How to Text on a Cruise Ship for Free: 5 Tips and Hacks (2024)


While you may want to stay away from your phone while on a vacation, you probably don’t want to completely fall off the grid. It may be prudent to make a call or two or send a text, just to inform your friends and family that you’re doing okay. I recently went on an excursion and realized that texting on a cruise ship can be expensive. I did some research afterward to find out if there’s a way you can text on a cruise ship for free.

Can you text on a cruise ship for free? Yes, you can. If you want to text while on a cruise ship, you have the option of either connecting to the ship’s Wi-Fi network or its cellular service so you send an SMS over the Internet for free. Most modern ships are built with “Wireless Maritime Services” or ‘Cellular at Sea” services to provide cell signal for those aboard.

As you might have guessed, there are no cell towers built in the middle of the sea. Most of them are found ashore or inland.

However, the strongest ones provide a cell signal range of about 30 to 45 miles, after which the distance becomes too long. So whilst you are departing or entering a destination or cruising near to the shore, you should have no problems with texting.

But, using your phone on a cruise is possible but it can be expensive. You’ll be charged way more than the usual. However, there are ways in which you can text for free.

How to Text on a Cruise Ship for Free: 5 Tips and Hacks (1)

You can text on a cruise ship for free but with some caveats.

5 tips that will help you text on a cruise ship for free

1. Check if your carrier provides international coverage

The average smartphone today can function anywhere in the world. However, it’s important to confirm that your carrier provides services beyond borders. Most carriers have this information showcased on their websites. This allows you to determine if your device will still work once you’re overseas.

Confirm that the areas covered have access to calls, texts, and the internet. You may be surprised to find out that the locations you’ll be traveling to are all covered. This will be of great benefit to you and your family because you’ll be able to travel on a cruise ship without having to buy new plans or change anything.

If your carrier doesn’t offer services overseas, consider moving to one that does to cater for your traveling needs so you can text for free from a cruise ship.

2. Avoid phone calls

Phone calls cost a lot more than texts. Unless you really want to get in touch with your family and friends, it’s best that you keep away from making phone calls. This is because international plans could put you back a couple of hundred dollars.

Most rates start at between $25 and $30, and this barely includes any minutes for calling.

To get an opportunity to make calls, most service providers charge $40 and above with limited data plans. You may opt to buy a local sim card, but this will only benefit you if you’re well-prepared and know how to work your phone using foreign cell phone services.

Installing a sim card might also be an issue, especially on an iPhone where you run the risk of tampering with your warranty.

3. Check for Wi-Fi hotspots while at shore

If you prefer not to spend at all on texts while at sea, consider taking advantage of free Wi-Fi hotspots whenever the cruise ship docks. Several restaurants, hotels, and cafes offer free internet access to their visitors. Some beaches may provide free Wi-Fi as well.

If you’ll be docked at a port of call for only a few hours, take advantage of the free Wi-Fi to check your emails, catch up with your family, post photos on social media, and update yourself with what’s going on around the world.

Consider installing texting apps such as Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, EvolveSMS, and Android Messages. Since you’ll be using public networks, be careful with the websites you visit. You don’t want to access anything personal like your bank accounts while on public Wi-Fi.

4. Don’t forget your smartphone accessories

Realizing that you forgot to carry your smartphone accessories while on an excursion is one for the most frustrating things. Before leaving, make sure to pack your power cords, earphones, charging stations, an extra battery, and all other essentials you might need. Carry a waterproof casing for your phone as you might be spending a lot of time near the water. This will help prevent any serious phone damages.

5. Download Ship Mate

Ship Mate is a leading mobile cruise app that provides its users with direct messaging services that can be used in place of texting. It has more than 2,000,000 downloads and offers tips, reviews, cruise countdowns, roll calls, amongst other tons of features.

Its biggest advantage is that it can be used while offline, except for its direct messaging service which needs a Wi-Fi network.

Once you key in your sailing details, you get access to deck plans, information about onboard entertainment services, details about the ports you’ll be docking at, and all the dining information.

The app is available for both Android and iOS devices – see the official app website.

Can I make calls from my cell phone on a cruise?

You can make calls from your cell phone while on a cruise ship. Modern ships are continuously working to improve and provide better cell phone and internet services as time goes by. These services are expected to improve with time.

Today, however, most calls depend on whether you have any cell phone signal. If you do, it’s normally available via an at-sea provider which will have you incurring a roaming charge.

Your calling rates will be exceptionally high compared to what you normally incur while at home. Charges can start from as much as $2.50 for every minute spent on a call. For example, T-Mobile charges $5.99 per minute while Verizon charges $2.99 for the same.

If you plan to sail with over 20 cruise lines, consider purchasing a cruise ship calling package.

Once you dock at any port, your cell phone will typically switch to a local carrier from the country you’re visiting. You’ll want to check what your carrier charges in these areas because roaming charges vary from location to location.

For example, T-Mobile offers plans that can be accessed from multiple countries. The Simple Choice plan charges $0.25 per minute for calls, with calls from Canada and Mexico being free. Other carriers offer discounts depending on the country visited and the plan bought.

How can I avoid cell phone charges on a cruise?

Once you depart from the port on a cruise ship, your phone switches to roaming mode so that you stay connected. Unfortunately, this comes with hefty charges from your service provider. If you want to avoid cell phone charges while on a cruise, your best bet is to switch your phone to airplane mode.

This turns off all wireless connections until you manually reactivate them.

Consider using internet services provided by the cruise ship. This will ensure that your phone isn’t completely useless. Reactivate your wireless connection to log in to the Wi-Fi network onboard. Once you’re logged in, open your browser to finish the process.

In some cases, it may not be entirely possible to avoid charges altogether. You can lessen the charges by taking advantage of free Wi-Fi networks at docking points. Otherwise, you might incur insurmountable roaming fees without knowing.

Related questions

How much does it cost to use internet on my phone if I’m roaming?

The average roaming fee charged by most carriers is about $2.00 per MB. Some offer special travel plans that allow you to continue using domestic plans while at the port. These might cost you about $5 to $10 a day for calls, texts, and data. There might be limitations on data usage per day.

Can you FaceTime on cruise Wi-Fi?

Yes, you can. Modern cruise ships offer Wi-Fi and internet services that you can use to FaceTime and send iMessages. Unless the internet provided by the cruise ship is paid for, you should be able to access these for free.

The last word…

It is possible to text on a cruise ship for free, and you can do it. Scroll back to the top of the article to see the best way to do so without incurring any additional mobile or roaming charges.


How to Text on a Cruise Ship for Free: 5 Tips and Hacks (2024)


How can I text for free on a cruise? ›

Navigator, Disney Cruise Line

Disney passengers can use the Navigator app on all ships to send free text messages to other people on the same ship also using Navigator. There is also a group chat feature. Though the app does connect to the onboard Wi-Fi, there is no charge to app users for access.

Can you use your phone to text on a cruise ship? ›

When the ship is sailing on international waters, you will be able to text (SMS). Once in port, you can connect to local roaming networks as permitted by your home carrier.

What is the secret code on a cruise ship? ›

Aronfeld explained in a TikTok video, "If you're on a cruise and you hear the code announced 'code Oscar, code Oscar,' that's how you know that a passenger's been reported as having gone overboard." Alternatively, you may hear the term "Mr. Mob," which stands for "man overboard."

How to use your phone on a cruise without getting charged? ›

To avoid unwanted charges, your safest bet onboard your cruise ship is to switch to airplane mode, reactivate your wireless feature and log in to the ship's Wi-Fi network. (Note: Switching to airplane mode will turn off wireless until you manually reactivate it.)

Do you get charged for receiving texts on a cruise? ›

In some cases, a phone that is left on, but not used, may incur charges. If a voice call is received but not answered, and the caller leaves a voicemail it is possible you will receive a charge for a voice call. If a text comes through and the phone is left on, you may be charged for a received text.

Should you keep your phone on airplane mode on a cruise? ›

Make sure to put your phone on airplane mode to avoid expensive roaming charges. Cellular rates at sea can sneak up on you, and you can easily rack up a $500 roaming bill. Even if you're not actively on your phone, most are still using data, so make sure to put yours on airplane mode to avoid roaming charges.

Will I get charged for using my phone on a cruise ship? ›

Do cell phones work on cruise ships? It's a common question with varying answers. Guests are free to utilize their cellular data or connect to our onboard Wi-Fi on any ship. But, please be aware that cellular data used on the ship or in certain ports of call will result in charges from your cell phone provider.

How to communicate on cruise without Wi-Fi? ›

Before ships provided Wi-Fi and apps, cruisers connected the old-school way — with walkie-talkies, whiteboards and sticky notes. These techniques are the best ways to communicate on a cruise ship in case the Wi-Fi is spotty or you leave your phone in your stateroom.

Can you use WhatsApp on a cruise for free? ›

Yes, but bear in mind video calling services such as Skype or messaging services like WhatsApp will use your onboard data if you're connected to the cruise ship's Wi-Fi.

What is code Mike on a cruise? ›

Bravo, Alpha Team, Red Party: Different cruise lines have their own alert codes to signal that there's a fire, either onboard the ship or at sea. These are three of them. Alpha, Star Code, Code Mike: Similarly, cruise lines have their own alert codes for medical emergencies, including the above four.

What does Charlie Charlie Charlie mean on a ship? ›

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie is the code for a security threat aboard Royal Caribbean ships and the code for upcoming helicopter winch operations aboard c-bed accommodation vessels. Code blue usually means a medical emergency. Delta, delta, delta is the code for a possible bio-hazard among some cruise lines.

Can I text with my phone on a cruise ship? ›

It's possible to send and receive text messages at sea on a cellular signal, as long as you have a signal through your ship's roaming network. (Just make sure you turn on data roaming in your settings.)

Should I turn off my cellular data on a cruise? ›

Check your provider's international plans and rates for each port you plan to visit on your itinerary. It is strongly recommended to turn off cellular data and roaming while cruising, and instead use local Wi-Fi in your port of call. There is a variety of options to purchase Wi-Fi for the duration of your cruise.

Does airplane mode avoid roaming charges? ›

Putting your phone on airplane mode stops all cellular activity, effectively preventing roaming charges. However, it also disconnects you from vital communications. For a balanced solution, eSIMs offer affordable international data, SMS, & calling. Stay connected without hefty fees with eSIM technology.

Is there free texting on Royal Caribbean? ›

Yes, Guest chat is available at no charge while onboard, as long as you're connected to the ship's Guest Wi-Fi network. Guests sailing in the same stateroom will automatically be connected to chat. You can also invite other people to chat.

Can you text each other on a cruise? ›

It is possible to send a text when on a cruise when docked. Depending on the location and service provider, this can be expensive. When at sea, it's unlikely that texting would be possible, due to a lack of provider signal.

Can you chat for free on a Carnival cruise? ›

Is the Carnival HUB App Free? The app is free to download and use on board. For a small additional fee the HUB App offers chat.

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