Using your mobile on a ferry? How to avoid charges


We asked our mobile specialist Shaun Broderick for some helpful tips for customers planning to use their mobile phones on a cruise ship or ferry.

Can you make calls from your mobile phone on a ship?

If you can obtain a phone signal you can make a mobile call from a cruise ship or a ferry. It’s important to note that the signal will be coming through an at-sea provider (Telenor Maritime for P&O Cruises and Cellular At Sea for Royal Caribbean, as examples) and is considered a roaming charge by your mobile carrier. The rate charged is exceptionally high, with phone calls often costing upwards of £2 per minute depending on your network provider. Also, some network providers charge different rates for pay-as-you and monthly contracts so make sure to check your tariff if you plan on making calls.

We would always recommend that you wait until you are in port. When you’re in port, your mobile signal will typically switch to a carrier from the country you’re visiting. Roaming charges in these areas vary so you need to check with your carrier for accurate pricing.

As the UK has now left the EU, this means that surcharge-free roaming is no longer guaranteed when travelling to EU countries. This includes employees of UK companies travelling to the EU for business. However, the UK government has legislated to protect consumers from unexpected charges with a monthly limit set to £45 and data usage text alerts, more info can be found here.

Is it cheaper to text?

It’s possible to send and receive text messages at sea if you have a signal through your ship’s roaming network. Internet is not required to send or receive text messages. Texting costs a lot less than a voice call – usually in line with the standard, international “pay-as-you-go” rates. Most major carriers charge around £0.50 to send and receive a message. On the flip side, you have no control over incoming text messages, so if you receive any while you are using your phone via the ship’s signal, you will be charged.

When it comes to texting while in port, many carriers offer discounted international packages, where you can either prepay a flat fee for a set amount of text messages and/or data to use overseas or pay a flat daily fee for unlimited text messages and data usage. Check with your specific provider for details. Whatever you do we’d always recommend that you turn off data roaming in your settings! We can’t stress this enough. With data roaming switched off you can be confident that you won’t accidentally run up any large data bills.

How much does it cost to use the Internet on my phone if I’m roaming?

We’d advise to never use your data on onboard ship, it is ridiculously expensive and quickly adds up. Always remember to put your phone in airplane mode or turn off data roaming before you head out to sea.

Even in port, the rates get pretty high. Most carriers, however, offer special plans or travel passes (for a fee) that allow you to use your domestic plan allowances while in port. Bear in mind that there also might be a limit to how much data you can use, per day, while in port, and you’ll be charged an overage fee each time you exceed it. If your plan doesn’t include international data and you don’t want to purchase a travel pass, you can always look for Wi-Fi at a local restaurant or bar.

If you want to access the internet while onboard, you can pay to connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi. Most ships charge for Wi-Fi usage but it’s usually cheaper than mobile data, just check your tariff.

How can I make sure I am not charged by my phone company for unintentional phone use?

To ensure you are not charged by your phone company, you have two choices: turn off your phone as soon as your cruise ship leaves port, or, if you want to use offline applications, put your phone into airplane mode.

I’d recommend that you always turn off data roaming in your settings or you could quickly run up an eye-watering bill.

Click here for Apple’s guide to turning off data roaming on your mobile device.

Click here for Samsung’s guide to turning off data roaming on your mobile device.

If you want to use data we would suggest that you check the cost and pay to connect to your ship’s Wi-Fi, it should always be cheaper. If you are in port, find a bar or café with free Wi-Fi. Many ports offer free Wi-Fi to cruisers, but be aware these are open networks with limited security in place.

If you really need to make a phone call during your cruise, your best bet, budget-wise, is to wait until you’re in port and use Wi-Fi (WhatsApp or FaceTime) or buy a phone card. You can also check with your phone carrier to see if there is an international calling plan you can purchase for the duration of your trip for use in port. An international calling plan will often significantly lower the per-minute cost of any phone calls you make while onshore.

For more information and advice before travelling contact our mobile specialist Shaun direct on 0345 034 662 or email

Want to see how we can help your business?

Contact our team today for a no-obligation review.


Related Blogs