It’s probably no surprise to anyone that cruise lines make a little extra money by offering you cell phone service. This is because they can offer connections to land-based mobile networks.
But here’s the problem: you’re still paying international roaming rates.
Cell phones typically operate on land-based systems that work when the phone can be in contact with cell towers. On a cruise ship, your phone needs to access the satellites to reach the network instead. Some phones from various carriers don’t automatically connect to satellites either, so they use the cruise ship service which turns a cell call into satellite data, but that costs money and this is where they make a little extra off unaware cruise passengers.
It may not be clear in their brochures, but if you use your cell phone out of sight of land, you are automatically using the cruise ship’s service and you’ll be billed through your regular phone service at a cost that’s as high as $3-$5 per minute.
- If you have a data plan in place, turn off your phone’s data roaming option so e-mail won’t be automatically downloaded at the roaming rates. Your data plan may be used if you receive text messages with image attachments as this traveler was surprised to learn.
- If you have to make a call, wait until the ship docks so you can connected to the less expensive land-based cell towers. That is as long as your phone will work in that country; otherwise, you’ll be paying international rates.
- Turn off your phone when you’re not using it. You’ll be charged for calls that ring through, but not those that go directly to voice mail when the phone is turned off.