The Ins and Outs of Using Your Cell Phone on Carnival Cruise Ships

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Are you curious about cell phone connectivity while sailing with Carnival? This guide cuts through the clutter to give you the essential information on staying connected aboard Carnival Cruise ships.

Discover the realities of roaming, the ins and outs of onboard WiFi, and what to expect when using your phone at sea and in port.

A couple takes a selfie on a Carnival cruise ship, with the man playfully raising his hand and the woman posing confidently, both in bright tropical attire against the serene backdrop of the open sea.

Cell Phone Usage on Carnival Cruise Ships

You can use your cell phone on Carnival Cruise ships, as the cruise line has an agreement with Wireless Maritime Services (WMS) to offer an advanced roaming network on its ships. This network enables passengers to make and receive calls, text messages, and even video chat while at sea using their own mobile phone and number.

When the ship is in port, passengers can connect to local roaming networks. However, once the ship sails away from the embarkation port, the cell phone will enter roaming mode, leading to higher rates and extra fees. It’s essential to be aware of these international roaming charges, which your home mobile carrier will bill.

While cell phone usage is permitted on Carnival Cruise ships, it’s important to note that certain restrictions and charges may apply. Also, the bandwidth and connection speed can be a concern at sea, which might affect the quality of calls or internet usage. Passengers can also choose to pay for the ship’s WiFi to make calls or access the internet.

Other Important Things to Know

If you plan on using your mobile phone, there are other important things to note…

  1. The network only operates when the ship is at least 12 nautical miles from shore (2 in the EU), providing services like SMS, emails, and web surfing. Most mobile phones are compatible with this network, supporting GSM and CDMA technologies. However, do check with your carrier, as some prepaid plans may not be supported.
  2. Billing for roaming on ships is determined by your home carrier, and charges for calls to toll-free numbers in the USA, like 800 or 888, are not exempt. You’ll find these charges on your usual mobile bill, which can sometimes take up to 60 days to appear. Remember, unlimited rate plans from your carrier may not apply to onboard usage.
  3. Voice and data usage are measured and billed in full minute and kilobyte increments, respectively, with costs rounded up. Service availability can be influenced by factors like system capacity, your device, and weather conditions. Also, note that you can only call and text certain countries.
  4. Voice calls work differently depending on your location. In the USA, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, you dial +, the country code, and the full number; for other countries, it’s 011, then the country code and number. Text messaging works on most devices, and data services allow you to check emails and browse the web as usual.
  5. Voicemail access varies by carrier, but most can check messages by holding the 1 key. Be cautious, though: charges may apply for messages left and retrieved while roaming. Any billing queries should be directed to your carrier, as WMS doesn’t handle retail charges or refunds.
  6. Even if you’re not actively using your phone, leaving it switched on could lead to charges. For instance, if you miss a call that goes to voicemail, you might be billed for that call. Similarly, receiving a text message can also result in a charge. It’s important to be aware that smartphones, including iPhones, are always seeking data connections for updates and synchronisations. As a result, merely having your smartphone on could attract data charges.
  7. Carnival Cruise also offers internet plans for purchase, and if your carrier has a roaming agreement for GPRS (data) service, you can use the WMS network for internet access. CDMA users, take note: if your phone is set to GSM mode, you won’t have data access; ensure it’s set to CDMA.
An elderly couple joyfully using a smartphone together on a cruise ship, with the woman laughing and the man smiling broadly, both casually dressed and enjoying their time at sea.

Another option is using your phone over WiFi. WiFi is available on all Carnival Cruise ships, providing passengers with different options to stay connected at sea. The internet service is offered through three plans: Social, Value, and Premium. Each plan caters to varying needs, from basic social media usage to full web access. Let’s delve into these plans a bit more:

Social

The Social plan is perfect for those who don’t want to miss out on their favourite social media apps. This package allows access to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s a great choice for casual internet users who want to keep their friends and family updated about their cruise adventures. It starts at $12.75 per person per day if purchased before your cruise. However, if you buy this while on board, it will cost $15 per day.

Value

The Value package includes everything in the Social plan plus additional features, including news, weather, banking, and entertainment sites. It’s an excellent option for those who want to stay informed and manage their finances while on their trip. However, it’s important to note that this package doesn’t support streaming or video calls. It starts at $17 per person daily or $20 onboard – however, if you want more details, read my article about “how much is wifi on a Carnival cruise“.

Premium

The Premium plan is the way to go if you require high-speed internet and unrestricted access. This package offers the fastest internet service on the ship, allowing you to browse, stream, and make video calls without limitations. Whether you need to work remotely or just want to stay fully connected, the Premium package has got you covered. It costs $18.70 per person daily or $22 on board.

Using a Phone in Port of Call

When the ship docks at a port of call, you might want to use your phone just like you would in a foreign country. Your phone will switch from the ship’s WiFi service to land-based reception in such cases. However, remember that the calls, texts, and data charges might differ. Please check with your provider for details.

Several cell phone companies offer short-term international plans while onboard a cruise ship. These plans can be surprisingly affordable and often include calling, texting, and data. Here are some service providers you might want to consider:

  • AT&T
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon

For example, some companies, like T-Mobile, include calls to Mexico and Canada in their plans. This can be particularly beneficial if your cruise ports are in these locations. You can use your phone just like you would at home, without any extra charges.

A young person in a vibrant floral shirt leans on the railing of a cruise ship, engrossed in using their smartphone against a dramatic twilight sky.

WiFi Services on Port of Call

When the Carnival cruise ship docks at a port of call, you may also wonder about the availability of WiFi services. While you’re away from the ship’s cellular or WiFi service, your cell phone functions as if you are in a different country, relying on international cellular services. It’s important to remember that many cell phone companies offer short-term international plans that include voice calls, texts, and data at affordable rates.

Wrapping It Up

Using your phone on a Carnival Cruise, whether onboard or at a port of call, is possible thanks to the advanced roaming network on board Carnival Cruise ships. This roaming network lets you stay connected, whether you’re enjoying the cruise food or exploring a new destination. It’s all about planning, understanding the services available, and choosing the best options to meet your needs.

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I'm Hannah and I've been cruising for as long as I can remember.

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