Internet on your cruise

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This is one of the biggest questions we see, so we’ll break down the options.

We're working while onboard Holland America's MS Ryndam in Spain

We’re working while onboard Holland America’s MS Ryndam in Spain

I work from home for a living, so believe me when I say I’ve fully investigated all of the options for using the internet while at sea.  I’ll give you the rundown of all the options, and my feelings on each one and the niche it occupies.

There are two major options, using the ships onboard wireless, and bringing your own internet via a sim card in your cellphone, tablet, or 3g hotspot.

Of course, all tourist restaurants, starbucks, and mcdonalds will always have free wifi, so we wont cover that.

We want something that works on the ship.

 

 

Ships Wireless

The first option, is the ships onboard wifi.  To help those who might be completely new to cruising and have questions about it, most if not all major cruise lines now offer wifi internet access FOR A FEE.  Wifi is typically available throughout the entire ship, including staterooms, though some rooms may have better coverage than others.   The fees can be quite expensive, but unlike in years past, the speeds are quite reasonable and though you won’t want to stream videos, you can check in with email and facebook quite easily.    You’ll want to check with your cruise line for exact details, but prices like 50 dollars for 60 minutes are common for most lines.  You can turn the access on and off, so a 30 minute package might easily allow you to check email all cruise long a few times a day.

This option is the only one which will work in the middle of the ocean or when far from land.

It’s also good to note that many cruise lines offer loyalty programs which can reduce, or even eliminate the cost of internet while at sea.  For instance, Cunard offers 2 hours of free internet per guest after only 3 cruises with them, and the benefits go up from there.   Most other lines aren’t quite as generous as Cunard, but you can still get decent discounts if you are a frequent cruiser, and we like discounts.

Mobile Cellular Wireless – Sim Cards

The next option is to use your own internet in your cellphone or other device (be it a personal wifi hotspot or tablet).   These options are great, and each has its pros and cons depending on what type of cruise you are taking.   Plans and data usage are changing rapidly, and things are getting better and better all the time, with roaming charges disappearing more and more.   With cellular mobile 3g data, you can have internet all day while in port, and also depending on your travel, you can have internet all night too if you are traveling near the coast, for FREE.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile has become the travelers best friend in the United States.  For only 60 dollars a month, not only do you get a solid cellphone plan while at home, but you get free texts and internet access in 60 (SIXTY!) countries.  And those are basically the same 60 countries you are likely to take a cruise too.   Ships wifi isnt quite sounding so good when you realize you can use the internet all you want for 60 dollars a month.   Speeds are limited in some countries, but still perfectly usable.  Free text messages and calls only 20 cents a minute, so you’ll never lose your friends in port.  This is an AMAZING deal that every US traveler should be signed up for.   You can read more about it here or visit a t-mobile store and get signed up.

Three

The next best possible choice for using cellular data while at see, is the network called three!  If you live in one of the countries with three stores, you should absolutely be a customer.  Unlimited data for a very reasonable price, (only 15 pounds in the UK).   What’s better is that traveling in 16 countries gets you full unlimited data there also, for free! No roaming charges!  Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Macau, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom!  Wow!  Not quite as flexible as t-mobile, but still amazing, and I’m sure more countries will be added.

Other Local SIM Cards

Just like T-Mobile and Three, you can get great deals on SIM cards wherever you are traveling.  We’ve literally stepped off cruise ships and walked into mobile stores in multiple countries and picked up a sim card for about 10 dollars that would last us until our trip was over.  If you’re doing a trip that includes a lot of one country, such as Greece, Italy, or Spain, its a great idea to look into buying a local sim card during one of your port stops.   Most shop workers will speak enough english to get you setup.  This site, the prepaid sim with data wiki, is my bible for finding out which cellphone stores I want to go to to get the best plan.  Just look up the country you’ll be visiting, and find the best deal.  Most of the major carriers will have stores on every major shopping street, so finding something is always easy.

Lebarra and Lyca

One last note, there are two major companies which provide SIM cards in almost all countries, Lebarra and Lyca.  You can usually find these sim cards in kiosks or non branded cell phone stores (the kinds that sell only cases).  We’ve used both of these carriers, and they work perfectly fine.  You can almost always get a Lebarra SIM card with 1GB of data for 10 of the local currency (euros for instance).   These are good options if you can’t find a name brand retailer, or if it happens to be the first thing you see.

Unlocking

Remember, you will need an unlocked phone to be able to use different sim cards.  If you have a phone with a contract, you may need to contact your carrier and ask for your phone to be unlocked so you can use the sim cards of other providers.

Tethering

Just click to set up a portable wifi hotspot! Now youre tethering!

Just click to set up a portable wifi hotspot! Now youre tethering!

These days most people know about tethering, which is where you use your cellphone to create a portable wifi hotspot for your computer or  friends.  This can be done quite simply by turning tethering on in your phone settings.

Typically the prepaid sim wiki will tell you if the carriers allow tethering or not.  We found that we were able to tether in every single case we ever tried, using our unlocked nexus 5 android phone.

We always buy one sim card, and then just tether so both of us can use the data plan.

 

 

 

 

Using this information you should be itching to sign up for T-Mobile, Three, or to pick up a lebarra sim when you reach port!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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