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How to use your phone onboard a cruise ship

It goes without saying that these days, we strongly rely on our mobile phones. If we're not using them for work, we're on them in our free time to catch up with our friends and family. We go on holiday to relax, but the urge to check our social media channels can can be too much too resist. Often some places abroad make accessing the internet difficult and cruises are no exception; they can be notoriously difficult to use your phone on. When preparing for your trip, along with ensuring that you've taken out the appropriate documents, such as cruise travel insurance, we have compiled some information to help you with knowing what to expect when using your mobile on a cruise - so that your holiday runs as smoothly as possible!

Is there Wi-Fi on a cruise?

Many cruise ships have their own internet service, but the charges for these tend to be extremely high, with the average being 75p a minute. Certain luxury cruise lines and specific ships on mainstream fleets do not charge extra for connecting, so check with your cruise line to understand what charges to expect. Several cruise lines use a bandwidth-based model which can be great if you know how much data you may consume and need to purchase.

It's important to remember that messaging and email apps use only minimal amounts of data but streaming music or videos can burn through your allowance pretty quick. You may even find your cruise ship has blocked data-heavy streaming services for this exact reason. Ask your travel agent or check with your cruise line to see if they have any social plans provided for use of the ship's Wi-Fi. Certain cruise lines provide unlimited access to social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a specific fee per day or per trip.

Will I get phone signal on a cruise?

The truth is that phone signal is intermittent on a cruise. When you do receive signal, this will be from an at-sea provider operated by the company you're sailing with. Your phone service will charge you roaming charges for using this signal, but these exact rates will be different depending on your carrier.

When you are in port your mobile will operate from the carrier of the country that you are visiting, so you may not be able to access this depending on your mobile plan. If you want to rely on roaming charges for this, the cost will vary from country to country and will depend on your provider so contact them and make sure you understand the costs and extra charges before you step aboard. Most ships are built with Wireless Maritime Services or Cellular at Sea to provide mobile signal for passengers onboard.

Can I make calls from my mobile phone on a cruise?

Yes, you technically can but it's not always possible depending on the amount of phone signal you have. When you do get signal, as mentioned above, it'll be through an at-sea provider and will be considered a roaming charge by your network provider. Rates for these phone calls can be pretty high. When you're at port your signal will switch to a network carrier from the country you're visiting. At the moment there are no charges if you're travelling to member countries of the EU because there are no roaming charges, but this may be affected by Brexit. It's important to check what the charges will be for making calls with your current network provider.

Will my mobile provider have data bundles for cruising?

Yes, you may be able to get internet data from your mobile carrier depending on certain cruise plans instead so it is worth contacting your mobile provider to see what's available. Mobile providers offer different packages for customers going on a cruise, including set allowances and Maritime plans. Certain mobile providers offer packages with inclusive roaming, for instance roaming within various European countries. It's worth considering doing a bit of research and changing providers if you're upgrading your phone contract or are a new customer, to get the best deal when it comes to data roaming at sea. Make sure that you check which countries are on your cruise's itinerary and that these are included before commiting to a plan though.

Can you use WhatsApp on a cruise?

Yes, but bear in mind video calling services such as Skype or messaging services like WhatsApp will use your onboard data if you're connected to the cruise ship's Wi-Fi. You may find that some cruise lines restrict access to data-heavy video conferencing services (along with other streaming services) so it's best to check!

Important things to remember when using your phone on a cruise

It's important to bear in mind the following information before stepping aboard your cruise ship:

  • Stick to your budget - if you're working around a budget then make sure you weigh up your onboard and data roaming needs so that you're not surprised by heavy costs!
  • Set up your phone - it's a good idea to switch your phone to airplane mode once you board your cruise which will turn off wireless until you manually reactivate it. Once you've completed setting up your log-on to the ship's Wi-Fi, make sure you log off when you're not using it to avoid losing precious bandwidth or minutes.
  • Work out priorities - if you're travelling for work or business then you may need to factor in costs including email and file exchanges, along with potentially lengthy work calls.
  • Can't afford the extras costs - if you're truly concerned about concurring extra charges whilst on board your cruise, then you could always wait until you find an internet café or bar with Wi-Fi in port.
  • Check your mobile - check the background data preferences on your phone. You may be able to manually adjust roaming settings for things like text messages and data. Apps that sync in the background can quickly consume your data balance, therefore it's a good idea to switch your syncing and background data settings to Wi-Fi only or disable them completely to keep track of your usage.
  • Read up on your roaming plan - make sure you know the details of your roaming plan (your roaming, voice and text messaging data allowance) to avoid any unpleasant costs and make sure to stay within the limitations of that plan whether you call home or simply add an Instagram photo.
  • Prepare before you set sail - if there's specific apps or music you'd like to listen to on your cruise, then download these before your trip.
  • Hunt for that internet café - in port, along with enjoying a lovely lunch make the most of the free Wi-Fi that's available. Try and stick to places with password-protected Wi-Fi as these are more likely to be secure. Hackers will often set up pretend hotspots at popular attractions to access the personal information of people who connect. It's important to verify which free network is being offered by the particular restaurant or café you're in before connecting.
  • Download the best apps - look for apps that will help you explore your destinations, or aid your journey, that can be used offline.

Cruise travel insurance for your holiday

Finding the right cruise travel insurance will help ensure you have a relaxing time at sea by providing cover for risks associated with a cruise holiday, including changes to your cruise schedule, being confined to your cabin and any missed port departures or unused prepaid shore activities - which aren't covered with a standard travel insurance package. You can take out a policy for one cruise holiday or book an annual multi-trip policy at the level of cover that's right for you. At Holiday Extras we provide comprehensive cover for your trip at a competitive price and, for an additional premium, you could insure gadgets like your mobile phone or laptop in the unfortunate event that they're lost, damaged or stolen whilst you're away. You can book online today using the booking engine above and remember to declare any pre-existing medical conditions you have.

Travel insurance reviews

Holiday Extras offer our guests cruise specific policies that give them peace of mind and confidence when booking their cruise

Clive Jones | Senior Director | Guest Services | Prestige Cruise Holdings (Regent Seven Seas Cruises & Oceania Cruises)

With Holiday Extra's dedicated Cruise insurance policy, our customers are able to be totally confident that they have high-quality insurance cover in place specifically designed for a cruise holiday at sea

Jeremy Hatton | Head of Customer Services | Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Further Cruising Information

If you are booking your next cruise and would like further advice before you set off, then check out several more of our guides below - providing advice on everything from the best cruises for adults, to dealing with seasickness!

Holiday Extras Travel Insurance is sold and administered by Holiday Extras Cover Limited, registered office address: Ashford Road, Newingreen, Hythe, Kent CT21 4JF.

Holiday Extras Cover Limited is an insurance intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, registration number 828848. You can check this by visiting the Financial Services Register

Holiday Extras™ is a Trading Name of Holiday Extras Cover Limited. The insurance is underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance UK Limited. Great Lakes Insurance UK Limited is a company incorporated in England and Wales with company number 13436330 and whose registered office address is 10 Fenchurch Avenue, London, United Kingdom, EC3M 5BN.

Great Lakes Insurance UK Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 955859. You can check this by visiting the Financial Services Register