July 18, 2024
Internet on Cruise Ships: 6 Tips to Stay Connected

Cruising is one of the most relaxing yet adventurous ways to travel. However, staying connected to the Internet at sea can often be challenging. From spotty connections to slow service to limited data usage to high fees, there are often many barriers to entry regarding the Internet on cruise ships. 

Reliable Internet access is essential for keeping in touch with loved ones, sharing your experiences on social media, or simply ensuring you’re always reachable for safety reasons. 

We’ve created a guide to staying connected while cruising so you can sail smoothly without losing touch.

Here’s an overview:

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Why Staying Connected Is Important

There are several reasons why staying connected is important. 

  • Safety: Being able to communicate in case of emergencies is crucial.
  • Convenience: Easily access maps, travel guides, and communicate with fellow travelers before and after your cruise, and while on shore excursions.
  • Work: For those mixing business with pleasure, staying connected ensures you can attend to works tasks without interruption.
Internet on cruise ships
Internet on Cruise Ships: 6 Tips to Stay Connected

How to Get Internet on Cruise Ships?

Is there Internet on a cruise? Great question! There are two primary options for staying online while cruising:

  1. On-Board Wi-Fi
  2. Cellular Data Plans

Travelers no longer need to wonder, “Do cruise ships have WiFi?” Most modern-day ships offer cruise WiFi. 

WiFi on Cruise Ships

Most modern cruise ships offer onboard Wi-Fi, with varying speeds and costs. Here’s what you need to know about Internet on cruise ships:

  • Packages: Cruises typically offer different Internet packages, from basic social media access to premium plans supporting streaming and video calls.
  • Coverage: Wi-Fi is usually available throughout the ship, but speeds might vary depending on your location.
  • Costs: These packages can be extremely expensive. Do a cost analysis to determine if this option is right for you. 
  • Service area: While most Internet for cruise packages work all of the time, if there’s not a direct path to the satellite that services the Wi-Fi (like in Norwegian fjords, for example), service could be non-existent. 

Internet at Sea

For those who need more reliable connectivity, “cellular at sea” eSIMs or SIMs can be a good option for obtaining Internet on a cruise ship. Here’s what you need to know: 

  • Roaming plans: Check with your cellular provider for international roaming plans that cover cruise Internet.
  • Cellular networks: Some ships partner with cellular networks to provide coverage, but be aware of potential high fees.
  • eSIM providers: Purchasing a plan through an eSIM provider like GigSky can save you money and provide cruise ship Internet and cellular connectivity off the ship. 

Get GigSky’s Cruise + Land eSIM Data Plans

Internet on cruise ships options
Internet on Cruise Ships: 6 Tips to Stay Connected

Staying Connected While In Port

Of course, some of your time during your cruise will be devoted to being on the ship. But, you’ll also spend time in port, exploring new destinations. When it comes to this part of your trip, there are a few ways to stay connected to the Internet: 

Local Wi-Fi

Now more than ever, local Wi-Fi is available for public use. Whether in restaurants, cafés, stores, on public transportation or even across city centers! Using Wi-Fi is a great option, but there are a few things cruisers should know: 

  • No-cost: Utilizing public Wi-Fi is one of the easiest ways to save money on your trip.
  • Higher risk: “Free” doesn’t mean “safe.” When connecting to public Wi-Fi, take steps to prevent your information from being stolen
  • Unreliable: Not all Wi-Fi networks are high-speed or provide consistent connectivity. 
  • Limited coverage: Users are limited to the range the Wi-Fi network covers.  

Local SIM Card

Another way to stay connected to the Internet is to use a SIM card. SIM cards are a boon for travelers since they don’t require users to stay in one place to access the network. Here are a few things to know about SIM cards: 

  • Affordable: SIM cards are often cheaper than roaming plans provided home carriers. 
  • Reliable coverage: Local SIM cards provide consistent cellular coverage as long as you’re in the network area. 
  • Less secure: Not all SIM card providers own the networks they operate on; second-hand sellers can be a security risk for your data. 
  • Requires research: Finding a SIM card provider locally requires research ahead of time.  
  • Potentially time-intensive: If you’re deboarding your ship and other passengers are also buying SIM cards, you may end up waiting a long time to purchase yours. 

eSIM Data Plan

A final way to stay connected while off the ship and enjoying one of the stops on your cruise is through an eSIM. Unlike their physical counterparts, eSIMs are managed through an app on your phone. Here’s what you need to know about eSIM data plans: 

  • Affordable: eSIMs are vastly cheaper than many SIM cards and home carrier out-of-network plans. 
  • Reliable coverage: eSIMs, like those through GigSky, rely on a host of network operators, providing you seamless service wherever you go. 
  • Easy to use: With just a few taps on your device, you can easily install and manage your data plan. 
  • No hidden fees: This eliminates unwanted bills at the end of your trip. It’s easy to top-up on data if you need more. 
  • Shore-to-ship: Data coverage goes from land to sea, offering the peak of convenience. 

Understanding Data Usage on Cruise Ships

Below is a list of data-using activities—all of which should be familiar to cellular device owners. The numbers below will vary based on your mobile settings and the quality of streaming. Keep this in mind as you estimate the size of the data plan you’ll need for your next trip when purchasing an eSIM. 

The following are approximations for how long various activities take to consume 1GB of data. This will help you determine how you’ll use your phone on your trip:

  • Browsing the Internet on cruise ships: 17 hours
  • Streaming videos:  20 minutes (at 1080p)
  • Streaming music: 7 hours (at 320Kbps)
  • Browsing social media: 6 hours
  • Skype/WhatsApp/FaceTime: 4 hours
  • Navigation Apps: 14 hours
  • Checking email: 12 hours

This list, of course, is not exhaustive and the above estimations do not account for all of the various settings that help conserve data. However, they’re good estimates to consider when planning your trip.

Tips for Managing Data Usage Abroad

Once you have data, it’s important to be mindful of how you use it. Otherwise, you may end up burning through your allotment without realizing it! Here are some ways to save your data: 

  1. Enable data-saving features: Use data-saving modes on your devices, like Airplane mode and the aptly titled “Data Saver.”
  2. Download content in advance: Download movies, books, and music before you set sail.
  3. Limit background app refresh: Disable background app refreshes and updates to save data.
  4. Monitor your usage: Regularly check your data usage to avoid overages.
  5. Close background apps: When you’re not actively using an app, close it! 
  6. Avoid data-intense activities: Streaming of any kind will drain your data fast; save those activities for when you need them most or can connect to safe, reliable Wi-Fi.

Preparing Your Device(s) for International Travel

  1. Unlock your phone: Ensure your phone is unlocked – this is a requirement for using eSIMs or SIM cards.
  2. Install VPN software: Protect your data by using a reliable VPN.
  3. Update security settings: Enable features like two-factor authentication and remote wipe in case of loss or theft.
  4. Backup your data: Regularly back up important data in the cloud or an external drive.

Real-Life Experiences from Fellow Travelers

Hearing from experienced travelers who previously used Internet on a cruise can provide valuable insights into why opting for an eSIM is a smart travel hack:

  • Darren Podmore shared, “I used GigSky recently on a cruise in the Caribbean. We visited 11 different islands and GigSky was the only provider that covered them all. The service was great.”
  • Aruna Dismont mentioned, “[My eSIM] Works seamlessly. It’s my go-to for data travel.”
Testimonial from an eSIM user
Internet on Cruise Ships: 6 Tips to Stay Connected

Ready to Stay Connected on the Water?

Your next cruise doesn’t have to be a digital disconnect. Internet on cruise ships has become far easier to access and afford. Ensure you have seamless Internet access by purchasing an eSIM or utilizing the ship’s Wi-Fi offerings. It’s now easier than ever to stay updated as you sail away.

We hope this guide helped you understand how to stay connected during your next trip. Stay connected, stay informed, and make the most of your cruising adventures!

  • Gig Sky

    For over a decade, GigSky has been an advocate for global mobility and an advocate for consumer choice. At GigSky, we believe that when the world is better connected, we become a better world.

    View all posts

    For over a decade, GigSky has been an advocate for global mobility and an advocate for consumer choice. At GigSky, we believe that when the world is better connected, we become a better world.

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