For most of us, the fact is that when we travel, we still have to remain “plugged in” to some degree, whether to phone home at regular intervals, check emails, or simply to share our journey with friends, family and loved ones.
On a European river cruise, keeping in touch is easier than ever, thanks largely to Wi-Fi internet, which is often offered at no additional charge, and to being within range of cell networks that allow voice and data access, albeit often at a cost. But even though connecting is easy, there are still some important things to remember when sailing the rivers of the Europe.
It seems nearly everyone has an iPhone or a Blackberry. On a river cruise, you can use your cell phone at almost any time. But there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Most river cruise lines ask that you not use your cell phone in public areas of the ship out of respect for your fellow guests.
- Signal strength can be spotty or even non-existent when sailing. This is particularly true during transiting locks or mountainous areas like the Danube’s Wachau River Valley.
- North American cell phones, like iPhones, can cost you a bundle in Europe. Make sure you have an international roaming plan or an international data package placed on your cell phone plan before leaving home; without it, your calls and data usage will cost you dearly.
- If you have to keep in touch via phone, consider buying a “Pay-as-you-go” phone in Europe. I did this three years ago, and it’s one of the best investments I ever made. What’s more, it’s a third of the cost that an international package would cost on my own North American phone.
Computers & the Internet
Most river cruise ships feature free Wi-Fi internet access; a huge bonus for those of us who have to remain connected at least a few times out of the day. It’s also an excellent — and economical — way to keep in touch with friends and family. Many river cruise ships will have one or two computer workstations for passengers to use for email and airline check-in. As always, some important things of note:
- Like deep-ocean cruise ships, internet access on a river cruise ship will be much slower than your internet service at home, and factors like weather, signal strength and the ship’s location can affect performance. Don’t try to download enormous files or use bandwidth-hogs like Skype.
- If you bring your own laptop, and you reside in North America, you’re probably going to need a power adapter. Many laptops already have power converters built into their power supplies, but you’ll need to acquire a two-pronged European-style outlet plug. Most office supply stores and travel stores will stock full converter and adapter kits.
- A small laptop — or even an iPad — can be a very useful device to bring with you, even if you don’t intend to work. Demand for the handful of onboard computer workstations can be heavy on the day prior to disembarkation day.
Staying in touch on the waterways of the world has never been easier. So log on and send your friends a tantalizing image of you along the Danube. Just make sure to bring them back something!