P&O Cruises’ passengers can now make and receive calls on their personal mobile phones and access wireless internet at sea with introduction of an advance wireless network across the fleet, in a first for the Australian cruising industry.

To stay connected with loved ones, passengers simply need to ensure they activate international roaming with their mobile phone provider before stepping onboard, giving them the chance to make phone calls, send text messages and access the internet on capable devices including Blackberrys.

Sture Myrmell, Vice President of Hotel Operations at P&O Cruises, said the launch of the new wireless network would make it easier for passengers to stay in touch with family and friends while on holiday.

“This is the first time Australians have been able to use their mobile phones onboard while on a cruising holiday,” Mr Myrmell said.

“We are continuously looking for ways to improve the cruising experience for our passengers and the convenience of calling home while at sea appeals to many people.”

Mobile phone access will be available throughout staterooms and public areas on both ships. The ships’ show lounges have been made “quiet” zones with no mobile signal and passengers will be asked to follow phone etiquette in theatres, dining rooms and spa areas.

Passengers will still be able to make use of the local shore-based roaming networks when the ship is in port.

Meanwhile, holidaymakers with a thirst for surfing the net will also be able to access wireless internet 24-hours a day from their own laptops, with P&O Cruises making the service available in the atrium onboard both ships. Charges for this service are billed to the passenger’s onboard account.

Charges for text messages, phone calls and checking voicemail while at sea will depend on passengers’ individual service providers and will appear on their monthly phone bills.

Mr Myrmell said the mobile phone access is the latest in a string of new onboard initiatives across the fleet.

“We have revamped Pacific Sun, welcomed superliner Pacific Dawn and redesigned the food, wine and entertainment offering. We are continually looking to the future to develop an even more unique experience for our passengers,” he said.

Sydney-based superliner Pacific Dawn features 11 decks with two swimming pools, a choice of five evening dining areas, nine bars and lounges, “The Dome” entertainment area, a two-storey show lounge and fitness centre.

Meanwhile Australia’s favourite ship, Pacific Sun, now features a new child-free Oasis spa retreat, ocean-view gym and coffee bar, as well as five restaurants and cafes, multiple bars and lounges and two pools for the adults.