Help me stay in touch with the fam?
November 19, 2011 11:27 AM   Subscribe

How do I use my iphone on a cruise?

I know that there have been lots of questions about international iphone use, but they are making my head spin. I need specifics please. I have an iphone 4s, on ATT. We are heading on a cruise next week to Belize and Cozumel. Royal Caribbean. I don't need it to use my phone to chat, Would like to use it to stay in touch with kids, (only to check in either by phone or email) and email. I don't mind paying for the service but what is the best way to do this? I'm pretty savvy with the iphone but a total noob at international iphone, so details please. Thanks!!!
posted by pearlybob to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there wifi on board the ship? If so you can connect to the internet via wifi.
posted by kuatto at 11:34 AM on November 19, 2011

A quick google revealed this on the Royal Caribbean site - look part way down the page. There aren't any detailed instructions, but I'm sure there will be in your stateroom. It won't be cheap but it will work.
posted by valleys at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2011

It sounds like I may have been on this exact cruise some years ago. At the time, the ship was rigged for cell service that simply worked, but it cost an arm and a leg, so my family didn't try it. (Think about it this way--most people on the cruise are just going to expect that their phone magically works anywhere--they don't seem like the most technologically sophisticated bunch. By asking, you're way ahead of the curve.) There was a computer or two in the 'library', which also cost money. As I recall it was rather slow, but it did enable us to find out my brother had gotten into college. At the time, there was no wifi on board, for free or otherise.

Your cheapest option may well be to only use your phone in port and pay whatever exorbitant international roaming rates AT&T charges. (Googling gives $3.49/minute in Belize(!). You can buy Mexico-specific roaming packages, which might be worth it if you can add it on for just that month.) No idea on data, though there is international roaming for data.
posted by hoyland at 11:42 AM on November 19, 2011

Usually larger cruise ships (at least the Carnival ships I've been on) have a cell tower on the ship, so cell phones work. However, you will pay through the nose for international roaming charges. For example, it cost me 75c to send a text message back home (to Canada). I can't even imagine what data would cost.

I'd browse around the Cruise Critic message boards and see if you can find any info or more recent first hand experiences there.
posted by cgg at 11:43 AM on November 19, 2011

If you have access to wifi, you might look into using Skype - either to use your iphone to call your home phone directly with Skype credit, or to connect to a computer running Skype at home (or wherever it is the kids are)
posted by backwards guitar at 11:53 AM on November 19, 2011

Most cruise ports have internet cafes with fairly cheap internet, usually a few bucks per hour.
posted by girlmightlive at 12:55 PM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

The two cruises that I've been on have had wifi services available that was per-minute. You'd buy a chunk of time. It worked well enough and was cheaper than the cell service on the boat or at the ports.
posted by reddot at 2:02 PM on November 19, 2011

Best answer: I went on a cruise with Royal Caribbean. I also needed to send/receive email.

You can get the Internet with pay-by-minute, which was 35 cents per minute I believe. They usually expect you to use their computers, and the staff did not know anything about smartphones. However, they allow you do get on with wi-fi for the same price, and I found it was cheap to simply sign on the wi-fi, then sync email, then sign out immediately after syncing. Then I would take my time to read and reply to the emails offline. So each day I would sync twice and it was 70 cents a day. I think in total I spent less than $5 to send/receive emails for the 5 days. If you prefer to be online while reading/writing emails, it is easy to run up a $40 bill for one Internet session. Also, keep in mind the Internet is fairly slow (a bit faster than dial-up speeds).
posted by seattlejeff at 2:03 PM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sorry, I was just reminded it was actually 65 cents per minute after I wrote this post.
posted by seattlejeff at 2:05 PM on November 19, 2011

Best answer: A few tips:
- Change your email settings to make download of attachments manual. Otherwise when Aunt Bertha sends you another 5 MB jpg of her dog, it'll cost you dearly.
- If you can make the time to find an internet cafes with wifi, connecting in port will be cheaper than on the ship.
- If you use wifi on the ship, you'll get the best bang for your buck in the wee hours or at dinner/show time, when fewer people are online. Not only is the satellite connection slow, it's a REALLY narrow pipe. Don't expect to be able to use Skype, at any hour.
- SeattleJeff's right on about syncing. Write your emails offline (use airplane mode), then connect via wireless
- Call AT&T to turn on international roaming. It's usually not on by default. Try not to use it because it's super-expensive ($2.49/mintue), but you might need this in case of emergency.
- Unless you need to be in emergency contact, turn your phone off or to Airline Mode in general. Otherwise, you'll pay $2.49/minute for all incoming calls INCLUDING the time it takes callers to leave voicemails! (If your phone is offlinewhen the call comes in, though, you only pay if you listen to the message.)
- If you need to be available for emergency contact, tell people to text you. I think it was 75c to send or receive.

Self-link article on cell phones on cruise ships and the cruise guide I wrote.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 9:39 PM on November 19, 2011

« Older My poor vacuum   |   How to get mold out of neoprene? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.