Guide: How to Watch Any Sport While on a Cruise

Sports fandom knows no bounds. But being on a cruise can make it a little harder than usually to watch you team.

The good news?

Just because you are on a cruise ship — potentially hundreds of miles from the nearest land — doesn’t mean you have to miss the game. If you want to watch a sporting event on a cruise, it may not be as easy as turning on ESPN like you would at home, but you don’t have to miss out just because you are on vacation.

So how can you sail, and still watch the NFL, college football, basketball, baseball, and more? There are a number of options…

Watching Live Sports on Your Cabin TV

television in a cruise cabin
Every cabin has a TV. Big games might be available to watch.

Every cabin on the cruise ship comes with its own television. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the number of sports channels you’ll find is limited.

For example, some cruise lines offer ESPN, while some don’t. Even then, you’ll see an international version of ESPN that often has different scheduling then what you’d see back home. Big football games, for instance, will often be shown, but smaller games might not (but you’ll often get plenty of cricket and soccer).

What about major networks like ABC, CBS, or NBC, which often show sports during the season? Cruise lines typically don’t have these stations.

What we have noticed is during major sporting events like NFL Sundays, some games from these stations can still be shown on cabin television.

In other words, it can be hit or miss on watching a sporting event in your cabin. While big games are likely to be on in your room, smaller events usually mean having to find a different way to watch.

Watching Live Sports in the Sports Bar, Casino, or Pool

Carnival Skybox Sports Bar

Unless you plan to stream the game on your device (see below), your best bet is to check out one of the several areas of the ship that show live sports.

First, many cruise ships these days have sports bars that will show games. For instance, Playmakers on Royal Caribbean is an ideal spot to watch college football or NFL as they will have several different games going at once, with fans crowded around watching. It’s the same with SkyBox on Carnival ships.

The sports bars are able to offer many more games than what you’ll find in your cabin. If it is anything close to a decent-sized sporting event, they will likely have it.

For instance, your big Sunday or Monday night football games will be shown, as will Sunday afternoon games. But if your team isn’t a big name and has regional coverage, you might not find it. A game between the Cowboys and Giants will almost surely be shown, but an early game between the Bengals and the Jaguars could be harder to find.

Are you a fan of another sport like basketball or baseball? Some games may be shown, but don’t expect that you’ll be able to find your favorite team’s game shown on a random Wednesday night. What’s available can be hit or miss. 

Another spot you can find games is the casino. Casinos often have bars in the middle of them, with TVs showing a mixture of sporting events. Like the sports bars, there are often multiple games going on at once. If your ship doesn’t have a sports bar, head to the casino instead.

Finally, if you are sailing during football season or when there is another major sporting event, then you might be able to watch in the pool or hot tub. Cruise ships often have large video screens that overlook the pool deck. At night they are used to show movies, but sporting events will be played as well.

Streaming Sports on a Cruise With Your Own Device

Basketball court and game

Are you a die-hard that just absolutely can’t miss a game during your cruise? If you are a fan of a popular team with a big match-up, then you’ll probably be able to find a spot to watch on the ship.

But while big games will be shown on the ship, there’s still no guarantee. As well, smaller market games likely won’t be shown at all. For example, if you’re a college football fan and want to watch LSU play McNeese State, it’s unlikely to be available.

So if you love a sport or team that’s not as popular… or the game you want to watch isn’t a big draw, then your best bet to watch is to take matters into your own hands with streaming.

Streaming has taken over the sports world, with ESPN having a hugely popular streaming app. Sports are also available on a number of different apps as well, along with streaming on Amazon Prime and Twitter.

In that case, you can stream the game on some ships. To do so, you’ll need to sign up for the onboard wi-fi, which can be fairly expensive. Below, we’ve highlighted details on each major cruise line and their streaming policy.

Carnival
Of all the cruise lines, Carnival seems to be the most restrictive on streaming content. With their highest-level “Premium Wi-Fi Plan,” Carnival says “Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon and Carnival Sunrise are Netflix enabled, so you can use the Netflix app and your Netflix account to watch your favorite shows.” But they also say that the plan does not support video or music streaming.

In other words, you can get Netflix on a handful of ships, but streaming services like ESPN aren’t available at this time. Even so, the trend is toward offering more streaming options on a cruise. While Carnival might not allow it now, it could in the future. We’d suggest bringing your device anyway, just in case.

Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean offers VOOM, which it claims is the fastest Internet at sea. The cruise line offers two levels of services for VOOM. If you want to stream, then you’ll need to sign up for the upgraded “Surf + Stream” package. The price will vary, but was recently seen at around $16 per day.

As the name implies, the “Surf + Stream” package offers up streaming services while at sea, so you should be able to watch the game. Just know that there still might be places where the connection won’t be as stable as what you’ll find at home. The ship’s position and weather can have an impact. It might be that the picture isn’t as crisp and sharp as you might be used to watching.

Norwegian Cruise Lines
Of the major cruise lines, Norwegian seems to have the most expensive wi-fi service, but it does allow streaming. To watch ESPN or other streaming sports services, you’ll need to sign up for the “Unlimited Premium Wi-Fi Package.” This package runs $30-35 per day.

With the premium wi-fi, you get access to streaming sites, with NCL specifically mentioning “YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Audible, Hulu, Tik Tok, etc.”

Bottom line: There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to watch your favorite team play, but it is much easier now than ever before. For big games that have broad appeal like NFL or college football, you should be able to find them on your cabin TV or around the ship.

Have a game that’s not shown on the ship? The trend is toward cruise lines allowing streaming via apps on your own device. That allows you to watch, but just know that the Internet is pricey on the ship. As well, the picture might not be crystal clear as the satellite signal can be tested due to the ship’s position or weather.

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Tanner is the founder of Cruzely.com. Having grown up on the coast and sailing on everything from a 50' pleasure craft to the newest cruise ships, he's drawn on his experience to write hundreds of articles about every aspect of cruising. He has been quoted in The Washington Post, USAToday, and CBSNews, along with dozens more publications and websites. His homeport is Galveston, but he's visited and sailed from ports all around the country, including Miami, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, Seattle, Los Angeles and more. You can contact him by emailing [email protected]

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