Whether catching up with loved ones back home, researching the day’s shore excursion, or simply posting about your cruise holiday on social media, there are many reasons why a growing number of people are using their phone on their cruise holiday to stay connected. But just how easy is it to use your smartphone on the high seas? And more importantly, how much will you have to pay for this privilege?
From roaming charges to Wi-Fi options, we put together a complete guide to everything you need to know about using your phone on your cruise holiday. Scroll down to read the full comprehensive guide or use the links below to navigate to a specific section and find your answer more quickly.
- Data Roaming Charges and Phone Settings
- Wi-Fi Options and Packages
- Phone Calls, Messaging and Video Calling
Data Roaming Charges and Phone Settings
How much will it cost to use my phone when roaming internationally?
Data roaming charges vary greatly from network to network, but all tend to be on the more expensive side. To avoid an astronomic bill, make sure to check your provider’s roaming charges before you travel and budget accordingly.
You can read more about your network’s roaming charges using the links below:
If you plan on using your phone during your cruise holiday just as you would on land, it may actually be cheaper to use roaming rather than purchasing a pricey Wi-Fi pass on the ship. Compare roaming charges with the cost of suitable internet packages to find the best deal for you.
How do I avoid roaming charges while cruising?
If you want to avoid racking up an eye-popping phone bill, you have several options.
The first one is simple but may induce separation anxiety: Turning off your phone as soon as your ship sets sail. That way, you’re guaranteed to avoid unexpected costs. If you still plan on using your phone for setting an alarm or for taking pictures and videos for social media, switch your phone on flight-safe/aeroplane mode, which prevents your phone from picking up a signal from an international carrier.
The second option is to buy a Wi-Fi pass on board the ship. This will enable you to switch off data roaming while still enjoying the perks of staying connected with your friends and family back on land. Please note that the reliability of the network will vary depending on the location of the ship as well as where you are on the ship. Additionally, this network will only cover you on board, so you’ll need to access local Wi-Fi in shops, bars, and cafés if you want to continue using your phone on shore.
The third and final option is to speak with your network provider about purchasing a data roaming package. Depending on where you’re travelling to and how much data you need, your network may be able to cut you a deal that offers internet access as part of a capped roaming package, meaning that you can use up to a certain amount of data per day. This may end up being less expensive than a Wi-Fi package, so again, do some research to find out what works best for you.
Wi-Fi Options and Packages
Can I connect to the Wi-Fi network on board my ship?
Because passengers increasingly want to stay connected, Wi-Fi has become big business for cruise lines, so you can expect most modern cruise ships to have their own at-sea network. Of course, connecting to the ship’s Wi-Fi will cost you, and how much depends on which cruise lines you’re sailing with and how much data you need.
If you only plan on sending messages and doing a small amount of web browsing to read the news or check the score of the big game, you should expect to pay around $10-$15 USD per day for a single device. However, if you want to stream music on Spotify and videos on YouTube or Netflix or access video calling services like Skype and FaceTime, it’ll set you back $15-$25 USD per device, per day.
Generally, the more devices you choose to connect, the cheaper the package will be. For instance, a “Voom Surf and Stream” package with Royal Caribbean costs $17.99 USD per device, per day while a family of five can expect to pay a reduced rate of $11.99 USD per device, per day. That way, the whole family can stay connected without having to fight over one device.
How reliable is onboard Wi-Fi, and are there any restrictions?
Given the cost of internet packages, you’d expect a reliable and speedy connection, but unfortunately, this isn’t always guaranteed. To provide their passengers with internet access, cruise lines rely on satellites, which can result in a poor or intermittent connection depending on where the cruise ship is. So, don’t expect to be able to stream movies at 1080p while you’re in the middle of the Pacific.
And if a poor connection wasn’t bad enough, some cruise lines restrict their passengers from using some data-intensive streaming and video calling services. This is to ease demand on the network, ensuring that all guests get their fair share of bandwidth. Not all cruise lines do this though, so if streaming is important to your overall experience, check the policy of your preferred cruise line before you book.
Of course, advances in network technology mean that at-sea internet connections are improving all the time, particularly on board modern ships brimming with state-of-the-art technologies. As the demand for a reliable and stable internet connection grows, it won’t be long before cruise lines are able to offer fast and high-performance Wi-Fi at sea.
Phone Calls, Messaging and Video Calling
Can I make phone calls during my cruise, and how much will it cost?
Like a stable Wi-Fi connection, phone services require a strong network signal, but this isn’t always guaranteed at sea. While it is possible to make phone calls during a cruise, you’ll only be able to do so when you have a good signal. A general rule of thumb: The closer to land, the better the reception.
Along with signal issues, don’t forget to take the cost of calling into consideration. Like internet data services, phone calls and SMS messages fall under international roaming, so that five-minute call home to Mom could cost you big time. As we mentioned previously, always check roaming charges with your network provider before you travel to avoid a nasty bill.
If you want to make calls or send messages to loved ones back home, the best option is to use data messaging and video calling services that use the internet rather than the phone network. This includes Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Apple’s built-in iMessage system.
Once you’ve bought a package and connected to the ship’s Wi-Fi, you can send messages and make short calls via Skype without having to worry about extra costs. However, if you plan on video conferencing, you may have to contend with dodgy reception as well as restrictions on the length and quality of the call due to the Wi-Fi network restrictions listed above.
We hope this guide helps you enjoy the benefits of using a phone on your next cruise holiday. For more tips and advice, head to our newsfeed or visit our website to browse our collection cruise deals today! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ring our team of Australia-based cruise experts on 1300 857 345.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated in May 2019.