the room. Understandably, these rooms are more costly than your usual French balcony.

So, you may want to inquire what type of French balcony the ship offers before booking your room, as there can be a few variations.

3. You Can Have Both French Balcony and a Veranda

If you want to splurge on your trip, you can choose a stateroom/cabin with both a French balcony and a veranda. This set-up is ideal for people who want to stay inside their rooms while watching the beautiful views. Plus, they have the option to go outside to bask in the sunlight every now and then. This set-up is called the twin-balcony theme.

No one forbids you to have both. It’s your preferences that matter most when you’re on a river cruise, so make the most out of it.

4. Book a Year in Advance to Get Your Preferred Stateroom

When you book a year in advance, most companies customarily offer discounted rates and huge promos. You can also have the luxury of choosing your most preferred stateroom due to the fact that most rooms would still be free for reservations. 

5. Choose Upper Rooms with French Balconies 

The top deck is the best place to view both riverbanks and a 360-degree angle of the panorama around the cruise ship. Hence, select rooms close to the upper deck to maximize your sightseeing and photo ops.

Keep in mind, though, that the wind may be stronger on the upper decks, so you may not be able to open your French balcony as often as you want. Be aware of the weather conditions before reserving your cabin in the upper decks.

Typically, staterooms have French balconies because of the smaller sizes of river cruise ships compared to cruise ships designated for the sea. They have smaller sizes as the ships can’t be as tall and wide as the latter due to the river bridges’ height and narrow river locks.

French balconies need less space than a real balcony, which is advantageous for a river cruise ship. Therefore, they are preferred by ship companies, as they can accommodate more passengers inside the ship.

Things to Remember When Choosing Rooms on a River Cruise Ship

river cruise ship french balcony

1. Do Your Own Research

Do your own research prior to choosing your room. Read the company brochure of your prospective cruise ship. Ask questions if there are ambiguous statements and browse the reviews of certified travelers. The reviews must be at least four stars and above by more than 50 people or more.

Word-by-mouth is a good source of information, but only when it comes from a person you trust. Make sure that you know the pros and cons of the room you want to book.

2. Most Standard Staterooms Feature Windows that Cannot Be Opened

You may want to book these staterooms if you intend to go on the top deck to capture your photographs and catch a panoramic view of the riverbank. These staterooms are usually located at the lowest decks of the river cruise ship.

3. You Can Use Two Full Balconies

If a French balcony is not to your liking, utilize two full balconies instead. Normally, a full balcony provides a small table and two chairs, which would be perfect if you have company. Your group can take turns using the balconies, while others can rest inside the cozy room.

4. French Balconies Can Be an Advantage

To many people, a French balcony can be an added advantage. Those who are not used to rivers can experience the natural environment without spending a fortune for a full balcony.

Inexperienced travelers may not be able to optimize a full balcony because of motion sickness or the inability to stay long outdoors while being exposed to the gust of strong winds, searing rays of the sun, and the spray of water. Thus, a French balcony is good for them, as they can close the windows or doors any time they want to.

Conclusion – What Is a French Balcony on a River Cruise Ship?

We have answered the question: “What is a French balcony on a river cruise ship?” and you have learned that it’s a false balcony. However, you may prefer this one over a full balcony, as it’s cheaper and could still provide the minimum features you want from your river cruise, such as access to the scenery around you, fresh air, and morning sunlight.

So, do you need a French Balcony on a river cruise? If you can afford it, then yes, you may opt for a French balcony or a full balcony for your cruise. If you can’t, then you can always go out of your cabin and appreciate the view from the ship’s top deck.

Furthermore, be ready for tour stops, as you won’t stay cruising in the river all of the time. There are scheduled stops along the way, so consider this factor when choosing your cabin.

Whatever option you choose in the end, you should keep in mind what a French balcony truly is. This way, you won’t end up disappointed and unhappy.

Have fun on your river cruise! 

Related reading:

What Is a Veranda on a Cruise Ship?