Smartphones have changed our lives, at least in terms of how we communicate and stay connected to each other wherever we go in the world. The ability to not just speak to, but see our contacts in practically real time is one thing, but the galaxy of applications that has spawned from smartphones has also kept the creative boffins at the world’s cruise lines busy as they seek to reach their customers in new ways.

While cruise line smartphone apps are still in their relative infancy, we’ve found five of the coolest available on the iTunes and Google Play stores to help keep you amused at sea as much as informed.

Selfies at Sea

If you didn’t already know, an Australian invented the eponymous selfie which has mutated into the way of life it is today for lovers of amateur smartphone self-portraiture. As part of its quest into ‘Aussifying’ its cruise experience to suit the local market, Carnival Cruise Line last year released the Selfies At Sea app which aims to help selfie lovers easily organise and turn their cruise memories into more of a souvenir they can quickly show to friends and family.

Along with a guide to the best locations around Carnival Spirit & Carnival Legend from where to take a selfie, users can take photos with the app both onboard and ashore, which collates them into a sequence for presentation as a mini-movie, which in turn can be shared on social media channels. Images can be dressed up and adapted with different filters and frame sizes to ensure you get the whole family in the shot (a selfie-stick may be required).

Royal IQ

Australian travellers cruising their local waters are currently only able to use this app on Ovation of the Seas, due to the system only able to respond to specialised technology installed on this ship, as well as its sisters Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. It is also available on the line’s newest ship Harmony of the Seas.

Designed as a holiday management app, this program links to the existing Cruise Planner software, allowing guests to log in via their booking number and pre-purchase and pre-book services such as tables at speciality restaurants during their cruise, seat reservations at popular headline theatre shows (such as Grease on Harmony of the Seas) and view the times of other onboard activities (such as DreamWorks character appearances where available) to plan your days in advance.

Communication packages can also be purchased to open up text and phone contact with other passengers who have also signed up to the package. The app also connects to the ship’s network even in airplane mode to prevent racking up significant roaming charges.

This particular app is designed exclusively for use while on on a Princess cruise ship through the ship’s onboard network, so much so that it can only be downloaded after booking a cruise via a special link emailed to you by Princess Cruises.

Debuting on Regal Princess in late 2014 and now in place on all Princess Cruises ships across the fleet, the Princess@Sea Messenger app is designed as a communication tool, especially for passengers who may get separated from each other and to stay in touch with new friends onboard as you make plans to enjoy activities, shore tours, dining or shows together. Guests can develop a network of fellow passengers who, once accepted, can message each other with none of the normal mobile charges associated with regular text messaging. It’s just like calling one stateroom from another, however via text and through your smartphone.

In addition, the app lets passengers view their stateroom account, browse the menus in the ship’s restaurants, review the itinerary, check out port guides and download the program for the day to ensure you always know what is going on around the ship.

A program sure to be popular with Australian cruisers once Norwegian Star enters Australian waters early next year is the Norwegian iConcierge app. Like the Princess Cruises app, the iConcierge is only available once onboard the ship and connected to the ship’s network. Currently, the app works with seven other NCL ships including Pride of America in Hawaii.

Free to download, users can link to the ship’s systems from anywhere onboard and view the daily program, their stateroom account and all sorts of information about the ship including opening hours for onboard services such as the spa and shopping malls. Users can also make bookings for speciality dining, shows and shore excursions. For a fee, guests can also contact other cruisers on their ship to stay in touch with family and friends on an unlimited basis.