How to survive (and thrive!) for 17 days in an inside room

Plenty of cruisers are perfectly happy to stay in an inside cabin. My friend Emma over at Cruising Isn’t Just for Old People has written a great blog post about her experiences in inside rooms. Inside cabins are fantastic for sleeping, especially if you like it pitch dark! And Emma and I both agree that inside cabins are the best way to afford your cruising habit. 🙂

The hubby and I recently took advantage of some last minute deals on a couple of Celebrity cruises and booked an inside guarantee cabin for each one. Because one was a 10-night cruise and the other a 7-nighter, that means we spent a total of 17 nights in an inside room, although we fortunately did have a few nights on land (with a window) in between. After that time, I think I’ve learned a few things about how to make an inside cabin as painless as possible.

A place for everything, and everything in its place. The hubby will tell you that I’m not a particularly neat person at home – there’s a reason my nickname growing up was “Messy Jessie.” In an inside cabin, though, it’s important to find a place to put everything away and to try your best to keep things tidy. I also find it’s good to establish a place for things you’ll use often (such as your SeaPass card) and to always return the item to that place once you’re finished with it. (This is especially important if you’re an early riser, as I’ll discuss below.)

Bring a nightlight. We always travel with an LED nightlight, whether we’re cruising or at a hotel or some other kind of rental. On a cruise, a nightlight can be kind of tricky, because many cruise ships (especially the ones built more than 7-10 years ago) still don’t have a lot of plugs. But if you’re in an inside cabin, there’s absolutely zero light – so a nightlight is vital if someone needs to get up in the middle of the night. (To deal with the power plug shortage, we always travel with a 4-port USB hub and a portable brick charger so we can charge phones and such without using up one of the wall plugs.)

Establish a meeting point (outside). I usually want to wake up about an hour before the hubby does, so on every cruise we establish a meeting point where I’ll go to when I wake up and go for coffee in the mornings. If you purchase an internet package, this isn’t so much of a problem; but if you don’t have wifi, it can be remarkably difficult to find another person on a cruise ship. Picking a default rendezvous spot can be helpful when one person doesn’t want to be in the inside cabin anymore but wants to make sure the other(s) can find her. It also helps for me to set out the things I’ll need in the morning (clothes, shoes, book to read, SeaPass, etc) so that I can access them easily in the dark room.

Consider a sunrise clock. Emma has a great post on her use of a sunrise clock, which to be honest I haven’t tried myself yet, because as I mention the hubby likes to sleep later than I do. But I think this would be a great way to deal with the darkness of an inside room! I might buy one of these to try on my transatlantic cabin in a solo (inside) cabin on the new Norwegian Bliss.

One thing is for sure: You can definitely get some good deals on inside cabins, and especially if you’re willing to book a guarantee room. On longer cruises, or when the price difference isn’t too much, I’ll sometimes splurge on an oceanview or a balcony. But if you know how to do it, taking an inside cabin can be a great way to help you cruise for less – or even cruise more often!

My first time booking a guarantee room

Ah, the mythical “guarantee” rate – I’d heard about it often in my time as a cruiser, especially as I began to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of being a travel agent. Mostly, I’d heard about guarantee rates as a way to get a good price for your cruise, so naturally, I was intrigued.

Rather than being its own type of cruise cabin, guarantee refers to a booking that’s made in a certain class of cabin without an assignment to a specific room. In a typical cruise booking, you get the opportunity to pick the specific cabin you’ll sail in; with a guarantee, the cruise line picks for you. The name comes from the fact that your booking will “guarantee” you that you’ll get no worse of a cabin than the type you’ve chosen: For instance, if you choose an ocean view guarantee, you may get an ocean view cabin or possibly even a balcony, but you won’t get assigned to an inside room.

There are a lot of advantages to the guarantee rate. As I had heard, it’s often cheaper than the price you’ll pay to pick your own room, and on our 4-day cruise to Cuba, I figured that the location of our stateroom wouldn’t really be a deal-breaker, especially for a short cruise on a smaller ship. If you book a guarantee cabin, you’ll be assigned your stateroom at some point between your booking and your sail date, and a part of me has to admit that it was a little exciting to check my Cruise Planner to find out what room I’d been assigned.

Many cruisers are lured to book a guarantee room by the elusive potential for a blockbuster upgrade – because you’ll only be assigned up, and not down, in the category of your room, it’s certainly possible that your oceanview guarantee could turn into a lovely balcony room. But most experts advise that you shouldn’t count on this – and in fact, that you should be prepared to accept any cabin in your category of booking, even the worst of them (tiny rooms, obstructed views, etc).

We were assigned to an acceptable but odd oceanview room: We were located at the very front of the ship, with a window that looked out onto a publicly accessible deck as you see in the photo at the top of this blog post. (No, this is not at all normal! Most windows face out to the ocean.) We also had two (unused) pull-down bunks that, even when stowed, were a little bit of a nuisance. (You can watch a video tour of the room next door to ours – identical in terms of layout to ours – to see what I mean.)

Ultimately, I had a good experience with my guarantee room, and I booked another one shortly thereafter. It’s all about managing your expectations and being prepared for whatever you get!

Inside cabins on Majesty: Can they really be that small?

Spoiler alert: Yes.

I became intrigued by Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas when I read Cruise Critic’s list of best inside cruise ship cabins – where Majesty’s interior cabins were actually listed as one of the “3 to avoid.” I suppose it’s like that time in college where your friend mixes a drink, grimaces after the first sip, and says, “This is gross – here, try it!” I just couldn’t help myself!

I booked us on a 3-night Majesty cruise to Nassau and CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island. I figured that if the room really was as bad as advertised, I’d only have to put up with it for three nights – how bad could it be? Plus, I have a soft spot for inside cabins, where I spent many of my early days cruising (before I could afford a balcony) and where I got some of my best nights of sleep ever (so dark!).

When we boarded, my husband and I worked our way to the very front of the ship and to our interior stateroom, #5507. We were in a wide interior hallway that went across the ship from port to starboard with cabins on both sides.

As we paused outside the door, I reminded him of the legendary small size of these cabins. I asked him to think about his first impression: Was it bigger or smaller than we expected?

We opened the door and both agreed that the room was bigger than we expected. But its drawback became abundantly clear as my eyes fixated on the bed – pushed together, the two twin beds formed a queen that had nowhere to go but in an awkward corner of the room. This inconvenient setup really put a damper on the room for me, and I have to admit that for my next cruise on Majesty, I might bring a friend instead of my husband – the rooms set up with two twins, with the beds pushed to the sides of the room, seemed much more tolerable.

At the end of the day, the bed setup was just that – an inconvenience. Rarely do you choose an inside room intending to spend a lot of time in it, and especially for a short time, most of your time is spent outside in the common areas – of which Majesty had many, and some truly lovely ones.