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No surprise! Cruise ships make extra money by offering you cell phone service on board. But here’s the problem: you will be paying international roaming rates. That is because; once you board the ship you are no longer considered to be in the United States even if you are tied up to a US dock. On board you are considered in international territory.
Cell phones typically connect to land-based towers. On the cruise ship, your phone needs to access the ship’s satellite connection to reach your phone network. Typically cell phones do not automatically connect to satellites, so the cruise ship may offer a service that will help your phone connect to the satellite. Also --If you use your cell phone out of sight of land, you might be automatically connected the cruise ship’s satellite service without your knowledge and you will be billed through your regular phone service at a cost that is $3-$5 per minute.
Before you leave, call your cell provider to determine if your phone will work on the ship and in the countries you dock at and what charges you can expect to see on you bill after the cruise.
Four Tips to Save Money
1. Important -- If you have a data plan for email and internet, turn off your phone’s data roaming option so e-mail won’t be automatically downloaded at the roaming rates. Your data plan may be used if you receive text messages with image attachments.
2. If you have to make a call, wait until the ship docks so you can connect to the less expensive land-based cell towers. That is as long as your phone will work in that country; otherwise, you’ll be paying international rates. In some cases you may have to be physically on the dock to make a cheaper call. A call from your ship’s balcony at dock may connect to the ships service and not to the land–based cells.
3. Turn off your phone when you’re not using it. You will be charged for calls that ring through, but not those that go directly to voice mail when the phone is turned off.
4. Bring a pair of walkie-talkies to keep in touch with a spouse, child or travel mate while on board.