Reading email at the beach doesn't just break your vacation vibe -- it's also bad for your wallet. Photo by allensima / Thinkstock
Faced with the choice of buying pricey Internet packages on cruise ships and paying exorbitant roaming charges, many cruisers simply turn their phones off for their cruise. But by using a combination of data-saving apps and apps that work entirely offline, you can use your phone to get a wide range of information -- from weather forecasts to emergency numbers and exchange rates -- without racking up the roaming fees. Here are seven must-have apps for cruisers who want information at sea:
1. Best For Making Your Phone More Efficient: Onavo Extend
What You Get: If you’re going to use your phone at all during your cruise, you absolutely must download Onavo Extend first. By using data compression technology, this app can cut your data rates -- and the ensuing roaming charges -- by up to 80 percent. It will even tell you which apps are hogging data unnecessarily, so you can use as little bandwidth as possible.
2. Best For Texting: WhatsApp Messenger
What You Get: Want to avoid the 50-cent charge for a text message when you’re roaming? With WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform messaging system, you can send text messages, pictures, and videos using a Wi-Fi connection. You’ll still have to pay for Internet access, but it will cost a fraction of what you would pay otherwise.
3. Best For Tracking the Weather: WeatherPro
What You Get: If you need an app with weather forecasts the world over, check out WeatherPro, developed by MeteoGroup, Europe’s largest independent weather company. The app provides forecasts for more than 2 million locations worldwide, accompanied by high-resolution radar maps. If you’re headed to the beach, check out the beach weather forecast for the UV index and water temperatures at top Caribbean and Mediterranean beaches.
4. Best For Beating Jet Lag: JetLag Genie
What You Get: Not taking active steps to combat jet lag is a surefire way to spend the first few days of your cruise in a fog. Once you’ve checked out our tips on getting over jet lag, download this handy app to help you make a gradual transition to a new time zone. Punch in your travel dates, current and future time zone, and your usual bed and wake-up times, and JetLag Genie will create a custom alarm clock for several days before and after your flight that will gradually adjust you to your new time zone.
Available On: iOS ($3) devices.
5. Best For Figuring Out Exchange Rates: XE Currency
What You Get: If you’re planning to do any shopping in a foreign port, knowing the exchange rate beforehand will help, especially if you’re hoping to haggle. XE Currency performs conversions with up-to-the-minute accuracy free of charge. The best part? It stores the latest rates on your hard drive, so if you use it before you leave home, you won’t need the Internet to use it on your cruise.
6. Best For Not Getting Sunburned: World UV
What You Get: For the fair-skinned among us, going on a Caribbean cruise in the middle of winter can be downright dangerous. The World UV app, developed by the British Association of Dermatologists, uses your phone’s GPS to access the UV levels in your current location. The UV level comes with the risk of sunburn for different skin types, the recommended sun protection factor (SPF) for sunscreen, and other tips to keep you from looking like a lobster for the rest of your cruise.
7. Best For Navigating the Ship: ShipMate
What You Get: All of these niche apps are great, but if you want something that's all about cruising, our partners at ShipMate have the most popular cruise app around. This multi-purpose tool helps you find your way around with deck plans for every cruise ship, and keep your spending from going overboard with a budget tracker. Need help planning your day in port? Check your arrival and departure times, research the history of the port, and read user recommendations. Even better, all of these features are available offline, which means no roaming charges or pricey internet packages.
Want more? Check out two more great apps in the expanded piece on BonVoyageMag.com.
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