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Thread: Using T-Mobile on a cruise

  1. #1
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    Using T-Mobile on a cruise

    My parents are traveling on a cruise in a couple of weeks. They are new to T-Mobile after overpaying att for years. They are on the 55 and over T-Mobile one plan. They are paying for WiFi on the cruise. I don’t know how great WiFi is on a cruise while on the ocean. But if the WiFi coverage is decent can they use WiFi calling without an issue or extra cost? The call rates are ridiculous at about $3.00 a minute.


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    What they want to do is to set the forwarding to send all incoming calls to voicemail and turn off data roaming.
    This way they can still receive texts for free.
    In the US the ship will not run their cellular system within 12 NM of land but in foreign ports they may still run it.
    Cruise ships are notorious for pretending that you are still registered on their network after you've turned your phone off. This way they make roaming revenue for handling unanswered calls.
    WiFi Calling may or may not work. WiFi Calling is picky about ports and QoS. Other methods, like Viber and GoogleVoice may work when WiFiCalling does not. Then again, the ship may do the same thing that in-flight WiFi does to confuse VoIP systems: high latency, packet scrambling, etc.
    Some people recommend turning your phone off whenever you get within 100 yards of the ship. This is the safe way to avoid high charges. There are other ways but they involve having a good understanding of how cellular roaming works.
    Donald Newcomb

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    I go on about 3 cruises a year of 12-16 days each. The shipboard WiFi on newer ships is pretty decent on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, my two favorites. You can do WiFi calling without a problem except perhaps from about 5-8PM when everyone and their brother is on line. Even then it will probably work OK.

    The cruise lines I mentioned promote calling on the WiFi service and actually mention it in the published literature. They specifically mention Skpe as a service to use. Tell your folks to be sure and make at least 1 WiFi call with each phone before sailing, and then put their phones is Airplane Mode and leave them there while on the ship. Turning on WiFi will give them access to their paid ships' WiFi plan and allow for free calls and texts to and from the US.

    Ships now leave their WiFi service on within 12 miles of land, and continuously while in port. I do not ever turn on my cellular service unless in port, so I don't know where and when they have it active. When in port you will usually get better WiFi speeds than TM free 128 or 256kbps data, so if you purchase an unlimited WiFi package, (I always do) use it even in port. Especially since fewer passengers are using it then while they are out shopping and seeing the sights in port.

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    Quote Originally Posted by obeythelaw View Post
    My parents are traveling on a cruise in a couple of weeks. They are new to T-Mobile after overpaying att for years. They are on the 55 and over T-Mobile one plan. They are paying for WiFi on the cruise. I don’t know how great WiFi is on a cruise while on the ocean. But if the WiFi coverage is decent can they use WiFi calling without an issue or extra cost? The call rates are ridiculous at about $3.00 a minute.


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    Some ships have several different levels of WiFi service available for purchase. They would probably need to pay for the top tiered plan if they wanted to make calls.

    I enjoy being disconnected while on the ship but will check messages while in port if T-Mobile has a coverage/roaming agreement.

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    Quote Originally Posted by billm261 View Post
    Some ships have several different levels of WiFi service available for purchase. They would probably need to pay for the top tiered plan if they wanted to make calls.

    I enjoy being disconnected while on the ship but will check messages while in port if T-Mobile has a coverage/roaming agreement.
    This is true, and it varies from company to company, and even between ships of the same company from what I've seen. However, it can still be cheaper to pay $.50-$.75 a minute for WiFi to make a call than the $2.99 a minute for cellular connection. I get a free XX minutes bundle as a frequent flyer, and also a 35% discount on the Unlimited service. It ends up costing around $11-$12 a day for 24/7 access. That's about 1 & 1/2 cocktails, or maybe 3-4 bottles of water or sodas, LOL.

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    Quote Originally Posted by obeythelaw View Post
    My parents are traveling on a cruise in a couple of weeks. They are new to T-Mobile after overpaying att for years. They are on the 55 and over T-Mobile one plan. They are paying for WiFi on the cruise. I don’t know how great WiFi is on a cruise while on the ocean. But if the WiFi coverage is decent can they use WiFi calling without an issue or extra cost? The call rates are ridiculous at about $3.00 a minute.


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    I would recommend using WiFi to communicate (use IM or other means over WiFi). I have taken a handful of cruises, and found a few things interesting:
    1. WiFi with the phone service has some services that work even if you don't purchase a plan (Google maps for instance still updates local traffic on your phone while you're in the middle of the Pacific even if you're using the non-paid for service)
    2. Cellular service is horribly expensive - recommend either disabling cellular service prior to getting on the ship and/or roaming. If they have no plans on using their cellular phones - and using the ship's terminals (or an iPad/etc) power off your phone prior to boarding, and don't power it up prior to disemarbarking.

    That being said, I wouldn't recommend this for everyone, but this worked for me, as I know how to manage the phone well. Ship broadcasted only on 3G service while in Europe (NCL Rome -> Greece). I know my LG G6 well enough that I disabled 3G service and searched manually for LTE only, and was always able to connect to land (free Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Albania). Phone would NEVER connect to the ship, as it wasn't running LTE.
    AT&T... your world, throttled.

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    I'd be very careful of enabling cellular service even with LTE off while more than a few miles from shore. For instance, anywhere around the Bahamas will almost certainly guarantee a $5.99 a minute charge to your voicemail phone number from BTC, the government owned monopoly cellular carrier. It has happened to me and others on my plan at least 3-5 times over the years, and every time there were never any calls made or received. It seems once you get picked up on their antennas, they somehow magically realize you need to know about voicemail and bill you for a minute of service. T-Mobile seems to be wise to their tricks fortunately, and has always reversed the charges quickly when this has happened.

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    Setting the unconditional forwarding to send all incoming calls to voicemail deals with incoming calls. Turning off data roaming takes care of that. Not making outgoing calls or sending outgoing texts deals with that. You can receive incoming texts for free.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daleraver View Post
    I'd be very careful of enabling cellular service even with LTE off while more than a few miles from shore. For instance, anywhere around the Bahamas will almost certainly guarantee a $5.99 a minute charge to your voicemail phone number from BTC, the government owned monopoly cellular carrier. It has happened to me and others on my plan at least 3-5 times over the years, and every time there were never any calls made or received. It seems once you get picked up on their antennas, they somehow magically realize you need to know about voicemail and bill you for a minute of service. T-Mobile seems to be wise to their tricks fortunately, and has always reversed the charges quickly when this has happened.
    This is true, in some areas, especially the Gulf of Mexico, where you can also end up roaming on US based PetroCom (I think that's the carrier on the oil rigs). I've been fortunate, that most of my cruising has been Mexico/US/Canada west coast as well as Europe and the Pacific, where I didn't have these issues. Most often, as I'm typically not near land (Europe was the exception), I disable and lock away the phones until I reach shore.

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    My one and only cruise was in 2015 from Vancouver to Anchorage. I just kept cellular service off in Vancouver and while at sea. Most days we were at an US port so I could catch up on some stuff before leaving the ship in the morning or after return at the end of the day. I guess it helped that I had difficulty sleeping with the longer days, so had time for that.
    iPhone X is my current primary phone. I have older model iPhones and Moto phones available on other lines. Currently prepaid, though would consider postpaid on right plan.

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    My parents have data roaming off by default so I think they should be okay with it. They are paying for the more premium WiFi package. As someone mentioned here, the cruise line specifically says that you can use it for Skype etc. I appreciate all of the comments.


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    Quote Originally Posted by formercanuck View Post
    This is true, in some areas, especially the Gulf of Mexico, where you can also end up roaming on US based PetroCom (I think that's the carrier on the oil rigs). ....
    It's called BroadPoint (MNN=311-170)and it's a T-Mobile domestic roaming partner (no extra cost, or so I've been informed). T-Mobile LAC-blocks about four land-based BroadPoint towers. So, if you're sailing out of Mobile you might see their signal but not be able to roam them. AFAIK they are GSM-only.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DRNewcomb View Post
    It's called BroadPoint (MNN=311-170)and it's a T-Mobile domestic roaming partner (no extra cost, or so I've been informed). T-Mobile LAC-blocks about four land-based BroadPoint towers. So, if you're sailing out of Mobile you might see their signal but not be able to roam them. AFAIK they are GSM-only.
    Looks like they did...https://www.howardforums.com/showthr...-Mexico!/page3

    I know 'back in the day', when I had AT&T, I was warned about oil platforms and domestic roaming costs.

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    My T-Mobile ONE profile page has 2 different settings that I can turn on/off:
    #1 Block International Roaming
    #2 Block Charged International Roaming

    For my upcoming Panama Canal cruise, some folks suggest leaving #1 OFF (not blocked) and leaving #2 ON (blocked) during my entire cruise. They say my iPhone will automatically connect ONLY to cellular networks that have T-Mobile roaming but never connect to any cellular networks that will hit me with big roaming charges, such as the ship's cellular network.

    If this is true, there would be no decisions to make about cellular service during the cruise and I could use land-based cellular networks even if the ship leaves their cellular network on. Has anyone done this or know if would work?

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    My experience is that the Block Charged Int. Roaming will disable your data when you are connected to a roaming partner. This was told to me when I was in a roaming location and had a signal but no free data service. I used twitter to contact t-force and they gave me that advice and set my Charged int. Roaming off and data began to work. I had no charges, but I was never in a non roaming location either. I'd check with them before you sail to see if that is still the preferred setup. Airplane mode with WiFi enabled is your friend while on the ship away from free roaming locations. That is the bulletproof setup to me.

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