Configuring your phone for cruise ship internal Wi-Fi

(The following describes a Carnival cruise ship scenario specifically, but these instructions likely apply to other cruise ships as well.)

I recently completed a Carnival cruise. Carnival places heavy emphasis on its “Carnival HUB” app for staying updated on what’s going on around the ship. It’s a handy app, and its features are all available without purchasing any expensive Internet access from Carnival.

The way it works is this: the Carnival HUB app uses the ship’s Wi-Fi hotspot to retrieve information from specific internal Carnival servers (most of which are probably right on the ship). However, without an Internet access package, Carnival’s internal servers are the only ones that the Wi-Fi gives you access to. This presents a dilemma for your phone, which normally interprets an active Wi-Fi connection as, “I have fast and unlimited access to the whole Internet.” Consequently, when you connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi, you will likely have a lot of apps trying to do background stuff on the Internet (checking email, sync’ing photos to the cloud, etc.). They will fail, try again, fail again, try again later, ad infinitum. As a result, your phone may drain the battery excessively fast, and may even run hot.

This was my experience on my Carnival cruise, until I discovered a few configuration changes that help the phone understand the context of my Wi-Fi connection. Once I made these configuration changes, the phone behaved much more rationally while connected to the internal Wi-Fi.

The following assume Android 7.0 and a Republic Choice plan (i.e. no Android OS modifications)

  • Go to Settings > Data usage > Data saver and turn the feature ON. Data Saver prevents most apps from attempting background data transfers.
  • While in Data Saver, click Unrestricted data access, scroll down to the Republic Wireless app, and turn it on. This is necessary to stop the Republic app from complaining about Data Saver being on.
  • After connecting to the ship’s Wi-Fi for the first time, go to Settings > Data usage > Network restrictions. Under “Metered Wi-Fi networks”, find the ship’s Wi-Fi network and turn the switch ON. This will make the network appear as a source of cellular data, and apps that are configured to minimize the usage of cell data will restrict their activities accordingly.

Remember to reverse these changes once you are off the ship and have access to regular Wi-Fi again.

Note that if you do purchase an Internet access package while on your cruise, you will likely need to turn OFF the “Metered Wi-Fi networks” switch for the ship’s Wi-Fi. However, you may wish to leave Data Saver on, to give you more control over which of your apps attempt to use the (extremely slow) Internet access.


Moderator’s note: Editing this post to add some additional information that came up in another topic, providing some additonal, excellent advice on how to stay in touch with others in your party while on a cruise:

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Love this! I am going to move it to #tips for more visibility.

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Hi @jamiesonc,

Thanks for contributing this valuable content that will help others! May we send you a Republic Wireless T-shirt?

@seanr Thanks for moving to #tips!

@southpaw Thanks, I’m always up for a new T-shirt! Proud to wear the Republic arch. :smile:

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Princess Cruise around Britain early summer 2017… Connected to ships wifi and could phone and text for two days. Just a couple of short messages to see if it would work. Then could no longer connect to ships wifi.
Did not try using the phone for any data or other apps.
Off ship for a couple of days could not connect to any wifi. Then connectivity returned.
Assumed they detected phone calls and shut me down. Had plenty of wifi time.
Perhaps it was one of the settings described herin but don’t see that they relate.

Hi @seymourp.ahhfkc,

Just for clarity for anyone reading, I’m curious as to whom the “they” in your above sentence refers to? Republic Wireless would not take steps to disable service over Wi-Fi.

I read the they as the Cruise ship or at least there WiFi partner

Seymour,

If you had WiFi data and then didn’t, that sounds like a behavior of the
cruise ship. For instance, during our time on Carnival Cruise, we didn’t
pay for data, so only onboard services were available (such as those used
by the Carnival app). However, a couple times during our cruise, we
suddenly got full data and could download email and check Facebook, etc.
Then it would go away after a short time. It was undoubtedly a hiccup in
the configuration of WiFi services on the cruise ship.

The inability to connect to the ship’s WiFi at all suggests that
something went wrong with their hardware or configuration. Probably nothing
to do with your phone or your Republic service. It’s hard to say for
certain what happened, but I’ve read complaints about spotty WiFi on a
number of cruise ships.

This very much relates to a post I did a while back about Wi-Fi calling experience with cruise ship Wi-Fi…
I’ll post the link to that here with yours.

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Unfortunately, this isn’t possible with Royal Caribbean. I just returned from a 12-day Mediterranean cruise and they make you buy their internet package if you want to us WiFi on the ship. The only way to use your phone sailing with Royal Caribbean internationally is to buy a SIM card from the country you’re going to and use it off ship. The SIM card won’t work on the ship. And that really only works if you’re going primarily to one country, unless you want to buy several SIM cards.

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