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Old March 16th, 2009, 01:32 AM
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Default Which is best? Prepaid SIM Cards or Satellite Phone Rental?

I am wondering if a Prepaid SIM Card, Satellite Phone Rental, or using my cell carrier is the best option for my cruise. I will be using it primarily on the ship, but would like something on shore for emergencies as well. My cell provider covers Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands pretty well, and charges $1.99/minute for Sint Maartin/Saint-Martin and $2.49/minute on board the ship. What do you think would be the best route for me to stay in touch?
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Old March 16th, 2009, 09:00 AM
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Two issues here...

I assume you are talking GSM since you mentioned SIM cards, but some of the new CDMA phones actually now use SIM cards as well, so I'm just going to clarify.

GSM vs CDMA and the bands. Most of the rest of the world is GSM. I know that Sint Maarten has CDMA as well, but not all of the islands do. Then in the case of GSM there are four bands, two of which are used for US/Canada and two of which are used in Europe. St-Martin, the French side definitely uses the European bands, since it's a French company providing service. Many phones offer all four bands, some need to be manually changed. Many Moto phones have to be manually changed.

Many of the American SIM cards won't work outside of the US. Our Canadian SIM works in San Juan and in the BVI. European SIMs willl only work where there is an agreement. For example, Vodaphone doesn't work in Canada.

I can't give you any definite answer without knowing where you are going. But I can be pretty sure that the prepaid SIM won't work everywhere. (I have a dual-SIM quad-band phone and sometimes I can get coverage with one SIM, sometimes with both and sometimes with neither. It's just a crapshoot sometimes to have the right company with the right agreements to be able to use the phone. Your normal carrier probably will have coverage and agreements in place if you are on a monthly plan... it just won't be cheap.
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Old March 16th, 2009, 12:44 PM
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My carrier has included coverage for San Juan, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. I have a Blackberry 8830 World Edition(Sprint Version) with the SIM Card slot for international travel.

Rates for locations out of my coverage through Sprint:

Cruise Ship: $2.49/minute
Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin: $1.99/minute

Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin is the only place I could use a prepaid SIM. The price per minute on the ship is of some concern. I expect to use between 70 and 100 minutes total.
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Old March 16th, 2009, 01:06 PM
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The local company on Sint-Maarten (the Dutch side of the island) is Tel Cell and their website is at http://www.telcellsxm.com and Eastern Caribbean Cellular at http://www.eastcaribbeancellular.com

Eastern Caribbean on their website have the rate of 75c a minute to go to AT&T USA Director or Sprint or MCI direct. Plus a daily roaming charge of $3. That is the same rate that they charge for local calls. You still have to pay AT&T's, Sprint's or MCI's long distance rate....

But if you get a SIM and get their GO Card it's just 29c a minute. The rate card for prepaid is on the bottom to the left.
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Old March 16th, 2009, 01:50 PM
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Thanks, Eastern Caribbean cellular may be a good option. I am also going to consider renting a satellite phone as well. Minimizing my costs is what is important, along with getting exactly what I need.
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Old March 16th, 2009, 01:53 PM
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If you are going into town for the calls you might want to consider something like a soft phone under TCP/IP. Some companies like Pingo or Skype offer it. Not as good as a land line, but a hell of a lot cheaper.
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Old March 16th, 2009, 02:01 PM
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I will be spending most of my time at a beach, with only a couple of hours in Philipsburg. Gonna take a day to surf and swim. I just really need something on the island for emergencies. Most of my calls home will be made from the ship itself when I have the time. I have seen the soft phones you have mentioned but do worry about reception.
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Old March 16th, 2009, 02:17 PM
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Keep in mind that when you are using it on the ship, you are using their tower and they will charge you for that....on top of whatever carrier or plan or option you choose. It is around $5 a minute. Keep it for emergencies, but don't chat yourself into a monster bill.
Marty
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