Are you planning a cruise, but your vacation budget isn’t exactly huge? An interior cabin can be a great way to save money. Some cruisers love inside cabins, but others despise them. How can you know if an inside stateroom is right for you, if you haven’t tried one before?
I’ve cruised in many types of stateroom, from insides to mini-suites, and I don’t mind inside cabins at all. Actually, I really like them. But some people can’t stand interior staterooms! I’ve talked to a lot of other cruisers to find out what types of people should book an inside cabin (and who should not).
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What is an interior cabin on a cruise?
Interior, or inside staterooms are cabins without a view to the outside of the ship. A basic interior cabin is usually the smallest and least expensive stateroom category that you can book.
Some cruise ships have larger interior cabins, such as a family inside cabin, that will comfortably sleep more people.
Inside cabins are located in the center of the ship, away from the ship’s exterior walls. Interior cabins on most cruise ships will range from about 150 to 185 square feet of space.
Many interior cabins will have two single beds or one double (the steward pushes the twin beds together to make one bed). There’s often just enough room to walk around the bed area, and not very much “living” space.
Some insides can sleep more than two people, with pull-down beds that your steward will set up each night.
Inside staterooms usually feature two nightstands, a desk and chair, a closet, and a small bathroom.
Be sure to look at the floor plan and capacity of your stateroom on the cruise line’s website before booking. These can vary even between different ships of the same line.
Tip: Some cruise lines now offer virtual balconies on select ships, like Royal Caribbean, or virtual portholes on some Disney ships. Your inside cabin might feel a little more connected to the outside with this technology.
Who should book an interior cabin?
Inside staterooms aren’t for everybody. However, if a few of these things sound like you, you might want to book an inside stateroom:
You’re sensitive to light when you’re trying to sleep
I’m super-sensitive to light when I’m sleeping. At home, I wake up the second the sun comes up, or if someone turns on a light in the hallway. An inside cabin is DARK. Like seriously dark. I mean, you can turn on the lights, but when they’re switched off, it’s pitch black no matter what time it is.
This is great if you’re a night owl and you want to sleep in, or if you’re planning on napping during the day. Just be sure to pick a stateroom in a quiet location. Your travel agent can help with this, or look at the ship’s deck maps and choose a cabin that has other rooms (not restaurants, bars, or the theater) above and below you, as well as next door. Cruise cabin walls, floors, and ceilings are not very soundproof, so location is crucial to have a quieter experience.
If you’re cruising to an area with “midnight sun” during the summer, such as Scandinavia or Alaska, an inside cabin may be a good idea if you’re light-sensitive.
To prevent yourself from smashing into the edge of the desk or tripping over shoes in the middle of the night, consider packing a nightlight. I like this portable nightlight with a motion-sensor setting.
(Read my recommendations for the best cruise accessories to pack for simple ways to make your cruise experience even more amazing.)
You won’t spend much time in your stateroom
If your cruise is port-intensive, you probably won’t spend much time in your room. Even on a cruise with lots of sea days, you’ll find yourself exploring the ship and its many activities and dining options.
Some newer ships are packed with active attractions like waterslides and go-karts, but older ships and cruise lines that cater to a more mature demographic still have plenty of activities that you won’t want to miss.
From enrichment lectures and production shows, dance lessons and trivia games, to lively casinos and bars, there’s always something for everyone going on on a cruise ship.
Tip: If you have an inside stateroom, turn on the bridge cam on your television in the morning to see what the outside conditions look like when you’re getting ready for the day.
You’re prone to motion sickness / seasickness
If you tend to suffer from motion sickness or get seasick, an inside cabin, midship, on a lower deck is the most stable place to be. You won’t feel the rocking of the ship as much if your room is located in this area.
Cruise ships can rock side-to-side and front-to-back, and being at the center point (inside, midship) of either of these axes will make it feel like less movement is going on. Imagine sitting on a long see-saw. The closer you sit to the axis at the center, the less motion you feel when the see-saw is moving, right?
The same idea applies when you’re on a lower deck. The higher you are on the ship, the more motion you’ll feel.
Most of the time, you probably won’t feel much motion on a cruise. Modern cruise ships have stabilizers that reduce a lot of the rocking that you’d feel on a smaller ship. The Captain will also try to avoid serious storms that could cause the ship to rock or pitch. But weather can be unpredictable, and occasionally you will find yourself cruising through rough seas.
Check the deck maps on your cruise line’s website to make sure your cabin is in the right location before you book. Or, just mention this preference to your travel agent when you’re booking, and they should be able to find you a cabin in the right spot.
You’re not planning on ordering room service often
If you know you want to treat yourself to room service often during your cruise (and why not? It’s often free, especially for breakfast!), an inside stateroom may not be the best cabin for you.
The typical inside stateroom doesn’t have a table to eat at, or more than one chair. You’ll be forced to put the service tray on a shelf and eat at the desk, or on the bed, or standing up.
Wondering how room service and dining in general works on a cruise? I explain it all in What New Cruisers Don’t Know About Cruise Food & Drinks.
You’ve cruised with the same cruise line several times before
Most cruise lines have a loyalty program that rewards repeat passengers with some pretty nice perks. Think free laundry service, priority embarkation, or a free mini-bar setup.
When you book an inside stateroom, you’ll accrue loyalty points just as quickly as other stateroom categories (except full suites – they often get extra loyalty credit).
Plus, you’ll get your benefits on each cruise when you’ve reached that loyalty tier, whether you’re sailing in an inside stateroom or a full suite.
You don’t require lots of space
The average inside stateroom is the smallest category of room (except for solo cabins, which are a rarity in the cruise world).
As long as you’re a light packer, you’ll find the closet and shelving in an inside cabin to be more than adequate to fit all of your stuff, even for two or three people.
If you don’t mind just having the bare minimum of floor space, and not many places to sit other than on the bed, an inside stateroom may be all you need.
Not all inside staterooms are teeny-tiny, though. Some cruise lines have various categories of inside staterooms that are quite spacious in comparison.
Tip: unpack as soon as your suitcases arrive in your room and stow the empty cases under the bed. Ask your steward for more hangers if you need them. This will make your small space feel a bit roomier.
You’re a solo traveler
If you’re planning to travel on your own, be aware that cruise lines’ advertised prices are usually based on double-occupancy. Solo cruisers need to pay a single supplement to stay in a double room, which is usually charged at 100%.
A few cruise lines (notably Norwegian) offer a limited amount of solo studio staterooms, which are smaller than the average inside cabin. These don’t come with a solo surcharge, but they are VERY small.
If the cruise ship you want to sail on doesn’t have solo cabins, an interior cabin will be your cheapest option. The room may even feel more spacious if you remember that usually two or more people share them.
You want to save lots of money!
Interior cabins are a budget-friendly way to cruise. Balcony cabins on the same sailing may cost two or even three times more than an inside stateroom.
Although a larger stateroom would be nice, remember you’re on the same ship, traveling to the same ports. You’ll have access to the same free activities and dining venues as passengers with a balcony cabin. You’ll also have the same level of service from your room steward that they will.
Save hundreds of dollars (or more), and keep that money in your bank account! Or, use your savings for shore excursions, specialty dining, spa treatments, or more cruises!
Who shouldn’t book an inside stateroom?
If a few of these things sound like you, an inside cabin may not be the best choice for you.
You don’t like small spaces
Does the “tiny house” trend make you cringe? Would you never travel in an RV or camper, even if it was a fancy one?
If small spaces just aren’t your thing, you may prefer booking a balcony stateroom or higher. If you don’t mind paying the premium, balconies and mini-suites will offer more floor space and seating areas. Many are furnished with a sofa or love seat, coffee table, and an armchair or two.
A balcony will make the extended area even more spacious, as well as give you a private space to relax and enjoy the ocean breezes and views.
You’re cruising in an area known for its amazing views
Although you can always get a great view of the beautiful place that you’re cruising to by leaving your cabin and gazing out from one of the public decks, there are some cruise itineraries where you might just want to upgrade to an oceanview or balcony so you can enjoy the scenery, even in your PJs.
You’re looking to splurge
Maybe money is no object for you, or you only have time to take one vacation a year and you want to make the most of it.
If this is the case, you might not be happy with an inside cabin. A balcony, mini-suite, or full suite that fits your vacation budget will add a bit of luxury to your trip, and will give you more space to relax in the privacy of your own stateroom.
You want to spend a lot of time alone
If you’re an introvert, you likely need time by yourself to recharge. Or maybe you want to just get away from people and relax. Although you can find plenty of quieter places on board like the library or an empty lounge during the day, these spaces are public.
It can feel a little claustrophobic to spend hours in a small room with no windows while you read, journal, or watch movies! If this sounds like you, a larger stateroom with a sofa and/or a balcony might be a better fit.
Tip: Let your steward know if you’ll regularly be spending a lot of time in your room during the day. It will help him plan when to clean your room, and he’ll be less likely to worry that you’re ill and check on you.
It’s your honeymoon or a special anniversary
If you’re cruising with your partner for a very special occasion, like your honeymoon or anniversary, you may want to spend more time together in your stateroom. A cramped inside cabin isn’t very romantic. A balcony room (or a higher category) might be a better choice.
You’ll have more space to enjoy leisurely room service brunches. Relax on your balcony together and watch the sunset. You might even think about booking a romantic balcony dinner to make your special trip even better!
You’re traveling with a group in one room
Yes, many inside staterooms are advertised to sleep four (or more!), but it’s really not the ideal situation. Remember that all of you will be sharing one very small bathroom, as well as one small closet.
Sleeping arrangements can also be tricky. Most interior cabins have just the two standard twin beds that can be pushed together.
To accommodate any other passengers staying in the same stateroom, there will be pull-down beds that are right over the regular beds. If you don’t like the idea of sleeping directly above or below another person, more than two adults in an average-sized inside stateroom is probably not a good choice for you.
We recently cruised in an inside cabin, and our neighboring room was occupied by a family of four: two parents and two daughters in their early twenties. The first few days, they all looked happy, relaxed and excited for the cruise.
By about day four, they were screaming at each other constantly. Let me tell you, I could hear every word they were saying through the adjoining wall, and most of their arguing was related to being squashed into a tiny room together.
What do you think about interior cabins? Would you consider booking one for your next cruise? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know in the comments below.
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