Do you need a balcony? Cruise travelers who spend all their time in the public areas -- sun decks, lounges, restaurants -- or on shore may be perfectly happy with standard-size cabins and no private outdoor space. Those who love to avoid the crowds and lounge quietly on their own verandahs or have private room-service meals outdoors will surely want balconies. Do not forget to take your itinerary into account; on a chilly-weather cruise, you might not be spending too much time outside, so depending on how much space and light you need, a balcony might not be worth the splurge.
Exception: Carnival has several cabins which are classified as inside cabins but actually have a french glass door which allows light into the room (no balcony, but the door can be opened). Carnival also has some cabins that have a window, but because the window has an obstructed view (that means there is a railing or object in the way) it is listed as an inside cabin. Royal Caribbean has some cabins that have a window but look out over an inside promenade area. These are called "promenade staterooms".
Oceanview cabins: These cabins are like inside cabins but usually have a port hole or window. A window is much more desirable than a porthole because the porthole can be difficult to look through. Windows will vary in size and some cabins will even have full floor to ceiling windows. Most window sizes for oceanview cabins are about 4 feet by 3 feet. Be sure to read the cabin description carefully to determine if there is a different type of window. Windows can not be opened. Expect to pay $150 to $250 a night for an oceanview.
If scenery is important to you, take a good look at your cruise itinerary before selecting your cabin, specifically if you are choosing an outside or balcony. On a roundtrip Caribbean cruise or a transatlantic crossing, for example, the side of the ship you are on does not really matter. If, on the other hand, you are doing a one-way sailing (such as a southbound Alaska cruise or a trip from Barcelona to Rome), you might want to consider choosing a cabin on the side of the ship that faces the land. Sometimes the views can be breathtaking, and you would not get those views from the cabins that face out to the open sea.