This question gets asked a lot by travelers, and most often it’s only the cruise line that will answer this question truthfully. The answer is most often always “You can subscribe to our cruise line cell phone network.”
What they won’t tell you is the rates you will be paying. You certainly won’t be able to find them online, and to get a proper answer, you’ll have to call the cruise line to get a full break down of what they charge for access to their cell networks.
As a company that sets their own international calling rates for the Talk Abroad SIM Card, we can see the cruise ship networks in our list, and it does not look good. If you subscribe to their network, you’ll be paying anything from $4 ~ $8 per minute, depending on your location and who you are calling. Don’t forget also that they’ll be charging you for receiving inbound calls.
A better question: When you’re sailing peacefully along the mediterranean to Piraeus, do you really want to be bothered by nuisance phone calls at $8.00/min?
If the ship is close to the coastline, and has multiple port of call stops, you’ll typically be able to get a terrestial signal from the nearest land cell phone tower – up to a mile from the coast. It’s highly unlikely that you will be connected with 3G speed signals, as evidenced in my previous blog, you will need to have a low-wave 3G frequency like 800 or 900 Mhz – frequencies not typically associated with phones manufactured for North American consumers.
So what can be done? You can rent an international cell phone that works in port, and a short way out to sea. If you really must stay connected on your boat, get in touch with your cruise travel agency and request information about the on-board cell phone rates and subscription fees.