10 Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

In the days of cruising past, travelers would embark on their cruise vacations and leave the world at home behind. In the rare case of emergency, all cruise ships offered landlines which you could use to make a call for several dollars a minute (In most instances, they still exist). For more routine check-ins, cruisers would wait until their next port of call and whip out an international calling card (Do you remember those things?) to use a pay phone on shore.

How quickly things change! Now, almost everyone walks around with a smartphone device, allowing us to not only talk to anyone but giving us access to texting, email, social media, and of course the internet. The days of the “unconnected cruise” are officially over.

10 Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

While some cruisers bemoan the advent of digital technology onboard cruise ships, most travelers embrace this digital revolution. Now we can escape on vacation without being completely detached from the world. Keep up with the news, check in with family, check emails, or make everyone back home jealous on social media.

Even though you are going on vacation, odds are you are planning on bringing your smartphone with you on your next cruise.  With that in mind, we have put together some tips for using your smartphone on a cruise ship and a few things you should avoid if you don’t want a costly bill when you return home.

Confirm Your Current Plan’s Coverage

Before setting sail, check with your service provider to see what your coverage area includes for both calling and the internet. You may be surprised what locations are already in your coverage map, including some U.S. Virgin Islands or parts of Canada and Mexico. The coverage area may give you enough space to get away without having to change anything or purchase a new plan. If you will need to use voice or data beyond this coverage area, you may want to consider an international plan with your cell phone provider. Plans vary but can include international texts, data, and voice and can save you a ton of money in the long run.

Download Any Apps You Need Prior to Leaving

Don’t waste your time or money downloading cruise line apps or games you want for the trip once at sea- do that before embarkation. Most cruise lines now offer an onboard app that is complimentary and allows you to view daily activities, make reservations, and more. You may want to use the ShipMate app so you can see who else is traveling onboard your vessel. For large parties, the Ripple Connect app allows you to call and text other cruisers with the app as long as you have access to a WiFi signal, without having to pay for an internet plan.

10 Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

Choose Your Cruise Ship Internet Plan Wisely

Many cruise lines now offer a variety of internet packages based on the duration of your trip and online needs that will work with any smartphone. Carnival Cruise Lines offers a “social media” internet package which for $5 a day allows access to popular social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, giving you the digital fix you need without breaking the bank. Other cruise lines offer options from a set number of minutes to unlimited internet access for daily rates which can be purchased at any point during your cruise. Tip: Don’t forget to log out when you are finished.  Remember, there is also the potential to save money on such packages by being a member of loyalty programs.

Check for WiFi Hotspots While Onshore

Even if you do not feel like spending money to use your smartphone on your cruise ship, you might be able to get internet access at restaurants, cafes, and even beaches while ashore at ports of calls. Many beach resorts and hotels that offer day passes now include access to WiFi as part of the package price. So, you could score some time to check your email, post some vacation photos on social media, get caught up on the news, or browse your favorite cruise website while on a shore excursion. Since many of these networks are public, you should be very cautious about which sites you visit while connected.

10 Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

Use WiFi Calling and Texting Options

Many phones now enable you to use VoIP (ie. Skype) for calls so you can stay in touch with family and friends back home without paying roaming charges. You do need a rather strong internet signal for a high quality call, so depending on your location and internet speed, this option may be a bit choppy! If you already have an internet plan on your cruise ship or are connected to free WiFi in port, it is worth giving this calling feature a try. Keep in mind that some cruise lines offer tiered internet packages with only the most “premium” package supporting streaming. If you have purchased an internet package while onboard, you can also use the WhatsApp app, Facebook messenger, or iMessage to communicate via “text” as all of these use data and not cellular coverage.

10 Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

Put Your Phone in Airplane Mode

Even if you are not actively using your phone to make calls or send text messages, many smartphones have auto software updates, app updates, and push notifications, that all use cellular data. It might not dawn on you until you are sitting on the shorelines of the Caribbean, and all of a sudden your phone starts vibrating with a stream of text messages, emails, and social media updates. Of course, you could manually shut each of these items off, but we suggest you don’t take any chances. Don’t get hit with a barrage of roaming fees, just leave your phone in airplane mode!  You can still use WiFi while your phone is in airplane mode.

Be Smart About What Networks and Sites You Access

Whether you are on the ship or at a port of call, the WiFi you are using is public, or easily accessible to those who know a thing or two about computers. Unless it is absolutely necessary, we recommend never accessing private accounts, such as bank accounts or credit cards. Further, when searching for WiFi hotspots, you should be extra cautious about which networks you choose and only sign on to connections you can confirm belong to a reputable company or retailer. Nothing would be worse than having your personal data or identity snatched while you are trying to access the web.

 Be Prepared for Slower Internet Speeds

The internet on cruise ships has come a long way in a very short period of time. Using your smartphone almost anywhere on a ship is a convenience that didn’t exist five years ago. That being said, the internet speeds are often slower than the broadband and 4G speeds you are probably used to back home. While speeds are getting faster, streaming music and video can be difficult and download speeds are probably not as fast as you would like. Royal Caribbean International’s VOOM internet is currently the pioneer of the industry, but other cruise lines are slowly rolling out internet plans that support video and streaming services.

Bring Your Smartphone Accessories

Nothing is worse than traveling with your smartphone device and realizing that you don’t have all your accessories. So, make sure you pack all necessary power cords, back up power, and charging stations. We really like this Grid It organizer to keep all your digital gear in one place. Making sure your smartphone is protected during your cruise is also a good idea. When going to the beach or relaxing near the pool, consider getting a waterproof case to help prevent irrevocable damage to your precious cargo. We suggest a lifeproof case.

Tips for Using Your Smartphone on a Cruise Ship

And Finally, Don’t Become Tied to Your Device

The modern convenience of using a smartphone on a cruise ship is truly a great improvement and welcomed luxury. But, you are still on vacation to see exotic places, meet new people, and have some fun and relaxation. Endless scrolling on your smartphone is NOT the way to spend your vacation. Don’t let the technological advancements in the cruise industry deter your ability to relax, socialize with fellow cruisers, and explore the history and culture of your ports of call. Post a few pictures to make everyone back home jealous then log off to enjoy your cruise.

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