Are you a football fan? Obviously, you are not alone. Football is by far the most popular sport in America, with tens of millions tuning into college and NFL games each year.
Of course, the popularity of football leads to some big questions for cruisers. Can I watch football on a cruise? 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 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 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. Some 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.
Watching Monday Night Football on a Cruise
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.
That said, we have yet to see a major cruise line without a feed that will show the game in sports bars and sometimes on the large outdoor pool screen (if equipped).
Watching Thursday Night Football on a Cruise
When it comes to Thursday night games, it can be a little tough to know if you can watch or not on a cruise. That’s because the game switches stations regularly between networks like FOX and the NFL Network depending on the week. In addition, the game is also shown Amazon Prime.
Let’s take this one step at a time. If the Thursday night game is being broadcast on FOX, then the same rules apply as the Sunday night game. Games are unlikely to be broadcast to your cabin unless you cruise ship offers FOX broadcasts (which is unlikely). No cruise line that we know of offers NFL Network.
However, the ship will likely have an international feed of the game that will be shown in the ship’s bars. So if you want to watch the game you should be able to, just not with your feet propped up in your cabin.
With Amazon Prime now livestreaming Thursday night games, it does offer a convenient option to watch in cabin if you have a laptop, tablet or other internet-connected device… and a cruise ship that allows streaming.
For example, Carnival’s internet policy explicitly states that “Video streaming sites such as Hulu and Netflix are blocked.” Royal Caribbean’s VOOM internet service does offer streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Watching Sunday Afternoon Local Games on a Cruise
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.
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 channels in the stateroom are unlikely to have all of these channels, but could have some feeds 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 on a Cruise?
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.
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.