One of the biggest adjustments for crew while working onboard cruise ships is staying connected to family and friends. Crew must give up any cell phone or social media addiction they may have acquired ashore and learn that currently there is a high cost to use this type of technology while working on cruise ships. Here are some facts for using phones and internet as a crew member.
Crew Satellite Phones
Satellite phones have long been on cruise ships as a way to stay connected while at sea. Unfortunately these satellite phones have a number of drawbacks from cost to voice quality. It wasn’t too long ago that crew had to use a ‘public’ satellite phone in a crew area corridor, possibly waiting in a line behind other crew members. Not to mention, the cost of a satellite phone card was equal to about $1 per minute.
Today’s cruise ships have come a long way in ten years as the cost has come down (not for passengers, though, which can be around $10 per minute). Currently a satellite phone card costs around $10 for about 60 minutes. These phone cards can also be used on a land-based phone. Unfortunately, land-based phone cards will not work on the ship.
Most cruise ships have also equipped crew cabins with phones that have the capability to make long distance calls with a prepaid satellite phone card. Now crew can call their family and friends in the privacy of their cabin. Unfortunately, there are times of the day when it’s hard to ‘get a line’ because so many people are trying to use the phone.
Cell Phones on Cruise Ships
Using a cell phone on a cruise ship can be expensive because you have to pay international roaming rates. You can still receive calls, make calls and text using your own phone while the ship is at sea but your home cell phone provider will bill you with international roaming charges. While in port, you will be charged whatever your mobile carrier would normally charge you in that particular country.
Cell phones must support either GSM or CDMA technology and the user must have service with one of the mobile carriers that have a roaming agreement with provider that the cruise line uses. For example, Wireless Maritime Services (WMS) has an agreement with a number of different cruise lines to supply this technology. On those ships, crew can buy a CrewZFone SIM card and PIN number.
The following cruise lines have a partnership with Wireless Maritime Services (WMS).
Other Phone Options
There is another other option for crew members that don’t want to use their cell phone. Many crewmembers still use the ‘old-style’ method of phoning home. They go to a local calling station or use a payphone with a local calling card while they are in port. Depending where the ship is in the world can make this an inexpensive and convenient way to phone.
In North America, long distance prepaid phone cards are inexpensive. Typically you can get a $10 phone card that can last about 500 minutes to call overseas. Other countries have similar phone cards and rates. On the other hand, this may not seem like a very good option if its pouring rain and the only public pay phones are outside.
Internet for Crew
Most, if not all cruise ships have internet access for crewmembers at a discounted rate. In fact many cruise ships have a crew internet cafe and WiFi in crew areas (crew recreation area or crew mess) including crew cabins. Depending on the bandwidth that the cruise ship has will usually determine if a crew member will have access to Skype, be able to use Facebook or be able to download music or movies.
Crew members typically are able to purchase crew internet cards on board through either the crew office or a vending machine in a crew area. The internet card costs about $20 for around 200 minutes. Generally, the connections are slow and unreliable, but maritime technology is getter better with time.
Land-Based Internet Options for Crew
Although the crew internet is a great option for sea days and for days that you can’t get off the ship, crew members tend to take advantage of land-based internet whenever possible. Some cruise terminals offer cheap or free WiFi. Alternatively, if time permits, many crewmembers find other internet cafes that offer free or cheap internet. Another reason to head ashore is if your cruise ship doesn’t permit downloads, Skype, or Facebook.
Internet and Phones in the Future
When the Carnival Breeze was launched in June 2012 it was outfitted with integrated voice and data communications. This also allows passengers and crew to access their mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Alternatively, Royal Caribbean has confirmed major internet upgrades for crew and passengers on the Oasis of the Seas in 2013. Cruise lines will continue to improve their onboard internet and phone services bringing down costs and increasing speed and reliability.