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Free NCL internet all I need for phone calls?


ChiefMateJRK
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I believe that all I need to be reachable in emergencies while cruising NCL is the 250 minutes of NCL “free” internet and my phone enabled for WiFi calling.  I will turn off the cellular upon boarding (Airplane mode).  Will I then be able to just activate my NCL free internet promo a couple times a day to allow my phone to receive any phone messages?  Can I then turn off the consumption of my free internet minutes but leave the WiFi on to still use the NCL app?  NCL’s website has a lot of words about options for making and receiving phone calls but at this point I don’t believe I need to worry about any of them.  Thanks for sharing any recent experiences. 

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If I recall WiFi calling can not be used on the ship. It would be nice but I know it didn’t work for me in 2019. I had to wait until I got to a port to use my phone for calls and texts.

 

 The WiFi was also pretty slow so I really didn’t use it but you can tell everyone who may call you to email instead so if the WiFi is working you can check your emails.

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Additionally - "reachable in an emergency" indicates to me that your phone needs to be able to receive a phone call at any time.  In order to do that with WiFi calling it needs to be logged in to the internet continuously, you'll be out of time in a little over 4 hours...

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10 minutes ago, hallux said:

Additionally - "reachable in an emergency" indicates to me that your phone needs to be able to receive a phone call at any time.  In order to do that with WiFi calling it needs to be logged in to the internet continuously, you'll be out of time in a little over 4 hours...

Yeah.  I get that.  Perhaps "emergency" was too strong of a word.  I was really just thinking same morning/afternoon/evening.  A person can also always call the ship with info on the cruising and NCL's website to either have the phone answered in the cabin or to leave a voice message.  I grew up pre cell phone, so people were always out of touch for many hours at a time while traveling.  We usually left the hotel phone number with folks and that was about it.

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14 minutes ago, hallux said:

In order to do that with WiFi calling it needs to be logged in to the internet continuously,

Are you suggesting that WiFi calling will work on the ship (considering of course the minute limitations)?  At least one poster has told us that it doesn't work.  That was my main question.

Edited by ChiefMateJRK
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I know nothing about those apps. I have an iPhone and thought I could text over WiFi to other iPhones and that didn’t work either. I am not the most technologically inclined so all I know is my phone did not work for WiFi calling and iPhone texting. I bought the ncl app and that didn’t impress me either but I was with my husband who is even less technologically inclined than me. My next cruise I will have my 25 year old son so he will be able to figure it all out.

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12 minutes ago, ChiefMateJRK said:

Are you suggesting that WiFi calling will work on the ship (considering of course the minute limitations)?  At least one poster has told us that it doesn't work.  That was my main question.

WiFi calling works on the ship. But you need streaming service vs. regular internet service. I believe that you need to purchase an upgrade to the unlimited streaming service to do what you are talking about. 

 

We use wifi calling all the time to call into meetings, etc. while on "vacation". 

Edited by BirdTravels
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14 minutes ago, BirdTravels said:

WiFi calling works on the ship. But you need streaming service vs. regular internet service. I believe that you need to purchase an upgrade to the unlimited streaming service to do what you are talking about. 

Thanks.  It will be interesting to hear if others have experienced the same thing.  My cell phone provider's website states the following:

"Wi-Fi Calling can be used with just about any Wi-Fi Internet connection. To work, Wi-Fi Calling must be on and you must be connected to a Wi-Fi internet network."

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Without getting into a too technical chat, suffice to say that there is a 2-tiered plus WiFi network onboard your typical NCL ships, governed behind firewalls and the servers for voice/data/broadband traffic.  The Norwegian App and most of its functions require being connected to the ship's WiFi inTRAnet only, it is free but most restrictive - no inTERnet based WiFi calling whatsoever, period.

 

To call and/or text (SMS) others "registered" (as in "paid" users subscribing to the same or higher tier/s of WiFi services) onboard - additional "ports" for data traffic are firewall unblocked - based on your specific devices' "MAC" address(es) or unique "identifiers" - for a one-time fee, about $10 valid for the duration of that cruise (not good for the other segments of a B2B or B2B2B, unless ... ) without using any inTERnet minutes or airtime, or, running against the timed bank of 250+ whatever free/extra minutes, available to you. You are still within the inTRAnet network traffic, with less restrictions - thus, no WiFi calling possible (as I understood and able to confirm on earlier/prior sailings)  I do not know for sure what, if any, changes NCL's partner for satellite communications has made in the past year - but, I don't expect it to be more end users-friendly unless $$$ is taken, IMHO of course.

 

To get inbound SMS/MMS and WiFi calling possible, you need to be connected to the WiFi beyond the above tiers/layers, logged into your established account to use WiFi inTERnet data or minutes, and the "meter" begin to run & countdown, until you log-off and disconnect, stopping the metered minutes or measured MB used.  If you sign in and forgot to sign out - those 250 minutes given "free" will disappear, vaporize and be gone in just a little over 4 hours on a continuous basis, by the time you are done with dinner on Embarkation Day/Evening - zero minutes/MB remaining, used up ... speak to the onboard iCafe manager the next day, and s/he is nice, speak & ask nicely and you might be lucky to get some of it restored & credited back as a one-time courtesy.  

 

WiFi calling on most devices "should" work fine as I've done this on previous cruises - no issues with Skype, Google Voice or Facetime ... there was no differentiation between the basic vs. streaming option (which is only for the unlimited & duration of cruise package, as upgraded or purchased) - things could've and sounded like it might've changed since we last sailed in Dec. 2019 - so for what it's worth - should but I can't and won't vouch for this 99%, just be prepared for it - to not work, maybe and it should on other land-based WiFi system ... this is satellite based and data traffic is expensive and bandwidth isn't the same, with high latency & shared dynamically.  

 

There are possible workarounds to bypass and skip the restrictions, using a secured VPN perhaps and changing the http ports used for VoIP, but I am not take folks there as it is over many folk's head anyway.  

 

Instead of counting on a phone call and/or voice mail message at designated daily "check-in" safety & wellness time - I recommend using simple SMS or text messaging, and, with some systems - "read" and/or "delivered" receipts can be checked by the other parties.  Then, you can stay "connected" and logged in and make that "free" WiFi call onboard - whether it's urgent, emergency, routine or "the cat is AWOL" and "the babysitter went on strike" etc. 

 

Have fun, enjoy the cruise - happy and healthy sailing, or whatever.  

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I found that Facebook Messenger and email worked just fine using the ship's "free" internet. For those who needed to reach me while at sea, they knew that emailing or messaging me would be the fastest and most effective way of reaching me, as I would jump online and check those places for a few minutes a few times a day.

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14 minutes ago, mking8288 said:

To get inbound SMS/MMS and WiFi calling possible, you need to be connected to the WiFi beyond the above tiers/layers, logged into your established account to use WiFi inTERnet data or minutes, and the "meter" begin to run & countdown, until you log-off and disconnect, stopping the metered minutes or measured MB used.  If you sign in and forgot to sign out - those 250 minutes given "free" will disappear, vaporize and be gone in just a little over 4 hours on a continuous basis, by the time you are done with dinner on Embarkation Day/Evening - zero minutes/MB remaining, used up ... speak to the onboard iCafe manager the next day, and s/he is nice, speak & ask nicely and you might be lucky to get some of it restored & credited back as a one-time courtesy.  

 

WiFi calling on most devices "should" work fine as I've done this on previous cruises - no issues with Skype, Google Voice or Facetime ... there was no differentiation between the basic vs. streaming option (which is only for the unlimited & duration of cruise package, as upgraded or purchased) - things could've and sounded like it might've changed since we last sailed in Dec. 2019 - so for what it's worth - should but I can't and won't vouch for this 99%, just be prepared for it - to not work, maybe and it should on other land-based WiFi system ... this is satellite based and data traffic is expensive and bandwidth isn't the same, with high latency & shared dynamically.  

 

There are possible workarounds to bypass and skip the restrictions, using a secured VPN perhaps and changing the http ports used for VoIP, but I am not take folks there as it is over many folk's head anyway.  

 

Instead of counting on a phone call and/or voice mail message at designated daily "check-in" safety & wellness time - I recommend using simple SMS or text messaging, and, with some systems - "read" and/or "delivered" receipts can be checked by the other parties.  Then, you can stay "connected" and logged in and make that "free" WiFi call onboard - whether it's urgent, emergency, routine or "the cat is AWOL" and "the babysitter went on strike" etc. 

 

Have fun, enjoy the cruise - happy and healthy sailing, or whatever.  

Thank you very much!!  Yes, I'm aware of the risk that some would fact of forgetting to log out and having their 250 minutes gone by dinner.  Let's just say that I'm not that type of person...  Can I send and receive SMS/text messages using WiFi calling in lieu of a cellular connection?  That would certainly make things very simple.

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16 minutes ago, ChiefMateJRK said:

Can I send and receive SMS/text messages using WiFi calling in lieu of a cellular connection?  That would certainly make things very simple.

Set it up and make sure it works before leaving home and you should be able to, but @BirdTravelsseems to be indicating that you need the upgraded "streaming" package in order to do it (or at least call).

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30 minutes ago, ChiefMateJRK said:

Thank you very much!!  Yes, I'm aware of the risk that some would fact of forgetting to log out and having their 250 minutes gone by dinner.  Let's just say that I'm not that type of person...  Can I send and receive SMS/text messages using WiFi calling in lieu of a cellular connection?  That would certainly make things very simple.

Network-based messaging like Apple’s iMessage work fine over the ship’s Wi-Fi. SMS not so much unless it leaks. 

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14 hours ago, ChiefMateJRK said:

Thanks folks. Text messaging via our Apple iPhones is all I need.  I was thinking that text messaging needed cellular, but I believe that was incorrect.  If we have any real emergencies, it won’t matter what communication costs. 

Good to hear that you are disciplined on logging in & out - then you should be just fine with limited data/minutes ... we managed a 14 nights cruise with numerous sea days and about 330 airtime minutes combined between DW & me.  Once we are "roaming" on land towers (we don't get charged extra $$$$ roaming fees, just $10 per GB data used) - we go off NCL's WiFi  - spent only an extra $20 that month as billed by our home carrier.  On a different sailing a few years ago, we added 100 extra minutes while far out at sea, used our available non-refundable OBC since we had to deal with urgent matters with extended family.  

 

To speed data transfer, disable or turn off most background apps/uploads & refresh while cruising as those can burn up data, trigger sluggish responses and drain the device battery quicker - my backup device has an integrated battery pack/case, which tripled overall standby & usage time for extended ops.  Look under Battery Health in Settings, whether you are on iOS 14.x or upgraded already to 15.0 - to see what & which apps are "under the radar".  

 

As others mentioned, and I suspected that NCL's onboard server and firewalls had already tightened up and block most, if not all, the leaking "ports" for data traffic ... that was nearly 2 years ago onboard the Gem & Dawn.  SMS or plain text messaging used to get pushed and come thru, even on my backup voice/text line with limited data - no, not anymore unless I'm logged in "correctly" and/or connected to a land signal, whether cellular or unsecured public WiFi.  This seemed to be true nowadays with both Android smartphones and iOS devices - one of the limited workaround has been to use Google Voice ("Hangouts" being dropped & no longer supported / phrased out) for plain text messaging. 

 

Excellent point about testing and verifying how to make setting changes, test out different messaging & backup calling plans while on dry land, before leaving the pier or cruise terminal.  Different cellular carriers and/or hardware/devices have different configurations & settings, which can make the methods work, or not.  

 

Absolutely 100% correct, with any bonafide emergencies or urgent matters, cost for communications and calls, etc. are priceless - just deal with it and "eat" the costs.   Have fun, enjoy & safe cruising ! 

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6 minutes ago, mking8288 said:

Absolutely 100% correct, with any bonafide emergencies or urgent matters, cost for communications and calls, etc. are priceless - just deal with it and "eat" the costs.   Have fun, enjoy & safe cruising ! 

For a bonafide emergency, you can also ask NCL if you can make a phone call on their dime.  I was onboard when I was notified that the itinerary/dates/ship for an upcoming B2B/TA cruise were changed and the cruise-next office offered to let me use their phone if I wasn't able to contact my TA via email. Not exactly an emergency IMHO although it was a time-sensitive issue.  So they do have phones for outgoing calls, as well as emergency numbers for family emergencies.

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I have AT&T cellular, and they sell an International Day Pass plan, which allows you to use your phone just like at home while the ship is docked at all the international ports, and while ashore, for only an additional $10 per day. You only pay the $10 when you use it.  You use the data, text and calls you already pay for - no other extra charges except for $10.  

 

I always keep my phone in airplane mode while we are at sea, and turn the airplane mode off when docked and it reconnects back to the cellular towers on the land at whatever country we are docked in.  Never have had any issues doing it that way on previous cruises to Italy and Canada.  No roaming charges as long as ship is docked.

 

International Day Pass - International Plans from AT&T (att.com)

 

I only use the NCL WiFi while on the boat to check my bill etc on the NCL app, and then turn the wifi right back off.  

Edited by goodmanl1975
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2 hours ago, Candy Apple 12 said:

Aargh…so much information and I’m still not sure I understand. What do I need to do if I want to be able to receive text messages to my iPhone from an iPhone? Do I need to sign up for a plan? TIA!

Basically any wifi based messengers will work.

How to test it: turn Airplane mode ON on your phone. The turn ON wifi, so you have wifi but no cell connection.

Test sending and receiving a message. If it works it will most likely work with NCL internet package.

(“Most likely” because I’m not 100% sure that they didn’t have some firewall preventing the connection)

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8 minutes ago, lixogab said:

Basically any wifi based messengers will work.

How to test it: turn Airplane mode ON on your phone. The turn ON wifi, so you have wifi but no cell connection.

Test sending and receiving a message. If it works it will most likely work with NCL internet package.

(“Most likely” because I’m not 100% sure that they didn’t have some firewall preventing the connection)

Thanks.  This is how I've been testing it.  For me it is iPhone to iPhone.  I also turned on WiFi calling.  I've turned off the WiFi on my phone (also in Airplane mode) and then used my wife's phone to leave voice mails and send text messages.  When I turn the WiFi on my phone back on (still in Airplane mode), both the voice mails and text messages are received.  As others have suggested, this "should" work with my 250 minutes of internet on the NCL ship at sea.

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29 minutes ago, goodmanl1975 said:

I only use the NCL WiFi while on the boat to check my bill etc on the NCL app, and then turn the wifi right back off. 

Is there a difference between simply having the WiFi on and having the WiFi on but also connected to the internet through the 250 minute promo?  I thought that a person could use the NCL app via ship intranet without eating into any minutes.  Was I mistaken?

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16 minutes ago, ChiefMateJRK said:

I thought that a person could use the NCL app via ship intranet without eating into any minutes.  Was I mistaken?

You were not mistaken.  The NCL app, including the ship-based chat feature that you pay $10 for, will work without signing in to the internet that burns the minutes.

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Yes, there is.  You just have to sign out of the "perk intranet" to disconnect from using minutes but the app will always connect for free using no minutes as long as wifi is on.  The trick is to sign out of the one where you have only 250 minutes. 

 

My next cruise I upgraded to unlimited with streaming hoping my cabin mates can connect to my phone using Bluetooth. Now, as I said I am not technically inclined but I discussed with 25 year old son and he suggested upgrading to that plan for $85.  I don't know if it will be worth it but if anything it is cheaper than having to buy him an internet package.

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13 minutes ago, ChiefMateJRK said:

Is there a difference between simply having the WiFi on and having the WiFi on but also connected to the internet through the 250 minute promo?  I thought that a person could use the NCL app via ship intranet without eating into any minutes.  Was I mistaken?

When you have WiFi on but not logged into NCL Internet

- You will not consume your Internet plan minutes.

- NCL app will work and allow you to check your bill, upcoming reservations, etc.

- As far as I remember you will be able to access NCL website, check itineraries, may be even make a reservation.

But you will not be able to access any other website.

 

When you log onto NCL Internet you will be able to access any websites at pretty low speed. However, I don’t know if you can use any kind of voice over IP such as wifi calling, WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram calling.

Logging out from NCL Internet using NCL app stops counting the minutes on your Internet plan.

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