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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Power in Your Pocket: Smartphone Apps for Cruisers

Let’s face it; wi-fi on a ship is not cheap. So if you’re going to spring for it, you might as well make the most of it. Below are some ways you can use your smartphone before you go, and after you cast off and the meter starts ticking.

Note: These are all available for free (unless indicated otherwise) from Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

Before you go
Find your shipmate. The Ship Mate app can tap into your pre-trip excitement. Sign up for roll calls, see photos of where you’re going, get the lay of the ship and track where it is at any given moment.

Get port info, track your ship
and more with Ship Mate.

See the sites. Use Google Street View for a sneak peek at your ports. There are some street views, but where there aren’t, you can often see photos folks have uploaded.

Make it a new custom. The new free Mobile Passport app available for Florida’s Port Everglades (and a number of airports), is designed to speed you through Customs by having you do some work ahead of time, submitting your info in the port and then going through an express line.

Read and reap. The granddaddy cruise site of them all—cruisecritic.com—has an app, Cruise Critic Forums, which you can use to join roll calls and talk ship. If you like reading tips on the website, you’ll love thumbing through them with your phone.
Let the SkyView app help you
see the stars.

Once you’re onboard
Look to the stars. With SkyView®, you can identify the stars in that dark wide open night sky. Simply hold the phone up to the stars and the app tells you what constellation you’re seeing.

Plan your day, connect with your companion. Princess, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, as well as Disney, Celebrity and NCL all have apps—but they’re not all created equal. The best of them do a whole lot, but also allow you to text your cruise companions, so you can ditch the walkie-talkies. Here’s a bit of detail:

Princess@Sea—There’s nothing to download to use this app. Once you’re onboard, put your phone in “Airplane Mode” and bring up the browser to connect to the free shipboard wi-fi. You can get events and activities, info on the ports and your account balance. And text your traveling companions. Available fleet-wide.

Who needs walkie-talkies with this app
from Princess?
Carnival HUB—Unlike with Princess, you do need to download this from Google Play or the App Store. Put it on “Airplane Mode” and use it for free, but the texting feature costs $5 for the voyage (this function is limited to ages 13 and over unless the parents consent). It has searchable deck plans, daily event calendar, account balance and more. It’s not available on all ships, so check the online app stores for details.

Reservations, excursions and texting at
your fingertips with the Royal IQ.
Royal IQ—This also requires downloading from the app stores. You can use it to check out the day’s events; book dinner and show reservations and shore excursions; and see your account balance. Calling/texting onboard comes with a small fee. Currently only available on Quantum, Anthem, Ovation and Harmony of the Seas. 

Staying a bit fit. If you’ve got a Fitbit®, you can track how many steps it takes each day to walk to the buffet and then find out how many calories you’ve burned on your phone app. But then, maybe you’d rather not…

Passing time. Want great seats at the theater, but hate the wait? While the time away reliving the day by looking at your photo gallery, or bringing up the many games at your fingertips.

Drowning out your neighbors. Next door’s party-hardies making you count sheep? If calling guest relations doesn’t work, turn your phone into a noise machine with free apps like Google Play’s Relax and Sleep, with its more than 50 sounds from driving rain to a rhythmic train. And here’s a novel thought: use the app’s ocean sounds to lull you to sleep. No salt spray included.