Whether catching up with loved ones back home, researching the day’s shore excursion or simply showing off on your Facebook timeline – there are lots of reasons why a growing number of people are using their phone on a cruise holiday. But just how easy is it to use your smartphone on the high seas, and more importantly, how much will you pay for the privilege?
Here, we offer a complete guide to everything you need to know about using your phone on a cruise holiday, from roaming charges to Wi-Fi options. 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 very expensive. To avoid an astronomic bill, make sure to check your provider’s roaming charges before you travel, and budget accordingly.
You can find out more about your network’s roaming charges using the links below:
If you plan to use your phone a lot while cruising, it may actually work out cheaper to use roaming rather than buying an expensive Wi-Fi pass on the ship. Compare roaming charges with the cost of suitable internet packages to find the best deal for you.
How can I avoid roaming charges while cruising?
If you want to avoid racking up an eye-popping phone bill, there are several options.
The first is simple: turn off your phone as soon as your ship sets sail, and you’re guaranteed to avoid unexpected costs. Or, if you still plan to use your phone for taking photographs or setting an alarm, switch on flight-safe/airplane mode, which prevents the phone picking up a signal.
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 being connected to a reliable (-ish) network. Note – this will only cover you on board the ship, so you’ll need to access local Wi-Fi in shops, bars and cafés if you want to continue using your phone onshore.
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 you can use ‘X’ amount of data per day. This may work out cheaper than a Wi-Fi package, so again, do some research to find the best deal for you.
Wi-Fi Options and Packages
Can I connect to the Wi-Fi network on board my ship?
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 who you’re cruising with and how much data you need.
If you only plan on sending messages and doing a small amount of web browsing, you should expect to pay around US$10-$15 per day for a single device. If, however, you want to stream music and videos, or access video calling services like Skype, it’ll set you back US$15-$25 a day.
Generally, the more devices you elect to connect, the cheaper the package will be. For instance, with Royal Caribbean, a Surf & Stream Voom package for one device costs US$17.99 per day, dropping to $13.99 for 4 devices – so it could pay to get the family connected, too (source).
Is on-board Wi-Fi reliable and are there any restrictions?
Given the cost of internet packages, you’d expect a reliable and fast connection, but this sadly isn’t always guaranteed. To provide 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 mid-Pacific.
And if a poor network connection wasn’t bad enough, cruise lines do restrict 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, so if streaming is important to your overall experience, check the policy of your preferred 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 the latest 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 a cruise, and how much will it cost?
Like a good Wi-Fi connection, phone services require a strong network signal, and this isn’t always guaranteed at sea. So, while it is possible to make phone calls during a cruise, you’ll only be able to do so when you’ve got a good signal (usually the closer to land you are, the better the reception).
As well as signal issues, there’s also the cost of calling to consider. Like internet data services, phone calls and SMS messages fall under the bracket of international roaming, so that five-minute call home 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 which 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 worrying about the cost. 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. For more tips and advice head to our newsfeed, or click here to visit the homepage and browse our collection of 2018/19 cruises today.