We Try It: Cruise Line Onboard Texting Apps

February 5, 2014 | By | 12 Comments

On a recent cruise aboard Norwegian Breakaway,  I experienced a taste of what I believe onboard communication technology will one day look like.
A group of friends and I decided to download Norwegian Cruise Line’s iConcierge phone app, which among other things allows you to text and call people onboard the ship without having to use your cell phone provider’s roaming service.
To quote a famous Disney flick, it opened up a whole new world of what cruising can be like. At any given time, we could check in with each other to find out who was where — “I’m in the far booth at O’Sheehans” — or decide where and when we should meet — “Heading to Howl at the Moon at 10:30.”
No more leaving messages on cabin phones, hoping the information would be received. No more leaving notes on cabin doors. No more having to plan out the entire day first thing in the morning. It was freeing. And all for just $7.95 (the app itself is free, but its more advanced uses cost money).
Another cool feature of the app is that it tracks your onboard spending, updating your folio nearly instantaneously, so you can see what you’ve spent up to that exact moment. It was a great way to keep myself on budget.
Some of the app’s features are free to use, like restaurant, show and shore excursion bookings. You can also view a virtual edition of the Freestyle Dailies.
Of course, it wasn’t perfect. As with any technology, it could be glitchy. Three of the four in my group were repeatedly kicked off the app, to the point they had to shut down and restart their Wi-Fi in order to get on. The problems were irrespective of device, as two of them used iPhones, while one was on an Android (I used an Android and while I did occasionally get kicked off, it was not to the same extent. Even with that hiccup, we all still managed to remain in contact with each other.
The app has its limits as well, and could use a 2.0 upgrade. For instance, I’d love it if it “knew” when my dinner and show reservations were and consequently built a personalized daily plan, something like “My Schedule.” Then when you pull up the day’s events, I would like to select the activities I want to attend and add them to my plan. That way I’d always know what I wanted to do for the day and where I needed to be  – without having to rescan the full schedule each and every time.
Another major limit to the app. It can only be used on three Norwegian ships: Epic, Breakaway and Getaway.
As of this month, only a few cruise lines offer anything similar; Costa Cruises just launched their “MyCosta Mobile” app this week. A major difference between the two is that Costa’s app can be used on all 14 of the line’s ships and doesn’t cost a penny, even for unlimited talk and text between onboard passengers. MSC Cruises also has an app that can be used on their Miami-based ship, Divina. That allows free instant messaging between passengers.
But don’t think these will be the only lines to move in this direction. Jim Berra, chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Lines and Chair of Cruise Lines International Association’s Marketing Committee recently said cruise lines are making investment in onboard communications a priority, getting more bandwidth to the ships and developing new apps for cruisers.
I can’t wait.

    Comments

    12 Responses to “We Try It: Cruise Line Onboard Texting Apps”

    1. Annie Pick
      February 5th, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

      What a GREAT idea. Could have really used this one, tracking down friends on the move can be very time consuming. And those crowded pre-excursion moments when you are trying to meet up, this is the answer.

    2. Chris
      February 5th, 2014 @ 7:15 pm

      Does it use ship wi-fi? In that case it could get expensive.

    3. John
      February 5th, 2014 @ 7:38 pm

      Do we have to worry about or cell phones being hacked?

    4. Gerry
      February 5th, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

      thats a neat bit of kit and @ $8.00 well worth it l think

    5. Rickatron
      February 5th, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

      ^^^^Yes that^^^

    6. Guinny
      February 5th, 2014 @ 9:57 pm

      I think it’s a fabulous idea! Disney uses phone communicators which were extremely useful when we sailed in July. I hope all cruise lines get with the program because it will make life so much easier, especially when you are traveling with friends or family.

    7. Dennis
      February 5th, 2014 @ 11:22 pm

      I tried to use it on Norwegian Sky, but one Big Problem! No Free Wifi connection! I don’t get it, why do you pay so much for a cruise but then get extremely limited or no free wifi access on the cruise that you just paid a whoooping for. It should be complementary considering you just paid how much for the actual cruise again? Yeah … Right!?

    8. birdhouse
      February 6th, 2014 @ 12:12 am

      oh yes, I would like that very much. even when you travel with me husband it was difficult communicating when one does not always do the same things together. Often your cellphone does not work on a ship and this would be great then.

    9. Jean leach
      February 6th, 2014 @ 1:45 am

      Would be great. It would make life so much easier. I would to have that option next time I cruise.

    10. Mare
      February 6th, 2014 @ 6:41 am

      We also used it on the Breakaway in May 2013 with the exact same problems, we both had iPhones. It would work great at first and then nothing. It was a flat fee and did not interfere with our Wi-Fi costs at all. There is also nobody onboard that can assist you with texting problems, the IT guy blew us off and told us it was through iConcierge (he was not “happy-happy-happy” like other crew members). Long story short, great thing if they fix the “bugs”.

    11. Bryan
      February 6th, 2014 @ 7:46 am

      It would be nice if it would allow non-photo texts to off-ship recipients. Why would the lines allow that? Easy- plain texts aren’t high bandwidth and if the person receiving the text was forced to use the line’s app to receive it, you’re essentially forcing them to view your own advertisement. Any minor cost would easily be recovered.

    12. Dennis Ariton
      February 6th, 2014 @ 8:22 am

      A few years back I suggested this exact app to Celebrity Cruises on the evaluation form. I guess our next cruise will be on NCL Getaway or Breakaway :-) instead of Celebrity.

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