We have previously written about using your cell phone on a cruise. While several of the major carriers offer some form of cruise packages, the AT&T cruise packages are generally the most extensive and reliable. You also have other easy communication options that take advantage of the ship’s wifi.
(Editor’s Note: This is not intended to be a promotional plug for AT&T. Rather, it is based on the sad first-hand observation that it is possible to sign up for a cruise package with one of the other major carriers (which shall remain nameless) and discover that it doesn’t actually work — while your travel companion who has AT&T seems to never encounter any access problems. This happened on three separate cruises! — E.W.)
If you need to rely on actual cell phone carriers (for work reasons, for instance), then this is what you need to know.
AT&T offers two cruise packages to stay in touch with your connections while on a cruise and when you’re in port. These packages are available on more than 175 cruise ships. Both charge a once-off fee, which gives you 30-day access to talk time and texting. The more expensive deal offers a specified amount of data too.
How To Use AT&T Cruise Packages
AT&T has two offerings in the category of cruise packages. The first is a $100 option; the AT&T Cruise Talk, Text, & Data package. It gives you unlimited talk time, texts, and 200MB of data. Overage fees are $2/MB.
The other package is the AT&T Cruise Talk &Text, which costs $50, providing you with 50 minutes of talk time with an overage cost of $2/minute. It also includes unlimited texts.
You need domestic wireless service and a compatible device to use either of these packages. Your package is valid for 30 days from the chosen date, even if it overlaps two bill cycles. It will automatically expire at the end of the period.
You will pay a once-off fee for each device you wish to use on the cruise. AT&T will charge you the full amount for a cruise package canceled on or after your effective date, but it won’t cost you anything if you cancel before the effective date.
What About Coverage?
The two AT&T cruise packages provide you with coverage while onboard specific ships traveling in international waters. You also get coverage in Canada, Mexico, and most Caribbean islands at no extra cost.
When your device is linked to the ship’s cellular network, you will find one of the following codes displayed on your screen:
When the ship comes within 12 nautical miles of land, it is required to switch off its cellular network. Your phone will then connect with the closest country’s networks.
What Is The AT&T International Day Pass?
If your travels take you to countries not listed for AT&T cruise packages, you can add an AT&T International Day Pass (IDP) to your device before traveling. Alternatively, AT&T can add it to your line if you have no international features attached to it.
This will give you coverage for any in-country use. The IDP only applies when the ship is docked, if you’re on land in a foreign country, or if you’re being ferried to shore on a smaller boat. It costs $10 per day per line and provides you with data, texts, and talk time identical to your home package, and you can use it in 210 different countries. You are only charged for days that you use the IDP.
AT&T caps your bill at $10 per day on a single line. Using another line on the same account within the same 24-hour period will cost $5.
When Would You Need Pay-Per-Use Rates?
AT&T offers coverage on 175 different cruise ships. However, if you’re on a cruise ship that doesn’t support AT&T, the pay-per-use rates apply. This rate also applies when you haven’t bought a package, or when it expires. Pay-per-use rates are typically more expensive than cruise plans.
- Talk time costs $3 per minute.
- Texts cost $0.50 per message and $1.30 for a picture or video message
- Data charges are $4.10 per MB
How To Manage Your AT&T Cruise Package
Here are some tips for managing your usage if you’ve purchased an AT&T cruise package.
- Switch off your data roaming in the device’s Settings.
- Disable any applications operating in the background
- Disable your email auto-check.
- Avoid streaming because it uses too much data. Rather download content before leaving the country (or buy a streaming package offered by the cruise line).
- Use the AT&T IDP if you plan to use a lot of data while in port or Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands, and your domestic package doesn’t provide data in these countries.
- Remember that each cruise package you buy is for one device only. If you need multiple devices, each one will need its own cruise package.
Using Your Phone Internationally
If you’re not used to communicating internationally, follow these guidelines to get your business done:
- If you need to call or text someone in the US, select +1 and add the 10-digit phone number.
- To communicate with someone in another country, choose + (country’s code) and the local number.
- Switch on data roaming if you want to utilize cellular data.
The Pros And Cons Of AT&T Cruise Packages
These cruise packages have their benefits and their downsides.
Benefits Of AT&T Packages
These cruise packages offer discounted cellular service onboard more than 175 ships. They are compatible with the IDP, which is cheaper than international roaming rates. It saves the passenger from exorbitant pay-per-use charges. You also don’t have to purchase a wifi plan (but there are reasons you may want to do so anyway-particularly if you will be using large amounts of data).
The Downside Of AT&T Cruise Packages
If you’ve bought the $50 package, it includes no data. You must be very careful about data usage because it costs $2/MB. If you don’t turn off your data roaming or put the device in airplane mode, you could end up with an almighty data bill.
Although the $100 cruise package includes unlimited talk time and texts, it only gives you 200MB of data, which doesn’t last very long. The plan automatically permits you to access more data when needed or when applications use it to operate in the background. This could also set you up for a huge bill.
It could be cheaper to purchase a ship internet wifi package (such as Royal Caribbean’s Voom) which gives you constant access to the internet and supports wifi-calling.
If you need to stay in touch through text or foresee needing to make many phone calls while on your cruise, an AT&T cruise package may be just what you’re looking for. The flat rate fee will allow you to budget accordingly and not worry about paying per use. However, keep in mind that these plans do not include data and if you plan to be calling or texting others on the cruise, they will need their own coverage.
You may also want to read about these other options for How to Communicate On a Cruise Ship.