Technology has certainly made traveling easier. Need to get a message to your traveling companion but you’re not sure where she is? There’s an app for that. Need to quickly convert a price in Japanese yen into dollars? There’s an app for that. Need to make an onboard restaurant reservation or check out when cruise trivia is? There’s an app for that, too.
Over the past year, as part of their efforts to catch up to the 21st century, cruise lines have introduced a variety of cell phone software applications (commonly referred to as apps) for a variety of pre-cruise and onboard uses. Virtually all cruise lines offer some type of app. Of the major cruise lines, only Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line are still in the development or testing stage.
The most common apps are pre-cruise research tools that allow potential cruisers to view itineraries, learn about ports, explore ship deck plans and flip through photos of the onboard experience. With some, you can actually book your cruise when you’re ready; others allow you to bookmark the ones that interest you for later reference.
Also prevalent are apps (sometimes it’s the same app) that passengers can use onboard to keep track of when onboard activities are taking place; make reservations for things like restaurants, shows and spa treatments; and even track onboard spending.
Slightly less widespread are apps that enable onboard passengers to communicate with other passengers at little to no cost, through app-to-app texts and, sometimes, phone calls. Other cruise line app uses can include language translation, tip or currency conversion, photo editing and even movie streaming.
See below for a line-by-line guide to available cell apps. (All apps are free unless otherwise noted.)
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Hub: With this free app, Carnival cruisers can browse the day-by-day schedule of all onboard events, including nightly shows, sporting events on the big screen at the Seaside Theatre, Seuss at Sea daily events, poolside activities and more. Cruisers also can check the real-time balance on their Sail & Sign accounts; find information about alternative dining venues like Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina and the RedFrog Pub; search deck plans and keep track of their ship’s current estimated arrival and departure times for upcoming ports. For $5 per cruise, app users can turn on a “chat” feature and communicate via text-like messages with other passengers onboard their ship. There is also a group feature so multiple members of a family or a group of friends can communicate at the same time. Carnival Hub is currently only available on Carnival Breeze but will roll out to the rest of the fleet by the end of 2016 for iPhone and Android users. As the app is released, Carnival will add more functionality to the app, including the ability to purchase shore excursions and view photos taken by the ship’s photographers.
Cruise Lingo: The free version gives access to more than 40 phrases in several languages, including those that are specifically useful to cruisers; a free audio lesson; and tip calculators and currency converters. The premium version lets you access dictionary listings—including audio files for accurate pronunciations—and 1,000 standard phrases in 11 languages; learn new language skills through 15 audio lessons and customizable quizzes and flashcards; chat live with a translator for one-on-one translations in 180 languages; and read up on the culture and expected etiquette of ports visited. A fee, ranging from $9.99 for one month’s access to $49.99 for a year, is charged for the premium version. The app can be used both on and off the ship. Regular pricing for access to all languages is $19.99 for one month, $39.99 for three months or $99.99 for one year.
Celebrity Destinations: Only available for iPad, this app lets cruisers review video and photos of specific destinations, browse a full list of Celebrity cruise itineraries and shore excursions, and check out interactive ship deck plans with zoom capability. It’s available for the Galapagos, Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Alaska itineraries. The introductory package (Tourist Package) is $9.99 for one month. Next is the Explorer Package at $19.99 for three months or the Globetrotter Package at $49.99 for one year of premium membership.
MyCosta Mobile: Before your cruise, you can take a 360-degree tour of cabins, suites, restaurants, lounges and the pool deck on each ship and follow along on cruise journeys via a daily webcam as ships sail into and out of ports. Once onboard, you can use your phone to call ship restaurants, the spa desk and shore excursions office to ask questions and make reservations. Plus, you can send text messages or call other passengers on the same ship using the MyCosta Mobile app for free.
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The Storyteller: This app, only available for Apple devices, lets cruisers store and share photographs using Facebook and email. User can also order printed postcards. Instagram-like filters and text capability allow you to play around with the photographs. The app is free to download and use while editing photos, but you must purchase an Internet package in order to use the app to upload photos to Facebook or send via email from the ship.
C-Connect: This app is not yet available, but when it goes live, it will enable family and friends onboard the same Crystal cruise ship to use their cell phones to chat, as long as all parties are using the app. You can also use the app to send and receive international phone calls and texts. Various usage plans will be available for a fee.
Swank Media Player (Movies & Lectures on Demand): While onboard, use the app to view free movies, including Hollywood blockbusters, popular oldies and destination-specific short films produced by Crystal Cruises. You can also watch Creative Learning Institute lectures filmed during various Crystal Cruises. No access to the Internet is necessary.
PressReader by Newspaper Direct: Onboard Crystal ships, this app allows you to read national and international newspapers including, but not limited to, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Australian, Toronto Sun, Boston Herald, Chicago Sun-Times.com, Forbes Daily, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, San Francisco Chronical, The Washington Post, USA Today and The Observer. Digital versions of Crystal’s Reflections and shore excursion booklets also are available. The app is free for onboard use, and post-cruise digital newspaper service is available for purchase.
Disney Cruise Line
Navigator: Before your cruise, use this app to set your “Countdown to Your Vacation” clock. During the cruise, use it to find character experience times; check out the daily list of onboard activities and build a personalized list of favorites; review dinner menus; and look at ship maps and maps of Castaway Cay. You can bookmark favorites for easy reference. It also allows travelers to send free text messages to other people on the same ship (currently only on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy but coming to the rest of the fleet in 2015).
MSC Traveler Web App: Not an app in the traditional sense, this is a Web page that offers app-like functionality and works, for free, on any computer connected to the MSC intranet (no Internet package purchase required). You can use it to make restaurant and shore excursion bookings, view sea conditions and port weather forecasts, stay abreast of onboard shop promotions, check out daily activities and special events, highlight preferred activities, check into and out of public spaces a la Foursquare and keep up-to-date on global news. You can also friend and chat with other passengers in real time and share photos with other passengers onboard. The Web app is only available on MSC Divina, MSC Magnifica and MSC Preziosa.
MSC Cruises Holidays and Travel: This app is currently only available in Italy, France, Spain, U.K., the Netherlands and Sweden, but it will roll out to the U.S. in 2015. It allows would-be cruisers to view cruise itineraries; find cruise deals and MSC-related news; track the fleet’s movement in real time; take a virtual tour of cabins, restaurants, cabins and sun decks; watch a live webcam feed of each ship; receive push notifications for special offers; tag selected cruises to view later; and (coming soon) find a travel agent nearby who specializes in MSC Cruises.
Norwegian Cruise Line
iConcierge: This app is only available on Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Pearl. It offers a cruise countdown clock, and once you’re onboard, it lets you book shore excursions; review restaurant menus and make reservations; review your folio/purchases; find a list of the day’s activities; reserve evening shows where necessary; review general information, including onboard services and spa options; and view Latitudes Rewards information. All of the planning and booking tools are free. For an additional $7.95, you can use iConcierge to send text messages and make phone calls with other passengers also using the app onboard the same ship. You can also make and receive phone calls with family and friends at home for a per-minute rate.
Connect at Sea: Call or send text messages to other people on the same ship using the Connect at Sea app. Make low-cost ship-to-shore and receive low-cost shore-to-ship phone calls. The app is free to download, and no Internet plan is required, but communication packages costs $24.50 to $48 depending on cruise length. Ship-to-shore/shore-to-ship calls are 99 cents per minute.
Princess@Sea Messenger: Currently only available on Regal Princess, this app is rolling out to the entire Princess fleet by the end of 2015. Use it onboard to review your folio/purchases, check the day’s events and activities, review port guides and browse restaurant menus. Using the Messenger portion of the Princess@Sea app, passengers can send text messages to other people traveling on the same ship who are also using Princess@Sea Messenger.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean: Search for cruise itineraries by destination, ship, month and port of call; look for special sales including regional specials; browse stateroom photos and watch ship videos; view real-time webcams onboard Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas; and watch destination videos.
Royal IQ: Book shore excursions, as well as dinner and show reservations; pre-schedule onboard activities like RipCord by iFly; build a personalized cruise calendar populated with daily activities, dinner reservations and evening entertainment; track your luggage from drop off at port to cabin delivery and vice-versa. Call or text other passengers onboard your ship also using the Royal IQ communication package; make ship-to-shore and receive shore-to-ship phone calls. It’s only available on Quantum of the Seas but will be rolled out to Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas in 2015. It’s free to download and use as a time management tool. The communication package costs extra, and ship-to-shore/shore-to-ship calls are charged at a per-minute rate.
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This article originally appeared on Cruise Critic under the headline Travel Smarter with Cruise Line Apps. It is reprinted here with permission.