Staying Connected on a Cruise
Cruise ship Wifi is notoriously poor, leaving passengers to wonder how they can get reliable internet at sea. These are some of your best options for staying connected on a cruise.
WiFi on a cruise is typically slow and sporadic because ships primarily use satellite rather than cellular service to connect. In order for it to work well, there needs to be an unobstructed line of sight between the cruise ship and the satellite and this is not always possible while cruising. When you are connected, you shouldn’t expect the same level of surfing and streaming you get at home with broadband, but you should be able to check your email and share vacation photos with friends.
Whenever I cruise I am constantly testing the best methods for getting online. If you can’t take an unplugged vacation, I suggest you try some of these.
Cruise Ship WiFi
Most cruise lines offer a WiFi package but they can be expensive at upwards of $250 for an unlimited package. I was just on a Viking River Cruise which had complimentary WiFi which was great. However, the best access to the ship’s internet depends on where the router is located on the boat. Usually, it is somewhere near the reception area. Therefore if you want to be able to get online from the privacy of your cabin, be sure to book a room nearby. Otherwise, plan to bring your devices to the lobby.
Purchasing or renting a mobile hotspot prior to your trip can be one of the most cost-effective ways to maintain an internet connection while you are away. Because they allow multiple users to connect at once, these palm-sized pocket gadgets get you online at affordable prices and are easy to use.
Skyroam Solis (buy or rent) – They Skyroam Solis 4G LTE global WiFi hotspot fits easily into your bag. It promises unlimited WiFi in more than one hundred countries. For under $10 per day, you can connect up to five devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops) at a time. You pay only for the days you use. With 16-hour battery life, take it with you for a full day of exploring and never worry about it running out of juice. Plus it acts as a power bank to keeps your devices charged wherever you go.
Does Skyroam work on cruise ships? As you can see by the Skyroam Solis coverage map, the hotspot will only work when you are near ports or on land where there is cell reception. It will not work when you are far out to sea. However it is ideal on barge or river cruise.
HippocketWifi (rent) – Hippocket allows you to enjoy you high-speed internet connections over a 4G LTE network in forty European countries. It has six hours of operating time, and you can choose from plans that include either 1GB per day or unlimited data.
With this device, everyone in your group and then some will have WiFi because you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time. Prior to departure, they will ship it to your personal or business address in the USA or Canada. When you are done with it, simply place it in the provided pre-paid return envelope and pop it in the mail. This pocket wifi device is great for group travel.
Phone, Video and Messaging Apps
Gone are the days that require you to purchase an expensive international calling plan from your cell phone provider, because voice calls over IP (VoIP) technology have come all long way. The market has grown to include dozens of options that will allow you to make phone calls on a cruise. You can even have face-to-face video conversations using your internet connection without worrying about expensive calling charges.
Say goodbye to expensive cell service and hello free phone calls.
WhatsApp – WhatsApp makes it simple to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world for free. It is available for iPhone, Android, Mac, and Windows. Third parties cannot listen to your calls or see your messages because the app has end-to-end encryptions.
FaceTime – This is a great alternative to cellular phone calls for Apple users. Use FaceTime to make free phone voice calls over any WiFi network using FaceTime Audio. Add in the video component when your signal is strongest so you can see your friends.
Skype – Skype is a free Microsoft telecommunication app provides an option for video and audio calls between users on a wide range of platforms. It can also be used for conference calls or up to five users. Coupled with Skype Translator, which is currently available in ten languages, this powerful tool is great for business travelers.
Facebook Messenger – Did you know that you can make VoIP or voice calls from your Facebook app? In addition to the instant messaging feature that most people are familiar with, these voice and video calls are free over WiFi.
Location Sharing Apps
These handy apps are great for sharing your GPS location for planning meetups as well as for safety reasons. Unlike other social media apps, you won’t be sending that information out to the entire world.
Wave – This app offers travelers a free location sharing solution. With Wave, you can temporarily share your location with others on a private map. Additionally, it has a chat feature, with voice or text messages, and you can create groups of up to ten people. Lastly, it allows you to set up meeting points making easy to find friends at your favorite restaurants or cafes.
More Tips for Staying Connected on A Cruise
As technology has improved, the number of options to get online while cruising has increased. Although this gives travelers more choices it can make it more confusing. The trick is figuring out which are the most reliable and economical for you!
To stay connected and safe, charge your devices every evening. Pack a universal travel adapter to make sure your chargers work wherever you travel.
You might also consider a solar power bank to keep your devices charged at all times without needing to plug in.