I don’t want to brag, buuuut – on the last three cruises I’ve been on, I’ve actually gotten off the cruise and still had free data left. Lots of free data! And I’ve sent pictures and emails! How crazy is that? So it’s possible I’ve cracked the code on keeping usage down. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it’s possible. So let me share what I’ve learned and what is working for me. Some of these steps may not be necessary, but better safe than sorry, right? Wi-Fi onboard is expensive, people. You start with 50 megabytes free (150 megabytes in concierge), then the price goes up fast. 100 MB is $19, 300 MB is $39, and 1000 MB is $89. We want those megabytes to stretch as far as they can! My disclaimer is that I am an iPhone user. So some of my directions are iPhone specific. The broad principles should still apply though!
1. Use Airplane Mode – Once you leave Port Canaveral, you will definitely want to be in airplane mode. Not being in airplane mode means you are risking using unwanted cell service—like Cellular at Sea. If you have an international plan and want to turn off airplane mode in ports, then go for it. But while you are at sea, I highly recommend airplane mode to avoid any unwanted charges. Once in airplane mode, you can still turn on Wi-Fi and use the Disney Cruise Line app and data as desired.
2. Get Disney’s Helpful Internet Sheet – Sometime during the first afternoon, stop by the internet help desk and pick up their sheet describing how to minimize data usage. They have a sheet for iPhones, Galaxy, Droid, etc. There may not be anyone at the desk the first day, but that’s okay. There’s usually a brochure holder on the desk full of them. Look towards the back of the pile if you don’t see them. Follow the steps. Some are listed below.
3. Turn off Location Services – Location services are a data sucker! Turn that baby off! No one needs to find you while you’re sailing! Not apps, not friends that are stalking your phone, no one! Turn it off. On iPhones, you turn it off in “Settings” and then “Privacy”.
4. Turn off Anything That Fetches Data On its Own – There are several things on your smartphone that are looking for data even when you don’t want them to. They’ll use your Wi-Fi data to do it—and they will burn through your data fast. Turn them off. One is email. Make sure you turn every kind of email account that’s on your phone to “Manual”. Under “Fetch New Data” turn “Push” to off. Just to be safe, under that go to every account and change “Fetch” to “Manual”. That doesn’t mean you can’t get email, it just means it won’t go get it (or look for it) without you telling it to. On iPhones, iTunes also goes and looks for updates without you telling it to. Turn them off! It’s in “Settings” and then “iTunes & App Store”. If you have iCloud set up, it’s going to want to back up everything on your phone periodically. Turn that baby off!
5. Turn off Background Refreshing – Some apps will refresh in the background of your phone, which means they are using data even when they aren’t open. On iPhones you can stop that in “Settings” then “General”. There’s a “Background App Refresh” there. Turn it off!
6. Close Everything – Close evvverything. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not open. On iPhones, double click the home button (the circle on the bottom) and you’ll see everything that’s open. Slide every single thing up and away to close them. The only thing that should be left is the home screen which you cannot close. Next, open your internet browser. Probably Safari. Close every internet window you have open. To do that, click on the double folders at the bottom right. You’ll see how many windows are open. Whoa. Take that in. Is this the first time you’ve done this? Well there may be a lot! Click on the “X” on the top left corner of every single one. You don’t need any of them.
7. Get Your Free Wifi – On the day of boarding, all guests can get 50 MBs of data completely free. You just need to claim it before midnight on the day you board. Once onboard, you can get it right from a link in the Disney Cruise Line app. Just follow the link to Connect@Sea, click the button for the free 50 MB, and create an account. That’s it! I’d recommend waiting to do this until you have left port, and have followed the above steps. I once made the mistake of getting it at lunch after boarding and forgot to log out of WiFi. All afternoon before we sailed away, I thought I was using my normal cell data, but no, I was on Disney WiFi using my free data. As you can imagine, I burned through it all before dinner even began.
8. Login and Out– After you’ve created an account, you’ll see a data usage meter. You’re logged in. Stay logged in. Don’t open anything, but over the next few minutes, just refresh that data usage meter screen a few times. See if it goes up. If it does, you’ve got data leaking somewhere. Log out and go to step 10. When you are not using the internet, log out! Even if you’ve got your data locked down, log out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought mine was locked down, only to wake up and find several megabytes have disappeared during the night because I didn’t log out. It’s easy to log out, there’s a “Sign Out” link on the top right of the data usage meter screen. Use it! Don’t turn off your WiFi, just sign out of Connect@Sea. That way you can still use the Disney Cruise Line app to its fullest and you don’t risk using any unwanted data.
9. Use Apps Selectively – Now that you’re not using unwanted data, you can choose how to use the data you have! I don’t recommend opening the Facebook app unless you have data to spare. Considering how many pictures and videos load in your newsfeed, it’s going to use a lot of data. Facebook Messenger, however? It’s great. I use it to message people and send pictures. I send a dozen or more pictures a day with no problems. I suspect it’s because Facebook is compressing photos, but my experience is that it uses a lot less data than iMessage which is pretty unreliable for me anyway. Unless people are sending you huge data files, opening email every once in a while probably isn’t going to use a lot of data, so don’t worry about it. A good rule of thumb is to avoid apps that load a ton of pictures and videos. Use Twitter and Instagram sparingly. Youtube? Don’t even think about it.
10. Go Talk to Disney’s Internet Guy – If you ever find you are leaking data, go talk to the internet help desk guy (or girl!). They can look at your devices and account and tell you exactly which device is using the data. That’s very helpful if you’ve got a few people using your account. They can also take your phone and in a matter of seconds turn off things you never even knew you had. They’re pros, and they’re there to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it!
The final step, of course, is getting your phone back to normal after you disembark! Ha! Good luck with that one…
But seriously! Did I miss anything? Do any Android users have tips for those phones?
Tammy Whiting is the owner of Storybook Destinations. Did you know Storybook Destinations offers a complimentary subscription to TouringPlans with qualified Disney and Universal bookings? Click here for a no-obligation quote on your next vacation.