How to Text on a Cruise Ship for Free (Apps, Tips and Hacks)

how to text on a cruise ship for free

A vacation would be the perfect time to put your mobile on DND and just forget the world while you relax and enjoy. But while that might be the dream for most of us, the urge to reply to that pending message might be too much to bear. However when you’re on a cruise several hundreds of miles out on the sea, how exactly can you send a message?

As you might already know, standard cell service might be unavailable on a cruise ship. But even then, there are ways for you to still send that text message and communicate with your loved ones, co-workers, and friends on land. That said, here’s what you need to know on how to text on a cruise ship for free.

Can You Text on a Cruise Ship?

The short answer is yes - you can text on a cruise ship. But there are a few other things to keep in mind than just that. If you’re relying on a standard cell site, you can probably get reception up to 45 miles out on the water. Once you breach that distance though, expect your signal to die out.

Fortunately, modern-day cruise ships have already considered that. So they have a bunch of options on board to help you stay connected with your family, friends, and whoever else you might need to contact while you’re sailing away on vacation.

How Does Mobile Signal Work at Sea?

If you’re too far out at sea, it’s not likely that your phone will be able to get reception from on-land cell towers. So instead, you can hook up to your cruise ship’s available network. Of course, most ships offer unlimited WiFi services or their cellular services. But don’t expect that stuff to come free.

Most cruise ships will not toss in free WiFi connectivity. They offer daily rates at an average of $14.99 a day, or a discounted weekly rate depending on how long your cruise ship is going to last. Keep in mind though that these rates change depending on what websites and online services you want to access.

For instance, cruise ship guests who want more than the social network plan can get access to news, sports, and email services by paying more. This can cost up to $24.99 a day, which definitely isn’t cheap.

How to Text on a Cruise Ship for Free or For Less

texting for free on a cruise ship

So maybe you forgot to tell your boss about that project update he expected right before you left for vacation. Or maybe you want to contact your dog sitter to ask how old Fido is coping with your absence. There are ways you can text for free on a cruise ship especially if you’re not keen on paying exorbitant fees for cruise connectivity.

1. Check with Your Carrier

What most people don’t realize is that their mobile network carrier might actually offer international coverage. To find out whether yours does, you can visit their website or give them a call. Ask about rates - carriers that offer international coverage typically charge less than maritime networks.

Keep in mind though that international coverage is different from roaming. When your mobile phone enters roaming mode, it simply means that your carrier has connected to a maritime network to continue to provide you services and connection.

This can cost way more than your average mobile charges. So see to it that you ask whether or not your carrier can provide signal out where you’re going, or if your phone would automatically connect to an at-sea provider.

2. Connect to a Local Hotspot on Land

Your cruise is going to make a bunch of stops during the trip, so you should be able to find a WiFi network you can connect to while you’re on dry land. Visit a local coffee shop or a restaurant, and they should be able to provide you WiFi connectivity for free as long as you order something off of their menu.

Local malls and leisure spots also offer WiFi connectivity that you can hook up to at no extra charge. Don’t be afraid to ask around to find out where you can find a suitable connection. Sometimes, establishments won’t really advertise their WiFi, so it helps to ask the locals.

3. Install an Offline Messaging App

You’d be surprised how many services offer free offline messaging through your mobile phone. Apps like Firechat, Bridgefy, Hike, and Signal Offline Messenger let you send text messages for free without WiFi or cellular data required. Keep in mind though that some of these apps might lose their ability to send messages especially when you’re too far out at sea.

Some services like Ship Mate are typically advertised across the web for people hoping to text on a cruise for free. And while it might offer a wealth of resources to improve your cruise experience, its messaging feature only works when you’ve got WiFi connectivity.

If you’re texting someone who’s on board, you can connect to your cruise’s line. This service lets you contact other guests on board at no added charge.

4. Try Going Prepaid

If your cruise is going to take a couple of weeks and you need constant connection via text, you can try a prepaid plan. These plans are much cheaper than the typical post-paid, letting you pay for a specific amount of service that you intend to use. For instance, some prepaid plans cost as little as $39.99 for two weeks of credit validity which might be just exactly what you need for your cruise.

This comes with a data credit of around 10-15GB, which you can use for the duration of two weeks, depending on the prepaid plan’s specifics. Of course, it still helps to make sure that your carrier will have signal where you’re going to make sure your prepaid plan doesn’t go to waste.

5. Rent a Travel Router

These things are pretty popular in our day and age. Travel routers for rent let you connect to a network in over 130 different countries or more, depending on the provider you choose. Travel WiFi’s rent option starts at just $6.95 a day, making it up to three times cheaper than cruise ship WiFi.

These gadgets are great for cruise ship guests who just need to stay connected at all times. The nifty little device can support up to 5 gadgets at a time, so it might also be a good choice for families and friend groups who want to Instagram the cruise ship experience blow by blow.

How to Avoid Cell Phone Charges on a Cruise

complimentary texting on a cruise ship

You can incur a ton of network charges on a cruise ship. And we’re talking hair-pulling fees that might entirely ruin all of those fond cruise ship memories. So to avoid accruing all of those crazy charges, see to it that you try these tips to avoid charges on a cruise.

Put your Phone on Airplane Mode

Airplane mode simply turns off any of your phone’s connectivity features. This means it won’t look for WiFi networks and it won’t connect to a mobile network. Essentially, airplane mode disables your phone’s antenna.

Do keep in mind though that putting your phone on airplane mode also means you won’t receive any text messages or calls while you’re out on vacation. Nonetheless, you could always just turn your antenna back on once you reach the shore and find a viable WiFi network to connect to.

Use a Camera

Let’s face it - the main reason why people always have to carry their phones on vacation is because of its camera feature. So if that’s really the only reason why you want to keep your phone within reach, you might be better off with a camera.

Take all the snaps you want with your point-and-shoot, and save them to edit and upload when you get home. This should prevent you from fiddling with your phone, letting you safely tuck away your mobile device and avoid network charges.

Turn Off your Phone When Not in Use

You might find the need to connect to a roaming network while you’re on board, and that’s okay. Turn on your phone (or switch off airplane mode) and get your business done without delay to avoid any extra charges. Then you can turn off your device when your done.

This just helps isolate your mobile network use. While you will incur charges for whatever data you receive and send, turning your phone off when you’re done can help prevent your phone from downloading and sending any extra data that could incur extra charges.

Can You Email on a Cruise Ship for Free?

All of the ports that your cruise will call at provide free WiFi. If you can hold off your emailing until then, you should be able to get the task done at no added cost. But if you need to send or reply to an email while you’re underway, then you might not have any other choice than to connect to your cruise ship’s network, which may come at a cost.

Stay Connected

Sometimes, you really just can’t put real life on hold. So if you were wondering how to text on a cruise ship for free, here are your answers. Make sure to keep an eye on your data usage, call up your carrier, and ask your cruise ship about their connectivity options so you can plan ahead and keep those charges at bay.

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