How my Onboard Account Got Hacked on my Recent Cruise

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I just returned from a week-long cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas with my family. Overall, we had a fantastic trip, and I plan to write more about it soon.

However, after sailing on a dozen cruises, I encountered a new-to-me problem: my onboard account got hacked!

Paying Attention to the Onboard Account

My family doesn’t drink alcohol, and we pre-pay gratuities. So, on most cruises, our on-board account doesn’t accumulate many charges. In fact, on Disney Cruise Line, I barely look at our account statement on our last day of the cruise.

On this most recent cruise, however, I allowed my kids to have charging privileges to play arcade games. Plus, my sister added a few excursions. I glanced at my onboard account on the Royal Caribbean app every few days.

Midway through the cruise, I noticed an internet charge attributed to my 11-year-old daughter to the tune of $107. I thought that was odd, since she wasn’t using the internet. I figured it was a mistake, and I hoped it would somehow fix itself. Ha!

Of course, the charge was not magically taken off. So, I figured I had to get Guest Services involved. First, I called. After waiting on hold for over 20 minutes, I gave up and stood in line at the desk. My daughter was with me. The crew member checked my daughter’s phone and verified that her IP address did not match the phone that was using the internet plan charged to our room. Phew! Give me a refund, and let me get on with my day.

Nope! The crew member said it was impossible that anyone could have charged the internet to our room except us. Someone would need our last name and date of birth in order to charge it to our room. I was very confused. How would anyone know that information but us? But then, the crew member showed me the sign-up screen. I noticed that it only required our room number, last name and YEAR of birth (not month and day or the entire birth date).

The Culprit

Then, I realized what had likely happened. Before the cruise, I ordered cute personalized stateroom door magnets from Etsy. I put magnets on our door for every cruise because they are festive, and they help us easily identify our staterooms. I’ve always personalized them with our family name to prevent theft.

Anyone who may have seen my daughter enter our room probably easily guessed what year she was born. And voila! Now someone gets free internet on our dime.

Before Royal Caribbean would refund me the amount, they required to see all of the devices of all five family members to verify that we were not using that specific internet package. This wasn’t an easy feat, since my boys were doing various activities around the ship and I had no way to communicate with them via phone. The crew member was sure that someone in my family was lying. I started to doubt my kids, and my kids started to doubt themselves. They all thought that maybe they signed up by accident.

But eventually, I tracked the rest of my family down. Our devices did not match the IP address in question, and we were finally cleared to get a refund. Whew!

The Lesson

Well, I don’t believe I will be using personalized door magnets again. I’m sure this type of thing is rare, but it was a pain to get fixed. On future cruises, I also plan to check my onboard account more often.

Have you ever dealt with a suspicious charge on your onboard account during a cruise?


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