You know that dreaded piece of paper that shows up outside your cruise cabin on the last day, wedged behind or underneath your stateroom number? Well, it can bring some unwelcome surprises.
The result of all that onboard spending is finally revealed and can really put a damper on a great vacation. Wi-Fi spending is one of those sneaky costs that many cruisers forget about.
Staying connected while on a cruise ship is easier than ever. Wi-Fi is available on any mainstream cruise line, and you have multiple packages to choose from.
But this little perk comes at a price. With the exception of the complimentary internet on all-inclusive cruise lines, internet packages can start at $15 per day and go up to $30 a day, depending on the cruise line and what kind of internet speeds you want. And this is per device in most cases. So, a 7-day cruise to the Caribbean with multiple devices could set you back hundreds of dollars, putting a rather large dent in your cruise budget.
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After just getting home from a cruise to the Western Caribbean two days ago, I thought I would write about some ways I saved money on my use of Wi-Fi at sea. Here are some tips for saving money on cruise ship internet service and how you can better manage your connectivity.
1. Buy before the cruise
If you know you’re going to need online access, you should buy a package before the cruise ever begins. Most cruise lines will give you a 15% – 20% discount on your cruise package if you buy online and add it to your account. If you wait until you’re on the ship the cost will go up.
Some cruisers will delay this expense because they already spent a lot on the cruise fare, prepaid gratuities, and maybe they even added a few excursions or spa treatments to their account. But if you know you will eventually wish you had internet access, just buy it ahead of the cruise and save some money.
However, there are other alternatives to saving money on this expense, which we will cover below.
2. Pay one day at a time
On my last cruise I used this option. I knew I didn’t need internet every day, as nice as it would have been. I also used my phone coverage to supplement those other days, which I will discuss a little bit later.
Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival will allow you to buy a 24-hour period of time in which to use the ship’s Wi-Fi. I like this option if you want to budget your onboard spending a bit better. If you want to post some photos and videos on social media, check your email and DMs, or save some photos to the cloud, you can simply use this 24-hour period to get it all done.
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It’s not necessary to have 24/7 access to the internet if you’re only going to use it once in a while. Back home you might be used to posting a video as soon as you capture it, so this will require you to be slightly more patient.
This will also let you really unplug on those days you’re not using Wi-Fi. Having constant access makes some feel like they have to keep checking status updates on social sites, see what’s trending, or just stay aware of the happenings back home.
3. Use your phone’s data in port
Since I have T-mobile as my service provider this was a no-brainer. I get unlimited data and texting in over 215 countries. I’ve traveled all over the world and have yet to travel to a country where I wasn’t able to use my data for free.
On my last cruise I had 3 port days: two in Mexico and one in Honduras. On port days, I didn’t buy the 24-hour internet pass and just used my phone’s data to stay connected, post photos, and stay up to date back home.
Google Fi also offers some great international perks with an unlimited plan that offers unlimited data and texts in over 200 countries.
If you’re a Verizon customer you can add TravelPass to your plan for data use in over 210 countries. This currently costs $10 per day and once it’s added to your plan you will only be charged on the days you use your data while abroad.
AT&T is more on the pricey side but offers international plans with over 120 countries with 5G access and 50GB of mobile hotspot usage.
Whichever cell phone provider you currently have, it’s more than likely going to be cheaper than the cruise ship’s Wi-Fi when you’re in port.
4. Supplement with cruise port Wi-Fi
Cruise ports know the deal. They know cruise passengers pay quite a bit for Wi-Fi, so they offer their own for much less, hoping to attract some tourist dollars. In many ports it will only cost around $5 for all day internet access. This comes with some security risks, so always use a VPN if possible. You can even get Wi-Fi for free in some places, but again make sure you take proper security measures before you connect.
While visiting Chankanaab National Park in Cozumel, Mexico on my last cruise I saw the whole park offered free Wi-Fi to visitors. There was a $24 fee to get into the park, but having this free perk was handy for staying connected while enjoying a beautiful beach day.
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5. Buy an internet package halfway through the cruise
If you really want to pinch those pennies you can just wait a few days. This will mean surviving internet-free for a while, but often you can buy an internet package halfway through a cruise and pay half the price. By this time, you will have plenty of pictures and videos for posting on social media as well.
I should note that some cruise lines will still show a full package price for unlimited internet, so you might have to pay for 24-hour access each day if this is the case. Still, you will spend less and enjoy your vacation more.
6. Share the plan
Here’s a bonus tip as #6. The point of a cruise is to get away from it all and enjoy some vacation time. So, it’s not usually necessary for everyone in your cruise cabin to be connected to the Wi-Fi at the same time. For each account that connects it will cost more money, so I recommend sharing a plan if you can.
This means you will have to log out of one device before logging in with another, but the alternative is to double the cost of your connectivity with an extra internet package.
If every member of your family has a Wi-Fi package on a cruise, you should prepare for some major sticker shock by the end of the week.
Remember, you might not really need to connect to the internet while on your cruise. It can be hard for some to break away from their social media for a week. But it can be therapeutic to just enjoy time away from work and stress and unplug.
You can also save money by choosing a slow connection speed. If you are not going to be video calling or downloading movies, choose an internet package with a slower speed to save a few dollars. Carnival has 3 different speed options and even an option just for “chat” if you want to use the Wi-Fi to stay in touch with your cruise party.
For those who absolutely must connect to the internet, I hope these tips will help save a few dollars when that statement shows up at the door. If you can at least go a day or two without internet, you can save a few dollars, and having a good phone plan makes a big difference as well.
Do you buy Wi-Fi when on a cruise? Let us know in the comments below.