For some, the idea of completely unplugging for a week or two is absolute heaven. But for others, not being able to upload fun-filled holiday snaps to Facebook and Instagram is a total nightmare. If you want to tease friends and family back home with pictures of you lounging in a bubbling hot tub, you need this guide to using your phone on a cruise.
Tips on Using Your Phone on a Cruise
The easiest and cheapest way to using your phone on a cruise is to wait until you’re in port to do all your messaging, chatting and uploading. If you’re out and about, there’s a good chance you’ll find plenty of places offering free WiFi. Think coffee shops, restaurants, even public squares and parks. You can’t use WiFi to make phone calls or send texts. But you can easily get around this with apps like Skype and Whatsapp.
Depending on the country your SIM card is registered to and the port you’re in, you might not even have to search for free WiFi. Roaming charges are pretty much non-existent throughout Europe. So if you’re from Europe and you’re on a Mediterranean cruise, you’ll be able to use your phone for any purpose in any port and pay the same rates as you do back home. The same goes for most people with American SIM cards travelling around the Caribbean.
If you’re stuck paying roaming charges, it will likely work out cheaper to sign up for a roaming package before you leave. Although they’re pricier than the standard charges you’re used to paying, they’re much better value than paying per minute/text/MB. Just make sure you keep an eye on your usage while using your phone on a cruise and don’t go overboard or you’ll end up paying much more than you budgeted for.
If you can’t wait until your next port of call to use your phone, your options are pretty limited. Because there are no mobile/cell phone towers at sea, you can’t just use your phone like you normally would and just pay the roaming charges. But you can sign up for your ship’s onboard mobile phone service, which includes phone calls and text messages. Rates for this service are often extortionate and what you think of as a quick chat can easily add up to big $$$. What’s more, the ship’s online mobile phone service doesn’t include data usage – just phone calls and text messages.
A great alternative is to sign up for one of the ship’s WiFi packages. Gone are the days of sky-high prices per MB. And here to replace them are custom-made packages for different types of usage. For example, Carnival Cruises offers a social package ($5 per day), a value package ($12 per day) and a premium package ($17 per day). The WiFi packages don’t include phone calls and text messages. But with so many ways to communicate with people online, you really don’t need them.
Many service providers, including AT&T, are now offering specialist roaming packages for cruisers. These packages include a set number of minutes, texts and data which can be used at sea. Although they tend to work out great value for money, it’s always worth comparing with the price of the packages offered by the cruise ship, if you really want to get the best deal going.
Finally, there’s always the old-fashioned way. Almost all cruise ships have public phones you can use to call back home. But just like their onboard mobile phone service, the prices are usually pretty high. So you’d better make it quick!