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Connecting at Sea: Internet and Cellphone 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. Many ships now have branded apps that allow cruisers to chat with each other onboard. Several lines have rolled out superfast high-bandwidth Wi-Fi, with relatively affordable high-speed services that can even support video chats, music and movie streaming.

However, internet speeds can vary significantly by line and ship, depending on location, available bandwidth and other factors. And, the majority of cruise lines still don't offer speeds that can support streaming/video chat services, such as Netflix or Skype.

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

Cellular services are generally supported by your home carrier; rates at sea vary by wireless company but typically 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 February 27, 2020

Azamara

In Touch on Azamara Journey (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Internet and Wi-Fi: Azamara ships have onboard computer centers, called In Touch, where passengers can get online via workstations 24/7. Wireless access on personal devices, such as smartphones and laptops, is available throughout the ship. The system does not support Skype or other high-bandwidth programs.

Fees: Passengers can choose from three internet packages: $19.95 for 60 minutes, $29.95 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.

Cellphones: AT&T and Wireless Maritime Services offer service for calling, texting and data; roaming charges apply and are billed directly through your home carrier.

Carnival Cruise Line

Internet and Wi-Fi: 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 and popular airline sites 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, such as streaming movies and music, or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services, such as 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, Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Horizon are Netflix-enabled, so you can use the app to watch shows. Passengers can pay the daily rate or purchase a voyagelong package. The prices listed here are for packages bought onboard the ship; get up to 20 percent off on any package purchased pre-cruise.

Cellphones: Carnival passengers can use their phones fleetwide to make calls, text and surf the web using data; roaming charges from cellphone carriers apply and vary by provider.

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 to message other family members and friends onboard. (Cruisers ages 12 and younger can activate the onboard chat with parental/guardian consent.)

Celebrity Cruises

iLounge on Celebrity Silhouette (Photo: Cruise Critic)

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 on Galapagos-based expedition ships (though Galapagos vessels do have basic Wi-Fi access in public areas).

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 on workstations (for a fee), take classes, get help with your Apple devices and even buy new Apple products.

Fees: Celebrity's internet package pricing depends on the length, duration and destination of the cruise. Book packages online, pre-cruise, and save up to 10 percent.

Regular rates start at $270 for unlimited access on a seven-day cruise, for one device; for two devices, it costs $405. Celebrity also offers a basic Surf plan, which allows passengers to browse the web, including email and messaging apps (but not stream or video chat). On a weeklong sailing, it costs $174 for one device or $194 for two devices.

Cellphones: Passengers on all Celebrity ships can use their GSM or CDMA phones onboard. Roaming charges will apply and be billed directly by your home carrier.

Crystal Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: Passengers on Crystal Cruises' ocean ships can surf the internet at the line's Computer University@Sea. 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, such as Skype, FaceTime and other similar services, are not supported on Crystal ships.

Fees: All passengers receive free unlimited Wi-Fi.

Cellphones: Wireless Maritime Services provides cellphone access on Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony; roaming fees apply and are set by your home cellphone service provider.

Cunard Line

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

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 personal devices and is available throughout the ship but can be slower than what you'd expect at home; use of high-bandwidth applications, such as Skype and FaceTime, are neither reliable nor recommended.

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), 240 minutes (+25 minutes embark bonus for $89.95) and 480 minutes (+50 minutes embark bonus for $167.95).

Passengers can forgo a package and just pay 75 cents per minute. Complimentary internet packages are available to Gold, Platinum and Diamond World Club members.

Cellphones: Roaming service is available across the fleet; rates will be charged via the home carrier.

Disney Cruise Line

Internet and Wi-Fi: Satellite wireless internet connectivity is available for purchase throughout all Disney ships for passengers bringing their own laptops or other electronic devices.

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 megabyte) or pick from one of following three packages: The small package includes 100MB for $19 and is ideal for occasional use, such as checking email; the medium package offers 300MB for $39 and is geared toward moderate users, such as those who wish to upload images to social media; and the large package covers most internet needs, providing 1,000MB for $89.

Cellphones: Cellphone usage is available on all ships, with roaming charges applied by your home carrier.

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 passenger 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 while on Castaway Cay, Disney's private Bahamian island. The Wave Phones can call any shipboard phone, stateroom phone or another Wave Phone. Additional Wave Phones can be borrowed for a fee.

Holland America Line

Internet Cafe on Westerdam (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Internet and Wi-Fi: Satellite-powered wireless access is available fleetwide. 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 personal internet device.

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 and other popular social websites and applications. The $24.99/day Surf plan allows access to email, news, sports and more standard web browsing. The Premium plan, for $29.99 per day, additionally supports audio/video calls and streaming on top of email, websites and apps.

Cellphones: All ships in the Holland America fleet are cellphone friendly; roaming fees apply and are charged by the home carrier.

Holland America also has a free smartphone app called Navigator that HAL passengers can use to plan their daily activities, book excursions and dining reservations, view their shipboard account information, chat with other passengers and more.

MSC Cruises

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

Fees: MSC offers five tiers of connectivity, with connections that work onboard or on the line's private Bahamian island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. The Standard plan (from $93 per cruise for 3GB) 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 (from $159.90 per cruise).

There's a 24-Hour package (unlimited data from $44.90) if you need the internet for a day or less and a Chat & Social Apps plan (from $49.90 per cruise for 1.5GB) 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 (from $147 per cruise for 6GB) is available on up to four devices.
Note: Video streaming is not available with any package. Package pricing may vary slightly by ship, destination and cruise duration; advance online bookings can save up to 20 percent off.

Cellphones: Roaming service is available on all ships; charges apply from your home carrier.

The line's free MSC for Me app is available on MSC Grandiosa, MSC Bellissima, MSC Meraviglia, MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview and MSC Splendida. It offers real-time event and activity listings, an interactive ship map and a chat feature for connecting with other onboard passengers.

For a supplemental charge ($15), and when utilized in conjunction with a wristband, the app also features a Family & Friends Locator to track family and friends on the ship; there's a Kids Locator service, too, for $18.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Library and Internet on Norwegian Epic (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Internet and Wi-Fi: Norwegian offers 24-hour internet cafes and shipwide satellite wireless internet access on all of its ships. A limited supply of laptop rentals are also available.

Fees: Norwegian offers passengers four internet packages. The Unlimited Wi-Fi plan ($29.99 per day) includes unlimited access to websites, email, social media and all apps (but no VPN). The Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi package ($34.99 per day) adds VPN 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 most 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 13 days and longer have a lower, adjusted per day rate for Unlimited internet packages.

Cellphones: Passengers can make and receive calls, and use data on mobile devices while the ship is at sea; roaming charges apply and are billed through your home carrier. Note cell services are not available on Pride of America.

The Cruise Norwegian app allows users to tap into their onboard passenger information and manage their onboard account, make their own dining and excursion reservations, and view all ship activities. 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 calling capabilities; a 79 cents per-minute fee applies for this service. Passengers under the age of 13 need the consent of a parent or guardian to access the app.

Oceania Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: All Oceania vessels have shipwide Wi-Fi. Passengers can sign up to gain access on a shared computer in the Oceania@Sea Internet Center, or by connecting to the network directly from their personal devices. Passengers staying in the Owner's and Vista suites each receive the added bonus of an iPad to use onboard; passengers 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 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.

One log in is provided per stateroom and is valid on one device at a time; a second login for Wavenet can be purchased for $24.99 per day, or for Wavenet Prime for $34.98 per day.

Cellphones: Calls, text and data plans are provided on most cellphones via Wireless Maritime Services; roaming charges are billed by your own wireless service provider.

Princess Cruises

Internet Cafe on Caribbean Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Internet and Wi-Fi: MedallionNet internet service allows passengers to post photos, video chat and stream videos and music with connectivity speeds similar to those found on land.

MedallionNet is available onboard Caribbean Princess, Coral Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Grand Princess, Island Princess, Regal Princess, Royal Princess, Ruby Princess and Sky Princess. The high-speed internet service is expected to be added to by mid-2020; Princess's newest ship, Enchanted Princess, debuting in June 2020, will feature it, as well.

The rest of the fleet has PrincessConnect wireless hot spots available in public areas and cabins, as well as internet cafes (available fleetwide), though high-bandwidth activities, such as VoIP and streaming video might be restricted.

Fees: Princess Cruises' MedallionNet starts at $9.99 per day (24 hours of unlimited use) for a package that lasts for the entire voyage; prorated packages are also available during the course of the sailing. Platinum and Elite Captain's Circle members can opt to use a specified number of minutes via their loyalty benefits or choose an embarkation day discount for an unlimited internet package.

For ships without MedallionNet service, PrincessConnect features three packages: Social, Surf and Premium. 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. 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.

Cellphones: All Princess ships are cellphone operational, provided that a passenger's mobile device and service plan are compatible with the international roaming requirements of the Wireless Maritime Services. Roaming fees apply and are set by your phone service provider.

Fleetwide, the free Princess@Sea Messenger app allows cruisers to chat with other passengers at sea -- no cellular or data charges required. On MedallionNet-connected ships, the similarly enabled ShipMates chat feature is handled by the OceanCompass tab of the MedallionClass app.

OceanCompass also acts as a personal interactive navigator, guiding passengers through onboard activities, offering a ship map with directions and allowing passengers to pinpoint the onboard location family and friends.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Internet and Wi-Fi: As of January 2020, Regent has nearly doubled the internet bandwidth size across its fleet, with the goal of providing faster and more reliable internet, as well as a 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, but bandwidth-heavy applications, such as Skype and FaceTime, are blocked onboard with the free plan; a supplementary streaming-enabled plan can be purchased at an additional fee.

Fees: All passengers receive free unlimited Wi-Fi, though streaming is prohibited. 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.

Cellphones: Roaming access is available on all ships; charges apply from your home-based wireless service provider.

Royal Caribbean International

Internet Cafe on Oasis of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Internet and Wi-Fi: Royal Caribbean offers Voom high-speed internet fleetwide, as well as on its private Bahamian island, CocoCay. The service is very speedy and can be used for streaming movies and music, and video chatting via services such as Netflix, FaceTime and Spotify. Ships also have computers available for passenger use in their iCafe internet cafes.

Fees: Two levels of Voom are available via tiered packages. The Voom Surf Voyage option costs $15.99 per device, per day includes high-speed Wi-Fi that can be used to browse the web and check/send emails. The Voom Surf + Stream Voyage package is the more expensive tier. It costs $19.99 per device, per day, and is fast enough for sharing on social media, video calls and streaming movies, shows and music.

Family-friendly packages for up to four devices are available. Book packages pre-cruise for discounts of up to 20 percent off.

Cellphones: Mobile phone service is provided directly through your own device via 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 suites and most public areas, as well as via terminals located in Seabourn Square. The line requests that passengers do not use the service for activities, such as streaming, gaming or file sharing.

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.

Cellphones: Seabourn passengers can tap into an onboard mobile phone network supported by Wireless Maritime Services; your home cell provider's roaming charges will apply.

Silversea Cruises

Internet Cafe on Silver Whisper (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Internet and Wi-Fi: Passengers can use their own personal devices to access the internet in their cabins or at Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the ship. Computers with internet access are also available onboard via internet cafes on all ships. Due to limited bandwidth, the line requests that the web only be utilized for emailing and web browsing.

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 passengers booked in Medallion, Silver, Royal, Grand and Owner's Suites free of charge, or at a fee ($29.99 per day) for all other passengers.

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 in lower-level suites, as well as aboard Silver Galapagos. Premium internet access is also available, free of charge, to all passengers on world cruises.

Cellphones: 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. The line notes that cellphone service is unreliable on its Arctic voyages, however.

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 Business Center on Deck 1.

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

Cellphones: Viking Ocean ships are cellphone compatible; international roaming rates vary -- and are billed -- by your home carrier.

Windstar Cruises

Library on Wind Star (Photo: Cruise Critic)
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. High-bandwidth online activities are not recommended by the line due to slower system speeds.

Fees: Windstar offers three packages: the Email Plan ($60), Surfing Plan ($120) and Unlimited Plan (from $250). The Email Plan provides passengers with 200MB 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 500MB of data, ideal for additional browsing and posting photos to social media. Estimated minutes range from 90 to 360 for this plan. Passengers can purchase Unlimited usage packages as well; these range from $250 for seven days to $525 for 15 days. All packages support just one connected device at a time.

Cellphones: Mobile phone service is available fleetwide; contact your home carrier to discuss compatibility and roaming rates ahead of sailing.

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