Everything you need to know: How to use your mobile phone on a cruise

Jul 12, 2019
Here's how you can avoid racking up hefty charges while using your mobile phone at sea. Source: Getty

If you plan to use your mobile phone on a cruise ship, whether it’s catching up with family and friends back home or simply posting about your trip on social media, you’ll need to consider a few key factors to make sure you’re not faced with a massive phone bill when you return.

Staying in touch on a cruise

The good news? Yes, your mobile will work on a cruise, but it might be expensive – not to mention phone reception is pretty bad while you’re at sea.

It’s important to note however that when you do have phone signal, it’s coming through an at-sea provider, which means hefty roaming charges will apply — so that ‘quick’ five-minute phone call home could cost you.

For example, some companies can charge roughly $5 per minute for an overseas mobile call. Texting costs a lot less than a phone call, however you’ll still be charged a standard rate per message sent —  roughly anywhere around a dollar — so it’s important to check your provider’s roaming charges before you travel.

So how can you avoid those annoying overseas data roaming charges?

One of the sure-fire ways to ensure you don’t end up with a massive phone bill at the end of your trip is to switch off roaming as soon as your ship sets sail. That way, you’ll be able to avoid any bill surprises. If you still plan on using your phone for taking pictures or listening to music, put your phone on airplane mode, which disables wi-fi, mobile network and bluetooth connections. 

Meanwhile, if you plan on using your phone for catching up with loved ones back home, the second option is to buy a wi-fi package onboard the ship. A handful of apps, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and Skype let you keep in touch without racking up a massive bill. Major cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises and Carnival Cruises offer a wide range of wi-fi packages.

If you’re still worried about any unexpected charges, it might be better to switch off your data roaming completely.

Here’s how to do it:

  • iPhone: Go to settings → Mobile → slide Mobile Data off. Then select Mobile Data Options → slide Data Roaming to off → select Enable 4G → switch to off.
  • Android: Go to Settings → Wireless Controls → Mobile Network Settings → slide Data Roaming off.

Using your phone in port

When the ship reaches port, your phone signal will automatically switch to a carrier from the country you’re in. The bad news is, roaming charges will still apply, however it may work out cheaper than makings calls at sea.

If you’re travelling to multiple ports, it might be worth considering a global SIM or purchasing a pre-paid roaming pack from your current provider. For example, if you’re with Vodafone you can use your plan in 80 countries for just $5 extra per day. Elsewhere, Telstra offers four international data packs, all with unlimited voice calls and text messages, starting from $30 for 225 megabytes.

However, if you don’t want to fork out the extra money, you’ll most likely be able to find free wi-fi in ports at nearby restaurants, cafes, bars, or even public spaces like parks.

If you’re using public wi-fi, however, then there is a chance that other people can view what you’re looking at. For that reason, you want to make sure you’re not looking at any sensitive information that you wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands.

Have you ever racked up a huge phone bill while cruising?

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