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“Put your phone in vibrator mode!”

Cunard suggests that guests put their phones on vibrator mode, which I think sums up Cunard perfectly. It seems to me like the type of strange phrase that your Gran would come out with. I HOPE that Cunard meant to say ‘put your phone on vibrate’.

Will my phone work on a cruise ship?

This is a question that I get asked time and time again by first-time cruisers. It really depends on what you want to do with your phone. If you want to make phone calls/send texts you will need signal from your usual provider. If you want to use your phone to access the internet then there are a couple of options, you can either opt to buy internet from the cruise line or seek wifi when you’re in port.
will my phone work on a cruise ship iphone on table signal wifi internet package

Signal – Making phone calls and texting

At sea

At sea, it is more likely than not that you will have no signal. My mobile phone is currently with BT and as I sail out of the UK I am able to see my signal dropping until I have no bars remaining. It isn’t unheard of to connect to another countries signal when close enough. I have been on cruises before when I have connected to the network of a country which I was passing, I was only aware because I was sent a text which said ‘WELCOME TO BT FRANCE’ or something similar!

This also happened to me once when I was in Dover (UK), I some how managed to connect to EE’s French network (oops!)

white cliffs of dover connect france mobile phone network french

White cliffs of Dover (20ish miles from france!)

In port

The charges for making phone calls/texting can vary hugely depending on the country and which signal provider you are with. I usually try to avoid connecting to any local networks to avoid any unexpected charges. You can be charged for receiving text messages so I usually find it safer to avoid connecting at all.

To prevent surprise charges you can:

  • Turn your phone off (sounds dreadful, I always use my phone as a camera so this is a no no for me!)
  • Take the sim card out (I have done this in the past but it can be fiddly, especially if you have an iPhone where you need the sim removing tool. I have been in airports before desperately trying to find a paperclip to prize out my sim card.)
  • Put your phone on airplane mode – This is by far the best option and the one which I usually take.
phone aeroplane mode cruise

Phone in airplane mode

Using the internet

At sea

When you are at sea the only option available to you is to buy internet from the cruise line. Surprisingly enough there isn’t a lot of other internet in the middle of the ocean (not yet anyway, I’m sure one day WIFI will be everywhere). You can either:

  • Pay as you go – You are just charged for the internet that you use, either in minutes or in MB. This option isn’t always available on all cruise lines.
  • Buy an internet package – You usually are able to buy internet in packages of minutes. For example 200 minutes. Many cruise lines have levels of packages, for example, low medium and high usage. The cost of such packages can vary greatly depending on the cruise line.
In port
Mobile data

It is possible to use your own mobile data when in port. Your phone will simply connect to the local network and you will be charged accordingly. This is usually pretty expensive and I like to avoid it at all costs.

NCL Norwegian Getaway Western Caribbean Honduras Port

Honduras is one of the few ports where I didn’t manage to find free wifi…

An exception to this rule for me would be when I am cruising within Europe. I have a mobile contract with the provider Three and they currently offer free European roaming in many countries. This means that I will use the same data that I would have if I was in the UK, without being charged extra.

Local Wifi

I normally resort to this option when travelling outside of Europe. There aren’t many ports where I haven’t been able to find free wifi.

mcdonalds nice france free wifi

Tips for finding free wifi:
  • Head to cafes/busy touristy places – Most cafes will have wifi, sometimes public places even have wifi. In Nice, we managed to find wifi in one of the old town squares.
  • Head to chains that you recognise – A McDonalds or Costa coffee will usually have free wifi. I have visited McDonald’s in many countries in pursuit of wifi
  • Follow the staff. The cruise ship staff usually get off the ship and head to wifi.
Other uses for your phone

Asides from that your phone should work the same way that it does on land. You can still take pictures and all of that jazz (as long as you remember to charge it now and then!)

Are you a first-time cruiser? Make sure you check out this first timers tips section here: First Time Cruisers.

If you watch my Nice travel video here. You’ll see that I went to Mcdonalds twice, one in Nice and once in Monaco. Not only for the free wifi but because ordering ‘McNuggets’ is the same in every language.