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7 Days in The Most Controversial “INSIDE” Cabin (Virtual Balcony Review)

I’ve just returned from a cruise and staying in an inside cabin with a feature I’ve never seen on any cruise ship before.

I didn’t know my cabin would have this when I booked it and I spent most of the week trying to work out if I was convinced by the trick. 

The cruise line that I was sailing with is Royal Caribbean, and they don’t make cabins like this on any of their newer ships.

I wasn’t sure if that meant that there would be downsides that I hadn’t thought about or maybe it was just a gimmick that didn’t really have any benefits. Either way, I wanted to find out for myself. 

Usually, inside cabins on cruise ships are pretty similar. They’re basically a big metal box with a bed, a desk, and a bathroom in the corner. My cabin was different…

You might find that the layout is different, but there isn’t a lot you can do in a space this size – or so I thought. The cabins are fully formed completely and then slid into the side of the cruise ship, and this ship, Anthem of the Seas, has 378 cabins, just like mine. 

Find out about some of the smallest inside cabins I have stayed in on cruise ships in the video below:

One of the main downsides of inside cabins is the lack of natural light. You really do have no idea when you wake up if it’s three in the morning or three in the afternoon!

When you wake up, you pretty much have to guess what the weather and temperature are like outside when you get dressed in the morning.

It isn’t a big problem, but it’s certainly more fun to stay in a balcony cabin

When Royal Caribbean launched what is called a ‘virtual balcony’ this promised to be the solution to these problems. The idea being that the inside cabin would have a big screen on the wall which would show a live feed of what was outside and that it would hopefully feel like having a balcony cabin.

Some people did say that this tricked them into feeling seasick which I thought was odd, afterall it just looked like it would be a big TV – but maybe it would be more convincing than I had thought. 

All that I wanted was to get on this cruise as cheaply as possible so I booked what is called a guaranteed cabin, that means that you are guaranteed to get at least the cabin type you’ve paid for but you don’t pick the actual location of it. There is more of a chance of an upgrade but you do often get left with the less desirable leftover staterooms that nobody else picked.

Find out more about guaranteed cabins here:

I Always Book Guaranteed Cabins on Cruise Ships – (Photo Examples, Regrets & More)

I was cruising with my family and figured I wouldn’t be spending a lot of time in my cabin anyway. We were cruising to Norway though, so I wondered how much I’d miss those balcony moments. 

A few weeks before the cruise, I got an email and noticed that my cabin had been assigned.

I headed straight to Royal Caribbean’s website to look at the deck plans and found my cabin towards the front of deck 13. I was assigned cabin 13139, and here it said “interconnecting virtual balcony cabin”. 

The inter-connecting thing was a bit of a concern because I have had cabins like that in the past which have been noisy but I was most interested in the virtual aspect.

Find out why I am a little wary of connecting cabins in the article below:

Are Cruise Ship Cabins Soundproof? (Thin Walls, Balconies and Travelling Sound)

Virtual” made it sound like the cabin would be like a 4D cinema. Maybe they’d have a fan going, some wave noises, that would be pretty cool… 

I had a quick search to find out what people were saying about the cabin and found one review that said “Hate is not a strong enough word to describe how much I loathed it.”

I can’t imagine being that upset by a big TV, but a few people did say that it stopped the room from ever being completely dark so that was a bit concerning. 

Others said that it was the best thing since sliced bread – and I am a big fan of bread, so I really hoped it would be. 

When we boarded the ship we headed up the stairs to deck 13 from where we came in on deck 5. There are lifts/elevators of course, but I prefer to leave those for people who need them.

On this cruise I averaged walking up 37 flights of stairs a day according to my watch so I’m very used to the stairs, that doesn’t phase me at all. 

We found our cabin down a middle corridor and I hoped that meant that it would be quiet. I’ve had cabins above nightclubs and under bars before. I’ve been right at the front and right at the back, and I’m pretty used to loud cabin locations, but I always hope for quiet. 

There would be no reason for anybody to come down our corridor unless they were staying in one of these cabins. 

Have a look at the cabin location and the cabin in my full video below:

Outside the door were our cruise cards in a little packet, and the doors to the cabins were open. These cruise cards are what you use to charge things to your room, and it’s how they know who is on and off the ship.

When these are scanned it does come up with a picture of you, so other people can’t use your card – unless they are your twin or something I suppose. 

The fact that the doors were open meant that I was able to have a little peak into next doors cabin. I noticed that it was much bigger than normal, it turns out that it was an “accessible cabin.”

Most modern cruise ships have accessible cabins which are larger and don’t have a step up into the bathroom. The bathrooms are normally more like big wet rooms and there are lots of extra things like grab rails around.

Accessible Bathroom Havila Polaris
Accessible Bathroom on Havila Polaris

Accessible cabins are limited in number and sell out first. If people need an accessible room, they usually need to plan further ahead.

This cabin was interconnecting with mine, meaning that there is a door between the two rooms. It’s locked, of course, unless you are cruising together, but if you are travelling in a big group, it’s great to have this feature.

It’s not a lot of fun if you have to go out into the corridor to go back into another room if you’re in your pyjamas and you forgot your toothbrush and are borrowing one from your family in another cabin for example. 

I say that because I did forget to bring my toothbrush on this cruise, even as much as I travel I still forget things. Really I think I should just invest in two toothbrushes at this point, but hey, I’ve not made that investment yet. 

When I walked into this cabin, I actually said the word “Wow”. I know people describe things as having a “wow factor” a lot, but this one really did for me. 

I loved the look of the room when we walked in – but I was of course instantly drawn to the massive TV screen which goes from floor to ceiling.

Apparently, it’s 80 inches high. For reference, my cat Hudson is 13 inches high, so that’s like 6 Hudsons stacked on top of each other, which is an interesting image. 

On the screen, I could see the wonderful sights of Southampton, England and another cruise ship off in the distance. 

Looking at it, I was really impressed. It was a live feed of the outside, so if I waited long enough, I’d see birds flying by. We were heading to Norway on this cruise, so I was looking forward to seeing a lot more interesting scenery than Southampton. 

I was excited to wake up and to open the curtains in the morning to see where we were. 

It didn’t take me long to realise that the camera view was of the back of the ship, but it was on the front wall. Not that you could tell which way the ship was going from inside but I thought that was interesting to note. The cabin next to us had the screen on the back wall, which would be the side of the ship. 

The cabin itself felt spacious, the chair was a little awkward in front of the virtual balcony screen, but it did become the ‘not dirty enough to wash but not really clean’ clothes chair, everybody has one of those I think.

Opposite was the TV, a desk with a massive mirror – which I love – and a kettle.

I definitely let down my British roots on this cruise because I didn’t even have one cup of tea. I had an unlimited soda package on this cruise, and I was making weird and wonderful combinations of drinks from the Coke machines.

The bed looked big and comfortable, I noticed that there was a plug by one side so if you do ever stay in a cabin like this make sure you “bagsy” that side as soon as possible. 

There was storage above the bed and it did remind me of a caravan a little bit – but not in a bad way. The cabin was much nicer than any caravan I’ve ever stayed in, and much cleaner too. This cabin was spotless and cleaned every single day. 

We were only onboard for 7 days, so we didn’t have a lot of stuff, but if we did, I imagine these extra cupboards would be very helpful.

It was around now that our suitcases arrived at our cabin and we decided to unpack. We were lucky because ours only took an hour or so to arrive, but my Mum’s suitcase did go walkabout for about 7 hours – which was odd.

I’m not sure where it was during that time, but it was a relief when it showed up at her cabin. She had a balcony cabin down on deck 10. 

There was an area for hanging clothes, a safe and lots of different shelves. At the bottom, I found a few big drawers and we used that area of the wardrobe just for our shoes and bags.

We put our suitcases under the bed and as the cruise went on when I wore my clothes I’d put them straight into the suitcase. That meant that by the end of the cruise, I was already 90% packed. 

When I have a balcony cabin I like to watch the sail away from there but I didn’t think this screen would really be the same so I headed up to the top deck to watch our sail out.

I figured we’d have long sail in’s and I’d catch one of those from my bed on the screen later.

Every cruise ship cabin has its own bathroom and ours was a fair size. It wasn’t the biggest – and definitely wasn’t the smallest that I’ve had. The toilet worked, the sink worked, the shower worked, and I’m not sure theres really anything else I’d need from a cruise ship bathroom.

Perhaps a towel animal monkey? Well, we did have one of those show up one day. I’m glad I looked in here with the lights on because I can’t imagine going to the toilet in the night and not knowing this was here and trying to work this out while half asleep, that would be scary. 

We did get the pool towels and bring them to our cabin just because they are quite a bit bigger than these regular white ones. On Royal Caribbean you do have to return them to the pool deck or you get charged $25 so that’s important to remember. They aren’t worth $25.

Our Bathroom did have a little nightlight, which was great, and the light from the ‘balcony’ did help when trying to find the bathroom at night. 

When we went to sleep the first night, we pulled the curtain and put a chair in front to stop the light from coming through. There was still a bit of light there even though the screen was mostly black, but personally, I really liked it.

When I woke up in the middle of the night I could tell if it was still night time or if the sun had started to rise and that was fantastic. I know it sounds like a small thing but it really makes a massive difference.

In the morning, we could pull the curtain slightly to let in a little bit of light at a time instead of going from dark to light straight away. I always feel better when I start the day like that. My eyes need the time to adjust. 

Our first day onboard was a sea day so we didn’t see much on the screen but sea. I did wonder if we could turn off the screen because I know some people wouldn’t like the light at night.

A few people had told me that the screen had made them feel seasick. I’m not really sure if it would have that effect on me, but we were lucky enough to have very calm seas every day of our cruise so I felt fine.

I will say though that the camera on the back was slightly at the angle and the balcony screen did have a fake balcony overlaid on top which just highlighted to me how wonky the camera was.

Personally, I think it would be better without the pretend rail. It’s not really convincing anyway, so I don’t think I’d be worried about falling out if It wasn’t there. 

At first, I did wonder if maybe we really were leaning a little bit but we definitely were not, the camera was always like this. 

On most cruise ships you are able to see a view like this either from the front or the back on the cabin TV. We didn’t really use the cabin TV on this cruise but we could see things on there like the daily schedule and watch some shows on demand.

Royal Caribbean have an app that lets you check most things though so we would usually go for that over the TV. 

Because I was cruising with family on this cruise I was able to spend some time on their balconies and there is no doubt that you can’t beat a real balcony, the views of Norway like this were just incredible.

The only way to beat it would be with a suite, of course.

I did meet a friend onboard who invited me to have a look around her suite which was amazing, it had a huge living room, two bedrooms, a massive balcony and my favourite part which is a bath, that is the dream.

Anthem of the Seas suite bathroom

Waking up in our first port of Bergen and seeing the scenery on the screen was fantastic. Norway is a beautiful place no matter how you look at it, and having the scenery here all the time just made us more excited to get up and dressed and out.

It was hard to gauge the weather, but I did have an internet package and could at least see on the screen if it was raining.

The internet on this cruise was actually the fastest I’ve ever had at sea, which I didn’t expect. On most cruises I’m lucky if I get 5 or 6 mbps, 1 or 2 I’m used to but at one point on this cruise I had 110 mbps! 

Find out more about using your phone onboard a cruise ship here:

Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Using Your Phone on a Cruise – (Beginners Guide)

On formal night I did try to pose with the balcony the same way that I would if we had a regular balcony. Not sure that that convinced anybody but it’s always fun to pretend. 

I have heard since that some people had remotes to turn off their TV screen, but we didn’t have one in our cabin and every other person I spoke to on the ship said that they didn’t have a remote either.

I guess you could ask your cabin steward to turn it off for you if you really wanted it to be dark but we definitely didn’t. I much preferred this cabin to a regular dark inside. 

If fresh air is important but sea views aren’t, there actually is a balcony cabin that fits that. It doesn’t sound possible but I promise it is. I had one of those on another Royal Caribbean cruise, to find out what I liked it about it, and what problems we had, check out this video next. 

Before You Go

If you choose an inside cabin, you might have to be quite neat with your belongings, as they are usually quite small. Find out what cruisers do to keep cabins organised here:

5 Things Smart Cruisers Do To Keep Their Cabins Organised

We all get those “post-cruise blues”. Find out five ways to keep the blues away after your trip here:

5 Ways to Beat the Cruise Blues After a Trip

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

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