East Bay family's cellphone plan has free roaming; Sprint charges $2,300 anyway

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- An East Bay family was shocked to come home to an astronomical cellphone bill from Sprint when they came back from a trip abroad.

The Alameda couple received a nice anniversary gift from their two daughters: a cruise to Mexico for the whole family. Turns out the girls charged it to their dad's credit card, which he laughed about. But what wasn't so funny was the huge bill they got when they returned home.

It's a problem we're hearing about more and more. This family of four had unlimited texts and calls on their cellphones, even in Mexico. Yet, they came home to a horrendous shock: their "free" service cost thousands of dollars.

The Dimalanta family was all-smiles on their cruise to the Mexican Riviera.

"To Puerta Vallarta, all the way to Cabo San Lucas," said Roland Dimalanta.

"You land somewhere different every day, it's exciting," added his daughter Charmaine.

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Charmaine had fun posting pictures from the ship. "I was like calling friends, texting friends, like Snapchat all that," she laughed.

The family figured they could use their phones freely. Sprint had assured them their plan included unlimited texts and calls in Mexico.

"They said 'yeah it's free no worries it's covered,'" said Roland.

"My dad went out of his way to make sure it wouldn't cost extra, we could use the phone as we normally do," said Charmine.

So they were stunned when they got back home and Sprint called to say they owed thousands of dollars for using their phones on the trip.

"I was in shock. I said, 'I can't believe it,'" Roland said. "I said, 'how can I get charged for that if my plan is included in Mexico.'"

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At first Roland thought the call was a scam, but Sprint confirmed he owed $2,300, almost as much as the cruise.

The bill shows charges for phone minutes and all those text messages - Charmaine alone sent 1,700 of them.

"My phone number was the one that racked up the most amount of money, so that kinda sucked," she said.

Sprint said Roland's plan does cover Mexico, but not for this trip. Why? Because they were on a cruise ship.

Roland wasn't buying it. "I'm just going to Mexico, it just happened we ride in a boat."

Sprint offered a 10 percent discount, then 20 percent, then 50 percent. Roland kept refusing.

"It's not fair," he said.

RELATED: Can you save money on your cell phone bill by switching to another carrier?

"He said 'we have to call Michael Finney,'" Charmaine said.

7 On Your Side reached out to Sprint. It tells us the plan doesn't cover international waters, where a ship's cell towers transmit signals.

However, Sprint made an exception -- and waived all of those charges.

A huge relief.

"I feel good; it's like I won the lottery... I say thank you, Michael!" said Roland.

If you're going on a cruise, make sure to check with your carriers about what rates will apply in international waters. They're usually not the same as rates on land. And your cruise ship likely will offer its own cellphone plan.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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