Constant communication -- that's what modern cruisers demand. In addition to keeping in touch with friends and family back home, passengers want the ability to connect with their spouse, kid or friend who's onboard with them. Specifically, cruisers want texting on cruise ships, and lines are responding with apps to facilitate this. Though apps vary from line to line, the essential function is the same: enabling cruisers to use their own mobile devices to text other people on the same ship.
We take a closer look at which cruise lines offer texting apps to their passengers, and how they work.
Among other capabilities, Norwegian Cruise Line's iConcierge app allows passengers to text and call people onboard the same ship without having to use their cell phone service providers' roaming service. The texting and calling functionality piggybacks on the ship's Wi-Fi system to avoid the cell service provider. Each passenger must download the app (free), then pay a small fee to unlock the texting and calling capabilities of the app, but they do not need to purchase an internet package. There are, however, a few complimentary features such as the ability to make restaurant, show and shore excursion reservations. The app is available on Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Spirit and Pride of America.
For a low, one-time activation fee, Carnival cruisers can turn on the Carnival Hub chat feature and communicate with other passengers also onboard their ship; all parties must be using Carnival Hub to participate. The chat feature also has a group setting so family members or a group of friends can communicate within the same conversation. The app works on all ships in the fleet, and cruisers do not need a separate internet package.
Disney passengers can use the Navigator app on all ships to send free text messages to other people on the same ship also using Navigator. There is also a group chat feature. Though the app does connect to the onboard Wi-Fi, there is no charge to app users for access.
Not an app in the traditional sense, MSC Traveller Web is a web-based service that offers app-like functionality and works (for free) on any device connected to the MSC intranet -- no internet package purchase required. You can use it to add contacts, chat with other passengers in real time and even share photos. The web app is only available on MSC Divina, MSC Magnifica and MSC Preziosa.
Holland America's web-based Navigator service (not an app) allows for several onboard functions, including booking spa treatments, specialty dining and shore excursions; monitoring your onboard account; checking the daily schedule; viewing and buying professional photos; and, of course, texting other passengers who also use the service. It's available fleetwide, and anyone with a Wi-Fi-enabled device can use it for free without paying for the ship's internet.
Passengers onboard all Princess cruise ships (except Pacific Princess and Ocean Princess) can use the web-based Princess@Sea Messenger service to send instant messages to other people traveling on the same ship. However, you will need an internet package to use the service via Wi-Fi on your phone.
Royal Caribbean passengers on Quantum, Anthem, Harmony and Ovation of the Seas can use the Royal iQ app to call or text other passengers onboard the same ship. The app is free to download, but the Royal iQ Communications Package (which enables the texting and calling) incurs a per-device fee.