With the onset of social media sharing, people being connected to their phone and work emails being sent to their smart devices, escaping the internet – even on a cruise – is practically impossible.
Internet at sea is not cheap. I’ve seen it for as low as 10 cents per minute up to 75 cents. Remember, you are paying for convenience.
Here are 6 tips to save money with internet and cellular charges:
1. Turn off data roaming – My very first cruise with my smartphone sent me home with a bill of $588 in data and roaming charges. Make sure your data is turned off. There’s a convenient feature called Cellular at Sea, when you see the icon, you’re able to use the phone but at a cost, over $2 a minute. If you text, remember you’ll be paying up to $1 per text. There are some packages you can buy with your provider but this is a grey area, so make sure you get it in writing before you proceed.
2. Take Advantage of Internet Packages – Usually on the first day of the cruise, the cruise line will offer packages with free minutes when you buy a bundle of internet time. Consider going to the internet lounge on the first day of your cruise and seeing what perks are offered. I’ve seen up to 60 free minutes offered before with a purchase of a package. If checking your email from the ship, consider downloading all the email on your phone and writing your replies all offline and sending when you get a connection again, this will save you time.
3. Use Intranet On-Board the Ship – A lot of the cruise lines are rolling out a fleetwide intranet system. These systems have access to shipboard events, menus, port information, news abroad, your folio, weather, and other cool features like booking excursions. While this shouldn’t be confused with internet, it does give you limited access to the outside world.
4. Use a Text App – If texting is your vice or you need it to stay in touch with loved ones back home, consider downloading an application like TextPlus. TextPlus assigns you a phone number and lets you text back and forth on a stable internet connection. If the recipient has TextPlus you can also talk to each other for free (I tested this on MSC Poesia).
5. Head to the Pier – A lot of piers have internet cafes set up where you could get online for $3 per hour. Furthermore, there aren’t many ports that I have been to that don’t have a Starbucks or a coffee shop with a solid internet connection. You may have to purchase a cup of coffee but if you’re also craving internet, you’re set. Many restaurants in ports have a free wifi connection too.
6. Ask a Crew Member – Remember, shipboard crew are on the ship for up to nine months at a time. They know the port secrets. Ask them where the crew head to get online and skype to their family members back home. In Cozumel I asked a crew member where to find wifi and he turned me onto the No Name Bar, kind of a dive but a great internet connection and cheap drinks.
It’s important to keep in mind that while you’re using the internet on the ship, it’s still coming from a satellite dish hundreds of miles above the earth, moving really fast. Depending on location and how many people are using the ship’s bandwidth, internet speeds could be slower than a dial up connection. The closer to the equator you are, the better the signal is.
If you aren’t too tied to the internet, consider disconnecting completely during your cruise. After all, it is a vacation, and a vacation away from your electronics can be a good thing too.