Most people don’t mind being disconnected from the internet for a little while. You might think cruising should be a time of relaxation and socialization, but many people still want to be able to check in with loved ones at home or post about their trip on social media. This causes many people to wonder, do cruise ships have Wi-Fi?
Do Cruise Ships Have Wi-Fi?
The answer to this question is yes; cruise ships do have Wi-Fi connections and internet. Connections are also becoming more affordable and are progressively becoming faster. But there are some things you need to be aware of before you jump at the chance to get online during your cruise.
New cruisers will want to know whether the ship has Wi-Fi and at what cost. Meanwhile, experienced cruisers are aware of how temperamental some systems can be. They want to know the best way to access a faster connection across devices while reducing unnecessary expenses. Here are five essential things to know about cruise ships and Wi-Fi.
1. Connectivity May Be Slow on Some Cruise Ships
While most fleets have incorporated onboard technological improvements, some require patience. Many ships contain a direct ship-to-shore system and new satellites similar to systems found on land. However, this is different for each cruise ship.
The challenge of internet access on cruise ships is that connectivity can be really slow. Guests often complain about clicking on websites only to be frustrated by how long it takes to load–if it even loads at all.
If you are curious about the reason for the slow speeds, it is due to the absence of an internet cable directed to a cruise ship. Every data packet downloaded is delivered over satellite, which is neither fast nor inexpensive.
Companies have been attempting for years to speed up connectivity on cruise ships. So far, solutions involve introducing additional satellites and linking systems to land-based towers that connect to cruise ships as they are closer to shore.
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While this all sounds positive, there are limitations. Ships require clean lines of sight to satellites for there to be a data exchange, which doesn’t always occur. In some areas, satellite signals are lost due to surrounding mountain ranges.
In some places around the globe, coverage is either non-existent or thin. While service is improving, it is far from what you are accustomed to on land. All this might make you wonder if there is any good news about the internet at sea.
2. Fast, Slow, and Everything In Between
Some ships have improved signal strength so much over the years that guests can now frequently stream Netflix in their cabins. A few years ago, this would not have been possible.
The change came with the introduction of new satellite systems and significant investments in on-ship technology. In 2014, Royal Caribbean formed a partnership with O3b Networks generating a new system touted to be six times faster than that of other cruise ships.
The system is called Voom, and it reaches satellites from Medium Earth Orbit run by O3b. They could shoot beams directly to cruise ships as they passed by. The fastest option is the Surf + Stream at three megabits per second. While it may be slower than at home, you should be able to watch your favorite shows. The only downsides are that videos can be grainy, and you may have buffering issues.
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Carnival Cruise Line has an internet that supports streaming services by incorporating a hybrid system combining networks of land-based towers and quicker satellite connections. While most people can watch streaming shows, the experience may not be as smooth.
Cruise lines know they have a reputation for having less than reliable Wi-Fi, and one way that the industry is trying to combat this is by using Starlink, high-speed broadband internet engineered by SpaceX. Hurtigruten Expeditions has already installed Starlink across its entire fleet, and other cruise lines, like Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, are following suit.
Cruise lines with multiple Starlink setups can dramatically increase download speeds, significantly improving the Wi-Fi experience, but how much this will affect costs for guests is yet to be determined.
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4. Costs for Internet Have Decreased
Previously, guests had to pay a lot to access the internet. The basic rate began at $0.75 USD per minute. To use the internet for an hour cost people about $45. Eventually, the pay-by-the-minute plan was replaced by affordable browsing plans using several lines.
Now, the highest internet speed on Voom (by Royal Caribbean) is $24.99/day/device. Additionally, a slower speed on this cruise ship costs $19.99/day/device. While it doesn’t support streaming, it does allow users to browse the internet. Furthermore, discounts are available when you connect more devices or buy your package before embarking on your cruise.
Carnival Cruise Line also reduces costs with their Social Wi-Fi plan for $10.20/day. Their Value Wi-Fi plan offers email and website access to each passenger for $14.45/day.
Some cruise lines offer free internet access. Viking, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises have unlimited internet access included in their base cost. With some lines, there may be an additional cost for quicker service.
5. Paying Less for Wi-Fi
You can further reduce costs by joining loyalty programs or using onboard credit. For mid-to-upper-tier customers, you can often enjoy free Wi-Fi or discounted prices for internet packages. With onboard credit, you can apply it to internet service and use it for free.
Use an App
Furthermore, some cruise lines have created apps for Android and iOS phones. These apps allow you to book reservations for restaurants, spa treatments, and other services on the ship.
These apps often have a daily activity schedule, deck plans, and maps to help you navigate the ship. Some will also allow you to message others on your cruise through the app.
The apps allow guests to keep track of their onboard statement. Celebrity Cruises Edge Class will enable guests to use the app to remotely open cabin doors, turn off lights, and change television channels.
Despite working off Wi-Fi, they do not require guests to purchase an internet plan to operate them. Additionally, most don’t have an added fee for most of the features.
Use Airplane Mode
Whether you decide to use Wi-Fi or not, remember to switch your phone to airplane mode shortly after departure. It should be left this way the entire time you are at sea to avoid roaming charges.
If you don’t use airplane mode, you may receive substantial data charges, and many guests have discovered this the hard way after racking up exorbitant phone bills. Be aware that international phone plans may not apply to cruise ships. For some, if you permit your phone to roam, you can be charged $2.05/megabyte of data.
Providers like AT&T offer a cruise talk, text, and data plan. A talk-and-text plan costs $100 for 30 days or $5/day. The former includes unlimited talk and text with 200 MB of data. Overage costs are charged at $2.00/MB. The latter plan has 50 minutes of talk time, with overages costing $2.00/minute. Texting is unlimited.
While you may only be able to use it on some cruise ships, over 170 cruise ships are in the program.
If you need cell service, disable apps operating in the background. They only end up consuming data and increasing costs. Also, disable the auto-check on email.
Truthfully, putting the phone in airplane mode is more efficient. You can reactivate Wi-Fi once you have purchased an internet plan.
So, in answering the question of whether cruise ships have Wi-Fi, the answer is yes, they do. However, there are factors involved that may make you reconsider whether purchasing an internet package is beneficial.
Read Also: How to Text on a Cruise Ship for Free
Some cruise ships offer fast connectivity. However, they still don’t run as smoothly as those available on land. The cost is charged per person and device.
You can purchase packages with your cell phone provider, but they may be more expensive than packages on board. You will also need to know whether the cruise line participates in this plan, which can make things challenging.
If the cruise ship doesn’t have free Wi-Fi, the second-best option tends to be using onboard credit. This allows you to communicate for free without paying out of pocket.