The Decision Process: What Type of Disney Cruise Line Stateroom Do I Need?

There are more than two dozen stateroom classifications on the Disney Cruise Line ships (and a variety of floor plan arrangements within some of those classifications), but overall there are just three main types of rooms on the Disney ships:

  • Inside staterooms: Those with no window to the outside world – though some do have a simulated “virtual porthole”
  • Oceanview staterooms: Those with one or more porthole windows
  • Staterooms with verandahs: Those with a “porch” outside the room.

Ask around and you’ll find that some guests will only travel in a verandah room, avowing that they MUST have an outdoor place of their own, while others prefer an inside room because they enjoy the cocoon-like darkness for sleeping. The truth is that the right stateroom type is the one that meets your individual needs. Here are some things to think about as you make your decision.

The ships have many public places to view the water.
The ships have many public places to view the water.

What is your budget?

Your overall budget will obviously be your guide in all your travel decisions. If the sky’s the limit, then all other things being equal, a verandah room will likely be appealing for most folks, if only to have the extra square footage. However, if you’re watching your pennies, then getting an inside room may be an easy way to economize. You’ll also want to think about how your stateroom selection will impact your ability to enjoy other aspects of the trip. Will you have more funds available for excursions or fine dining if you opt for a different type of stateroom?

What is the price difference between the category types?

On some sailings, the price differential between the basic stateroom classifications can be many, many thousands of dollars, making the decision quite impactful to your trip. However, on other sailings, the cost variance between stateroom types is minimal. For example, on one 3-night May 2016 sailing on the Disney Dream, the least expensive room available is 204 square foot standard inside stateroom. The price for two guests is $1,464. On the same sailing, they could also get a 241 square foot oceanview (porthole) stateroom for $1,506 (a difference of just $42), or a 246 square foot verandah stateroom for $1,584 (a difference of $120 over the inside room, or $78 over the oceanview room). Given the macro cost of a vacation, these modest price differences may be small enough for you to be able enjoy whichever stateroom type suits your fancy.

A virtual porthole can give the illusion of an outdoor view.
A virtual porthole can give the illusion of an outdoor view.

How long is your voyage?

Your perception of the particular room type might be vastly different depending on whether you’re living with it for a three-night jaunt to the islands, or for a 14-night repositioning journey. You might be able to cope with a less-appealing category for a few days, but find it oppressive over the course of a week or more.

Where are you sailing?

On some sailings, particularly those in the Caribbean and Bahamas, you’re either parked at an island or floating in the middle of the ocean. On sea days, you’re looking out at the open waves.

On other sailings, like Alaska and Northern Europe, you’re spending much of time slowly traversing narrow passages. On sea days you may have glaciers and wildlife less than a few hundred feet away. Your opinion of the various types of sights might impact whether you’ll find frequent viewing of them to be important.

Another factor to consider is the average outdoor temperature of your journey. While the Alaskan scenery is magnificent, if you’re a Southerner with thin blood, then you may not enjoy sitting outside when it’s 35 degrees (F). Another factor will be the excursion costs at your destination. For example, many beach destinations have engaging inexpensive or free activities nearby. But at someplace like Alaska, the most appealing excursions (helicopter to a dog-sled run, for example) are hundreds of dollars per person. Your need to economize on the room may be impacted by the fees related to your off-ship activities.

Different itineraries have very different types of views.
Different itineraries have very different types of views.

How many people are in your party?

If you’re traveling with a large group, you will likely be splitting up into several staterooms. A family may be able to economize by have one subset get a verandah room while the other gets an inside or oceanview room, giving you the best of both worlds. If you’re all in one room, then the per person square footage may be your most important deciding factor.

Do you get claustrophobic?

If you’re bothered by compact spaces, you might want to avoid the inside staterooms, particularly those without a virtual porthole.

Are you an introvert?

There are many public outdoor spaces on the ships. Any guest wanting a view of the outdoor scenery is welcome to sit on the public decks for as long as they like. However, in some situations, those decks may be crowded. For example, on my Alaska sailing’s Tracy Arm day, the upper deck outdoor areas were packed with guests gawking at the glaciers. If you’d prefer to view the scenery without interacting with other guests, this may color your decision.

Depending on your stateroom location, you may enjoy some people watching in port from your verandah.
Depending on your stateroom location, you may enjoy some people watching in port from your verandah.

Are you prone to seasickness?

Some guests find their seasickness symptoms improve when they’re on lower decks of the ship. If this is your situation, then you may want a stateroom on the lowest decks, where there are no verandah rooms. On the other hand, some guests find that their seasickness issues improve when they’re in the fresh air. If this is you, then having access to your own outdoor space on a verandah may be advantageous.

Do you like the ocean?

Yes, I realize we’re talking about a ship. No, this is not a joke. Frankly, while I enjoy cruising, I’m not a huge fan of the ocean. Some guests find staring at the open water to be relaxing and meditative. I find it a bit scary. In fact, the less I think about being in the middle of the water, the happier I am. The more you like staring at the sea, the more you may want an ocean view or verandah.

How old are the members of you party?

If you have tiny children, you may need to spend a large percentage of your time in your stateroom while the kiddos nap or settle down for the evening early. If this is your situation, you may find that a verandah gives you a more appealing place to chat with your partner, eat room service breakfast, or read a book than just sitting in a plain room.

On the other end of the spectrum, if members of your party are older adults with mobility issues, they might enjoy having the ability to see the outdoors without having to leave the cabin.

The verandah rooms are all on upper decks. If you prefer to be on a lower deck, that won't be an option.
The verandah rooms are all on upper decks. If you prefer to be on a lower deck, that won’t be an option.

Is this your first cruise?

If you’re an experienced cruiser, then you might not need to have a view or verandah on every trip. If you’re a first timer, consider whether you’ll want your initial experience to be optimized, or whether you might want to have a new/better experience to look forward to on a future trip.

Do you want to do everything the ship has to offer, or do you want to relax in your room?

Entertainment and activities are scheduled at nearly every moment of the day. If you know you’ll always be out and about meeting characters, watching shows, playing Bingo, and singing karaoke, then you might be fine with an inside stateroom. But if you want to spend your vacation in pure relaxation mode, reading novels and doing nothing else at all, then a verandah might be just the thing you need.

How many sea days does your sailing include?

Some Disney cruises have no days at sea, while others include more than a week of non-port time. If you have land-based activities every day, then the view from your room may be less important.

If having natural light is important to you, do not choose an inside stateroom.
If having natural light is important to you, do not choose an inside stateroom.

Will you be getting off the ship at every port?

This is a corollary of the point above. While most DCL Bahamian cruises stop in Nassau, many guests prefer not to get off the ship there. However, it can be fun to sit on a verandah and watch the port activities.

Are you a good sleeper?

I’m a poor sleeper at home, and am particularly sensitive to waking up with the sun. When I’m in an inside stateroom, I typically sleep like a log due to the total and complete darkness of a space with no windows.

Are your kids good sleepers?

The majority of DCL staterooms with verandahs are configured such that the verandah is on what would naturally be the children’s side of the room. (The verandah is next to the twin sleep surfaces rather the larger, more comfortable, queen-sized bed.) You may have visions of enjoying a drink on the verandah while your kids are snoozing, but if they’re light sleepers you may not be able to do this without disturbing them. Why pay for a verandah if you won’t be able to use it in the fashion you had imagined?

Does your ship offer virtual portholes?

Many (but not all) of the inside staterooms on the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy offer “virtual portholes.” These are essentially porthole-shaped video screens which broadcast a view of what the room would overlook if it actually did have a porthole. The illusion is extremely effective. With a virtual porthole, you might not even notice that your room doesn’t have a real window. And as an added bonus, there is often surprise programming on the porthole such as Nemo swimming by, or Tinker Bell soaring above the sea. Your kids may enjoy this more than a real window.

What other factors do you consider when choosing to book an inside, oceanview, or verandah stateroom? Have you been particularly happy or unhappy with your decision? Let us know in the comments below.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

8 thoughts on “The Decision Process: What Type of Disney Cruise Line Stateroom Do I Need?

  • January 29, 2016 at 8:22 am
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    Another incredibly informative article! I’m just popping on here with a 🙁 face because our days of Disney with kids are probably over. The budget doesn’t allow frequent vacations, so Disney will likely be a twice-in-a-lifetime thing for my boys. The big one is getting ready to start looking at colleges — so our next couple of summers will be spent doing that.
    However, I’m hoping that a few years down the road, you will do an article on Disney for empty nesters! Particularly those with magic-loving, Disney freak wives and crotchety, cheap, vacation-reluctant husbands!!!!! 🙂

  • January 29, 2016 at 8:25 am
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    Another incredibly informative article! I’m just popping on here with a 🙁 face because our days of Disney with kids are probably over. The budget doesn’t allow frequent vacations, so Disney will likely be a twice-in-a-lifetime thing for my boys. The big one is getting ready to start looking at colleges — so our next couple of summers will be spent doing that.
    However, I’m hoping that a few years down the road, you will do an article on Disney for empty nesters! Particularly those with magic-loving, Disney freak wives and crotchety, cheap, vacation-reluctant husbands!!!!! 🙂 Thanks for all your contributions to our last family vacations!

    • January 29, 2016 at 8:26 am
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      Weird — sorry for the duplicate. First time didn’t seem to want to let me “post” — so I did it again. THEN both showed up. Whoops.

  • January 29, 2016 at 8:28 am
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    Thanks for the article- especially for pointing out how the layout of the room can impact your choice. My husband and I found the deluxe inside stateroom to be perfect for the two of us (at least on the newer ships), and it was mainly because the sitting area was closer to the door. My husband likes to go to sleep earlier then I do, and having the bed farther from the door means I can go out and have a drink, do laundry, or what have you an not have to worry as much about waking him. That and the virtual portholes help so much with at least feeling you have some day light during the day.

  • January 29, 2016 at 11:26 am
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    One of the important considerations for my family that wasn’t mentioned is the number of separate beds. We are six, with four daughters between 11 and 16 years old. They hate sharing a bed. Because of the ages and size of our family, we book two adjoining staterooms. As per Disney, one adult is booked into each room. However, when we get onboard, the kids get their own room and my wife and I have ours. In order to have a bed for each child, we ensure that the room for the kids will sleep 5 – resulting in four different beds.

    Booking the right number of beds is important, and pushes our choice to deluxe family staterooms. but not all of them sleep 5. Finding adjoining rooms where one sleeps 5 isn’t always easy, but meeting this requirement is important to us for a relaxing, harmonious vacation!

  • January 29, 2016 at 11:53 am
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    I’m one of those veranda-or-bust people. There is nothing like leaving your sliding door open at night and going to sleep to the sound of the ocean. And it just makes the experience better. We were constantly doing on-board activities, but still spent more time in our stateroom than we ever do in hotel rooms. Part of that might be because you change clothes so often. Speaking of which, the veranda staterooms have two bathrooms and a curtain you can pull to divide the room if you need privacy. I’m not sure if the other categories have those super useful features.

  • January 29, 2016 at 12:52 pm
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    We enjoy Cat 5e rooms, with the oversized balconies. I could sleep out there.

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