Using your cell phone on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Matt Hochberg

Cell phones are a way of life these days, with every guest bringing their phone with them onto a Royal Caribbean cruise, just like they would bring their wallet or identification.  The obvious question is can you use your cell phone onboard a Royal Caribbean ship and what are the costs.

Here is an in-depth look at what you need to know about using your cell phone while on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Calls, texts and data

Once you are onboard a Royal Caribbean ship and the ship begins to sail, Royal Caribbean operates a WMS mobile network, known as Cellular at Sea, that will work with any phone that allows roaming.

When the ship is sailing out of range of land-based mobile phone networks, mobile phone service will still be available. When the ship is in port, you can connect to local roaming networks as permitted by your home carrier.

Cellular at Sea is compatible with both GSM and CDMA technologies.

The exact rates will depend on your carrier and the cell phone plan you have. The bottom line is, using your cell phone on a Royal Caribbean ship while roaming can get very expensive, very quickly.

Cell phone plans for cruises

AT&T offers cell phone packages specifically for use on a Royal Caribbean ship.

There are three packages to choose from and they must be purchased prior to your cruise.

  • $50 package (one time charge for 30 days)
    • 50 voice call minutes ($2 per minute overage)
    • Unlimited text, pictures & video messages
  • $100 package
    • 200MB data ($2.00/MB overage)
    • Unlimited talk
    • Unlimited text, pictures & video messages

These cruise packages can be added by calling 800.335.4685 and a one-month minimum required.

Verizon Wireless offers Cruise Ship Pay as You Go pricing

  • $2.99/minute voice pricing
  • Text messaging
    • $0.50/message sent
    • $0.05/message recieved

Sprint offers Sprint Global Roaming rates for Royal Caribbean ships

  • $2.50 per minute voice calls
  • $0.50 per message sent
  • Data
    • $60: 100MBs
    • $100: 250MBs

T-Mobile offers international rates for Royal Caribbean ships

  • $5.99 per minute voice calls
  • $0.50 per message sent
  • Messages received deducted from domestic texting plan allotment
  • No data provided

Avoiding cell phone roaming costs

There are two simple ways to avoid the roaming costs that your cell phone provider may levy on you for using your phone while onboard.

Easiest and simplest is to turn your phone off before the ship leaves port.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to keep use of your phone in an offline mode, put the phone into "airplane mode".  

Airplane mode disables the phone's ability to communicate with cell phone towers and will ensure you can use your phone without incurring charges.

For instructions on how to put your phone into airplane mode, refer to your phone manufacturer.

Using WiFi on your phone

Many guests choose to put their phone in airplane mode but use WiFi signals onboard or onshore to retain data communication.

Nearly all modern phones allow you to put the phone in airplane mode while turning back on the WiFi signal.

Royal Caribbean provides internet service via WiFi on all of its cruise ships that can be purchased in increments or as unlimited packages.

Royal Caribbean ships with Voom high speed internet can purchase a package.  You can view Voom internet prices for details on up-to-date costs.

Staying connected with other guests

Often we hear from guests who want the best way to be able to communicate with other guests onboard their Royal Caribbean cruise.  Since voice calls are usually prohibitively expensive, here are some ideas for low cost ways to communicate with a phone.

  • Text messages are usually the least expensive option to use and may also be the simplest.  Depending on how much you text, the cost of this idea will vary.
  • If you purchase one of Royal Caribbean's internet data plans, you can use text messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Viber to communicate without any extra cost beyond the internet package.  iPhone users can use iMessage to also communicate for free with a internet package.
  • We have heard about the Ripple Cruise Communicator that purports to allow free communication on a cruise ship, but have also heard mixed results of how effective it is.