Do Cell Phones Work on Cruises?

Cruises provide an escape from everyday life, but they can also feel a bit isolated at times. If you are missing your family while on a cruise, you may want to call them on your cell phone. Because you’re out on the ocean, many people wonder if cell phones work on cruises. The answer is both yes and no.

Some Cell Phones Work on Some Cruise Ships

There are several factors that determine whether your cell phone will work on a cruise ship. Your phone service provider and cruise line will all play a role in your potential reception while at sea. A cell phone has to be equipped with the ability to roam, and in some cases, it also needs to be able to make international calls. Your phone may not have the ability, and if it does, it may need to be unlocked. You will need to contact your cell phone service provider to find out what you need to do.

Not all cruise lines have cell phone service, but most of the major cruise ships do. Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Cunard all offer cell phone reception on the water, but they charge fees for that service. Some of these cruises only work with a handful of cell service providers, so you need to see if your service is available on the ship. If not, you will need to make other arrangements for contacting home.

Cruise Cell Phone Fees

Most cruise ships that offer cell phone service charge a fee for every minute you talk on the phone. This could be anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars per minute, so you have to be careful about your timing. Some cruise ships will only allow you to make calls after you buy packages for minutes. If you don’t use all the minutes you buy, you’re out whatever money is left over.

Cell phone carriers also charge fees for cruise ship calls, so you’ll have to factor in those as well. You’ll either pay a straight minute-by-minute fee, or you’ll pay a connection fee, followed by a lower per minute cost. Again, you will need to contact your cell service provider to learn more.

How to Set Up Your Phone to Call on Cruises

  • Contact you cell phone service provider to see if your phone will work on a cruise ship. If it needs to have this option unlocked, ask the company to do so.
  • Contact the cruise ship to see if there is anything special you need to do to your phone to make it responsive to their cell phone signal.
  • Purchase minutes ahead of time if possible.
  • Do a test call on the ship to make sure it works.
  • Make phone calls like you normally would, keeping in mind that you may have to enter a country code when you dial like you would with an international call.

Alternatives to Cell Phones on Cruises

If your cell phone will not work on your cruise ship, you could make calls from your room. This is a very expensive service to utilize, but it is an option if you need to make a phone call. Contact the front desk ahead of time to see if you can save money by buying minutes as a package. If not, ask how much the per minute fee is so you know what to budget.

You could also try contacting your family through Skype or similar online calling programs. You will need to pay for Internet access at that point, which could be just as expensive as cell phones or room calls. Some cruise ships offer Internet in the rooms, and others require you to go to Internet cafes on the ship to use the web.

Do cell phones work on cruises. Potentially. You just need the right phone, provider and cruise ship to make this happen. Do a little research, and you’ll be able to determine whether you can make phone calls while you’re on vacation.

About John Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers long distance and cell phone topics for SaveOnPhone.