Is it worth spending extra on a nicer cruise cabin? Many people planning a cruise have to debate if it's worth it to book an inside cabin or a balcony cabin. The choice isn't always simple.
If you're on a tight budget, an inside cabin is certainly a good choice. These cabins come in at the lowest price, but still include access to the same amenities around the cruise ship as someone in a balcony cabin. However, will a room without any natural light or views be satisfactory?
Balcony cabins are probably the most popular type of cruise ship cabin because they offer more living space than interior rooms, and have a private veranda that guests can use all day and night. In many cases, these rooms are affordable for most budgets and not nearly as expensive as a suite. But you'll still spend considerably more for a balcony than an inside room, so is spending extra worth it?
If you're considering which type of accommodation to book, here's what you need to know to make the choice between a more expensive balcony cabin and a windowless inside room.
What are the differences between an inside and balcony cabin?
A balcony room will be larger, and that means more living space both inside the room and on the balcony itself.
In addition, a balcony room will have natural light, whereas inside rooms have no windows or doors to an outside view. Moreover, there's no fresh air in an inside cabin. The only illumination in an inside room is from the lights.
Most inside and balcony categories are designed for double occupancy, although you can find some variations that can accommodate up to four passengers. You'll find in either room two twin beds that can convert into one king size bed, a vanity area with mirror and chair, and a private bathroom. There's usually a sofa or love seat as well in the room. Rooms that can sleep more than two will likely have pullman beds that drop down from the wall or ceiling.
You can also expect to find a television, closet, minifridge, safe, and hair dryer in both rooms.
It should come as no surprise that interior staterooms are usually cheaper than balcony staterooms. The added room size, balcony and view of a balcony come with a higher cost. The thing is, how much more expensive can vary.
The price gap between an interior stateroom and a balcony will vary from ship to ship and sailing to sailing. Sometimes it is measured in the thousands of dollars, and other times it is just a few hundred (or less).
When considering the price difference, one should look at the nightly price and what that gets you. Nearly everyone that books a Royal Caribbean cruise is on some sort of budget, so even if they want to book a balcony stateroom, it may not be financially viable. It is important to at least consider the options because there are many scenarios in which the difference in price is quite low.
Often inside staterooms are the least expensive option, which means guests can spend less money on their cruise vacation or have more money to spend during the cruise on things like drinks, shore excursions, specialty restaurants or anything else for sale.
The difference in price will depend on factors like itinerary (balconies on Alaska itineraries are more expensive than Caribbean itineraries), time of year (peak vs low season) and ship class (newer ships have more balconies, so more supply).
Balcony staterooms are significantly larger than interior staterooms. As an example, on Allure of the Seas a standard interior stateroom offers 150-172 square feet of space, whereas a Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony comes in at 182 square feet, plus a 53 square foot balcony.
Room size is hard to quantify in a blog post, but every extra foot you have of living space does make a difference and it becomes noticeable quickly. It all adds up to more room for everyone to maneuver in and makes the entire experience less crowded.
Beyond the size difference, balcony staterooms have natural light, which makes the room feel less dark and gloomy. You also get fantastic views of the ocean and ports you are visiting.
Even the most ardent interior stateroom fan will be hard-pressed to debate the virtues of an interior stateroom over a balcony. Personally, I think the best part of an interior room is the fact it can get pitch dark, which makes for excellent sleeping conditions.
Is it important to book a balcony on certain sailings?
While it's always nice to have a balcony cabin on any sailing, certain itineraries might lend themselves more to a balcony.
On a shorter cruise, an inside cabin is more than satisfactory given how limited your time onboard is and how likely it is you'll spend more time on the pool deck or around the ship enjoying everything there is to do. On these cruises, people end up just using their room for sleeping and changing clothes.
In fact, if you're the type of person that spends most of their time on a cruise out and about, not having access to your own veranda probably won't matter since you won't be in the room that much. Plus, there's plenty of places on public decks to take in the views, sunsets, and ocean breeze. The extra money you would have spent on a balcony could be reallocated towards a drink package or specialty restaurant.
However, if you're going to take a longer cruise with more sea days (and think you might spend time in your cabin during the cruise), then you'll want the view and extra space that comes with a balcony room. On Alaska or Mediterranean itineraries, it's great to be able to take in the scenic views without having to run upstairs to the pool deck.
In fact, cruises that take you on more scenic journeys where you can see glaciers or fjords are when spending extra for a balcony cabin is more important.
Having your own balcony is really nice when you can sit in a chair and read a book, have your room service delivered to the veranda, or enjoying sail away.
Should the amount of people in your cabin determine which cabin I choose?
The more people you are sailing with, having enough space makes a difference in the room you book.
Both types of room are large enough to fit everyone, but on a longer sailing, being in an inside room could be more problematic. On short cruises, there's more than enough space for two people in an inside room considering how busy you'll be around the ship and on shore. On a longer cruise, a balcony could be more useful to have time away from the public decks.
Sharing a standard inside cabin for families can be an issue because of how small those rooms will feel. You may determine that a larger room that costs extra is worthwhile considering you'll also get additional beds and more space.
If you're cruising with kids, the extra space from a balcony room really pays off. It's great to have the outdoor balcony as a place to go to while kids are inside.
For someone cruising solo, the decision between a balcony or inside cabin comes down to cost. You'll pay double due to the single supplement fee regardless of which room you book (although some ships have cabins designed for solo cruisers). Depending on your budget, the extra cost could dictate which option you can afford.
Advantages of an inside cabin vs. a balcony cabin
People that prefer inside cabins usually talk about how much better the sleep can be in an inside cabin.
Sleeping in a pitch-black room of an interior stateroom means you won't be woken up by the sun. Many of us go on vacation to catch up on sleep and the notion of "quality of sleep" really means something when you avoid getting woken up by natural light entering the room. This is a good reminder to bring an alarm clock with you because you won't know what time it is when waking up.
Something else to think about is if you are prone to motion sickness. If the seas start getting rough, having access to fresh air and being able to see the horizon can help substantially in feeling better. While you could go up to a public deck and get the same thing, many people prefer the comfort of being in their own bed (especially if you want to sleep off the feeling a bit). In this case, spending extra on a balcony cabin may be worthwhile.
What are the best inside cabins?
In addition to the run-of-the-mill inside cabins that make up most of the cabins on a Royal Caribbean ship, here are a few variations worth considering.
A fun inside room upgrade is a virtual balcony room, which is an inside stateroom with a 80-inch LED television that provides live high-definition views from outside the cruise ship, right into your stateroom.
On Icon of the Seas, there is a new type of interior cabin you might be interested in.
The Interior Plus room is an inside room that doesn't compromise on space. It comes with 157 square feet of space, and that includes much more storage space.
What are the best balcony cabins?
Because balcony cabins are so popular, Royal Caribbean has quite a few balcony choices beyond a standard oceanview balcony.
There are balcony staterooms that do not face the ocean, but instead offer views of the Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods. These balcony staterooms have the same balcony experience of ocean-facing balconies, but often at a discounted price and perfect for people watching.
Another "secret" balcony choice among people that cruise a lot are the aft balconies.
Located on the back of the ship, these rooms lack the cookie-cutter design most balcony cabins have and tend to be elongated or oddly shaped, providing extra-large verandas. Aft balcony cabins are a great choice when you want more space inside and out.
Another option if you want a larger balcony space is a hump balcony, which is a fan-generated term for balcony rooms located on the ship's outward bulges. Cabins located where the ship begins to jut out often have extra-large balconies to accommodate the curve or angle of the ship’s superstructure. To find these balcony rooms, look at the deck plans and you’ll see where these special balcony cabins are located.
Depending on how you vacation, the choice of cabin may not matter much. Those that prioritize being out and about to enjoy their trip may prefer to save money on cruise ship extras rather than use that money for a nicer cabin. In that case, an inside cabin may be the way to go.
However, if you prefer to have the views that only a private balcony can provide (along with the seclusion), booking a balcony cabin will be a better choice.
In addition, if you have more than two people in your group, a balcony would be a better choice for the additional space it provides. A balcony will cost more, but if you're flexible with your travel dates and where you sail, there are deals to be found on balcony cabins that will be less expensive.
Planning a cruise? Start here:
- 8 cruise tips for first-time Royal Caribbean cruisers
- What’s included in your Royal Caribbean cruise fare
- 5 quick and easy tips for finding a great shore excursion on your own
- Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise
- Which is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship?
- What is the best time to go on a Caribbean cruise?