The best cruise apps to streamline your vacation at sea
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For better or worse, you’ll be hard-pressed to go just about anywhere on today’s cruise ships without your smartphone in hand. Major cruise lines have embraced the cell phone as a necessary travel accessory, and they’ve built out the app technology to go with it.
Nearly all major cruise lines feature their own apps with basic functionality that lets cruisers peruse deck plans and daily schedules. The more advanced ones feature a sleek digital embarkation process, cabin unlocking capabilities and plenty of opportunities to reserve dining and shore excursions.
The most cutting-edge apps at sea are where you’ll find travel technology at its best: think ordering Champagne with the press of a button or having a fresh pizza delivered to you anywhere on the ship.
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Whether you’re angling for new towels while still in the pool or ready to order breakfast in bed from under the sheets, the best cruise apps will get you what you need quickly and easily. Here are our favorite cruise line-specific apps, as well as a few third-party apps that cruise fans will definitely want to download.
Note: Nearly all of these apps can be found on Apple’s App Store or via Android Apps on Google Play. Be sure to download your cruise line’s app onto your phone or tablet and log in to your account before you set sail. Once on board, opt for your phone’s airplane mode and hop on the ship’s Wi-Fi. Cruise line-specific apps will be free to use on board — no Wi-Fi package required.
Carnival HUB app
No matter where you are on a Carnival Cruise Line ship, there can be a pizza headed your way with just a few taps of the Carnival HUB app. Just mark your exact spot on the ship, take a selfie to identify yourself, and your order will be there shortly. The delivery is $5 but the pizza with unlimited toppings is free.
The HUB app is useful for perusing menus throughout the ship, reserving your seat for select mainstage shows and booking a ride on the new BOLT roller coaster on Carnival’s Mardi Gras cruise ship. Onboard chat is available through the app for an additional $5 per person, limited to passengers ages 13 and over.
Celebrity Cruises App
The Celebrity Cruises App brings a smart-home sensibility to sea on Celebrity Cruises‘ Edge-class ships (Celebrity Edge, Apex and Beyond). The app transforms your phone into a handy remote that controls your cabin’s TV, room temperature, lighting options and window shades. Having clearly labeled, easy-to-dim lights at your fingertips is an understated luxury that we wish all ship cabins had.
Other winning app features found fleetwide include a digital key to get into your stateroom (not available on Celebrity Reflection), free in-app chat to connect with your group on the ship and an easy dinner reservation system.
Cruise Norwegian app
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Cruise Norwegian app has a rare and coveted feature for traversing the high seas: onboard-only phone calls, voicemails and messaging. It’s a premium feature but at $9.95 per person, per cruise, the convenience of communication is worth the nominal price. Rates for calls off the ship start at $0.79 a minute. If your communication style is through gifts, the app can help with that, too: a few taps sends wine, flowers and specialty treats to any cabin on board.
Locate a cruise ship anywhere in the world in real time and then explore it with the free CruiseMapper app. The app is the most comprehensive cruise ship tracking app available, pinpointing nearly every major passenger ship at sea on all oceans, rivers and lakes at its exact location. Learn more about each ship with deck plans, cabin details, itinerary schedules and reviews.
Cunard Line’s My Voyage
Cunard’s My Voyage app is most useful as an onboard digital planner for your days at sea. A few features from the app that add some convenience to your getaway include virtual queues for restaurants, so you can grab a pre-dinner cocktail instead of waiting in line, and virtual restaurant reservations for those that want to plan ahead. If you’re not feeling up to snuff, the app’s telehealth feature will get you seen by the onboard medical team without having to leave your cabin.
Disney Cruise Line Navigator app
Disney Cruise Line has built one of the most robust app experiences at sea. The most helpful resource on the Navigator App is the onboard live chat feature that connects passengers to crew members including guest services, the port excursions team and the dining team. If your questions are a bit more than you can type, just request a one-on-one in-person meeting and the app will tell you where and when to show up. The app also features a free chat system featuring Disney emoticons, adding a touch of fun to your onboard communications.
Holland America Line Navigator app
Convenient, time-saving features are the main draw of Holland America Line’s refreshed Navigator app. Most exciting is the ability to order coffee, food or in-stateroom service from the app anywhere on the ship. If you’re angling for a snack, simply fire up the app, place your order and within minutes your food will be ready for pick up at the ship’s New York Deli & Pizza eatery.
The app also has a useful way of organizing your itinerary, providing you the convenience of selecting and saving activities you want to take part in to help you better plan your day. That itinerary will also include any dining reservations and shore excursions you’ve booked.
Mobile Passport Control
A must for any passengers cruising internationally, the Mobile Passport Control app (now known as the CPB MPC app) allows eligible passengers to upload their passport and customs declarations for digital screening. While the app and digital upload are not required to pass through customs, completing the steps on your app helps streamline your entry into the US. Consider the logistics of a large ship with thousands docking at a U.S. port, all required to go through customs at the same time, and you’ll be glad you have this free app ready to help cut down on your overall wait time.
MSC for Me app
Whether you’re planning your MSC cruise or already on board, the MSC for Me app can help you out. The app lets you keep in touch with your group via free in-app chat, book special events and restaurant reservations, and purchase drink packages, shore excursions and specialty dining opportunities.
The MSC for Me app is only available on MSC Cruises‘ “smart” ships: MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Magnifica, MSC Meraviglia, MSC Seashore, MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview, MSC Splendida and MSC Virtuosa. If you’re traveling on MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa and MSC Virtuosa, the app can also connect to a Bluetooth speaker in your room so you can set the mood with your favorite tunes.
Princess Cruises’ MedallionClass app
Princess Cruises‘ MedallionClass app has more functionality than many of the cruise line apps on this list. Use the app to order just about anything on board to just about anywhere, from food and drinks to merchandise. Restock your cabin with a few taps on the app for complimentary bathrobes, pillow options, towels, face masks, hangers and ice. Use the app to highlight activities you’re interested in to create your own personalized itinerary. Keep in touch with your party through in-app messaging and location tracking via the ship’s Medallion devices (more on those shortly).
If you’re angling for a bit of gambling poolside or anywhere else on the ship, power up your app when the ship’s at sea to wager virtual money in practice mode or real money on the app’s casino. If you’re looking for less-expensive thrills, PlayOcean turns the app into a digital scavenger hunt through the decks of the ship.
The app also helps to expedite the boarding process before your trip with passport uploading, a security photo and the option to pre-order your free Medallion device (a quarter-sized, wearable RFID device) that will be essential to your cruise experience.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises app
Regent Seven Seas Cruises has a less-conventional app that is most useful when in port. Built with shore excursions in mind, Regent’s app provides amplification of your tour guide through the ease and comfort of your own device. Whether you’re using your own headset or just holding the phone to your ear, it’s nice to move at your own pace without needing to vie for a spot right in front of the tour guide.
Royal Caribbean App
The Royal Caribbean App helps save time navigating Royal Caribbean’s large-scale ships. Favorite features on the free app include the option to scan in your passport and proof of COVID-19 vaccination for expedited boarding, complimentary in-app group chats and easy dining and activity reservation access. Check the daily schedule to find fun things to do, in-app deck plans to figure out how to get there and your onboard bill to make sure all the fun you’re having isn’t taking you over budget. You can also watch safety videos on the app instead of gathering en masse for a muster drill.
Seabourn Source app
The Seabourn Source app is an encyclopedia of knowledge about your Seabourn ship. Start your meal planning ahead of time with daily menu updates from all the onboard dining venues, keep track of the daily activities and entertainment options available, and browse and book shore excursions. The app is a great resource to track your time in port, with detailed port arrival and departure times, ensuring a timely return to the ship.
The Shipmate app by CruiseLine.com is a third-party cruise app that helps you count down to your next cruise with helpful user reviews, photos and a chat feature. Save all your previous cruises to keep track of where you’ve been while exploring the app’s cruise deals to figure out where you’re headed next. The app’s Photos Section is a favorite feature, with user-uploaded photos to explore the ships from every angle. The app also features plenty of independent tour options in most ports with competitive rates and a guarantee that you’ll be back to the ship on time.
Viking Voyager app
Viking’s free Viking Voyager app is excellent. The line’s robust digital presence caters to tech-savvy passengers with features that include live TV (CNBC, BBC News, MSNBC, Fox News, Smithsonian, Sky News, National Geographic and others) and weather forecasts for upcoming ports help you plan accordingly. Timely reminders for your reservations on the cruise make sure you don’t miss a spa appointment or dinner reservation. The app also features an art guide to explore the onboard art collection and learn more about the many original paintings, sculptures and photographs throughout the fleet.
Virgin Voyages’ Sailor App
You’ll find Virgin Voyages does everything with a bit of panache and its Sailor App is no exception. Once on board, open the app and shake your phone to reveal a secret button that, with just a simple press, will send a bottle of Moët & Chandon Impérial your way on nearly any deck. Be careful, though: That shake will cost you $95 for the bottle of bubbly. A few other features include virtual queues for the ship’s restaurants and the round-the-clock access to chat with the guest services team instead of standing in line .
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise
Featured photo by Olga Shevtsova/EyeEm/Getty Images.
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