We just finished our first river cruise and it was fabulous! If you watched “Downton Abbey” on PBS you saw commercials for Viking River Cruises. Those beautiful long ships cruising up and down famous rivers in Central Europe with vineyards, castles, palaces and beautiful German maidens passing you down a beer from off a bridge as you sail under it. Ahhhh…
It was a great voyage – made even more fun with Apple mobile technology. I’d like to share a few techno things to help on your next vacation cruise – regardless if it is an ocean or river cruise. This is an update to my January 2015 ocean cruise review.
The good news is that practically all my gear worked on the plane and on the ship. The bad news is that it is not inexpensive and connections are slow and not very reliable. I brought along my iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Air, Apple Watch, Beats headphones, Sony Alpha 55 DSLR camera, a few cables and one power “brick” that had five USB outlets. I have a great custom backpack that is designed to hold all my gear – it even has a special storage section for the iPad.
Before leaving I went to AT&T (my cellular provider) and signed up for the $30 per month International travel option. This gave me $1.00 per minute calls, unlimited texting and a whole 150MB of data (for checking email, etc.) It wasn’t until the second day of our trip that I checked my account status and I was already way over 250MB of data. What?!? I had forgotten that being a tech guy I had my iPhone set to do automatic uploads from my Photos app, nightly backups to iCloud and other assorted syncs and backups. Ouch! I quickly changed my settings.
We flew Delta and in the United States most planes now have WiFi which runs about $8 – $10 for a 24 hour “pass.” Speed is acceptable, and reliability was very good. On the river cruise ship Viking offered free WiFi (we paid Royal Caribbean about $225 for a similar WiFi service on our last ocean cruise.) Speed was very slow, and reliability was just “OK.” Don’t plan on streaming video or uploading photos. Audio streaming was just “OK” with a few disconnects. Email and dial-up type web browsing were “OK.”
During our vacation I took over 1,000 of photos with the Sony DSLR, the iPhone, and the iPad. I backed them up to my iPad (just in case…) using an Apple Lightning SD card (from the Sony) connector and used “AirDrop” to transfer wirelessly from the iPhone. When we arrived at our AirBnB rental apartment in Amsterdam at the end of our trip (where we had decent WiFi) I backed everything up to iCloud.
Our trip took us to Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. When we were on shore it was easy to connect to low-cost or free WiFi services. You may want to use a VPN (virtual private network) service while you travel when use use foreign WiFi services so that you don’t get hacked.
Before we left home I downloaded some music and a few movies to my iPad and that made travel time on planes, and quiet times on the ship enjoyable. I also downloaded a couple of books both digital and audio through iBooks and Audible.com
I carried my iPhone in my front pocket (to avoid pick-pockets) and left the iPad on the ship in our cabins provided safe.
I must admit that I was amazed at the number of fellow passengers who used digital devices on the plane and on the ship. Mobile technology has really caught on for vacationers.
Here are a few cruising tips:
- Pack one USB charger that has multiple USB connections. Mine supports five devices.
- Make sure that the ship and rental apartments support US 110 volt AC cords. You may want to invest in a lightweight set of travel plugs. Our ship did. Our rental apartment did not (we needed a converter plug).
- Bring a second rechargeable battery and charging block for your DSLR camera.
- Get a “Y” audio connector – so that you and your spouse can share music, books, or video with two sets of headphones to one device.
- Bring along a second RAM storage card for your DSLR camera
- Use an app like “Day One” Journal 2 to record your daily vacation notes so you can remember the name of that church or cathedral – and the name of that fabulous German beer was. Keep up with your journal everyday!
- Shoot a mix of photos and short videos (30-60 seconds) and build an iMovie show from them.
- In larger European cities use Uber or Lyft to get around. More reliable and cheaper than regular taxi’s.
- Use AirBnB for apartment and home rentals to save significant dollars over standard hotels. Look at the owner reviews before making commitments.
- Carry a money belt or one of the around the neck security bags with RFID protection. There are many pick pockets in larger European cities and they hang around cathedrals, airports, museums, concert venues, train stations and more.
- Most of the countries we visited accepted Euros. Most museums, restaurants and shops accepted credit and debit cards as long as the card has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it. Most ATM machines accepted debit cards for cash advances – spitting out your new funds in Euros.
- Check with your cellular provider in regards to using your phone overseas. If you don’t you could come home to hundreds of dollars worth of charges for calls, texts, and email checking. Have your provider help with turning off settings that have to do with backups and auto uploads and auto synchronization.
Bottom line – traveling with digital devices can be entertaining, informational and useful. Just make sure you take precautionary steps in advance.