When you leave your phone in roaming mode without having purchased the correct roaming bundle, you risk incurring extra charges that can add up to hundreds, if not over a thousand dollars, euros, or pounds for cruisegoers who unintentionally connect to a ‘maritime’ network or a neighboring country without having the appropriate roaming bundle.

To avoid such high costs, phone service experts recommend taking the following steps before you travel:

  1. Contact your mobile provider to see if it has any travel bundles for customers going on a cruise.
  2. Check what internet plans your cruise line offers. Make sure you are clear if the plan covers while out at sea and/or on land (i.e. before the cruise and while on land excursions).

Certain networks, such as U.S networks AT&T and Verizon, offer ‘Cellular at Sea’ packages that kick in once the vessel is 12 nautical miles (22km) from land. More common, however, are roaming packages that cover using data and making phone calls while the ship is docked at port, but not while you’re at sea. This is because international roaming charges from land-based cellular devices cost considerably less than those from maritime networks.

One expert explained: ‘Once you’ve drifted away from the nearest land-based cell tower… your phone will go into roaming mode. That’s when hefty charges can start to accrue. We’re not talking about your average international roaming charges.’

It’s important to note that even if you purchase a data and text bundle to keep in touch with people while overseas, you should not expect your phone provider to place a cap on spending, or at least notify you if you are running the risk of using too much. The high costs were down to excess use of the data and text bundle as well as accidental roaming while at sea. Your phone could automatically connect to maritime roaming in this way, neither did my friends or family.

By following these tips, you can avoid high roaming charges and stay connected while enjoying your cruise.