Ship sail

The cheapest cruise ship room is not worth it, what to get instead + photos

  • I am a frequent cruiser who has stayed in a variety of onboard accommodations.
  • The cheapest rooms have no view and are usually cramped, especially if shared by a family.
  • Splurging on an upgraded cabin on my last cruise was the best decision I made.

Automatically booking the cheapest room on a cruise ship without doing any research first can ruin a trip.

As someone who has been on cruises for over 10 years, I have learned that the price of this vacation can vary depending on a number of factors – from the cruise line to the length of the trip to the room category.

Staying in the most standard cabin seems like an obvious way to cut costs. But after trying three different room categories, with and without my kids, I found that the cheapest option on a ship was almost never worth it.

Based on my experience in three different cruise room categories, here are the ones I recommend skipping and the ones I recommend splurging on.

Inside cabins are limited in space and privacy

A cabin on a carnival cruise with a large bed and a window behind

I stayed in an inside cabin during my Carnival cruise trip.

Sarah Gilliland

The standard (and least expensive) room on any cruise ship is usually referred to as an inside or inside cabin.

These cabins can accommodate three to four people and are located amidships, with no outside view of the surroundings of the ship.

I have stayed in inside staterooms on a Carnival Cruise Line ship and a Disney Cruise Line ship. Aside from different decor styles and a few small touches, this room category is pretty standard across the board.

When I’m on a cruise, I like to wake up and open my curtains to look at the ocean or the harbor where the ship is docked, which is not possible in these closed cabins.

In addition to having no view, the interior cabins are very small. The exact square footage varies but, for reference, the Disney Fancy the interior cabin of the cruise ship is 169 square feet and the version of a Royal Caribbean ship is about the same size at 164 square feet.

To put these numbers into perspective, standard hotel rooms in the United States are, on average, approximately 330 square feetalmost double the size of entry-level cruise accommodation.

I want to be able to maneuver without tripping over luggage, accent furniture or my own family members. And because of the lack of space in the interior cabins, this is a challenge.

This category is definitely the most economical option, which makes it ideal for travelers on a budget.

However, while families, especially those traveling with teenagers, can choose an alternative, they should avoid cramming into an inside cabin and opt for a category with more space and privacy.

The inside cabin of the Disney Magic cruise ship with a bed and a sofa separated by a curtain

I stayed in the standard inside cabin on the Disney Magic cruise ship.

Sarah Gilliland

Ocean view cabins offer a bit more space but can still feel cramped

The next category is usually an ocean view cabin.

With a window facing the outside, Ocean View Staterooms are a solid mid-range option for travelers who want more space than an inside stateroom, but don’t want to spend more on a room. with balcony.

Their exact size and capacity vary from ship to ship, but Disney Fantasy Ocean View Staterooms are 204 square feetand Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas version is 179 square feet.

Many of these accommodations can accommodate up to five people. If you have more than four family members (yes, babies six months and older are part of the workforce), upgrading from an inside cabin to an ocean view cabin is definitely worth it.

Some cruise lines sell ocean view rooms as an entry-level category for families of five or more travelers, simply because many inside cabins can only accommodate a maximum of four people.

My top choice is the balcony cabins, which offer privacy and plenty of space

Balcony staterooms, also known as veranda staterooms, are generally the largest accommodation option you can get without concierge service or extras.

I recommend this category to all travelers embarking on the future for one reason: the private balcony.

balcony stateroom on celebrity cruise with sofa, bed and doors to balcony overlooking the water

The balcony cabin on a Celebrity cruise had a private veranda.

Sarah Gilliland

You can open your curtains and enjoy the view outside, like staying in an ocean view cabin. But in this type of room you can go out to a balcony and also enjoy the sounds and smells.

The size and capacity of the rooms depends on the ship, but the balcony cabins are usually larger than ocean view cabins and tend to sleep up to five people. Although the living areas of the bedrooms are not noticeably larger, they have the added space of the veranda.

Including the sun deck, Disney Fantasy balcony staterooms are 246 square feet and are between 214 square feet and 279 square feet on the Princess Cruises fleet.

the writer and his family on the balcony of their cruise ship's bedroom next to a photo of several balconies not divided by partitions

My family had their own private outdoor space after we removed the partitions between our porch rooms.

Sarah Gilliland; Sarah Gilliland

My family stayed in a balcony cabin on my last seven-night cruise, and we made good use of the outdoor space. On a shorter cruise, where the balcony itself might not be used as much, I would still book this category for my family.

The upgrade was completely worth the price increase, especially since we were traveling with two sets of grandparents.

To make the most of the balcony cabins, we even transformed our individual verandas into one large terrace by having our steward remove the partitions between the rooms.