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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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

26 thoughts on “Inside Cabin or Outside Cabin on a Cruise Ship?”

  1. 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.

    • 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 .

  5. Can the air con be adjusted in an inside cabin. I have dry eye. And the air makes them worse.

  6. You know it really just depends on what you want. A small space to shower, change, and sleep or a place to do that plus a small personal place to just relax.

    I personally can’t stand being locked away in an interior room. To not have a window just makes it feel claustrophobic and like a broom closet…. but the argument that “you really don’t spend any time besides sleeping in your room” does hold up for some people and if that’s what you like perfect 🙂

    I prefer having a balcony or if a balcony is not available on the ship an outside window. I like being able to watch the sea go by in peace by myself. I do enjoy hanging out on deck but sometimes its nice to enjoy the view without drunk people stumbling around or kids running by screaming. Most balconies are actually wind protected so it will be breezy but unless you are sailing through a storm it’s not windy, which makes it a great space to just kick back and relax.

    I think a lot of it depends on the cruise line you book on as well. Carnivals rooms are much larger than what you would initially expect for the price, meanwhile other cruise line cabins are smaller than what you would imagine for what you are paying. All it takes is a little research to find the right size room and price for your vacation 🙂

  7. Ooh great timing! We’ve just booked a bargain Mediterranean cruise with MSC in October. We got the second person free and it was only $200AUD more for the balcony so we took it. It’s our first ‘big’ cruise – we’ve done a 4 day Island Cruise in Fiji but never a big ship cruise. I’m so excited! I think with a toddler we’ll use the balcony to sit and relax when he sleeps but when he’s older we’ll probably book the Inside cabin cause the price difference is huge and you still get all the same benefits!

  8. I’ll disagree about the Balcony. If you have small children who go to bed early, the Balcony is wonderful. You can put the kids to bed and sit outside and still have some privacy and not be stuck in the dark with sleeping children. It’s the perfect place to have a drink and relax while young children are sleeping.
    FYI, Disney and RCL don’t allow smoking on balconies anymore either.

      • It wasn’t that windy. Lots of the balconies can be a bit sheltered. It was always plesant and I enjoyed my wine!

    • Just because they don’t allow it doesn’t mean they won’t do it!!!As far as privacy on balcony unless you have quiet neighbors you won’t always get peace and relaxation on your balcony!My first two cabins were balcony,never again!I paid for something I couldn’t enjoy using!

  9. I have taken three cruises and stayed in an inside, outside and balcony cabins on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I did not enjoy having an inside cabin (first time) and have been happy to pay more to upgrade since. I always felt tired and that I didn’t wake up properly. I didn’t enjoy my cruise as much because of this.

    We had a free upgrade to the balcony cabin the second time. I wished we hadn’t. We absolutely loved it. I would not pay the extra money for it, but it was great.

    I was surprised to see how small both your cabins looked. I guess I expected Carnival to be smaller since they are generally cheapest. I think we would have struggled a bit in those cabins since we set up our travel cot for our youngest on the ground. Nap time would have been difficult.

  10. All our past cruising (including 24 nights Sydney to Beijing) has been in 2 adjoining (but not interconnected) interior cabins. My only complaint is that when you awaken during the night (or day?) you can’t tell if it’s night or day.

    They are great for snuggling up in and watching the latest movies enjoying room service!

    Having said that, I am looking forward to our next cruise with a (bargain) balcony cabin. I will definitely pop back here and let you know what I think. Besides, I sell at least a cruise a week – I think I definitely need to do my research 🙂

    • You sure do Ingrid! We don’t spend any time in the room, we’re not into TV and the internet isn’t great, so we’re always out and about. Part of the fun of a cruise is turning night into day and vice versa, we watched a movie in the bar/Atrium at 2am with the kids last cruise, Atlantic crossings mess with your bodyclock bigtime!

  11. Our favourite is actually an outside with a window but no balcony. On one cruise we actually had a window seat where you could settle in and enjoy the views from the comfort of the room! Way better than a windy balcony. Our next cruise is our first with a balcony; we booked it because it was only a little more, so we’ll see how we like it. But I really don’t get the “I won’t cruise without a balcony” attitude. I’ll take whatever gets me on the boat!

  12. Thank you for this! We are taking a cruise with our kids soon and ended up booking 2 inside staterooms side by side . Wishing we were all in the same room, but to get a room for 5 the price jumped a lot! Thanks for all the tips!

    • We actually considered getting 2 x2 person rooms, it was slightly cheaper on one of our cruises. For us the inconvenience of having to split up wasn’t worth it. It was great that either of us could shoot off and bring back coffee, drinks or food and leave the kids sleeping.

      • Just got back and had 2 side by side inside rooms for our family of 5. We were hardly in them. (We went to Alaska.) my husband and older daughter were in one room and when he woke up early he headed out to get coffee and she knew that if she woke up she could just come next door. It worked out far better than I thought and I am so glad we did not pay the extra 1500 to upgrade to a family suite. After the cruise my husband and I decided that unless the price really was not any different, we will probably choose an indoor stateroom for our next cruisr. There were so many great places to sit and enjoy around the ship that we really never wanted to be in our room. This was on a Royal Caribbean and I think it was the best vacation I have ever taken. 🙂

  13. I agree. Husband & I did cruises with balconies for our honeymoon & 10th Anniversary. We sat on them and read and had tea in the afternoon/wine at night.

    Took the kids on a cruise last February and just got an inside cabin. The sizes of both were really about the same and with the kids they wanted to be out exploring the ship not stuck in the cabin. We really only slept there and got ready for dinner meals in it. It was a great size for the 4 of us — King bed on the bottom and 2 bunks on the top — kids LOVED it.


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