As we prepare to return to the water, we thought it would be the ideal opportunity to collate a list of the best apps to download before your cruise. We chatted to a handful of our favourite cruise bloggers to find out what their favourite cruise-related apps are, here’s what they recommend:
“For me, the must-have app to download before a cruise is CruiseMapper,” says Rebecca, one half of the Cruise Blondes. “You can search by ship, port name or cruise line, to see at a glance exactly where you are and who else is close by. You can check out which ships are going to be alongside you at your next port of call, and when you’re in the middle of the ocean you can easily identify any ship you may spot out at sea, or how busy it is where you’re headed. You can even use it now, while many ships aren’t sailing, to see who’s docked where in the world - or who’s on the move. It’s totally addictive!”
“We love sharing our cruise holiday through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, so you will always find our phones in our hands as this is the way we collect and share our memories,” says Gavin and Luke from popular cruise blog, Holidays at Sea.
“To explore new locations we rely on Google Maps. Yes, you probably already have it on your phone but do you use it to explore when on holiday? First things first, if you don’t have worldwide data usage then mobile data can be expensive abroad, and sometimes Wi-Fi is hard to come by - so it’s always best to download an ‘offline’ copy of the city we will be visiting. You can do this in the Google Maps app, it will take up some space on your phone but it will also save you from a nasty surprise when you get your phone bill.
“Once you have your map, the next part is to work out what you want to see. We enjoy walking, it’s a great way to burn off those cruise calories so once in port, we will map out our walking route using Google Maps. The great thing is at each point of interest you can add it as a “stop” and let Google Maps do the rest. If you search the internet you may also find some routes that have already been catered for you, get to the starting point and then just follow the directions.”
Gavin and Luke, who also document their cruises on their YouTube channel, Holidays at Sea, also recommend GPSmyCity, “If you enjoy walking but Google Maps sounds a bit complicated then take a look at the app GPSmyCity - they offer an app-based self-guided walking tour usually starting at £1.99, this way all the hard work is done for you. Enjoy!”
We chatted to Marcus, travel writer and blogger who documents his travels on his blog, Sparkx. Marcus recommended the MedallionClass app from Princess Cruises, “Princess Cruises are an award-winning cruise line, having won to date over 50 awards including Best Overall Cruise Experience, to their stunning ships, food, entertainment and other areas. One area that deserves recognition has to be their work on providing a seamless guest experience, and this is down to the handy Ocean Medallion technology fitted across their whole fleet.
“Put simply, instead of having a cruise card on board, you have a ten-pence piece, or medallion, which can be put in your pocket or be worn in a variety of ways. The medallion replaces the room key entirely and also acts as your identity on board using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi interactivity, alongside a clever phone-based app. It stores all your preferences, so staff are able to be more personable and tailor suggestions based on your likes and dislikes, or for instance, any allergies. You can also use it to pay for items on board, play games and excitingly it allows a quick, seamless and paperwork free embarkation process.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Ocean Medallion continually interacts with the ship, so for instance, as you walk up to your cabin door, it opens it for you like magic. It’s honestly so useful, especially when you have your hands full. And if you are somewhere on the ship and fancy a drink or bite to eat, don’t worry. Just open up the app and order pretty much what you want, and it will be delivered to your exact location, even if you’ve moved elsewhere.” Read Marcus’ full review on the Ocean Medallion here.
Rick Steves Audio Europe
“Many cruise lines have developed their own smartphone apps to use whilst on a cruise,” says Laura from Cruise Lifestyle. “Alongside the cruise line apps, there are a few that are useful to download before the cruise to help with planning.” Like Rick Steves Audio Europe, as recommended by Laura. “For those planning a cruise to Europe, this useful app offers a plethora of downloadable audio tours for popular cruise destinations. These tours can be listened to before the cruise or whilst in the port itself. It guides listeners around the destination and famous landmarks such as the Colosseum in Rome or the Acropolis in Athens. This app offers cruisers the opportunity to explore places at their own pace without the need for a tour guide. Audio tours can be downloaded and kept in a special playlist that can be easily accessed when needed.”
“With essential - and fun - info on most major cruise lines, ships, ports and excursions, along with detailed deck maps, and forums from new and regular cruises to answer even the most trivial of questions, the Shipmate is my cruise BFF,” says Karen, the other half of the Cruise Blondes. “It has a ship tracker, the best shopping deals and even snaps from other passengers so I can check out what my cabin really looks like, and where I can flex my credit card ashore. Packed with tips, news and reviews on what to do on and off the ship, it even comes with a packing checklist and a countdown to your cruise. If you’re the friendly type, you can even meet fellow shipmates online and at roll calls on your next voyage. It’s a handy do-it-all cruise guide that keeps me ‘appy!”
Matthew from cruise-dedicated YouTube channel, Cruising with Matthew, also recommends the Shipmate app. He said, “This gives you a huge amount of information about the ship you’re going on and the ports you’ll be visiting during the cruise. After making a profile, you can select which ship you’re going on and on which date, then the world is your oyster! Every port will be listed, so you can look at photos, tips and reviews of the area which I found really helpful when planning my day. They’re all from cruisers, so they give an honest impression as to what to expect - not just what companies want you to hear. Likewise, you can look at reviews of ships and pictures - this helped me get a feel for the ship and the potential areas which I’d find interesting once I’d boarded.
“You can also join a roll call for that particular cruise, so you can get to know fellow passengers before you board. I never really use this feature but I can imagine it would be great for solo cruisers.”
“My favourite cruise app is the Shipmate app,” says Jenni from Cruise Mummy. “This helpful app can do so many different things and you can use it before, during and after your cruise. The thing I most like about Shipmate is that it will save the details of all of your past and future cruises in one place. If you have more than one cruise booked, it can be easy to forget the dates and itineraries. The Shipmate app makes it easy to see what you’ve booked.
“Each cruise has a ‘roll call’ in Shipmate so that you can meet your fellow cruisers online before you sail if you wish. There’s also a countdown so you know how long you’ve got to go. I find Shipmate to be so useful for planning your time ashore. It shows which port you’ll be visiting each day and what time your ship will arrive and leave. It also suggests excursions which you can book within the app, although I tend to just use it for ideas and then shop around online for the best prices.
“It’s easy to spend hours on this app getting excited about your upcoming course as there are thousands of reviews and photos from other cruisers. It even has a ‘tips’ section for each ship, where people give really helpful advice like “try breakfast in the Solarium Bistro.” If you want to know where your ship is right now, there’s a live ship tracking feature. I also have a cruise ship tracker on my blog as I’m a bit of a geek for things like that!”
Matthew from Cruising with Matthew also recommends Vessel Finder, “this really does what it says on the tin,” he told us. “Vessel Finder shows all the maritime traffic across the world as well as basic information such as speed and heading. I’d recommend filtering it to just cruise ships as the screen can get VERY full near busy ports. I found it really useful to see which ships were docked with our ship during port days. It was also perfect for estimating when your ship will arrive on embarkation day. Just in case you want to get up early to watch her sail in (you may get some confused looks from your family when getting up at 5 am - but it’s totally worth it!)”
“The app I must have on my smartphone before I set sail is what3words,” says Steph from Cruise with Amber. “what3words has given every 3m square in the world a unique 3-word address. The words are randomly assigned to each square and will always stay the same.
“Before I go on a cruise, I open up the app and save the points of interest I want to check out in each port. Then, when in port, I simply click on the relevant link in the app, choose the ‘navigate’ option and I’m good to go.
“It’s much more accurate and quicker than typing in an address. I can find my way to anywhere in the world even where an address doesn’t exist; for example, the exact meeting point a tour guide has asked us to return to or how to get back to the right berth in a foreign port.
“When in port, the what3words app proved extremely useful when I became separated from the rest of my family in Bergen. With just a few taps in the app, I had shared my exact location with my husband and we quickly found each other in a very crowded fish market.
“The app is free and is compatible with Google Maps, Apple Maps and a whole host of other apps (such as messaging services). It even offers an offline navigation option, so you can still use it in port without eating into any precious data. Definitely an app to install before your cruise.”
“Although there are lots of weather apps, I found it really hard to find a simple to use maritime weather app,” says Matthew from Cruising with Matthew. “Windy has a huge wealth of information across the world, on sea and land. Although a rough estimate, it has an easy-to-understand colour-coded system to see how high the waves will be. It really helps me know when I can reassure my nervous travelling companions that it’s going to be a calm crossing across the Bay of Biscay or when I should subtly hint that they should take an anti-seasickness tablet before bed…”