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How To Communicate On A Cruise Ship

From exciting new thrills to food that delivers a taste of every culture, and entertainment that inspires awe, being onboard any cruise ship is as adventurous as the destinations you’ll visit. However, maintaining contact with family and friends can be challenging on a cruise ship, often leading to missed opportunities.

Fortunately, you’ll find an array of different communication methods to smooth your journey. Keep reading for details on how to communicate on a cruise ship, so you can stay in touch with your travel companions.

Techniques For How To Communicate On A Cruise Ship

The typical cruise ship is 1,000 feet long and can accommodate 4,000–5,000 guests. But, if that’s not enough, the vessel may have 12–15 decks that host a guest capacity of about 2,000 to 6,500. So, it can be challenging to locate someone when there are 15 decks to search.

Compounding the issue is that, in most instances, you can’t just whip out your phone and make a call as you would on land. However, with a little planning, you can communicate on a cruise ship with walkie-talkies, Wi-Fi calls, messaging apps, cell phones, post-it notes, in-cabin phones, or proprietary phones.

Unfortunately, most communication technologies rely on satellites in space because there are no cell towers in the ocean! And this could cost you extra.


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To help you, here is our roundup of several options for how to communicate on a cruise ship.

Walkie-Talkies: An Affordable Way To Stay In Touch On A Ship

Taking a couple of walkie-talkies on board your cruise ship can help you keep in touch with your shipmates while you are out and about.

Although walkie-talkies function freely on cruise ships, there might be interference. So, the secret is knowing how to use your device and understanding which walkie-talkies to purchase to obtain the most excellent signal.

For instance, short-range walkie-talkies have a 500- to 1000-yard range ( 460-920 m). It may sound a long way off, but don’t put your complete faith in the gadget. Most manufacturers establish the maximum range under ideal circumstances, with minimal barriers.

If you’re using the device within the cabin and the other person you want to speak to is just outside the hallway, you can communicate clearly. However, it can be problematic if you’re inside the cabin and attempting to talk with someone on the above deck.

It could be challenging for the transmission to reach you in the cabin due to numerous impediments, such as walls, metal posts, or ceilings

In contrast, communication is not a problem outside cabins as long as you are within the range of the device.  Plus, depending on your location, you may be able to use them on land as well.


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Downside: Many cruisers dislike walkie-talkies because of their loud squeaky radio signals and intrusive conversations, especially when children use them in a game of high seas undercover agents.

Wave Phones: Only On Disney Cruise Ships

If sailing with Disney Cruise Lines, you can turn off your cell phone and use the Wave phone for free. This phone is like an older wireless cell phone that links with the ship’s internet to enable text messaging between parties.

From the Wave Phone, you can converse with any shipboard or in-cabin phone, or another Wave Phone. In addition, you can use the phone on the ship or at Disney’s Castaway Cay at no cost.

In-Cabin Phones: Free Mode Of Communication On Cruise Lines

On a cruise ship, there is a phone in each cabin, and you can make calls to other cabins entirely free. Additionally, there are free courtesy or house phones scattered all over the cruise ship. Usually near the elevators or stairs. Typically, you can use these courtesy phones to call individual guest rooms as well as other venues around the ship (e.g., the kids’ club).

If you are attempting to reach someone onboard the ship, you can make a call to their cabin or leave a message. Of course, the guest must be in the room to take the call or listen to the voicemail. It may lead to a “phone tag,” where it appears like you are constantly missing each other.

It would be helpful if you agreed with your partners on the schedule of calls so they are aware of the program for the day, including meetings and activities.

Although not a foolproof strategy, this is a valuable backup when used in conjunction with others.

Cell Phones: Using The Ship’s Cellular Service

While it’s a great idea to put your phone down for a minute and enjoy your trip, it’s also natural to wonder if you can use it to communicate with your shipmates on a cruise.

The good news? You can usually use your cell phone on a cruise. The bad news? It might be costly. Remember, there are no cell towers in the middle of the ocean.

So, to communicate with your phone on your cruise, you’ll have to utilize the ship’s cellular service. Modern cruise ships use providers like “Wireless Maritime Services” or “Cellular at Sea.”

Your cell phone provider will treat these services as international roaming plans, and you will get charged accordingly. However, you can still call or text as you usually would back home if you want to (or need to)—be prepared to pay a hefty premium.

Cell network providers offer packages to assist cruisers in managing their finances better.

For instance, AT&T has a few cruise ship packages, with the cheapest one starting at $50 for a package of 50 minutes and messaging and $2 for every extra minute.

Remember that this approach might not always provide access to data services. In that case, using a Wi-Fi plan is preferable over data.

Remember that modern cruise ships frequently improve their internet and cellular service. So expect your access to get better over time.

Wi-Fi Packages On Cruise Ships

Today’s cruise ships have Wi-Fi available across the vessel. Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, most cruise ships have additional fees for using their Wi-Fi, and some have restrictions on how many devices you may connect.

But the majority of ships provide a Wi-Fi package with various levels. For example, some give a lump sum data quantity that reduces in value as you use it, a daily or limitless choice, or both.

Carnival, for instance, has three service tiers with varying access and speeds: Premium ($15 per day), Value ($11 per day), and Social ($8 per day).

Royal Caribbean is also attempting to establish itself as an authority in sea internet. The cruise line provides VOOM Internet access, dubbed “the fastest Internet at sea,” according to the company. At two price tiers, VOOM offers two distinct service levels. Additionally, you can save up to 30% or more on the rates you’ll pay on the cruise if you make your reservations prior to boarding.

(Note: The technology and infrastructure in this area are rapidly improving.)

You can communicate via Wi-Fi in the same way you would at home. The Wi-Fi covers activities like sending texts, going online, and placing calls when using communication apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, and iMessage. You should expect pricing differences for plans that allow streaming.

You should ensure that you’re making calls over Wi-Fi and not connected over the ship’s cellular service, or else they’ll get treated as international roaming calls. 

Depending on the bandwidth options and the number of devices you wish to connect, Wi-Fi packages can occasionally be expensive, but the ease of having everyone’s phones connected and using your cell phone may be worth the cost. (For this reason, switching your phone to airplane mode is advisable once you board the ship and only use Wi-Fi to connect.)

It’s also essential to research the cruise line’s internet beforehand to ensure you have a strong internet connection while at sea.  The Wi-Fi packages may not be worth the extra cost if the cruise operators anticipate the connection to be erratic while at sea, which can frequently the case depending on the cruise line.

Proprietary Messaging Apps: Best Method To Streamline Communication At Sea

For better or worse, you’ll find it difficult to go just about anywhere in the 21st century without your smartphone in hand. And that’s why major cruise lines are developing different app technologies to go along with the cell phone. Some of these apps include texting features. 

Although these apps vary from line to line, they all serve the same primary purpose: allowing passengers to text each other using their mobile devices while aboard the same ship.

Some of these cruise-line-specific apps include:

Carnival Hub App- Carnival Cruise Line

Available on all Carnival cruise ships, the Carnival Hub App helps you communicate with other passengers on the vessel once you turn on the chat feature on the app.

So, for a small, one-time activation fee ($5 per person), you can turn on the Carnival Hub chat feature and interact with other passengers traveling on the same ship; all parties must be using Carnival Hub to participate.

What’s more: the chat feature also offers a group setting so that a group of friends or family members can chat in the same conversation.

With the help of this practical app, you can easily see maps of the ship, keep track of onboard expenses, and remain up to speed on the activities taking place around the ship.

iConcierge App – Norwegian Cruise Line

Using the iConcierge app from Norwegian Cruise Line, you may text and call your colleagues on the same ship without using their roaming network service. 

So, the texting and calling capability rides along the ship’s Wi-Fi system to dodge the mobile service provider.

However, you must first download the app (which is free), after which you must pay a nominal fee to enable the app’s texting and calling features.

The app has a few extra features, like reserving seats for shows, dining establishments, and beach excursions.

Navigator App – Disney Cruise Line

Before sailing, you can download the Navigator app from Disney Cruise Line to your phone, which lets you chat with your shipmates.

Although the app does connect to the onboard Wi-Fi, the calling and messaging package features a small one-time price for making unlimited onboard calls and messages during your voyage. 

The app also provides a schedule of the daily entertainment and events onboard and available meals.

The Royal Caribbean App

Royal Caribbean has gone through several iterations of onboard apps with varying degrees of utility. The current version has a robust set of features that includes a messaging app that you can use to stay connected with fellow passengers. The app allows you to chat one-on-one or as part of a group.

While the app itself is free to download in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, you will have to pay  $1.99 per day, per user in order to use the texting feature. Fortunately, you can use the app features without purchasing a separate wifi package.

To use the app, download it before boarding, and then simply connect to the ship’s Guest WiFi once onboard. Once connected, you can purchase in-app chat right in the app itself. Other in-app purchases are also available.

You may also like the app’s other free features, such as tracking your expenses, booking excursions and restaurant reservations, easy check-in, updated daily calendar of events, and planning your activities onboard.

The Celebrity Cruises App

The Celebrity Cruises App allows chatting with those in your reservation and other passengers.  

The App is free to download and free to connect with the ship’s WiFi once onboard. Be sure to download the app before you set sail.

You can use the app to manage your trip from the start. Before your trip, you can use it to get to know the ship and its offerings, and then use it to check in, perform a health check, and manage reservations. You will also be able to use the app to control various items in your room such as lighting, shades, television, and HVAC.

We should probably note that some users have commented that the schedules and reservations shown in this app are not always accurate or quick to update with timezone changes.

The MedallionClass App – Princess Cruises

The MedallionClass App is available on all Princess cruises and includes in-app chat that runs on the ships’ WiFi. Not only can you connect with people you know, but you can also “call the crew.” It’s a feature that lets you message crew members should you require personal assistance.

The app also links to your wearable medallion, which lets you also track the location of where other linked members of your reservation are on the ship (if they are also wearing a medallion device). It’s just one more way to stay in touch and keep track of your group.

This app has lots of extra features, such as the ability to note your allergies beforehand, bookmark activities you’re interested in, and play in-app games. 

MCS for Me – MCS Cruises

The MCS for Me app has chat features, but, for now, it is only available on their smart ships, such as MSC Seashore, MSC Virtuosa, MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Meraviglia, MSC Seaside, and MSC Seaview.

Not all ships have the same in-app features available, so it is wise to confirm before you go.

The MCS for Me app also links to a wristband for making purchases, booking activities, and unlocking your room.

Navigator – Holland America

The Navigator app has no significant functionality until you’re onboard, but once you are, connect to the ship’s WiFi and you’ll have access to its features including the ability to text with your family and friends on the ship.

The app acts like a digital boarding pass, it will hold e-tickets for your excursions and activities, and it helps you manage and plan your trip. The “my itinerary” section is particularly popular for planning your days on the cruise.

Proprietary Messaging Apps: Key Points

  • Download the cruise line app from Google Play or Apple’s App Store before you set sail.
  • Install the cruise line app on your smartphone or tablet and sign into your account at least once before you sail. 
  • Once you board, follow the instructions on accessing the ship’s Wi-Fi. 

Take It Old School: Communicating On A Cruise Ship Without Technology

Communication gadgets are undeniably convenient and are a daily necessity for many people. However, you may want to avoid them and enjoy the beauty of tourist spots during your cruise. But that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with your family or friends on the same cruise ship.

There are a few methods of communication on a cruise ship that don’t have to involve technology. Here are the tried and tested methods:

Post-It Notes: A Reliable Method To Keep In Touch On A Cruise

Younger travelers might find this a little outdated, but some seasoned cruisers love this time-tested strategy. So, leaving a message on your door is a simple way to remain in touch. If you’re a part of a big group, the leaders should be aware of everyone’s room number so that you can use this failsafe communication technique.

How To Communicate On A Cruise Ship

You can note your daily schedule and have a spot to check for new communications. Naturally, this calls for frequent check-ins and the hope that the rest of your traveling companions will do the same.

Also, depending on your cruise line, there may be a communal messaging board near guest services where you post a message as well.

Check-In Points: Oldest Communication Method 

Simple check-ins with your party are another relic of the past that works perfectly. 

It is the most realistic strategy for ensuring that everyone meets up at the appropriate time and location. In addition, it’s a fantastic chance to strengthen bonds with your colleagues and talk about your time on board.

You can create a schedule for your activities and meals once familiar with the ship’s layout and the location of everyone’s cabins. So, for instance, you could plan for everyone to meet at a specific coffee shop or restaurant for lunch, meet at a designated venue for Bingo, or meet at a particular cabin before dinner.

It is affordable, simple, and dependable. The only pitfall is that you’ll still need to find your friends or relatives and notify them if anything changes. You can use check-in times most of the time, but with a backup contact mechanism to get in touch in case anything changes or there is an emergency.

This basic plan guarantees you gather for dinner, games, and excursions without anyone missing out on the fun.

Closing Thoughts

While cellular technology is available on cruise ships, it comes at a cost. Luckily many cruise ships now have their own apps that allow onboard communication between passengers. Plus, as described above, you have a variety of other options for staying in touch as well.


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Last update on 2024-07-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API