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I Booked The Cheapest Cabin on a MEGA Cruise Ship

When cruise lines advertise their cruises, you’ll always see beautiful people enjoying their balcony cabins.

Over 1/3rd of people cruising on modern ships though aren’t enjoying the balcony life – a huge percentage of cruise ship cabins don’t even have windows.

The average hotel room in the US is 95% bigger than the average cruise ship cabin and on my last cruise, I booked the cheapest cabin available on the entire ship. 

There were no cheaper options available at all, I really went for the cheapest possible way that I could get on board the ship. 

emma cruises with p&o iona

I Booked a Guaranteed Inside Cabin on P&O’s Iona

I booked an inside cabin and I didn’t pick the specific cabin location.

Doing this saved me even more money but it meant that until about a week before the cruise, I had no idea where my cabin would be on the ship. 

Find out why I like to book Guaranteed cabins in the article below:

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

The ship I was sailing on was the newest cruise ship at that time from the British cruise line P&O Cruises.

She’s called Iona, and because she was so new, I was really hoping my cabin would be nice. 

The ship has over 2,600 cabins and at full capacity, she can hold over 5,000 passengers plus crew. She’s a really big ship. 

I Didn’t Know The Cabin’s Location Ahead of Time

There are 19 decks on the ship and I could have a cabin anywhere from deck 4 all the way to deck 16, from right at the front to right at the back. I had no idea what I would get.

I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t have a cabin right at the bottom of the ship, as I try to take the stairs as much as I can and a 10-story walk to the buffet does seem like a lot.

I wasn’t too worried about the location and it’s a good job I wasn’t because I did get given what some people would consider one of the worst locations.

I logged onto the cruise line online portal about a week before the cruise to print my luggage tags, I saw that I’d been assigned a cabin, cabin 11,115.

I was very happy with that cabin number because that would be easy to remember.

We Found The Deck Plans!

All major cruise lines have their deck plans on their websites, so usually when you have a cabin number you rush to see where your cabin is. After a bit of looking, I managed to find ours right at the front of deck 11. 

I was happy that we were on deck 11, the atrium and main inside areas of the ship were on 6/7/8 and the buffet and pool were on 15/16, so I was nicely in the middle.

I was at the other end of the ship to the buffet though, so I hoped that I wouldn’t find the long walk annoying. I visit the buffet quite often when I cruise.

Many people worry that they’ll feel claustrophobic in an inside cabins and I’m told all the time that I shouldn’t book inside cabins because a cabin without any natural light ‘isn’t worth it’.

I have stayed in a hotel on land which didn’t have any windows, it wasn’t great but again it was a cost-saving thing. 

Balcony Cabins Haven’t Always Been The Standard

Having a cruise ship with lots of balcony cabins is a pretty modern thing, if you look back 30 years or so, most cabins were either inside cabins or had a window – which is called an Oceanview cabin. 

When we were walking to find our cabin, I thought I knew what to expect. I’ve cruised in inside cabins before, for my last couple of cruises I have been in balcony cabins. 

I didn’t know if this would have changed my perspective on inside cabins, lots of people tell me that once you’ve cruised in a balcony, you’ll never go back inside, I wanted to find out.

There were quite a few little touches in my cabin which surprised and impressed me. There were also a couple of things that I thought could have been improved upon.

P&O Arvia Standard Balcony cabin
Standard Balcony Cabin on P&O’s sister ship Arvia. The Cabins are identical to Iona’s

Who Was I Cruising With?

I was staying in the cabin with my brother Max for a week and I hoped that the small space wouldn’t cause any arguments between us.

We have stayed in inside cabins before, including one once with my parents, 4 of us in an inside cabin which I would definitely not recommend for everybody. 

The inside cabin we were staying in was around 130 sq ft which is actually smaller than a standard size shipping container which usually starts at around 150 sq ft.

Often when I cruise with my brother and enter the cabin for the first time, I’ll find that we have been given a double bed, we have the same surname so I can only assume they think we are married. 

Most Cabins Have Twin Beds or a Queen-Sized Bed

P&O did allow us to pick a twin, or queen-sized bed on the website before we arrived though and the cabin was set up as twins when we arrived.

On almost all cruise ships you’ll find two beds like this which convert into a queen-sized bed and I usually have to ask for the beds to be separated, so it was a good start on this cruise. 

On first impressions, the cabin looked bright and clean and despite the smaller size, it felt quite spacious.

I’m pretty sure that the cabin was slightly thinner than inside cabins I’ve had on other cruise ships, but that wasn’t a problem. 

p&O iona inside cabin beds
Our Inside Cabin on Iona

Do I Feel Claustrophobic in Inside Cabins?

I’ve never felt claustrophobic in the cabin and to be honest, I feel more claustrophobic in an oceanview cabin which is like an inside cabin but with a window.

Something about being able to see outside, but not get outside makes me feel more claustrophobic. 

The windows in ocean views don’t open. They used to and there are rumours about how the Titanic sank faster because everybody opened their windows to have a look outside. Don’t quote me on that one though. I’m not sure about that. Anyway, they don’t open anymore.

I’m still totally fine in Oceanviews cabin but when I’m in an inside cabin, I just forget I’m on a ship.

How I Deal With The Darkness of Inside Cabins (My £30 Solution!)

The one thing that definitely is a drawback to inside cabins is the lack of daylight.

There aren’t any windows in the cabin and that means it’ll be pitch black at 3am or 3pm when you turn off all the lights.

I always pack a little sunrise alarm clock. It creates a fake sunrise over about 30 minutes and it means my eyes don’t sting when I wake up going from complete darkness to having the lights on.

My “Sunrise” alarm clock is cheap and it’s small – it really is a game changer!

It is so dark in and inside cabin, i can sleep and sleep and sleep…

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03/12/2024 11:01 am GMT

Cruise Ship Cabin Designs Are Usually Pretty Similar

Generally speaking the design of cruise ship cabins, and what is in them is pretty similar across all cabin categories, ocean view cabins are usually almost identical to inside cabins but they have a window. 

Balcony cabins tend to be a bit bigger and they have their own little piece of outside space. 

I really liked the design of our cabin – but of course, that is a personal preference.

After a little while in our cabin, our luggage arrived. When you cruise your luggage is taken at check-in and magically appears at your cabin. We decided to get settled in.

Is There Enough Storage in an Inside Cabin For Two People?

I had heard before the cruise that there wasn’t much storage in the cabin, me and my brother both travel pretty light – but as we were travelling from our home port we decided to bring quite a lot of clothes. 

For the two of us, there was plenty of storage – it might have been more of a struggle if there were more than 2 of us but I’ve been on other modern cruise ships with much less storage space.

We had a little part for hanging, shelves to the side, shelves on the other side and extra shelves over by the TV. 

We put our suitcases under our beds when we had unpacked and that meant that they weren’t taking up room in the cabin.

I usually just end up chucking all my shoes and thins at the bottom of the hanging space in the wardrobe. 

p&o iona inside cabin 2 sharing deck 11 kettle wardrobe and desk

What Plug Sockets Were There?

One big complaint that I often hear about cruise ship cabins is the number and types of plug sockets. After travelling and embarking I only had about 20% battery left so an instant recharge was needed. 

Cruising on a newer cruise ship usually means that there are more plug sockets but even still, some people do struggle. 

If you’re ever in doubt about which sockets a cruise ship has, check out this post and searchable table: Complete Cruise Ship Plug Socket Guide: Search by Ship

The first place you look for plug sockets in a cabin is the main desk, usually, all the sockets are here, I was excited to see 2 UK sockets because we were on a British cruise line and also a European socket. No US sockets onboard though. 

I do like it when cruise ships have USB sockets too and I didn’t see any on the desks, but I thought to myself maybe, just maybe, they’ll be over by the bed. They were!

p&o iona kettle in cabin mugs glasses biscuits and tea bags

Not just USBs but also UK plug sockets too, which is great for people who need CPAP machines or other machines while they sleep. Most older cruise ships won’t have anything by the bed. 

I will say the USB socket was really slow in charging, if I wanted to charge something fast I’d use the normal socket but it was a nice option to have if I was just laying in bed on my phone and needed to stop my phone from running out of battery. 

What Are Inside Cabin Bathrooms Like?

It didn’t take me long to explore the cabin’s bathroom because it was pretty small. All cruise ship cabins have their own bathrooms and they’ll include a toilet, a sink and a shower.

If you’re lucky you’ll get some storage space like the shelves here but that’s pretty much it for cruise ship bathrooms. 

p&o iona inside cabin bathroom toilet sink and towels

Cruise ship toilets are pretty different to toilets you’ll find on land because they work on suction, it’s very clever how the whole sewage thing works on a ship if you’re interested in learning more, check out this post:

Cruise Ship Toilets: What Happens When You Flush? Step by Step Guide

To me as long as the bathroom is clean and there’s enough room to move into and out of the shower, I’m quite happy. 

The smallest bathroom I’ve ever had on a cruise ship was on board Azamara Onward.

Find out all about that tiny bathroom here:

Most cruise lines do provide some toiletries and you’ll find hand soap, shampoo and body wash in the showers. They’re The White Company brand on P&O, which is pretty nice and it smelt great. 

If you’re ever in doubt about which toiletries a cruise line has, check out this post:

Do Cruises Provide Shampoo and Conditioner? – Cruise Line Guide

The only thing I found a little annoying about the bathroom was the way that the towels were hanging behind my head if I was using the toilet.

There really isn’t any more room for the towels to go, so I do understand.

The bathroom was also missing that weird little step that most have in the shower for shaving your legs or whatever else. 

Are Towels Changed Daily on Cruise Ships?

On a cruise ship, you have the option to have your towels changed every day but I usually don’t.

If you want them changed you leave the towels on the floor, if you are happy to use them again you put them back on the rail – similar to in hotels.

P&O Cruise Ships Have Kettles in The Cabins

Usually, when I’m on a cruise I have to wake up and get dressed and go to the buffet to get myself my first cup of tea. On P&O cruises there is no such problem! 

All of the cabins come with kettles and everything is replaced daily. I don’t think I can say just how much of a difference this makes to my cruise experience, I love it.

Check out Iona’s inside cabins for yourself in the video below:

Do You ‘Miss Out’ When Booking an Inside Cabin?

I do think that a lot of people think that they’ll miss out on things if they have an inside cabin but to be honest, I think it might be the opposite in some ways.

Sure you can’t sit on your balcony and watch a sail into a port but not having a balcony means that you spend more time out and about and around the ship.

You’ve paid for the use of the entire ship when you’ve booked a cruise – you might as well use it and enjoy it! 

Modern cruise ships aren’t like the “old school” Ocean Liners where your cabin controls where you can go.

Sometimes cruise ships will have a private area for Suite guests – but apart from that you’ll be enjoying the same cruise ship if you book an inside or balcony cabin, it doesn’t matter. 

P&O's Iona Ship

Do Not Disturb/Make up Room Magnets

When we would leave the room in the morning we would set our room to be ‘made up’.

I was surprised to see that P&O use magnets that you place on the door to indicate if you don’t want to be disturbed or if you want your room made up.

On many modern cruise ships, there will be some sort of button you can press from the inside of the cabin instead of the traditional paper that hangs on the door like in a hotel.

Doing it from inside the cabin with a button means that other people can’t change your paper or magnet.

I know in theory nobody should be going around changing ‘Do Not Disturb’ to ‘Make Up Room’ -but I wouldn’t put it past some people, especially on a stag or hen event. (Bachelor or Bachelorette party)

Rest assured though that there is CCTV all over the cruise ship.

Did I Get Seasick Being at The End of The Ship?

We were cruising in October and we did actually encounter a storm.

Usually, people say that if you get seasick, which I do sadly, you should try to book a cabin in the middle of the ship. 

We bumped into a storm so bad we came back a day early but I still didn’t ever feel seasick and didn’t really feel the movement in my cabin much at all. 

Find out more about choosing a cabin location to minimise the risk of seasickness here:

What is The Best Cabin Location on a Cruise For Avoiding Seasickness? (I’ve Tried Them All!)

I paid around £60/$80 per night for this cabin – which I thought was a great deal.

That included not just my room, but the rest of the ship, my food, my entertainment and everything else you get on a cruise. That’s around $80 per night.

Amazingly there used to be a major cruise line that you could cruise on for $10 per night. The cabins definitely weren’t as nice as this one’s on Iona – and there were some seriously strange business decisions going on – but I think I would give it a go.

Watch the video below to find out more:

Before You Go

Find out more about whether modern cruise ships have first class, and exclusive areas onboard here:

Do Modern Cruise Ships Have First Class? (History, Premium Areas – Cruise Line Guide)

Find out the differences between modern cruise ships and Ocean Liners in the article below:

Ocean Liners, They Still Exist: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

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

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.