Updated August 21, 2018
Can I make phone calls from a cruise ship?
Yes, on most cruise ships you will have a phone in your cabin that you can use to call land phones (as well as ship-based phone numbers). But prices can be as high as $8 per minute, varying by cruise line. You will not be able to make phone calls using your cell phone, unless you have a satellite phone or purchased a special cruise-to-land service package from your cell provider. For more on using your cell phone at sea, read What to Expect on a Cruise: Using a Cell Phone.
Can I use the Internet to stay in touch with friends back home?
Just about every cruise ship and river boat offers Wi-Fi to passengers for a price. Read through What to Expect on a Cruise: Internet Onboard to find out more.
Is there a cheaper way of staying in touch with folks back home?
The least expensive way to stay in touch with friends and family is to wait until you're on land to try to reach them. You can often find free Wi-Fi in port, including at the terminal or in cafes; some phone plans even come with free or low-cost Wi-Fi access or phone service (including texting) in many countries as well.
Onboard, if you plan on using the Internet a lot, you'll get the most bang for your buck with a cruise line Internet package. The bigger (i.e., more minutes or bandwidth) the package, the smaller the per-minute or per-bandwidth cost.
If there is an emergency on land and someone needs to contact me, how can they reach me?
The methods by which you can be reached on a cruise ship by someone on land vary by cruise line. In most cases, including on Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Silversea, you can give people back home an emergency number for them to call. There is often a fee involved with using the number. For other lines, notably Carnival Cruise Line, the person trying to contact you must call the line's regular call center and leave a message that will be relayed to you. Check your cruise documentation or ask your travel agent or cruise sales representative for the emergency number.
How can I stay in touch with other members of my traveling party on the cruise ship?
Staying in touch with your traveling party can be as simple as a magnetic white board attached to your cabin door or as sophisticated as a cruise line-provided app that allows you to call or text people while onboard your cruise ship. Some families bring walkie-talkies onboard for parents to keep tabs on their kids. Cruise lines which provide communication apps (either for free or for a fee) on some but not necessarily all of their ships include Costa, Disney, MSC, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Oceania and Princess. Disney Cruise Line goes one step further than most lines, giving passengers "Wave Phones" (think old school mobile phones!) for use onboard for the duration of the cruise.
How can I learn more about staying in touch from and on a cruise ship?
You might like the following articles:
The What to Expect on a Cruise series, written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, is a resource guide, where we answer the most common questions about cruise ship life -- including cruise food, cabins, drinks and onboard fun -- as well as money matters before and during your cruise and visiting ports of call on your cruise.