3 ways to avoid surprise phone charges when you cruise or travel overseas (2023)

A story that caught our eyes this week involves cruise travelers being charged for phone calls, even when they don’t answer.

The story involves a T-Mobile customer who was charged for two incoming phone calls that she didn’t answer. But, because the calls went to voice mail, it looked like she answered the calls, and T-Mobile charged her for air time. Crazy, right?


If you’re going on a cruise or planning to travel internationally, you’ll want to read our three tips to protect yourself from surprise mobile phone charges.

Ask about travel plans from your mobile carrier

The first and best way to avoid surprise charges on your next cruise is to ask your cellphone provider if they offer cruise packages. These might include texts, data usage and phone calls. Most carriers, including T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T offer short-term plans to allow their customers to use their devices while they’re on vacation.

(Video) How To Use Your Cell Phone Internationally | Travel Tips & Advice

Next, call your cruise line before your departure. Ask them about their bandwidth plans — you’ll know how much you are going to pay for the amount of bandwidth that you’ll need, and can afford.

You will also want to log into the ship’s Wi-Fi network. Put your phone into airplane mode to get off cellular, then log into its Wi-Fi and always log out when you’re not using it.

(Video) 15 Cruise Wifi Tips, Secrets & Mistakes to Avoid

Then, make phone calls and receive phone calls over Wi-Fi calling apps like Skype. Or use a messaging app like WhatsApp.

Two other ways to avoid unwanted calls

The surest way to avoid unexpected charges on your smartphone is to turn it off. This means holding down the power button until it says something like, “power off.”

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If you want to use your phone to access the ship’s Wi-Fi, but you don’t want to make or receive calls, turn off its cellular data and put it in airplane mode. You’ll still be able to use apps on the phone, as long as you are logged into the ship’s or nearby Wi-Fi.


3 ways to avoid surprise phone charges when you cruise or travel overseas? ›

You will also want to log into the ship's Wi-Fi network. Put your phone into airplane mode to get off cellular, then log into its Wi-Fi and always log out when you're not using it. Then, make phone calls and receive phone calls over Wi-Fi calling apps like Skype. Or use a messaging app like WhatsApp.

How can I avoid cell phone charges on a cruise? ›

Keep a watchful eye on your “airplane mode” setting, ensuring it's always on when you're on board your cruise ship. If you forget, you won't be charged for incoming calls you don't accept, but some service providers will charge for unread text messages that arrive while your phone is roaming.

How do I avoid phone charges when traveling internationally? ›

An international trip doesn't have to break your budget when it comes to your cell phone.
  1. Before You Go, Talk to Your Provider. First things first. ...
  2. Turn off Roaming. In order to stop cellular data use, you should turn off roaming. ...
  3. Set Email to Fetch. ...
  4. Shut Down Non-Vital Apps. ...
  5. Deactivate Texting. ...
  6. Check Your Usage.
Jul 13, 2020

Will I get charged for using my phone on a cruise ship? ›

It's a common question with varying answers. Guests are free to utilize their cellular data or connect to our onboard Wi-Fi on any ship. But, please be aware that cellular data used on the ship or in certain ports of call will result in charges from your cell phone provider.

What is the cheapest way to make phone calls on a cruise ship? ›

This applies to any carrier you have. Luckily, there is a cheaper way to use your cell phone on the ship — wi-fi. Cruise ships have cellular service that you can connect to. However, it's usually considered international roaming and means you'll be charged high rates to access.

Can you receive texts and calls on a cruise? ›

Stay Connected While At Sea On Your Cruise!

WMS offers an advanced roaming network onboard cruise ships allowing you to use your phone just like you do at home. Service for voice calls, texting (SMS) and data is available onboard while the ship is at sea.

What setting should I put my phone on when traveling internationally? ›

Here are your easiest options.
  1. Put your phone in airplane mode. Only use it (besides features such as the camera) when you can connect to Wi-Fi. ...
  2. Get an international plan. Every phone carrier offers its customers international plans, which vary. ...
  3. Buy a prepaid SIM card.

How do I avoid roaming charges outside the US? ›

How to Avoid International Roaming Charges
  1. Call your cellular provider before you depart. ...
  2. Track usage while traveling to avoid big surprises. ...
  3. Use Wi-Fi for calling and data usage. ...
  4. Text instead of e-mail. ...
  5. Go incommunicado.

Will I be charged if I turn off data roaming? ›

What happens if I turn off data roaming? If you turn off data roaming, you won't be charged any roaming fees—but you also won't be able to use your phone data, calling, or texting if you leave your carrier's mobile network.

Can I use my phone internet on a cruise ship? ›

Yes, cell phones work on cruise ships. Travelers can connect to the Wi-Fi facilities available onboard or use their cellular data on cruise ships. Therefore, you can make calls and texts from cruise ships. You can also make video calls from a cruise ship.

Do you need internet to text on a cruise? ›

It's possible to send and receive text messages at sea on a cellular signal, as long as you have a signal through your ship's roaming network. (Just make sure you turn on data roaming in your settings.)

Can you facetime on a cruise for free? ›

You won't incur a charge from your provider. However, you may incur one from the ship. And, they may or may not restrict such things.

What happens if you don't keep your phone on airplane mode? ›

According to Smarter Travel, by not turning your phone onto airplane mode, your phone will attempt to make connections with the cell towers around it. Forbes reported, “If you don't put your phone on airplane mode during a flight, your phone will probably annoy a few pilots and air traffic controllers.”

How to get free Wi-Fi on a cruise ship? ›

Use onboard credit to pay for a Wi-Fi package

On most cruise lines, you'll need a minimum of $100 in onboard credit per device for a week's worth of free basic Wi-Fi. On lines that offer premium plans designed for streaming, you'll need around $20 per day per device.

What happens if you don t put your phone on airplane mode when flying? ›

If you don't turn on airplane mode, at the very least, your device will be a major annoyance for the flight crew. The higher the plane's altitude, the more power a device uses to communicate with cell towers. This power usage causes a lot of feedback noise that can distract pilots and air traffic controllers.

How much is it to make a phone call on a cruise ship? ›

Ship-to-Shore Communication

The rate is $1.99 per minute, and charges are billed to the guest's on board Sail and Sign Card. Since all communication is via satellite, the charges apply to all calls including calling cards, credit cards, 800 toll-free numbers and collect calls.

Is WhatsApp free on a cruise ship? ›

Is WhatsApp free on a cruise ship? By default, WhatsApp is not free on a cruise ship. You need to be online, and most cruise lines charge for internet access, unless you have a special fare that includes WiFi access.

Can you get off a cruise ship at a port of call? ›

Guests cannot pre-request to embark or disembark at a port of call other than the scheduled embarkation/disembarkation port. This is referred to as “down lining” and is only offered following a late arrival on embarkation day, subject to consideration and approval by Royal Caribbean.

Is cellular at Sea free? ›

There are no additional charges or billing from Cellular at Sea or the cruise lines. If my mobile device is left on and I do not use it, will I be charged? In some cases, a mobile device that is left on, but not used, may incur charges.

Can I use WhatsApp to communicate with someone in a cruise? ›

Social Chat Apps Usage on Cruise Ships

On a cruise ship with WiFi access, you can use social chat apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Signal, and others.

Can you use Facebook Messenger on a cruise? ›

Carnival Cruise Line

Social WiFi Plan is Carnival's most basic plan, only including access to specific social media outlets. You'll be able to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and the most popular airline websites.

What should you turn off on your phone when abroad? ›

Airplane mode turns off all your phone's radio connections (cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi), but apps that don't require an internet connection will continue to use data. Your best bet to avoid expensive roaming charges is to turn off data roaming or — even better — use a prepaid data plan.

Should I turn off data when traveling internationally? ›

Use Communication Apps Over Wi-Fi

If you're relying on Wi-Fi, it's important that you turn off cellular data on your phone, otherwise you may inadvertently rack up international roaming charges. Skype, Google Hangouts and other apps also let you make free video calls with other users over an internet connection.

How do I avoid international charges with AT&T? ›

International charges apply when you talk, text, or use data outside the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But you can save if you have AT&T Passport®, AT&T International Day Pass® (IDP), or a similar plan for international travel.

Do you get charged for roaming when using Wi-Fi? ›

No matter where you go, free Wi-Fi is always a thing you should use. You won't need to use any roaming data whatsoever while connected to Wi-Fi.

Do I get charged for receiving texts while abroad? ›

As long as your phone's data is turned off, then you cannot be charged for any data roaming charges, even with Wi-Fi enabled. You may still be able to send and receive phone calls and text message. This means depending on your cell phone plan, you might still get charged.

Do roaming charges apply on Wi-Fi? ›

Using wifi does not count as data roaming. No. Put it in Airplane Mode to turn off all radios and then turn on Wifi. Then only wifi will transmit/receive data and you won't be charged for data, unless you have to pay for wifi, but that will not be part of your cellular bill.

Does turning off data roaming stop texts? ›

Turn off roaming.

You can still get calls and text with Wi-Fi, but your phone won't send or receive data on networks.

Can you still receive phone calls if you turn off cellular data? ›

You should still receive phone calls even with mobile data turned off. Just make sure you actually turn off your mobile data; do NOT try to turn off your data by using airplane mode. Airplane mode will not allow calls to come through.

Can you text if cellular data is turned off? ›

(On iPhone, tap the “Settings” icon, tap “Cellular,” then turn off “Cellular Data.” On Android, tap the “Settings” icon, tap “Network & internet,” tap “Mobile network” and turn off “Mobile data.”) After turning off mobile data, you'll still be able to make and receive phone calls and get text messages.

Can you text using Wi-Fi on a cruise ship? ›

Sending text messages is usually possible on a cruise ship. However, depending on where the ship is in the ocean, there may be times when there is no signal. In this case, you'll need to send messages over wifi.

Does international roaming work on a cruise? ›

Purchase an International Roaming Pass

International Global Roaming passes do not apply on a cruise ship. However, you can use them when the ship is in port. This can be a good option for cruisers who want to maximise their port days and get online without wasting time hunting down free wi-fi hotspots.

Is it safe to use Wi-Fi on cruise? ›

When you're on a cruise ship, always use the secured Wi-Fi network provided by the cruise line. This will help to protect your personal information, as well as your credit card and banking information. Be careful what sites you visit while connected to the network; only access secure websites that use SSL encryption.

Do all cruise ships charge for Wi-Fi? ›

Internet charges also vary by cruise line. You can be charged by the minute or by bandwidth, pay for daily or voyage-long packages, or choose from tiered usage packages with prices based on the types of sites and online services (sending emails, streaming shows) passengers use.

Can you text on airplane mode? ›

Can I text on an airplane? Yes, but only using a Wi-Fi connection. The ban on using a cellular connection means passengers can't send SMS texts. Any communication has to be over Wi-Fi with a messaging app that provides similar functionality like iMessage, WhatsApp, or Viber.

Does Bluetooth work on a cruise ship? ›

Bluetooth, portable and wireless speakers are only permitted within your stateroom and must be used respectfully and at reasonable sound levels and times of day. For everyone's safety, there are certain prohibited items that should be left at home. Prior to sailing, please review our Prohibited Items List.

How do you talk to someone on a cruise? ›

If you are trying to reach a guest onboard the ship, you can make a call to their stateroom and optionally leave a message. Use of the phones for calls to a guest's stateroom is complimentary. Of course, it requires the guest to be in the room to answer the call and/or check the voicemail.

Is Royal Caribbean chat free? ›

Royal Caribbean's chat feature in its app is free for everyone now, but how well does it work? As of January 1st, 2023 the onboard messaging system on all Royal Caribbean ships is now complimentary for all guests to use during their voyage.

Is it better to turn off phone or use airplane mode? ›

It's safer to have it on your phone when you fly, experts say. It's safer for everyone if you put your phone in airplane mode when you're flying. Cell phone signals can interfere with some of an airplane's crucial systems.

What happens when your phone is on airplane mode and someone calls you? ›

When your phone is in Airplane mode, callers will hear the phone ringing, although it's not ringing on your end because your phone is not active. If the caller hangs up without leaving a voice mail, no notification will be generated as it would if your phone were in an active state.

How can you tell if someone put their phone on airplane mode? ›

If someone's phone is on airplane mode, the phone will be in a power saving mode and will not be able to connect to any wireless networks. To tell if someone's phone is on airplane mode, you can try to call them or send them a text message. If the phone is on airplane mode, you will not be able to reach them.

How can I text for free on a cruise? ›

Can You Still Text for Free in the Cruise Line's App if you Bring Your own HotSpot? Yes, of course! As long as you have the app downloaded on your phone and you're on their free wifi, you can use the app to text on a cruise ship for free.

Why do cruises charge so much for Wi-Fi? ›

The ship's internet is all done via satellite with limited bandwidth – so that's slow to start with. Satellite internet is expensive. And bandwidth is limited. Some people will buy an internet package.

Why do cruises not have Wi-Fi? ›

Internet on cruise ships is provided primarily by satellites, though some cruise ships have technology onboard that allows them to switch to land-based signal towers when sailing within a certain distance from land.

Should you put your phone on airplane mode when you sleep? ›

Mistake: Sleeping with your cell phone

Cell phones pump out electromagnetic radiation whenever they're on - which means sleeping with one nearby boosts your exposure all night long. What to do? Put the phone on "airplane mode" (which shuts down the transceiver) or turn it off.

Can you use Wi-Fi calling on a cruise ship? ›

Download any apps you need before leaving

For large parties, the Ripple Connect app allows you to call and text other cruisers with the app as long as you have access to the ship's Wi-Fi signal, without having to pay for an Internet plan. Chomp SMS, a good choice for overseas texting on Android devices.

Why not to use a debit card on a cruise? ›

The problem with debit cards

While hold amounts can easily be taken off credit cards, it takes longer with debit cards, often leaving the account holder without access to their money for up to 10 days - and sometimes much longer.

How do I turn off cellular data on my Iphone for a cruise? ›

Turn off Data Roaming or prepare for a trip
  1. In the Settings app, tap Cellular, or Cellular Data, or Mobile Data.
  2. Turn on Cellular Data, then tap Cellular Data Options.
  3. Turn off Data Roaming. 1,2
Feb 21, 2023

Is it worth it to buy Wi-Fi on a cruise? ›

If you're not able to wait for ports of call (or don't have international data on your phone), it might be worthwhile to pay for a Wi-Fi package. Although prices have decreased over the years, it can still be pretty costly to purchase Wi-Fi for your cruise.

How much money is Wi-Fi on a cruise? ›

If you want more than one device connected to the ship's Wi-Fi you will have to upgrade or buy a different internet package. The price of Wi-Fi on a cruise ship can range from $15 to $30 and more per device per day.

Is cellular at sea free? ›

There are no additional charges or billing from Cellular at Sea or the cruise lines. If my mobile device is left on and I do not use it, will I be charged? In some cases, a mobile device that is left on, but not used, may incur charges.

Can I text while on a cruise Wi-Fi? ›

If you want to text while on a cruise ship, you have the option of either connecting to the ship's Wi-Fi network or its cellular service so you send an SMS over the Internet for free. Most modern ships are built with “Wireless Maritime Services” or 'Cellular at Sea” services to provide cell signal for those aboard.

Is AT&T Wi-Fi Calling free internationally? ›

Calling from outside the U.S.

Wi-Fi calls from other countries to U.S. numbers are at no additional charge. Have AT&T PREPAID? Wi-Fi calls to international numbers are billed at international long distance rates.

Can you hotspot Wi-Fi on cruise? ›

Wi-Fi Hotspot Devices Available

Carnival cruisers have noticed a new Wi-Fi option on different sailings – a personal hotspot that can be rented for an entire cruise. The device is listed as a “personal Wi-Fi hotspot” providing “unlimited, high speed connection” for up to five devices at once.

Should you bring USD on cruise for ports or use card? ›

To avoid currency confusion, especially if you're traveling to multiple countries on one cruise, we recommend using a credit or debit card to make purchases in port whenever possible.

Should I tell my bank I'm going on a cruise? ›

Generally, you should tell your bank the locations you are traveling to and the dates/duration of your travels. This will allow you to continue using your credit cards and debit cards without the fraud detection on your accounts being triggered, preventing you from using your cards.

Is it better to use a debit or credit card on a cruise ship? ›

It's best to use a credit card without a foreign transaction fee when on a cruise. That way you will earn rewards on your purchases. If you don't have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, a debit card is your best choice, as those usually do not charge foreign transaction fees.

What to turn off to avoid roaming charges? ›

Check your Cellular Data options and turn off Data Roaming. In the Settings app, tap Cellular, or Cellular Data, or Mobile Data. Turn on Cellular Data, then tap Cellular Data Options. Turn off Data Roaming.

Should I turn off cellular data when traveling? ›

If you opt not to sign up for an international plan, or make other arrangements to be able to use your normal phone while abroad, you likely need to turn off cellular data entirely to avoid roaming fees or data overages, as well as a shorter battery life.


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