I am speaking only in general here but I usually wait until I get to where I am going and then purchase a prepaid phone card. Most ports will have shops that will offer calling cards with pretty good per minute rates.
Most of the phone cards and their rate schedules I have found here are based on the assumption that you will be using them make calls from the USA to other places, I have not had much luck finding a calling card that states you can call the US from Timbuktu for .10 per minute and BFE is .27 per minute. I'm not saying they don't exist, but I have found it easier to buy them in the country I am calling from. I could also use the calling card that charges calls to my residential account, but it is a lot more expensive than just buying a prepaid card when I get where I am going.
Hi. I have cruised to the Carribbean and on the last cruise I took an AT&T international calling card, and I was able to use it on only two ports. On the other ports, I had to buy a pre-paid card ($5, $10) in order to be able to use a pay phone because AT&T did not service those areas. I used my credit card once and they charged me an arm and a leg - so this should not be an option unless it's an emergency. So, you can take an international calling card but be prepared to purchase another at the port if you are not able to use it. Also, there's always the option of e-mail on board and at port. Hope this helps.
Sandy I just found out something really cool, TracFone is a prepaid cellular phone service. Rates run about 8-12 cents a minute. The phones work in Puerto Rico and the U.S,V.I. Some say they can even be used while at sea for double the unit rate. But I cannot verify this until we get on the ship next week and try it. I will let you know when I get back if this is true. But even if it isn't, I am thrilled that I can use it while in port in those two areas. The other neat thing about this phone is that we can get a Canadian phone number in addition to our local US phone number so we can make and recieve calls to and from my inlaws in Ontario with no long distance for either of us. I picked up a Motorola trac phone for $15.00 at our local CVS drugstore.
Sadly, in the last few years, private phone companies have taken over the port areas in most major ports and AT&T and other cards do not work in the port areas. You will have to either use a credit card or purchase a pre-paid card at the port to use the pay phones.
It's also one of the reasons that phone cards are not a great gift for cabin stewards or other crew members. Some of them have a number of "expired" cards in their quarters or can only use them once away from the port and often that time is very limited. Also, people don't give them the 800 access numbers for different countries thus making the card worthless.
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I am looking for an online site to purchase prepaid phone cards that can call to japan and jordan from US,UK,Canada at a reasonable rate. I am also wondering if there is any difference between the different phone cards and calling cards in terms of quality or are they just all the same. Any information on this would be helpful!