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  • Writer's pictureKevin Poindexter II

Cell Phone Cruisin'

Things I wish I knew prior to trying to use my on a cruise ship

Spring is here. Summer is fast approaching. People are getting outdoors again and now that COVID restrictions are less than they were a year ago cruise ships are starting to operate at full capacity. My family and I recently took a 4-day trip aboard the Carnival Sunshine where we spent nearly three days at sea with a stop in the Bahamas. It was an incredible vacation filled with great food, relaxing views of the ocean, entertainment, and laughs. Before getting on the ship I asked myself if I was going to maintain a connection with my blog audience and post while on board because that's the thing people do, right? that I've completed the trip I'm glad I didn't. Let's dive in to learn why.

Limited Internet Access

Once the ship left port and we began sailing away from the United States I periodically checked my phone to see how far the signal would stretch out and it turns out for the first few hours I was getting decent coverage. This didn't last though because to my learning we weren't as far from shore as I thought. Leaving the port at 3pm it wasn't until between 5pm and 6pm I saw that I had no signal. That was when the cruise director made an announcement on how to use the WI-FI provided aboard ship. This will obviously vary from ship to ship depending on whom you sail with but Carnival offered several packages for internet browsing, all at different prices and speeds.

Regardless of which of the three plans you went with they all served the same function of allowing users to browse social media and post images. The Social plan limited your access to social media sites only. The Value and Premium plans expanded browsing to email ,news, and sports pages/apps with the Premium adding Skype calls. None of the plans included the features of using streaming music and video content which, were I purchase a plan would have been the main reasons of being on my phone during the cruise. So that means no Apple Music, Pandora, Hulu, Spotify, or YouTube which to some that may have been a disaster but to me this was a relief. I was on this trip to get away from all the tech. If anything I only needed my phone to be just that...a phone.A device that makes and receives calls like phones did back in the old days. Thankfully there was an answer to that....


You know that feeling that you get when when you accidentally discover something and that thing turns out to be something really cool? That was me when I turned on my phone the night we left and were at least 7 hours into our cruise to the Bahamas. My phone until then had been in airplane mode being that I needed this mode to use the cruise line's app. Disabling it for sheer fun I found my phone had connected to a satellite service called Cellular At Sea. I was immediately sent a text message about their service the moment airplane mode was disabled. The text also detailed the insanely high fee that came with using it but let's talk about the service and what it does first.

Cellular At Sea as I mentioned earlier operates as a satellite provider. The moment you're in international waters your phone will automatically switch over to this service and any calls or data used will be charged to carrier who will then charge the user. There's nothing you have to do to activate this feature as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and my carrier of choice T-Mobile all participate in this program. Depending on which stateside carrier you have calls might be free but in my case data and texts were not. If needed I could use the signal for things that the cruise line's WI-FI didn't provide but it would have been much more expensive. Their rate was $15/MB of data and text messages were .50¢ each. Ouch. To put this in comparison when I upload a 4K video to this site it averages 15-30 gigabytes in size. A single gigabyte is equal to one thousand megabytes. Now multiply $15 by one thousand...see where I'm going? And let's not forget that this is satellite based coverage. The good thing is that it's literally everywhere unlike with traditional cell tower coverage being limited to a small geographic zone.

Cellular At Sea covers the entire ocean. The bad thing about their coverage is that because the signal is coming down from a satellite it's subject to loads of more interference. Those include sunlight, clouds, fog, solar radiation, high winds, florescent lights, and steel to name a few. The data speeds provided were on par with the Value WI-FI plan provided by Carnival. Totally not worth the $15/MB unless you had some extreme emergency to use it. The other important thing to know about this provider is that if you're using a smart phone that phone is designed to constantly look for a data connection, provided you're not in airplane mode of course.

This search though could result in your phone using the Cellular At Sea data signal to update itself and/or the apps installed on your phone. People have mistakenly left their phone on thinking that they're not using data when indeed they were resulting in fees being charged. If this is what you want luckily you won't have to pay those fees in advance. Cellular At Sea will bill your provider who will then bill you when your monthly statement is released but you'd be good to remember that if data isn't included in your cruise plan you can expect to pay an outrageous amount. So please, put your phone in airplane mode.

Fun In The Sun

Because isn't the point of going on a vacation to put aside the distractions of social media and our digital lives so we can soak in the sun? There were a few things I used my phone for but if I'm completely honest I didn't miss being on social media at all. I had too much around me to see and do that checking Facebook or my stats on YouTube were pushed to the bottom of my attention span. The ocean views were amazing, the food was great and free (with exception to some restaurants but that's a different conversation), and when we touched down in Nassau I was too dedicated to learning about the culture that I could have left my phone on the ship. Oh and the food there was great too. That being said if you're planning a cruise, or any vacation at that don't be scared to look up and see what's in front of you. You just might like it.

If you'd like to know more about the Cellular At Sea service please visit their website here. For information on what features your provider offers for international coverage please see their respective pages linked below:

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