Cruise Ship Cabins – Inside or Outside, Which Should You Book?


If you are considering booking a cruise you may be wondering which is better, an inside or outside cabin. I’ve been on 32 cruises to date and have cruised in a variety of inside and outside cabins. In this article, we will look at the differences between the cabin grades so that you can find the best cabin for you.

What Is The Difference Between an Inside and Outside Cabin on a Cruise Ship?

Inside cabins are located on the inside of a cruise ship and have no windows. Outside cabins, often known as ocean view cabins, are almost identical in size and amenities but have either a porthole or picture window. Balcony cabins are usually slightly bigger than both and provide a small private outside space.

Price is usually the primary factor that makes passengers choose an inside cabin over an outside. That said there are lots of other benefits to booking an inside cabin. Below is a video of one of my favorite inside cabins, it has 16 drawers!

There are some cruise ships, mostly luxury cruise ships that don’t have any inside or ocean view cabins at all.

Price Comparison

If you are looking at booking a cruise one of the main things that you will notice is that there is a difference in price between inside and outside cabins.

The price of an outside cabin in comparison to an inside cabin can sometimes be very small or it can be considerable. It depends a lot on the design of the cruise ship that you’ll be traveling on. Older cruise ships built in the 80s and earlier tended to be primarily ocean view cabins with very few balconies. Modern cruise ships are built with as many balcony cabins as possible.

The prices below show the typical type of progression you can expect between inside, outside, and balcony cabins.

 Inside Cabin PriceOutside Cabin Price (Oceanview)Balcony Cabin Price 
Princess Cruises - Alaska - 7 Nights - May $779$872$1583
Royal Caribbean - Caribbean - 7 Nights - September$844$979$1020
MSC Cruises - Mediterranean - 7 Nights - January$539$639$789
Holland America - Asia - 14 Nights - April$1899$2079$2919

Cheaper Outside Cabins

One way to get an oceanview cabin for a cheaper price is to look for what are called ‘obstructed view’ oceanview cabins. This means that there is something in the way of the window, it could be a lifeboat, a piece of equipment, or some other part of the ship.

Obstructed view oceanview cabins can be a great way to get an oceanview cabin a price which is often very similar to an inside cabin. If you are able to get an obstructed view oceanview cabin this can be a great way to get some daylight in your cabin.

Location Comparison

Inside Cabins

Inside cabins are located on almost every deck of a cruise ship. You’ll find them on low decks such as decks 4 or 5 and high decks such as 15 or 16. The crew stays mostly in inside cabins located below the passenger cabins.

You’ll also find inside cabins right from the front of the cruise ship to the back. The majority of inside cabins go across the ship meaning that you are laying facing one side rather than the front or back. There are exceptions to this of course but generally speaking, this is how the majority of inside cabins are.

Do Inside Cabins Have Windows?

Inside cabins do not have windows. They are usually located in the center of the ship and have no access to natural light. On some cruise ships you will find a digital screen used as a ‘virtual balcony’ but inside cabins do not have any physical windows. 

Outside Cabins

The locations of outside cabins are often more limited than inside cabins. A lot of modern cruise ships will have oceanview cabins lower down on the ship with balconies higher up.

On older ships, you may find that you have more choice of ocean view cabins.

It’s common for cruise ships to have some cabins with small porthole sized windows and some larger windows on the decks above which are square-shaped. The square windows are great to sit by if you are like me and enjoy looking out at the ocean.

oceanview stateroom

Do Outside/Oceanview Cabin Windows Open?

On almost all cruise ships the windows in the outside/oceanview cabins do not open. On a few small, older cruise ships you may find the odd cabin in a weird location that has a window that opens slightly but this is far from the norm. Windows in outside/oceanview cabins do not open for safety reasons and cannot be opened. 

Size Comparison

The actual square footage of inside and outside cabins are almost identical. You usually find that balcony cabins are bigger but it’s not by a lot. I wouldn’t choose a cabin grade specifically based on the square footage.

If you do need more room a lot of cruise lines offer ‘family’ cabins. You may find that the cruise ship that you’re sailing on has family balcony cabins available as well as standard balconies. These are usually bigger, but more expensive.

Below is a size comparison from four cruise ships.

 Inside Cabin SizeOutside Cabin SizeBalcony Cabin Size
Symphony of The Seas16m216m217m2
MSC Fantasia13m2-16m217m2-20m214-18m2
Caribbean Princess15m2-17m215m2-18m216m2
P&O Aurora14m214m216m2

Amenities Comparison

You’ll usually find that the things that in inside cabins and outside cabins are almost exactly identical. You’ll usually find the same pieces of furniture but they may be organized in a slightly different way. That said, some inside cabins and outside cabins are EXACTLY the same and the only difference is the window!

On some cruise lines, you may find extra perks for booking a higher grade such a tea and coffee making facilities in balcony cabins but not inside cabins. Oceanview cabins very rarely have any extra perks above inside cabins.

How Many Cabins do Inside and Outside Cabins Hold?

On most cruise ships you’ll be able to have 4 people in the inside and outside cabins. The beds may come from the ceiling as shown below or a sofa bed may be used.

I’ve stayed in these drop-down beds before and they’re really not too bad. They are probably better suited to children as they are a little short but I’ve stayed on them without a problem.

The most annoying part is the ladder which seems to be always in the way!

Most cruise ships hold the same amount of people in their inside or outside cabins but this is definitely worth checking.

Marella Discovery Tui Inside Cabin Stateroom 3 4 adults pullman beds

Unusual Examples

On some cruise ships, particularly those owned by Royal Caribbean you may find ‘interior’ cabins that have a window that looks out into the cruise ship instead of out at the ocean.

These types of cabins are becoming increasingly popular as cruise ships get larger. Some will look into an internal neighborhood or street where there is no daylight (but artificial lights will be on all of the time). Others look out onto an area that is open in which case you will get daylight from this type of cabin.

This type of cabin can be a great way to get a discounted window.

Benefits of Inside Cabins

There are some really good reasons to book an inside cabin. I almost always book an inside cabin for the following reasons:

  • They are cheap. The saving can often be considerable and I’d prefer to reinvest that saving into an excursion, drinks package, or maybe even another cruise!
  • You’ll sleep well. Inside cabins provide the best nights sleep as they’re SO dark. This can be risky though as without an alarm I think I could sleep for about 16 hours straight!
  • You’ll see more of the ship. Booking an inside cabin means that you’ll spend more time out and about doing things rather than sitting in your cabin. You’ve paid for the whole ship. Might as well use it.

If you are taking your first cruise I’d strongly recommend an inside cabin. It’s always better to start with the cheapest cabin then anything else feels like a treat. Otherside if you start in an outside cabin you might not enjoy going back to being inside so much.

If you are new to cruising and would like more help choosing a cabin, considering joining our cruise course. You’ll learn not only how to find and book the best cruise on a budget but also how to reduce your onboard spend: How to Cruise For Less.

Marella Explorer Inside Cabin Desk TV Bathroom Wardrobes and Closet

Benefits of Outside (Oceanview) Cabins

I’ve also chosen to cruise in outside cabins on occasion. If the price isn’t too much higher than an inside cabin I may decide to treat myself to the upgrade!

  • It may not cost much more. You may find that on some ships and itineraries it’s only a few hundred dollars to upgrade to an ocean view cabin.
  • You’ll have daylight. For me, this is one of the main benefits. Waking up in an inside cabin in the dark means that you don’t know if it’s 10 am or 10 pm. It’s very strange! A window means that you’re woken up gently by the daylight instead of the beeping of an alarm.
  • A view. You can’t beat waking up and seeing where you are. I wouldn’t recommend watching a sail in/sail away from your cabin though, the windows can get pretty grubby with salt spray so you won’t always have a great view.

In some circumstances outside cabins are definitely a good choice. I choose them primarily for the daylight.

Which is Best/Who Should Book Each Category?

I’d recommend an inside cabin to cruisers on a bargain who don’t mind the lack of daylight. If your budget allows it I’d recommend upgrading to an oceanview cabin for those who want daylight and/or a view of where the ship is.

Don’t feel as though you NEED to upgrade though. Inside cabins are more than fine, they’re a clean place to shower and sleep. That’s really all you need.

I wouldn’t recommend upgrading for any reason other than the window itself, outside cabins are rarely bigger than inside cabins and don’t normally have any extra perks. The locations aren’t usually better and everything else is pretty much the same.

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Emma Le Teace

Hey! I'm Emma. A cruise blogger, YouTuber and founder of the 'Cruising Isn't Just For Old People' Facebook community and website. You can learn more here: About Me.

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