One of the reasons why Taz and I love to cruise is because cruising makes it easy to hide from the rest of the world. In my day to day life dealing with phone calls and the never ending stream of E-mails related to the businesses that I own creates a lot of stress. When you are on a ship in the middle of the ocean, it is easy to hide from those stresses.
This is mostly due to the fact that many people still seem to think that you are inaccessible when you are at sea. The fact is however, that the phone in your stateroom can be used to make and receive calls from anywhere in the world. In fact, I called home several times during a recent cruise to South America. Of course those calls aren’t cheap. The average going rate for calls from a cruise ship is usually about eight dollars a minute.
If you need to make a call from the ship then a less expensive option may be to use your cell phone. You really have to be careful with using a cell phone however, because many of the cruise ships now have their own cell towers. This means that calls from your cell phone are routed through the ship’s communications system and billed to your account at the ship’s rate.
Normally, when I go on a cruise I like to isolate myself from the outside world. There have been times when I have had to get in contact with someone at home. What many cruisers don’t realize is that there are many ports in which you can use your cell phone in the same way (and at the same rates) as you would at home.
Every cell provider is different, but I have used my cell phone in several cruise ship ports without incurring any extra fees. Some of the places where I have used my phone include: Florida (Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Key West, etc.), Alaska, Puerto Rica, St. Thomas, Hawaii, and Guam.
You aren’t just limited to using a phone to communicate with people back home. Almost every cruise ship offers Internet access. Ships usually have a small cybercafé, and also provide Wi-Fi access for anyone who has their own laptop, tablet, or smart phone.
As a computer consultant and technology author, the last thing that I want to do when I go on vacation is to touch a computer. Even so, there have been times when I haven’t been able to avoid checking my E-mail while traveling abroad. I have found that most cruise ships really stick it to you when you access the Internet.
The going rate for Internet access is usually about sixty five cents a minute. The cruise lines usually offer package deals with a lower per minute rate, but if you don’t end up using all of the minutes that you have purchased then you may have spent more for the minutes that you did use than you would have had you not bought the package.
The other thing that you need to be aware of is that Internet access at sea is painfully slow. I have been told that the cruise lines intentionally throttle the available bandwidth to make Internet access slow so that customers will have to use more minutes than they would had the service been faster.
One last thing that I want to mention before I move on is that the majority of communications to and from the ship are satellite based. Phone calls, Internet access, and even the television programming in your room are all dependent on satellite communications.
Most communications satellites orbit the earth above the equator. Consequently, the closer a ship is to the equator, the more reliable the satellite communications become. Most cruisers never have to worry about the loss of satellite reception. Satellites can service ships even if they are thousands of miles from the equator. However, there is a communications blackout that often occurs on cruises that approach the Arctic Circle or the Antarctic Circle.
When these blackouts occur, you can forget about using the telephone or the Internet. You will end up losing most of the channels on the TV in your room too, although you won’t lose all of them because some channels are closed circuit video feeds that are produced on board. The communications blackout also affects some things that you may not think about. For instance, ATM machines require a phone line, and are hence affected by the blackout. Of course on board purchases are all made using a sea pass card, and are therefore not affected by the communications blackout.