If you’re taking a cruise — especially if it’s your first one — then you might be asking yourself if you should go for a less-expensive interior cabin or spring the extra money for the balcony room.
It can be a tough decision. After all, while most everyone would prefer to have a balcony cabin if given the option, it can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more. Meanwhile, interior cabins offer all of the perks and amenities of taking a cruise, but for much less money.
But there are a few differences between the two types of rooms, as well as some other things you should be aware of before making your decision.
Ultimately there’s no wrong answer between having a nicer room with a balcony cabin or saving money while sailing in an interior room. It’s a matter of personal preference. But there are plenty of things you should consider before you make your decision.
In This Article...
Differences Between Balcony and Interior Cabins on a Cruise
Let’s start with some of the basic differences between the two types of cabin.
Balcony: Of course, the main difference is obvious — one cabin has a balcony area and the other doesn’t.
For most balcony cabins, the balcony space isn’t that large. There are some special rooms with larger outdoor space, but in general it’s small — enough for a couple of chairs and a small table. On Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas — among the largest cruise ships in the world — the typical balcony is about 50 square feet.
In other words, if you’re picturing a grand balcony with large French doors and enough space to lay out in privacy, then think again. (These sorts of balconies are available, but they cost lots more)
Instead, the balcony is sized to sit down and maybe have a drink or some breakfast while you watch the waves go by.
Cabin Size: The differences don’t end there, however. In most cases balcony cabins themselves (excluding the balcony square footage) are slightly larger than interior cabins. As an example, a balcony cabin might be 180 square feet not even including the balcony area.
Compare that with around 150 square feet for a typical interior cabin. In this case the balcony cabin is about 20% larger than the interior cabin. Add in the balcony area, and your living space jumps to about 230 square feet for an average room. That’s about 50% larger.
Light and Fresh Air: In addition to more space, don’t overlook that a balcony can also provide light and fresh air to your cabin. Interior cabins are just that; located in the middle of the ship, they don’t have outside windows. In the room you can’t tell if it’s day or night. And while there is air conditioning, there isn’t a source of fresh air.
Balcony cabins have large glass doors that provide plenty of light and can also provide an opportunity to get some fresh air if you like. The extra light can make the room much more inviting versus a darker inside room.
For some people this isn’t a big deal. After all, if you are out and about the ship most of the cruise, who cares if your room doesn’t have an outside space? You can just head to the pool deck or the promenade to get some fresh air.
Cost: All things being equal, there are very few that would select an interior room over a balcony cabin. But things aren’t equal. For the nice features of a balcony room, there comes an extra cost.
Balcony rooms carry a premium price tag on them, and the difference in cost between the two cruise cabin types can be significant, measuring hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Considering that either room will give you access to the amenities on the rest of the ship, swallowing that price increase can be hard to do.
How Much More Expensive are Balcony Cabins?
So how much extra do you have to pay for the luxury of having a little balcony space and a slightly larger room?
There is no set formula of how much more you’ll pay for a balcony room compared to interior. The price difference depends on each specific cruise, but an example can give you a good idea.
We priced out a sample 7-day cruise aboard the Carnival Vista. This trip departs Galveston, Texas in the middle of summer (one of the most popular times to sail), headed to the Caribbean.
The headline price for the interior cabin starts at $719 per person. The price for the balcony room is $1,139 — or $420 more per person. But the actual price difference is much larger. That’s because rooms are sold based on double occupancy and also have port fees and taxes tacked on.
Pricing out the interior cabin completely for two people, including these taxes and fees, the price comes out to $1,635. Taking the exact same cruise in a balcony cabin comes out to $2,475. That’s $840 — or 51% more. In our experience, that premium is in line with what we typically see.
Keep in mind that for that extra $840 you are only getting the few advantages that a balcony cabin provides. The entire rest of the cruise — from boarding, amenities on the ship, food, drinks, etc. — are the exact same for both cabins.
Advantages of an Interior Cabin
Sure the advantages of balcony cabins are easy to see, but that’s not to say interior cabins don’t have their perks. All of the following are reasons some people like these rooms on a cruise.
Cost: Obviously the biggest benefit to booking an interior cabin is the cost. You can save hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars — while getting the same exact cruise — versus booking a balcony room.
In our example above, the balcony room costs more than 50% over the price of the same trip in an interior cabin. That’s money you could keep in your pocket or use to take another cruise.
Great for Late Sleepers: If you’re a late sleeper, don’t discount an interior room. With no windows, these rooms are pitch black when the lights are off. In comparison, balcony rooms have a large glass door that leads out and lets in lots of light. Even with the curtains drawn, light will still find a way to creep in.
If you’re someone that likes to sleep-in well past when the sun comes up, an interior cabin may help you catch more “zzz’s” on your vacation.
More Privacy: Balconies are nice, but if you’re a private person then they can be lacking in privacy sometimes. If you’re sitting on the balcony, then it’s pretty easy for others to get a peek as there are gaps in the partitions between each area (keep this in mind if you think about sunbathing al fresco).
Even if you aren’t worried about someone seeing you, conversations can carry to adjoining balconies and you might not be sure who is within earshot. Interior rooms have neither of these worries.
More Options for Room Location: Today’s new cruise ships are built with tons of balconies as they are a major money-maker for the cruise line. But older ships? You occasionally find some that have no or just a few balconies.
If you are happy with booking an interior cabin, it increases your options in both the ship you sail and your location around the ship. Every deck will have interior cabins for guests, but not every deck has balcony rooms available.
Advantages of a Balcony Cabin
Already we’ve covered many of the perks of having a balcony cabin on your cruise.
Your Own Space Free of Others: While cruise ships have thousands of passengers on board, it’s usually not hard to find your own little spot on the ship. The only issue is that you might have to hunt for it, and there is no guarantee someone else won’t come along.
With a balcony you have your own area. While others might be nearby enjoying their own balcony, you have your own partitioned spot that’s always available. If you want to sit out and enjoy breakfast quietly, you can. If you want to have an after-dinner cocktail and enjoy the sunset, the balcony is always available without worrying about looking for an open spot.
Light/Ventilation: Natural sunlight is nice to have in a cabin as interior rooms can be dark. It also helps you to keep in tune with the time of day and see the weather outside so you can dress accordingly. As well, it’s nice to be able to let in some fresh air so that the room doesn’t get stuffy. Remember that there are no fans in cruise cabins.
More Space: It can’t be overlooked that your balcony cabin is larger — by about 20% on average — than the typical interior room. Both types will be small, but having that extra room before you even consider the extra space provided by the balcony itself is nice to have. It often means enough space for a small couch seating area that isn’t always found in smaller interior cabins.
7 Questions to Help You Choose a Balcony or Interior Cabin
If you still aren’t sure if an interior or balcony cabin is right for you, consider the following questions.
How late do you like to sleep?
Are you a late sleeper? If so, then an interior cabin might be just the thing. The interior cabins are dark — extremely dark — no matter the time of day. If the lights are out, you have no idea if it’s noon or midnight. Late sleepers will appreciate not having the morning light streaming into the room like they might have with a balcony room. Conversely, if you are the sort of person who likes to get an early start, that’s much easier with the daylight that can come in through the windows in the morning.
How much do you like to spend on vacation?
Of course, everyone likes to pay less on a trip. However, some people don’t mind spending a bit extra to upgrade their experience. If you are the sort of person who likes to splurge on vacation, go ahead and get the balcony cabin. But if you’re the type who is simply looking for the cheapest vacation, then it sounds like you’d be better off saving hundreds by selecting the interior room.
How long is your cruise?
Taking a three-day cruise? With that short amount of time, having a balcony or an interior cabin might not make that big a difference in your enjoyment of the trip. But if you are on a seven-day trip, then being in an inside room can start to wear on you. That’s why many people look to book balcony cabins on longer trips. It offers a little more “breathing room” on extended sailings.
Are you the type to spend a lot of time in your cabin?
Some people love spending time in their room during a cruise. Others use it simply as a place to leave their suitcase during the trip, and are always out and about. Depending on which type of passenger you are, it will have an impact on which room type you should book. Those planning to spend a lot of time in the room are going to be happier having the private balcony to spend their time.
Are you taking a cruise to Alaska?
If your cruise is headed to Alaska, go ahead and spend the extra money for a balcony cabin. Why? So much of the reason for sailing to Alaska is the scenery. Being able to enjoy the splendor from your own private balcony is a “must” for passengers.
What’s your favorite part of the cruise?
You can learn if you should get a balcony cabin or an interior room by asking yourself what’s your favorite part of cruising. For some, there’s nothing better than having a drink while watching the ocean go by. That’s why they usually opt for balcony cabins as it gives us private space to relax. If instead you are the sort of person who loves to be out and about in ports or sitting poolside, then having that balcony isn’t as important.
How many people are traveling in your cabin?
Are you just sailing with yourself or one other person? If so, then it doesn’t really matter if you have an interior cabin or balcony as far as space goes. But if traveling with more than two people, it’s a good idea to have a balcony. Not only does this give you some extra space, but it’s also a separate area where you hang out in the cabin (especially helpful if someone is trying to get some sleep in the room).
Is It Worth Getting a Balcony Cabin on a Cruise?
So are balcony cabins worth it?
As for spending the extra money, that’s a personal decision based on your vacation budget. However the benefits of having a balcony room are fantastic and can make a cruise much more enjoyable.
There’s no doubt that if cost wasn’t an option, then we’d choose a balcony cabin every time. It’s simply a much nicer experience. But often we choose to sail in an interior room — especially if sailing on a short-duration cruise.
On shorter cruises, we find that we don’t spend much time in the cabin. It’s mainly a place to store our luggage and sleep. Beyond that, we are out and about on the ship. In this case, there’s not much advantage of booking a balcony when we wouldn’t use it that much.
However, on longer trips like a week-long sailing, then we tend to look toward cruise cabins with balconies. While the cost is more, we find that we spend more time relaxing in the room once the “newness” of the ship has worn off. That means we are more likely to get our money’s worth.
Bottom line: Balcony versus interior is a personal decision based on what you want to spend, but if you are fine spending the money, you’re more likely to enjoy having your own private balcony. Even so, there’s nothing wrong with saving dough and opting for an interior room — especially on short cruises.