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Connecting at Sea: Internet and Phone Use Onboard Your Cruise

Connecting at Sea: Internet and Phone Use Onboard Your Cruise (Photo: tolotola/Shutterstock)
Connecting at Sea: Internet and Phone Use Onboard Your Cruise (Photo: tolotola/Shutterstock)

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Staying in touch with fellow passengers at sea and friends and family on land is easier than ever. Most ships now have branded apps that allow cruisers to chat with each other onboard and superfast high-bandwidth Wi-Fi that makes communicating at sea much easier than it used to be.

Internet speeds can vary significantly by line and ship, depending on location, available bandwidth and other factors. Most cruise lines don't offer speeds that can support streaming services like Netflix or Spotify. However, a few cruise lines are changing the at-sea connectivity game with relatively affordable high-speed services that support video and music streaming.

Internet charges also vary by cruise line. You can be charged by the minute or by bandwidth, pay for daily or voyage-long packages, or choose from tiered usage packages priced based on the types of sites and online services (sending emails, streaming shows) passengers use.

Cellular rates at sea vary by wireless company but generally reflect international roaming rates, which can be breathtakingly pricy. When the ship reaches port, pricing will switch to the country-specific roaming rate -- also not cheap unless you've signed up for an international calling plan.

Below is a rundown of what the major cruise lines offer for internet and cellular service.

For some background and tips, here's everything you need to know about internet at sea.

Updated October 10, 2019

Azamara I Carnival Cruise Lines I Celebrity Cruises I Crystal Cruises I Cunard Line I

Disney Cruise Line I Holland America I MSC Cruises I Norwegian Cruise Line I Oceania Cruises I

Princess Cruises I Regent Seven Seas I Royal Caribbean International I Seabourn Cruise Line I

Silversea Cruises I Viking Ocean Cruises I Windstar Cruises

In Touch on Azamara Journey (Photo: Cruise Critic)


Internet and Wi-Fi: Azamara ships have onboard computer centers, called In Touch, with 24-hour access, and passengers can get online via workstations. Wireless access on smartphones and laptops is available throughout the ship.

Fees: Passengers can choose from three internet packages: $19.95 (or 33 cents per minute) for 60 minutes, $29.95 (or 2 cents per minute) for the One-Day Pass (single 24-hour period) and $19.95 per day for the Full Voyage Unlimited option. Note that only one device can be used at a time, and the system does not support Skype or other high-bandwidth programs.

Cell phones: Service is available via AT&T and Wireless Maritime Services for passengers with GPRS data service. Calling/texting packages are available, but roaming charges apply.

Carnival Cruise Line

Internet and Wi-Fi: Thanks to a "smart hybrid" network called WiFi@Sea, Carnival offers fast shipwide Wi-Fi, as well as internet access at onboard cafes and kiosks, on all vessels.

Fees: All ships offer three cruiselong internet packages: The "social" plan is $8 per day for unlimited access to social media networks but not email or web browsing. The $12 per day (or $16 for 24 hours) "value" plan adds access to email and the internet but restricts bandwidth-intensive activities like streaming movies and music or VoIP (Voice over IP) services (Skype and FaceTime).

For heavy internet users, a $17-a-day (or $25 for 24 hours) "premium" plan gives access to a faster internet speed and Skype. All plans exclude video and music streaming, although Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon are Netflix-enabled, so you can use the app to watch shows. Passengers can pay the daily rate or purchase a voyage-long package. The prices listed here are for packages bought onboard the ship. Get 15 percent off on any package purchased pre-cruise on select ships.

Cell phones: Carnival passengers can use their phones fleetwide to make calls, text and surf the web using data or Wi-Fi; roaming charges from cell phone carriers apply.

Additionally, the line offers an app -- Carnival HUB -- which is free to download and use onboard (even without a Wi-Fi package). The app offers easy access to information such as deck plans, ship schedules, dining info and Sail & Sign shipboard account balances. For $5 per sailing, passengers ages 13 and older can access the app's chat feature.

iLounge on Celebrity Silhouette (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Celebrity Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: Xcelerate, Celebrity's high-speed internet, allows for faster web browsing, less time spent waiting for pages to load and video-streaming capabilities with easier access to Netflix, YouTube, FaceTime and Skype. The internet service is available fleetwide, except Galapagos-based expedition ships. The Celebrity iLounge, the first Authorized Apple Specialist at Sea, is also available for cruisers 24 hours daily. Here you can log on to the internet (for a fee), take classes, get help with your Apple devices and even buy new Apple products.

Fees: Celebrity offers two internet packages: Surf and Stream. The Surf plan connects passengers to email and messaging apps. The Stream package grants passengers full access to the internet, including Netflix and video calling apps. The price of these packages depend on the length of the cruise but starts at $16 per day for the Surf plan and $35 per day for the Stream package.

Cell phones: Passengers on all Celebrity ships can use their GSM or CDMA phones onboard. Roaming charges will apply. Celebrity also offers an in-stateroom phone, where you can make calls from the ship to shore for $7.95 per minute, available 24 hours daily; calls will be charged to your SeaPass account. Your friends and family on land can also contact you, for the same rate (long distance charges apply for calls from outside the U.S.); calls are chargeable to Mastercard or Visa.

In addition, AT&T customers can avail of discounted packages (available on all ships, except Xpedition): a call-only option for $30/month (50 minutes), call-and-message option for $60/month (50-minute call and 100 messages) and $120/month for call, message and data (50-minute call, 100 messages and 100 MB of data).

Crystal Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: Crystal passengers can surf the internet at Crystal's Computer University@Sea; each ship is equipped with at least 25 computer workstations. Wireless access is available throughout the ship. Laptops can be rented onboard, and Technology Concierges are on hand to help answer questions about devices and connectivity. High-bandwidth applications, like Skype, iChat, FaceTime and other similar services, are not supported on Crystal ships.

Fees: All passengers receive free unlimited Wi-Fi.

Cell phones: Access is available for phones and other mobile devices (provided by Wireless Maritime Services on Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony). Devices must be activated for international calling. Roaming fees apply and are set by your phone service provider. You can make direct-dial satellite phone calls from your stateroom for $2.50 (2.50 euros) per minute, charged to your shipboard account.

iStudy on Queen Mary 2 (QM2) (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Cunard Line

Internet and Wi-Fi: All ships offer computer stations in libraries or ConneXions internet cafes, and all internet stations are open 24 hours a day. Satellite Wi-Fi onboard works on all devices and is available throughout the ship but can be slower than what you'd expect at home.

Fees: Cunard has a three-tiered Standard Plan depending on the number of minutes you use the internet: 120 minutes (+15 minutes embark bonus for $47.95 or 40 cents per minute), 240 minutes (+25 minutes embark bonus for $89.95 or 38 cents per minute) and 480 minutes (+50 minutes embark bonus for $167.95 or 35 cents per minute). These packages can only be purchased onboard.

Passengers can forgo a package and just pay 75 cents per minute. Internet can be used on a personal device or one provided in the internet cafe.

Cell phones: GSM roaming service is available across the fleet.

Disney Cruise Line

Internet and Wi-Fi: Satellite internet connectivity is available throughout all Disney ships. Wireless high-speed internet is available for purchase for passengers bringing their own laptops or other electronic devices. Disney also has laptops available for passengers who don't have personal devices, though they'd still need to purchase an internet package.

Fees: Connect@Sea offers internet packages that are based on the amount of megabytes used. One package can be shared on multiple devices. Passengers can choose to pay as they go ($0.25 per MB) or pick from one of following three packages: The small package includes 100 MB for $19 ($0.19 per MB) and is ideal for occasional use, like checking email; the medium package offers 300 MB for $39 ($0.13 per MB) and is geared toward moderate users, like those who wish to upload images to social media; and the large package covers most internet needs, providing 1,000 MB for $89 ($0.09 per MB).

Cell phones: Cell phone usage is available on all ships. If your carrier supports GPRS data service, you may use compatible Cellular at Sea to check email and surf the web on your phone, for a fee. When the ship is in port, the service is off and passengers can connect to local roaming networks. Passengers also can use the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app on their smartphones, which will allow them access to daily itineraries, activities, dining menus and the ability to chat with other passengers through the Guest Wi-Fi network while onboard. There is no charge to use the app.

Each stateroom also comes with two Wave Phones, which you can use to text and call fellow cruisers onboard and on Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. The Wave Phones can call any shipboard phone, stateroom phone or other Wave Phone. Additional Wave Phones can be borrowed for a fee.

Internet Cafe on Westerdam (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Holland America Line

Internet and Wi-Fi: All Holland America ships have internet cafes. The line's Explorations Cafe, powered by The New York Times, is a cozy, coffee house-style area where passengers can either use the computers provided or a wireless internet device. High-speed terminals are scattered around the library and handily adjacent to a coffee bar. Satellite-powered wireless access is available fleetwide in most public areas and all cabins.

Fees: Holland America has three wireless internet packages on offer. The Social plan costs $14.99 per day and allows you to connect to Facebook, WhatsApp and other popular social websites and applications. The $24.99/day Surf plan allows access to email, news, sports and more. The Premium plan, for $29.99 per day, additionally supports audio/video calls and streaming on top of email, websites and apps. You can save by buying a seven-day package: The Social Plan is $69.99, Surf Plan is $99 and Premium Plan is $139.99.

Cell phones: All ships in the Holland America fleet are cell phone friendly, and thanks to an agreement with Wireless Maritime Services, passengers can make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, and access emails and surf the web with their phones. Phones must be activated for international calling with the passenger's home provider, but no special codes or software are needed. Roaming fees apply.

Holland America also has an app called Navigator that works on most personal devices, including phones, tablets and laptops. HAL passengers can use Navigator to plan their daily activities, book excursions and dining reservations, view their shipboard account information, chat with other passengers and more. The free app requires no connection to work.

MSC Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: Internet service is available at computers in internet cafes on select MSC ships. Wi-Fi is available in all cabins and common areas.

Fees: MSC offers five tiers of connectivity on either a per-day or per-cruise basis. The Standard plan ($99.90 per cruise for 3 GB) provides access to email, websites, all social networks and chat apps for up to two devices. If you just need to connect on one device and don't want to worry about data usage, there's the Unlimited Internet Cruise package ($199.90 per cruise).

There's a 24-Hour Package (unlimited date for $44.90) if you need the internet for a day or less, and a Chat & Social Apps plan ($49.90 per cruise for 1.5 GB) that lets you stay connected through social media and chat; both plans are available on one device only. For families and/or heavy users, the Premium Internet Package ($159.90 per cruise for 6 GB) is available on up to four devices.

Cell phones: GSM roaming service is available on all ships. Charges apply.

Library and Internet on Norwegian Epic (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Norwegian Cruise Line

Internet and Wi-Fi: Norwegian offers 24-hour internet cafes, and shipwide wireless internet access on all of its ships.

Fees: Norwegian offers passengers four internet packages. The Unlimited Wi-Fi plan ($29.99 per day) includes unlimited access to websites, email (no VPN), social media and all apps. The Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi package ($34.99 per day) adds VPN email access and streaming. There's also an Unlimited Social Media Wi-Fi option ($14.99 per day) so you can post updates and chat on popular social media platforms. You can also pay for 250 minutes of internet that you can use anytime during the cruise for $125.

Booking internet packages online before your cruise provides you with a 15 percent discount over purchasing onboard. All packages are limited to one device at a time; however, Unlimited Multi-Device Plans for two or four devices are available for purchase onboard all ships. Additionally, cruises that are 12 days and longer have a lower, adjusted per day rate for Unlimited Internet Packages.

Cell phones: Passengers can make and receive calls and use data on mobile devices while the ship is at sea via 4G-LTE and 3G technologies. Roaming charges apply.

The free Cruise Norwegian app allows users to tap into their onboard passenger information and manage their onboard account, communicate with other passengers onboard, make their own dining and excursion reservations, and view all ship activities. (The similar but separate app iConcierge is no longer available in the NCL fleet.)

The Cruise Norwegian app is free to download, but there is a nominal one-time fee ($9.95 per person) to make and send unlimited calls and messages to other passengers while onboard. The Cruise Norwegian app also allows ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship calling capabilities using VoIP (Voice over IP technology). A per-minute fee applies for this service.

Oceania Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: All Oceania vessels have shipwide Wi-Fi. Passengers can sign up to gain access in the internet center, Oceania@Sea, or by connecting to the network directly from their personal devices. Passengers staying in the Owner's, Vista and Oceania suites each receive the added bonus of an iPad to use onboard; guests in Concierge-level rooms and Penthouse Suites can request iPads but they are limited.

Fees: All passengers across Oceania's fleet have free access to unlimited, high-speed internet called Wavenet, which will allow them to do low-bandwidth activities, such as checking email and surfing the web. Passengers can choose to upgrade to Wavenet Prime, at a cost of $9.99 per person, per day, for the duration of the cruise, in order to stream movies or music or video chat.

Cell phones: For passengers traveling with their smartphones, Oceania Cruises offers a Wi-Fi-enabled app called Connect@Sea that allows cruisers to send and receive calls and messages to other Connect@Sea app users on the ship, as well as make calls from the ship to people on land.

It's recommended to download the free app before sailing. The app is then activated onboard with the purchase of a Connect@Sea plan. The plan cost (per person), separate from the Wavenet Prime fee, varies by length of cruise and includes unlimited calls and messages to onboard users. Calls made to friends and family on land incur per-minute charges.

Internet Cafe on Caribbean Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Princess Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: MedallionNet internet services is available onboard MedallionClass ships (Caribbean Princess, Regal Princess and Royal Princess). The internet connection allows passengers to text, post photos, chat and stream videos and music. The high-speed internet service is also available on Coral Princess and Ruby Princess and is expected be added to Island Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Sky Princess and Golden Princess by the end of 2019 and Enchanted Princess by 2020. The rest of the fleet has wireless hot spots available in public areas and cabins, as well as internet cafes (available fleetwide), though high-bandwidth activities like VoIP and streaming video might be restricted.

Fees: Princess Cruises' MedallionNet starts at $9.99 per day (24 hours of continuous use) for a package that lasts for the entire voyage. Platinum and Elite members can opt to use it with their Captain's Circle minutes or choose a discount for an unlimited package on embarkation day.

Princess also has a new unlimited internet program, PrincessConnect, which is currently available on Diamond Princess, Emerald Princess, Grand Princess, Majestic Princess, Pacific Princess, Sea Princess and Sun Princess. Passengers can choose to have unlimited access either for a day (24 hours) or for the whole voyage.

PrincessConnect has three packages: Social, Surf and Platinum. The Social plan ($14.99 per day) allows access to the most popular social websites and applications, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as WeChat and WhatsApp. (Passengers need the Social package to be able to print airline boarding passes.) The Surf plan ($24.99 per day) adds on the ability to access email and browse sites. The Premium plan ($29.99 per day) includes video streaming and VoIP.

Cell phones: All Princess ships are cell phone operational, provided that a passenger's mobile device and service plan are compatible with the international roaming requirements of the Maritime Communications Partners. Roaming fees apply and are set by your phone service provider.

The free Princess@Sea Messenger app allows cruisers to chat with other passengers at sea -- no cellular or data charges required. On MedallionClass ships, the chat feature is handled by OceanCompass, which also acts as a personal interactive navigator, guiding passengers through activities, directions and reservations for future experiences.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: Starting April 2019, Regent is "doubling internet bandwidth size" across its fleet. The bandwidth expansion, which is expected to be completed by January 2020, will provide faster and more reliable internet, as well as smoother and more streamlined login process to the Regent Wi-Fi network.

Computer centers with internet access are available on all Regent ships. Wireless access is available throughout the ships, including most cabins, but bandwidth-heavy applications, such as Skype and FaceTime, are blocked onboard. Whether or not the blackout on bandwidth-hogging applications will be lifted with the debut of Regent's internet expansion in 2020 remains to be determined.

Fees: All passengers receive free unlimited Wi-Fi, though videos are limited to short clips only. Passengers who'd like to stream or use high-bandwidth apps and websites would find a streaming plan ($9.99 per day) more convenient. Regent provides one login per suite that is limited to one device at a time; Gold-level and higher members of the Seven Seas Society and Concierge Suites and higher receive up to four logins/devices per suite.

Cell phones: GSM and CDMA roaming access are available on all ships. Charges apply.

Internet Cafe on Oasis of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Royal Caribbean International

Internet and Wi-Fi: Royal Caribbean offers Voom high-speed internet fleetwide. The service is very speedy (the line calls it the "fastest at sea") and can be used for streaming movies and music via services like Netflix, Hulu and Spotify. Ships also have computers available for passenger use.

Fees: Two levels of Voom are available via tiered packages. There is Voom Surf, which starts at $12.99 per device, per day, and includes high-speed Wi-Fi that can be used to browse the web and check/send emails. Voom Surf and Stream is the more expensive tier. It starts at $17.99 per device, per day, and is fast enough for sharing on social media, video calls and streaming movies, shows and music. Family packages that include discounted rates for multiple devices are available. (Note: It's important to keep in mind that prices can vary per ship.)

Cell phones: Mobile phone service is provided by AT&T/Cellular at Sea. Check with your home provider before sailing about compatibility and international roaming charges.

Seabourn Cruise Line

Internet and Wi-Fi: All Seabourn ships are wired for satellite Wi-Fi access in all suites and most public areas, as well as via terminals located in Seabourn Square.

Fees: Seabourn charges 40 cents per minute for internet usage. Additionally, the cruise line offers some usage packages, which can be purchased onboard or in advance. Packages cost $19.95 for two hours, $29.95 for three hours, $39.95 for four hours, $239.95 for seven days with unlimited use and $399.95 for unlimited access during a longer cruise. Only one device at a time is supported.

Cell phones: Seabourn offers a mobile phone network that allows passengers to send and receive calls on their own compatible mobile phones while the ship is at sea. Your provider's roaming charges will apply.

Internet Cafe on Silver Whisper (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Silversea Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: Passengers can use their own laptops to access the internet and personal email in their cabins or at Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the ship. Computers, email and internet access are also available onboard via internet cafes on all ships.

Fees: Silversea provides all its passengers with unlimited complimentary internet. Passengers of Silversea's ocean fleet booked in Vista, Terrace and Veranda suites receive unlimited "standard" internet access. This connection is slower than Premium Internet access that is provided to guests booked in Medallion, Silver, Royal, Grand and Owner's Suites.

On the expedition side, Silver Cloud and Silver Explorer offer Premium Internet to passengers booked in Medallion or higher suites while Standard Internet is given to all passengers aboard Silver Galapagos and Silver Discoverer.

Cell phones: When onboard, passengers can make and receive phone calls, text messages and other data services on their own mobile phone or digital device. Roaming charges apply.

Viking Ocean Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: All Viking Ocean ships have Wi-Fi onboard. Passengers can use their own device or a computer at the Guest Business Office on Deck 1. All staterooms have cellular service and direct-dial satellite phone.

Fees: Internet aboard all Viking Ocean ships is free, but the line imposes heavy-bandwidth limitations for large uploads/downloads and livestreaming.

Cell phones: Cell phones can also access the Wi-Fi at no additional charge. Direct-dial satellite phone calls carry a $2-per-minute charge.

Library on Wind Star (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Windstar Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: Wireless internet is available in most public areas and cabins on all Windstar ships, and passengers can access computers and rent laptops onboard.

Fees: Windstar offers two packages: the Email Plan ($60) and the Surfing Plan ($120). The Email Plan provides passengers with 200 MB of data to use throughout the cruise; it's recommended for people who do very little browsing, only checking email periodically. Estimated minutes for the Email Plan range from 15 to 60.

The Surfing Plan offers 500 MB of data, ideal for additional browsing and small file transfers (such as posting pictures to a social media site). Estimated minutes range from 90 to 360 (approximately five hours) for this plan. Passengers can purchase unlimited usage packages as well; these range from $250 for seven days to $525 for 15 days.

Cell phones: Mobile phone service is available fleetwide, both at sea and in port. At sea, the onboard international roaming network supports GSM and CDMA technology.

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