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Inside Cabin or Outside Cabin on a Cruise Ship?

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Should you choose an inside cabin or an outside cabin on a cruise ship? I should say stateroom, they call the cabins that. The decision ultimately comes down to personal priorities and how much you’d like to pay for your cruise. These are our feelings about making the choice between booking an inside or outside cabin on your cruise ship.

choose an inside or outside cabin on a cruise
Should you choose an inside or outside cabin on your cruise. Inside cabins are normally cheaper, but should you really pay the extra for a balcony stateroom? Do you need to?

Both of our cruises mentioned here were with Norwegian Cruise lines. Our inside stateroom was on Norwegian Getaway, our outside stateroom was on Norwegian Epic.

Both cruises were Atlantic crossings, 11 and 12 days at sea. Be aware that floor plans vary between ships, the cruise line’s own website should have floor plans and maps of stateroom layout.

Inside Cabin or Outside Cabin?

Outside cabins or staterooms are normally a little, or significantly, more expensive that inside cabins on a cruise ship. But do you need to pay the extra?

These are our experiences or cruising in an inside cabin, with return trip in an outside cabin on the same cruise line. The costs of both staterooms were fairly similiar.

Cruising like this as part of a gap year or long term nomadic travel, throws us into the flashpacker league but our first cruise was so much fun that we booked a return cruise from the US to Europe to continue our travels. There are our findings.

What’s the difference between an inside and outside cabin on a cruise ship?

An inside cabin will have no windows. An outside cabin on an upper deck will have a balcony, an inside cabin on a lower deck may have a window or porthole. Outside cabins are generally more expensive than inside cabins and are sold as more luxury, whereas inside cabins are budget staterooms or cabins.

These are our findings after cruising in an inside cabin, an outside cabin with balcony, and an outside cabin with a window.

Cruising with an Inside Cabin or Stateroom

I would probably have worried about taking an inside cabin, fearing claustrophobia and stuffiness, had I not had an excellent experience with a windowless room in a hostel in Malaysia.

cruise ship inside cabin
An inside cabin on a cruise ship, with no window. This was a family room for 2 adults, 2 children. There’s not a lot of space, but outside cabins with balconies aren’t much bigger. We also found that we didn’t use the balcony.

We found we slept particularly well there, so we were happy to take the inside cabin as it was a more affordable choice on our first cruise on Norwegian Getaway.

Cruising With an Outside Cabin with Balcony

outside balcony stateroom on a cruise ship
This is an outside cabin with balcony, as you can see, there’s not that much more space. Is the extra cost of a balcony cabin worth it? Will you even use the balcony?

On our 2nd cruise, on Norwegian Epic, an outside cabin cost us hardly any extra, a few dollars/night.

We took the special offer to see what cruising with a balcony room was like.

Outside Cabin with Window on a Cruise Ship

cruise ship cabin with window
This cruise ship cabin (on a different cruise line) was lower in the sip and so had a window or porthole. What are the pros and cons of this? See below.

We have also cruised for several weeks in an outside cabin with a window or porthole. This let in some natural light but no fresh air. It gave us a good view of the flying fish, but otherwise there are no real advantages to taking a cabin or stateroom with a window.

Rooms lower in the ship are maybe more stable and maybe a little more noisy.

outside window cabin made up with bunks for family cruise ship
Your crew will set up bunks for you while you’re at dinner, which is very helpful. Having to do all this yourself in such a cramped space wouldn’t be fun! This is the same outside cabin with porthole or window.

As you can see, none of the cabins we’ve tried so far are particularly luxurious and all of them are cramped.

Pros and Cons of Inside and Outside Cabins

view of madeira from our balcony stateroom norwegian cruise
When our Norwegian cruise berthed in Madeira, this was our view. Outside cabins on the other side of the ship would have had a view out to sea. A lot of ports are industrial and not nice to look at, so the view isn’t a massive consideration. You can get the same view on deck. As soon as the ship berths most passengers disembark to explore the destination.

Our feeling is that either inside or outside cabins are absolutely fine. We preferred the layout of the inside cabin, we had a reasonably large bathroom in that one, larger than in our balcony stateroom.

The outside cabin on Norwegian Epic gave us a toilet cubicle and shower cubical on either side of the corridor door. Both cubicles had translucent frosted glass doors. A curtain could be pulled across the corridor end of the cabin for extra privacy. The hand basin was actually in the cabin at the foot of the bed.

The inside cabin’s bathroom was much nicer, we thought.

The outside cabin had a more luxurious look and feel but was really no larger than the inside cabin.

Your steward will put up and take down bunks every day. They make up beds, clean and change your towels.

Both cabins had the same service and in both cases the service was great, convenient and smooth.

The bunks never got in the way, they were gone in the early morning and reappeared by magic, at bedtime.

There was no difference to us in terms of ship movement and noise. Our cabins were on deck 11 and deck 12. The hum of the engine and of the air-con were noticeable, but not unpleasant.

Outside Cabin With a Window or Porthole

We’ve tried cruising this way too, it was nice to be able to let in some natural light and these cabins, being low down in the ship, give you a great view of the dolphins and flying fish.

There are no disadvantages to having your own porthole, I wouldn’t pay extra for it though.

This cruise was not with Norwegian and there weren’t the same superb facilities to keep us busy, so we did spend more time in our cabin.

Did We Need a Balcony Cabin to Enjoy a Cruise?

cruise ship cabins

To be honest, no, we didn’t feel that having a stateroom with a balcony was significantly better than booking the cheaper inside cabin.

The view was lovely, but we very rarely sat out on the balcony or spent time in our room.

Cruise ships are air-conditioned and each stateroom has temperature control, you really don’t want to leave the balcony doors open for fresh air, it gets hot or cold and windy out there.

You have a whole ship to explore, a million chairs to sit in, we never felt any need to sit on our own balcony rather than a public area. To be honest, we much preferred being in public areas.

We like a bit of life around us and all the free food, drinks, activities, facilities and entertainment are up on deck.

We actually spent hardly any time in our cabins on both cruises. There is loads to do on these amazing ships, why would you sit in your room?

Another issue for us was cigarette smoke, we could smell people smoking on nearby balconies and it would seep into our room if the doors were open.

The good news is, Carnival and Norwegian have recently banned smoking on state-room balconies.

So our call is, save your money and take an inside cabin if there is a big price difference. What do you think? Read more of our cruise posts here in our cruise section.

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Dorita Sewell

Thursday 30th of April 2020

I PREFER AND LOVE inside cabins because the dawn light doesn't wake me up. I never felt I didn't know if it was day or night, and I never felt claustrophobic. I felt cozy. In port and when people were working on the ship, nobody could look in. On ships, I do what I do at home except eat well. I read, watch movies on TV, exercycle, walk, and the great thing: have long, good dinners for much less per day than any other way. So I'm in my room a lot, and I still really liked my inside cabin. When I had a window, I got dawn in my face and a view of different sized waves.

I really appreciate this discussion--was thinking about trying a balcony for private fresh air but wind and 2nd-hand smoke don't sound so great. Maybe when the ship's not moving and everybody else is in port, they're good.

Renate Moore

Thursday 7th of January 2021

I've had inside and balcony cabins and enjoyed being in both but usually travelling alone with several thousand people it's not always easy to get a seat in lounges,so having the balcony allows me to sit alone for a while to read and have fresh air at night, I've never had a problem with cigarette smoke or noise

Alyson for World Travel Family

Thursday 30th of April 2020

Your insight is much appreciated Dorita.

Judy Hollis

Saturday 29th of February 2020

I traveled with my nephew who was in a Wheelchair we found PO Cruises were great they looked after you.Will cruise with them again.

Robert John

Tuesday 3rd of December 2019

A cruise ship is worth a tour. The inside cabin in subsequently better than outside cabin. But wait i prefer that. Some people stays outside cabin.


Thursday 8th of March 2018

yes.I agree staterooms are less compared to other rooms.


Monday 3rd of October 2016

My husband and I have done several cruises and have had inside, outside and balcony rooms . I actually prefer the inside as we hardly ever looked out the window in the outside room . We like to be out and about the ship and never really used the balcony , so we will book inside from now on and use the money we save for other things . We only use the room for showering and sleeping .


Wednesday 5th of October 2016

Same here Kathleen. But taking that one feet up on the balcony shot with a cocktail...worth hundreds of dollars?

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