The short answer is… yes it will work. But that answer has some caveats.
Most larger cruise ships have cellular capabilities. Ships have the equivalent of their own cell phone towers that provide service to people onboard and nearby. This is separate and different from Wi-Fi.
These towers are international no matter where the ship is. If you look on your cell phone carriers website for international coverage, many times cruise ships will be listed by names and show up alongside foreign countries.
Using Cruise Line Cellular
Using cruise line cellular for voice and data can be VERY expensive. Check with your carrier to be sure, but generally, it’s super expensive to use your cell phone (via cellular) on a cruise ship.
I know of no carrier that includes cruise ships in their international plans or international day plans. Example, Verizon’s TravelPass gets you unlimited international coverage in select countries for as little as $10 per day. That’s not available for cruise ships.
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Voice and Data
Because of cost, I recommend against using cruise line for voice and data. It’s just too expensive. An internet package with Wi-Fi calling is much more cost effective. SMS messages are a potential exception to this recommendation. Keep reading for more on that.
Using Texts To Communicate While Onboard
While data and voice rates on cruise ships is generally very expensive, SMS messages are generally much more economical. If you’re looking for a way to communicate while onboard, this is an option. Check with your cellular provider to see how much text messages will cost.
Use Airplane Mode
If you choose to use cruise line cellular for voice and SMS. My recommendation is to ALWAYS turn data roaming off while onboard. Or better yet, use airplane mode.
I use airplane mode while on board and turn WiFI on. This allows me to access the Internet (with a package) and not worry about getting data roaming charges.
Full Phone Functionality with Wireless Internet… WiFi Calling!
If you purchase an Internet plan you can use many of the features of your phone like web browsing, social media, video and audio calling (Facetime, Skype, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, etc).
There are some activities that don’t work with an Internet only connection – standard voice calls and SMS messages (iMessages do work because they rely on Internet).
You can make standard voice calls and SMS work without a cellular connection by enabling WiFi Calling
With a compatible phone and an internet connection WiFi calling makes your phone think that it has a cell tower. This allows you to place voice calls and send text messages as if you had a regular tower,
I use this and it works REALLY well. I turn airplane mode on and connect to WiFi. Quality is at the mercy of the ship’s internet but in general it has worked great for me.
Again, it’s important to have data roaming turned off. I turn my phone to airplane mode, turn on and connect to WiFi and the phone activates WiFi calling.
See: Using Your Cell Phone Onboard with WiFi Calling! for lots more on WiFi calling
My iPhone with Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas Royal Promenade int eh Background. See “VZW Wi-Fi”
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