Suite Vs Mini Suite Vs Balcony: What’s The Difference?

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When booking your cruise accommodation, the number of options can be a little dizzying. It’s even worse if you’ve never cruised before, or you’re trying a new cruise line, because they all have different names for their stateroom categories.

Suite Vs Mini Suite Vs Balcony

This guide will focus on Suites, Mini Suites and Balcony Staterooms – what are they, how are they different, and ultimately which one is the best choice for you?

What Is the Difference Between a Balcony Room, a Mini Suite and a Suite on a Cruise?

Balcony Staterooms and Suites are similar, although Suites are often much larger. Suites will come with additional perks too, which may involve complimentary drinks, enhanced service or exclusive access to parts of the ship. Mini-Suites bridge the gap between Balcony Staterooms and Suites.

  • Balcony – Stateroom with an outdoor area
  • Mini Suite – More spacious than a Balcony with some extra perks
  • Suite – Even more spacious and with more perks

When I say that they’re similar, what I mean is that typically (but not always) a Balcony Stateroom and a Suite will have a sleeping area, a living area and a balcony facing out onto the ocean.

But there are of course exceptions – some balconies don’t face the ocean, some suites don’t have balconies, and so on.

Plus, suites may have multiple bedrooms or living areas, or they may just be more separate, perhaps with a curtain. In most balcony staterooms on ships, the bedroom and living area are within the same actual room.

So what about Mini Suites? These aren’t available on every cruise line and they can be known by various different names. Generally, they are very similar in layout (and sometimes size) to a Balcony Stateroom, but they may be slightly larger.

They may also have what you would consider as ‘entry level’ suite perks – not the full list by any means, but a few additional extras that make them better than a standard Balcony room.

Suite Deals

I recommend booking with luxury specialists Panache Cruises for the best service.

Different Balcony & Suite Types

Here’s a quick breakdown of the various types of Balcony or Suite you might find on a ship. This is not an exhaustive list, because every cruise line is different, but this gives you an idea of the various types of rooms that might be available.

Standard Balcony

A Standard Balcony cabin or stateroom will be the average balcony room on a ship – you’ll get a decent-sized room and a balcony which usually has enough space for two chairs.

Balcony Cabin on P&O Arvia
Standard Balcony Cabin on P&O Cruises’ Arvia

Smaller Balcony

Some Balcony Staterooms may be listed as having a smaller balcony – this will typically be due to the design of the ship. They may be cheaper, although not always – so it’s good to check deck plans when you book.

Virtual Balcony

Available on some Royal Caribbean ships, a Virtual Balcony isn’t a real balcony. Instead, it’s an Inside Stateroom with a large TV screen that gives the illusion of a balcony.

Virtual Balcony on Anthem of the Seas
Virtual Balcony on Anthem of the Seas

Internal Balcony

Some Balcony Staterooms don’t have a view of the ocean, but instead have a view over an internal part of the ship. Commonly found on larger Royal Caribbean ships, they may have views of the Central Park or Boardwalk.

Royal Caribbean Central Park
Internal Balconies Overlooking Central Park on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class

French Balcony

Available on river cruise ships, this is a balcony that you can’t step out onto. French Balconies are common on river ships because the ships have to be narrow.

Suite with French Balcony TUI Skyla
French Balcony on TUI Skyla

Obstructed View Balcony

Unfortunately, some Balcony Staterooms will have an obstructed view. This could be down to the lifeboats, or a metal railing instead of a clear one. Usually, these rooms are cheaper.

Royal Caribbean obstructed view lifeboats
Obstructed Balconies on Anthem of the Seas

Enclosed Balcony

Some ships will have Balcony rooms that are more enclosed, with solid walls and a ceiling above you, likely paired with a solid metal railing too. You get less of a view, but more shelter from the weather. These are also known as Cove Balconies.

Carnival Cove Balcony Staterooms
Enclosed Balconies on Carnival Celebration

Deluxe Balcony

A Deluxe Balcony room will either have a larger room, a larger balcony, or both. They aren’t usually significantly bigger or they would be classified as a suite, and so they aren’t often of great value.

Superior Deluxe Balcony Stateroom
Superior Deluxe Balcony Stateroom on P&O Cruises’ Azura

Mini Suite

Mini Suites are available on some cruise ships and are a middle step between Balcony staterooms and full suites. The perks are minimal, and sometimes the rooms aren’t much bigger than Balcony rooms.

Mini Suite on Sky Princess
Mini Suite on Sky Princess

Junior Suite

Junior Suites are the same as Mini Suites, it’s just that different cruise lines call them different things. They are typically a reasonable amount larger than a Balcony Cabin. Don’t expect a huge list of perks though.

Junior Suite on MSC World Europa
Junior Suite on MSC World Europa

Ocean View (Window) Suite

While rare, some cruise ships have Suites that do not feature a balcony, but instead have large windows. Typically found at the front of a ship, where a balcony may not be permitted due to the weather, they are still worth considering.

This also answers the question of what is a balcony suite – because some cruise lines will name their entry-level suites a Balcony Suite to show they have a balcony, if they also have some that don’t.

Ocean View Suite on Celestyal Olympia
Ocean View Suite on Celestyal Olympia

Grand Suite

Grand Suites (or equivalent) are typically the mid-level suite on a ship, and will include a reasonable amount of additional benefits to enhance your cruise.

Grand Suite on Anthem of the Seas
Grand Suite on Anthem of the Seas

Spa Suite

Some cruise ships have Spa Suites – themed suites that include priority access to the onboard spa and select furnishings or features that are spa-like within the room.

Neptune Spa on HAL cruise ship
Spa Suite on Holland America Line’s Rotterdam

Family Suite

While many suites are capable of sleeping more than 4 guests, there are some ships which have dedicated Family Suites for larger travelling parties, potentially up to 14 guests. One of the best of these is the three-storey Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon of the Seas.

Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon of the Seas
Ultimate Family Townhouse on Icon of the Seas

Special View Suites

Some suites may have a special view. This could just be a prime location on the ship, such as the aft, or it could be something specific, like Royal Caribbean’s AquaTheater Suites which have a view over the ship’s AquaTheater – your own private theatre seats every night.

AquaTheater suites
AquaTheater Suite on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class

Suites With Direct Access To Features

There are some cruise lines that have suites giving you direct access to features onboard. It may be the spa, or it could be a family area, like Surfside Suites on the Icon of the Seas for Royal Caribbean.

Surfside Family Suite on Icon of the Seas
Surfside Family Suite on Icon of the Seas

Owner’s Suite

On most cruise ships, the Owner’s Suite is the best suite on the ship, although not always. Typically the largest, it may have a balcony that is bigger than most standard rooms, never mind the actual suite itself.

Royal Caribbean owner's suite
Owner’s Suite on Adventure of the Seas

Split-Level Suites

Some cruise lines have started designing suites split across multiple levels, giving guests more space and more distinction between the bedroom areas and the living spaces. Also known as Loft Suites or Duplex Suites, these are great for families or guests who like to host parties.

MSC Yacht Club Duplex Suite
MSC Yacht Club Duplex Suite

Balcony Staterooms, Mini Suites and Suites By Cruise Line

Here’s an overview of the differences between Balcony Staterooms, Mini Suites and Suites for some of the world’s biggest cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean

The Royal Caribbean fleet is huge, and there is a lot of variety among the ships in terms of available accommodation.

The cruise line doesn’t have Mini Suites, instead, they call them Junior Suites. They are significantly larger than Balcony Staterooms, but the list of Junior Suite perks is limited.

Junior Suite on Harmony of the Seas
Junior Suite

Most Royal Caribbean ships have Grand Suites. These are mid-range suites and the list of Grand Suite perks is considerably longer. They are usually available with either one or two bedrooms.

Royal Caribbean Grand Suite
Grand Suite

Here are the various options when deciding between a Royal Caribbean Suite vs Balcony rooms:

Balcony StateroomsMini SuitesSuites
Standard Balcony StateroomJunior Suite*Grand Suite (1 & 2 Bed)
Spacious Balcony StateroomGolden Junior Suite*Panoramic View Suite (Window Only)
Boardwalk View BalconyOwner’s Suite
Central Park View BalconyCrown Loft Suite
Infinite View BalconyAquaTheater Suite (1 & 2 Bed)
Sky Loft Suite
Star Loft Suite
Surfside Family Suite
Ultimate Panoramic Suite
Villa Suite
Grand Panoramic Suite
Owner’s Panoramic Suite
Grand Loft Suite
Owner’s Loft Suite
Royal Loft Suite
Icon Loft Suite
Ultimate Family Suite
Ultimate Family Townhouse

Read more: Royal Caribbean Suite Perks


Carnival ships have a range of Balcony options and some specialist suites that are worth explaining.

As well as the standard Balcony cabins, you can also choose Extended Balcony cabins, where the actual balcony is extended. But be careful as sometimes that’s at the expense of space in the room.

Spa Balcony rooms are available, which are situated close to the onboard spa, and you can also book Cove Balcony cabins – these are more enclosed, with a walled-in balcony space and essentially a large open window area.

Carnival Spa Balcony
Spa Balcony

Carnival also has specialist room types – Cloud 9, Havana and Family Harbor. Cloud 9 rooms are spa-themed, Havana rooms are directly linked to the Havana poolside area (with Havana Balcony cabins and Suites including a private cabana).

Havana Cabana balcony
Havana Cabana Balcony

Family Harbor staterooms and suites give access to the Family Harbor Lounge with various fun activities for all the family.

Here’s a look at your Carnival Suite vs Balcony options:

Balcony StateroomsMini SuitesSuites
Junior Balcony Cabin (small) Junior SuiteFamily Harbor Suite
Cove Balcony CabinVista Suite
Balcony CabinOcean Suite
Extended Balcony CabinGrand Suite
Cloud 9 Spa Cove Balcony CabinCloud 9 Spa Suite
Cloud 9 Spa Balcony CabinHavana Cabana Suite
Havana Cabana CabinCarnival Excel Suite
Havana Extended Cabana CabinCarnival Excel Aft Suite
Carnival Excel Presidential Suite

Read more: Carnival Cruise Suite Benefits

Holland America Line

Holland America is another cruise line that officially does not have Mini Suites, but does offer a suite option which feels like it should be considered as a mini suite.

That’s the Vista Suite. They’re not much bigger than the Verandah Staterooms on the ship, and they don’t offer many perks at all – just a choice of pillows, a stocked mini bar, and the use of some binoculars in your suite (but you can’t keep them!).

MS Rotterdam Vista Suite
Vista Suite

The main thing to look out for with Holland America is the Spa accommodation. This is available at Verandah Level and at Suite level (you can also get Interior and Ocean View Spa rooms).

Spa Stateroom
Spa Stateroom

Spa Verandah Staterooms and Spa Suites are the same size as regular suites, but they offer perks such as priority booking of spa treatments, and a range of extras in your room such as a countertop water feature, yoga mats, bath salts and more.

Balcony StateroomsMini SuitesSuites
Standard Verandah StateroomVista SuiteSignature Suite
Aft-View Verandah StateroomNeptune Suite
Spa Verandah StateroomNeptune Spa Suite
Pinnacle Suite

Read more: Holland America Line Suite Benefits

Norwegian Cruise Line

With NCL, there aren’t a huge number of Balcony cabins to choose from. You can either opt for a standard Balcony, or one aimed at families. A third option, Spa Balcony, was removed in late 2023 and reclassifed as a regular Balcony.

NCL Spa Balcony
Spa Balcony

NCL does have Mini-Suites, although they have been rebranded as “Club Balcony” Suites. They’re larger than the Balcony rooms and include the same variants – standard, family or spa. They include a small list of perks, including complimentary treats and a half-bottle of sparkling wine when you embark.

Read more: NCL Club Balcony Suites Vs Balconies

NCL Family Club Balcony
Family Club Balcony

With the full suites, some of the modern ships have all of the suites in The Haven – an exclusive upmarket area of the ship. On older NCL ships, you might have a split between suites in The Haven and suites elsewhere on the ship. The perks you get for any of these suites is quite an extensive list.

Balcony StateroomsMini SuitesSuites
BalconyClub Balcony SuiteDeluxe Family Suite
Family BalconyFamily Club Balcony SuitePenthouse Suite
Deluxe Penthouse Suite
The Haven Deluxe Suite
The Haven Penthouse Suite
The Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite
The Haven 2-Bedroom Family Villa
The Haven 3-Bedroom Garden Villa
The Haven Owner’s Suite
The Haven Deluxe Owner’s Suite

Read more: NCL Suite Perks

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises has probably the simplest breakdown of staterooms and suites of any of these major cruise lines.

But to be clear – not all options are available on all ships.

With Balcony Staterooms, you have a choice between Standard, Deluxe and Premium Deluxe. And it all comes down to size.

Standard Balcony on Enchanted Princess
Standard Balcony

Typically a Standard Balcony will sleep 2 to 4 but use Pullman beds, while a Deluxe stateroom adds a sofa bed for additional comfort. Premium Deluxe Balcony Staterooms have a larger balcony, with both a sofa bed and Pullman bed.

Deluxe Balcony
Deluxe Balcony

There are two categories of Mini Suite too, with the basic Mini Suites being as much as 46% larger than a Standard Balcony Stateroom. You get a few perks too, but only in the room – upgraded mattress topper, two TVs instead of one, and a bathtub with massage shower.

Emerald Princess Mini Suite
Mini Suite

Club Class Mini Suites are where you start to get traditional Suite perks – priority embarkation, welcome drinks, access to exclusive dining options and so on.

And then Suites are the largest accommodation options on Princess Cruises, with a longer perk list too. The best are Sky Suites, though these are only available on the very latest ships. They have vast balconies overlooking the pool deck and are stunning.

Balcony StateroomsMini SuitesSuites
Balcony StateroomMini SuitesWindow Suite
Deluxe Balcony StateroomClub Class Mini SuitesVista Suite
Premium Deluxe Balcony StateroomPremium Suite
Penthouse Suite
Grand Suite
Owner’s Suite
Sky Suite

Read more: Princess Cruises Suite Perks

Final Word

Generally, a Balcony Stateroom is a good choice of accommodation for most people who want to enjoy a view with fresh air. Suites are aimed at those with a larger budget, who want to be made to feel special on their cruise by either boarding early, or having free drinks waiting for them.

When it comes to Mini Suites, it depends on the cruise line. Some are barely worth the upgrade cost over a Balcony, while with cruise lines like Princess the difference can be substantial. That’s why it’s always worth checking deck plans and reading reviews before deciding which option is best for you.

Suite Deals

I recommend booking with luxury specialists Panache Cruises for the best service.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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7 thoughts on “Suite Vs Mini Suite Vs Balcony: What’s The Difference?”

  1. Thank you for all the great information that you have been sharing. I have been a travel adviser for 10 years and am still learning from you. You are a resource to be cherished. I just wish I would have found you sooner.
    My wife and I just booked our second cruise on Oceania Vista. The ship is amazing and so was the penthouse suite that we booked. It came with a butler and access to specialty dining areas. Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks so much, I appreciate your kind words. Jenni

  2. thank you for all your info on cabin types we are going majestic princess and we have now gone for a mini suite in preference to a balcony cabin looks nice

  3. I’m sailing on the Caribbean Princess in December. What is the difference between balcony and premium balcony? Do all the balconies have an ocean view?

    • Hi. Yes, all of the balconies on Caribbean Princess have an ocean view, although some are obstructed by lifeboats so be sure to check the deckplan if you’d rather avoid those. The premium ones are a little larger, and some have wake views, which is nice to have. I hope that helps. Jenni

  4. I’m 71 years booked for Cunard 29 days. Downside is I have level 1 inside cabin bigger room. But hoping Cunard can change to upper level at no cost. Booked with vocation to go. Any advise

  5. Hi, thank you for all the information you give, it’s really appreciated.

    We have just booked a Royal Princess cruise, cabin D718, we wanted a balcony and quiet room. Is this the case?
    Also very confused about the drinks packages, any help would be very welcome.

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