Normally if you take a cruise in a balcony cabin you can expect your own little private place where you can see out but nobody can see you.
That isn’t what happened on my last cruise though because I booked a balcony cabin that faced inside the ship, directly across from other cabins.
This type of room is one of the most controversial and it certainly took some getting used to, there were pros and a few cons that I hadn’t thought about pre-cruise. I saw and felt, some interesting things from up there.
There were plenty of reviews and videos that warned people not to stay in this type of cabin. I knew I had to book one and try it for myself.
A couple of months before this I took a cruise on a very similar ship owned by Royal Caribbean.
Our promenade balcony cabin there had no clear view of the ocean and we had a couple of issues with noise, soot and general privacy. It looked as though the MSC cabin might be better in a few ways – or so I hoped.
When I cruise I usually book what is called a “Guaranteed cabin” where you don’t pick the specific cabin location. As I knew exactly which cabin I wanted I did pay slightly extra to book this particular room.
Find out why I book Guaranteed cabins in the article below:
I wanted a cabin towards the back as it looked like we would have a good ocean view as well as a view of the promenade. I hoped that we wouldn’t feel too much engine movement from there as that’s often a problem with aft cabins.
I noticed from the deck plans that the cabin was a different shape to normal, normally they are long and thin and this was more square – but I didn’t mind that, it looked spacious enough and the balcony shape looked interesting.
Before the cruise, I received lots of emails asking me if I wanted to pay for an upgrade, but I decided to stick with what I had chosen, cabin 14727 right at the back of deck 14.
I could have “bid” for a cabin upgrade for as little as £100 – and I did wonder why MSC were so keen for me to move up, but I wanted to stay in the cabin I had chosen.
When we embarked the ship we walked right into the central street. MSC cruise ships are incredibly sparkly and shiny, they have a specific smell too and you can actually buy this smell in a diffuser in the gift shop!
The central street is on decks 6 7 and 8 meaning that we didn’t have far to go up to our cabin on deck 14.
The cabins weren’t ready until 1.30 pm though, and we had a little bit of time before that. We decided to head out to the promenade area at the back to see our cabin from below.
The first thing that I noticed was that I could see straight out the end of the cruise ship.
On Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, there was an Aqua Theatre here so we had no clear view of the ocean and really no idea where we were most of the time.
I hoped that this meant that I would feel more connected to where we were actually sailing – given that we would be spending 7 nights onboard and sailing around the Mediterranean.
From down here we could see the cabins and the balconies looked HUGE.
Having a cabin on deck 14 would turn out to be great because we were between the inside areas and the buffets were up on 18 and 19. Yes, I said buffets, there are two.
We spent a lot of time wandering up and down the stairs between decks 14 and 18 during the cruise.
It felt like a long walk down the corridor to our cabin but my first impression of the room was good.
It definitely felt smaller than the balcony cabins that I’m used to, but I loved the design and it was nice to have the bathroom tucked around the corner with a big wardrobe area.
This bathroom and in particular the door would annoy me quite a lot during the cruise.
I did notice how close the toilet felt to the bed though, the bathroom definitely isn’t soundproofed so I’d only share this cabin with somebody you like!
I realised straight away that there was one double bed in the room. On cruises, the double beds are just two twins pushed together and as I was cruising with my brother we wanted two beds.
I wrote a little note for my cabin steward and later on, we met her in the corridor, and asked her to change the beds – which wasn’t a problem. They were about 1 inch apart – but still better than nothing.
The bed faced a TV where I would find some adult videos later in the cruise, it just looked like a regular nice TV.
We did watch the safety drill on the tv which was good and then physically had to go to our safety Muster Station.
I have heard about friends sharing beds for the entire cruise before because they didn’t realise that they could change it. On every cruise I’ve ever been on – apart from the Disney Magic – Disney likes to be different.
Usually in balcony cabins, you’ll find a sofa which turns into a bed for a 3rd guest – or beds that come down from the ceiling. We didn’t have either of those in this room, it only slept two people at a maximum.
The cabin did have a desk area, and a little thing at the end of the bed where we could sit to put our shoes on.
When our bed was split into two I walked into this so many times in the middle of the night, I’m not sure why my sleepy brain didn’t take me around the outside but I always got out the bed in the middle and walked straight into it.
It was really useful to have this though, I wouldn’t suggest they take it away but maybe make it softer, and add some padding.
I headed straight outside and was amazed to see that the space was almost double the normal size of a balcony, it felt very long.
I wasn’t too sure when booking if we would get sunshine on the balcony but looking up I realised that there was nothing but sky above us and we had a clear view of the ocean to the left.
When I sat down in one of the chairs I realised that it wasn’t just the people opposite me who could see me on the balcony, it was everybody in the cabins to the side too.
Usually, the partitions between cabins go right to the edge but it was easy to see around these ones. Not a problem of course as I wasn’t expecting privacy on this balcony but I was always aware of who else was around me.
Most people on this cruise didn’t speak English, so I didn’t hear any interesting conversations – well, maybe I did but didn’t understand them!
Looking a little closer at the balcony area I noticed that there were three curtains, a privacy curtain, a blackout curtain and another curtain on top.
This privacy curtain was fantastic and I was surprised that when I cruised on the Royal Caribbean version of this ship earlier in the year they didn’t have any privacy curtains.
Having it meant that we could be in the room without fear of people looking in and seeing us, without having to be sat in the dark. I loved it.
Find out about that similar Royal Caribbean balcony – and why I didn’t really like it here:
We could see into the other cabins if it was dark outside and they had their lights on and the curtains open – but that really was the only situation.
I’m pretty sure that these cabins had some of those reflective tints added because I could see the reflection of my own cabin, better than into other cabins.
Looking down and out across the area I wondered if this would be a busy area, would the noise keep me awake at night?
Would people be screaming as they slid down this 11-deck slide? I did brave the slide by the way and I definitely didn’t need to scream, it was very slow.
It wasn’t long after this that our luggage arrived and we unpacked, we had LOTS of space for the two of us and we didn’t even use every drawer.
I put my suitcase in the bottom of the wardrobe along with the hanging space and I would put my dirty clothes into there as I went. There was even some space for shoes.
When I was cruising onboard Symphony of The Seas we actually sailed away without me noticing because there was the aqua theatre in the way and we couldn’t see where we were.
This was totally different onboard MSC’s World Europa because we did have a view of the ocean and of the ports.
Of course, that meant no Aqua theatre which I absolutely loved onboard Symphony of The Seas – but hey, it’s all swings and roundabouts.
The first thing I noticed when we sailed away was that the cabin would vibrate, and it would shake quite a lot when they turned the engines on.
During this first sail away there were a few people gathered at the bottom at the back, but there wasn’t really a party or anything happening.
On MSC cruises guests get on every day so that means that events are more spread out throughout the cruise. There isn’t one “first day of the cruise welcome onboard party” and there is also no goodbye party either. It’s an infinite loop of cruise – you could stay on forever.
One event that did happen every day though was the light show on the Sky Trees just outside our cabin. We really didn’t know what to expect but I made sure that we were on the balcony at the right time so that we could watch the trees do their thing.
It was a short show, just one song but the shapes lit up in different colours and it was really impressive. The scale of everything on this ship was hard to take in, it did feel like being on a spaceship.
Watch my cabin video below to see the Sky Tree light show in action:
We actually missed our first port stop in Marseille due to bad weather but we really didn’t feel much rocking and rolling as we tried to sleep.
The ship definitely did vibrate and judder, but personally I’d prefer that over the lurching side-to-side that you can get on some ships in bad weather.
I’ve never known anybody to get sick from being juddered around too much. The juddering did mean that I had lots of bizarre dreams though, really weird dreams.
The blackout curtains did a great job but for some reason, there were two small two lights right by my bed. They looked like a face and they were touch buttons for the lamps.
Why they needed to light up I have no idea, as the cruise went on I did end up sticking paper over them with plasters.
To start with I kept taking it down so my cabin steward wouldn’t see, I’m not sure why, I was embarrassed of my inability to tolerate the lights! By the end of the cruise I would just leave it there – until I disembarked of course.
The beds themselves were very comfy, I loved the pillows and there were USB sockets by the bed.
There was a cabinet just below which is great for putting your pyjamas in if you have them. The ship was launched in 2021 and definitely felt new. The condition was perfect nothing was broken, there were no stains on the carpet or anything.
Over by the desk area there were more plug sockets and a drawer that I call the “Bits and Bobs” drawer – for putting all of your random things in.
Underneath was a little table and seat that cleverly stacked inside each other and in one of the drawers was a huge safe.
There is also a fridge/ mini bar. I did have a drinks package on this cruise but it doesn’t work for minibar drinks so I didn’t have any drinks from here.
I headed into the bathroom for a look around next, usually cruise ship bathrooms are pretty standard. They’re usually a simple square that has a sink a toilet and a shower, if you’re very lucky and you’ve paid for a suite you might find a bath, but that’s not very common.
The bathroom did seem small but everything was well organised. I’m not sure how the toilet space would be for people who are larger than me, because it did feel a bit tight but overall it was pretty good.
The biggest problem I had with the bathroom was the door. It was a sliding door and I’ve never had one like this on a cruise ship before.
From the outside there wasn’t really a way to open it, apart from if you could grab into the little screw part in the middle – which I don’t think you are meant to do. I usually just pulled it from the far end but I don’t think that is right.
Inside there was a little metal bit to pull but the door was heavy and I think by the end of the cruise my fingers were way stronger than at the start. If you didn’t have full strength in your hands this would be a problem for you.
At first, I thought “well they need it like this because it goes into the wardrobe area, there’s no space for a door” – but I realise now it could just open towards the bed that would be totally fine. Odd, but not the end of the world by a long way, I never got stuck in the bathroom.
MSC are one of the few cruise lines that still clean the rooms twice every day.
They change things like the towels if you want them too, and we got to know our cabin steward really well – to the point where she would check later if we were feeling seasick when she had seen we had had the “Do Not Disturb” button on.
The cabin stewards all wear really traditional maid’s outfits too -which I’m not used to. It felt a bit like they were “dressed up” as maids – if you know what I mean.
There was more storage by the desk and a TV that had access to some videos that you might not expect. I love using the cabin TV for checking what’s going on around the ship or for watching a TV. MSC have an adult section on the TV, you have to pay for those movies.
A little later in the cruise, there was a sailaway party as we left Valetta in Malta.
This was the busiest I had seen the street and our balcony was the best place to watch it. We had an incredible view and the ship spun around 180 degrees before we sailed away.
It was so fun to listen to the music and to watch everybody dancing, even the MSC mascots were down here. I think for me this is what cruising is all about, friends and family and couples just relaxing and having a great time.
The bar opposite and below us was a smoking bar – it was mostly people wrapped up in their coats smoking, it wasn’t very lively and certainly didn’t keep us awake.
They didn’t have live music in the street but did have a DJ playing music most days. On one day they had a silent disco.
The “silent” disco was ironically probably the loudest that we had heard this area, everybody puts on headphones with different songs playing, the colour on the headphones shows everybody what station you are tuned in to.
Everybody was singing along to the songs and we could hear that in our cabin, the songs would often be in Spanish or Italian – so it wasn’t things I knew well, but definitely tunes that I recognised.
The silent disco went on until around 1 am, but this was the only night of the cruise that we heard a lot of noise late at night, the rest of the time this area was very quiet.
There were no shows scheduled here and this bit is mostly shops and speciality restaurants.
It wasn’t warm during our cruise so that may be why it felt as though this area wasn’t used much beyond sailaways.
I’m happy to say that the air conditioning worked very well in our cabin and there were buttons for “Make-up Room” and “Do not Disturb” which showed up outside the door.
The lights outside the cabin would show if somebody was in the cabin or not. All very high-tech – and so much better than the paper versions that you get in most hotels and on a lot of cruise ships.
The cabin that I had booked was technically called a “Boardwalk and Ocean View Cabin” because we had a view of both. The cabins that were further in with just a view of the inside of the ship were called Promenade View and were slightly cheaper.
We never had any problems with soot in this cabin. You might think that’s a given, but we did have some sooty issues in our similar cabin on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas.
All of the cabins onboard the ship have the same design but the layout can be different.
I did get a chance to see some of the regular balcony cabins and they were a much more standard long thin shape. Sometimes the bed will be closer to the balcony and sometimes the sofa will be there, but really that is the only change.
I paid a fare of £1034.55 ($1200) per person – including an alcoholic drinks package and gratuities for 7 days. I was happy with my choice of cabin. That price is based on two sharing a cabin and was per person. I took the cruise in November 2023.
I’m perfectly happy in inside cabins too, but any outside space is a massive bonus. On most cruise ships around a third of cabins don’t have any windows or access to fresh air at all.
Before You Go
Find out about the inside cabin I stayed in on P&O’s Iona below. It was the cheapest cabin on the whole ship, and I really liked it!
When I stayed onboard Costa’s mega-ship Smeralda, I had a balcony cabin with one unusual feature. Find out about that here: