Main menu:

Cellular @ Sea Can Be A Rip Off @ Sea

Written by:

In the techno world we live in, where for some strange reason everyone thinks they have to be available and connected no matter where they are; along with the phenomena of people feeling they have to notify all the people who know them (and those who don’t) with almost minute by minute updates on where they are, and what they are doing (using the various social media sites available to them). Amongst those people,  most everyone probably thinks of Cellular @Sea as one of the most useful new amenities offered on ships.

After-all, most everyone has a cell phone; adults, children, and even babies in strollers seem to have cell phones… to stay in touch with their legions. And everyone seems to think they’ll be kicked out of their “cool club” if they don’t update everyone they know if they’re doing anything except going to the bathroom (and there‘s exceptions to that rule too).

The “techno kids” amongst us know that you don’t even need to talk on your cell phone to actually  communicate with someone you know anymore. You can just type text messages and send the same message to everyone, to keep everyone up to date on what you feel everyone who knows you is just dying to hear. We’ve seemingly all become much more important to everyone we know than ever before, if we have a smart phone. We’re all mini-celebrities within our own social media contacts, and lord knows how our stature might diminish if we don’t keep ourselves front and center.

All of this is annoying enough on land, but that annoyance rised to level Red, when it’s taken out to sea, on your cruise.

But the real kicker is it seems very few people know how costly carrying a cell phone at sea can be. If you’re on a ship out at sea, it makes no difference which company you use as your cell phone service provider; it makes no difference which data plan you’ve signed with them. Even plans with limitless long distance and data plans are worthless once you’re at sea. The cellular service you’re using at sea, though routed through your cellular service provider, is actually being provided using the ship’s satellite equipment, and you will be charged extra for that service, no matter what type of plan you may believe you have with your cellular service provider.

If you don’t believe me, you’ll learn a very expensive lesson the next time you cruise. In fact it may have already happened, as Cellular @ Sea charges do not show up on your shipboard account. UNLIKE every other purchase you make on a ship, charges for all your Cellular @ Sea services are billed through the company who provides your cellular service. You have no inkling of what’s happened until you view the next billing from your cellular service provider. And you have no ability or recourse to go back to the cruise lines to recover those costs, because they provided you with, and charged you for, legal services.

What they haven’t done though is warn you in advance that, unless modified, today’s smart phones will automatically connect to Cellular at Sea, and therefore automatically incur expensive international roaming charges if the phone is just left on. Without ever picking up your phone to call, check email, or send/receive text messages you are incurring Cellular at Sea charges if you cell phone is on.

To avoid these charges, you must have your phone turned off, or change your settings so it will never automatically connect you when it finds service.The means of changing settings to assure you won’t accumulate these charges is different on different cellular equipment. To find out how to modifly your settings CALL your cellular service provider, before your cruise.

On my cruise last month I had a situation develop at home, which required me to be available 24/7. In those situations it is incredibly helpful to have the Cellular at Sea coverage available. I knew it was going to end up costing me hundreds of dollars (and it did), but it was invaluable.

I knew the costs I would be incurring, and made the decision that it was going to be worth it for me.

However, I think it imperative that the cruise lines begin to notify their passengers of the considerable expenses they will incur by doing nothing to their smart phones, other than have them turned on. These charges are as silent as your telephone’s automatic hook up to the ship’s satellite systems, and for the cruise lines not to make very public notice of this to their passengers, is disingenuous at best, and at worst, an attempt by the cruise lines to take your money from you, without you even knowing it; pick pocketing through omission of information.

The vast majority of people with cell phones don’t know anything about them, other than how to use them. They look at them, see “they have lots of bars”, and assume if they work, the plan they have with their provider is in effect. On a ship, at sea, this is definitely not the case!

Your cellular service providers are (I imagine) happily in business with the cruise lines to supply services that they can charge you extra for. That’s obvious because they bill you for services both the cruise lines and they jointly provide you.  And one would have to assume they then pay the cruise lines their share of the transaction.

The cruise lines all make a point of notifying passengers via their daily onboard newsletters that Cellular@Sea service is available. It’s time for them to inform passengers they are accessing these extra charge services not only by using  their cell phones, but just by having them turned on, while sitting in a drawer.

And sadly, even if the cruise lines did the right thing here, there will still be people who don’t bother reading the informational materials left in their cabins, who will end up paying the extra charges on their next cell phone bill simply because they didn’t know.

For those who suddenly need to be connected, the service is really beneficial to have available, but the hidden charges for the unknowing is a dilema that really needs to be publicized.

There’s no way of knowing just how much revenue the Cellular @ Sea service supplies to the cruise lines and their partners, the cellular service providers, but I’m guessing the numbers are huge.

A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising –




Related posts:

  1. Europe – Why River Cruising Is Gaining On Cruise Ships River cruising is “THE hot thing” in cruising right now,...
  2. Why Cruising Is Better Today Than In The “Good Old Days”? People often the lament about what’s gone missing from the...
  3. OCCUPY Cruises – Bailouts for the 99% Through my unscientific research, and very questionable systemic anaylsis, we learn that...
  4. Cruising Takes Skill The uninitiated think, when compared to other forms of travel and vacation, cruising requires no...
  5. When Cruise Memories Hurt Three years ago next month, as I was enjoying my last sleep...


Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time June 8, 2011 at 4:34 am


Any fool that does not know what those two words means, well, they don’t get it. And, what fool leaves their cell or other devices left TURNED ON indefinetly? I can’t imagine, I just can’t.

Being out at sea, whether sailing to Bermuda, Croatia, Singapore, Oslo or Perth, or off of Portland Maine or Hilo, its not like home, not like a quick conection at Wal Mart, in your car or bedroom.

I am appalled by people that have to have every second of their day celled to everyone. Or twitered or – get the idea? I also do not want to hear their conversation, nor hear their ring tones. AND NOT ON A SHIP.

Here is another term GET A LIFE!

Comment from Doug Parker
Time June 8, 2011 at 8:53 am

Good article and lot of good facts. My cell bill was $586 in 2009 on a Bahamas sailing. Never again.

Comment from rciaddict
Time June 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm


Thanks for the info! My son and I are taking a cruise next month, and this article undoubtably will save him lots of money, as, being 17, he may have just left his phone on. Thanks again!

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time July 14, 2011 at 5:34 am

Here is my latest CELL rant.

We paid a lot of money to upgrade our cells at Costco, we use Verizon as our carrier. Oh, happy day, we coud use our cell in the Med during our cruise. NOT

Our newly expanded cell service was not compatible with Europes Vodofone, inCoratia, Italy and Greece. It WAS in Spain.

We bought calling cards on the Nieuw Amsterdam at $50.00 a whack for 12 minutes, when after 9-10 mins “you have 60 minutes left” was imposed from the card, and the call termiated. That was cheaper than $7.80 mis per minute that the ship would have charged.

As HAL repeaters, we got a $10.00 discount per calling card.

Comment from ShipsMates
Time November 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm

The best and easy way to use while onboard a cruise ship is used the Internet when the specials are on like the “Happy Hours half price rates” and use skype it works great and also if you happen to have an gmail account you can used google voice via this and all call to the state are for free all you will be paying is the Ship internet connection…cheers

Write a comment