onboard cell phone usage charges in Alaska

Old Oct 21st, 2009, 08:43 AM
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roy
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onboard cell phone usage charges in Alaska

A month and a half after returning from a Princess Alaskan Cruisetour, I receive my cell phone bill from AT&T and discover a whopping charge of $297. for roaming charges at $4.99 per minute apparently for charges made with my cell from the ship as we traveled down the Alaskan coast. I hadn't received any info about this charge and was unaware of it. My cell service has national coverage and it worked inland and on the ship in ports with no extra charge. I figured that if it shows bars, I was in range of a tower and was able to use it. Cruising down the coast, I had bars so assumed I was within range. No roaming indicator was apparent on the phone so I used it. Apparently there is some type of signal repeater on the ship that is turned on when they are a certain distance from shore and when it's on, you pay whether you know or not.
AT&T doesn't have the authority to remove these charges and after looking at the Princess website I find no place to call or write to complain. Any info on that would be appreciated.
When in and near the U.S. I think the average person would assume a cell with domestic coverage would be usable without the outrageous surcharge or notification of it .
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 09:54 AM
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Unfortunately this is something that a lot of folks find out the hard way. While the ship is at sea, you are using the ships satellite tower to roam and that is where the problem lies.
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 02:42 PM
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WOW! I had no idea, silly me I just used my cell on the ship going to Mexico and didn't have any visible surcharges!

Going to Alaska, my cell just went dead No reception for Tmobile, now I can say - thankfully no reception, as I was on Princess too.

Roy, how do you pay for your cell? Can you dispute the charge with your credit card company?

Were the charges for being in the US or Canadian waters?

Thank you for making us aware of that.
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 02:46 PM
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I am now on Princess' website, and found this:

http://www.princess.com/learn/faq_an...d/in_touch.jsp

Your mobile phone provider must have a roaming agreement with Maritime Communications Partner AS (MCP) in order for you to use your phone with this service. Not all prepaid phones are supported. Your mobile phone must be able to roam internationally. BlackBerrys and other mobile data services may continue to receive messages while roaming on the ship’s network. For questions about your service or about pricing and billing, please contact your mobile phone provider’s customer service department prior to sailing.


The above may mean they will refer you back to AT&T. Princess phone is 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237) but I would contact BBB (better business bureau) hoping they can help.
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 06:52 PM
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Dayenu, thanks for your replies. The problem calls were made either in, or near US waters. The phones were inoperable when off Canada. I have disabled International roaming with AT&T but it's just closing the barn door now. I urge anyone planning a similar cruise to do the same as you just don't know what area you may be in and what your potential liability may be. This situation is not by any means limited to Princess as I have learned, but most of the major cruise lines.
Blackberry and iphone users make sure your Intl. roaming feature is disabled prior to travel and that you keep the device shut off as you have no other control over upgrades, updates, etc. that may be installed during your travels which have the potential of costing you thousands over the course of your trip.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2009, 09:28 AM
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As a general rule, I call my cell provider before I travel to make sure I do not incure roaming charges. I have seen people (friends and co-workers) with bills that are in the thousands of dollars.

I think what happened to you is you were connected with "international roaming" and at $5 a minute is relatively cheap. I have seen some as high as $9 a minute.

I can almost assure you that all so call "national" coverage means the mainland states and seldom includes Alaska and Hawaii unless you specifically asked and pay extra for it.
Your charges may not have even came from Princess.

I have a smart phone and the first thing I do is to turn off the phone function as soon as the ship leaves port. Depending on where I'm at, I might turn it back on again when I am in port.

One thing you should do ... get your phone "unlocked". Where ever you go, buy a pay as you go sim card at port and put that sim card in your phone. Now you are "local" and never ever incure any roaming charges. Pay as you go card can be as cheap as $10 and may cost 35 cents or 50 cents a minute, and if you don't use all the minutes, I guess you just spent $10 for all your calls.

Another suggestion. Turn your phone off totally. You are on holiday. You want to be AWAY from everything. That's why you are going away. Why do you even need your phone on at all?
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Old Oct 22nd, 2009, 11:13 AM
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I printed this for myself... gosh, I could've been in such a trouble

Eschew, I have an elderly parent, and children - so I prefer to stay in touch. It's the Internet that I am not using.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2009, 12:06 PM
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If you must stay in touch, the use of an unlocked cell phone and a pay as you go sim card at your "destination" would be the way to go. As soon as you get off the ship, go to a convience store (7-11 type if they have it) or any mobile phone outlet. The ship's staff all used the same system (a pay as you go sim card at each port of call or use pay phones) and I am sure you can ask the staff where they get their sim cards.

One thing you should be aware, you put a different sim card in, you have a different phone number at that time. You get your old number back when you put in your old sim card. It's great to dial out and not good for incoming when they dial your "own" number.
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Old Oct 24th, 2009, 09:52 AM
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I am surprised people are still getting bitten by this, with as much information that's out there regarding using your mobile on a ship. Pretty much all ships have their opwn on-board tower now. It works with both GSM and CDMA. Once you are certain miles from the port, they will turn it on. For AT&T/Tmobile, the display on your phone will show "Cellular At Sea". You will be charged $2.49/min (AT&T, verizon, and Sprint) for using your phone on the ship's tower. Tmobile charges $4.99. They all have the costs listed on their website under the roaming section.
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Old Oct 24th, 2009, 06:41 PM
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Well mrcamp, some of us are still getting bitten as did I. I have AT&T and there was no "Cellular at Sea" display and I looked, as I was surprised I got bars on my phone. The charge was $4.99 per minute and the AT&T rep whom I called told me it was a Princess charge. I will state that I think it is a cleverly disguised charge and a ripoff. Had I been somewhere else other than Alaska or Hawaii which are included in my cell plan I wouldn't even have have made the attempt to make a call. The cruise line is quite clear about the rates for internet usage (also outrageous) but they aren't about the phones.
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Old Oct 26th, 2009, 09:45 AM
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Sometimes AT&T is the provider of the service, and in that case the display would still say "AT&T" (as it used to when the company was still called "Cingular"). The satellite is turned off in port so you can make calls without the surcharge there (assuming your phone works there).

It's not really a cleverly disguised charge, and on every cruise line I've traveled it's always listed in the in-cabin information book; I just returned from a HAL cruise, and even the embarkation instructions had a notice about the extra roaming charges. It's pretty prominent on the AT&T web site as well.

But I understand the frustration. My partner did the same thing on his first cruise ... talked for 20 minutes on a completely unnecessary call until I asked why he was on the phone at such high rates. He didn't realize either because he hadn't done his homework (he just assumes I'll tell him everything). And I saw plenty of other people chatting away on their phones at all times of the day and night, so I"m sure there were lots of annoyed bill-payers.
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 07:59 AM
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AT&T does not even list princess as one of the cruise lines that has service on their website. They do list $2.49 for all the other cruise lines though. About a year ago when I was on the Caribbean princess they did not have it. Only one princess ship had cellular service then. They were in the process of putting it on the others. OTOH, the other cruise lines have had it for at least 4 years.

Some GSM carriers will charge you double if you are roaming and your phone is on and let your phone roll to voicemail after ringing. 1 mion for sending the call to you in the foreign country, and another 1 min to send the call back to your US voicemail number. So, your $5 charges may have been due to that. Unless AT&T is actually charging $5 for using it on princess and $2.49 for the other cruise lines.
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 08:24 AM
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I turn off my cell phone when I am on board for the following reason:

1. I am on holiday. I don't want to be bothered.
2. Even if it is an emergency, I can't do anything about it anyway while I am at sea so why worry?
3. I understand that people might have aging parents or young children at home and so on and need to "stay conencted". However, unless you are prepared to jump off the ship at high sea and swim or hijack the ship to make it turn around or pay for a helicopter or soemthing to pick you up at sea ...$$$... see number 2 above.
4. Make a call at port from a pay phone and use phone card. Make pre-arranged time to call home or whatever. Ship is pretty good at keeping schedule so you can tell people when you are going to call if you plan ahead.
5. If you must know what is going on, you can tell people to send you a text message daily even if nothing happens. It's cheaper to receive international text messages. You get your text message, you know it is all good (or bad). You move on.

I don't understand the need to "stay conencted" with cell phone and interent at all, never mind while travelling. So what did you do before cellphone was widely available?
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 09:29 AM
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I'm totally with Eschew on this one.

I won't even keep my cell phone on when I'm eating dinner in a restaurant (assuming I remember to bring it with me).
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 12:03 PM
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3. I understand that people might have aging parents or young children at home and so on and need to "stay conencted". However, unless you are prepared to jump off the ship at high sea and swim or hijack the ship to make it turn around or pay for a helicopter or soemthing to pick you up at sea ...$$$...

I respectfully disagree. Sometimes a "crisis" can be solved by phone. For example, not on a cruise, but once our son called us to ask if he's allowed to open a box of candies he "found"
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 11:34 AM
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I came to this thread looking to find info on roaming rates for my upcoming cruise on Caribbean Princess. I also looked at the AT&T site and did "not" find this info prominently displayed. Even after I found it, its totally confusing. First, they don't even list Princes, yet they DO list Carnival, who is Princess' parent company. They had this "grid" set up where you First pick your cruise line, then you pick your "roaming destinations" So I clicked on all the Caribbean Islands we are due to visit. We are also sailing out of San Juan, and I can't seem to find any info on per minute rates there, or whether PR is included in my domestic plan? After I finished the grid, I had to click on each country and beside that the rates were either $1.69 or $1.99, I think $1.69 being the rate for the "Int'l Plan" if one pays the $4 or $5 per month fee. And there was not a word from AT&T on this grid (which FIRST asked I choose a cruise line) but did NOT list any info on what the per minute rate would be for use on the ship while at SEA.

We are going to be in a suite while onboard and as such Free Internet is an amenity, although I'm unsure about Wireless, or even If I'll have a signal in my cabin. But a while back I bought the Magic Jack, and I also have a credit balance on Skype. I did try using Magic Jack on the internet connection I had at the resort I was staying at in Cancun back in February, but it didn't work at all. Now Skype has some type of Plugin you can buy for $6.99 (which I bought but have no clue what it does or how to use it) Anyway, what it says on Skype is that you can make Skype calls on Magic Jack by dialing a * before the number, yet they fail to mention how much they will charge or debit you per minute. Not being totally upfront and "sneaky" about revealing the charges is what gets me! Why, for example can't AT&T list Princess, or if their phones absolutely do not work on a Princess Ship, why not simply say that??? I'd definitely rather know this upfront, rather than getting a $4.99 per minute charge beause Princess and AT&T don't have a stupid agreement. I guess the ONLY way I'll get accurate info, I hope, is by calling AT&T about this issue and hope the agent knows her stuff.

I'll be going on this trip with my 2 parents, who for some reason feel we "have" to be available to my sister and her husband and kids. I definitely do NOT like the idea of leaving the cell phone on while onboard all the time, just in case my sister has some issue she feels the need to disturb us for. But while onboard for our own communication, because I'll definitely be doing my own thing, I bought walkie talkies. The range is supposed to be up to 27 miles but I think thats pushing it. But even if its only a couple miles, I am hoping they will work in ports as well! But even if they only work while onboard, they can prove useful. Has anyone else thought of this? I'm certain I'm not the only one. I just hope this entire Idea isn't a complete bust and this turns out to be one big mess, but if it does, I'll simply return them back to Amazon.
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Old Nov 5th, 2009, 01:17 PM
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chrisahx, your walkie-talkies should work okay on board.

I've never gotten a WiFi signal in a cabin on Princess ships, but the ships have hot spots in comfortable areas for passengers' use. However, you might find that you cannot connect to Skype with your laptop. Some cruise lines have installed filters to block certain types of transmissions, including the ability to connect to Skype while logged on to their networks. I'm not familiar with Magic Jack.

This article might help you, http://cruisediva.com/communication_at_sea.htm

We have cell phone service with AT&T and have been charged $2.49 per minute for calls made from ships listed on the AT&T web site.

Princess Cruises' telecommunications network is provided by Maritime Communications Partner and Princess is not listed as an AT&T partner. If you have any questions or concerns about the availability of service and/or the charges you may incur, just give AT&T a call. They are very helpful and you'll have to speak to them anyway if you need to activate international roaming in order to use your phone on board.

Linda
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Old Nov 6th, 2009, 02:09 PM
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Thank Doug, glad that you are with me on that one. Hijacking a ship on high sea is not taken lightly

Come on Dayenu, a box of Candy is not close to crisis. You should train them well enough to make their own decisions. Eat the candies now, ask for permission later. Who cares if the candies has been under the bed for a few years ...

There is never any crisis, just opportunities and damage control afterward.
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