If you’re a novice cruiser, then it may seem silly to have to worry about staying connected with the rest of your traveling party while on a cruise. After all, you’re all on the same ship with no other place to go to while at sea. However, experienced cruisers will tell you that splitting up — especially letting the kids run around the ship on their own — and trying to keep in touch can be a huge challenge.
Consider that the average cruise ship is about 1,000 feet long and can carry 4,000-5,000 passengers. If that’s not enough, keep in mind that there can be 12-15 decks on the ship. Meanwhile, people can be constantly on the move from the pool to the room to a restaurant to the casino, or just hanging out in their favorite spot. With 15 decks to search, trying to find another person you’re traveling with can be frustrating.
Compounding the problem is that most people can’t just pick up their phone and give a call or send a text like you would do on land.
The good news is that there are still plenty of ways to keep in touch with your friends and family while on the cruise ship.
Cruise Ship Apps
The cruise lines know that passengers want an easy way to keep in touch with others, so they’ve recently been rolling out shipboard apps that allow you to do just that. This includes both Norwegian and Carnival.
For example, Carnival offers the Carnival HUB app that can be downloaded for iOS and Android. The app is super handy for a ton of features, which includes the ship’s day-by-day schedule, access to your onboard account, and deck plans. Most importantly, it also has an in-app chat feature that costs just $5 for the entire cruise. This allows you to chat over the ship’s Wi-Fi (saving your data) and keep in touch with others.
Right now many of these apps are either still in development or available on only on a certain few ships. If your ship has an app with a chat feature, it’s usually the simplest way to communicate. Here are links for more details about the Disney and Norwegian apps.
Wave Phones (Disney Only)
If you’re traveling aboard Disney Cruise Lines, then you can use your room’s Wave Phone for free. This phone is essentially like an older cell phone that works with the ship’s Internet to provide text messaging between parties. Phones are free to use and work on the ship or on Disney’s Castaway Cay.
For more details, we found this great video that details the Wave Phone features:
Remember those handheld radios that you used to play with in the neighborhood when you were a kid? There are adult versions that can be used for keeping in touch while on your cruise. They are usually sold in packs of two or four, so you can give one to each member of your party.
Most people say that this method works well, and best of all it’s free to use, although you have to buy the walkie-talkies if you don’t have them already. Amazon has a wide selection available.
Some issues you might run into are if you and your friends or family have a lot of ship decks between you. For instance, if you’re on deck 5 and your kids are on deck 15, all the steel and metal between you can block signals. They can also annoy other cruisers if they are constantly beeping.
Here’s what a number of passengers have said about using walkie-talkies on the Cruise Critic message board:
“I second this LOVE OUR WALKIE TALKIES but we use the vibrate ones too. we set up times for them to call us or if they leave an area call and tell us where they are going. and if I am in a area that is a quiet zone I just get up and go out and answer the call so I don’t bother anyone good luck these ships our huge and there are times when you can’t find people.”
“What I can tell you about walkie talkies I learned on our most recent cruise. They are incredibly overused and really annoying to everyone. I am not trying to start a fight or anything, but please if you must use walkie talkie use them as sparingly as possible.”
Post Its/Notepads in the Cabin
One of the cheapest and most reliable ways to stay in contact is simply keeping a notepad in the cabin to keep notes. You can jot down your schedule for the day and have a place to check for other messages. Of course, this means you’ll have to check back in the room pretty often and hope that the rest of your traveling party also checks in. Still, it doesn’t get any cheaper or more reliable.
Another blast from the technological past is simply having check-in times with your party.
“Meet at the dining room at 7 p.m.”
“See you at the pool at 1.”
“I’ll be at the casino having a drink.”
It’s cheap, easy, and reliable. The only problem is if things change, you still have the issue of trying to track down your friends or family to keep them updated. In our opinion, we’d used check-in times most of the time, with a backup method to get in touch in case things change or there is an emergency.
Most apps on your phone use either Wi-Fi or cellular data to send messages. However, the Telegram app reportedly can let you message without being actually connected to either. We’ve heard reports that it can be used to send messages back and forth as long as you are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, even if you haven’t paid to use it.
If you have other messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, then you can definitely use these on the cruise ship if you are connected to the Wi-Fi (which costs a small fee).
Have a favorite way that you keep in touch on a cruise ship? Let us know in the comments below.