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Access to Mobile/Cellular Towers While at Sea


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I started polling people on various roll calls but thought maybe I should start a new thread.

 

I'm interested in seeing how much mobile/cellular voice and data access I would have while at sea on New Zealand-intensive itineraries. To be clear, I'm not asking about ship-based cellular service or ship satellite-based wifi internet access. I'm specifically asking about voice and data access via shore-based cellular/mobile service while at sea. 

 

The reason for this post is that, if you have ever cruised the Mediterranean, you probably know that passengers can pick up shore-based mobile voice/data service pretty easily during a good portion of each sailing (and especially Western Med itineraries). From my experience, for example, when sailing from Barcelona to Nice/Monaco to Livorno to Civitavecchia to Naples to Messina, one can probably have shore-based voice or internet access over half the time! 

 

The preliminary feedback however (from the various roll calls) is that I can probably expect mobile service only during sail-in and sail-away from most ports but should not expect much, if any, service while at sea between port stops. 

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4 hours ago, Terpnut said:

The preliminary feedback however (from the various roll calls) is that I can probably expect mobile service only during sail-in and sail-away from most ports but should not expect much, if any, service while at sea between port stops. 

I'd agree with that. The ships tend to cruise a fair distance from the coast so you won't get any reliable mobile signal.

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Yep that’s pretty much been our experience, last night I got enough reception for a text message to arrive at 4:07 am, on the approach to Sydney, but then nothing till after 5:30, and that text had been sent 6:27 pm the previous evening. My experience in NZ was not much different I mention that specific instance because the details are still on our phone# and I can be precise.

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Varies between providers for some reason.

 

On our b2b last year our friends had reception way longer than we did!  Go figure.   Just use it until your provider signal disappears.

 

You can get good SIM card deals coming in via Auckland airport.  Friends did that last year then gave to unused portion and SIM card to their favourite bar staff.

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We'll be cruising NZ and Australia in Jan/Feb on the Majestic and Golden Princess and have complimentary internet minutes. We plan to get an Australian SIM card because we'll also be staying on land.

 

Is there a concern that your cellular device may connect to the ship's internet instead, triggering a potentially large bill from your cellular provider? That's why we've been advised to be clear of the ship before turning airplane mode off and accessing cellular data. I must be missing something.

 

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I've never had a problem connecting to my regular Australian service provider while in port, even when still on the ship and even when close to shore on some itineraries. Make sure you have roaming turmed off then it will only connect to the service provider you bought the Australian SIM for.

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10 hours ago, Adventures ahead said:

We'll be cruising NZ and Australia in Jan/Feb on the Majestic and Golden Princess and have complimentary internet minutes. We plan to get an Australian SIM card because we'll also be staying on land.

 

Is there a concern that your cellular device may connect to the ship's internet instead, triggering a potentially large bill from your cellular provider? That's why we've been advised to be clear of the ship before turning airplane mode off and accessing cellular data. I must be missing something.

 

As per my earlier post, I use my mobile phone while onboard cruise ships all the time. The key to avoid the ship-based cellular service is to: 1) know the name of the service (I believe it was Cellular At Sea for Celebrity and it's probably the same service for Princess and others), and 2) either turn off roaming when you see it OR specifically exclude it from your mobile carrier options in your phone's settings. I do this regularly in the Mediterranean (i.e. port-intensive itineraries) as shore-side cellular-based mobile data (either via a local SIM, or even while roaming) is much cheaper and faster than ship-based satellite-based internet/wifi service.  

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On 12/18/2019 at 7:24 PM, Terpnut said:

As per my earlier post, I use my mobile phone while onboard cruise ships all the time. The key to avoid the ship-based cellular service is to: 1) know the name of the service (I believe it was Cellular At Sea for Celebrity and it's probably the same service for Princess and others), and 2) either turn off roaming when you see it OR specifically exclude it from your mobile carrier options in your phone's settings. I do this regularly in the Mediterranean (i.e. port-intensive itineraries) as shore-side cellular-based mobile data (either via a local SIM, or even while roaming) is much cheaper and faster than ship-based satellite-based internet/wifi service.  

Thanks for this info. How do you 2) exclude the ship's cellular? 

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, not sure where to find that in Settings/Cellular on iPhone 11.

With a foreign SIM card, what should the settings be when on the ship and when on land?

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27 minutes ago, Adventures ahead said:

Thanks for this info. How do you 2) exclude the ship's cellular? 

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, not sure where to find that in Settings/Cellular on iPhone 11.

With a foreign SIM card, what should the settings be when on the ship and when on land?

I'm an Android user so I can't help with iOS but you should be able to go to Settings, Cellular or something like that and disable the auto-selection and choose specific carriers or networks. That not being available, turn off international roaming when you see Cellular at Sea or similar. 

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There's no "portable" way to do this on iOS though some carriers support it in their custom stuff.   

 

One thing you can also do is contact your carrier.  AT&T for example has an unlimited talk and text plan for $100, or 50 minutes for $50.


I don't know if AT&T will allow you to backdate the plan like they do their international calling plan (you don't have to commit to it until after you make a few calls and then AT&T texts you and offers you the plan if and to put the previously made calls under it).

 

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21 hours ago, flyingron said:

There's no "portable" way to do this on iOS though some carriers support it in their custom stuff.   

 

One thing you can also do is contact your carrier.  AT&T for example has an unlimited talk and text plan for $100, or 50 minutes for $50.


I don't know if AT&T will allow you to backdate the plan like they do their international calling plan (you don't have to commit to it until after you make a few calls and then AT&T texts you and offers you the plan if and to put the previously made calls under it).

 

The last I checked, these US carriers' international calling plans do NOT include the cruise-ship based cellular services! 

Edited by Terpnut
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We’re from Canada and our provider is Bell. We can tap into ‘roam like home’ but the daily rate is too expensive for a long trip if using it for many days. Better to buy an Aus SIM card. Maybe someone in the Internet cafe can show me how to block the ship’s cell tower on my iPhone, if possible. Otherwise, we’ll only use it on land and rely on our complimentary internet minutes on-board.

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23 hours ago, Terpnut said:

The last I checked, these US carriers' international calling plans do NOT include the cruise-ship based cellular services! 

Again, AT&T has a separate CRUISE plan from the INTERNATIONAL plan.   They have an arrangement with Cruise-At-Sea.

It looks like from the cellular-at-sea site that AT&T may be the only one offering this sort of deal.

Edited by flyingron
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10 hours ago, flyingron said:

Again, AT&T has a separate CRUISE plan from the INTERNATIONAL plan.   They have an arrangement with Cruise-At-Sea.

It looks like from the cellular-at-sea site that AT&T may be the only one offering this sort of deal.

Since mobile data makes the world go round, the AT&T cruise plan doesn't offer much utility. For $50, you get 50 minutes of talk and unlimited texting but no data. For $100, you get unlimited talk and text but just 200MB of data. And the data overage rate of $2/MB would result in a bill of THOUSANDS of dollars for a typical data user if they don't pay attention to their "normal" usage!

 

I guess I didn't emphasize that my needs are almost all mobile data. There is no utility in talk or text. These days, most iMessage and other messaging apps don't use SMS-based texting and require mobile data. 

Edited by Terpnut
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21 hours ago, flyingron said:

Then you'd be better off on most ship's wifi plans and forgo cellular data.

 

Since I have free unlimited international mobile data with my current Google Fi mobile service, I was hoping to use my mobile service as much as possible on the cruise, and hence my original post!

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