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How to Send and Receive Emails on a Cruise (Cheaply and Easily!)

If you are taking a cruise you may be wondering how you can stay in contact with your family and friends at home. There are a number of ways that you can do this and I have tried all of them when cruising in the past. In this article we will focus on sending and receiving emails.

Can You Send and Receive Emails on a Cruise?

You can send and receive emails on a cruise but you need internet connection to be able to do it. At sea the only way to connect to the internet is through the ships WiFi. When docked you may be able to send and receive emails using local free WiFi, hot spots or your cell phone plan. 

There are a number of free ways that you can send emails during your cruise (when docked). Ship WiFi when at sea is an option but it can be incredibly expensive and not always very reliable.

Top tip: To minimise the amount of internet that you need to use to send emails I’d recommend pre writing the emails on your phone, tablet or computer. I usually write emails on a notepad on my phone and then when I connect to WiFi, I copy, paste and send. 

internet cafe phone

Internet Options

Your internet options, as explored in more detail below are:

  • Use Free WiFi in Ports
  • Roam on Your Cell Phone (When docked only)
  • Use a Hot Spot (When docked only)
  • Pay for Ship WiFi

Free WiFi in Ports

In almost every port that I’ve been to I’ve been able to find free WiFi. There are of course some exceptions to this but the only port that I’ve been to where I remember being unable to find free WiFi was Honduras, that said, I didn’t really look very hard!

If you are not sure where to find free WiFi heading to a chain like McDonalds or Starbucks is usually a good option. Many smaller restaurants and cafes will also offer WiFi to their guests. I like to grab a coke from McDonalds and catch up on my emails but you don’t usually have to purchase anything to use the WiFi. If you do just want to send a couple of emails just walking by a McDonalds should be enough.

Top tip: If you are struggling to find WiFi or would just like to know where to find it, ask the crew! Crew members don’t actually get free WiFi on the ship so as soon as they get to land and have an afternoon off they head to find WiFi. The crew are incredibly knowledgable about where is best for this reason. 

cafe internet

Cell Phone Roaming

If you cell phone plan allows it you can use your phone when in port to connect to the internet the same way as you would at home. That said, be VERY careful and check multiple times that you are able to roam in the country that you are visiting.

I’m from the UK and here we are able to roam across a lot of Europe without having to pay any extra which is great. I’ve also upgraded to a ‘roam worldwide’ plan which doesn’t include the whole world but does include a lot of countries. It’s very easy to use the internet if you are in a destination where you can roam.

When you get to the destination you should receive a text message which says ‘welcome to *insert country name here*, it’ll cost you ___ to send a text here’ for example. If you are in a country where you can roam for free it’ll say ‘you can roam here at no extra charge’.

It’s important that you do your research before arriving in the country though as even turning your phone on to check can cost you money.

It is possible to ‘share’ the internet from your phone when roaming with other people or other devices using a hot spot, to find out more about that, including who it’s a good idea for, check out this post:

Mobile Hotspots Do Work on Cruises (Where’s When and How)

If you do have a plan which allows you to roam, or can upgrade to one, I’d strongly suggest just waiting until you are docked and then using your phone to send emails.

When you are at sea make sure that you put your phone into airplane mode because if you don’t you are in danger of connecting the maritime network. If you do connect to the maritime mobile network everything will be VERY expensive.

On one cruise I forgot to put my phone into airplane mode while at sea, my phone connected to the maritime network while I was asleep and I received a few emails which cost me £45+. Do not risk it.

As soon as you sail away from land, put your phone into airplane mode. 

Buy a WiFi Plan

One way to send an email at sea is to buy a WiFi package from the cruise line. If you’re taking a cruise the cruise line will usually advertise their internet services to you multiple times and there will be a desk or venue you can visit onboard for more information.

The benefits of ship WiFi are:

  • It works when out at sea
  • It’s easy

The drawbacks of ship WiFi are:

  • It’s expensive
  • It isn’t always very reliable

WiFi packages can usually be used on your own phone, tablet or laptop. Many cruise ships also have internet cafes where you can ‘log on’ and use the internet. There is a charge for this and you’ll usually be charged by the minute or the megabyte.

Cruise ship WiFi packages can be incredibly expensive and if you only want to use it to send emails it probably is not worth it. In the below video I cover why I don’t think that you need to pay for a WiFi package on a cruise, along with other expenses that you can avoid:

Social or Reduced Packages

If you do need to be connected to the internet while at sea I’d suggest purchasing a social/reduced package. Many cruise lines offer internet packages with limited options and these are usually much cheaper than other plans.

Purchasing a package which offers you a set amount of internet for a price is a good option, for example 500MB of internet. Be aware though that it will take you much longer to send an email at sea than it will at land and you often have to ‘log off’ to stop the internet from being used.

Picking a plan which has a fixed amount of internet will allow you to send emails when at sea but without the worry of accidentally racking up huge bills.

Another option is to choose a WiFi plan like a ‘social’ plan. Social plans are often much cheaper as they only allow you to visit certain sites like Facebook and Twitter. I purchased a social plan when I cruised with P&O cruises for around £10 ($13) per day, this is very cheap for cruise ship WiFi.

The social plan didn’t allow me to send messages on services like WhatsApp but Facebook messenger was available. If this is something that you may be interested in, the cruise line will be happy to help.

To Conclude:

If you do need to send or receive emails while at sea the only option is to purchase internet from the cruise line in the form of a WiFi package. If you can wait until you are docked you could send or receive emails using your cell phone plan, a hot spot or free WiFi found in port.

It’s important to remember that even if you are at sea and out of reach of internet if anything terrible did happen at home your friends and family would be able to contact the ship who could get a message to you. I personally believe that no news is good news and being able to disconnect while at sea is brilliant!


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