How to Watch Football on a Cruise: NFL and College Viewing Options

Are you a football fan? Obviously, you are not alone. It is by far the most popular sport in America, with tens of millions tuning into college and NFL games each year.

Just because you are at sea doesn’t mean you have to miss the biggest football games. You can easily watch while on your cruise like this big screen.

Of course, the popularity of football leads to some big questions for cruisers. Can I watch football on a cruise? What about the college or NFL playoffs? Do cruise ships offer ESPN and other popular stations? How can I watch my local football team on the ship?

When it comes to football, we know it’s almost a religion. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to watching both NFL and college football when you’re on your vacation. 

Watching NBC Sunday Night Football on a Cruise

These days, NBC’s Sunday night game is the biggest of the week. It typically features a nationally important game with two of the best teams in the league. It’s also the most-watched game each Sunday.

If you want to watch Sunday Night Football on your cruise, have no fear. This major weekly game will be shown somewhere on the ship. It’s just a question of where.

For major games like this one (or NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl), the ship’s bars will always have the game up. In fact, some lines like Carnival (SkyBox Sport Bar) and Royal Caribbean (Playmakers) have dedicated sports-themed bars or other lounges that make a point to show the games.

Most cruise lines will also play the game on the outdoor screen in the pool area. Pull up a chair, relax, and watch in comfort. 

You may or may not be able to watch Sunday Night Football in your cabin. Cruise lines don’t offer NBC on their channel listings, or only offer it when the ship is able to receive a signal via satellite or antenna. This means there is a good chance you won’t be able to watch in your room unless there is a signal and the cruise line feeds the game to the cabin TVs.

Elsewhere around the ship, it will definitely be showing.

Watching Monday Night Football

Many ships offer sports bars showing all sorts of games, like Playmakers on Royal Caribbean or SkyBox on Carnival.

Since moving to ESPN, Monday Night Football has actually become easier to watch on the ship. Some major cruise lines have a feed of ESPN (usually ESPN International), which will show the Monday night game. However, the game may not always broadcast in your stateroom.

Of the major cruise lines, Royal Caribbean and Disney offer ESPN in their staterooms. Notably absent is Carnival and Norwegian. At this time, the cruise lines don’t offer ESPN in staterooms.

That said, we have yet to see a major cruise line without a feed that will show the game in sports bars and somewhere else around ship such as the large outdoor pool screen (if equipped).

Watching Thursday Night Football

When it comes to Thursday night games, it can be tougher to watch, but not impossible. That’s because the game has moved exclusively to Amazon Prime and is now streamed instead of playing over the air on a traditional channel. 

For that, it’s not clear if cruise ships offer a viewing option for the game. For instance, bars and restaurants on land can stream with DirectTV, however, that’s not what is offered on cruise ship.

The good news is if you are an Amazon Prime member, then you should be able to stream personally.

With Amazon Prime now livestreaming Thursday night games, it does offer the option to watch in your cabin (or anywhere around the ship) if you have a laptop, tablet or other device. But to do so you will need to be a Prime member and have Internet service on the ship that allows for streaming. This is typically the highest-tier wi-fi package on the ship.

Bottom line: The game may be broadcast around the ship. Worst case scenario, you can stream it to your device.

Watching Sunday Afternoon Local Games

If your favorite team plays a regular Sunday game (not a nationally broadcast game), then you’ll have the most difficulty watching them play on a cruise ship.

The cruise line will definitely be broadcasting football throughout the ship’s bars during Sunday afternoon, but it will be subject to availability of the satellite feed. So if your team is only one game of a multi-game regional feed, you’ll have to get lucky that their game is being featured aboard the ship.

You are unlikely to receive the Sunday local games in your cabin unless you are on a cruise line that offers FOX/CBS and receiving a broadcast feed.

That said, we have sailed Royal Caribbean during football season, and they had multiple Sunday afternoon games going at once in the cabin staterooms. Other cruise lines seem to have fewer options.

Watching NFL Playoffs & Super Bowl

If cruise lines show regular season NFL games while sailing, then you know the playoffs will be easily accessible. What’s also good is that since few playoff games overlap and they are all big games, you don’t have to miss any of the action. Each will be given its due.

Games like the playoffs and Super Bowl will definitely be shown at sea. Like regular season games, you’ll be able to find them in places like the casino, sports bars, lounges, or other hangout around the ship. They may or may not be shown in your cabin.

But when it comes to the biggest games — especially the Super Bowl — the cruise line will put on watch parties, complete with refreshments. In short, it’s a big event even in the middle of the ocean.

You can read more on watching the Super Bowl on a cruise here.

Watching College Football on a Cruise

Are you a college football fan taking a cruise during the season? You don’t have to miss your team just because you are sailing on a Saturday.

Similar to the NFL, expect college games to be broadcast around the ship — especially in the sports bar (if available). For instance, we’ve visited Royal Caribbean’s Playmakers during a Saturday in the fall and there were multiple games showing during primetime. 

As a rule of thumb, the bigger the game, the more likely you are to be able to see it on the ship. Ohio State versus Michigan? It’s likely to be shown around the ship. Ohio State versus Bowling Green might be harder to find.

Of course, college football is shown across multiple channels, including FOX, ABC, CBS, and ESPN. The TV feeds in the stateroom are unlikely to have all of these channels, but could have some available.

Your best bet for watching it to check out the bars around the ship if it’s a bigger game or trying to stream the game on your own device (see below). 

What About Streaming Football Games Via Prime, Sling, or ESPN?

Even if the game isn’t shown around the ship, you have the option of being able to stream to your device if you have a wi-fi package.

It’s an exciting time in television in that you can barely call it TV anymore. Now people are streaming to all sort of devices, using all sorts of services. These allow you to take your shows with you anywhere you go and watch them on your phone, tablet, or computer.

In many cases you can stream apps like Amazon Prime or EPSN to watch games on the cruise. However, be ready for some possible hiccups.

First is the internet connection while at sea. Cruise lines all offer Internet service, but it can be difficult to have a great connection at sea. Weather, location, and the number of people using the service can all impact the picture quality.

As well, some ships don’t allow streaming services, which kills any hope of streaming a game to your device. However, this is (thankfully) becoming more rare. Generally, you will have to purchase the highest-tier Internet package to access streaming services, so be prepared.

One other thing to watch for? Many streaming apps have location filters on them, meaning that if you are connecting from a place outside of the United States, then you may be blocked from accessing your subscription. 

So yes, you can stream on a cruise, but it might be pricey and there are some technical issues that might come up. In general, however, we’ve never had any major problems being able to stream, making it a great option.

Best Options for Watching Football on a Cruise

Unfortunately, with so many games and so many channels, it’s impossible to say if the football game you want to watch will definitely be shown on the cruise. However, if it’s a big game, then there is almost surely a way to watch from one of a few options:

Around the Ship: For big games like NFL playoffs, primetime college games, and Sunday Night Football, expect the game to be shown somewhere around the ship. This can include bars or the pool deck big screen. This is the simplest and most reliable way to watch.

Cabin Stateroom: Cruise lines are hit or miss on major networks or ESPN access in the cabin. So you may or may not get to watch the game in the room. That said, we have been on a Royal Caribbean cruise during an NFL Sunday when several games were displayed in the cabin despite not normally having those channels.

Streaming: Likely your best bet for college games shown on ESPN or other channels. You will need to have an Internet package on the ship and the app for the network showing the game. Keep in mind that location issues and Internet speed may cause possible hurdles. Not every ship allows streaming, but most do.

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  1. On my recent Carnival and Princess cruises, they have ESPN International (a Latin America or Carribean feed that airs ESPN’s english language programming). I believe ESPNI holds broadcast rights with ESPN-US, CBS, FOX, NBC, Amazon, and TNT to air major events as well as all of ESPN’s daytime talk shows and late night editions of SportsCenter.

    All major broadcasts are listed on your daily activities schedule.

    Here’s a rundown what I observed on Carnival/Princess, which carries ESPN programming:
    – CBS Sports – live or tape-delayed simulcast of NFL games. For the doubleheaders, they air only the games that CBS shows nationwide rather than regional games. Most of the NCAA college basketball “March Madness” tournament games are shown as well. Not sure about college football.
    – NBC Sports – Sunday Night Football only, not sure about college football or Olympic events
    – Fox Sports programming – just like CBS, only live or tape-delayed simulcast of NFL games, not sure about college football, WWE, baseball, or college basketball
    – TNT – NBA games as well as “March Madness”, may also show the Inside the NBA show
    – Amazon Prime – Thursday Night Football only – since its a streaming platform, most likely this broadcast is arranged by the cruise and not through ESPN.
    – ESPN – all the US daytime talk shows from ESPN/ESPN2 (such as Get Up, NFL Live, Pardon the Interruption, Around The Horn, and Highly Questionable), select 30 for 30 documentaries, evening SportsCenter newscasts, NFL Monday Night Football (including the SC-SVP postgame show), Sunday Night Baseball, cricket, NBA, X-games, F1, College Football (mostly rebroadcasted Saturday ABC and ESPN games, New Years Six bowl games, and the national championship game in January), select “top 25” men’s college basketball games, select men’s soccer friendlies, and select tennis matches (mostly of the ATP type), and UFC undercard bouts. This is the ESPN Carribean feed in English that is programmed specifically for cruise ships and all commercials are just promos for the events to be shown on cruise ships. This used to be called the ESPNatSEA service. For the live events produced by their fellow networks (NBC/CBS/TNT/FOX), an “ESPN Live” watermark is shown on the upper left corner of the broadcast.

    I’ve also sailed on Norwegian, which unfortunately doesn’t carry ESPN at all. Instead they carry the Sport24 network, which showcases a great variety of American and international sports in English with their only talk show being a nightly UEFA soccer magazine/analysis show. There’s usually boxing, UEFA soccer, rugby, SailGP, tennis, Euroleague basketball, touring car racing, Euro and Asian tour golf, and TNT or NBATV’s NBA coverage. Select NFL and College Football games are shown when available but I don’t how they receive them through their satellite TV subscription.

    Its obvious that there are no NHL games and MLS matches.

  2. Princess has ESPN in its staterooms which is great if you like soccer. Soccer 24/7. I have never seen a football, baseball or basketball game on ESPN while on Princess (25+ cruises with them). You are on that ship for one thing: to spend money in the shops, gamble money in the casino, drink, and, oh yeah, eat.


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