Using Your Smartphone at Sea

Stay connected on board a cruise.

By Michael Swearingen on July 1, 2013

If your vacation plans include sailing the seven seas this summer, you’re not alone. Cruise Market Watch forecasts that 20 million people will take a cruise vacation in 2013 – a 3.3 percent increase over 2012. With 283 active cruise ships, the worldwide cruise market is a $36 billion industry. But before you sign up for the shuffleboard lessons and plan your attack on the midnight buffet, it’s important to know how to prepare your smartphone for an excursion at sea.

Andrea Bennett learned just how important during her cruise experience this year. The ship became disabled during an engine room fire, leaving thousands of passengers in the dark and required 5 days to be towed back to port. 

But as other cruise ships came to deliver supplies, Andrea was able to use her fully charged phone to contact her family. “I was able to allow others in my group to makes calls to their family as well as send a few text messages for complete strangers, it was such a relief when I was able to get through and speak to my family,” Andrea said.

Because of her experience, she’s now a proponent of over packing, and suggests bringing extra external batteries and wireless charging options, such as the Mophie Juicepack Power Station. Andrea also is a fan of E-ink devices because you don't have to charge them as often. “Make sure you download reading material before you leave and a flashlight with fresh batteries. Phones make a great impromptu flashlight but you can't keep it on for three hours when charging is an issue.”

Royal Caribbean and Carnival are the top two cruise companies in the world, accounting for 71 percent of worldwide revenue. Both offer their own smartphone apps that provide maps of the ship, webcams and information on ports of call as well as packing tips.

Once at sea, you should be able to make and receive phone calls and send and receive messages via SMS, but it’s important to check with your wireless provider about roaming charges in international waters.