The round objects near the smoke stack are part of a ship's satellite communications infrastructure.

The round objects near the smoke stack are part of a ship’s satellite communications infrastructure.

Our smart phones are great tools at home and on the go.  I don’t know about you all, but it cut down our household, desktop computer usage…which is a good thing!  When we purchase a phone, the sales rep will (hopefully) ask if you have any questions about set-up and usage.  When many of us answer this question, we typically want to know about day-to-day operations, and making sure our data and contacts transfer from the old device into the new one.  Rarely do we ask about the choices within the phone’s settings…and not knowing how to change some of these settings can get you into unwanted situations.

My sister-in-law cruised with us on our last trip,  on the NCL Breakaway last May.  When we last spoke, she had me view her last cellphone bill, and asked me to figure out why it was almost $130 higher than normal.  It turned out that she did not deactivate the phone’s 3g/4g/LTE /data services until several days into the cruise.  And, with today’s smart phones, which do so much more than making phone calls, it doesn’t matter that she did not use the phone, answer calls, and check incoming text messages and emails.

The key word in the previous paragraph is “incoming.” Many of us have our smart phones set up in a way that has it automatically retrieving our emails and text messages.  In many other cases, voice mails may download to the phone.  Stock tickers, sports scores, location services, weather apps and other updates which appear on our home pages…yup…they are also culprits!  All of these background activities are receiving data, and the data is coming from the ship’s satellite communication systems.

One fool proof way to keep your phone from using the ship’s satellite system (for cell data) is to keep the phone “off” for the duration of the cruise.  And be careful if you choose to use the phone in port (even off of the ship, yet close-by), as you may not be far enough away from the ship to tie into the port of call’s cell-tower infrastructure!

What if you do not want to turn the phone off on board?  Perhaps you will use it as your camera, or as a communication tool via an on-board network, such as with Norwegian Cruise Line’s “I-Concierge” app (available on iPhone and Android phones).  This is where it comes in handy to know how to go into your phone’s settings and disable the data services.  This way, you won’t receive any data through cell services, and you can still keep the WIFI function active.  Remember, placing the phone in “AIRPLANE MODE” will also keep you from receiving data services, but you WILL NOT be able to connect to the ship’s WIFI.

If you absolutely need to speak with people via telephone while cruising, you can try your FaceTime, Skype or other apps of the sort.  Beware, however, ship board internet rates are still hefty, and speed is not anywhere close to the “high-speed” you are familiar with at home.

2 Thoughts on “Cruise ships can cause outrageous cell phone bills if you are not careful

  1. I truly thank you for this information.
    My next cruise is coming up on September 7th and is the first time that I will be bringing a smart phone with me.
    I will deactivate the 3g/4g/LTE/data services.
    Now I have to figure out how to do that! (LOL)

  2. Hello… Which Ship and itinerary are you sailing on? You can also call your cell phone provider and ask them if there are any cruise calling plans available.

    I need to use my phone and sometimes the internet onboard and I’ve run into these problems. So I always tell folks to turn off their data while on the ship, or at least call their provider and signup for a temporary increase in their data to unlimited.

    Very recently some of the cellular carriers are coming up with plans to help with this problem. Also see this article in forbes. For example they are testing out a new app that enable you to at least talk to each other on ships.

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