Not everyone thinks "best inside cabin" is an oxymoron. While some insides are hardly more than dark closets with a bed and bath, others are downright spacious or have cool decor and nifty technological features.
These days, not all inside cabins are the bottom-of-the-barrel inventory. Creative cabin designs -- such as insides that sleep as few as one or as many as six, staterooms with virtual views or interior-facing windows, and Zen-like boudoirs with spa perks -- may not be the cheapest options, but they're usually more affordable than similar cabins with actual ocean views or balconies.
Also keep in mind that accessible cabins are larger, and oddly shaped cabins can also net you more space. (Check your cruise line's deck plans for details.)
For a general overview of the highlights and lowlights of inside cabin categories across mega-ship cruise lines, here are our picks for the eight best inside cabins -- and three you may very well want to avoid.
- Best Standard Inside Cabin: Celebrity Cruises
- Best "Deluxe" Inside Cabin: Holland America Line
- Best Inside Cabins With a "View": Royal Caribbean
- Best With a Virtual View: Royal Caribbean
- Best Solo Inside Cabins: Norwegian Cruise Line
- Best Accessible Inside Cabin: Celebrity and Princess
- Best Standard Family Inside Cabins: Disney
- Best Special Inside Family Cabin: MSC Cruises
- Best Inside Spa Cabin: Costa
- And Three to Avoid
Not everyone thinks "best inside cabin" is an oxymoron. Inside cabins are a great choice for cruisers who spend most of their time out and about on the ship and in port, and want to save money on a cabin they only sleep in. While some insides are hardly more than dark cupboards with a bed and bath, others are spacious or have cool decor and hi-tech features. They just don't have views of the ocean (though Royal Caribbean's high-tech, "virtual balcony" inside cabins can now provide a pretty close substitute). And if you time it right, you can snag an inside cabin for well under £75 a night.
These days, not all inside cabins are the bottom-of-the-barrel inventory. Creative cabin designs -- such as insides that sleep as few as one or as many as six, staterooms with virtual views or interior-facing windows, and Zen-like boudoirs with spa perks -- may not be the cheapest options, but they're usually more affordable than similar cabins with actual ocean views or balconies. And don't forget about oddball cabins -- like the one-of-a-kind, 318-square-foot accessible cabin E717 on Sapphire Princess -- which is the biggest inside we've ever seen.
For a general overview of the highlights and lowlights of inside cabin categories across mainstream mega-ship cruise lines, here are our picks for the nine best inside cabins -- and three you may very well want to avoid.
1. Best Standard Inside Cabin: Celebrity Cruises
While other lines average about 140 square feet of cabin to those booking the lowest category of inside cabin, Celebrity Cruises' Solstice-class ships starts off with a whopping 183 square feet.
Standard insides have hotel-style white bedding with red and cream trim; a desk and chair; a safe; a mini-bar; and framed pieces of modern art for some color. Most cabins also include a sofa bed. Bathrooms are lovely, with a modern look and feel, in wood and chrome. The shower stalls feature curved sliding doors and a nice touch Gilchrist & Soames products, rather than an unidentified gel.
2. Best "Deluxe" Inside Cabin: Holland America Line
Holland America's Large Interior staterooms come in at 200 square feet. Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Oosterdam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam each offer more than two dozen of these cabins; all other ships (excluding Prinsendam) feature just a handful. Plus, there are 18 of these cabins on Koningsdam. These spacious digs tout tasteful design schemes and some feature roomy L-shaped layouts. HAL also offers gratis robes and a complimentary shoeshine service to all passengers, a nice touch for a line that keeps one foot in the classic cruising camp. One key reminder: There is some cabin category overlap -- i.e. Standard Interiors and Large Interiors might be labelled in the same category. Consult your deck plan or ask your travel agent to be sure.
3. Best Inside Cabins With a "View": Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean invented the concept of the 194-square-foot Royal Promenade Cabin with an interior-facing window. The promenade cabins on Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas look out onto the Royal Promenade, an enclosed shopping street lined with stores, restaurants and watering holes. Whether you love an inside cabin with a view or hate the lack of privacy (your across-the-way neighbors and promenade wanderers can see in when the shades are up), you will find the biggest of the promenade cabins on the Oasis-class ships. (Smaller versions are also found on the line's five Voyager-class ships and three Freedom-class ships, including UK-based favourite Independence of the Seas; the latter offer the "Ben & Jerry's Sweet," with a view partially obstructed by the ice cream shop's fake cow.)
4. Best With a Virtual View: Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean's industry-first Virtual Balcony inside cabins, which start at 101 square feet, come equipped with 82-inch LED, HD, floor-to-ceiling screens that stream real-time views and sounds of the sea and ports -- everything but the ocean breeze -- right into passengers' rooms. Every single interior stateroom (nearly 400 of them) aboard the line's newest ships (Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas) feature the virtual balconies -- including the single-occupancy Studio (measuring 101 square feet), Standard Interior (166 square feet) and Large Interior staterooms (measuring 178 to 187 square feet). Navigator of the Seas was also refurbished to offer 81 interior Virtual Balcony staterooms, measuring 150 square feet apiece.
5. Best Solo Inside Cabins: Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian's pint-size Studios -- found on Norwegian Breakaway, Getaway, Escape, Epic and Pride of America and measuring 100 squre feet each -- make a big impression for numerous reasons. They're dedicated as solo cabins (and priced for solo travelers as well, with no single supplement fee), a concept that Norwegian pioneered in the mainstream cruise industry that is largely based around couples and families. The staterooms feature funky, multi-colour lighting effects and a round window that looks onto the corridor, and contain a full-size bed and lots of storage you can hog all to yourself. But even better is that residency in these cabins gives exclusive access to the Studio Lounge, a hip hangout where solos can watch TV, hang out with a coffee or beer, and socialise with other single cruisers.
6. Best Accessible Inside Cabin: Celebrity and Princess
Six roomy inside cabins on Celebrity's five Solstice-class ships -- Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection -- measure 245 square feet apiece. They feature cabin doors that automatically open with a card swipe, roll-in showers, grab bars and ramped bathroom thresholds. The accessible cabins also showcase the modern Scandinavian design that punctuates the Solstice-class quintet, which are considered among the loveliest mega-ships afloat. (Celebrity's other five ships also feature accessible insides, but they're slightly smaller and don't have the automatic doors.) Beyond the accommodations, Celebrity typically gets high marks from disabled cruisers. Wheelchair users appreciate pool and whirlpool lifts, as well as lowered casino tables and Guest Relations/Shore Excursions desks.
Special shout out to Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess, that has the largest accessible inside cabin we have ever seen on any ship, coming in at a mind-blowing 318 square feet -- in fact, they might be better described as a suite as it includes a separate sitting area, with a sofa bed -- and even a wet bar with a sink. There is acres of space between the two beds, with enough room for three side tables and a desk between them. There is even a small "entrance hall" with three wardrobes. The showers are fully accessible and the bathroom is correspondingly bigger. But it's only on the one ship.
7. Best Standard Family Inside Cabins: Disney
Disney Cruise Line's Standard Insides are 164 square feet, while larger Deluxe Family Inside units measure 200 square feet. Always in a category of its own, Disney just does things differently than the other lines. Its Standard Inside cabins are very family-friendly without being special family cabins. On all four ships, they offer the line's famous bath-and-a-half, featuring a room with a shower/tub and sink, and another with a toilet and sink -- great for avoiding fuss at bed and bath time. (Deluxe Inside staterooms offer all the same amenities, with a bit more space.)
A convertible sofa and a pull-down upper berth house the extra guests (kids or friends) and a curtain divides the room in half so Mum and Dad can stay up reading or chatting with the lights on while the wee ones slumber. While Disney Magic and Wonder have the bigger cabins (184 square feet for Standard, 214 square feet for Deluxe), Fantasy and Dream get the nod for their fantastic touches which include raised beds for easier luggage storage and "magical portholes" -- faux windows that show a real-time video of the view outside the ship, enhanced with animation of Disney characters swimming or flying by.
8. Best Special Inside Family Cabin: MSC Cruises
MSC Cruises' Super Family Cabins can be found on Meraviglia and sister ship Bellissima. They are, in effect, three cabins joined together -- two balcony and one interior at a total square footage of 580 -- which allow groups of up to 10 to stay together. All are at the aft, so balconies have the added advantage of depth. There is a main room in a square shape which has a recessed bunk bed and a small cupboard which you can close off with a curtain, as well as a large double bed. Inside is a small sofa, a desk top and a shower room. It leads out onto a large balcony. The room is connected to an inside room which has a sofa bed and a shower room. It also has a virtual window, another first for this ship. This middle room can be connected to a third cabin, which is a standard balcony cabin shape, leading out to a big balcony.
9. Best Inside Spa Cabin: Costa
Costa Cruises' Samsara Spa Cabins, from 149 square feet. Costa Cruises pioneered the "spa" cabin: specially designed accommodations clustered around a ship's wellness area. The spa staterooms are available on the eight Costa ships equipped with a Samsara Spa, and include inside configurations (as well as outsides and suites) with bamboo-effect doors and restful decor. Expect orchids in vases, aromatic diffusers and calming colors combined with more sumptuous bedding than the standard cabins, as well as eco-cotton bathrobes, herbal teas (with a kettle and teacups), a bathroom scale and Elemis goodies in the bathroom.
Beyond the accommodation, we love the perks: The spa cabin package includes unlimited access to the spa complex with its thalassotherapy bath, aromatherapy-focused Tridosha Sanctuary (with Turkish bath), meditation and R & R haven Temple of Peace, and the Japanese Tea Room. (Passengers who book a Samsara spa cabin on Costa Diadema also gain access to the ship's Solarium.) Spa cabin passengers get exclusive access to the Samsara spa restaurant, but dining there does incur a fee; spa treatments also cost extra.
And Three to Avoid
Bottom Deck Inside Cabins on Celestyal Crystal, from 75 square feet. It doesn't help that Deck 2 was once the cargo deck of this refurbished ferry, so not only do the "Deluxe" Insides start an unacceptably small 75 square feet, you also feel and hear every shudder and shake on the ship you are so near the water level. These cabins are so dark and so small that the beds are at right angles to each other, and you'd have to breathe in to walk past anyone in the room with you. There's a tiny bathroom with a shower.
Hit or Miss
Cabin: Carnival's Category 1A Cabins
What You Get: Carnival says its 1A cabins measure 185 square feet, but Cruise Critic members with measuring tapes beg to differ. Booking a 1A is a bit of a crapshoot: Some have pull-down bunk beds, while others have a bunk and pullout sofa. Some, surprisingly, have porthole windows, meaning they're technically outsides. Many of the 1A's are odd-shaped, squeezed-into-corners cabins that come lumped into one cheap category, so their layouts vary by ship and even by cabin number. For the lowdown on the quirky cabin category, check the "Your 1A Stateroom Guide (Everything 1A)" thread.
Cabin: Norwegian's Family Insides, 128 square feet
What You Get: While the snug solo Studio cabins aboard Norwegian Epic (and other Norwegian ships) get high points for their design and perks, many Cruise Critic members have warned that the same ship's Family Inside Staterooms on decks 13 and 14 (at 128 square feet) aren't nearly as boast-worthy. Complaints vary but largely hone in on the cabins' small size, awkward layout (including poor TV positioning) and in-cabin noise from the bathroom. Another reviewer griped that despite being billed as family-friendly, the cabin wasn't large enough to fit in a cot for a baby on a recent sailing; the general overall consensus was that this "family-friendly" cabin wasn't truly suitable, space-wise, for more than two passengers. Read more member firsthand reports over at "Family Inside (I1): Norwegian Epic Cabin Reviews."