7 Ways to Maximize Space in Your Tiny Cabin

tiny small cruise ship cabin bigger
The first step to avoiding clutter in your cabin? Don't pack more than you need. - Photo by Bonnie Caton / Thinkstock

While cruise ships are lauded for their activities, entertainment, and food options aplenty, they aren’t exactly known for their spacious accommodations. In fact, some cabins measure as small as 114 square feet. But just because you’ve booked the smallest stateroom doesn’t mean you have to feel confined. These seven tips will help you maximize your space:

1. Don’t overpack. 

tiny cruise ship cabin folded clothes

More clothes also means more suitcases to take up space. - Photo by Africa Studio

Two weeks before departure, lay out your clothing options. Place like objects — shirts with shirts, for example — into neat piles. Remove anything that doesn’t coordinate with the other selections. Then, with the exception of underwear and socks, eliminate any triplets or quadruplets.

You don’t need three sweaters on a tropical cruise, and jeans are bulky, so limit yourself to a single pair that will work both day and night. Aim for no more than three pairs of shoes, and wear your workout sneakers on the plane.

For more help on what you should pack, check out our ultimate cruise packing list to make sure you have everything you need.


2. Request a queen bed.

princess balcony cabin queen bed

Just because the brochure picture has a queen bed doesn't mean you shouldn't confirm with the line. - Photo by Princess Cruises

Furniture on cruise ships is weighted and often nailed down. It keeps the items stable over rough seas, which means you won’t be able to rearrange your room. What you can do is make a configuration request prior to sailing: Opt for a queen bed instead of two singles, and ask the cabin steward to remove the bedside table so you’ll have even more floor space.

Related: Want to know what the worst cabins are on a ship? Check out our list of cruise cabins to avoid.

3. Unpack as soon as you arrive.

hanging clothes cruise ship cabin

All cruise ship cabins have hangars. Use them. - Photo by Olga Meffista / Shutterstock

You might think that keeping all of your belongings in your luggage will take up less surface area … but you’d be wrong. Unpack and hang everything in the closet. Store your suitcases under the bed, and stash a plastic bag on the closet floor for dirty laundry.

Immediately pack any souvenirs in your stored luggage upon purchase. This will not only streamline your departure, but it will also keep your cabin clutter-free. 


4. Keep your incidentals in one place. 

phone card cruise ship cabin

Keep the two items you can't misplace in the same spot throughout your cruise. - Photo by Pushish Images / Shutterstock

Yes, you are on vacation and yes, you have a maid, but that doesn’t mean you should treat your room like a frat house. Section off a portion of the desk for your incidentals — room keycard, loose change, your phone, and whatever else you grab when you aren’t in your cabin — and always place those items in their spot. 


5. Designate a charging station.

charging station phone tablet cruise ship

Stray charging cords can turn into booby traps when you don't have much walking space. - Photo by Bacho / Shutterstock

Create a tech zone and charge and store all of your electronics in it. Yoke cords with a hair elastic to further streamline the wires. 


6. Keep your toiletries organized.

toiletries bag cruise ship cabin

A cluttered bathroom feels smaller. - Photo by GrigoryL / Shutterstock

In the bathroom, keep all of your toiletries in a pouch. Replace anything immediately after use. To further amplify the space, invest in an over-the-door toiletry bag. (L.L.Bean has a durable and affordable one in varying colors and sizes.) 


7. Stash the towel animals. 

towel animal cruise ship cabin

We know the crew puts a lot of effort into the towel animals, but that doesn't mean you have to keep them on display for your whole cruise. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines

Sure, that monkey is cute, but it occupies valuable real estate on your bed. Either tell your chambermaid you’ll pass, or stuff the towel animals under the bed after you admire them.

Insider Tip

Don’t wait until the last minute to pack for your cruise. You’ll just end up cramming in loads of garments that may or may not play well together. 

Join the discussion

What’s your best advice for making the most of a tiny stateroom?


Posted by le105314

I bring some magnetic clips and hooks which u can buy at any hardware store--all cabins are metal this gives me more clothing hooks to hang stuff and also keep my receipts and other paper that is let in room, Also you can place your luggage under the bed so it is not in the way. Bring a power strip as most cabins have only one outlet.

Posted by Funkat

I have started nestling our carry-on suitcases in our large suitcases and pack around them. This gives me empty carry-ons for bringing home souvenirs, etc.

Posted by Rivercruiser

Bring a length of cord or twine to hang washed clothes to dry. Bring a small container of laundry detergent to wash socks and underwear. Bring powdered drink mixes to avoid paying for in room soft drinks or mixers. Turn off your cell phone to avoid at sea roaming charges. Bring a few miniature bottles of booze to bypass security and then refill them when onshore. Remember that the little bottles must have plastic caps to avoid the scans. Always be nice to all crew.

Posted by Lindacruiser

We have cruised on 5 cruises all over the world, mostly on the newer larger ships. You cannot change the sq footage !. This article does not make any room seem larger. Sure, we always keep the room neat, but a small room is small, and a large room is large. We like the balcony, because even if you are inside, you can look outside, and it seems larger.

Posted by TheTiptons

Over the door shoe holder from Walmart costs about $5. Much less than LL Bean! Look for drawers below the sofa...

Posted by KidA

Good points, Attila, but I think you answered your own question about the beds. If you have two singles, the several feet between them is essentially wasted space. You're right that the bed-to-room ratio is the same, but you've created more usable space by opting for the queen.

Posted by AttilatheFun9

Some great tips, but disagree with a few: - How is requesting a queen bed vs. two twins saving any floor space? They literally take up the same amount, it's just whether that space is between the beds or on the side of it. - If you only pack one pair of jeans (or plan on re-wearing items), look into laundry specials on the cruise line or whether there is a self-serve laundry facility onboard. Most cruise lines run mid-cruise laundry specials, such as filling a bag for a flat price instead of per item price. - If you don't want to keep the towel animals, just place the towels in the bathroom when you leave the room - that way your room steward can actually FIND the towels, instead of hiding them under the bed, which likely already has your suitcase stored there and forces the steward to dig around at the end of the cruise! Another good tip is to bring magnets, since most cabin walls are made of metal. This way, you can post letters/coupons/schedules on the walls and leave free valuable counter space and avoid paper clutter.

Posted by shipshape937954

21 days out of 1 (underweight) suitcase--it can be done! Get out the cruise-worthy clothes, decide on one basic color (black, navy, brown, etc.) and build outfits around that color. Can't go wrong! Shoes are a different story...

Posted by LifeInCamelot

I must be more organised than I thought as I do most of those tips. I don't, however, have the time or the space to start 2 weeks beforehand so it's usually the day before.

Posted by fin2012

I always plan on starting my packing early, but like LifelnCamelot, I usually pack late night the day before we leave.

Posted by SassyLaGirl

pack clothes for each day in a gallon zip lock bag, remove air and make stacking clothes easier in suitcase.

Posted by Windfinder

I pack a small quantity of plastic hangers I but at the dollar store. There are never enough hangers for my family in the closet. If you ask the cabin steward, they might have some extra hangers. When I leave the ship, I leave the hangers behind, and I'm only out one dollar.

Posted by Windfinder

I pack a small quantity of plastic hangers I buy at the dollar store. There are never enough hangers for my family in the closet. If you ask the cabin steward, they might have some extra hangers. When I leave the ship, I leave the hangers behind, and I'm only out one dollar.

Posted by PJRCruiser

We always choose the twin option in a small cabin. It's better to have the center floor space than little room on each side. That does depend on the layout of the room. Stewards will change the configuation if you change your mind. Also, we've found that the finish on the walls don't always accept a magnet now. Sometimes a mirror frame will but don't count on it! When a cheaper inside cabin equals two cruises instead of one, it makes sense.

Posted by Ron90069

I just took an NCL Bliss Alaska cruise in an inside cabin by myself. It was supposed to have the twin beds made into a queen, but I had to have the steward do it on embarkation. He centered the "queen," which left two tiny, unnavigatable side "aisles." I had him move the bed so one side was against the wall (the benefit of going solo!), which opened up the one "aisle" nicely. And don't tell anyone, but the daily folded "animal" towels made great wrappers for some fragile souvenirs! My one bad judgement was accepting an inside near the front of the ship - a tedious walk to/from the elevators. From now on it's back to midship cabins! It was still a great cruise - my second to Alaska and fourth overall. Next I want to do the Panama Canal, but preferably in a balcony or mini-suite.

Posted by MJtraveler

Packing cubes! We have our different clothing types - undies, socks, shorts, swimwear - in separate his and her cubes. They press flat in the suitcases with slacks and dresses in the bottom and folded over the cubes. Just take them out when you get onboard, put the open cubes in drawers or on shelves, and hang the longer garments. When you are ready to leave, put any remaining clean clothes in one or two cubes, sort dirty into the cubes, and pack suitcases. Ready for laundry when I get home! Not much time spent before, during, or after the cruise, and makes great use of the cabin space.

Posted by Carnivalfuntime

We've been on 6 cruises now and have downsized from two large suitcases, one the first cruise, to one for the two of us. We're on holidays so it doesn't matter to us to have our clothes launder on ship. Two tips that I read before our first cruise. Take a couple of dollar store tea lights for at night and a can of air freshener as the bathroom does not have fans. I upgraded to taking a flashlight for the bedside. We were on the second cruise and the lights were out for well over a hour one night. We still have 5 more cruises booked for when everyone can get together again safely.

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