Cell Phone Plans & Calling from the Ship

by Female Abroad

When I first started travelling, wondering if my cell phone would work was never a worry. Why would I need it? The odd call? Ever since my trip to the Netherlands I have found it an invaluable tool that helps prevent me from getting lost and to help translate the local dialect. Like most technology, I can't remember how I ever lived without it.

Now with the better travel packages on the market (Telus I find is still lacking) there are lots of ways that you can use your phone affordably. However, I always check what my provider covers / offers before I do as things are constantly changing. With my most upcoming trip, I wasn't sure how much I would use my phone but it's nice to prepare. This is when I realized that cruise ships price things as their own country and not the country that you are in.

I had no idea that they have their own cell service that you connect to while on board that allows them to do this so I started looking further into this further.

If you are someone that is interested in using your phone while travelling this might be useful. Keep in mind however, double check with your own provider as it may vary.

Roam Like Home Calling (Rogers)

When traveling to dial a local number where you are (not calling back home):

+ - country code - area code - phone number

Example: If you are on the beach in Cancun, Mexico and need to call to make dinner reservations. The restaurant's phone # is 998-555-1234. Mexico's country code it 52. So you would call: +52-998-555-1234. (To dial + most phones will require you to hold down the 0 until the + sign appears.)

To call home, you would dial as normal.

Premium Destinations

Going somewhere that is not travelled often, does have the infrastructure to support uninterrupted service, or traveling on a mode of transportation that sells their access? These would be "premium".

A lot of providers will send you a text message to let you know that you've entered into these areas. Most of these "premium" destinations won't be included in travel packages and you will have to pay a per minute, MB, or text (sending and receiving) charge to use the services.

For example, these are some of the charges I can expect if I use my phone on my next adventure:


Internet access: 2G

Frequency: 900

Any calls: CAD $2.50/minute

Send text: CAD $0.75/text

Receive text: CAD $0.25/text

Data: CAD 1.50/MB with a minimum of 20 KB charge


Internet access: 900

Frequency: 1900

Any calls: CAD $4.00/minute

Send text: CAD $0.75/text

Receive text: CAD $0.25/text

Data: CAD $15.00/MB with a minimum of 20 KB charge (that's a minimum $300 charge!)

Don't forget the taxes and service fess that may be added on top.

If you don't need to use your phone then put it on airplane mode so you don't get charged for receiving calls or texts.

If you are cruising and in a port or near the ship, check your phone network before doing anything as it may still be connected to the cruise ship.

Now that I knew my provider, would the cruise actually allow me to use my phone if I need to? To find out this information I gave my cruise line a quick call. According to them:

You will be able to use your phone to make / receive calls as well as send / receive texts and serf the web. You will only be allowed to do so once the ship reaches international waters. Depending on your cellular provider you will see "NOR18", "901-108" or cellularatsea" as the carriers. Once connected you will be billed at international roaming rates and the charges will show on your monthly cellular bill from your home carrier. To get more information about the rates please contact your carrier.

Good to know that I can use it if I have to but I don't think I will...


Since we had the Onboard Wi-Fi package we just used Whats App, Facebook, and email to keep in touch with everyone.