How the cheapest interior and balcony cabins on Carnival's new cruise ship compare — and why the pricier one is worth it

composite of two cruise cabins on Carnival Firenze
An interior stateroom on Carnival Firenze is $160 cheaper per person than a cabin with a balcony. I recommend paying more for the private outdoor space.Brittany Chang/Business Insider
  • Carnival's new Carnival Firenze cruise ship set sail in late April.

  • Its interior cabins are $160 cheaper per person than the ones with balconies.

  • The cramped balcony stateroom is worth the additional cost.

I finally realized that my parents are, in fact, always right. Unfortunately, learning my lesson took a stint in a windowless cabin on a Carnival cruise.

In mid-May, I found myself stuck on a four-night Carnival Firenze cruise with my family. I was there for work — they were there to enjoy the sun. And that they did, as they luxuriated in a cabin with a balcony while I was stuck in a drab, windowless dungeon.

Never again will I think of my parents as 'snobby' for wanting the more expensive accommodation (sorry, Mom and Dad).

bed and picture of Italy in balcony cabin on Carnival Firenze
Carnival Firenze is Carnival Cruise Line's 27th ship.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

My parents, occasional cruisers, have always preferred staterooms with balconies. After my stint in the ship's interior accommodation, I now understand why balconies are the most popular cabin category.

For Firenze's cheapest itinerary in 2024 — a four-night roundtrip voyage from Long Beach, California, to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico — a dual-occupancy interior cabin starts at $359 per person.

Ones with balconies command a minimum of $519 per person.

That's a $160 difference — and well worth the extra cash.

Carnival Firenze, the company’s newest vessel, set sail in April.

person taking picture of Carnival Firenze cruise ship
Costa and Carnival are both owned by Carnival Corp. A spokesperson for Carnival said Firenze would retain its Costa-branded funnel "for now."Brittany Chang/Business Insider

But that doesn't mean it's a brand-new ship.

Firenze had initially joined the fleet of another Carnival Corp brand, Costa Cruises, in 2020 with plans to launch in China — that is, until the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carnival Cruise Line then acquired Firenze and its sister ship, Venezia, in 2022 to grow its US footprint amid "strong interest in people wanting to sail with us," a Carnival spokesperson told Business Insider.

But my interior cabin looked more like an ancient motel than a four-year-old ship.

a bed in front of a photo of Florence, Italy in my Carnival Firenze cruise cabin
A cabin attendant made my bed once a day.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The spokesperson said Firenze underwent a two-month refresh to "install the Carnival Fun Italian Style Concept."

This Italianized vision came as a photo of Florence, Italy, behind my bed, half covered by pillows. It's for the best — the print looked misplaced, unnecessary, and tacky.

At least it matched the color palette of the equally ugly carpet.

The furniture was functional, but that doesn’t mean it was pretty.

furniture in my Carnival Firenze cruise cabin
All of the furniture was placed against the wall.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The gray chaise clashed with the bafflingly ugly yellow and red carpet, while the faux marble and wood side table looked as cheap as my fare.

Thankfully, I have no gripes about the desk and closet. Both were sizable and looked like ones I've seen on more expensive and modern cruise ships.

'Expensive' and 'modern' could be the antithesis of my bathroom. It was a total eyesore.

my bathroom in my Carnival Firenze cruise cabin
The bathroom was ugly but spacious, a reoccurring theme of my cabin.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The yellow and red tiles would've been better suited in a McDonald's. But no design crime was bigger than the lack of designated storage units.

The only shelving came preoccupied with tissue boxes and toilet paper rolls, an unnecessary amenity given that my cabin attendant cleaned and restocked my room daily. I would've rather had one less spare toilet paper roll if that meant I could keep my skincare products inside the bathroom instead of out on the desk.

On the bright side, the bathroom and bedroom felt surprisingly spacious for 150 square feet.

bed and furniture in my Carnival Firenze cruise cabin
All of my furniture was pushed against the wall.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Unbeknownst to me, Carnival had put me in one of the ship's accessible, wheelchair-friendly accommodations. As a person without physical disabilities, this meant the shower — a curtain surrounding floor drains — was one of the largest I've had at sea.

Back in the living room, I could've starfished on the floor without hitting any furniture.

Complaints about its appearance aside, the room was large and almost perfectly functional — easily worth its $90-a-night price tag.

desk and closet in my Carnival Firenze cruise cabin
My cabin had a sizable desk attached to the closet.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

But without any natural light, the dated, dark, and mismatched furniture made my cabin look more like a drab hospital room.

Think I'm being dramatic? One look at my parent's balcony cabin will prove my point.

Some of the furniture in my dungeon and their breezy hotel room at sea looked identical.

balcony cabin chaise and table on Carnival Firenze
The chaise could convert into another bed.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

But the light-filled room and less hideous carpet made the chaise and side table feel more at home.

Unfortunately, nothing could've saved the still misplaced-looking photo of Italy.

However, no amount of natural light could've saved the stateroom from feeling cramped.

bed in balcony cabin on Carnival Firenze
The balcony cabin is 222 square feet including the outdoor space.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The cabin is 72 square feet larger than my interior one. But don't expect to starfish here: The narrow layout and furniture didn't leave much room to spare.

Our four-person family could comfortably lounge in my interior room. Four people inside the balcony cabin required flexible maneuvering around each other and the furniture.

The tiny bathroom made the one in my interior accommodation feel palatial.

bathroom of balcony cabin on Carnival Firenze
The bathroom in the balcony cabin felt cramped but came with several open shelves.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

Yet, despite being much smaller, the extra shelving — noticeably deprived of excess paper products — made this bathroom more functional.

But the tight layout is worth it for the private outdoor space and light.

bed of balcony cabin on Carnival Firenze
The balcony cabin had a window and a glass-lined door, bringing in plenty of natural light.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The ocean breeze and view provided the perfect backdrop for my parent's peaceful early mornings.

Meanwhile, my early mornings were spent in a dingy, liminal space-like bedroom, never fully sure of the exact time. I felt like a gremlin who lived in perpetual darkness, only reminded that the sun had, in fact, risen when I stopped by my family's bright cabin.

Seeing my mom lounge around with the balcony door cracked open, reading some documents without turning the lights on, was enviable.

A quiet outdoor space is especially important on a ship like Carnival Firenze.

indoor pool on Carnival Firenze
Carnival Firenze has an indoor pool.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The vessel is loud and rowdy, as is expected of a Carnival cruise. I struggled to find a quiet, relaxing lounge that wasn't overwhelmed by screaming children, screaming adults, or poorly mixed music.

Our cabins were the only truly quiet spaces on the ship. And I'd much rather read a book on a balcony with ocean views than in a dreary, dark interior stateroom.

I should probably add an asterisk next to 'truly quiet spaces.'

desk in balcony cabin on Carnival Firenze
The walkways around the bed felt tight.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

The interior and balcony accommodations did share one terrible similarity: ultra-thin walls.

Rowdy passersby could be heard clearly from inside both rooms. The neighbors' TV and late-night conversations constantly woke my dad up. (Maybe my interior cabin wasn't so bad after all.)

But, like I said, I'd trade a gloomy stateroom for a balcony and the chance to eavesdrop on my neighbors.

bed in balcony cabin on Carnival Firenze
The balcony cabin is 222 square feet including the outdoor space.Brittany Chang/Business Insider

As usual, my parent's decision to book a balcony instead of an interior cabin was the way to go.

Unless you're on an ultra-strict budget, it'll be worth the additional cost. A little sun and fresh air can go a long way for your sanity, especially on a ship where silence and peace are an upcharged luxury.

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