There are many reasons a cruise ship passenger might opt for an inside cabin. One is travel style: for those who go on holiday in the hope of soaking up all the experience they can, and whose cabin is simply a place to rest their head, an interior room is the perfect option. Another is budget: interior cabins are often available at a less expensive rate than exterior cabins and allow for more room in their budget for meals, extras, and excursions.

However, inside cabins have received a bad rap from cruise-goers over the years. They are seen as small, dark (an inside cabin will most likely have no windows), and less appealing than their well-situated counterparts.
This can be a problem for ocean-going cruise liners, who will typically have a certain percentage of inside rooms to sell (rooms aboard ferry or expedition trips are often all ocean-view at the very least). However, innovative cruise interior designers know that the challenges of cruise design are simply opportunities in disguise. And sometimes, design’s creative solutions can change the face of cruising long term…

So how do cruise interior designers and outfitters tackle the ‘problem’ of designing inside cabins? We take a look at some of the excellent work across the cruise lines:


Overlapping pools of light in a Norwegian Cruise Line inside cabin

Interior cabins are so named because they are situated on the interior of the ship or below the waterline and don’t have any windows (although some cruise passengers are pleasantly surprised to find their interior cabin includes a porthole, these are rare). This means they can be dark and feel small.

Experienced hospitality designers will know that the best way to tackle this is to spread the lighting around, installing fixtures and fittings in the wall and by furniture, overlapping the pools of light and ‘opening out’ the space. A well-lit cabin will give the passenger an impression of roominess. Developments in LED technology have led to this being a favourite of lighting design on cruise ships. Stephan Schmees, project manager at the Meyer shipyard for Norwegian Cruise Lines highlighted how LED satisfies the three needs of lighting – cost, energy efficiency and the visual effect – “it consumes less electricity and generates less heat.”

Interior view

Not every cabin can open out onto a view of the seas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a cabin has to go without a window completely. Silja Lines were the first cruise line to launch this innovation on the ferries that ran between Helsinki and Stockholm. When the lead of the Silja Line new-build team, Harri Kulovaara, moved to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 1996 he brought across the interior facing inside cabin concept, refining and developing it over the Freedom class and Oasis class vessels. This style of cabin offers a view over the beautifully designed public spaces, providing passengers with a window to let ‘natural’ light through and a pleasing aspect from their bedroom. Another advantage for the interior designer is that this style of cabin also maximises the angles from which a well-designed public space can be viewed, creating a three-sixty design experience for the passenger.

Silja Lines ferries’ interior view inside cabins

Shaping the room

A designer accustomed to creating cruise interiors will be no stranger to maximising space. An inside cabin can be the space where this experience is truly tested. Ingenious fold-away and convertible furniture can allow a cabin that’s tight on space to shift functions between a comfortable daytime area and a relaxing nighttime space. Curtains are a lightweight divider option and can be easily adapted to the designer’s need: a simple curtain offers an unobtrusive way to flex the room’s space while a showier or colourful curtain can act as a design flair.

Virgin Voyages’ insider cabins feature two twin beds arranged in an L shape head to head, with two bunkbeds also in L shape right above. The intent is for the lower beds to be made up as couches during the day and transformed into beds at night. The bunk beds are unfolded from the wall at night.


Due to the stringent requirements of cruise ship build and outfitting, cruise interior design and cruise technology have long gone hand in hand. Cruise designers are always balancing the demands of creating a striking and functional design that creates a strong brand image while serving the stringent IMO requirements. Technology, whether it be in developing new materials or implementing space-saving gadgets, has always helped serve a cruise interior designer’s vision.

Royal Caribbean continued its strength of inside cabin design with its ‘virtual balcony’ offering, available on inside staterooms. The balconies consist of a floor-length screen projecting simulated views of the ocean outside. By adding the virtual balcony, Royal Caribbean is able to use technology to provide passengers with their most-desired room addition. Not one to be outdone, Disney has added a dash of whimsy to the virtual balcony concept with its ‘Magical portholes’. These porthole windows, set above the bed, screen not only ocean views but a limited range of animated Disney characters.

A virtual balcony on board Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas

Ship location

Design solutions for inside cabin challenges aren’t limited to inside the cabin only. If an inside cabin is less desirable due to its location, what can you improve about the location to increase its desirability? Many cruise lines offer spa cabins, which include inside cabins and inside staterooms. These cabins will offer additional spa-themed amenities and be located near the ship’s wellness area. Passengers will gain exclusive access to certain spas and relaxation areas, with many considering this a welcome trade-off for an exterior cabin. Cruise lines can even parlay this into increased revenue as some passengers will be happy to pay over the usual inside cabin rates in exchange for the location and additional access.

Design to your audience

Some passengers like interior cabins and the most-cited reason for this is that they are the perfect location for light-sensitive sleepers. Passengers who seek rest on their holiday avoid the issue of early rising altogether when they opt for an interior cabin. However, it can also be the case that inside cabins are located in high-noise areas within the cruise ship. Designers and outfitters can combat that issue and increase the appeal of an inside cabin to some passengers by paying special attention to the noise-dampening materials available. Companies such as Bolidt offer a whole range of IMO-certified noise-dampening materials, perfect for reducing noise in high-traffic areas.

Refresh your knowledge, source suppliers for your next project, and connect with representatives from European cruise lines, shipyards and design studios at Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe. Find out about the next event here.