Cruise TipsCommunicationCell Phone Costs on a Cruise

Cell Phone Costs on a Cruise

Cell Phone Tower on DeckHow much does it cost to use my cell phone on a cruise?  This is one of the most asked questions before someone embarks on a cruise.  You may have read stories about misinformed passengers coming home to a $5,000 cell phone bill.  Believe it or not, it is really easy to rack up a $5,000 cell phone bill with a smartphone while out at sea.  Here are some helpful hints that can save you a huge headache and a massive bill.

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Keep Your Phone Off

You’re on vacation, enjoying time with your family and loved ones, keep the phone off.  We realize that many would like to have it on in case of an emergency back home, and that is understandable.  All ships have internet access at a fraction of the cost of using your cell phone.  It is an option that can save you a bit of money.


Your unlimited texting bundle will not cover texts you make while at sea or in a foreign country while in port.  Check with your provider to get the exact rates.  Some carriers such as T-Mobile do not charge for incoming texts, only outgoing.  Every carrier is different so make sure you know the rates before you let your teenage kids spend half the cruise texting.


Carriers charge between $3-5 a minute when using the ship’s cell towers.  Some carriers will charge you even if you ignore the call and your voicemail picks up.


If you are going to leave your phone on during the cruise, the first thing you should do as soon as the ship begins to sail out of port is to turn data roaming off.  Data can cost as much as $15/mb.  That is an average of 3 webpages of surfing for your $15.  Also, significant charges can rack up if your phone has features such as push email on iPhones and Android devices.  Your phone will rack up charges without you even taking it out of your pocket.

All this can be avoided by turning data roaming off on your phone.  Some carriers do offer international data packages with Blackberrys and other phones.  You can get a prorated plan added to your account and have full access to the data on your phone.  Every carrier and phone is different so it is always best to check with your provider.

Lastly, do not go to your cell phone provider’s kiosk at the mall and ask the salesperson how much it will cost to use your phone on cruises.  If you ask all 5 salesmen working, you will most likely get 5 different answers.  I had one tell me once it only cost 15 cents a minute extra to make calls while in the Bahamas.  He was only off by $3 a minute and I would of had to pay the charges if I made the calls.

Here are the links to the international roaming rates for the 4 major phone carriers.
Verizon’s rates
T-Mobile’s rates
AT&T’s rates
Sprint’s rates

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
Cruise TipsCommunicationCell Phone Costs on a Cruise

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