Pros and Cons of Different Cabins on a Cruise Ship

Once upon a time cruise ships resembled jigsaw puzzles.  Cabin sizes varied considerably.  When you booked a certain ship, having a travel agent who knew the ship well was a great advantage.  Today, cabins onboard are similar to Lego blocks.  They are very standardized, reducing the likelihood of getting a bad cabin.  Having a good travel agent is still a major benefit.

Let us start by excluding suites.  These are a category unto themselves and priced accordingly.  Some are like Lego blocks only larger while others are custom builds.  Let us focus on three basic cabin configurations.

  1. Inside cabins. These represent what my wife and I consider the “buy on” rate for the ship.  If you pay the minimum, you tend to get the most basic of cabins.  Inside cabins are in the minority on most cruise ships, but they are distributed across most decks.


  • This price point gets you onboard the ship.
  • Your location is towards the center of the vessel. If you are also midships and on a lower deck, this can minimize the motion of the ocean.
  • You get the same benefits and activities of the ship as other passengers, but at a lower price.


  • These Lego blocks might be slightly smaller. They might not have a sofa like other cabins.
  • There is no view of the outside world. You need to turn on your TV to get the bow camera view to see the sun, unless you dress and leave your cabin.
  1. Outside cabins. These are cabins without balconies yet featuring a window looking onto the ocean.  They should be high enough that waves will not be crashing against your window.  In the old days, ships had portholes.  Today you get a big picture window.  It is solid and does not open.


  • The cabin is often the size of a balcony cabin, minus the square footage the balcony space adds.
  • You get lots of sunlight. Your steward will close the curtain at nighttime.


  • The cost is often a big step up from an inside cabin, yet not far below the cost of a balcony cabin.
  1. Balcony cabins. This will be the majority of the cabins aboard your ship.  It’s what passengers want.  You usually have an outdoor space with a couple of chairs and a small table.  An enormously heavy glass door shields you from the elements.  That section might be all glass.  The metal partition separating you from the next cabin’s balcony often has a section that is hinged and locked.  This enables the crew to clean the glass doors between cruises.  It also allows families traveling in adjacent cabins to combine their balcony space.


  • The balcony adds addition square footage to your living space.
  • You can get fresh air anytime you want.
  • You get lots of light.


  • Generally speaking, you do not use your balcony as much as you might imagine. There are too many other activities onboard competing for your attention.
  • On some ships, you might have a “sheltered balcony” where your outdoor space is actually inside the hull, whereas balcony cabins on higher decks have waist height glass panels with railings.

Other Thoughts

A good travel agent adds value in many ways.  Although Lego blocks might describe most cabins, a few in certain locations might be custom built and have more outside balcony space than other cabins.  There are categories within categories.  Some inside cabins might be on deck four.  Others are on deck twelve.  Some cabins might be located near elevators, adding a noise element.  A good travel agent can tell you when it’s practical to spend a little more to get a much better location.

Ed. Note: CruiseCompete and its member travel advisors provide many curated cruise deals, offers and amenities on over 50 cruise lines with over 500 cruise ships sailing all around the world. Browse Cruise Ships and Cruise Lines.

Cover photo: Queen Victoria stateroom, credit Bryce Sanders

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