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Little cabins mean big cruise savings if you’re satisfied with an inside room

Carnival Cruise Ship
An inside cabin on a cruise ship might be the best way to big savings.
(Michel Verdure)

Chris Twining loves to cruise, and he doesn’t mind doing it in an inside cabin.

“I don’t necessarily like them,” said Twining, a Wildomar, Calif., resident. “But sometimes it makes sense. If I’m going on a three-day getaway to Ensenada [Mexico] with the guys and plan on drinking a lot, an inside cabin is cheap and perfect.

“If I’m going on a 13-day Mediterranean cruise with my significant other, we absolutely have to have a balcony. That’s the time to splurge. There’s too much to see to be inside.”

An inside cabin will be the smallest on a ship, and it generally has no window. It’s sort of like being in a closet but with a major benefit: It’s usually the cheapest cabin on any ship.

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Some people hate them. My friend Katrina Tschida of Long Beach booked an inside cabin on her first cruise, a trip with her husband to Alaska.

“We decided to go at the last minute, and it was all that was left,” she said. “Never again. I hated it. Too claustrophobic.”

But they did save a lot of money. “It was about $500 per person,” she said. “Really inexpensive.”

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You still can buy weeklong Alaska cruises for that price, give or take $100, as long as you’re content to book an inside cabin. But if you upgrade to a balcony room, you’ll pay twice as much. Worth it?

“I don’t know,” Tschida said. “It’s really too cold to go outside on an Alaskan trip.”

Like Tschida, I’m a bit claustrophobic and have always shied away from inside rooms. But I tried one recently and didn’t hate it. It seemed sort of cozy. It had a king-size bed, a desk and stool, a 40-inch TV and a small storage area. It was about 185 square feet, including a bathroom.

Some inside rooms are barely larger than 100 square feet, about the size of a child’s bedroom, but most ships have rooms that average 140 square feet. Holland America brags that its interior cabins are more than 200 square feet and on the line’s newest ship, Nieuw Statendam, they measure 266 feet.

Still, that’s not a lot of space, especially if you’re sailing with your family. Balcony rooms aren’t much bigger but seem larger because of the outside light and view. Ocean-view rooms, which have a porthole, have a similar advantage.

For the most part, all of the rooms on large cruise ships — from interior cabins to suites — have the same perks: beds, bathrooms, storage and 24-hour room service.

A few cruise lines have tinkered with the inside-room formula, adding virtual windows. Royal Caribbean has “virtual balconies,” 80-inch high-definition LED screens that display real-time sights and sounds of the sea.

They can be found on several of the line’s ships, including Anthem, Quantum, Ovation, Navigator, Explorer, Voyager, Harmony and Symphony.

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Royal Caribbean also pioneered interior-facing windows that look out onto its promenade deck, an enclosed shopping and dining area. Just remember to keep the blinds closed if you don’t want passersby looking in.

Royal Caribbean doesn’t sail out of Southern California, so you may have to go elsewhere (Florida, Seattle, etc.) to try the line’s innovations.

Cost savings may be the main reason people sail in interior cabins, but there are other advantages.

They’re excellent if you like to sleep in. People who like pitch darkness find that their room looks the same day or night.

Large ships offer plenty of fun and games, often around the clock. If you enjoy hitting the casino or the bar or joining many of the other activities, you can use your room to rest between forays.

If you really like cruising and want to take as many voyages as possible, spending half as much on a ticket makes it possible to take twice as many cruises. Or you can apply the savings to spa treatments, specialty dining or shore excursions.

Some people probably should avoid interior staterooms. Think twice about it if you’re claustrophobic.

Do you get seasick? Although most interior cabins are toward the inside of the ship — where you’re less likely to feel the motion of the sea — an ocean-view or balcony room may be a better choice for you.

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But if an interior room works for you, book it with a smile. One of the best things about it is knowing you can take advantage of everything the ship has to offer but are spending a whole lot less than most of your fellow cruisers.


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