First things first: your cell phone WILL work on the ship. But think twice about using it. Case in point: Cruiser disputes $28,000 bill for wireless session on ship. And I'm not even going to talk about the in-room phones, which are about $10/minute.
While cell phone rates at sea vary by wireless company, they generally reflect international roaming rates, which can be breathtakingly expensive. On the cruise, your only connection is through the ship's provider "Cell at Sea." This on-board tower works with both GSM and CDMA. Once you are a certain distance from port, they will turn it on.
Here's what I found for calling rates, but don't take my word for it. Check with your provider!
- AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint: $2.49/min
- T-mobile: $4.99/min
The problem is, if you have a BlackBerry or other smart phone that downloads e-mails and texts automatically, every time it scans for incoming messages, you are charged as if you are making a call. And some cruise lines charge extra for attachments or photos due to the extra bandwidth they consume. (There are lots of horror stories out there of $3000 phone bills for week-long cruises.) Some carriers will even charge for incoming calls that aren't answered.
There is usually an option to turn off data/e-mail on smart phones, but if you are sending texts, there's no way to turn off the phone service. So you risk the cost of receiving incoming texts and phone calls while your phone is on for you to send texts. I've also read stories of people who had their phones turned off but were somehow still picking up a signal and getting charged for roaming. That's why last time I left my phone in the room safe with the battery out.
But let's say you are okay with the rates and want to use your phone anyway. It may not be an option everywhere. Many people said last year they were unable to get a signal on the lower decks of the ship. And since Half Moon Cay is a private island, there's no cell service there. There's also no wireless there, so it's going to be a several hour stretch of no tweets for those at home.
There is, however, internet access on board. You can bring your own laptop/iPod/iPad/what-have-you or use the Internet cafe. The rates for both are the same: 75 cents per minute. You can also buy blocks of minutes. Last year I paid $24 for 60 minute blocks. There was a minimum charge of two minutes, which was about a minute and 45 seconds longer than it took me to send a tweet. I did not figure this time minimum out till Sunday night.
Cruise ship internet is . . . not the best. For one, it takes a good minute to get logged in and do anything. Once you're in, you can use it for sending a quick email or tweet, but don't plan to upload a photo album to Flickr or anything. Remember the internet in 1998? It's like that. Last year, I never once successfully got my email to load, even in basic HTML mode. But it's certainly better than nothing, and they do have wireless throughout the ship, which is nice.
What are your plans for phones on board? I'm going to do the phone in the safe/tweet with the iPod again. Seemed to work last time, even if I did spend about $60 on internet.
If you do plan to tweet, make sure you get Marliimarl to add you to this list: http://twitter.com/marliimarl/cruise-2010.