As you head out to sea on your cruise, you’ll notice there aren’t any floating cell towers. This puts the issue of cell phone use front and center. Can you make calls from a cruise ship that is in the middle of the ocean? In theory, you can but there is no guarantee. A lot has to do with where the ship is located when you want to make that call and how much you want to spend. For instance, AT&T can charge up to $3.00 a minute. That is taking you back to the “long distance” phone call days when costs were extremely prohibitive. It might not get any better when you’re in port. Your phone can “latch” onto one of the cell towers that are ashore but you’re going to hit with roaming charges.
You can send texts while at seas if you can pick up a signal from the ship’s roaming network. This is also typically on the “pay as you go” model. That means you’re unlimited texting plan might not apply here. However, you can set up a limited discounted package for your trip. This might mean paying a flat rate for each day that you’re at seas. Keep in mind that these plans usually just apply for outgoing texts or data usage. If you receive texts, then you might be charged per text. That means having a conversation with a friend like you do on land can be a very expensive chat.
Data use on a cruise ship can run up a bill that might be bigger than a bar tab. What most people don’t know is that when your phone is on, it is looking for signals to pull in that data. You might also have many apps that are constantly updating themselves. It’s not a big deal if you have unlimited data but at sea it will cost you. That is why you want to put your phone on airplane mode when you board.
Once again, most phone carriers are out in front of this and offer travel packages for data. Just be sure to read the fine print and talk to your carrier about what your intentions are like streaming movies or TV shows. You don’t want to get hit with an overage fee.
Ships have Wi-Fi but it is rarely free Wi-Fi. They’re daily charges might be a better deal than what your phone company is offering. Just find out before you board so there won’t be any confusion or accidental charges.
You might want to test your apps at home before going on the cruise by putting the phone in airplane mode and see what works. Essentially, anything you already have downloaded that doesn’t require the Internet can be used. That means all your music and most of your games will be good to go. You can also use your camera in airplane mode but that means your pictures won’t be back up to the cloud. Apps that need the Internet like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pandora won’t work unless you’re using Wi-Fi.
Keep in mind that every cruise ship will have their version of “public telephones.” That means you can call home but you’ll be paying a big “by the minute” charge. If you can hold off until you get to your port of call, then you might be able to access free Wi-Fi while ashore.
All of this adds up to one conclusion: Go off the grid when you’re on a cruise. You’ll have a lot more fun.