When it comes to cruising, the range of options for different cruise cabins can be staggering. From suites to balconies to specialty cabins like NCL’s The Haven (high-end rooms in their own private area) or Carnival’s Havana rooms (cabins with exclusive access to a private pool and special décor), you have no shortage of choices.
But with all those options, it’s the interior cabin that offers one of the best deals in cruising… but also comes with a number of unique features that you should know about before you book.
If you’ve never sailed in an interior room on a cruise before, there’s a lot to understand ahead of reserving one of these cabins. From what you get for your money to how these rooms are different from others on the ship, here’s what you should consider.
Interior Cabins Are the Least Expensive on the Ship
First and foremost, interior cabins are the cheapest cabins on the ship. So if you’re looking for a deal, then there is a lot to like about these rooms.
For example, Norwegian Cruise Line has a trip during the summer aboard Norwegian Escape with interior cabins that run nearly $300 less per person compared to balcony cabins:
So with these rooms, you get the entire cruise, but it can be literally hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars less than what others on the ship are paying… albeit with a less glamorous cabin.
Interior Cabins Run Smaller
You’d be hard-pressed to call any normal cruise cabin “spacious.” Cozy is a more apt term. But when it comes to interior cabins, the size gets even smaller. A typical balcony room measures around 160-180 square feet, plus the extra space in the balcony. A usual interior cabin is more around 130-140 square feet.
That may not sound like much of a difference, but it’s significant. In real terms the sofa seating area that’s usually in balcony cabins is removed, condensing the room to a spot for a bed, a small desk area, closet and bathroom.
But if you’re staying in one of these cabins, that smaller space can be felt. Interior cabins definitely feel smaller, making them not ideal if you plan to spend a lot of time in your room.
You Can Get a Much Better Location for Cheaper
One thing that makes interior cabins a great deal? Sure the cost is less, but you can often get a location literally just feet away from some of the most expensive rooms on the ship.
Every deck of the cruise ship will have interior cabins. Whether you want to sail on Deck 3 or Deck 16, you’ll have an option. And while people with balconies on high decks might be paying thousands for their location and cabin, the interior rooms — literally right across the hall — are much cheaper.
So if you’re a passenger that’s highly concerned with your location, such as being midship or on a certain deck, then you’ll have a lot of options for a better location without spending near as much as others on the ship.
Interior Cabins Are Great for Shorter Trips (Five Days or Fewer)
In our opinion, the major factor you should consider before booking an interior cabin is the length of your cruise.
The smaller space and lack of windows is a trade-off for that lower price. But where that trade-off seems worth it most is on shorter cruises. We like to put that mark at five days or fewer.
With shorter cruises (especially 3/4-day trips), you’re likely to spend a lot of your time outside the cabin. Between exploring the ship and being in port, the time in the cabin is minimal. With longer cruises (6+ days), then there is more downtime as you usually have more days at sea and just more time in general. In that case, having a balcony cabin is a nice retreat and place to relax.
Cruises of five days are a tipping point that can go either way. For some, it will be too long to book an interior room. For others, it’s still a good trade-off for the lower cost.
Even With These Inexpensive Cabins, You Have Full Access to the Ship
If you’ve never cruised before, you might think of a movie like Titanic where there are first, second, and third-class passenger cabins. Back then the third-class passengers aren’t allowed into the first-class areas, meaning passengers in lower-tier cabins have a very different experience.
That’s not the case in modern cruising, even if you stay in a much less-expensive interior room. Even though you pay less, you still get full access to the ship and the same level of service as someone in a pricier room. So if you want to dine in one of the fanciest restaurants on the ship or hang out in the trendy adults-only areas, it’s all there for you to enjoy. The only thing that’s different in the experience is that you’re in a different type cabin.
Interior Cabins Get Dark… Real Dark
You already know that interior cabins don’t have windows. But what might not click is that means at night when the lights go out, it gets extremely dark. Some newer ships are equipped with bathroom lights that still produce a little light when turned off, so you can shut the bathroom door and there’s a dim light for a nightlight.
But on other ships, once the lights go out you can’t even see the hand in front of your face. In fact, the only light you might have is from the peephole in the door.
It’s a smart idea to bring a small nightlight with you just in case to help you see for those middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.
The Rooms Are Great for Late Sleepers
One big perk of having no windows? Interior cabins can be ideal if you’re the sort of person that likes to sleep late.
It was mentioned above how dark these rooms can be when the lights go out. And without any natural light coming in, that means it stays dark. Close the door, turn out the lights and it’s just as dark at noon as it is at midnight.
So if you’re the sort of person that likes to sleep in, then it’s ideal. Conversely, if you like to get an early start to your day, then you’re going to want to set an alarm on your phone as it’s easy to sleep later than you normal.
Our Personal Experience on Interior Cabins
While there’s a lot you can learn above about whether or not to book an interior cabin, sometimes it’s more helpful just to hear what it’s really like from someone that’s been there.
In this case, I’ve taken dozens of cruises, and often sail in interior cabins to get a much more affordable fare. So how is it?
My take is that the most important thing to keep in mind is the length of the cruise. On shorter cruises, I find the interior cabin to be a great option as it gets you on the ship for less money. And with those trips, the smaller size and lack of windows is no big deal. Is it nicer sailing in a balcony cabin? Absolutely, but for a few days — when so much time is spent outside the room — I’d much rather save the money.
That changes however with longer cruises. I’d hesitate to say that I wouldn’t take a 7-day cruise in an interior room, but I certainly avoid it when possible. On these longer cruises, I find there is much more downtime where I might just relax in the room. In that case, spending a lot of time in a small cabin without natural light can wear out quickly.
Bottom line: Interior cabins definitely have their place. They aren’t for everyone and they aren’t for every cruise. But there are definite perks to sailing in these rooms that shouldn’t be overlooked.