How to Use Your Cell Phone on a Cruise Ship
If you plan to use your cell phone on a cruise ship, it’s important to know that once you sail away from the embarkation port, your cell phone will go into roaming mode, which translates into higher rates and extra fees. While it’s impossible to avoid these charges altogether, there are ways to lessen the costs. Here, the cheapest ways to use your cell phone while you’re at sea:
1. Download Ship Mate.
With over 1,000,000 downloads, Ship Mate is the undisputed leader in mobile cruise apps. Ship Mate gives users access to reviews, tips, roll calls, and cruise countdowns, but the best part is that many of its features can be used offline. Once you punch in your sailing, you can find your way around the ship with deck plans, learn about all the onboard entertainment and dining, and even get info about the ports you'll be visiting, all without using a single byte of data or racking up roaming charges. If you do purchase a Wi-Fi package (step 3), you'll have access to the app's full list of features, including direct messaging (which you can use instead of texting) and thousands of user photos and tips. Ship Mate is available for iOS and Android devices.
2. Check what your cell phone provider offers.
Major wireless providers have a cruise ship plan with lower rates than regular roaming rates. Contact your provider to sign up for the plan before you depart. Wireless carriers offer data, messaging, and calling plans for cruise ships that are similar to on-land packages, so you can pick the one that best suits your needs.
3. Consider buying a Wi-Fi package onboard.
If you only need the Internet for your smartphone, turn off the phone’s data usage and roaming so that your phone will only connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi. Purchase a Wi-Fi package, which usually includes certain internet applications/access or you pay per number of megabytes. And don’t forget, Apple’s iMessage service is sent over a wireless signal, so if you use that function to communicate with other iPhone devices while connected to Wi-Fi, you can still “text.”
4. Know how to post to social media via text.
You can Tweet by sending texts to your Twitter account, which — depending on your Twitter habits — may be cheaper than a data plan. Just text “start” to 40404 and follow the instructions. Once finished, you can text your Tweet to the 40404 shortcode, and it will post to your Twitter account, no Internet needed. Facebook has a similar feature, allowing you to text your updates to a shortcode.
These rates are a general overview, and prices may change for certain ships, ports, or devices. Remember that if you buy the cruise ship plan from your wireless provider, those rates only apply when you’re in international waters. Once you’re within 12 miles of a port, the roaming rates for that country apply.
No Bundle - $3/minute, $.50/text, $6.14/MB
$50 Talk & Text - 50 minutes, $2/minute overage, unlimited texts
$100 Talk, Text, & Data - Unlimited talk and text, 200MB data with $2/MB overage
The plans include usage in Mexico, Canada, and select Caribbean islands at no additional cost.
T-Mobile ONE and Simple Choice Plan customers receive the following rates on cruise ships: $.50/received text, $5.99/minute talk, no data
Customers on other plans must activate these rates by adding the World Class service to each line.
Sprint Global Roaming - $2.50/minute talk, $.50/recipient text, $60/100MB data, $100/250MB data
Pay as You Go - $2.99/minute talk, $.50/text sent and received, no data
For time in port, sign up for TravelPass, and your normal plan will be extended for $5 per day per line in Mexico and Canada and $10 per day per line in other countries where TravelPass is available, including most Caribbean destinations.
Updated on May 3, 2018.