Useful Free Apps for Cruisers

Cruise with Amber

What are the most useful free apps for cruisers? One of the essential things I pack for my cruise is my smartphone. Smart phones are VERY useful when cruising. Before I embark, I make sure my phone is updated with these great apps which I’ve found to be extremely helpful on my cruises. So I thought I’d share my list with you.

The following list of apps are all apps I’ve used on my previous cruises. They’ve helped me plan what I want to see, booked bus and train tickets online when I’ve arrived in port and helped me translate a sign or two. Most importantly, these are all FREE Apps. I like free Apps. If you are based in the UK then all these apps will be available in your region, however some may not be available if you’re based outside the UK, but I’m sure you can find an app which will do a very similar thing. So read on for some of the great apps I recommend for cruisers.

What3words

What3Words gives every 3×3 square metre of the globe a unique three-word code (that’s 57 trillion squares). Its compatible with Google Maps, Apple Maps and a whole host of other apps.

Some of the ways you can use this app when in port are to:

  • Tell your travel buddy exactly where you are if you are separated from each other in port.
  • Save your favourite location or a point of interest to check out whilst in port (download the app and see if you can find where the girl with a pearl earring is hiding)
  • Find your way to anywhere in the world – even where an address doesn’t exist – such as where your ship is berthed, or the meeting point your tour guide gives you to catch the return shuttle bus.

It also offers offline navigation with compass mode (useful if you don’t want to use data when in another country).

It’s a clever and useful little app. You can even use it when you’re back at home to find your car in the IKEA car park (for example). This tends to happen to us a lot.

what3words examples

Google Maps

google maps icon

Google Maps is a web mapping service. But it’s more than just a map app. It’s not only a great tool for navigating your way around a port but it can also work out travel routes for you on foot, or by public transport and provide you with live timetables. It can also help you find a local restaurant or the nearest toilets. This is such a versatile app. It’s probably my most used app when I’m on my cruise

Useful Free Apps cruisers

To illustrate why it’s my most used ‘don’t leave home without it’ app, here’s a few ways I’ve used this app on some of my most recent cruises.

  • It’s helped me plan a walking tour around Florence in Italy and Alesund in Norway, providing useful distance and walking time calculations.
  • It’s helped me measure distances between points of interest on a map to help decide whether there’s enough time to visit an attraction within the time available ashore.
  • It’s saved me over £100 on a shore excursion in Stavanger; I used Google maps to plan my route to the Three Swords via local bus service for a fraction of the price, plus I had more time at the stop once the main tours had left. It even pointed me to the website I could by tickets online for the bus.  

The great thing about Google maps as you can start planning or a route your desktop and sync this with your phone when you log into your account.

Currency Converter

Another useful app when on a cruise is a currency converter. There are quite a few of these apps available offering similar functions. I’ve used and downloaded a few different ones but this is the one I’ve found to be the most user-friendly. This app comes loaded with 171 currencies and an auto update of the currency rate.

The reason I like using this particular currency converter is that it comes with some good reviews and it is highly usable. 

There’s also a big keyboard, simple currency action with a currency search function and the high contrast layout is visible even in bright sunlight. Perfect for those sunny beach-side restaurants. 

I have found this app great for not only pricing things up when I’m in port but the live tracker shows me what I would pay in the local currency versus my ‘home’ currency. 

It also works offline which is great for staying on the right side of data roaming charges. You can pay for the ad free version, but the ads don’t seem to bother me.

Duolingo

Duolingo touts itself as the world’s best way to learn a language. 300 Million users can’t be wrong. Before you hit a new port of call or country, it can be useful to brush up on some language skills. While the app offers a premium service, the free version allows you to easily grab tourist-level language skills before you cruise off.

Not just for complete novices, the app is quite good at helping you to brush up on existing language skills too. Perfect if it’s been a few years since your Tricolore 3a textbook has seen the light of day. Ou est ma cahier?  Je voudrais une bière s’il vous plaît

If you’re after something to help you be a bit more conversant with the locals in port then this is a great app to download and use before you go on your cruise. 

Just don’t expect to be fluent like the locals or ready to apply for a job as an interpreter for the United Nations through this app. 

But it will give you some level of fluency, enough to get you by at port and it’s a great for a grounding in basic conversational phrases that are perfect and highly useful for when you’re travelling.

Google Translate

Google’s free translate service instantly translates words, phrases between English and over 100 other languages. Make sure you download the dictionary of the language(s) you need before you travel so you can translate when there’s no internet (or if you don’t want to use up your data).

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t have the time nor inclination for the Duolingo app then Google translate is the other alternative. Think of it like the kid at school who used to cheat and get away with it (most of the time).

Most of the languages you’re likely to find at port on most cruise itineraries are covered in this app. 

The app offers text translation, instant camera translation (basically you can translate text images instantly by just pointing your camera). We found this had mixed results on our recent port of calls in Hamburg and Rotterdam and it wasn’t completely accurate, but close enough and still a great help. 

One neat feature of this app is that you can use it to translate bilingual conversations on the fly (remember to download the dictionary first). I haven’t tried this with the markets in Barcelona yet but it’s a great little free app to have on your smartphone when cruising. 

Additional tip – I’ve also found it useful for translating comments on Instagram from my followers in Germany and the Netherlands!

BBC iPlayer

There are lots of apps which allow you to download content to watch offline and on the go. The reason I’ve included the BBC iPlayer here is that it’s free (ok, I know you’ll also need to pay the annual license fee but i figured you might already have one – so work with me on this one). This app is brilliant for downloading favourite shows to your device before you cruise so you can watch them offline anywhere. 

Whatever app you decide to use, by downloading some content before you travel can help to make those shore excursion bus journeys from Civitavecchia to Rome pass a whole load faster if the kids are watching a couple of episodes of Horrible Histories (co-ordinate it with the right episodes and they might even be able to tell you an interesting fact or two about he Romans when you arrive)

This kind of app is also great for watching an episode or two of Killing Eve on a sea day on your balcony or in the crows nest whilst working your way through the cocktail menu.

Now, i’m not advocating being glued to a mobile screen for your entire cruise (personally, i don’t think you’ll have much time free for this). It’s just a useful app to have with some favourite content pre-loaded – because sometimes, you just don’t feel like reading a book.

Additionally, you can take it from my own experience that watching an episode of a favourite comedy can help to alleviate those cruise blues whilst you’re in the lounge waiting for your call to disembark on your last day on board ship. 

BBC Sounds

Another app I have on my phone is the BBC sounds app. I also have an Audible app on my phone and a monthly subscription, but I have highlighted the BBC sounds app because it’s the one with some much free content (if you are based in the UK)

Before I leave on my cruise I make sure I’ve downloaded a few podcasts everyone in the family likes to listen to.

Podcasts can be great to listen to on a sunny afternoon lounging on the balcony or by the pool. 

With an Audible subscription, and if you are an avid reader, it can be a great way to pack a few books for your cruise without weighing down your luggage or needing to take your kindle. The BBC Sounds app has a range of free audio books on its site too so wiht this app you might not find the need for an Audible subscription Alternatively, download the 30-day free trial for your cruise to see if it’s going to be of any use to you. 

There’s also some great playlists your can down load in it’s music section. It’s always a good tip to do a search online before you leave to see if there’s any content relevant to your cruise itinerary. For example there are some great travel podcasts on there. Excess Baggage is a particular favourite of mine. 

BBC Weather

There are lots of weather apps out there – but to complete the trio of BBC apps, this is the one I have on my phone. Whichever one you decide to use, my tip is to always have a weather app on your smartphone when cruising. 

I like this app for the simplicity of its layout: – At-a-glance forecasts, hourly data up to 14 days ahead for major international cities. And ok, even though it didn’t have the weather for Flam, it did have the weather for Aurlandsvangen just 10km away.

I like the ‘chance of precipitation’ which gives you a heads up about rain (or hail or even snow!) and the ‘feels like’ temperature, which takes into account wind strength.

I also like that you can add all your ports of call in your list of favourites and see how the weather is panning out for your itinerary before you step aboard ship and whilst your on your cruise.

Unfortunately (but rather obviously as with all weather apps) you need internet to use this app. But of you can find a secure wifi connection at port this app is still free to use.

Additionally if you sign into your BBC account you can save locations across different devices.

What's App

WhatsApp is a free messaging and calling app which is simple to use, secure and reliable. And if you find a free (preferably secure) WiFi connection at port you won’t munch up any of your data.

Some people want to completely switch off when on a cruise, but if you need or want to keep in touch with friends and family back home, this app allows you to avoid the SMS fees and it uses your phone’s Internet connection to send messages, video and photos.

But you don’t just have to use it to keep in touch with everyone back home. When I got momentarily lost in Bergen and separated from the rest of the Cruise with Amber team, I used it to call Mr Cruise with Amber’s phone and hey presto – we were reunited faster than you could text ‘data roaming charges’.

As WhatsApp voice and video calls use your phone’s Internet connection, you don’t have to worry about expensive calling charges or using your phone contact’s voice minutes. Perfect.

Triposo

Triposo deems itself to be ‘Travel content made easy’. This handy little app helps you find the best places to travel, shop, eat & drink across the world. The mobile app is available for iOS and Android, and it’s best to think of it as a travel guide for your smartphone.

This is a handy little app for before AND during your cruise. You can download the key ports of call before you go so you can pick and personalise all your favourite sights and activities. The best thing of all is that it’s free and it works without the internet!

You can download personalised walks that help you experience a destination. The app provides information not only about the top attractions but also hidden gems; covering categories such as Food, Nightlife, Sights, Attractions, Transport & more.

With 50,000 destinations & 3 million points of interest with a delightful mix of fact and opinion it’s a very useful app to help you find things to do when in port.

If you want more reasons to use Triposo, then they’ve got it covered here

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