Cell phone service in Alaska and en route

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#1
So. Cal
807 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
I was wondering about the cost (if any) of cell phone service on Alaska ships. I am thinking that there should be no difference when we are physically in Alaska than anywhere in the continental US (like Hawaii was). Can someone tell me more? What happens when the ship is cruising and is in "international" waters? Does the ship's cell phone service take over? I have Verizon, but not sure that makes a difference. I would think that service in the cities in Alaska are free but for use of minutes.
#2
Sammamish, WA
96 Posts
Joined Feb 2005
Originally posted by cruisingram1
I was wondering about the cost (if any) of cell phone service on Alaska ships. I am thinking that there should be no difference when we are physically in Alaska than anywhere in the continental US (like Hawaii was). Can someone tell me more? What happens when the ship is cruising and is in "international" waters? Does the ship's cell phone service take over? I have Verizon, but not sure that makes a difference. I would think that service in the cities in Alaska are free but for use of minutes.
We have Verizon and were able to make calls from port on our Alaska cruise. I remember coverage being a bit spotty sometimes, but otherwise we had no problems. No extra charges, and just used our regular minutes on our regular plan. I didn't try to make a call from the ship, but I would guess it would depend on how far away you were from the nearest cell tower. It might work sometimes.
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Randy

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#3
Napa Valley, CA
3,132 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
We have at&t and had no problem in Alaska. Radiance of the seas had their own cell tower, I think probably most ships do, not sure....but calling from the ship while at sea, using our cell phone was about $5.00 a minute.
I think texting was cheaper, if you have a texting plan.
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Jen

#4
Little Rock, Arkansas
37,374 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Most ships these days have cell towers operated by Cellular at Sea. The charges for using Cellular at Sea vary by carrier, but start at $2.49 per minute for calls and $.50 per text message (AT&T's rates). Some carriers are higher than that. Once the ships leave port, their cell towers are turned on and all calls on the ship go through that tower so you should check with Verizon to see what their rates are for Cellular at Sea.
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Wrona

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#5
Sechelt, BC & Fort Mohave, AZ
26,694 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
You won't get much in the way of direct cel service while at sea but reception in most ports is pretty good.
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#6
So. Cal
807 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
A quick call to Verizon today.

A call from Juneau or Ketchikan to NY (if you get a signal) is no different than a call from San Diego to NY.

And if you're out of those areas, texting is the least expensive way to go. If you don't have a text plan, I believe it's 20 cents to send and 25 cents to receive (or maybe it's the other way around). I never realized when we were in Mexico that this option was so reasonable. Wish I knew that then.
#7
Napa Valley, CA
3,132 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Oh, yep $2.49 a minute, I just remember my bill was pretty high. It adds up quick!
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Jen

#8
The OC
5,799 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
cruisingram- We are also in SoCal w/ Verizon. Since Alaska is the USA, charges in Alaskan ports are the same as whatever you pay at home for voice or texts. You made a comment about Mexico. That is *not* the US of course, and international roaming and texting charges apply. Those are usually pretty costly! The same goes for Vancouver. Sailing through the Inside Passage, Canada and Alaska cell coverage is intermixed so be sure you know who is providing coverage before you place a call if it's not clear you're in Alaska.

The ships have their own cell system that relays calls to/from a satellite. They have their own expensive charges to carry incoming or outbound calls and texts. I suggest turning off the wireless part of your phone (called "airplane mode" on some phones) if you don't want to pay for incoming calls out of your control.

Ships have to turn off their system near ports to avoid competing....so you're OK on land or at the dock.

HTH! By the way, are you aware there's an Alaska board? There are quite a few threads on this topic over there as well as a wealth of other information.
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====================
Chandris Ellenis, Mediterranean- July 1978
X Infinity, Baja- October 2005
Carnival Paradise, Baja- January 2007
HAL Zaandam, Alaska- July 2008
HAL Oosterdam, Sea of Cortez- April 2010
X Summit, Southern Caribbean Part 1- November 2012
X Summit, Southern Caribbean Part 2- November 2013
#9
So. Cal
807 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
Originally posted by kenish
cruisingram- We are also in SoCal w/ Verizon. Since Alaska is the USA, charges in Alaskan ports are the same as whatever you pay at home for voice or texts. You made a comment about Mexico. That is *not* the US of course, and international roaming and texting charges apply. Those are usually pretty costly! The same goes for Vancouver. Sailing through the Inside Passage, Canada and Alaska cell coverage is intermixed so be sure you know who is providing coverage before you place a call if it's not clear you're in Alaska.

The ships have their own cell system that relays calls to/from a satellite. They have their own expensive charges to carry incoming or outbound calls and texts. I suggest turning off the wireless part of your phone (called "airplane mode" on some phones) if you don't want to pay for incoming calls out of your control.

Ships have to turn off their system near ports to avoid competing....so you're OK on land or at the dock.

HTH! By the way, are you aware there's an Alaska board? There are quite a few threads on this topic over there as well as a wealth of other information.
We were just in Mexico two weeks ago (on Voyager) and I kept my phone off for fear of accidentally getting a call from the US and ending up with an outrageous bill. I did not realize until I spoke to Verizon today that I could have used text messaging for a minimal charge. My son in law was much braver than I and kept his Blackberry on continuously and used his email on the phone. I can't imagine what his bill will be.

I have been over to the Alaska board and have been starting to follow the threads over there as well as Seattle. We are just getting out of the Caribbean mode and into Alaska mode. I do realize that as we cruise along the coast we will most likely be using the ship's expensive cell site. And international roaming when in Canada. I'm glad to be able to use the phone if need be in Juneau and Ketchikan. But I was concerned about connecting to the ship's site when we were docked so glad they are required to turn it off. I wonder if there is some little icon on the phone that indicates what it's connecting to?
#10
Napa Valley, CA
3,132 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
I am pretty sure my phone said, "cellular at sea" when we were at sea. And they do turn off the tower as soon as they dock.
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Jen

#11
So. Cal
807 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
Originally posted by JJ2sail
I am pretty sure my phone said, "cellular at sea" when we were at sea. And they do turn off the tower as soon as they dock.
I'll be sure to stay away from using when it says "Cellular at sea!" I was wondering if the phone knew what site it was using.
#12
The OC
5,799 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
My Verizon phone said "Cellular at Sea" and as I recall the Alaska land service was Alltel. I could be mistaken on that. Alltel carries calls for Verizon under an agreement and it's not considered roaming.

Some basic phones or ones more than a few years old may only show a roaming icon. For example older LG handsets had a triangle. Also newer phones allow display of the cell company to be turned on or off. If your phone doesn't say "Verizon Wireless" at home, find the menu and switch the display option back on.

In much of the world, text is cheaper than voice. For example most people in Europe were texting years before it became popular in the US.
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====================
Chandris Ellenis, Mediterranean- July 1978
X Infinity, Baja- October 2005
Carnival Paradise, Baja- January 2007
HAL Zaandam, Alaska- July 2008
HAL Oosterdam, Sea of Cortez- April 2010
X Summit, Southern Caribbean Part 1- November 2012
X Summit, Southern Caribbean Part 2- November 2013