How to Make Your Tiny Cabin Feel Like a Castle

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. 


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.


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 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 shipshape

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 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 TaraBonVoyage

Great tip shipshape! You’re absolutely right about the shoes, especially for women. What ship did you sail on for 21 days?

Posted by TaraBonVoyage

So glad you found these tips useful AttilatheFun9, and thanks so much for your helpful additions — bringing magnets is a great idea.

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 AbileneRN

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

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 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 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 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.

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