The Must-Know Phone Tip To Save Yourself From A Giant Fee While On A Cruise

In April 2024, Rene Remund got the shock of his life after returning from a European cruise with his wife. Instead of relaxing post-vacation, he was hit with a jaw-dropping phone bill that had him contacting a lawyer and news networks. As it turns out, the phone travel plan he bought didn't cover the whole trip, but he unknowingly used his phone as usual while cruising. The result was a staggering $143,000 bill — yup, no extra zeroes here. But while T-Mobile graciously waived the bill and offered him credit, Remund could have saved himself all that headache if he had only turned on the airplane mode on his phone. Next time you're on a cruise, flick that switch and save yourself from an international roaming nightmare.


Even T-Mobile recommends turning on airplane mode when traveling abroad, whether you're flying, driving, or cruising. In a statement to ABC Action News, the company warned travelers whose plans don't have international roaming features: "They'll need to make sure they're using airplane mode and Wi-Fi when using data to be certain the device doesn't connect to an international network." Turning on airplane mode isn't rocket science — it only takes two seconds. Unless you want to funnel your future travel budget into your phone bill, flick that switch and spare yourself a bill shock.

Putting your phone on airplane mode can save you from a bill shock

Unfortunately, Remund's incident isn't an isolated case. Many travelers experience bill shock upon returning home from their trips. CBS News reported an instance where a man came back from a 12-day cruise in Barcelona to a $612.04 bill. While not as high as Remund's, it's still steep enough that he resorted to a call for action with the network.


Phone carriers are notorious for charging exorbitant fees for international roaming. Forget to put your phone on airplane mode, and you could face a bill that makes you want to cry. It's not like these companies charge so much because they want to, of course. It's that they have to pay foreign networks to piggyback off their infrastructure, which blows up the charges. For instance, Verizon charges around $1.79 per minute for calls and $2.05 per megabyte for data. Meanwhile, AT&T charges as much as $3 per minute for calls and $2.05 per megabyte of data for land and cruise-based travel.

But when you're in airplane mode, you get to avoid these charges entirely. Your smartphone won't receive calls or texts, nor connect to the internet unless you're on Wi-Fi. Not putting your phone on airplane mode puts you at risk of incurring these charges, even if you swear you won't use your phone as much during the trip.


Need consistent internet at sea? You have options

Don't let the fear of a monstrous phone bill be a reason for you to avoid taking a cruise. If you need internet, know that many cruise lines now offer reasonably priced internet packages. For example, Carnival's Premium Wi-Fi plan starts at $21.25 per person per day for unlimited use. If you're just looking to scroll through your socials, they have a lower-tier plan starting at $15.30 per person per day. Pro tip: Buy these plans before you board to save up to 15%.


And if, say, you're taking a "quiet vacation" and need an actual workspace on board, some cruise lines offer facilities with computers that can serve as your office at sea. It goes without saying, though, that the internet at sea isn't exactly lightning-fast like the connection you have at home, so keep your expectations in check before you decide to go on a working vacation.

For those who can't resist using their phones, some mobile carriers offer cruise-specific plans. Verizon's Cruise Daily Pass includes 50 minutes of calls, 0.5GB of data, and unlimited texts per day, while AT&T's cruise packages start at $60 per day and cover a minimum of 100 minutes of calls, 100MB of data, and unlimited texts. So, if you must stay connected, you've got options — you just have to pick which one is worth the best bang for your buck.