Eight years ago when I first travelled overseas, a phone was only a secondary consideration. The smartphone as we know it today was still in its infancy, and the ability to get a short-term SIM card in some countries was all but non-existent.
The following year when I decided to take my first cruise the landscape had not changed much. I had explicitly purchased a phone that would hold two SIM cards to allow for an international SIM card and the one from home. However, once I left the United States on that cruise the phone was useless. I could receive text messages and send them at a premium price and if I wanted to make calls at an even higher premium.
In the time between my first cruise in 2011 and my most recent in 2017 things have changed significantly. We have gone from smartphones being in the hands of the minority to not being able to live without them. When you think about heading off on a cruise ship how does this play out? Today I want to try and answer some of those questions you might have about taking a phone with you when cruising.
Is It Worth Taking?
Back in 2011, it was kind of pointless to take your phone with you when cruising. The only reason I carried it with me around the ship was that I wanted something with the time on it and I had opted to travel without a watch. Many other passengers that brought a phone left it in the safe in their cabin while onboard.
Fast forward to now, and there is a long list of reasons why you might like to carry your phone. However, making phone calls and sending text messages are likely not in that list. That is one thing that has not changed the costs that are associated with using your phone.
But there are still some reasons to consider taking your phone with you when you are cruising. With some of them below along with some things to consider while you are away.
Turn Off Mobile Data
The very first consideration when you are travelling on a cruise is to turn off Mobile Data. Mobile data is how your phone connects to the internet, and there are many applications these days that use this connection in the background. Things like e-mail, weather, social media apps and the list goes on.
The costs associated with data on cruise ships are surprisingly expensive. I will include some details on this below. But I would suggest checking with your specific provider before travelling as the costs may change or be different. But I would recommend turning this off to avoid one excessive phone bill when you get home.
How To Turn off Mobile Data on iPhone
- Open device settings.
- Select the “Mobile” or “Cellular” option.
- Make sure the slider for “Mobile Data” or “Cellular Data” is in the off position.
How To Turn off Mobile Data on Android
I understand the below to work for turning off Mobile Data on Android. However, I am not a native Android user so it might be worth checking for your particular device.
- Swipe Down from the top of the screen.
- Select Settings.
- Press Data Usage.
- Flick the mobile data switch to off.
Only Use On Wifi
While onboard the cruise ship there may be options to use your phone (or other devices) on wifi. While this can be a somewhat lower price than what you might pay for mobile data it is neither free or cheap for the most part. In the past, I have spent anywhere between $100 and $250 for internet access with varying amounts of time included for accessing the internet.
However, more cruise ships are starting to bring many onboard services to a digital medium. My most recent cruise on the Sun Princess in 2017, I was able to check my account, chat with other passengers and review the daily events on my phone using wifi for free.
Watch Your Minutes or Data
If you choose to purchase an internet package while onboard a cruise ship you need to be aware of how much you are using to try and avoid using it to quickly. The cost of onboard internet services is often far from cheap, and the inclusions are usually not that much.
The first cruise that I travelled on I paid $100 for 250 minutes, which averaged to less than 10 minutes per day over 28 days. While my third cruise I paid $250 for 1000 minutes, which averaged around 34 minutes a day. But that is still 25cents a minute and if you forget to log off the minutes can disappear rather quickly.
On the other hand, some cruise lines are starting to offer a more diverse range of packages. Some packages work on the amount of data that you use as opposed to the time that you spend online. A somewhat appealing option when you are on a cruise ship considering that the speed is often not that great. You just have to be aware of what your phone may do in the background that can quickly make the data allowance disappear. So make sure things like auto updates and the like are turned off.
Another option that is starting to appear is the social internet plan. Often these plans will give you some level of access to a select range of social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like.
The offers are something that does change significantly from one cruise line to another. So it is worth taking a look at what the company you are travelling with offers. The biggest problem I have found though is that online information can differ to what you find once onboard the ship. So always be prepared for things to be different.
Know How To Log Off
Especially when you are using a plan on a ship that limits how many minutes you are connected you need to know how to log off. It is better to take some time and find this out before you get connected. Usually, the information is readily available, but if you don’t understand take the time and ask the Internet Manager. It is better to know up front than to be trying to find someone to show you want to do while the minutes are ticking away.
Another little tip is to find ways to do things without being logged on to the internet while onboard. For example, if you are going to check your email, connect to the internet and download your email and disconnect the internet. You can then read your email and write replies while disconnected. Finally, connect to the internet to send your responses. You can save plenty of time by taking this approach as opposed to writing responses while connected.
Most cruise lines are starting to offer websites that are available while you are onboard. The sites will provide a range of different services but are designed to try and make things easier.
You might find you can check your cruise account, chat with other passengers, view the daily activities, book shore excursions, or numerous other options depending on the cruise line. These websites are often free to access and only require a wifi connection.
In some cases, you may even be able to access modified versions of news websites for free onboard. However, it will vary considerably between cruise lines and sometimes even between ships.
Know the costs
If you are taking your mobile phone with you on your cruise, it is essential that you know what it is going to cost if you use it. Phone providers might be starting to offer much better international roaming deals but this rarely cover usage onboard cruise ships.
They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but in this instance, the saying knowledge is power is much more appropriate. I do want to give you a little look at some potential costs below. But with hundreds of telecommunication companies around the world, everyone may be different. So I urge you to do a little research with your company.
|Carrier||Make & Receive Calls||Send Text Message||Data|
|Telstra||$5.00 per minute||75 cents per message||$3.00 per MB|
|Vodaphone||$5.00 per minute||75 cents per message||$1.00 per MB|
|Optus||$4.00 per minute||$1.00 per message||$2.00 per MB|
Some of the prices may differ a little but either way, you look at you are paying a lot of money. So the basic thought from my point of view is unless it is an emergency avoid using your phone.
Now You Know
I hope that I have helped you to better understand and prepare for taking your phone on a cruise, without scaring you too much. The reality is that knowing this sort of information is the best defence against being caught out by it.