Look for the Cruise Ship Mate icon in the App Store.
Look for the Cruise Ship Mate icon in the App Store.

Cruise Ship Mate
Cruiseline.com LLC
iOS and Android
E for Everyone
Two and a half stars

Pros: Simple. Informative. Free.
Cons:  Needs Internet for some data. Will have you pining for a cruise.

First impressions

Cruising is all the rage these days, and not just for people in their dotage. It has become a multi-billion dollar industry with mass appeal, giving passengers a chance to visit different countries while eating their way through menus morning, noon and night.

They only unpack once, and for many, it is a cheaper vacation than the traditional flights-hotels-meals trip.

I love cruising. I was first introduced to it in 2000, and then revisited the idea about seven years ago. Since then, I have taken a cruise at least once a year … and I’m not even a pensioner yet!

If you’re new to the idea and just want to dip your toe in the water (so to speak) then the Cruise Ship Mate app could help you wade in.

Rather than visiting one cruise line’s website after the next (which can be a dizzying affair) you can get a good deal of information through this one app. It covers all the major cruise lines, gives you ship-by-ship deck plans, and even shows you where ships are positioned around the world at any given time.

Seeing Celebrity Silhouette pulling into port in Sydney, Australia, or Quantum of the Seas making its way toward China could be all you need to take the leap and book your cruise.

Cruising information in the palm of your hand.
Cruising information in the palm of your hand.

How it works

It’s not a terribly sophisticated-looking app, but that was what actually makes it easy to navigate (the nautical references just keep coming).

When you first open it, you’ll see six large options before you: My Cruises; Cruise Ships; Ship Location; Deck Cams; User Gallery; and Direct Msgs.

Start off with tapping Cruise Ships. This will reveal a list of all the cruise companies and how many ships they have.

For example, Disney has four ships, and you can go to the next screen which gives you the name of each individual ship, deck plans, information on upcoming cruises, ship stats and top tips. All of this data is useful. For example, the ship stats show you the passenger capacity of each vessel. Want to be on a big ship with lots of people, decks and activities? One of the Oasis class behemoths from Royal Caribbean will probably suit you.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a smaller ship with more personalized service, perhaps Crystal Cruises will be more your speed.

The top tips link is very insightful, as the hints and advice are all written by passengers who have been on these cruises. They recommend everything from drink packages to the best seats to reserve in restaurants, and what to bring along for themed nights. They’ll also tell you what’s worth your money and time, and what is not. Such firsthand information can be invaluable.

The User Gallery is also passenger-driven. See a photo you like? Tap it to get more details on where it was taken.

Anyone who has cruised before knows that the in-stateroom television has a channel showing what the ship’s deck cam sees. Choose Deck Cams to get the view from the bow of any listed ship around the world in real time.

Ship Location is one of the most interesting options in the main menu. You can see where any ship is at any given time. Again, this alone may have you hankering for some sea legs.

Browse deck maps to see what's on board and where.
Browse deck maps to see what’s on board and where.

When I tried it

I immediately went to the Ship Location section to see where ships upon which I had previously traveled were presently sailing. I sighed as I saw Celebrity Silhouette in

Southampton and Allure of the Seas in Puerto Rico. Thankfully I had already booked a trip on Serenade of the Seas for later this year, so emotions were not running too high.

As I’ve not been on Serenade before, it was really useful to do a bit of research on the ship. I got some top tips, including one that recommended I do the “Mystery Dinner,” whatever that is.

I also snuck a peek at the Deck Cams. There was a ship making its way toward an Alaskan glacier. It took me back to my cruise there.
Note to self: book another trip to Alaska.

Final thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, this is not a dazzlingly designed app, but it’s free and it’s useful. Take it from someone who cruises on a regular basis: the more informed you are, the better you’ll be at choosing the cruise that was right for you.