Before you use your cell phone on a cruise…

We remember hearing that a travel agent had to do some business while on a cruise in the Caribbean and used her cell phone.  Not realizing how long she would be on the phone, she came home to a couple of hundred $$ phone bill.

shipgrandturkWith so many of us using our phones as cameras, video recorders and for checking the internet, there are a few things to keep in mind before using your phone to make calls OR upload your photos to Facebook on a cruise ship— anywhere in the world.

Here are four things to know about using a cell phone on a cruise ship:

1. Airplane Mode- By keeping your phone on airplane mode, you’ll still be able to use your phone as a camera and video recorder but you won’t be able to get calls or emails.   This is the best way to not get a huge bill from your cell phone carrier.

2. Cellular at Sea.  We thought that even if we were docked at port, and we used our cell phone in the cabin that we wouldn’t get charged for roaming but we were wrong 🙂  We were in our cabin (not on the balcony) and the roaming icon wasn’t showing but we still got nabbed for a $2.50 cent a minute charge.  NOTE TO SELF:  next time wait until we’re on the deck or actually on land to use the phone.

3. International text and phone packages.  If you are the type of people that can’t stop texting, it might be a good idea to get an international package.  Depending on your carrier, you can get international texting packages fairly inexpensively.  Again, depending on your carrier, you might be able to get some international calling package for less than $1 per minute, but keep in mind— if you are in your cabin or on the ship, you still might be nabbed by the Cellular at Sea charges.

4. Facetime, Skype, Magic Jack and more. You can tap into the ship’s WiFi to talk to people back home without using your cell phone by using one of these apps.  You’ll have to buy a plan from the internet café aboard the cruise ship but you’ll be able to chat.  Keep in mind that the WiFi charges are not cheap so keep the calls short.  Also, it’s a good idea to shut off your data roaming so your phone won’t be downloading emails.  

Here are some other tips:

  • When you’re in port, hit a Starbucks or an internet cafe that offer free WiFi.
  • Compose your emails and leave them as a draft and wait to send them once you connect on the ship or at an internet cafe in port.
  • Check with your carrier to ask about roaming charges on board.
  • Check into some apps like Viber, WhatsApp to see if that might work for you.

My Vacation Lady would love to completely disconnect when traveling but we still have clients back home to worry about and these tips have helped us while traveling.  We hope they help you as well.  If you have any tips on saving money while using your cell phone on a cruise ship or while traveling, please send it to us in an email to and we’ll use it in another blog post or on our Tuesday Travel Tips that get posted to Facebook.

About the Author:

Mindy Gilbert of My Vacation Lady has been helping clients, just like you, plan their dream vacations, cruises and honeymoons since 1994.