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iPhones ahoy! Making calls on cruise ships, updated

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TUAW reader Troy sent an email the other day stating that he'd found one of our posts from last August to be very helpful. In Using your iPhone on a cruise ship we talked about Cellular At Sea and getting your iPhone to send and receive pricey calls from many cruise ships. How expensive are they? Last year, they were running about US$0.79 per minute. This year, they cost about the same.

Troy's email got me thinking about how to make cheaper phone calls on cruises, since I'll be on two cruise ships next year. Since last August, we've seen Skype for iPhone / iPod touch [App Store] appear, and for US$2.95 a month you can make unlimited calls to the USA and Canada over a Wi-Fi connection. That's great, but you're going to need to pay anywhere from $0.30 to $0.75 per minute for that Wi-Fi! And another big dead fly is floating in that soup -- the bandwidth on cruise ships is so incredibly low that your calls may not even go through using Skype or another VoIP app.

Unfortunately, things haven't improved much in this realm since last year. My recommendation? Buy the biggest onboard Wi-Fi account you can afford (more minutes = cheaper per minute) and use it with your iPhone or iPod touch for emails, Tweeting your friends, using IM, and checking TUAW. If you want to send voice messages to your pals, record them in the new iPhone OS 3.0 voice memos app or (if you have a 3GS) with video, and then email the messages over Wi-Fi. Your friends can respond the same way.

If you absolutely must have a two-way conversation, your cheapest alternative is going to be to wait until you're in a port, then use one of AT&T's international calling plans (or another carrier's plan if you're not in the US) or see if you can use Skype at a portside bar with free Wi-Fi. You probably don't want to use the ship's on-board satellite phone service at the US$6.99 to US$10.99 per minute rate!

Do you have any other hints for cheap communications afloat, other than sending postcards from ports? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks to Troy for reminding us about cruise ships and iPhones

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