Princess Cruise OceanMedallion; Courtesy of Princess Cruise Line
All Ages

How to Communicate on a Cruise Ship: 5 Ways to Stay Connected

See recent posts by Courtney Elko

Staying connected on a cruise ship isn’t as easy as a simple text message to say where you are, and the larger the cruise ship is, the harder it can be to find one another. Luckily, several cruise lines have started to implement some creative technology so the whole family can stay connected while you sail the open seas. These are the best ways to stay connected while on a cruise.

Midland X-Talkers walki talkies; Courtesy of Amazon

1. Walkie Talkies

Bringing a few sets of walkie talkies onboard your cruise ship is an ideal way for everyone to stay connected on those at-sea ship days or even while in port exploring. Invest in a quality set of walkie talkies and you will be able to communicate as far away as several miles. We like these Midland X-Talkers. They come in a four pack, each in a different color (so no confusion as to whose is whose), and they have a range of up to 16 miles. They require four AAA batteries and can’t be charged, but if you power them down at night, the battery life should last through a seven-day cruise. Young kids and grandparents will find walkie talkies easy to use and as long as you don’t forget batteries and find the right frequency channel, there is a small margin for the technology to fail.

Princess Ocean Medallion; Courtesy of Family Vacation Critic

2. Princess Cruise Line OceanMedallion

Princess Cruise Line recently launched the OceanMedallion across a few of its ships and is rolling it out to all of its ships through the end of 2020. The OceanMedallion, used instead of the typical cruise card, is a coin-like wearable device that you wear on a lanyard or wristband. It opens your stateroom door, acts as a GPS locater and when you use it with the corresponding apps, it does even more–such as give you the ability to text for free on a cruise ship.

Families can download the OceanMedallion apps to your personal smartphone prior to embarkation. Once on the ship, the apps offer features such as a 3-D map that tells you where on the ship you are located and step-by-step directions on how to get to your next destination on the ship. You can connect to “shipmates” within your travel group or with friends you make during your cruise, and the apps allow you to locate your shipmates anywhere onboard. You can feel extra assurance knowing exactly where your child is located when you aren’t with him or her. Your teen can also feel some freedom to explore the ship, but you can still keep an eye on things. The apps associated with the OceanMedallion also offer a chat option where shipmates can text one-to-one or as a group for free onboard the cruise ship. Parents have control over shipmates. No one outside of your group can be a shipmate with a child unless approved by the parent.

An added bonus for adults is that the OceanMedallion apps also offer on-demand ordering. Once you have scored that perfect lounge chair by the pool, you can order a cocktail from your app and have it delivered to you in minutes without ever leaving the chair or waiting to flag down a server. The apps also feature a timeline of the day’s events and entertainment happening throughout the ship.

The OceanMedallion device and apps all work without the need for a Wi-Fi package. The technology works without being directly connected to the internet and phones must be kept in airplane mode in order for them to work. But if you want to check email, use the internet, or stream music or shows, you’ll need to purchase the MedallionNet Wi-Fi package, which offers very high speed internet while in the middle of the ocean.

If carrying your phone around for your entire cruise isn’t for you, there are Medallion portals found throughout the ship, which allow you to use most of these same features without using a smartphone. The large touchscreen portals let you see the 3-D ship maps, locate your own shipmates and see the day’s events and activities. Kids will also love to play the touch screen games on the portals where you can create your own aviator. The games are also offered as an app on your phone.

Disney's Castaway Cay; Courtesy of Disney

3. Disney Cruise Line Navigator App and Wave Phones

Disney Cruise Line offers an app that you can download to your phone prior to embarkation and it allows you to chat with your group and find out what’s going on everywhere on the ship. Disney Cruise Line allows “shipmates” to chat one-on-one or in a group text chat. So you can set up a chat among your family and if your kids make friends during the cruise, they can become shipmates in the app and text one another for free on the cruise ship. The app also lists the daily activities and entertainment happening onboard, as well as the dining options for the day. The Disney Cruise Line Navigator App works without using your phones data. Phones can be kept in airplane mode and the app connects to the ship’s Wi-Fi. It’s not necessary to purchase a Wi-Fi package in order to use the app and chatting options. It works without it and lets you text on a cruise ship for free! But if you want to check email or use the internet, purchase a Wi-Fi package.

In addition to the app, all of the staterooms include two Wave Phones, which is an actual wireless phone that allows you to call and text onboard the ship and at Disney’s Castaway Cay private island for free. You can turn off your personal cell phone and carry the Wave Phone with you instead. From the Wave Phone you can communicate with any shipboard or stateroom phone or another Wave Phone. If you need more than the two Wave Phones provided, additional phones are available for a fee.

Woman Using iPad on Cruise Ship; Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LIne

4. Cruise Line Messaging Apps

Several cruise lines offer chat apps that can be downloaded prior to departure and allow you to chat/text with those in your group while onboard. The technology can vary from cruise line to cruise line, but families don’t need to purchase a Wi-Fi package in order to use these chat apps. It works without it. Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC Cruises and Holland America (along with Disney and Princess mentioned above) offer such communication apps on some or all of its ships. Norwegian features the iConcierge app, which is free to download, but requires a small fee to unlock the calling and texting abilities of the app. The Carnival Hub app also requires a small activation fee. The Royal Caribbean iQ app is free to download but a per-device fee must be paid in order to use the texting and calling features. MSC Cruises and Holland America both feature app-like chatting functionality on a web-based service for free.

Woman Using iPad on Cruise; Courtesy of Princess Cruises

5. Wi-Fi Package

When all else fails, purchase the ship’s Wi-Fi package and communicate as you normally would through your cell phone messaging system. Most ships offer a Wi-Fi package of varying levels. Some offer a daily or unlimited option or a lump sum data amount, which decreases as you use it. Wi-Fi packages can sometimes be pricey depending on the data options and number of devices you want to connect, but the convenience of everyone’s phones already being connected and knowing how to use them might be worth the price. We recommend doing research in advance to ensure the internet connection is a good one when you are out at sea. If the connection is expected to be spotty while at sea (which can oftentimes be the case depending on the cruise line), purchasing the Wi-Fi package may not be worth the extra expense.

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