Can I use a cellphone on a cruise ship?

Telephones are more than just a device for calling or sending text messages. Now they are our social life, our entertainment devices, our cameras and more. Can I use a cellphone on a cruise ship? 

Good news? Yes, you can use the phone during the cruise. Bad news? This can be expensive, and you need to know some details before using your mobile phone at sea.

Budget for using the internet on board

With the exception of some luxury cruise lines and specific ships in the mainstream fleets, onboard Wi-Fi is an additional fee that you need to include in your vacation budget. Internet packages vary depending on the cruise line. Some loads per minute, but more cruise lines are switching to a bandwidth model, which can be difficult when it comes to anticipating what you’ll need. Email and messaging applications consume minimal data, streaming music eats more, and streaming video can quickly burn data allocation. (Note: Most cruise ships block streaming services that require a lot of data – except for those offering high-speed packets).

Talk to your mobile operator

Mobile operators offer various packages and services for cruise participants. Remember that when a ship leaves the port, the reception changes from the host country’s infrastructure to satellites covering international waters. Contact your network operator to check if it has a cruise plan and what the price will be.

Can I use a cellphone on a cruise ship?

On the ship

Set your phone

To avoid unwanted charges, the safest bet on a cruise ship is to go into airplane mode, re-enable the wireless feature, and log in to the ship’s Wi-Fi network. 

Check your contact options

Cruise lines are increasingly responding to the needs of passengers to keep in touch with traveling companions and relatives at home. Many cruise lines offer applications and messaging services that allow easy communication with other passengers during the cruise. 

In the port

Know your roaming plan

Make sure you understand the details of your roaming plan (roaming data, voice messages and text messages) to avoid unpleasant surprises at the port.

In the port it will work as if you were flying to another country. That means you’ll rely on international cellular services.

Hunt for Wi-Fi

Look for generally available WiFi in the port. Usually it is password protected, but may be available, for example, in a pleasant cafe. 

If you buy a cruise ship plan from a wireless service provider, these rates only apply in international waters. Once you are within 12 miles of the port, the country’s roaming rates apply.



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