Technology Tips for a Cruise
This past week I took my family on our very first cruise. It was a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise (I decided not to mess around and went for a nice long cruise on one of the largest cruise ships...The Oasis of the Seas). Having lived in Florida for just over 15 years now I'm not sure what took us so long to go on a cruise, but we finally did. Rather than drone on about how much fun the crusie was (which I could certainly do), I will talk about a few tips for how to deal with any technology you bring along with you on the trip.
Unless you want to buy some kind of international data package for your cell phone or opt to pay a daily wifi fee for internet service aboard the ship, your cell smart phone is nothing more than a camera and an ebook reader. You will want to turn off your cellular data on your phone AND put it into airplane mode. The reason you do both is that you don't want your phone searching for cell location data while you are out on the ship or at various ports. It really serves no function other than to drain your battery. I guess in some cases it may be able to use cell tower information and GPS to tag your photos with location data but that's about it. I didn't really care about location data so I just opted to turn it all off.
Apple's AirDrop sharing functionality came in really handy on the cruise as a way to forvarious people in our family to take photos on thier iOS device and then immediately share the photos with others in the our family without wifi or cell data usage. AirDrop uses Bluetooth to wirelessly send data between iOS devices and other iOS devices or Macs and it works flawlessly. If you haven't used AirDrop before and you are going on a cruise with others, read up on AirDrop and make sure you know how to use it before your trip. It's quite simple, but surprisiningly my Dad had never used it before and I had to show him how it worked.
Taking Photos and Videos
If you plan to use your smartphone to take photos and videos make sure you have enough free space on your device to store all those photos and videos. My sister has an older 16 Gb capacity iPhone and very early into the cruise her iPhone stopped taking photos. So I had to help her clear out some space on her device. It doesnt' take much to fill up your smartphone with photos and videos, especially on a week-long cruise.
Movies and TV Shows
It depends on what kind of person you are on vacation, but some people like to have a little down time and just watch some videos on thier devices. Think ahead and download any movies or TV shows you think you may want to watch while on the cruise. Unless you opt to pay for an unlimited wifi package on board you will need to have them already downloaded to your device. And even if you do opt for wifi, unless your cruise ship has really fast wifi streaming video over that wifi may not be all that feasible. I didn't spend much time watching videos on my iPad Pro, but I did watch a few. Sometimes you are in for the night but not quite ready for bed so having a few videos to choose from was really nice.
Books are a great way to take a little time for yourself on a cruise and get some reading done. Even if you are one of those families that books up most of your days with activities and excursions, there are still times when you are up before everyone else and waiting to go to breakfast or just sitting by the pool sipping a drink while your kids are in the pool bleeding off some of their extra energy. So I loaded up on books for the cruise. I opted to take 2 physical books, 2 magazines and 2 or 3 e-books. I think it is a good idea to take both physical books and e-books because some locations are better for one type of book over the other. If you are sitting outside by the pool reading on a highly reflective iPhone or iPad screen might not work all that well so a physical book is best. But if you are taking an excursion off to a beach and not taking much with you and plan to spend a good chunk of the day sipping drinks in the shade on a beach then having an e-book works really well (especially when your e-reader is your iPhone 7 Plus you took with you to take pictures with). A variety of book types and formats work really well. You can never take too many books because if you happen to burn through them then you may be out of luck getting more of what you want to read.
Take a Break From Technology
As much as I like my technology I was also looking forward to taking a break from it. My iPhone and my iPad were pretty much only used to take photos and read on this cruise. I am one of those people that is guilty about checking their email way too many times a day (in fact one of the books I read on the cruise was called "Unsubscribe" and was about how to minimize email distractions in your life...stay tuned for a book review post soon) and getting sucked into reading too much online news and social networking posts. So being disconnected for a week was a much needed break for me. For some people this would seem like a punishment, but on a cruise it really isn't. There is so much to do. Even my 14-year-old PS4 playing son didn't really do any gaming of any kind all week. He pretty much stayed away from technology. He would occasionally watch a video on his iPhone that he had downloaded before the cruise or watch some TV, so for a kid that is normally always plugged into an electronic device that was a HUGE step.
A good set of noise isolating or on the ear headphones is really nice for a cruise. Don't get me wrong, most of the time you want to be social not be isolated from everyone else via headphones. But there are times when you want to sit out on deck but get away from the sounds on the deck. Headphones are a must.
Keeping Track of Everyone
We now live in a world where everyone seems to be online and connected 24-hours a day. So when you get on a cruise and can no longer text or call people you are looking for it can be quite a shock. So we opted to solve this problem with an analog solution. Our family was spread out between 3 different state rooms and we had a magnetic dry erase board on each of the doors of our rooms. Anytime we went somewhere we would write on the board what time we left and where we were going. This worked really well. It was a big ship and trying to coordinate activities between 7 people over a week long cruise without cell phones would have been near impossible. Some families used Walkie Talkies, but I wasn't sure that was going to be all that great of a solution. The dry erase boards worked out perfectly for us.
When you get home from the cruise everyone is going to want to share the photos they took. Apple has an easy way to do this, by using the iCloud photo sharing feature built into the Photos app within the iOS and macOS operating systems. Read Apple's directions for how to setup a shared photo album with all of your family members so they can each share the photos they took with everyone else in the family. You can even share photos with people who don't have an iOS device or a Mac.