Cruisers Hit With $14,000 Cell Phone Bill

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A German family came home from their cruise to a $14,000 bill thanks to the videos their son had watched on his phone. According to published reports, while the 12-year-old had only used half a gigabyte of data, the charges quickly added up because he was connected to the ship’s phone network, which connected to the internet via satellite.

How It Happened


Part of the problem had to do with the fact that the ship was at sea. While the European Union did away with most roaming charges last year, the ban does not apply to the seas. With German phone companies charging around $30 per megabyte for data downloaded through a satellite, the 470 megabytes used by the young man as he watched movies led to the $14,000 bill.

The phone company, acknowledging that the pre-teen had clearly connected to the system by accident, has agreed to lower the bill… but the family is still being charged nearly $6,000. Not surprisingly, the family is seeking legal advice in the hope of reducing that bill — which they deemed “immoral” —  even further or eliminating it entirely.

Don’t Let This Happen To You

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Unfortunately, people all too often wind up making very costly mistakes when it comes to using their cell phones while on a cruise. (On the plus side, this tends to be the kind of mistake people tend to make only once. Getting that unexpected bill definitely convinces people to do their due diligence in order to prevent it happening again.)

Read more: 5 Tips for Cell Phones at Sea

So how can you avoid coming home to a big bill? It’s actually pretty easy… if you make sure to follow a few simple steps.

  • The most important thing to do is also probably the most obvious: Get in touch with your cell phone’s service provider. Let them know exactly where you’re going and find out what is — and isn’t — covered by your plan.
  • Do a little research about the ports you’ll be visiting to find out if there are places near where the ship will be docked offering free wifi. You’ll easily find this information on message boards and the like by doing a simple Google search.
  • Generally speaking, if you have an iMessage or 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.
  • If you buy an internet plan through the ship, make sure to carefully read the instructions. Also, if it is not an unlimited plan, be sure to sign out of the device in question at the end of each session to avoid burning through all the available data in one session.
  • If you have any questions about how to hook up to the shipboard wifi, ask. Every ship has some form of internet cafe/desk with a staffer whose whole job is to answer exactly these types of questions. Be sure to check the daily program (or contact guest services) to find out what hours the wifi desk is open.

Using a Cell Phone on a Cruise

Have you ever had an expensive cell phone bill during your cruise? Let us know.

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