Pulling up anchors is a nice analogy for how it felt while we were on the ship. Even though I “cheated” by bringing a satellite modem with us, it seemed like we were between worlds when we were en route. We had no address, no phone number, no job, no face-to-face contact with anyone besides the crew, nowhere to go besides the ship. So I found it funny that our first order of business after we found a place to stay in Auckland was finding a SIM card for our cellphones.
Let me back up and say that I did some research on international cell phones before we left, learned a little bit about the various GSM bands, and eventually found a sleek GSM quad-band flip phone online for only $40. It was branded AT&T all over, but it was unlocked. I got a gray one, Stephanie got a red one. We threw them into our bag of electronics without so much as turning them on.
Suffice it to say, I was completely ignorant of the world of SIM cards. Does a SIM card come with a phone number? Are all SIM cards the same size? Do they cost money? How do you add minutes/dollars to it? Thankfully we got a little coaching from Jeoffrey on the Cap Cleveland, who has SIM cards for every port (so he can call home). We even bumped into him at the mall, and he accompanied us to the Vodafone store to show us the ropes.
A pre-paid SIM card does come with a phone number (we now have NZ phone numbers), SIM cards are all the same size, Vodafone’s SIM cards cost $30 NZD, and we add money to the card (aka “topping up”) by buying “top ups”, which have a code that we text to a customer service number (for free) to add to our account. We both started with $20. It appears to cost 89¢/minute to make calls with it, which seems outrageously expensive, but when we call international landlines, it’s a $2 flat fee for up to 60 minutes, which seems outrageously cheap (for all calls over 3 minutes). Go figure. Text messages are 20¢ a pop.
Originally, we figured the phones would be most useful for the two of us to coordinate with each other if we were ever off doing separate things. That may eventually be the case, but so far they’ve been most useful for the types of things they’re useful for at home—calling family, calling local businesses with inquiries, and receiving calls from people who are trying to coordinate with us (while we’re out and about).