Monday, January 24, 2005

Setting Sail with Your Cell

Deck chairs, midnight buffets and dining at the Captain's table, the stuff of a great cruise. Time for a relaxing vacation, time to put work aside for a few days, peace and quiet with no outside distractions.

All that is starting to change. Sure the deck chairs and fabulous food are still there, but the relaxation and no outside distractions are about to change. Cruise ships are beginning to add cellular access, even while at sea. You will now be able to use your cell phone longer than those last few minutes as the ship pulls out of the harbor. Of course, that also means that other passengers will be walking around on deck and in the corridors conducting business or just chattering to who knows who at full volume, disturbing your vacation.

OK, OK, there are polite cell phone users too. You're one of them, aren't you? You would only use your cell phone on a cruise ship to briefly check in back home and try not to bother other passengers. After all, you came on the cruise to get away from work, and why chat on the phone with people back home when you could be meeting new people on your ship? The great advantage of being able to use your cell phone when needed is that it is so much cheaper than the satellite phones currently available online. The rates will vary, depending on your cellular provider's plan, usually the international roaming rate for the area where you are sailing. For example, AT&T's roaming rate in the Caribbean is currently $1.69 per minute, while Norwegian Cruise Lines typically charges $7 per minute for a satellite call.

Initially, the technology supports cell phones using GSM technology, but a system that will work with CDMA is currently being tested. Also, it will be some time before all ships are outfitted with the necessary hardware. If you'll be cruising soon, check with your cruise line and your cellular provider for availability and compatibility of service. You may also need to activate international roaming on your cellular account.

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