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You might be embarking on a sun-soaked cruise vacation with plans to explore whitewashed villages in Spain or rainbow-colored capitals in the Caribbean, but the chances are you will still want (or need) to use cell phones on a cruise.

Whether you plan on using your phone to check work-related emails, share glowing sunsets on social media, or make essential phone calls, there are some things you should know about cell service on a cruise.

From how to avoid unexpected cell phone charges and cell service on a cruise, to purchasing cruise line data packages, here is everything you need to know about using your phone on a cruise.

Can I use my cell phone on a cruise ship?

Cell phones on a cruise - Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Edge

The short answer is yes, cell phones can be used on a cruise ship for everything from texting and making calls to browsing the internet, and using cell phone apps via cellular service at sea or the ship’s own internet.

There are factors to consider, though, including the quality of cell service on a cruise and the cost of using cell phones on a cruise. For example, cell service might not always be available, or it could be patchy in more remote destinations.

Once a ship is clear of land and the regular cell service has disappeared, your phone will switch to the Cellular at Sea service, which has different rates for roaming.

In addition, cruise lines, including Celebrity Cruises, offer data packages to provide travelers access to a fast and reliable internet connection on a cruise. Such is the reliability of some of today’s cruise line internet connections, some travelers have even taken to working while at sea.

The data package you choose will depend on how you plan to use your cell phone on a cruise. Do you simply want to make calls and send text messages?

Couple relaxing from the Iconic Suite aboard Celebrity Edge

Iconic Suite, Celebrity Edge

Is it essential that you are able to send and receive emails or do you simply want to kick back in the comfort of your stateroom and stream your favorite TV show at sunset? There’s a package for every level of need.

Read: What to Expect Your First Time on a Cruise

How do I avoid cell phone charges on a cruise?

Cell phones on a cruise - Celebrity Beyond

Celebrity Beyond

Rates for using cell phones on a cruise are determined by your network provider, and are typically more expensive at sea than on land, so you should check with your carrier before traveling. Many have agreements with the Cellular at Sea network and offer special roaming packages.

The best way to avoid cell phone charges on a cruise if you don’t have a roaming deal is to switch your phone to airplane mode and turn off data roaming in your Settings app. That way, your cell phone is restricted to only accessing data via Wi-Fi, providing you keep your Wi-Fi function turned on. You can then choose the Wi-Fi package that best suits your needs.

Family exploring Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman

For time ashore, when you’ll be away from the ship’s Wi-Fi, double check what international and cruise plans are available and how much data is included, since data packages are typically capped and some cell phone functions use far more data than others.

For example, sending text messages will use far less data than downloading large files via email or streaming TV shows.

Some cell phone apps consume far more data, and if you do plan on streaming, aim to download movies and TVs before leaving home to avoid using data in this way while cruising.

You can also opt to switch your cell phone’s email settings from “Push” to “Fetch” so ensure emails do not automatically download as you are traveling.

Couple taking a selfie from Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

If you don’t want to pay for roaming, you can access free Wi-Fi in some destinations, including cities and beaches, such as Magens Bay Beach in St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and dozens of locations around Barcelona. You will often find free Wi-Fi in the cruise terminal, too.

What is Cellular at Sea and how does it work?

Cellar at Sea offers an affordable mobile phone service including web browsing, social media and app use, checking emails, and sending and receiving calls and texts while traveling at sea.

The network service works once a cruise ship is 12 nautical miles from land (typically around one hour after a ship leaves port), which is deemed as international waters and is available across Celebrity Cruises’ fleet of 13 ocean ships (this excludes expedition vessels).

To connect to Cellular at Sea, you will need to keep airplane mode switched off and roaming on. When the service becomes available, your cell phone will say “Cellular at Sea” or “901”. You can then use your cell phone on a cruise just as you would on land, with calls, texts and data transmitted via satellite.

Cellular at Sea remains available to travelers while in international waters, with international roaming charges applied. To avoid unwanted roaming charges, close apps when you are not using them and turn off auto-updates on apps (there are different ways to do this depending on which mobile device you have).

Rates for using Cellular at Sea are set by your network carrier. Check what your carrier’s cruise ship roaming rates are for using your cell phone at sea before traveling. The great news is that many network carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, offer cruise data plans that can be purchased as an add-on to your regular mobile plan, seamlessly allowing travelers to stay connected via Cellular at Sea.

Should I put my phone on airplane mode on a cruise?

Cell phones on a cruise - Celebrity Beyond

Celebrity Beyond

If you don’t need an internet connection or cell service at sea, one of the smartest things you can do to save money and avoid international roaming charges, is to put your phone on airplane mode as soon as you board your cruise ship. To do this, go to your cell phone’s Settings app and select airplane mode. Make sure your teens do the same.

You will still be able to use your phone’s other functions, such as the camera, connect to Wi-Fi, and your cruise line’s app, including the Celebrity Cruises app, when your phone is switched to Airplane Mode.

Can I use data services while cruising?

Couple taking a selfie aboard Celebrity Ascent

Celebrity Ascent

Yes, you can use data services while cruising. You have two options. You could either use your own data package by purchasing an international data package from your network carrier that includes usage at sea, or purchase a data package from your cruise line.

A popular option is to turn off your cell phone’s data roaming and purchase a cruise line data package. Celebrity Cruises uses internet powered by Starlink, which is considered to be the most advanced high-speed broadband satellite internet in the world.

It’s worth noting that when booking one of Celebrity’s Wi-Fi packages, you can save up to 10 percent when booking before your cruise gets underway.

What data packages does Celebrity Cruises offer?

Person holding a phone

Celebrity Cruises has two packages, a Basic and a Premium data package. Celebrity’s Basic Wi-Fi is available fleetwide and allows the user to browse the internet, send and receive emails (though not large files), and send text messages to family and friends.

If you’re looking to stay connected and use cell phones on a cruise without using social media or streaming, this is the best data package for you.

It’s a great value option for staying connected while you’re on vacation, but please note that features such as emailing large files, sharing photos or videos on social media, using streaming apps, or making video calls are only available with the Premium Wi-Fi package. Basic Wi-Fi is only available for pre-cruise purchase or with All Included.

What is Celebrity Cruises’ Premium Wi-Fi package?

Celebrity Cruises’ Premium Wi-Fi allows users to share images and videos via social media channels, send and receive messages, make video and telephone calls, browse the internet, and send and receive emails.

View of Infinite Veranda, Celebrity Edge

Infinite Veranda, Celebrity Edge

This package also allows you to stream videos from your own personal device to your stateroom TV on the Edge-series ships, including Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, Celebrity Beyond, and Celebrity Ascent.

Cell phones on a cruise - Celebrity Ascent

Celebrity Ascent

This package is perfect for travelers who enjoy posting regularly to social media channels—and, let’s face it, you’re going to accumulate plenty of dreamy photos to share—or streaming the latest movies or TV shows while on vacation.

Are there roaming charges for using my cell phone on a cruise?

Yes, if you fail to turn your data roaming off (which is found in Settings on most cell phones), there will be a roaming charge for using cell phones on a cruise. Even if you don’t actually make calls, your phone will connect to the cell service and run apps in the background.

Can I use cell phone apps on a cruise?

Yes, you can still use all of your regular cell phone apps while on a cruise. Bear in mind that if the app requires data—such as social media or news feed apps—you will need to be connected to either your own or the ship’s Wi-Fi to use it.

Apps that do not require data, such as some games and podcasts that you have already downloaded, won’t require you to be connected to Wi-Fi.

Person taking a photo in Alaska


One of the most commonly used phone apps is, of course, the camera. You can use your cell phone’s camera function on a cruise to capture romantic dinners and scenes of gorgeous beaches.

You will not be charged for using the Celebrity Cruises app, which is a great resource for information on your ship’s dining options and menus, activities, entertainment, and excursions.

There’s more. Travelers can even use the app to instant message and stay connected while on board. All you need to do is connect to the ship’s Guest Wi-Fi to use the app.

Are there any restrictions on using cell phones on a cruise ship?

If you are traveling to a far-flung destination and you’re relying on your wireless network provider for cell phone service, you should set your expectations accordingly. You might not have a crystal-clear phone signal or a smooth internet browsing experience all of the time.

Exterior of Celebrity Flora

Celebrity Flora

Streaming might also be glitchy in certain places like the Galapagos, where there is very little signal once you’re away from the inhabited islands.

But there are things you can do to ensure a smoother experience of using your cell phone on a cruise. Switch your phone to airplane mode; purchase a cruise line data package; and monitor the amount of data you are using. Connect to free Wi-Fi in cruise ports when you can, and don’t forget to relax and enjoy your precious cruise vacation.

Read: Cruise Tips for First-Timers

Cell phones on a cruise - Infinite Veranda, Celebrity Ascent

Infinite Veranda, Celebrity Ascent

Whether you plan to stay fully connected with your cell phone or would rather completely disconnect on vacation, a cruise is the perfect way to do both. Explore Celebrity Cruises’ extraordinary voyages to destinations from the Galapagos to Australia, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean.

Free Vacation Planning Services

Free Vacation Planning Services