Cell Phone on a Cruise Ship, 5 Things You Should Know

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cell phone on a cruise ship
Data App Manager to help you watch your data when traveling.

Depending on what generation you ask, some will say keeping your phone with you on a cruise is forbidden or welcomed. A lot of us use our phones for cameras and videos on our cruise. While there is nothing wrong with carrying your phone around on your cruise – be smart – don’t get caught with enormous data charges.

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

1. Data roaming. If you’re traveling out of the country, consider getting a data plan or just keeping your phone on airplane mode. Most smartphones are set up to retrieve your emails periodically, doing so out of the country can cost you – to the tune of $19.95 per meg, a lot more if on the ship’s network.

2. Cellular at Sea. Just because your phone has signal doesn’t mean it’s cheap to use. Don’t assume that because you can use your phone on a ship it’s part of your voice plan because it’s not. Once your ship is 12-miles off the coast, your signal switches to Cellular at Sea, $2.49 per minute and $.50 per text. Cellular at Sea offers packages for AT&T customers. 

3. International packages. You can get international packages for fairly cheap. If you have AT&T you can get 200 international texts for $30 and 300 megs of data for $60. Along with data and text you can get reduced voice plans as well. Depending on your provider you can expect to pay at least .99 per minute.

Tip: If you’re uploading photos on Facebook, it’s about one meg per photo your upload.

4. Shipboard wifi. If you have an iMessage or a Skype app you can talk to people back home without tapping into your cell phone data. All you have to do is buy a plan from the internet café aboard the cruise ship and you’ll be able to chat.

Tip: I turn off my cellular and data roaming when on the wifi network so my phone isn’t tempted to retrieve data.

5. Billed to your phone bill. The question has been asked if using the cell phone on board will be billed to your sail and sign account? The answer is no. Your cell phone usage on the cruise ship is between WMS (wireless maritime services) and your cell phone provider.


  • Use wireless cafes like Starbucks in ports and not on the ship.
  • If composing emails use the draft feature and wait to send them all at one time when you connect.
  • Download a data tracking manager (see photo), you can set your allotted data and keep track of it.
  • Buy a cheap phone ($19.99) with a pre-paid SIM card from the country you’re going to, this way you keep track of your spending.

So if you’re going to bring your cell phone on the ship keep in mind that unless the ship is docked in a US port, you will be charged extra for data, text and voice. There are plenty of international phone plans out there to cover yourself when you cruise, so explore your options.

Don’t be misled and call everyone while on your cruise ship — just because it’s available — it’s not cheap.

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